The Grenfell Tower blaze shocked the world. How could a fire spread so quickly and kill so many in one of the wealthiest cities in the world? I won't waste time investigating the details of flammable cladding or the absence of a sprinkler system. However, to the untrained eye these apartments seemed fine and could be rented privately for £2000 a month, which is below current rates for comparable flats in this upmarket area of inner London.
Let's face it, accidents happen, especially when we rely on high tech infrastructure such as high density tower blocks in inner cities, aeroplanes, trains, motorways, nuclear power stations and sewage treatment plants. All these systems can kill large numbers of human beings if they malfunction. By the same token if we fail to provide such services as affordable modern housing, inexpensive electricity, rapid transportation and clean water, millions will die. It stands to reason such systems should adhere to very strict safety standards to avoid the kind of human tragedy we saw in Grenfell Tower.
We don't yet know the exact death toll, anywhere from a low of 60 to as many as 400 (based on the estimated number of missing people who have not survived), a human tragedy by any stretch of the imagination. As I write, protests continue across London not just against the negligence which let such a disaster happen, but against a weakened government as it attempts to negotiate Britain's exit from the European Union. Some forces would dearly love to seize any opportunity to derail Brexit and bring Britain back into line with their vision of a one world government. To even suggest such a calamity was made more likely by rapid population growth in the English capital only invites instant derision by vocal social justice warriors eager to blame a dwindling bunch of aristocrats within the Tory Party.
However, as a rule it's much easier to plan and build affordable housing and provide all essential services people need if we have a stable population and ensure most people can earn their upkeep. This means taking a more holistic long-term view, rather than short-term view based on economic expediency or radical social engineering. Herein lies the crux of the matter. Most ordinary people, away from the hustle and bustle of our metropolises, take the gradualist view, while our political elite increasingly take the radical view. If such a revolution empowered commoners, I might support it. But given the extreme concentration of power in a handful of transnational tech giants and banking cartels, this is not going to happen. We will just see the transfer of power from one bunch of elitists to another bunch, using the poor as mere pawns in their game.
The Reincarnation of the Socialist Dream
I think elements of socialism are desirable at a local community level. It's called solidarity or helping your neighbours. Extremes of wealth and power do not bode well for social cohesion, but they're inevitable in any system that relies on a technocratic elite. That said I think the steady advance of artificial intelligence and robotics alongside globalisation will destroy neoliberalism. We should start writing its obituaries soon. Neoliberalism advocates the deregulation of large corporations so they can compete in an open worldwide market. The neoliberal era from the late 70s to the present day has seen an unprecedented rate of technological innovation and improvements in material living standards worldwide. Indeed many prophecies from the 1970s have not transpired yet. While we have had some localised famines, fewer people than ever, at least proportional terms, suffer from undernourishment. The big story of the last two to three decades has been the rapid movement of people in the developing world away from traditional rural lifestyles to large towns and cities and thus in touch with modern technology and subject to the rules of modern economics. Millions of Africans have gone from growing their own food to selling products and services in exchange for money they can use to buy food and other essentials of our modern way of life. While once we understood whence our daily bread came, now we just expect to have enough money in our bank account to purchase everything we need or desire in our local supermarket. Most of us fail to understand how our work translates into the physical goods or practical services we can afford. We may now see the rebranding socialism to mean universal basic income.
Competition only works among the Highly Motivated
Neoliberal theory is that competition drives innovation. In practice this only works among highly motivated and talented individuals. A higher salary might motivate a street cleaner to turn up for work on time and pursue his job diligently, but his productivity can be infinitely boosted through smart automation. Increasingly middle managers try to keep semi-skilled workers away from any mission-critical operations or decisions. We've thus seen a huge rise in temporary non-jobs, more concerned with people management than actually providing the goods and services we need. As such non-jobs are expendable, they seldom command high wages or inspire workers to innovate. We thus have the dilemma that by raising the minimum wage, we merely incentivise more automation and greater welfare dependency. Not surprisingly governments have been subsidising low pay and high rents for some time now.
Most residents of the infamous Grenfell Tower block would not have been able to pay the £2000 monthly rent and no property developers would fund high quality accommodation unless they had a guaranteed return on their investment. It only took a couple of days for Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to suggest seizing empty dwellings owned by wealthy property speculators. I understand the superficial attraction of this policy. Such properties remain empty because their owners cannot rent them out at market rates and would prefer to keep their real estate assets in pristine conditions until they find wealthy tenants or buyers. If such properties were made available for social housing, their market value would decline. Wealthy city dwellers pay more to stay away from the riffraff and all the potential dangers of social unrest and technical faults resulting from substandard equipment, i.e. an exploding fridge triggered the fire which then spread due to flammable cladding, both extremely unfortunate coincidences. Like or not, London's wealth is built on banking, advertising, media and property speculation. Labour and Tory governments alike have tolerated an extreme widening of the gap between rich and poor in the metropolis to boost the economy and thus their tax intake. If market forces cannot pay bus drivers more than £30,000 a year (a very low wage by London standards without housing benefit), then either the state has to subsidise these jobs or they will be automated. Big business now needs strong centralised state organisations to transition to a new economy where ordinary people are paid to consume and participate in non-essential social management initiatives. It's been obvious to me for some time that powerful corporate forces are bankrolling rapid socio-cultural change. I think we need to investigate not only George Soros's network of Open Society foundations and universities but hundreds of other well-funded organisations that have seemingly sprung out of nowhere to advocate international socialism. One such organisation is Novara Media, which presents a more radical spin on the globalist narrative we read in the likes of the Huffington Post and the TheCanary.co , but also endorses the cult-like Momentum movement behind Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party.
Only a few years ago, socialism in any form seemed rather outmoded. Sure, a few old-timers and naive young recruits kept the flag flying. You'd think the recent experience of Venezuela, which the usual coalition of global banks and US-sponsored opposition groups have almost certainly helped destabilise, would have deterred any resurgence of socialism among ordinary working people and you'd be right. The radical left have long given up on the traditional working classes, whom they openly view as reactionary. And it's not just the British working class whom they distrust, but any native working class community who still expect their local governments to protect them against rapid globalisation and automation. It seems everywhere in Europe the trendy left loathes its own native working class. France is a possible exception as Jean-Luc Mélenchon tried to build a 1970s-style opposition, known as La France insoumise, to multinationals and to reactionary nationalists. Indeed such rearguard adversaries of current global trends may have to join forces with Europe's growing but sidelined Identitarian movement and anti-establishment protest groups such as Italy's 5 Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle) to offer any alternative to the polarisation over the nationalism versus globalism debate.
So we now have an odd alliance of global bankers, corporate CEOs, multi-billion dollar transnational consultancies and media-savvy social justice campaigning organisations joining forces to undermine the power of local institutions and small businesses to empower transnational organisations and big business. To manufacture popular consent, our global revolutionaries need some catalysts to sway public opinion away from the old guard and to accept what they loosely call change.
The Revolution That Never Happened
In the 1970s some radical left-wingers genuinely believed a socialist revolution was just around the corner as capitalism would inevitably enter a terminal crisis that only a command economy with direct workers' democracy could solve. Alas after the 1978/79 winter of discontent with striking ambulance drivers, nurses and refuse collectors, many workers opted to support a Thatcherite Conservative Party over a moderate Labour government. The next few years saw a steep rise in unemployment as old unprofitable industries closed or moved abroad and a few desperate attempts to save the integrity of the once proud British working class. The Socialist Workers' Party, to which I briefly belonged, fully supported the 1984â€“85 Miners' strike. Yet it failed miserably as power stations began to import coal from Poland, still firmly in the Warsaw Pact and allied with the Soviet Union. I recall attending various events where leftwing student groups would attempt to fraternise with heroic miners. I think the latter tolerated us very well, but had little interest in our social justice idealism, only in defending their way of life. Even then I witnessed stirrings of a cultural clash that play out over the next 30 years as a fringe student group known as Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) met hostility from Welsh miners on a demo in Cardiff. Coal miners took enormous pride not just in their close-knit communities, but in their families and cultural traditions. They were not impressed by a bunch of upper middle-class punks with dyed hair lecturing them on the oppression of sexual minorities.
Workless Cultural Marxism
Today no serious Marxist could contemplate mobilising an atomised global workforce to defeat capitalism. Far from empowering the working classes, the current phase of globalisation has rendered any tentative industrial action obsolete. If you strike, you will be replaced either by imported cheap labour or by a robot. Free market capitalism is in all but name dead. Instead, their strategy is to infiltrate global corporations and especially NGOs to bring about cultural change to mirror an emerging socio-economic reality of complete dependence on a handful of tech giants and banking cartels liaising closely with a network of local governments and charities. Consider Novara Media. They seem very keen on defending the rights of immigrants, advancing the economic case for mass migration and combatting Islamophobia. They're equally eager to promote LGBTQ+ rights and environmentalism. Yet organised high birthrate Islam opposes both gay rights and any attempt to limit consumption through lower birth rates and lower migration to high-consumption regions. Their aim to champion miscellaneous disgruntled groups and offer universal welfare as a solution. The name of the game is to destabilise stable societies in the hope that the desperate underclasses support radical social change. Who is going to provide this global welfare? None other than big business. I'm not sure if Jeremy Corbyn really understands how big business is bankrolling many of these protest groups. Will Facebook, SpaceX, Google and Amazon support a younger version of Bernie Sanders for the next presidential election? Let's see, but they won't back anyone who does not reflect their selfish interests to expand their stranglehold on planetary power.