Monthly Archives: August 2017

Is “Neo-Liberalism” a meaningful word?

Is “Neo-Liberalism” a meaningful word? A Guardian long read heads an article “Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world”. speaks of the “reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human.”

Stephen Metcalf, the author of the Guardian article points to the International Monetary Fund putting a question with the question “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” which could just turn out to be the understatement of the century/millennium/history. Starting as it does with an offhand reference to Milton Friedman in 1982 pointing to Chile as “an economic miracle”. The “Shock Doctrine” describes a range of events following the use of the term “shock and awe” in Chile to overthrow its president Allende, and later in Iraq to show the ideas were no where near being confined to an economic theory portrayed as benign and beneficial globally. In practice it continues to pull the world apart as the IMF itself is belatedly recognising.

Another Guardian article by George Monbiot puts “Neoliberalism” as the “root of all our problems”. Unlike “Capitalism” or “Socialism”, “Neoliberalism” signifies nothing except by its critics who have seen its true nature within “globalisation” and now “Brexit” seen here as in broader terms then characterised by the right apologists for globalisation.

“Neoliberalism” seems to encompassed a wide range of adherents. Its high priest, Milton Friedman, had widespread influence with Reagan and Thatcher heading the adulation, but followed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair and adherents among Democrat and Labour supporters under New Labour. The Single Market of the EU has followed the tradition, and we find the Guardian and Liberal Democrats among the supporters of a rear guard movement do a second referendum to show that those who voted for Brexit had changed their minds or were misled by the likes of UKIP, Boris Johnson et al. The elite leaders of Europe like this idea to discredit the intelligence of those who supported Brexit because they understood the consequences of free markets and globalisation with its rising inequality under “austerity” (itself a version of “shock and awe” tactics.)

The leader of the Socialist Labour Party, Arthur Scargill, has been consistent in his condemnation of of the free market at the heart of the European Union. He, along with Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for decades against it and dismayed to see large sections of the Labour movement give continuing support in the EU referendum.

Arthur Scargill speaking at the Shaheed Udham Singh Centre, Handsworth, Birmingham, prior to the 2017 General Election.

Free market questioning widens as the Brexit blame game continues

Free market questioning widens as orthodoxy espoused by Thatcher and upheld by Blair is no longer taken as read. There are still those across the parties who look for a second referendum as the Brexit blame game continues. Vince Cable talks about older voters “comprehensively shafting the young” as if austerity hadn’t been around to do that comprehensively to poorer and vulnerable sections of the community. The “Free Market” has shown itself to be the engine of unfettered Capitalism with Brexit being a response to that rather than the “immigration” rationale espoused by UKIP and the Tory right. This is what John Pilger has to say,

The questioning is not confined to the usual suspects following the 2017 General Election where both Tory and Labour Manifestos argued for support for the victims of austerity. While members of both parties continue to follow the Vince Cable line clearly Brexiteers have made their point – the one other than the immigration argument. That itself has been put under scrutiny as health, care and other essential services struggle to find staff needed to keep them running.

The difficulty for everyone remains that there is very little to go on about Brexit, what it will look like, the intentions of politicians or even their understanding of it. We are left to draw our own conclusions about the implications of each manifesto. While the Lib Dem is explicit that it should be abandoned the Tory is not. The Labour manifesto is incompatible with the single market. In my experience rank and file supporters of Labour have yet to catch up with this. Before the election senior figures like Diane Abbot explicitly called for remaining in the single market.