Author Richard Seymour of the popular Lenin’s Tomb blog and David Wearing of the New Left Project both gave talks in the impressive surrounds of Kings College, Cambridge yesterday in a debate entitled “Necessity or Ideology?” The talks were arranged by the Free University of Cambridge and both men talked for about 20 minutes each followed by a short Q&A session which cut through mainstream media and political propaganda that the UK Government’s £81 billion of public spending cuts are “essential” to save Britain’s economy. Several points came out of the talk which are worth documenting.
- The cuts have nothing to do with “saving the economy” but everything to do with far-right ideology. Principally, the Conservatives are desperate to convince the corporate community that they are more committed to their interests than New Labour and should once again be the party of choice for big business. The Conservatives lost a lot of ground to Blair’s New Labour which stole the ground from under them and the cuts are their chance to regain this ground. The cuts are intended to demonstrate this to corporate Britain in time for the next election.
- One simple way of increasing government revenue is to erm, collect tax. Corporations are paying less and less tax on the money they earn in the UK and in some cases, flatly refusing to pay it. This was highlighted recently by Vodafone’s refusal to pay £7 billion of tax to the British government and the protests that followed. There’s a detailed look at how this simple issue could be tackled here by Caroline Lucas and two leading UK tax experts.
- The power of the corporate liberal media shouldn’t be overestimated too much when it comes to trying to convince people public spending cuts are essential. Although the media can have a powerful effect on convincing the public the effects are necessary, people are still more likely to base their opinions on their everyday experiences. So for example, many are still in favor of nationalising Britain’s public rail network based on their experiences of using the rail network even if the political establishment and corporate media barely ever even mention the idea.
- Voters are abandoning Labour but also the electoral system in general. Polls indicate that most of these are working class people who feel that New Labour aren’t representing their interests anymore. Why aren’t voters then shifting to more radical alternatives such as the Socialist Labour party? Seymour argued that people withdraw from political participation for many different reasons but a strong likelihood is that they are disillusioned with the entire system as a whole. This suggests that changing the fundamentals of how democracy works may be as essential (if not more so) than building parties and movements that genuinely support workers interest. I personally feel that technology and the internet could be implemented in imaginative ways regarding this point although I’ll save that for another post.
There were probably many more points that came out of the one hour talk that I’ve missed but these are some of the most important off the top of my head. It was great to see a leading university like Cambridge getting behind efforts like this and encouraging to see letters of support like this sent by one of the university lecturers, Priyamvada Gopal.
The event was however a bit too short – it was very difficult for either of them to say much and answer questions in a one hour slot although I understand that the Teach-In event as a whole consisted of other interesting talks throughout the day which required the room. Then again, Kings College is absolutely massive – surely it would have been possible to have found an area that allowed a longer session. It was also a little disappointing to see that two of the most radical writers and bloggers in the UK only attracted a small number of people to listen although maybe the majority of Cambridge’s notoriously privileged university students feel that they are less likely than most to be affected by the spending cuts.