Posts Tagged ‘Communism’

Obama and Merkel can still make history, not be its victims

10/08/2011, 08:00:04 AM

by Jonathan Todd

People make their own history, as Karl Marx knew and Angela Merkel and Barack Obama cannot deny, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. Over hundreds of years America has evolved to a fiercely divided, uncompromising polis wedded to a system demanding compromise. Over decades Europe has achieved monetary union. Thousands of years of history hang over its fiscal consummation, which is required to avoid collapse and further calamity. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.
One of the ironies of Marx is that communism was supposedly inevitable, but his tombstone declares that the point is to change the world, not interpret it. What’s to change if history’s terminus is already determined? What was the point of agitating publications like the Communist Manifesto if we were all, in spite of ourselves, destined for communism?

Such publications imply that Marx himself may not have seen communism as quite the iron certainty that rigid interpretations of his writing suggest. But one of the divisions between Marxism and much of the rest of the left concerns the extent to which we are prisoners of history. Parties such Labour predicate themselves on an assumption that the institutions of advanced capitalist democracies can be moulded to serve socially just ends. Ed Miliband’s father, of course, like other Marxists, thought this naive.

Recent economic events seem to vindicate Ralph Miliband. Political leadership seems oxymoronic when our nominal leaders appear only witnesses to events that they can barely fathom, let alone command. (In the non-economic sphere, our Tuscan prime minister is similarly bemused by the revenge of the lumpenproletariat). Nothing has happened to undermine James Carville’s famous wish to come back as the bond market and intimidate everybody. It’s these markets that are in the box seat and our political leaders that are cowered.

What they demand are credible plans from governments to repay their creditors. This isn’t unreasonable. I expect you’d want to see credible repayment plans before you leant non-trivial amounts of money. The governments of the third and fourth largest economies in the eurozone, Italy and Spain, seem increasingly unable to produce such plans. The downgrade of the USA, though unjustified, speaks to a similar lack of confidence in America’s ability to manage its debts.

While events seem to lead towards the largest country in the world that still professes to be communist, China, being an ever more dominant geo-political force, the Marxists should not be too triumphant. The markets are, of course, as powerful as James Carville’s wildest dream and Ralph Miliband’s bleakest nightmare. But they do not remain beyond the capacity of political leaders to have them becalmed. That is if political leaders do what it says on their tin; lead.
This doesn’t mean interpreting opinion polls as immovable. Germany, for example, could swing behind the full steps required to save the euro if Merkel articulated them well enough. It means seeing your electorate as intelligent beings capable of being won over by the force of your argument and your actions. Merkel and Obama can still do this. But only if they stop being intimidated not only by the bond markets but also by opinion polls, their political opponents and their own inevitable failure to hold in their minds every relevant fact and figure. (more…)

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Will the right face its 1989 moment?

04/08/2011, 02:00:36 PM

by James Watkins

1989 was a bombshell for many people on the left. Any hopes that a communist utopia would flourish went up in a puff of smoke when the peoples of eastern Europe turned against their governments.

In Britain, the impact of 1989 was profound. The Communist party went into freefall, various factions split into further factions, Marxism Today went off the shelves and a further spur was given to the changes in the Labour party.

So why has there not been a “1989 moment” for the right? For in 2008, the confidence in laissez-faire markets should have gone up in a puff of smoke when the markets failed – and the only thing that held economies together was the intervention of the nation states.

The 2008 moment went against everything that Friedman, Hayek and other free market thinkers had been advocating. This was clear, conclusive evidence that rolling back the state and giving free rein to markets does not lead to a natural equilibrium in the economy. Former US federal reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, said he was “surprised” by this. One former Tory Parliamentary candidate told me at the time that if free markets led to the collapse of all the banks and the mess that this would lead to, then so be it. This was the confused and muddled state the right was in back in 2008. (more…)

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