AN UNSUSPECTED COLLECTIVISM
The starting point of Robin Blackburn’s study of ‘Grey Capitalism’, published in New Left Review 233, is unimpeachable. He is right to say that the complex and anarchic world of contemporary capitalism cannot be tamed either by the Keynesian welfare state or traditional, ‘autarchic’ communism. This is an argument all the more welcome for resisting the siren song of a ‘New Age’ in which the distinction between Left and Right has ceased to be relevant, and a ‘Third Way’ lies ahead, trumpeted nowhere more than in the land of Blair and Giddens. If we wish to keep faith with the historic aspirations of the Left, we must begin with a critical analysis of the new configuration of global capitalism. A merely practical opposition to the present drive of neo-liberalism, of the kind represented by current social or ecological movements, is not enough. A new vision of a society founded on the values of social and political equality, public intervention and democratic control of the economy will not emerge spontaneously. We cannot depend merely on more or less instinctive condemnations of individualism and the free market. Our task must be, as Marx would have said, to ‘penetrate the secret laboratory of production’, to capture the inmost nature of this society and find ways of mastering it. Blackburn is therefore quite right to focus on problems of socializing the process of accumulation, as the ground on which social, civic and ecological movements should converge.
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