Sunday 5 October 2014

Decomposing Tories

It's tempting. You see the insurmountable difficulties besetting the Tories, and their feeble firefighting efforts, and all you want to do is point and laugh. Heaven knows how much fun I've had doing it these last couple of years. Unfortunately, there is something spoiling the sport. The Grim Reaper is busy hacking chunks off British Conservatism, but if you look in his pocket notebook you'll find that Labour is next in line. That's right. The remorseless grind of long term economic, cultural and political change is just as surely against the Labour Party too.

More of that another time. The crisis at the root of British Toryism is two-fold. Demographically, it's an old white people's party. It has little positive to say to younger cohorts of voters. The one genuinely progressive and popular policy of its time in office - equal marriage - precipitated the debarkation of thousands of blue rinsed bigots into the arms of them smelly old kippers. Politically, its organic links to British capital have also withered. Thanks to the Tories' opaque networks of dining clubs, front groups and the like it's much harder to see where the money comes from. Then again, it's not difficult to infer from the kinds of policies they push who is stumping up the cash: the socially useless rentiers of the City, the gruesome gang of hedge fund wideboys, property speculators, and (whisper it) Russian oligarchs and shady Sheikhs. JCB's Anthony Bamford and his Midlands Industrial Council fly the flag for good old "productive" capital, but that's it. The Tory Party is funded and owned by finance, the superficially dynamic but most short-termist section of British capital.

How did this happen? The blessed Margaret did it. If Toryism wasn't congenitally stupid it would revile her for what her politics have meant for capital's tested 'A' team. Thatcher's class war policies of the 1980s were an offensive that successfully subordinated ever greater sections of social life to the dictates of capital. Education, welfare, recalcitrant working class communities, the lot. It worked, after a fashion. Only seldom-read bloggers these days call into question the business domination of everything. But it was more than the pesky miners and the labour movement Thatcher brought to heel. The "civil war without guns" was preceded and followed by mass closures, mass sackings, mass privatisations. Tory class war was a blunt force trauma inflicted on the body politic. But the working class were not the only losers. Whole sections of British capital, nominally public owned and not, went up in smoke as the chimneys came crashing down. The British coal industry - the most advanced in the world - and its supply chain, gone. Steel, gone. Ship building, gone. Then came the rest - textiles, pots, manufacturing, all went. And with it a whole load of small and medium sized business vanished. The total composition of British capital rooted in domestic manufacturing collapsed. That the Tory Party began its long collapse as Thatcher rolled out her social programme is no coincidence.

Nor have the Tories been able to recover. New Labour's prawn cocktail offensives successfully annexed a section of British capital for some time, and how they were handsomely rewarded with PFI, more marketisation of public services, academisation and light touch regulation. Yet they couldn't be held onto forever. Banal neoliberalism, the unthought assumption that markets are just groovy, were shown to be anything but barely a year after Blair retired to spend more time with his bank accounts. In politics memories are short, but both Brown and Darling appeared genuinely pained by having to slam down emergency regulation and intervening to save the system from eating itself. If Brown really did save the world from an even more catastrophic depression, he cut a reluctant saviour. British capital showed the Labour Party its gratitude by withdrawing support in time for the 2010 general election. So fickle.

By and large they haven't gone flooding back to the Tories. Labour's pale pink social democracy is not palatable, but neither are Dave's increasingly dysfunctional party. The bulk of British capital is something of a floating voter. Suspicious of Labour's tax plans, and modest regulatory and wage control ambitions it does sniff new opportunities - but at the price of bigging up workers? On the other hand, Dave offers tax cuts and no regulation but ... the EU referendum promises instability, and ongoing UKIP issues could destabilise the party while in office. Nor will the Tories be intervening to smooth out the markets and generate more business opportunities. What a bind.

And that's the Tories. Demographically and culturally out-of-step, their hock to finance makes them economically dysfunctional to the interests of British capital as a whole, and toxic to everyone else. Yet as they thrash around in mindless agony there remains an outside chance they could crawl their way back into office. As the truism goes, you either do politics. Or politics will do you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thatcherism and Reaganism were a response to the failure of Keynesian policies, not pretend failures but real ones. The ideas of Milton Friedman gained traction among the conservatives, and more importantly the capitalist class, as a whole (not just finance). That they didn’t foresee the problems we now have is neither here or there.

Also, it was a response to the balance of power, i.e. the unions were seen as too strong (ridiculous but they believed it) and again this was popular among all sections of capital.

Lastly, new Labourism and its third way, or even in its old Labour guise, is simply another side of the coin. Supporting New Labour’s economic policies is simply supporting the continuation of a system that will have to periodically deal with the Labour problem. Crises cannot go unsolved in capitalism! To put another way, social democracy today is simply laying down the conditions for neo liberalism tomorrow.

Revolution and not reform!

Other than that can we take the rest of your article as a 'rhetorical device'? The hope that throwing enough shit will eventually stick?

I am still not getting the vibes that Ed the Red is going to storm into number 10!