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Neoliberalism – history sweeps away a failed ideology

This article is over 13 years, 3 months old
An intractable economic crisis. A discredited Labour government. A pervasive sense of bitterness, anger and fear across the working class. It’s no wonder that many commentators are comparing current events with those of the late 1970s.
Issue 2122

An intractable economic crisis. A discredited Labour government. A pervasive sense of bitterness, anger and fear across the working class. It’s no wonder that many commentators are comparing current events with those of the late 1970s.

But in one crucial respect things could not be more different. The crisis of the late 1970s led to the demise of the “Keynesian consensus” – the notion, shared across the ruling class, that capitalism could be stabilised and regulated by judicious state intervention.

Back then another ideology was waiting in the wings to take over from Keynes – dogmatic neoliberalism, as championed by Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the US.

In 1979 the Conservative Party could ride to power by proclaiming that “Labour Isn’t Working” and preaching a gospel of free markets and privatisation.

Today that ideology lies in tatters. A cartoon in the bosses’ Financial Times newspaper this week portrayed Thatcher, Reagan and neoliberal guru Alan Greenspan – a man who last year praised the sharks on Wall Street as “pollinating bees” – being swept away by world events.

But this time, there is no alternative ideology for the world’s ruling class to turn to. Free market capitalism has imploded. Half-hearted attempts to return to a capitalism propped up by the state won’t work either.

There is only one conclusion to be drawn – capitalism isn’t working. As our rulers tear themselves apart over how to patch up their system, we need to drive home the fact that there is a socialist alternative to this madness.

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