Red Toryism: The British Invasion

Amateur sociologist and sensible conservative David Brooks devotes his column today to the thought of Phillip Blond. This paragraph in particular touched my heart:

He grew up in working-class Liverpool. “I lived in the city when it was being eviscerated,” he told The New Statesman. “It was a beautiful city, one of the few in Britain to have a genuinely indigenous culture. And that whole way of life was destroyed.” Industry died. Political power was centralized in London.

The story sounds familiar to me because I grew up in the environs of working-class Flint, Mich., when it was being eviscerated — the same small town, in fact, where Michael Moore grew up. Both Moore and I share the conviction that the implosion of cities like Flint went hand-in-hand with the systematic destruction of organized labor. Implicitly, we’re to think that Blond sees the same connection, as in this paragraph:

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.

Interestingly, however, on Brooks’ list of Blond’s potential ways to undo the baleful trend toward centralization and individualization, one does not find trade unionism! Instead, employee share ownership is to be “encouraged.”

Though Brooks does not mention it, Blond does support co-ops like John Lewis plc, but apparently trade unionism in the existing big businesses isn’t really on the agenda for this supposedly “Red” movement. Increasing the discretionary power of local bureaucrats or lowering the regulatory barriers to starting a small business doesn’t seem like any substitute for workers actively forcing big business to give them a greater share of the profits they’re generating — but again, in this supposedly “Red” movement, we get no real analysis of the social forces of capitalism. Instead, we are to assume that for some unknown reason, people just up and decided to favor centralization and greater individualism en masse.

And what is the solution? To fantasize about what elements of pre-modern society we could revamp, all the while making no serious effort to determine how we might organize social forces to make our demands effective — other than, of course, providing ideological cover for the party that did the most to destroy places like Liverpool. Truly, this is the politics of paradox!

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4 Responses to “Red Toryism: The British Invasion”

  1. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    On his twitter Blond remarked that this trip had the aim of providing the Republicans with an alternative to the Tea Party movement in their attempts to get elected in 2010 and 2012. I can only hope we do to these Brits what we did in 1776.

  2. Alex Says:

    This was the point I was trying to hint towards in my piece on Tory dialectics – within the Tory party, hand waving in the direction of worker control coupled with real vicious hatred of real worker organisation like that found in the recent Unite/BA dispute. Moreover, the Tories shattering of traditional modes of working class assocation in the 80s than the welfare state ever did.

  3. View from Nowhere Says:

    Basing an economic policy on John Lewis is laughable. The fact that JL’s employees get a nice Christmas bonus based on sales doesn’t override the fact that they’re still exploited by an essentially capitalist corporation (maybe it’s not so laughable, maybe it’s highly revealing…). JL’s success relies on having virtual monopoly in the department store market and so replication of profits and dividends across the economy would be impossible. And how is the capitalist co-op model supposed to be transferable to schools and all these other areas of the welfare state Cameron and Osborne want anyway, except by part- or whole privatisation, introduction of even more internal markets, just what has been wrecking them for the last two decades? The Tory leopard is merely trying to change its spots.

  4. Mitdasein Says:

    While studying economics (in elective mode – definitely not my major) I had a professor remark that while leftist and leftish econonomic theory had more than its share of issues, there was no other starting point to move from. When questions were asked as to what the comment meant, his response was that left wing economics were overly infected by ideology, but that right wing economics were ideological fantasy.


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