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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

 
Tony Benn's Ten-Minute History Lesson on Neoliberalism

by Gaius Publius


I had a different group of pieces I've been working on recently, revolving around a recent interview by Noam Chomsky that touches on our so-called "capitalism" and also on the Bernie Sanders candidacy. But this video sets that up nicely. It's a ten-minute speech by long-time British politico and Labour Party member Tony Benn, sadly recently deceased.

Our thanks to the people at Naked Capitalism for bringing this to our attention. There it's presented without comment. I'd like to print some of the text, just to emphasize some of its points.

First the video. (I've bumped the start to about two minutes in, but you can back it up if you like.)




And now from a self-made transcript. You've seen all of these points before, but to see them assembled and rounded back to where it all begins is quite striking. My emphasis below:

This country and the world have been run by rich and powerful men from the beginning of time. ... The only real wealth in the world is land, and resources that lie under it, and the people. ...

In 1834, only 2% had the right to vote ... Out of trade unionism came the change ....

The [20th century] slumps were not acts of god ... but a direct result of too much economic power in the hands of too few men who behaved like a totalitarian oligarchy in the heart of our democratic state. The had and they felt no responsibility to the nation. ...

In wartime there are no economic arguments at all. I've never heard a general say, "I can't bomb Baghdad this month because I've exceeded my budget." In wartime you do whatever is required. We should adopt the principle that in peacetime you do whatever is required. People want jobs, they want homes, want a decent income, a good education, health care ...

When you come to the Thatcher period, this is what's so interesting. Thatcher was a much cleverer woman than we give her credit for. She knew perfectly well the strength of the labor movement lay in three sources of power. One was the trade union movement. So she took on the miners ...

What she said, and this is very clever, "You can buy your council house so you'll be a property owner. You may not be able to get a wage increase, but you can borrow." And the borrowing was deliberately encouraged because people in debt are slaves to their employers. That's how the whole thing began. The borrowing was a deliberate policy ...

She also attacked local government ... Local councilors now are agents of the Treasury. They can only spend money the Treasury give them on things the Treasury tells them they can spend it on. ...

And she attacked the public sector and privatized it. And this privatization is international. I met an old friend of mine, Kenneth Kaunda, the president of Zambia. ... He said, "We had a great debt and the IMF came along and said, 'We'll lift your debt if you sell off all your schools and hospitals to multinational corporations.'"

So privatization is a deliberate policy, along with the destruction of local democracy and the destruction of the trade unions to restore power back to to where it was. And what we're now back in, that's what the whole crisis is about, the restoration of power to those who've always controlled the world, the people who own the land and the resources and all the rest of it. And that is something we need to understand. ...

There's more in the speech besides just this. Check out his action as Postmaster (at 8:00). And his plan for the banks. And his statement about how popular his ideas are among actual voters. (Reminds us that Sanders has the same wind at his back; actual wishes of the people.)


There really is only one story in this country — the "flow of funds" story, the massive passing of money to the rich from everyone else. Whatever else we've been made to suffer, and are going to be made to suffer, comes from that one story. With that in mind, I'd like to close where Benn closes, and to ask you to return to these comments as we consider Noam Chomsky's remarks later in the week.

Benn:
It's very important to keep optimism. ... Progress has always been made by two flames burning in the human heart. The flame of anger at injustice. And the flame of hope you can build a better world.
Exactly. We'll come back to this when we turn to the Chomsky interview.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)

GP



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