Assimilate or die – the right takes on capitalism
I was motivated to write this by the headlines in the Daily Telegraph this morning reporting on last night’s House of Lords vote. It blasted the government for making cancer patients suffer for ‘bankers greed’.
This headline would not have looked out of place in a left-wing newspaper. Indeed, its the kind of rhetorical flourish you’d expect to find in the pages of Socialist Worker. So, what is going on?
Firstly, we have to note that the Daily Telegraph has always been a bit anti-establishment. The dominion of the Murdoch Empire has kept it out in the political cold, it simply has never been in the charmed circle and enjoyed the favourable ear of policy makers. Its vengeance has been swift and brutal – witness its expenses expose.
However, this distance has helped it achieve a certain objectivity and clarity. Also, it should be noted that the right has always sought to assimilate the best ideas of the left and, being candid, it has been far more successful at showing ideological and practical flexibility than the left. The left often has quasi-religious reverence for ‘sacred texts’ and its heroes and heroines. This deadens the whole intellectual culture to the point where left-wing politics is often a barren wasteland when it comes to critical thought and engagement with the world around it.
Something else is also happening. The right is turning against capitalism. In response to the apocalyptic crash and the renewed mood of revolt and rebellion from below it has concluded, rightly, that something must be done. Things really will never be the same again because they simply can’t be.
Where does leave the left? With both a challenge and a opportunity. The challenge is to be distinctive – we may agree with what many right-wing critics of capitalism say but our solutions differ radically. The logic of everything the likes of the Telegraph says points in our direction – to the absolute necessity of a radical, irreversible shift in how socially produced wealth is distributed towards democratic control, ownership and distribution of that wealth. Its time for the left to stand-up for people controlling their own lives again.
The opportunity is no less than that to bury capitalism for good. The Telegraph is, in its admission of the serious structural failings of the capitalist system, opening up a vast space for us to take charge of that debate and impose ourselves. If we fail to take up that opportunity however other forces will fill the void.
An seismic shift is occurring, of the kind that only happens very rarely in human history – vast changes which would only take place incrementally normally will happen in the blink of an eye as a once sedate river rises and gathers pace to become a tidal wave. We live in interesting times indeed.