For nearly 40 years the ideology of neoliberalism has resulted in a free-market capitalist autocracy. Deregulation, privatisation, austerity and unrestricted free trade has been the neoliberal mantra since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher adopted these economic policies in the 1980’s. An increased role by the private sector in the economy and public services, and cut backs in government spending was a seismic shift away from the post war politics of 1945 to 1980. With growing levels of inequality in America and Britain, it begs the question; why have we readily accepted this way of thinking for so long?
In the first quarter of 2017 the British economy grew by just 0.2 percent, making it the worst performing major economy on the planet. The debt in Great Britain has doubled in the 7 years of a right-wing Conservative government to over £1.6 trillion. A government who continually pledged to reduce the rising debt levels. It doesn’t take a mathematician or an economist to understand what went wrong for David Cameron and Theresa May. Because, in these years of austerity and a neoliberal agenda gone mad, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. How can you expect to balance the books when you are actively syphoning wealth away from the majority and into the hands of the wealthy few? A similar argument could be made for the American system. Barack Obama, elected on a tidal wave of hope and a promise of a fairer society, did little to increase regulation on the banking system and Wall Street after the global crash of 2008. Similarly to Britain where the top 1 percent of households fully recovered from the crisis, the rich in america got richer. From 2010 to 2015 the difference in annual income between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent, increased by $29,200 to $189,600.
Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC sums up the neoliberal American system
The rise of neoliberalism in America and Britain has allowed the working and middle class to fall further and further behind. As well as this, the deconstruction of the welfare state and public services has been an assault on the very weakest and vulnerable in our societies. These are worrying times to live in. President Donald Trump has publicly spoken about more deregulation of banks, even in light of warnings from economists around the globe of another looming global crash.
“The economic consequences of these policies have been the same just about everywhere, and exactly what one would expect: a massive increase in social and economic inequality, a marked increase in severe deprivation for the poorest nations and peoples of the world, a disastrous global environment, an unstable global economy and an unprecedented bonanza for the wealthy.”
The rise of socialist politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders has struck fear into the heart of the political and journalistic establishments. The attacks and smears levelled at these more traditional socialist politicians was similar on both sides of the Atlantic. “No charisma,” “too old,” “too far left,” “unelectable.” The media and certain politicians in Britain went even further, claiming Jeremy Corbyn was a ‘terrorist sympathiser,’ because he was involved in peace talks in the 1980’s Northern Ireland conflict. He spoke to both sides in the crisis, the Loyalists and the Republicans. This didn’t stop an onslaught of shameful smear campaigns from the right-wing media in Britain. With some claiming he somehow supported the IRA when he in fact campaigned for peace, and has always condemned all acts of violence and terrorism.
Despite an obvious effort to destabilise the popularity of Corbyn and Sanders, these efforts have been wholly in vain. In the most recent YouGov polling (one of the only polling companies to correctly predict the General Election of 2017), Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour were 8 points ahead of Theresa May’s Conservatives. With 46 percent of the polling share, it seems that socialism may be more popular than a right-wing austerity driven neoliberal agenda.
And it’s not just Corbyn who has seen this reversal of fortune, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America with a 75 percent approval rating in recent polling. Some of his socialist policies that he put forward during the election for the Democratic Presidential candidacy were well received by the American public. A demographic that had been forecast to overwhelmingly reject his candidacy, in a campaign which he went on to win the primaries and caucuses in 22 states. Corbyn’s Labour had a similar boost in support after unveiling their election manifesto: ‘For The Many, Not The Few.’ It was touted by the political commentariat as the most left wing manifesto since the 1970’s. Labour were written off with predictions of historic landslide losses on the horizon. Obviously that didn’t happen and people reacted more positively towards the manifesto and Corbyn’s kinder more compassionate approach to politics.
Socialism can no longer be a dirty word on the lips of neoliberal politicians and supporters. It is the word being spoken today by millions of invigorated young and old politically active people alike. Socialism created the National Health Service in post war Britain. It was the reason for the housing boom in America and Britain in the same period. It’s the reason we have social housing and a welfare state to protect the weak and vulnerable. It also gave us employee rights, minimum wage and overthrew aristocracy. Socialism is a kinder and less greed driven political ideology than neoliberalism will ever be.
It was in the smoke and ruin of World War II that people looked around and realised they needed to live in a world that cared more for each other, to ensure such a departure from morality and humanity would never be repeated again. It’s in the smoke and ruin of neoliberalism that we look around us again. The people want socialism.
Jeremy Corbyn – Glastonbury 2017