Friday, 10 October 2008

The Divide between the Blogosphere & the Staffroom.

As I write Stock Markets all over the world are engaged in yet another round of freefall. This is being attributed to the fact that everyone knows that the US banking system is still broken (and some people are even calling for it be be rescued by, er, China), and the fact that as the credit crunch works itself through into the real economy firms will go bust and banks will start having to pay out on all the insolvency insurance deals they have sold these firms. The reception of Brown's recovery plan is still positive amongst the commentariat and, it seems, the Market itself - but everyone knows Britain is not an island in any kind of financial sense. Or if it is it is a kind of giant offshore deregulated haven. So the recession is coming, whether or not the Brown plan 'works' in the sense of avoiding major bank defaults.

The Left blogosphere is going bonkers with excitement at all this. & I do mean all sections of the Left. So we have my favourite Kautskyite gloating at the death of neoliberal free market ideology; we have a hugely fractious debate on Socialist Unity over whether the Brown plan is straightforward corporate welfare or a necessary staving off of an Icelandic situation; we even have dependable voices from the New Labour stable (who I don't regard as part of the Left under any possible definition) telling us the world has changed. What they all seem excited about, in their different ways, is that Left politics can once more 'hold its head up' in public debate and isn't simply crushed by the historic shift against us of 1989. The overwhelming feeling is "people will listen to us now, we always said this sort of thing was intrinsic to capitalism, and especially neo-liberalism". Some on the Red Pepper discussion boards are - albeit it very hesitantly – beginning to clear their throats and talk once more about the problems of the transition to socialism.

But what of ordinary people? I say they are, in the main, still experiencing all this as a spectator sport. Certainly that was the mood last night amongst a totally unrepresentative group of teachers, school governors and teaching support staff I ran into at a school reception. (Yeah, I know – I live a really rock'n'roll life, don't I?). People knew what was going on was important- but didn't understand the detail or comprehend the sheer scale of the problem implied by Brown betting a third of the national income on his recovery plan. No one was moving house, no one ran their own construction business and no one was being made redundant - so it was all a problem which felt somehow 'over there somewhere' and deeply mysterious.

So I do wonder how far this Left triumphalism is justified, as yet. I wonder how far the general population is actually, in reality, in an anti-capitalist mood. I regard this as an open question as most people won't feel the effects of mass unemployment and foreclosures for some months. There is anger - but it could be Brown corrals the anger into supporting him, on the grounds he seems so much more decisive than the Americans. Certainly Osborne and Cameron seem rather pathetic when interviewed. So I'd bet on a New Labour bounce in the polls – at least in the short term. I don't necessarily believe people, as yet, are willing to turn to the Left for answers. We still seem like a bunch of overheated losers with totalitarian instincts to the general populution I fear.

But over the coming 2 years there is much hay we can make.

Afterthought: If we're going to go to war with those despicable financial terrorists in Iceland can we please start by seizing Upton Park and holding a fire sale of Craig Bellamy & Co?

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