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)
“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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