Just seen Corbyn on Marr arguing for the mildest form of social democracy possible, crack down on tax evasion and reinvest in education, infrastructure and an industrial policy, break up monopolies in transport and energy through taking things into public ownership.
Moderately redistributive Keynesian measures that half the columnists on the FT would agree with. The anti-austerity argument is not a capitalist/anti-capitalist argument it’s about how best to restore growth and spread some of the wealth around to create a virtuous circle of rising wages, investment and greater competitiveness.
Ken Livingstone, in his recent defence of Corbyn promoted a similar economic agenda suggesting that this is what a “modern Capitalist economy” needs. So here we have the perverse spectacle two old radicals essentially trying to save Capitalism from itself by offering it a way to re-legitimize itself, just as neoliberalism’s attempt at offering a shareholder democracy as a basis for mass participation in and ideological commitment to capital from the 70s onward has clearly failed.
Three things seem bizarre about the current hostility/panic A) that nobody in the Labour party thinks this is the centre ground and that some kind of global roll around to revived social democratic models wasn’t more or less inevitable after the financial crisis anyway and isn’t currently gathering speed and numbers globally, so that by 2020 the world may look very different, B) that not connecting the Labour party up with local and grassroots anti-austerity initiatives, widening participation and opening it up democratically will help to arrest its decline c) that the British public rejected these ideas at x point years ago and therefore it will always do so. Never heard of buyer’s remorse? It might now be waking up to the fact that it was foolish to have done so. It might be even more remorseful in five years time, even in the equity and asset “rich” south if financialization continues apace, house prices stall, interest rates go up, wages stagnate, debt burdens mount. Do Governments never make themselves deeply unpopular with people who have previously voted for them?
The “ideological” blinkers here are all on the neoliberal side, for the Tories it’s a moral mission, undertaken with missionary zeal, to place everything worth having in the hands of those best suited to be custodians of the lower orders, the well-bred, the high-born ( themselves) and to discipline them a) into acceptance of the legitimacy of such an order, b) into moulding them through subjection to “the market” into the model of subjectivity the market demands. This has always been the agenda but the Crisis/Austerity is the legitimating narrative for a redoubling of this programme. The desire to discipline is such that they are of course undermining their own programme, but the excitement, the glee is so great that they are libidinally locked in. The Labour party might do all this with a sad face, at a slower pace, but that’s the agenda with which it colludes, it’s disavowed pleasure is that of the weary parent sighing over its rueful responsibility, bullying its recalcitrant kids into seeing “sense”.
There’s a broader historical argument here about whether the British elite have ever had much interest in industry and manufacturing and whether these things developed in Britain despite the indifference of elites who have basically only cared about a strong pound and speculating abroad and who never had any interest in maintaining a domestic manufacturing sector, were happy to dump it all in finally the 80s and get on with enjoying our comparative advantage in Finance. In a sense to become a “modern” (Capitalist) economy at this stage we have to start from scratch, fighting the hostility of Finance in the name of the “Real Economy”.
This is broadly where Corbyn is, he is the “modernizer”, in a long tradition of attempts at becoming modern constantly stymied by land-owners and the finance sector. You can say what you want about Jez, but the notion that he isn’t riding in to give us a “proper” “modern” “representative” “democratic” and revived Capitalism, just as neoliberalism promised it would, and instead is some Hard Left Leninist fifth columnist for Militant survivors and assorted Commie fellow travellers is the biggest fairytale of them all. There’s nothing remotely radical or ruthless about Corbyn, he is as surprised as anyone to find himself an expression of a newly coalescing “common sense”.
This IS the equivalent of Blairism at this stage.