A People’s HQ for Covid-19

30 Apr

The financial resources government has made available for a pause in economic life show the viability of non-capitalist economic planning. But as in 2008, such largesse will come at huge cost to ordinary people unless the labour movement can show leadership and substantially influence, if not control, the narrative. Via bankruptcy, de facto insolvency and debt, key sectors of the economy can be held to ransom by government for regressive state intervention and social engineering.

We should not imagine that the current government and its advisors will hesitate to use every lever at their disposal to remake British society along lines advocated by the Institute of Economic Affairs, Taxpayers’ Alliance and their ilk.

Economic reconstruction is inevitable – the question is about whose interests it will serve. That is to be determined. But every day the labour movement fails to engage seriously and proportionately increases the probability that it will be determined in the interests of a tiny minority, and that we will see renewed and deepening austerity, privatisation … and reactionary nationalism.

Peter Jones and Chik Collins, A People’s HQ for Covid-19 (3181 words)

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“The public”, we are often told, “has a short memory”. I’ve long doubted the truth of that. More accurate, I think, is that the agencies through which we form our views of the world serve with greater or lesser sophistication the interests of a tiny minority some of us call the ruling class.

As I said in a 2018 review of the Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz:

corrosive as billionaire ownership is, a corruption greater still, because more insidious, is that of news provision driven by advertising

“The public” remembers what it is urged to remember, and forgets what it is quietly allowed to forget. Lies of omission are not only less risky than those of commission. On grand overarching narratives, they are also more effective.

There are many  things the current pandemic shares with the financial crash of 2008, but the one I and the authors of A People’s HQ for Covid-19 have in mind has yet to materialise. Right now, as with the fall of Lehman Bros and its aftermath, even rightwing media are denouncing capitalism’s manifest failings. They could hardly do otherwise, without descending into surreal self parody.

But without decisive intervention from below to seize the initiative – including control of the narrative – those same media, and those same politicians at the helms of all the mainstream parties, will be easing back on the denunciation and upping the amnesia-through-distraction levels as the dust begins to settle.

As early salvo in the struggle to seize that initiative, I commend the Jones-Collins proposals.

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19 Replies to “A People’s HQ for Covid-19

  1. Sounds good, Phil. I have suggested to my local branch of the LRC (left Labour) group in York that we take this up at our next online meeting (Monday) with a view to giving it our support. Have copied you into my email. Steve

    • Steve, that is great to hear – thanks so much for taking these ideas up! Please let us know if there’s any way we can help or support. And please keep in touch!
      Very best!
      Pete and Chik

      • Peter, Steve … I have email addresses for both of you. With the permission of either of you, I can forward to the other.

        You might want to look at the Richard Murphy demands linked from my post of March 21 – Labour, your silence is deafening! Murphy’s a modern monetary theorist, while on law of value grounds I’m a MMT sceptic. But this is no time for sectarian squabbling. The demands he sets out seem apposite and defensible as a minimum which all progressives can agree on.

        • Thanks, Phil. Only just seen these replies (it would be great to enable email notifications for subsequent replies on your comment thread, if possible!), but will certainly take a look.

          • it would be great to enable email notifications for subsequent replies

            I thought I had this, Steve. I get email notification of comments, including replies to replies, and had assumed others did the same.

            There’s a number of things I’m not happy with about comment management. My principal bugbears are: lack of support for hyperlinks that open up new windows rather than take readers away, no blockquote or emphasis. All can be fixed with html but that’s clunky and error prone, whch points to another deficiency – the fact site visiotrs can’t edit their comments.

            • No worries. All in good time. At least you’re aware of it now… (unless it is me who’s missing something, that is!)

  2. Whenever I hear pronouncements on “the public” I am suspicious. These are usually projections on what the media (under the control of the wealthy) want everyone to believe. I recall one election in America where the content of the media coverage was entirely trivial and indeed moronic – revolving around the fashions, haircuts, personal quirks etc. of the candidates. And then there was a late declaration from this very media on how stupid “the public” were for fixating on these things! This naturally went with a sneer that “the public” don’t know what’s important for them! And this from the very media that was distracting the public with bullshit!

    It reminds me of something Michael Parenti said about the difference between public opinion and *visible* public opinion.

    • I like Parenti’s work. I also like Media Lens. I urge readers to read Propaganda Blitz – or failing that, my review of it!

      • Bob I’ve now given this a listen. Useful. Same story in the UK. Here’s a sample from a Guardian piece three weeks ago. Don’t be fooled: Britain’s coronavirus bailout will make the rich richer still:

        Conservatives such as Sajid Javid – who tweeted that “the whole point of fiscal conservatism in normal times is to be able to act decisively if there is a genuine economic emergency” – are already trying to reconcile the crisis response with austerity politics. Fiscal hawks will be keen to draw a line under the crisis period and insist that we now need to tighten our belts again to pay for it.

        Meanwhile, mortgage and rent “holidays” and guaranteed loans for small businesses require people to take on private debts that they will have to pay back when the crisis is over. One way or another, then, the bulk of the costs will still eventually be borne by ordinary people.

        On the other hand, virtually no sacrifices have been demanded of banks, landlords or profitable corporations, such as utility companies. The only people in society not being asked to share the burden are “rentiers”: those who make money by owning assets they can charge others to use.

  3. Peter, I think it sounds good and an important theme to be focused on.
    Cecília

    • Jams I just took a look at this 5,000 worder. It looks as if it addresses questions long on my mind. I’ve copied and pasted the whole to a Word doc and sent to my kindle fro reading later today. I’ll come back with my thoughts but in the meantime, thanks man.

    • Hi Jams. I’ve read the piece much more thoroughly and will do so again. It addresses a conundrum that’s vexed me for a decade:

      1. Capitalism is an existential threat which has to go, if humanity is to survive.
      2. There are excellent reasons for saying that ‘parliamentary socialism’ is an oxymoron.
      3. There are excellent reasons for saying the vanguard party model of revolutionary change is obsolete. One being the sheer power of the modern advanced capitalism/imperialist state, with its near monoply on violence, and mechanisms of surveillance beyond the wildest dreams of the totalitarian states of the twentieth century.

      I want to give the piece a good deal more thought, but my initial response is one of welcome. Thank you.

  4. We don’t have capitalism. What we have is banksterism: a private lending cabal that controls govts.
    Rothschild : “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its legislation”
    The money lenders control your govt but you believe concepts they feed you?
    It is not helpful to point the finger at a concept that we don’t even have in the economic monopoly.
    Surely you’ve seen hundreds of billions flowing towards the banking cabal’s agenda.
    Capitalism its a non existent concept .
    Only ignorant people can be manipulated, mind controlled to forget and think as the media wishes.

    Its ignorant to think you can have outer changes or peace in the world without making the inner ones.
    Find peace inside and you make peace with the world.
    All else is lunacy .
    That is what we are seeing right now insanity on a global scale.

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