Transition studies regarding democracy are politically motivated, separating politics from economics when defining democracy in order to marginalise calls for economic redistribution to be associated with democratisation. In a similar vein, Cameron and Miliband’s re-branding of capitalism is an attempt to humanise the reality of capitalism, so there is more focus upon agents/individuals like in transition approaches, to distract attention from the deeply unequal practices and aspects of capitalism. Essentially, transition democracy and also Cameron and Miliband still officially sign up to the liberal democracy philosophy, which I wrote about recently, where capitalism and democracy are seen as inevitably linked.
Both Cameron’s ‘moral capitalism’, or so-called ‘popular capitalism’, and Miliband’s ‘responsible capitalism’ are attempts to humanise the markets, focus on individual responsiblity and actions whilst taking attention away from the wider structural context and constraints. Both speeches are based on rhetoric, ignoring the endemic unfairness in a system where there are excessive cuts to social services, benefits, welfare, health care (one trust is considering bringing in the army to stop them from closing down their A&E services at night due to the cuts), to name a few; where changes are focused on tinkering around the edges. Utilising a neoliberal capitalism driven economic policy, there is no wonder they want to focus on the political elements of any economic decision rather than the economic decisions themselves. Therefore, the specific economy details such as spending and cutting are skirted over, as we are lambasted with soundbites of different forms of capitalism. This ignores the fact that capitalism needs debt, unemployment, depression and conflict to sustain itself – if we concentrated on the practical reality of capitalism then it wouldn’t be so easy to dress it up with flowery concepts such as moral, popular and responsible; all oxymorons when placed beside capitalism.
This isn’t a new thing. Everyday there are personal vicious attacks on the most vulnerable in society, as attention is taken away from the corrupt nature of a system based on profit, greed and conflict. Boris Johnson was only saying yesterday that young people in Britain lack a ‘work ethic’; that pays no consideration to the lack of jobs, when people who spend money getting into debt come out with a degree and have to work at a supermarket; that is hardly breeding a responsible working attitude. We then turn on the news and see some more rubbish about excessive bankers’ bonuses or cuts to working people and think, why? It doesn’t make people feel valued nor nurture self-respect; especially attacking those unemployed when unemployment is at its highest in 18 years.
Sadly, in the case of Labour, their pandering to the right is a product of a system where media right-wing monopolies and an international system obsessed with neoliberal cutting preside; this makes any attack upon capitalism harder. To be fair to Labour, their attack against capitalism is a lot more systematic than the Tories, and I can’t imagine Ed Miliband coming out in an all and out attack upon capitalism. But more and more people around the country are starting to connect the dots, though sadly our political system doesn’t enable a consistent mainstream representation of these views. Labour’s leadership and mass base are too disconnected. This is where local democracy and alternative political movements and dissemination of information is important; we have to remember the realities of a system that has had liberal democracy as the core philosophy for many years and the constraints upon Labour after a Blair reign.
Sometimes you may find yourselves wondering why you’re bothering. Why you’re fighting an uphill battle against a group of small manipulative people. Why you put so much energy into fighting for causes that often find you preaching to the converted, as people close, and not so close, around you sometimes don’t always get why you’re so passionate about social justice. The clever manipulation and re-branding of capitalism, an inherently unequal political, social and economic formation, is one of those battles. People think you’re being too negative, ignoring the positives of the government. Well my response is that any positives you can find are seriously undermined by all the negatives, and the day we stop fighting to make sure every ounce of injustice in the world is removed, is the day our souls die.