It is finally becoming evident that the free-marketeers want anything but free markets. Indeed, if recent events are anything to go by, it rather seems that free-marketeers are in fact committed to nothing less than the absolute liberty of the biggest and strongest to go about distorting and perverting the market in whatever manner best suits their aims. If this were transposed to the playground it would shine forth in all its glorious absurdity: picture a motley gang of libertarians standing on the edge of the playing field protesting to the teacher that the bully currently flushing smaller boys’ heads down the toilet should have the absolute freedom to do so, as this is the optimum condition for all the other boys to also become strong and successful.
That either party should think this even remotely desirable is beyond me. Of course, there is a reasoning behind it. After all, the more successful the business sector then the higher the tax take, with which any particular government can bribe the disenfranchised electorate to keep on offering themselves as fodder to the markets – a vicious circle if ever there was one. I only wish more would have the courage to recognise this for what it is: the social and political acceptance of servitude, and the vague impulse to merely negotiate more favourable terms in response.
Of course, this will be mocked as some kind of socialist nonsense. I could only reply that it is nothing of the sort, not least because the reaction of socialists is only ever to swap one slavery with another, and so until somebody gives me an answer as to why the current situation is preferable to any other, then I don’t see why one should cease to state the blindingly obvious.
Now, in a fictional world where the romanticised caricatures of our great political traditions might reflect reality, it would be pointed out that Labour ought to reject this silly settlement, as its aim should be to empower the worker, not to weave him ever more intricately into the deceit. And indeed, in that same fantastical world, one might add that the Conservatives should also reject it, because the awesome power of the slave owners leaves them perfectly able, and certainly willing, to nonchalantly cast aside precisely what it is they, as conservative individuals, wish broadly to conserve – the individual, the family, the community, ‘society’.
Until that day dawns, we shall have to deal with reality.
However, there is hope. Following hot on the heels of the Cadburys takeover, and indeed the closure of the Teesside Corus plant, it seems to me that, if there are any signs of a backlash against this idiotic regime, then it is coming not from our political masters, but, as ever, from those at the bottom. And it is in that most hallowed of British working class institutions that the stirrings are most clearly visible: football. After all, whilst the outpourings of grief over the Cadburys takeover lead to no discernible action, save for a government bribe here and there, this is manifestly not the case with football clubs.
As the green and gold revolution currently giving the Glazer family the jitters perfectly demonstrates, and as the relentless rise of FC United serves to emphasise, there are some things too valuable to be treated as the profit-making ragdolls of the super-rich. And it does not end with Manchester United. Indeed, if the supporters get their way, then Liverpool and Newcastle United will one day soon be in the ownership of the community too. And they wouldn’t be the first to do so. Whilst Barcelona remain the apotheosis of community ownership, Exeter City and Ebbsfleet United are giving it a go in this country too. The principle lying at the heart of all this is clear – this club is ours, a part of the very fabric of this community, and it should, in some tangible sense, remain so.
It does not require too great a leap of imagination to recognise where this fits in with such shameful episodes as the Cadburys takeover – Cadburys was every bit as important, every bit as embedded in the shared identities and consciousness of the community it served and was served by. And if there was ever a role for the state in seeking to help society cope with the sharper edges of the monopoly capitalist system, then it seems to me that this remains a relatively unexplored one.
There has, in fairness, been a small wave of alternative thinking on this issue – though the smug claim of many on the intellectual left that mutualist and co-operative thinking is their natural ideological territory can only leave one to question why it has taken them so long, if this be the case, to recognise such a fact, and then find the conviction to do something about it. In the meantime they continue to lose said territory to the conservatives, who have, in my humble opinion, every bit as much a claim on it as any revolutionary – the liberated individual, the stable family, the empowered community, the harmonious society, the very health of those little platoons: all of these things cry out for a fairer economic settlement.