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Call it a coup

It might be a very British version, but it was a coup.

One day there was a Truss government and a budget for free market capitalism – hedge fund gambler version; next day Chancellor Kwarteng was deposed, their budget was ditched, a general took over the cabinet meeting and dictated economic instructions, all with the democratic support of literally no-one in the country.

Public politics may take a few more days to sort out.

Every media outlet, including disgusting Johnson and Truss flag bearers like the Mail, fell into line, indulging in the sole establishment feature – not about democracy , but regurgitating how any government, of whatever hue, including Labour, will achieve cuts.

Truss’s government, radical right wing in an extreme, had itself been installed by a very British democratic process, albeit of no connection whatsoever to anything that might be termed a ‘popular vote’. The coup was necessary to replace even the ‘democracy’ of the party that has served British capitalism since its inception.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was the cause, if not the vehicle, of the coup. Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng was ruthlessly dispatched from New York, with his tail between his legs, after just the first day of their scheduled meetings. On his return, Truss’s bosom partner in the Tories’ musical chairs, was ‘sacked’. From the margins of Brexit Toryism, a stalwart of the party was briefed and anointed, not by any democratic process but via the Bank of England and mainstream capital. Jeremy Hunt took power, with virtually no resistance.

There was not a hint of any form of democracy in these events. Having held the country in limbo over the summer months, whilst their extreme membership elected a new (white) leader and PM, the barely visible party grandees announced a suddenly instant leadership process, to be resolved by next Friday (28th October), to grace us with their new order. Now, as I write, the parliamentary party even foregoes racism in favour of money in the pockets of their class.

The gambler marketeers had their moment; mainstream neo-liberal capitalism took power back. By a coup.

Comparisons with the Labour Party’s ousting of Jeremey Corbyn are irresistible. The Parliamentary Party, orchestrated by the party machinery and promoted by the boot-licking British media, reorganised the deckchairs on the Titanic, regardless of the ‘democratic’ votes of party members, let alone the populace, and installed their own.

This time, the coup was conducted by the most effective extra-parliamentary force in British politics – the capitalist establishment, always willing to run with the hounds, (or the foxes when needs be) and not averse to direct intervention.

The long decline of world-renowned British democratic stability began with Thatcher, heralded by Callaghan’s failure with Labour in the late 1970s. One of the world’s greatest bourgeois democracies, founded on its imperialist empire and the industrial revolution, was crumbling. Desperate government, largely Tory led, using all measures to hand, began to ditch virtually all Britain’s social underpinnings, mostly salves by Labour, after earlier hard times, medicine for we masses after wars and other policy failures – social housing, education, health, welfare, public transport and more. Blair sustained that project, threw in wars for good measure, before the historic decay culminated in the 2008 crash and great recession.

Old-style British capitalism of imperialism and manufacturing was ditched – imperialism by default, manufacturing by choice. Fast buck finance capital, monetary economics, stock markets, exchange rates and hedge funders took sway. Neo liberal austerity and market gambling brought an end to a couple of centuries of capital’s ‘democratic’ tradition.

The basis of British democracy is in tatters. No greater visible evidence of its abject decline can surpass the governmental shambles of the past few weeks.

Not that we should be complacent about this scenario. Our class is not well prepared.

Part of the bourgeois disarray is self-inflicted, seduced by the urgency of its irresistible desire to accumulate capital,  a guzzling frenzy during pandemic decline, flying to the moon, holidaying in the Caribbean, paying itself bonuses that would otherwise solve the social and climate crises beneath them, foregoing all the ‘unnecessary sweeties’ that had underpinned their relatively easy ride for all those decades.

But they retain much ammunition.

We, on the other hand are still in recovery mode from serious defeats. Defeats are oft-times followed by retrenchment of ‘bourgeois recovery-vehicles’ – Blair’s landslide after Thatcher and the defeat of the miners; the SNP in Scotland after the defeat of the huge mass movement for independence; Starmer’s Labour Party after the crushing of Corbyn’s extraordinarlily popular alternative programme for the many.

Recovery from defeats is painfully slow. Natural recuperative immunity derives from retained memory of the strengths of our movements behind these historic events. We undoubtedly must learn, but those movements are the vital medicines of recovery. In Scotland and in the response to Corbyn, we saw awareness, social and political consciousness, of working people, in their tens and hundreds of thousands, rising for alternatives. We saw it in the millions on the streets against the Bush/Blair Iraq War. Right now, that political sensitivity is finding expression in waves of strike action, in climate and environment actions, and over numerous other basic needs of people. As yet, there is no emerging collective ‘ground up’ movement.

The current tendency is to settle for top-down versions of class organisation, such as ‘Enough is Enough’, ‘Time for Change’, Corbyn’s ‘Peace and Justice’ and the like. That won’t do, of course. Only when they come together, with the drive and enthusiasm of the Indys, the Corbynistas, the climate activists, and more, can we seriously contest the assembled forces of the establishment. That is what is needed to resist the coming austerity and the likes of Braverman’s Public Order Bill, still live in the new parliament, removing our rights to protest and other already limited union powers. Not to mention supposed ‘representative democracy’ and power. Unified collective strength is the recipe of resistance.

GLG October 2022    


My first ‘coup’ version is here tweaked thanks to David Jamieson’s ‘Sunday Sermon’ on Conter and comments from readers of the draft.

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