I’ve been wanting to write these words for a long time.
It is rule by those with capital, of course. Rule by the rich.
That’s such an obvious statement that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone saying it before.
We all know that our monarchy is just for show. The Queen makes a dazzling display on the state opening of Parliament, wearing the crown and the royal robe, shimmering in all her jewellery under the TV spotlights, while summoning the commons to attend, as if she had any real power.
We enjoy the theatre of it while knowing that it is purely ceremonial. We listen to her words, aware they have been composed by someone else. We know her speech isn’t her own.
No one argues with this. It is the measure of our sophistication as consumers that we understand these ceremonial forms for what they are: symbolic gestures carried out in the grand theatre of Parliament.
So what of our democracy? Is this, too, an empty ceremonial form covering a deficit of real power?
Of course it is.
We all know this too, secretly, deep down. We know that we elect governments not to rule, but to administer. We know that governments themselves are ruled. That’s why we never believe the promises that they make.
Politicians even admit it, but in a subtle way. They are always telling us that we have to obey the market, that “Market Forces” dictate this, that, or the other policy, but without telling us – what they know, and we don’t – that “the market” is the mechanism by which the rich rule over us.
Governments throughout the world are mere administrators for the financial oligarchs who control the market.
This has been the case for more than thirty years, since the Thatcher revolution overthrew the post-war consensus, and instituted a return to rule by market forces in this country, but now we know the Thatcherite experiment has failed.
What she told us was that by allowing the financial markets free rein while simultaneously subjecting Trade Unions to all the rigours of the Law (by regulating the one and deregulating the other) that the rich would grow very rich, and that their wealth would trickle down to the rest of us. She referred to the rich as wealth creators, and suggested that it was they who had generated the wealth.
She was lying to us, of course, but some of us believed her.
So we mopped up shares in the newly privatised industries and took out mortgages for our own council houses. We became a nation of speculators.
What happened next? The rich grew very rich, as promised, but they kept their wealth for themselves.
The only way it trickled down was by turning the young into their zero-hour contracted, minimum-wage servants, and allowing us the crumbs that had fallen from their table.
All the pride and the intelligence of the post-war generation was squandered – all that accumulated skill, which had taken centuries to develop – to be replaced by a generation of smiling automatons, enslaved by their own indebtedness.
But this was not always the case. Sometimes things can change.
Throughout the 20s and 30s the Labour Party was the parliamentary wing of a wider political movement. We called it “The Labour Movement” and we understood what that meant. It consisted of working people, the people who voted Labour, plus their financial backers in the Trade Unions. The Labour Party was wedded to the Trade Unions, just as the Conservative Party was (and still is) wedded to the Business Elites.
If the Labour Party does not represent the views of the Trade Unions and their members, then what is its purpose? We already have one Business party, why would we need another?
When the Labour Party won in 1945, it was as a representative of this wider movement, and it enacted policies which were approved of and were understood by the vast majority of people in the UK.
Our grandparents knew what they were voting for. We called it socialism then, and we can call it socialism again, right now.
What that government did – despite the extreme austerity to which the nation was subjected by the war – was to enact policies of economic stimulation. It did not cut the economy: it grew the economy. It created the NHS. It took into public ownership large swathes of British industry. It invested in infrastructure, in rail and road, in energy, in telecommunications, in the postal network. It built homes. It built schools. It replaced the devastated landscape of our major cities, bombed-out in the war, and built anew on the rubble of the past.
What followed was more than thirty years of prosperity for the British people. As Harold Macmillan said, we’d never had it so good.
These are precisely the policies that Jeremy Corbyn is proposing now: Quantitative Easing for the people. Growth, not austerity. Work not slavery. Give the people a share of the wealth, everyone will spend, and that will make the economy grow.
Quantitative Easing is creating money. What successive governments have been doing since the crash of 2008 is creating money and then giving it to the banks, in the hope that they will lend it to the public.
It is our money. Giving it to the banks is giving it away. It is handing our money over to speculators. They will only spend it on what will enrich themselves. We already see speculative bubbles forming. Property prices are rising, not because property prices are an indication of what is happening in the wider economy, but because it is a way for the Business Elites to store and expand their wealth.
It was speculation of this sort that lead to the financial crash of 2008. Why would we imagine that it wouldn’t have the same effect this time round? Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If individual insanity manifests itself through personal breakdown, so economic insanity manifests itself through the breakdown of the financial system. Expect another crash quite soon unless we change the policy.
This is all that Corbyn is proposing: the people’s money for the people, for economic stimulation, for investment, for infrastructure, for schools and hospitals, for all the things that we want and need, just as the Labour government of 1945 did.
He is talking about a National Education System: an NHS for our minds. A lifetime of learning instead of a lifetime of work.
He is talking about renationalising the rail: putting public subsidy, currently paid out to speculators, back into improving the service and reducing fares.
He is talking about renationalising the Big Six energy companies, and investing in green energy.
He is talking about participatory democracy, of us all becoming a movement again, of us taking back the Labour Party, which was our own creation, and making it work for us again, instead of for the Business Elites as it currently does.
So when the media tells you that Jeremy Corbyn is a hard-left extremist, remember this: he is only as much of an extremist as the Labour government of 1945.