The Return of Ideology

Tomorrow’s historians might well identify Sunday August 15th as the day the media began to notice that ideology was back. A casual flick through today’s Observer (an ostensibly Lib-Dem supporting national Sunday newspaper, for our non-UK comrades), shows that the vaguely left-of-centre establishment has suddenly noticed that the Con-Dem government isn’t some sort of vaguely Blair-ish socially liberal, economically conservative set-up. It’s an ideologically-charged crack-commando unit of dangerously Liberal, in its most scary 19th Century sense, lunatics, hell-bent on removing the State from society in its entirety, and incentivising the forces of business and capital to fill the void. And students of Marx know what follows that: once the economic base is entirely private, so the cultural superstructure devotes itself to justifying the hegemony of the private. And everything that we’ve ever gained gets knocked back 100 years or more.

Well, the papers aren’t quite saying that. But they’ve finally noticed the underlying ideological agenda. It’s an agenda that the Liberal Democrats and the Tories have always shared, so we’re not sure why it seems to come as a surprise to a lot of Lib-Dems. But rather than being hidden under their usual pile of liberal social policy, Lib Dem economic policy and Liberal obsession with prioritising the private over the public is now at the fore, thanks to the Tories’ bolder approach to owning up to the ideological nonsense they subscribe to.

So, Exhibit A in today’s Observer is an anonymous diary being kept by a senior civil servant currently working with the Coalition. He reports frustration amongst the Cabinet that the civil service doesn’t quite recognise just how ideological this government is, and how committed it is to dismantling the public sector and leaving a great big vacuum to be filled by private forces. The civil service is finding it difficult to adjust to a government which, it seems, doesn’t believe in government, and is ideologically committed to removing it from our lives so that the private sector can run it all instead.

Exhibit B is a superb piece by William Keagan which concentrates on the Coalition’s ‘obsession’ with deficit reduction, in the face of criticism from Nobel laureates, university professors, and the global media. He likens it to the Thatcher government’s obsession with inflation. It’s clear. Cameron and Osborne, despite their cosy ‘never missing bathtime and cycling to work’ image, are ideologically committed to a gruesome agenda which retains the same barbaric beliefs in the power of the private sector that we spent the 80s fighting against.

And if there is any doubt that the Lib Dems are willing conspirators in this ideological crusade, we offer Exhibit C from today’s Observer: Nick Clegg’s shameless claim that he and his Tory chums are out to ‘reinvent Britain’. In, it seems, the image of 19th Century cartoon capitalist society. And as ‘the big society’ fills the gap where disability allowance and housing benefit used to be, we can look forward to it providing us with workhouses and charity handouts to care for those who fall through the huge holes in what used to be an effective safety net.

So, the right is happily engaged in deeply ideological activity. It has deep beliefs, a clear programme, a way of analyzing society. What does the left have? Very very little. We need a deft left. An ideologically committed left. A left with heft. And no one is giving us one.

People ask why Thee Faction have come back now, at this moment. A flick through the Sunday papers will tell you why. If no one else  is is going to reorganize and galvanize the left in Britain, then it looks like we’re going to have to. And this time we’re not going to disappear midway through the project. Clegg’s article tells us that the right is absolutely committed to their project. The left, it seems, isn’t bothering to offer an ideology to compete. Well, it is now. Let’s get organised. We need an analysis, a programme, and a vision of a better tomorrow. If our class’s leadership isn’t going to offer it, we’re going to have to.

Make sure you’re at the The Bull & Gate on September 18th to be part of the launch of the fightback. We can’t wait any longer. There is an alternative, brothers and sisters.

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