Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

UK Political "Cross Dressing" Continues

What journalists have termed "political cross dressing" seems to be continuing.

We have had “Vote Blue , Go Green”, and the Labour Party blatantly stealing the Tories’ right-populist Inheritance Tax policies, along with the Lib Dem’s Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne stealing policies from both sides and putting forward a slick Blair/Cameron-lite public image. Now it seems that the Tories are out to filch the co-operative history of the labour movement with Cameron announcing the foundation of a Conservative Co-operative organisation. The Tories see schools and other public sector bodies being taken over by groups of users and workers in co-operative ventures.

In one sense this is welcome – signalling further recognition from the Tories that Thatcherite dogma about the free market and cut-throat competition are still vote losers, and that generally people are better disposed towards local and co-operative solutions than options offered by rapacious transnational corporations.

On the other hand, there is the very great suspicion that, as with some of the New Labour enthusiasm for Arms Length Management companies and Housing Associations, the Tory move is still very much about attacking local democracy under a “libertarian”, anti-state guise, avoiding redistributive taxation and creating a transmission belt to the private sector. Piecemeal “cooperativisation” of public services without a specifically socialist or collectivist underpinning could weaken the remainder of services remaining under local or national democratic control and prepare the ground for a more general break up and privatisation. Also, as with Labour’s Academies one suspects that the move will be music to the ears of the various religious zealots that are itching to get more access to impressionable young minds through the dismemberment of state education. They would also, under the Tory plans, get their hands on public money to achieve their ends.

The fact remains that without powerful workplace and community commitment and structures designed to resist the encroachment of the privateers, then local mutual and co-operative ventures are vulnerable to be picked off one by one by the corporate vultures that now roam the planet in search of victims. All the signs from the major parties are that despite their localist and cooperativist rhetoric, when it comes to the crunch they support the vultures, who after all, are some of their major funders. Mutualism and Cooperatives could play a big role in the move to a fairer, more sustainable and more democratic society – but not whilst the corporations are unrestrained by either political or industrial opposition. Until that time the better ventures will be constantly under attack, or at risk of being co-opted into the neo-liberal project.

As ever, the eventual aim must be full spectrum workers’ control and self management!

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At 12:50 am, Blogger Charlie Marks said...

When I heard about this I was dead sceptical. I must say, it's definitely a novel way of doing neoliberalism...

Cameron won't be arguing for these co-operatives to be comprised of workers and consumers -- he'll want consumer co-operatives as these are more readily converted into bona fide capitalist enterprises.

Kudos for a great post, comrade.


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