Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Fri Jun 22 20:05:25 MDT 2001

>Very interesting Phil.  I think that we are in something of a holding
>pattern.  I do not think the ruling class know what to do. The only big
>"idea" in town is Bush's return to War Keynesianism a la Star Wars initiative.

I agree the ruling class globally is exhausted.  The triumphalism of the
early 1990s is gone.  Fukuyama has kind of mirrored this - his later
emphasis on 'social capital' and fears about the negative aspects of
unbridled markets contrasts with 'The End of History'.

Even the head of the History Dept at canterbury University has recently
discovered 'social capital', so it does seem to be catching on.

A couple of (non-leftist) friends of mine do commerce and management
studies.  Their new textbooks are very hot on 'social capital'.

As for Baby Bush, I think the man is just a total dickhead and the US
ruling class will have to sit him down and explain that "no, we don't want
a war with China you knumbskull; we want expanded trade and more openings
for investment there."

>But there are some small ideas around in ruling circles. Thus there was an
>article in the Australian in Friday which said that we had entered a new
>cycle where the public now expected the government to spend on
>services.  Blair's victory came about according to this line because he
>promised to fix up education and health.

The interesting thing here is that while what you say is very true, and
it's evident in NZ as well, 'New Labour' governments are really
implementing increased spending policies.  Indeed, I see that the most
influential New Labourite think tank in Britain has just suggested to Blair
a whole new round of privatisation in health and education.

In NZ, the amounts that Labour has put into public/social services is
pretty minimal.  At present a number of universities are facing crises
because of underfunding - and also the usual totally inept 'new right'
management practices which have been fashionable at places like Auckland
and Canterbury.  So far, the government has totally refused to come to the
party.  Moreover, all they've done in relation to student debt is freeze
interest on loans while people are still studying (the government here used
to charge 7% interest on student loans).  But fees and debt continue to
rise - there is about $NZ4 billion of student debt here at present.

You really wouldn't know that we had a centre-left coalition government in
terms of anything practical - although the Alliance (the junior partner in
the coalition) finally seems to have won on getting some paid parental
leave provisions through.

>We now hear about 'civilising global capital' from the likes of Mark
>Latham.  From the Liberals i.e. ruling conservatives, there is nothing.
>Their coming defeat may not be the catastrophe that appeared possible some
>months ago.  But they are going down, because no one wants them any more
>Your analysis of the conjuncture that the New Right project has exhausted
>itself is spot on. I also think that New Zealand was much worse than
>Australia.  The papers here were full of the New Zealand "miracle" and
>arguing that we shuld follow.  But the "miracle" has come and gone and the
>articles in the media have gone too.

And it's interesting to compare stuff like productivity levels in NZ and
Australia during this period - NZ productivity levels were the same as
Australia's in the 1970s and early 80s.  As NZ embraked on an extreme 'new
right' economic restructuring, courtesy of the Labour government, while
Australia steered a but more of a middle capitalist course, NZ productivity
levels fell noticeably behind Australia's and still are.

The Labour new rightists here never understood that a healthy capitalist
economy isn't just one that has slashed public spending and workers' real
income and living standards, and boosted the rate of profit, but must also
be one *with a dynamic productive sector*, creating real wealth not just
paper 'values'.

>.And that is where we are.  There is a growing tide of reaction of the
>neo-liberalism of the last quarter of a century.  This ranges from the
>black blocs to charlatans like Latham saying he can civilise Capital.

In Australia, I think One Nation represented the reactionary opposition to
neo-liberalism, especially since in both Australia and NZ (perhaps unlike
the US?), economic neo-liberals were generally socially liberal on issues
like gay rights, gender issues, and even race to a certain degree (probably
more in NZ than in Oz on race.)

It's quite difficult to see where things are going generally, because of
this lack of any ruling class big idea.   Havong defeated the labour
movement at home and the Soviet bloc and national liberation movements
abroad, they don't even have anyone whom they can define themselves against

>For the Left the question is whether the new anti-capitalism movement can
>grow. I will try and get around to responding here to Jim Heartfield's
>piece in Revolution.

I think there is a problem with his piece, in that while many of his
criticisms are, in my view, valid, they are also *disengaged* criticisms.
It's a bit like the Barnesites' criticisms of Seattle.  They made perfectly
valid points about economic nationalism etc, but that's no reason not to be
there.  The arguments have to be had out in the context of engagement, not
simply as sideline criticisms from the disengaged.  Or else you have to
have some kind of inspiring alternative political project - which neither
the ex-LM nor the Barnesites have.

BTW, if you want to respond to his piece, write a letter to Revo.  We'd
definitely run it.


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