Thursday, 2 December 2010

Contribution to Compass/New Statesman debate on the way forward
This is a very useful contribution to the ongoing debate about the way out of the crisis. But I feel, in suggesting solutions, it falls short of what is needed. The term socialism, like communism, has been so degraded and misused during the last and present centuries, that even adding the prefix ‘New’ (also a term that has been thoroughly eroded) can hardly save it. Socialism does need a redefinition, but Harris and Lawson seem to be using it as a synonym for ‘Social Democracy’. If it has to have meaning at all it has to be defined in contradistinction to capitalism not as capitalism with a human face. Any attempt to ‘manage’ or ‘regulate’ capitalism is doomed to failure as past experience has clearly shown, even if amelioration of the system’s raw brutality can be achieved, it is always only temporary.
Capitalism in its present guise is supra- and trans-national and involves interests more powerful than the world has ever experienced. These powerful interests are able to buy up governments and corrupt peoples with ease. Only by neutralising these powerful individuals and companies and restoring some form of national autonomy, will we be able to begin rebuilding our societies along more just, egalitarian and sustainable lines.
As the recent upsurge of opposition to the cuts has shown, there are many people out there, including the ‘self-centred and solipsistic’ youth, who are willing to actively oppose government cuts.
The Labour Party is impotent at present because its policies were and are only slightly less draconian than those of the Con-Dems. What is not being addressed is the deeper underlying reasons for the present chronic illness of capitalism because, as the authors say, there is also a lack of intellectual debate and an understanding of the mechanisms of economics and social change.
I completely agree with the two authors that any idea of a rerun of a party-imposed or top-down form of socialism is a non-starter. I also feel that any idea of the state playing a leading role in any transformation is misguided, although it will have to play a contributory role in the interim.
I welcome this debate, but it needs to be widened to involve left intellectuals, trade unions and other Left and Green parties.

See my recent interview with Prof. Eric Swyngedouw on the idea of resuscitating the ‘hypothesis of communism’:

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