Labour and Enterprise – A reply to Alex Smith and Luke Boizer…..
This post on LabourList by Alex Smith and Luke Boizer caught my eye this morning. Not least because it starts with this eye-popping statement:
Despite its faults, capitalism is the single most successful system in history at creating opportunity, freedom, expression and happiness.
I’m genuinely not sure how the comrades measure this or even hope to prove it. I would say its one of those statements that it’s probably impossible to concretely prove or disprove. Having said that it evidences the kind of ‘i’m all right jack’ conceited attitude which pretty much plagues ideologues of the capitalist system. It’s a bit like the overwhelmingly privileged citizens of Rome writing a fantastic eulogy about how happy they are and how they had spread that happiness to an unparalleled number of their citizens – forgetting, of course, the ones they brutally slaughtered, repressed and kept in a state of permanent servitude and squalor.
Having started off in a thoroughly unbalanced and one-sided way (the people for whose capitalism’s faults are crippling are deemed inconsequential by implication) the post never really recovers. In fact, it collapses into a gibbering mess of intellectual self-contradiction having told us how brilliant capitalism is making life for everyone it goes onto say this:
Jobs will not come easy in the future; nor will they always be secure. Entire business models will come and go, and the business cycle may shorten, rather than lengthen. In this type of economy, those with capital will have a built-in advantage over those without. So if the government is encouraging the right to enterprise it is important it also fulfills its responsibility to provide a robust safety net in such a high-risk environment.
So, peoples working lives are going to be become more unstable and this is a good thing? You see it might be a good thing to write about, bracing and thrilling even but I suspect the actual people involved might take a different view – especially if they happen to fall down on the losing side. Life isn’t a game of Monopoly, its deadly serious, and its pretty feckless and irresponsible of LabourList commentators to behave like it is really, especially when by their own admission the stakes for people are so high.
What would be even more reckless and politically disgusting would be for Labour to pretend that it was – to suddenly refuse to be the party of those dispossessed by this social system. Not only is that morally wrong but it will create a permanent black hole at the centre of our democracy which will eventually corrode it by creating a chronic crisis of representation where more and more people simply no longer have a voice within conventional political discourse and therefore no longer have a stake in its preservation. Before writing such pieces I would suggest that comrades consider both sides of the equation – not just the winners but also the losers and remember that Labour has a responsibility to represent the latter, probably more than the former because it is they that most need a voice for otherwise they are voiceless. Labour should not be the ‘party of enterprise’ – it should be the party of consistent democracy and social justice and that involves a recognition that capitalism is far from the promised land for many more billions than it is.