Sorting out the mess, how conservatism and Karl Marx can help.
Karl Marx as anyone who reads our posts will know was an economic determinist. Even now this is an ‘unfashionable’ theory as it places all ‘ideas’ as the outcome of economic circumstances, including religious and political ideas. Thus, the demands of religion or politics are simply a reflection of how economic value is created and who controls it and disposes of it. Every phase in history to date has been a struggle between those who have amassed economic value (the powerful) and those who created it for them (the poor).
Until the seventeenth century, most people were in bondage of one form or another, the birth of capitalism in the eighteenth century took away the overt bonds between the powerful and poor and replaced them with contract, choice and consent. Little changed but in theory at least people were ‘free’. With the end of the feudal system, hard work, luck and a talent for enterprise could turn anyone into a capitalist, even those who had previously been bound to others.
The world of the eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries was characterised by ‘free’ people winning and losing economically. This economic paradox is what intrigued Karl Marx. Capitalism was a system that was in all senses ‘just’ but was clearly unfair. It was ‘just’ because it was based on Contract, Choice and Consent unlike the values of the feudal system, control, compulsion and coercion but….it was unfair because the elite, the capitalists, made the system work for their benefit. The composition of the capitalist class, unlike that of the aristocracy, changed as economic fortunes changed, but the system was politically robust enough to survive whoever was rich or poor. To preserve itself capitalism created institutions to support it. Political parties, parliaments, Laws and Local Authorities, an established religion and more recently ‘state broadcasters’ all combined to preserve the status quo. After the Second World War two socialist governments of both Labour and the Conservatives sought to extend the rights of contract, choice and consent to as many workers as possible as well as redistribute the economic value more evenly via tax and welfare regimes.
Well, that story takes us to about 1960. After about 1960 capitalism went into one of its frequent periods of collapse. Capitalism collapses all the time and according to Karl Marx would finally leave a legacy of workers who could both recognise and utilise the principles of contract, choice and consent but within an economic system that was under the control of the workers and not the capitalists. The surplus value that made the capitalists rich would be distributed fairly amongst the working people who created it. The end of unfairness would arise because the people would have economic equality which would generate social equality and a fair income for all. Equality between all people, men, women, and people with a variety of different lifestyles would prevail as there would be no basis for discrimination as everyone’s talents would be needed within an economy of mutual interdependence. We are a long way from this model happening but some of the principles have merit, particularly if applied to the public sector.
All models of the economic and social organisation must arise from the base, from the working people who, recognising their equal status as workers only seek to take out of the collective pot an amount that reflects their contribution to the pot with some account taken of their unique needs (having children for example). The mechanism for this is of course contract, choice and consent. A process that both reflects and reinforces equality at every social and economic level; between politicians and people and between the people themselves.
The ‘State’ would shrink back and become merely a way of enforcing equality within the Nation and upholding Contract, Choice and Consent. A legal system would be needed not representing ‘capital’ but the sometimes conflicting needs of people within a contractarian society. This would take eighteenth and nineteenth-century capitalist principle into the twenty-first century. But something is preventing that happening.
The answer to why t hasn’t happened is complex. The ‘capitalist’ system was designed to protect ‘capital’ amassed by the rich, capital created by the worker. Today we have the ghost of a capitalist system that has collapsed but leaving behind its complex eighteenth-century formal power relationships. So, the good news for the worker is that we have contract, choice and consent welfare and health care. The bad news is the system still requires unequally distributed wealth to function and this is now created by the banking system and the State at large via National Debt and we the working people are paying for an army of rich public servants and a financial and political elite with personal and National Debt.
Because the nature of the problem is complex the problem we have in changing this situation is also complex. As working people, we still don’t see ourselves as a mass movement sharing the same values, so we idly identify ourselves with political parties of all stripes that are hostile to our instinctive dislike of the debt-financed political and economic elite. In this sense, the confused socialist and Green party along with the Lib Dems stand for a continuation of the top-down relationship between State and People even though ‘capitalism’ as an economic system requiring a command and control relationships to protect ‘capital’ no longer exists. It’s an oddity that socialism is in Marxist terms still a top-down, command and control ideology, that seeks to reinforce the power of the State and is, in Marxist terms, therefore ‘counter-revolutionary. In that sense Blair, Corbyn and Clinton are all the same. Counter-revolutionaries and the people instinctively know it.
So, into this ideological muddle comes the principles of A Blue Revolution. A worker’s revolution that seeks to take the values of our society, contract, choice and consent and use them to form a State that is flatter, cheaper, economically more equal and significantly more democratic and ecologically less harmful.
This model won’t be delivered by a socialist type party. Socialism is paternalistic and relies on a powerful State just like top-down religion requires a powerful God to deliver ‘justice’. Socialism is no help to the future, indeed with its top-down obsessions, it is getting in the way of progress.
So it leaves either an upsurge in support for A Blue Revolution, which is unlikely in the next two decades or an enlightened Conservative Party to do the Nations bidding and restructure our State along the lines sketched out above. The detail will be more complex but broadly the public sector must be reconfigured so public services like health and police etc are not delivered using industrial top-down hierarchical models with huge wages at the top, which are unreflective of the actual effort put in. We need to develop what we describe as social models to deliver public services.
Similarly, the State needs to withdraw from all areas of moral behaviour aside from protecting the vulnerable and allow all adults to ‘contract’ as responsible people. We can no longer afford to subsidize ‘lifestyle’ issues and that must include having children. If people want to have children, they should contract with each other and not simply default to the ‘State’ to pay for them. There is no ‘capitalist’ paying taxes for our welfare, we are all paying for it with our debt. Marriage should be a proper contract and the state should simply ensure a contract exists if people have children, just as it does for a property.
Finally, our political system is binary to reflect the eighteenth-century obsession with land and capital. Binary systems are prone to failure in the modern world as the two sides coalesce around ‘ideological’ positions and the people get ignored. This has happened too many times to recount but the EU is the most striking example of political failure. We need to change the political system so that people get in who are able and willing to think rather than obey party diktat. If we got rid of parties or rather they got rid of themselves and we had a larger number of politically minded people involved in running our nation we would not need to reform the electoral system. We only need to do that because we have political parties operating within a binary parliament.
The revolution may come eventually, but we hope before the debt-dependent free market collapses or the top down cultural Marxists inflict either totalitarianism on the workers or even worse religion takes hold. No one really knows what they the elite are up to. But everything they have done over the last forty years fails the sniff test.