We live, not only in an age of political denial, but one of historical ignorance and total confusion over labels. New Labour never had much to do with Old Labour (which was never called that), but much to do with Thatcherism, imitated and closely followed by both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. We are constantly told that green shoots are visible, but not to me. Large conglomerates are failing, one after another, jobs are being shed, overproduction of many manufactured goods is meeting lower demand because of short of money, and the burden of both national and personal debt is in no way diminishing.
All that Gordon Brown seems capable of doing is to look back with nostalgia to the recent corrupt and illusionary past with its ideological belief in a prosperity based on a bubble and belief itself based on greed, instead of thinking realistically about a depression that is only beginning and will get worse for as long as he looks back instead of forward. The parallel is with the exhaustion of the immediate post-war period, when we had no choice but to embrace austerity, and because the returning armed forces would not consider a return to the class divisions and industrial misery of the lower classes, we had a fair and equalising socialism, based on Clause Four of the Labour Party manifesto which was to national as many public services as possible and make them work responsibly and in the general public interest. Cooperation took the place of competition, which was in any case a misnomer for a capitalism which always tended towards monopoly. Although the middle classes benefited as well as everyone else, especially where the extension of culture was concerned, they hated seeing the working classes released from their pre-war chains.
But that is what I suggest we must return to, wholesale renationalisation of what was privatised. And the nationalisation of so many bank, which we are told is temporary, should be permanent. Only then will we gradually reduce our national debt and return to a fair and sharing society, and only then will a slow prosperity, not for a few but for all, begin to come back. It must be accompanied by a national incomes policy where spending ability should be about one to fifteen. And regulation, closely watched, should control all financial and banking transactions.
This does not mean that we become communist. Whatever it might be in theory, fully communist regimes always end with the wrong people in power and an elite based on party loyalty that soon becomes corrupt. The model we should look at here is the liberal one of Tito in post-war Yugoslavia that, once he had escaped from Stalinist control, brought back family-based small scale capitalism (never called that) which allowed private enterprise to flourish but never to grow too big. What happened then is that from a level of endurable austerity everything got better by about ten percent a year until sectarianism nationalism reared its ugly head again, whipped up by power-seeking demagogues, proving once again the sense of Plato’s caveats on democracy.
A return to Attlee-style socialism should be accompanied by a new look at an educational system that has fallen apart because poorly educated elected officials do not understand that education is for life and a broadening of human intelligence and understanding, not just a preparation for a life of work with a miserable and empty retirement at the end of it. Education should be linked to the arts and sciences, to learning languages, to leisure pursuits and to making work creative and interesting, based on willing cooperation and sharing.
Then there is the health service, the problem of the old and disabled, ways to encourage talent, and a whole variety of other issues to be considered. I shall save them for future blogs. Bring back Clause Four is a good beginning.