Humanity has experienced two revolutions in the last 10,000 years. Two revolutions since we were able to create more wealth than we needed as a species to survive. When this happened, it was possible to distribute it equally or alternatively for one man and his family or group to acquire that wealth and acquire the power that went with it. This latter model was revolution number one, it took much of humankind from hand to mouth tribal reality into the world of power, politics and inequality, in short, political authority was born. Whole systems of laws and faith were created to promote the ‘normality’ of this arrangement.
Religion tried to compensate for the inequality of this new economic world order. However economic reality cast aside the idealised visions of heaven on earth promoted by faiths like Judaism Christianity and Islam and gave only heaven in heaven.
This system of aristocratic families ‘owning’ almost all the wealth created by slaves and workers continued for thousands of years slowly moving out from the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Eventually, it arrived in Europe by the turn of the second millennium. Britain was probably too swampy, cold and hilly to generate enough wealth for anyone to waste time trying to acquire it after the Romans left……until 1066 or thereabouts.
Once Britain became subject to this autocratic feudal exploitation, any notion of equality disappeared and lives became a struggle to survive, not just survive against nature herself but against powerful ‘political’ forces too. Natural events shaped the reality of everyone’s lives, but whether it was war or famine the ‘top people’ the aristocracy always fared much better than those toiling at the bottom. And moreover, the ‘top people’ fought the ‘rabble’ to ensure the survival of their system.
Famine was a reality for the poor, but famine and plague were touch papers for the next great revolution. Again, economics played the most significant role. A shortage of labour drove up wages creating a class of trading merchants who by increasing their wealth could challenge the rights of crown, church and aristocracy.
Famine stoked riots but also stimulated agricultural innovation. The feudal system was quietly being undermined from the economic base. The religious legitimacy of a feudal ruler was now capable of being challenged by a class of people wealthy because of hard work and enterprise. Eventually, revolution number two swept away British Catholicism and promoted the work ethic.
By the seventeenth century, having been convulsed by revolution number two which whilst superficially about religion had its real origins in economics, the merchant class amassing a popular revolt finally took away through revolution the power of the king.
Capitalism was born from the ashes of the feudal system. Like all revolutions, it salvaged what it could from the ‘old ways’ adopting feudalisms top-down structure but with an economic model based on new ideas like the freedom to acquire wealth using principles of contract, choice and consent. Capitalism paid for its power outsourcing control to parliaments and courts rather than acquiring its own power based on feudal entitlement, status and birthright.
This populist revolution created the basis of our present Parliamentary and legal system. A mixture of feudalism and capitalism; a kind of political labradoodle. Not one thing nor the other! Very expensive, class-based but not status based. However, the elite capitalists paid for the system out of the profits made for them by the working class. Workers paid nothing directly to the state until about the twentieth century.
This model worked on and off, well into the twentieth century, notwithstanding the odd crisis or the wars it caused when it failed in places like Germany in the 1900s or 1930s. Where it has been successful it has for two hundred years underpinned freedom and rights to contract, make personal choices and consent to lives in general. Also unlike the other two other systems which pre dated it, tribalism and feudalism it has been flexible enough to extend rights to all adults by the late twentieth century. The left doesn’t understand the concept, but the world’s future should not be about socialism but about progressive capitalism. The rights-based equality of progressive capitalism is why ideologies promoted by the UN that hate equality, particularly for women, are turning capitalism into a hated ideology to be destroyed because of its origins in white European economics. As well as attacks from autocrats, ill-informed socialists and religious cranks, capitalism has its own problems too.
By the 1970s capitalism was again beginning to fail. Most of us didn’t realise it because just like the elite of the sixteenth century holding on to their feudal power, our ‘global’ elite began selling us the idea that all’s well in the global economy by creating the global ‘free market’. This approach enables them to hang onto their power. The so-called left-wing assist, acting like useful idiots using the new religion of ‘identity and diversity’ which differentiates the working class and sows class oppression and class confusion. So within the framework of capitalist rights and free market muddle have we got to the point of a third and probably final popular uprising or revolution?
Capitalism needs both the supply of goods and just as importantly the demand for them. Henry Ford paid his workers’ good wages and gave them time off so they could not only afford to buy a car…..they had time to drive it for leisure. Today we have broken this link between productive workers and consumers. We have out of the ashes of a broken capitalist system turned to debt to create the demand for products which as we consume them, make our global elite very rich but the debt both government and personal makes us poor. This is for us the first whammy. We pay with debt for a system that makes a political and economic elite rich.
In our globalised world our global elite doesn’t pay tax and moreover, they don’t employ many people. Those they do employ are on low wages, work in oppressive countries or at home their jobs are often subsidized by our governments and that means the taxpayer foots the bill. This is the second whammy.
The third and final whammy is that our whole debt based political and legal system is now very expensive having grown in size and scale since the end of the second world war. Now, of course, we ordinary workers have to pay for it.
So, what does this mean? It means we need another revolution. Revolution number three. A revolution based on working peoples twenty-first-century global economic realities. So in summary we have populism because:
- The political and economic system is more expensive than it has ever been but now ordinary workers, rather than the elite pay for it.
- Governments encourage debt to maintain the illusion that the economy works. It doesn’t, no economy can rely on debt and welfare forever.
- Working people’s voices have become excluded from political debate due to the end of open politics. Our current economic system has no money to distribute so left-wing politics is irrelevant and the capitalist system is now a bankrupt free-market relying on worker serviced private and government debt, so right-wing politics is irrelevant- we no longer need to debate this stuff we need a revolution!
- To preserve the rights, we gained with capitalism the right to contract, choose and consent, we need to ensure the free market survives. But that free markets survival can’t be based on debt. We need to shrink the bloated, unaccountable undemocratic and expensive state and give workers more time and more money to run our nation on our behalf. This is not socialism. This is not the power of the state controlling our lives but our lives controlling the state.
Is this revolution a long way off?
As working people, we are still holding out for a hero a Nigel Farage or Donald Trump? Or we are holding out for a political ‘party’ to save us. In France, they thought it was Macron! Any person or party which has to fit into our 18th-century political system will fail.
The system within which our heroes and parties operate is broken just like the economy. We need a new system that promotes our western values but doesn’t rely on the past political system to deliver our future. We need a revolution, a peoples revolution, a revolution of the independently minded blue collar worker. A Blue Revolution to bring religion to heel, promote equality, control top public sector wages, make corporations pay tax on national earnings, give workers more money and time and shrink the state so we can afford to live in it.
That is the workers challenge for the twenty first century.