Dramatični miselni zasuk konzervativcev in levičarjev od neoliberalizma nazaj v regulirano gospodarstvo in iskanje svetega grala

The Guardian je objavil odličen članek o dramatičnih konceptualnih spremembah v britanski politiki. Če so za časa vladavine Tonyja Blaira levičarji z njim na čelu bodisi glasno pridigali konzervativni jezik neoliberalizma bodisi resignirano priznavali, da je konzervativna neoliberalna doktrina prostega trga, globalizacije, deregulacije, privatizacije, fleksibilizacije trga dela zmagala, pa 12 let kasneje tako konzervativci kot levičarji v svojih manifestih grmijo proti prostemu trgu, proti zlorabam privatiziranih podjetij v odnosu do potrošnikov, in zahtevajo več regulacije, večje delavske pravice, načrtno industrijsko politiko in “gospodarski model, ki bo deloval za vse“.

No, dobro, konzervativci zgolj retorično uporabljajo to všečno retoriko, medtem ko levičarji predlagajo konkretne anti-neoliberalne politike. Kljub temu pa je konceptualni 180-stopinjski zasuk na obeh polih političnega spektra dramatičen in konsenz popoln. Kakorkoli na prvi pogled presenetljiv zasuk in politični konsenz, pa v svojem bistvu ne gre za nič presenetljivega, če si evolucijo predstavljate kot ogromno sinusoido okrog blago naraščajočega trenda. Z vzponi in padci ter posledično vmesnimi “reparaturami” sistema.

Hudič je le, ker danes nhče ne ve, kakšen bo nov, reformiran kapitalizem. Že v nacionalnem kontekstu je izjmeno težko najti pravo formulo med regulacijo in sproščenostjo tržnih sil ter za funkcionalno, stabilno in vzdržno razmerje med delom in kapitalom. V razmerah globalizacije pa se ta formula še bistveno bolj zakomplicira z iskanjem optimalne stopnje odprtosti za tuje izdelke, storitve, kapital in migracije. Naj me vrag, če zna kdo danes dati na papir ti optimalni formuli, ki bi zdržali nekaj desetletij pri zagotavljanju stabilnega ekonomskega in družbenega ravnovesja. Dvomim, da sta levica in desnica družno pripravljeni poiskati ta sveti gral, ga bosta pa v končni instanci prisiljeni s strani volilcev najti.

Twelve years ago, shortly after winning his third consecutive general election, Tony Blair gave the Labour party a brief lecture on economics. “There is no mystery about what works,” he said, crisply, speaking from a podium printed with the slogan “Securing Britain’s Future” at the party conference in Brighton. “An open, liberal economy prepared constantly to change to remain competitive.”

Blair rounded on critics of modern capitalism: “I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation. You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer. They’re not debating it in China and India.” He went on: “The temptation is … to think we protect a workforce by regulation, a company by government subsidy, an industry by tariffs. It doesn’t work today.” Britain should not “cling on to the European social model of the past”.

Most of his conference speech was vigorously applauded. But the passage on economics was received with solemn looks and silence. There was no heckling, as there had been when previous Labour leaders and chancellors delivered what they saw as home truths about the economy. Instead, there was a sense of resignation in the hall: an acceptance by a party of the left that the right had won the economic argument.

In the early years of the 21st century, the inevitability of an ever more competitive, deregulated, internationally orientated market economy, to which both government and society were subordinate – a doctrine often called neoliberalism – was accepted right across the mainstream of British politics. […] to the Blair cabinet itself, where, I was told by a senior Labour figure in 2001, “You won’t find a single member with anything critical to say about capitalism.” It was assumed by the main parties that most voters felt the same way.

In 2017, that aura of invulnerability has evaporated. Disenchantment with the economic status quo has been potently expressed in elections across the world, from France to the US. But in no democracy has the political shift against the free market been as stark as in Britain.

Since Thatcher’s election in 1979, Conservative and Labour governments have privatised and deregulated, reduced taxes for business and indulged its excesses, opened up the economy to foreign capital and commercialised the national psyche, until Britain became one of the world’s most thoroughly neoliberal societies. And yet, at last year’s EU referendum, the votes of those “left behind” by all this played an unexpectedly pivotal role. Then, at this year’s general election, both the Conservatives and Labour campaigned – or appeared to campaign – against the economic system that they themselves had created.

The Conservative manifesto attacked “aggressive asset-stripping” of British companies by foreign buyers; “perverse pricing” by privatised rail companies; “exploitative” markets in energy, property, insurance and telecommunications; and “the remuneration of some corporate leaders … [which] has risen far faster than some corporate performance”.

“We reject the cult of selfish individualism,” the manifesto declared, in language seemingly calculated to insult Thatcherites. “We do not believe in untrammelled free markets.” Instead, the Conservatives now believed that “regulation [was] necessary for the proper ordering of any economy”. They would “enhance workers’ rights and protections”, and create an “economy that works for everyone”. The obvious implication was that the free market had created the opposite.

The Labour manifesto opened with almost exactly the same words: “Creating an economy that works for all”. Like the Tories, Labour attacked executive pay and promised to strengthen workers’ rights. Like the Tories, they offered an “industrial strategy” through which government – long depicted by free-marketeers as largely irrelevant or actively harmful – would help modernise the economy. And like the Tories, Labour said companies should no longer be run primarily for their shareholders, as free-market doctrine has insisted since the early 80s, but also for the benefit of their employees, customers and the public as a whole.

While the Conservatives offered mostly rhetoric, Labour offered policies – nationalisation, restored trade union rights, restrictions on the City of London – which would undo much of British neoliberalism.

The end of the free-market monopoly in British politics is part of an even bigger change. After almost a quarter of a century when it was widely agreed that the fundamentals of the economy were too important to be meddled with by politicians, or be subject to democratic scrutiny, the contest to shape that economy has restarted.

The emerging outline of a new economic order is often present, not much noticed, amid the final stirrings of the old. In the 70s, the City traders and sharkish entrepreneurs of the Thatcher era to come were often already at work, even as trade unions and Keynesians still held court in Downing Street.

If Brexit proves a disaster, or another crisis soon hits our largely unreformed financial system, as an increasing number of commentators predict, the political space for alternatives to neoliberalism may open further. But Glasman predicts that working out exactly what comes after modern British capitalism will be “the job of the rest of our lives”. He is 56 years old.

Vir: The Guardian

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