[Marxism] A Keynsian speaks

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sun Apr 14 17:03:47 MDT 2013

In the Guardian Will Hutton wrote:

Trade unions certainly needed the Thatcher treatment in terms of both
accepting the rule of law and the need for responsibilities alongside their
rights. But companies, shareholders, banks and wider finance also needed
this treatment. But as "her people" and part of the hegemonic alliance she
aimed to create, they would never get the same medicine. Instead, her Big
1986, allowing banks worldwide to combine investment and commercial
banking in London, was a monster sweetheart deal to please her own
constituency. Britain became the centre of a global financial boom, but at
home this meant an intensification of the financial system's
dysfunctionality, helped by little regulation and a self-defeating credit
boom, worsening the anti-investment, short-termist that needed to be
reformed. This is now obvious to all. But for nearly 30 years, the apparent
success of Thatcherism hid the need.

My comment:  Hutton's article on Thatcher is worth a read if one can
control the gag reflex. He is critical of her but reserves his praise for
her defeat of the unions.  He represents the 1970s as a crisis of
governability.  The trade unions were too strong and the "rights" of
parliament had to be asserted, he argues.

Reading his analysis of union power, I can only say "I wish!"

He then goes on as above to describe the rise of the market.  He does not
admit that this is where governability shifted to.  He is unable to
conceive of such a notion. But the revelations of the corruption of
politicians by the Murdoch clan are just the tip of the ice berg when it
comes to how Parliament lay down before the city. The whole notion of the
banks as "too big to fail" and the unspoken corollary of the working-class
as "too small to succeed", clearly shows the constructing of commonsense
around the power of the capitalist class.

But Hutton is worried.  He is honest enough to see that Britain is not
working.  He describes how he is part of a committee chaired by Lord Adonis
(!) to introduce a kind of watered down Keynesianism to the devastated
North East.  The reintroducing of the state as partner to capital is for
him the solution.  He also fusses a little over the crushing of the unions
in that it has meant that 60% of British workers have no vocation.

My own thoughts are that the unions were not powerful enough in the 70s.
They were powerful certainly but they did not challenge the system
fundamentally.  They were much too economist. If there had been a crisis of
governability as Hutton alleges that would actually have created a whole
different kind of politics.



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