Anti-big business does not equal pro-socialism

From the Greens to the BNP to Islamists, anti-capitalism is flavour of the month, writes Jim Moody

Mainstream bourgeois parties have found it hard to respond coherently to the turmoil in the international economy.

However, as the crisis starts to hit people in terms of job losses, falling living standards, deteriorating public services, mortgage rate increases, house repossessions, etc, this situation will probably benefit those smaller parties that advocate various alternatives to the pro-business Labour-Tory-Liberal Democrat consensus. There are many of them.

The programme presented by Caroline Lucas MEP, leader of the Green Party, comes straight from the ‘small is beautiful’ form of capitalism made famous by EF Schumacher. The Lucas plan envisages a “green new deal”, which would see failed banks broken up into numerous small concerns. Thus, she argues, if one went under, it should be possible to contain things without putting the whole economy at risk. As if the failure of one small bank does not lead to a run on the whole sector.

She also aims to separate high street banking from financial corporations, hoping that this would somehow improve the security of individuals’ savings and mortgages. How thousands of tiny banks would be able to opt out of the global system of finance capital is not explained. In addition, the Greens would restore some of ‘our’ lost building societies. Harking back, Lucas wants a return to mutuality, instead of the failed, demutualized building societies, such as Northern Rock and Bradford & Bindley.

Naturally, green capitalism would serve people’s needs: “A Green New Deal means government doing its job: investing in keeping our economy healthy and building a sustainable economy for the future. By borrowing from the people through local bonds, government can create a secure investment for savers. That would allow us to revamp our public transport, energy supplies and housing, generating jobs, revitalising money flows, loosening ties to unreliable oil markets and cutting carbon emissions” (‘Quangoes won’t solve financial crisis’, September 29: www.greenparty.org.uk).

Similarly UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage MEP, who used to be a City trader, wants a return to the good old days of Roosevelt. He calls for a revived 1930s Glass-Steagall Act, which was introduced to separate investment houses from retail banking.

In this way, Ukip’s leader asserts, public confidence in high street banks will be restored. Not exactly anti-capitalist, but he does harp on a bit about those nasty finance capitalists.

As for the BNP, it makes clear that, though supporting private enterprise “since its inception”, it has “strongly opposed the drive towards a global financial system”. Such a system has “no allegiance to our nation’s requirements”, because it serves “only the bankers’ interests”. The BNP claims credit for predicting eventual financial disaster.

Back in April the BNP’s magazine Identity reported the beginnings of the world credit crunch and did its best not only to blame the cosmopolitan bankers, but poor migrants too.

The global fat cats were greedily selling mortgages to America’s poor - “including to millions of immigrants, many of whom would soon lose any worthwhile jobs - most of them being exported to China - and thus the ability to pay off the mortgage” (www.bnp.org.uk/2008/09/financial-chaos-another-bnp-prophesy).

Martin Wingfield, editor of the BNP’s newspaper The Voice of Freedom, says that we are witnessing “historic times”, with “the collapse of global capitalism and the greed that is its hallmark” (martinwingfield.blogspot.com, September 18).

He too looks forward to a Schumacher-like solution: “In a future where the British National Party has a significant input into how things are run, it will be ‘small is beautiful’ for any private enterprise ...” Well, not quite. Wingfield adds that “all of Britain’s large-scale undertakings will come from the state. That is the magic mix that makes nationalism the only way forward for our country.”

In an earlier piece, Wingfield seized upon the question of mortgage default and the resulting repossessions. His idea was that such property might well be bought up by a local authority and used as “social housing”. While it seems unlikely that this kind of proposal would ever be taken up by the mainstream parties, it gives a taste of how versatile the extreme right can be at exploiting social concerns in times of crisis.

Not that Wingfield is concerned with the tenant facing eviction, however. Rather it is the anxious home-owner he is appealing to: “This time around there will be many, many more repossessions and something must be done to limit their depressing effect on the price of property” (September 16).

The idea is that their removal from the housing market by the council would keep prices high. Wingfield concludes that, were this feasible, government ought to make funding available to effect it.

Like the Green Party and the BNP, some Islamists are also calling into question the continued existence of the global system of banking capitalism. For example, Daud Pidcock, former leader of the Islamic Party of Britain, was to debate Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute on October 2. The title of their debate? ‘Credit crunch ... or crunch time for capitalism?’

The debate promised Islamic answers (dialoguewithislam.org). There is, of course, a well-established ‘anti-capitalist’ Muslim publication widely in circulation - The Koran.

All this demonstrates that it is quite possible for reactionary ideas to be posed against the bourgeois mainstream. My enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend.

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