Neo-liberals don't die, they just amortise

Neo-liberals don't die, they just amortise

There has been a lot of talk on the left, and even in the mainstream media, about how neo-liberalism is dead or dying as the recession burns a hole through their theorists' tissue of lies. Not a bit of it. If anything, privatisation and the robbing of the working class is accelerating.

While calm waves lap against the shingle of Felixstowe's pretty little beachfront, giant ships tower over the horizon, headed to every corner of the world and back again. Watching them glide from one side of the sea to another seems unreal, as though they belong to another world, the vast container port they've been visiting just an alien outpost tacked onto the end of a semi-retired resort. Surely, things shall continue much as they have always done?

If only it were so. The wake of those leviathans as they push on to the edge of vision has been problematic, throwing weird waters onto the seafront that were never expected. Now they're here, Felixstowe warps and changes. Millions of lorries pound the roads around it, clog up its arteries. Vast numbers work there and day in, day out, there is the constant noise of commercial distribution. Suddenly Britain seems to turn on the winds around Suffolk's coast.

And like the ships themselves, this change is damn near impossible to turn around. Recession will not make Felixstowe as it was, it won't tear down the massive metal cranes or empty the roads of their boxes of goods. Liverpool wont regain what it has lost and the new generation of dockers have not yet learned to make war like their scouse uncles. A downturn will not break this fortress of capital.

Neither will it slow the process of privatisation which has finally caught up with its school system, as two perfectly good comprehensives are merged into a 'villages within a super-school' model to provide that all-important excuse for private-sector involvement, despite widespread anger. It won't stop the closure of the community hospital, fondly known as Bart's, or its prime bit of real estate being sold off while private firms put take up the slack and impinge on the functions of the NHS.

Neither will the privatisation of the fire control system or the rolling back of full-time firefighting cover to the town stop, and the outsourcing of social care to private concerns. It certainly won't hold back the huge sums being ploughed into PFI road and rail schemes to keep them afloat now that the private money men have backed away. Plans to build new housing along the road to Ipswich, so that the town faces being swallowed by its larger neighbour, continue onwards.

By now, my sledgehammer tactics should have alerted you to something. I'm not just talking about Felixstowe. This is just one small town where the downturn has not meant the end of the grand neo-liberal project. It is certainly not the only one.

As I revealed in Freedom at the end of last year, much of the huge sum being borrowed and taxed for the budget could go into bailing out the private sector in faltering PFI projects. As I'm set to show in the next issue, the government's plans to bring the NHS into competition with the private sector are no less advanced. As has been roundly condemned by almost everyone except New Labour, Royal Mail is still looking as a partial sell off. And there has been no let-up in moves to divest the state of its schools commitments.

While the liberal and left press crow daily about the demise of neo-liberalism and the return of Keynes from the grave, the power brokers of Britain are quietly getting on with doing exactly what they have been doing for the last 20 years. They are privatising anything they can and shining up whatever they can't for a future sale. If we are to change the direction of our society during the deepest crisis in a generation, we must stop pretending that we're winning, and start considering the fact that at the moment, we are managing to lose when almost everything we predicted about the inability of neo-liberalism to deliver real wealth to the masses has come true.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Jan 27 2009 00:17


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Nov 28 2009 08:02

I think your right here...

I do have a couple of questions though:

rail - for example in July 2009 the british
Government announces it intends to take over the east coast rail service run by National Express. Surely it isn't all privatisation? What are the impacts here?

Bart's (whitechapel?) what is happening to that?

School systems - do you have much on academy schools? I know that they aren't controlled as greatly by local council legislation, that they all have big buisness funding and that they are often setted so undermining other local schools in the area. Know any more?

I do think though that this will slow the privatisation, simply because there isn't the sort of investment, loans etc there at the moment but no it certainly isn't changing the way in which it operates...


Rob Ray
Nov 28 2009 12:21

Well the current East Coast plan is to take it back in house but only because First fucked it up so badly, RMT have been complaining because the medium term idea is to gussy it up and sell it off again, there's no plan for permanently renationalising. Metronet is similar - too big to fail so the private companies take the profits, we take the risks. Meanwhile in Newcastle, despite almost unanimous public disapproval, the Metro is also being privatised.

The impact has been fairly severe and is a very complicated process to unpick, but in brief it has been used as an excuse for rail companies operating monopoly franchises to raise prices vastly beyond previous figures (in many cases making it cheaper to fly) while taking massive subsidies from the government to up the profits of dozens of private companies.

Even from a free market capitalist standpoint it's a disaster zone - massive startup costs price new competitors out of entry, complete control over individual lines (and in some cases every means of getting out of town - First owned the trains, coaches and inter-county buses at one point) mean that you end up with high prices for a poor service. Technically it could be partially controlled by a strong regulator, but this is rarely actually the case as the main lobbying power is with the companies, not the communities they're fucking.

Nah Bart's is St Bartholemew's, a hospital in the centre of Felixstowe. There's a whole other story about that, how it was given to the town by a wealthy benefactor as a permanent place to heal the local community, until it was run down and sold for a short term payoff.

Yeah I've got plenty on academies, again, big issue though and most of my notes are in the form of Freedom articles. The basic idea is that a school "fails" so they provide a level of funding (say £1m) towards a new one, get a number of seats on the board and detach themselves from the need to follow government policy (thus divesting the government of responsibility, neat eh?). However takeup of this deal was minimal, so the government loosened the amount of money necessary while retaining the number of seats. Hence we are giving away our children's education to any loon with a bit of money behind them.

Unfortunately, as the article I wrote in Freedom subsequent to this piece illustrates, PFI and privatisation has not ended (though new takeup has slowed a bit) because the government has started providing the collateral - again, private profits with social risks.

Nov 28 2009 13:01

You're right that from a "free-market capitalists" point of view it doesn't work - but of course pure free-market capitalism does not and cannot exist. We live in a state capitalist economy, whereas you say many big businesses are funded by the taxpayer, with private profit backed up by the public bearing the risk.

This article goes into the whole thing in detail:

Nov 28 2009 17:47
Steven. wrote:
many big businesses are funded by the taxpayer, with private profit backed up by the public bearing the risk.

this is one point that now seems to be in public view. here in the states i've heard people from anticapitalist left to austrian right and even mainstreamers like lou dobbs point out that "the profits have been privatized while the debt has been socialized". i consider this a small (because it was always there to see for anyone who looked) but significant (because the most people for decades are now looking) outcome.

Nov 29 2009 14:02

Yes, I agree.

Dec 6 2009 13:29

"get a number of seats on the board and detach themselves from the need to follow government policy (thus divesting the government of responsibility, neat eh?)."

ok so how much of a say do they have within the school? quite a lot i presume - the national ciriculum is pretty tight though and its hard to teach too much outside of it?

In relation to getting free from governmental authority from my understanding it is principally the authority of local government? You got any more on that?

thank you

Rob Ray
Dec 6 2009 16:40

Well usually they are gifted a 50% stake in the school board so effectively they take control of the whole shebang. They have basically the same freedoms as independent schools, so can for example choose to adhere to the national curriculum or teach an entirely different one - in theory they could even choose to take the baccalaureate instead of GCSEs and A-Levels, for example.

The general interplay between local and national authority in education is that local government administers funds, but these are increasingly ringfenced and are tied to stipulations which are handed down by national government. In reality, although local authorities technically run the show they are so straight-jacketed that it's a meaningless power.

Dec 6 2009 19:55

to be fair the school i should be working out were planning on doing baccalaureate instead of a-levels - what does that mean in effect? wider sylabus etc... is that that bad? i know its what a lot of the independent and international schools do...

and that is really shit %... well it looks like they are going to build a load more.
I can't seem to find the figures but it was at least double what are already in place... there are some positives in better school resources, better teaching staff for some of the most run-down areas etc... but i don't support them and the creation of them...

Hackney seems to be a huge area for them though - seemed to me when i was researching it to be the most of any borough in london per schools... at least 5 and some of the best one's too... do you know the reasons behind that? particular poverty/run down schools before?

Rob Ray
Dec 6 2009 20:28

Couldn't say, though I've generally heard better things about baccalaureate than GCSE/A-Levels, it was more an illustration though most aren't doing that.

Yeah the general implementation scheme favours replacing big poorly-performing schools (implying low parent engagement and thus a low level of resistance to change afa politicos are concerned) so somewhere like Hackney is inevitably going to end up as a major guinea pig. Something similar was tried with NHS changes as well - in general the less organised an area is the more likely it becomes that such things will be imposed.

Dec 6 2009 20:58