The end days of neoliberal capitalism
I have just watched the video below, in which Chris Hedges compellingly describes what is happening right now in the USA (and elsewhere). He paints a disturbing vision of the end-days of neoliberal capitalism, and possibly of humanity: a corporate takeover and kleptocracy. Overused adjectives like ‘dystopian’ and ‘Orwellian’ come to mind. It rings worryingly true.
Devouring every morsel
Predatory capitalism, in its death throes, is devouring every last morsel of the common good. The environment, healthcare and every public and state institution are all grist to its mill, along with justice and human rights, as the bloated military machine (a means of channelling resources into the rapacious maws of the super-rich) is super-super-sized, and minorities are systematically scapegoated for people’s misery in a relentless campaign of misinformation and propaganda, which leaves people confused and disempowered.
Left must come down from moral high ground
Towards the end of the video, Mr Hedges talks about the need for a broad campaign of non-violent resistance – of civil disobedience – for which a major requirement is that former enemies come together in a common cause, and that those who despise aspects of each other’s philosophies work together. He talks about the need for listening to each other, and says, in effect, that the left must come down from its various perches on its fragmented and partisan moral high ground and reach out. (These are my words for what he is attempting to convey.)
Galvanising alternative philosophy needed for Scottish independence and to defeat neoliberalism
While this seems compelling, I am struggling to see what practical lessons can be taken from it in the context of another Scottish independence campaign, especially in light of Bruce K. Alexander’s call (to me, self-evidently correct) for a ‘galvanising alternative philosophy’ to ‘hypercapitalism’ in his must-read book, The Globalisation of Addiction, A Study in Poverty of the Spirit, recently echoed by George Monbiot and, in the context of Scottish independence, by Jonathan Shafi of the Radical Independence Campaign.
I completely agree with Mr Shafi that we need such a galvanising philosophy if we are to win independence, and for me the establishment of a world based on such a philosophy is the only reason for Scottish independence, because a country in thrall to transnational corporations and the kleptocracy is not independent in any meaningful sense, and cannot act as a beacon for others.
Yes, I believe that the UK, without a free and independent Scotland to show the way, is a lost cause, drifting ever faster towards the nihilistic maelstrom described by Mr Hedges.
Staying part of the UK would not be an act of solidarity or brotherly/sisterly love. It would be folly; we would be entering a mutual suicide pact.
If we care about people in the rest of the UK, we owe it to them, as much as ourselves, to break free and show the way. For that I am convinced that we desperately need a ‘galvanising alternative philosophy’.
So how is it possible to put across a ‘galvanising alternative philosophy’ in a new Scottish independence campaign while not treading on the sensibilities of those who call for a Scotland ‘open for business’ (by which they effectively mean open for plundering by transnational companies), those who think the answer is low rates of corporation tax, those who support being a member of Nato (and therefore of the massive military-industrial complex at the rotten heart of neoliberal capitalism)…? (See ‘Tax breaks for “job-creators”? Toolkit for busting this and other neoliberal myths.‘ for evidence of the wrong-headedness of some of these beliefs.)
Without painting a detailed compelling vision of a world in which everyone and the environment are treated with dignity and respect, which necessarily means one in which corporate persons (specifically those in the form of transnational corporations) are not accorded privilege, how are we to galvanise people, and what are we fighting for?
If we win ‘independence’ under an essentially neoliberal regime, I cannot see another opportunity arising to break free of this poisonous doctrine, as we drift Trump-wards.
I think that if we stray any further to the right, we shall be unable to swim against the ever-stronger current, and we shall enter the maelstrom. If we were to win ‘independence’ under an essentially neoliberal regime, then I cannot see another opportunity arising to break free of this poisonous doctrine, as we continue to drift Trump-wards.
Conclusion: education, education, education?
I, for one, would struggle to argue for an independence in which Scotland is pictured as forging ahead with (neoliberal) business largely as usual, and I cannot see any ‘galvanising alternative philosophy’ in this.
I have no clever answer to this fundamental dilemma – how to make common cause with those who support the very forces responsible for the world’s problems, while painting a compelling vision of a better world – but I do know one thing which can help: education and awareness.
We urgently need to get facts across, in a non-hectoring way, to fellow independence-supporters as much as anyone else, before the forces of unreason close rationality down in the way Mr Hedges describes.
Huge difference between ‘pro-business’ and ‘pro-transnational corporation’
Perhaps we can convince independence-supporters of the ‘pro-business’ variety that there is a huge difference between supporting business, per se, and supporting transnational corporations? SMEs employ more people, and do not siphon off resources the way that transnationals do.
GDP and the parasitic financial sector
Perhaps we can make the point that the tools used to measure ‘the economy’ (not least GDP) render what we call ‘the economy’ inimical to society (and the biosphere at large)?
It seems obvious that the economy (which many economists do not seem to understand, as they pay little attention to the fundamental issue of how money enters circulation and the disastrous consequences this has) should be at the service of society, and not the other way round. The abstract phenomenon called money, and the way it is manipulated by the parasitic financial sector surely need to be understood, and an alternative argued for?
Redistributive taxation is NOT bad for business
…And would it not be sensible to present the evidence that redistributive taxation is not inherently bad for business? On this topic and others, can we get potential allies to read Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism?
Environment not an externality: talk about ‘the biosphere’ instead!
Above all, we need to make the point that we are not separate from ‘the environment’ – it is a misleading term; it is NOT an ‘externality’ – but neither should ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘natural capital’ be financialised, which means put under the control of the very forces blindly destroying the biosphere. We are part of the biosphere, and its wellbeing is inseparable from our own.
If we can direct fellow independence-supporters, and potential independence-supporters, to consider the evidence on these issues, then we can together spell out a compelling and coherent vision of a better world. If not, then I cannot see myself being able to argue with any conviction for a nominally ‘independent’ Scotland.
At the very least, I ask readers to watch the above video, and to get others to watch it too. It’s a start. Please.