Some insights concerning the transition of Western society through neo-liberalism
Craig Murray is a British former diplomat, political activist, human rights campaigner, blogger, and whistleblower
Cross-posted from Craig’s website
I have never considered myself a Marxist. I came to adult at the end of the one, forty year long, period in the history of Western civilisation when there was a reduction in the chasm between the rich and ordinary people.
In consequence I believed that a tolerable society might be achieved by simple measures to ameliorate capitalism. I grew up with public ownership of utilities, natural monopolies and strategic industries, with free healthcare and medicines, free university tuition with good maintenance grants, schools under control of elected local councils, controlled fair rents including the private sector. significant public housing. We thought it would last forever.
In 1973 I joined the Liberal Party. Much of the 1974 Liberal Party manifesto I could still believe in now. The above things like public ownership of utilities and major industries and free education were not in the manifesto because they did not have to be – they already existed and were the basic structure. The manifesto added things like a basic guaranteed income for everybody in society, compulsory worker shareholdings in those industries not nationalised, workers’ councils, and a rent freeze in both public and private sectors.
I am not claiming it as a great socialist document – there were signs of right wing thought creeping in like a shift to indirect taxation. But the truth is that the Liberal Party manifesto of 1974 was at least as left as Corbyn’s manifesto. Some of its ideas were far ahead of their time – like the idea that continuous economic growth and increasing consumption as not sustainable or desirable. Believing in essentially the same things now, I find myself on the far left – without ever having moved!
Here are a couple of extracts from the 1974 Liberal manifesto which may surprise you. This kind of language you will not hear from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party – indeed it would probably get you thrown out:
That Liberal Party is of course gone, along with the radical, anti-war, anti-unionist traditions of British liberalism. They were diluted by the merger with the SDP and finally killed off by Nick Clegg and the “Yellow Bookers” who turned the hybrid party fully neo-liberal, a doctrine with almost no resemblance to the liberalism it claims to reassert.
Those hardy souls who follow and support this blog are witnessing the last knockings of the legacy of political thought that was bestowed by John Stuart Mill, William Hazlitt, John Ruskin, John A Hobson, Charles Kingsley, Bertrand Russell, William Beveridge and many others, seasoned by Piotr Kropotkin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. I don’t imagine any further generation attempting to be active in politics will develop their worldview with those thinkers as their primary motivators.
But the point of this self-absorbed drivel is that I am not a Marxist and do not come from an organised labour or socialist background or mindset.
The key thought towards which I am plodding through this morass of explanation is this: I grew up in the one era when capitalism was sufficiently moderated by palliative measures that it seemed a reasonable way to conduct society. That ended around 1980 when the doctrine of neo-liberalism took hold of the Western world. In the UK, that doctrine now firmly controls the Conservative, Lib Dem, Labour and SNP parties and is promoted relentlessly by both state and corporate media.
The result of this neo-liberal domination has been a massive and accelerating expansion in the gap between the ultra wealthy and the rest of society, to the extent that ordinary, once middle class people struggle to pay the bills required simply to live. The situation has become unsustainable.
In short, it turns out Marx was right. The crisis of capitalism is now upon us. Neo-liberalism (another word for designing state systems deliberately to lead to incredible concentrations of wealth amid general poverty) is coming to the end of its course. There are no palliative measures that will make the situation bearable. A radical change in the ownership of assets is the only thing that will address the situation – starting with public ownership of all energy companies, from hydrocarbon extractors like Shell and BP, through gas, electricity and fuel generators and manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
That is only one sector and only the start. But it is a good start. I frequently pass the Grangemouth refinery and am amazed that all that land, massive equipment, all those chemicals and processes, go primarily to the benefit of Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, who is considering buying Manchester United as his latest toy, while his workers protest at another real terms pay cut. This obscenity cannot continue forever.
Wars are not incidental to neo-liberalism. They are an essential part of the programme, because untrammeled consumerism requires massive acquisition of natural resources. Constant war has the helpful side benefit for the global elite of massive profit to the military industrial complex. The cost in human misery and death is kept at a discreet distance from the Western world save for refugee flows, which meet with a response increasingly founded in the denial of humanity.
The promotion of continual war has led to the acceleration of crisis. Much of the current cost of living explosion can be directly attributed to the provoked, prolonged and pointless war in Ukraine, while neo-liberal doctrine forbids control of the horrendous associated profiteering of the energy companies.
There is going to be public anger come spring of a strength and reach not seen in my lifetime. The ultra wealthy and their political servants know this, and therefore strong action is being taken to forestall public protest. The new Policing Act is one of a raft of measures being brought in to clamp down on avenues for free expression of public discontent. Demonstrations can simply be banned if they are “noisy” or an “inconvenience”. The 2 million person march against the Iraq War in London, for example, could have been banned on both grounds.
I met and talked last weekend at the Beautiful Days festival with the admirable Steve Bray; we don’t agree on everything but his public concern is genuine. He is getting used to being removed by police from Parliament Square after being specifically targeted in legislation. I reminded him – and I remind you – that the Blair government had also banned protest near the Westminster parliament. Intolerance of dissent is a feature of modern neo-liberalism, as people in Canada and New Zealad are also witnessing – or as Julian Assange might tell you.
But in addition to legislative and state attack on protest, the neo-liberal state is also ramping up its more subtle elements of control. The security services are continually being expanded. The media is not only increasingly concentrated, it is increasingly under direct security service influence – the Integrity Initiative, the Paul Mason revelations, and the barely disguised spookery of Luke Harding and Mark Urban all being small elements of a massive web designed to control the popular imagination.
The splitting of the political left by identity politics has been the go-to weapon of the state for several decades now. The replacement of horizontal class solidarity by vertical gender solidarity being the most obvious tool, epitomised by the notion that it was better to elect the multi millionaire, corrupt, neo-liberal warmonger Hillary Clinton than the class politics espousing Bernie Sanders, simply because the warmonger was a woman.
A specific use of this tool has been the weaponisation of fake sexual allegations against any individual likely to be a threat to the state. You see this in the cases of Julian Assange, Tommy Sheridan, Scott Ritter and Alex Salmond (they tried it on me when I left the FCO but had to drop it because they could not find – despite massive efforts – any woman who knew me who would say anything bad about me). Those in power know that the portion of the left who identify as feminist, which is almost all of us, are highly susceptible to support alleged victims due to the extreme difficulties of real victims in obtaining justice. This makes sexual allegations, no matter how fake, very effective in removing the support base of anti-establishment figures.
The propaganda narrative against Assange, Salmond, Ritter and Sheridan depends on the idea that at the very moment that each of these men reached the peak of a lifetime’s endeavour and posed the maximum threat to the state, they lost focus, lost their marbles and acted very wrongly towards women, despite no previous history of such behaviour. It astonishes me anybody does not see through it.
Rather quaintly, they use different methods on women. Brigadier Janis Karpinski was the chosen patsy to take the blame for the USA’s Abu Ghraib atrocities (entirely unfairly – she had no role or authority in the CIA controlled portion of the jail where the atrocities took place). Dismissed from her post, she was prepared to testify to a memo personally signed by Donald Rumsfeld authorising torture.
How did the US security services fit up a woman, not a man, who threatened the powers that be? Shoplifting. The day after her enforced resignation, Karpinski was “caught shoplifting”. Because of course, when at the eye of an international storm and under CIA surveillance, you immediately go out and steal some clothes.
The trans debate has taken the art of using identity politics to split the left to a whole new level, and in particular to alienate the younger generation from traditional left feminists. It has also been used successfully – and remarkably – to neuter the most potent current threat to the UK state, by driving both the non neo-liberals and the ardent Independence supporters out of the SNP.
Similar to the use of gender politics to undermine class solidarity is the weaponisation of accusations of anti-semitism. Just as accusations of misogyny, however false, succeed in alienating left unity, so do allegations of racism.
Here it is not so much that accusations were believed – the conflation of criticism of the crimes of Israel with criticism of Jews per se being all too obvious – as that the attack was so blistering, with the full weight of the establishment political and media class behind it, that people cowered rather than face up to it. The worst example of cowering being Jeremy Corbyn.
One lesson from both the “leaked report” and the Forde report is that Corbyn and his office believed that if they threw enough sacrifices to the wolves, betraying decent people like Tony Greenstein (son of a Rabbi), Mark Wadsworth and Ken Livingstone, then the wolves would be appeased.
Israel is the last large scale project of colonisation by physical occupation of a conquered land by European people.
A second part is set to follow
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