It has been an interesting period watching the various ruses that conservatives are bringing to bear to attack Jeremy Corbyn and, somewhat unrelated, try to justify why the US Federal Reserve Bank should be raising interest rates. I will deal with the latter issue another day. Apparently, the grass roots rise of Jeremy Corbyn to leadership of the British Labour Party is actually a demonstration of the “rise of groupthink” in British politics and “threatens Britain’s membership of the EU – and the United Kingdom itself”. Indeed, more Corbynsteria as the terminology goes. This quietly-spoken British man seems to have a lot to answer for after having the audacity to intervene in the cosy little neo-liberal world of British party politics (Tory and New Labour). But the part that interested me was that the author – who is employed by the lofty sounding but usually disappointing, British-based Centre for European Reform (which gets funding because it is a mouthpiece for pro-European integration) – considers Corbyn has been the beneficiary of a new found groupthink. It beggars belief really.
Its my Friday lay day. This week I have written a few (very) long blogs on what I consider to be significant topics. I have been writing on topics that have a direct bearing on what is happening within the British Labour Party over the last few weeks as a way of providing an economic knowledge base for activists who wish to defend their position against the attacks from the Tory-lites (New Labour). Anyway, after a few days of heavy writing I am not going to write much today (in blog space) and will fill this blog up with music, advertisements, promotions and a cartoon. But there is an issue that has come up this week in Australia which goes to the heart of the neo-liberal attack on our democratic rights which I can write about succinctly. The decision by a court to overturn an approval for a coalmine development has caused our neo-liberal government to go into ‘conniptions’ and accuse community groups of being “radical green activists” engaging in “vigilante litigation”. Read on to learn how the neo-liberal way is that when the government is caught acting outside the law to help their corporate business mates the solution is simple – change the law to make it easier for business to bypass acceptable approval processes.
As background research to one of my book projects I have been reading a recent biography of François Mitterrand by Philip Short. Its title “Mitterand: A Study in Ambiguity” points to the capacity of Mitterand himself to blow with the wind but only when it suited his sense of personal ambition. Hiding behind his statesmanship was a man with “infinite shades of deviousness, an aesthete and intellectual, a sensualist, a crook”. The story of Mitterrand and his famous turn to austerity in March 1983 is very important to understand because it is used by progressives to justify their ‘austerity-lite’ stances with respect to economic policy. The New Labour politicians that are attacking Jeremy Corbyn’s policy proposals fit into this camp. The ‘left’ narrative is that the demise of Keynesian policy options was inevitable in the face of globalisation of capital and the growing importance of Transnational Corporations (TNCs). But, my argument is that there was nothing inevitable at all about Mitterrand’s poorly contrived shift into austerity. The progressives who advocate the inevitability thesis conflate the development of the TNCs with the emerging dominance of the neo-liberal ideology (which is concoction from economists intent on pushing the textbook competitive free market model with minimal state intervention). The development of the TNCs didn’t undermine the capacity of currency-issuing nation states. That has been accomplished by the imposition of the neo-liberal ideology and is reversible if the politics can be won. That is what I see as Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge – to win the politics. There is plenty of strong economic argument to help him do that.
Apparently, voters hate fiscal deficits, associate them with squander and want them to be cut, so that nations can live within their means. Any attempt to run foul of that essential wisdom will come to grief. So all you ‘left’ types – yes, those in the British Labour Party that means you – forget your little grass roots rebellion and confirm to the austerity norm. The UK Guardian article (August 4, 2015) – Anti-austerity message will not win over UK voters, poll shows – reports on a poll conducted internally by the British Labour Party that allegedly “shows Britain’s voters do not back an anti-austerity message but instead believe the country must live within its means and make cutting the deficit its top priority.” If you believe that you would believe anything.
Two articles in the UK Guardian this week summarise what is going on with the British Labour Party at present. The first (August 3, 2015) – Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aren’t mad – they’re fleeing a bankrupt New Labour – refutes the notions propagated by the previously dominant ‘New Labour’ factions that the Left of the Party are in some way mad, deluded, or otherwise sick. Instead, it argues the Left are part of a new “grassroots political movement” reacting to the bereft nature of New Labour which is without a “clear vision, or a set of policies, or even a coherent distinct set of values”. The second article (August 3, 2015) – Corbyn’s economic strategy would keep Tories in power, top Labour figure says – provides proof of concept. It is written by the Shadow Labour Chancellor Chris Leslie and reflects an abysmal understanding of macroeconomics that only a deluded free-marketeer would dare suggest had anything to do with reality. The article demonstrates that the top echelons of the British Labour Party parliamentary wing are caught in the destructive neo-liberal Groupthink economics that not only caused the GFC but has also led to austerity being the norm for policy makers these days. And there is no doubt that it is a failed doctrine and not worthy of a progressive opposition. The new “grassroots political movement” is reacting sensibly to the intellectual carnage at the top end of their Party and lets hope it is triumphant and purges these ideas from Labour forever. But, first, it must break out of the neo-liberal framing that is pervasive in its first major statement.
I imagine we have all been keeping an eye on the evolving sham that is the British Labour Party election contest. When former leader Tony Blair, who will be forever remembered as being George Bush’s ‘poodle’ when he took Britain into the illegal invasion of Iraq and left a destabilised region, came into the fray urging party members to get a heart transplant if they thought supporting Jeremy Corbyn was an option, things turned really nasty. There has been a plethora of attacks on Corbyn alleging he is part of a sinister, return-to-Soviet control type candidate, an hysterical communist who wants to take Britain back to the dark ages, and more. What it tells me is that the Tories fear Corbyn as a candidate and would prefer the austerity-lite options like Liz Kendell to become leader because they know she won’t cause much trouble. What worries me is that Corbyn articulates a progressive set of values but might not yet have the macroeconomic understanding to defend them against a media attack primed to vilify anything that is not right-wing. British Labour must escape from its austerity lite prison but to do that they have to surround Corbyn with people who understand how the monetary system operates.
There were three new data and analysis releases in the past week in advanced Western nations (the US, the UK and Australia) that indicate that the policy settings that are in place are not delivering prosperity and should be changed to allow governments more fiscal freedom to stimulate growth. But while these nations continue, variously, to endure the costs that the wrongful policy settings have wrought, a World Bank report issued last week (May 27, 2015) – Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – allows us to understand a little bit (in numbers and narrative) the terrible (“staggering”) cost of the blockade on the Gaza economy and living standards of the Palestinian people in that region. The plight of the advanced world is nothing by comparison, not that I want to get into a relativist defense of the situation in the advanced world.
At one point in my student days anyone who wasn’t reading Marx on a particular day, was reading Satre, Camus and Merleau-Ponty, among others, at least in the groups that I mixed in. But then they were also reading Dostoyevsky. Whichever way – they learned a lot about class conflict and existentialism. Labour-type political parties might reflect on the concept of an existential crisis because the declining electoral fortunes around the World are of their own making and reflect a lack of identity and certainly little ‘essence’. These parties have lost their meaning and purpose of existence and everyone knows it. The reasons are relatively straightforward. They have bought into the free-market myths and demeaned the role of the State. They now only argue about how much fairer their version of fiscal austerity will be relative to the conservatives, never challenging the underlying lies that drives the austerity agenda in the first place. Here are some lunchtime thoughts on the matter.
Knighthoods are handed out as part of the anachronistic Commonwealth honours system. They are an ultimate symbol of cultural snobbery in the UK and cultural cringe in the former British colonies, such as Australia. The Australian government effectively abandoned the system in 1983 because it insulted our sense of independence even though the Monarch of England remains our head of state (why?). It was formally abandoned by agreement with the British government in October 1992. But the creepy conservative government that took over again in September 2013 decided to reinstate the system of imperial honours, specifically to resume the award of Knight and Dame in March 2014. This demonstrated how out of touch the conservatives were. The criticism reached fever pitch a few weeks ago – on Australia Day (January 26, 2015) when it was announced that Prince Phillip (the Queen of England’s husband) would receive a Knighthood, the nation’s highest honour, from the Australian government. Why? Because our Prime Minister is unbelievably stupid but that is another debate beyond of the topic of today’s blog. This UK Guardian article – How giving Prince Philip a knighthood left Australia’s PM fighting for survival – will fill you in on that decision if you are interested. Now a so-called media watchdog, the Australian media site Crikey thinks the Federal Treasurer should be awarded a Knighthood if he can further undermine economic growth and deliberately cause unemployment and underemployment to rise further, not that they said it like that.
Canberra is Australia’s capital city – a created city located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to house the federal government and its bureaucracy. Official – data – shows that in 2013, the ACT has the highest household incomes of any state/territory, the highest household net average net worth and is heavily dependent on its wage and salary income. It is now a focus of federal government employment cuts which are forcing thousands of workers onto the unemployment queue, with little prospect of alternative employment at this stage given the general state of the economy. Over the weekend, I saw a news segment which documented the increased access of Canberrans for emergency food relief over the last 12 months. More than 10 per cent of the population in one of the highest income per capita cities in the world are below the poverty line. How can that be?