The Limits of Change in Britain

The same “market discipline” currently giving Britain’s new prime minister a bloody nose would have crushed a Corbyn programme if he’d won power, writes Jonathan Cook. 

U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss chairing a cabinet meeting on Sept. 9. (Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street)

By Jonathan Cook

There are two lessons to learn from the U.K.’s current economic meltdown — and commentators are obscuring both of them.

The first, and more obvious conclusion, is that Britain has a completely dysfunctional political and media system. It has allowed two mediocre, clueless careerists like Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng to reach the pinnacle of the power pyramid — and then car-crash the economy because they refused to listen to economic advisers whose sole job was to stop them sabotaging a system carefully calibrated to maintain a transatlantic Ponzi scheme designed to enrich a wealthy elite while trashing the planet.

As Noam Chomsky has observed often enough in the wider context of Western democracies, the British establishment has — or at least used to have — a very efficient filtering system in place to weed out not only those ideologically unsuited to supporting the hierarchical structure of privilege it had carefully constructed but also those lacking the temperament or intellectual heft to do so. The system was designed to block anyone from reaching a position of significant influence unless they could dependably contribute to keeping the system in good order for the elite.

The signs are that, as late-stage capitalism runs into the cold realities of a physical world with which it is in conflict and from which it seeks to distract us – with aggressive identity politics, the “It’s all about me” culture and social networking – the effectiveness of these filters is breaking down, for good and bad.

That is why dangerous narcissists like former U.S. President Donald Trump and former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson are increasingly floating to the top. It’s also why authentic, moderate socialists such as Jeremy Corbyn and the rail union’s Mick Lynch, as well as Bernie Sanders in the United States, have gained more of a purchase than the establishment ever intended.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Donald Trump in 2019, at U.N. headquarters in New York. (White House, Shealah Craighead)

Truss’ elevation to prime minister, immediately in the wake of Johnson’s festival of cronyism and corruption, demonstrates that these filters no longer function. The system is breaking down ideologically just as surely as the infrastructure of supply chains and gas pipelines is breaking down materially. We are in store for a rocky ride at the hands of serial blunderers and conmen over the coming years.

Hive Mind

The second lesson is in many ways the flip side of the first.

Truss may have triggered the economic crisis through a toxic mix of ego, incompetence and ideological fervour, but we should be extremely wary of focusing exclusively on blaming her. She didn’t do the equivalent of jumping off a cliff on the assumption that she could defy gravity: the crisis was not caused because she violated some fundamental, scientific law of economics. The current crisis is manmade. She is being punished for doing things “the market” — meaning people who control our money — do not like.

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Those functionaries of capitalism don’t sit around plotting how they will react to a budget like Kwarteng’s. They responded in unison much as a big shoal of fish suddenly and collectively take a new course. They operate as a hive mind.

In this case, they were driven by shared economic assumptions, which in turn are based on a dominant economic ideology, which in turn is based on a consensual political worldview — one that largely ignores social justice or environmental realities, as the growing polarisation in wealth and the climate crisis indicate only too clearly.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in March, during a meeting with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right. (Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street)

“The market” believes Truss is in danger of wrecking the system that upholds their privilege — by accruing too much debt while also starving the government of income by cutting taxation too much. Because economics is not a science but a kind of elite formation psychosis, the instinctual reaction of “the market” to Kwarteng’s budget was to … wreck Britain’s economy.

The Bank of England stepped in not to change the fundamentals of the economy but to “reassure the market.” You don’t need to reassure a law of nature.

Economic ‘Laws’

Truss’ recklessness and ideological fervour have got “the market” jittery — and with good cause. But it would behave in an almost identical fashion against anyone who broke what it considers as the “laws” — termed “sound money” this week by Truss’ supposed political rival, Sir Keir Starmer — underpinning a globalised capitalist economy.

Witness the current pile-on against Truss, with the City crushing her, forcing her to bend to its will. Can anyone doubt that had Corbyn, the former Labour leader, emerged as prime minster from the 2017 election, as he came within a hair’s breadth of doing, he would have been treated at least as harshly as Truss is being dealt with now?

His radical programme of spending and investment was a much bigger threat to “the market” than Truss’ confounded efforts to win favour with big business and voters at the same time.

Supermoon over the City of London, the historic financial district that is home to both the Stock Exchange and the Bank of England. (Colin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Corbyn’s programme would have been greeted with hostility not because it exuded incompetence, as Truss’ does, but because the City would have refused to stomach his plans to meaningfully redistribute wealth and make British society fairer. He would have been made to bend to the will of “the market” even more ferociously than Truss is being now.

The establishment who maligned Corbyn as a traitor, and a spy and an anti-Semite, did so not because these things were true but because the former Labour leader was a threat to their wealth and privilege. The devastating war they waged on his programme politically was simply a foretaste of the war they were all too ready to wage on his programme economically.

Starmer, Corbyn’s successor, understands this only too well. Which is a major reason why he is so timid, so feeble, why he hews so closely to the wishes of the self-proclaimed “masters of the universe.”

The economic game is even more rigged than the political game.

When the banks and hedge funds nearly brought their giant Ponzi scheme crashing down in 2008, they were decreed by Western governments as “too big to fail.” Taxpayers bailed them out twice over: first, through years of austerity, through savage belt-tightening, to pay off the elite’s debts; and then, by being required to fund the rebuilding of the casino so that the elite could fleece the public all over again.

Truss may be a lightweight. But the mauling she is receiving right now ought to sharply remind us of the limits faced by any politician who wishes to change a system that was designed to protect itself ruthlessly from change.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist. He was based in Nazareth, Israel, for 20 years. He returned to the U.K. in 2021.He is the author of three books on the Israel-Palestine conflict: Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish State (2006), Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (2008) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (2008).

If you appreciate his articles, please consider offering your financial support.

This article is from the author’s blog Jonathan 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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14 comments for “The Limits of Change in Britain

  1. Arch Stanton
    October 6, 2022 at 10:56

    Only yesterday our Dim Liz proclaimed that she was a ‘massive Zionist’

    So in other words she’s a massive racist, hell bent on systematically ethnically cleansing a race of people through legalised apartheid

    There has been zero reaction in the corporate MSM in the UK, well, when Vanguard & Blackrock are the Ultimate Beneficial Owner of the worlds media what do you expect?!

  2. WillD
    October 4, 2022 at 23:10

    Excellent article about the sickness, and power, of extreme capitalism. It is a pervasive and utterly ruthless God for those who worship it, using every possible resource on the planet, including humans, to make money for the few regardless of cost and impact.

    For them, it is fine to let millions die in numerous conflicts, to let vast tracts of land be destroyed, to destroy the environment, and to imperil our very existence – all in the name of profits and wealth.

    These people commit crimes against humanity on a daily basis. How long will it take us to stop them, and to salvage what’s left?

  3. allen
    October 4, 2022 at 18:13

    Extremely depressing but rings of truth.

  4. Caroline
    October 4, 2022 at 16:42

    ‘Yes Minister’ is dying and that is a good thing. So the likes of Truss, Biden, Zelinsky, Albanese (Australia), Von der Leyen… are just doing their job, along with their various ‘Yes Minister’ followers – bit like the cockroaches and rats do – bottom feeders with no vision but a great ability to survive.
    Because we haven’t been able to do this dismantling of the old elite privilege sensibly – aka Corbyn perhaps – we now need to do it the hard way – not just in the UK but everywhere.
    But I believe this is the end of an old civilisation that did not and never has, served the majority but only the few at the expense of the rest who just wanted to survive and have a good life.
    Our task is to re-build a new civilisation that is for all, and where a good life is not just a struggle for survival. This is not an ideal but a very necessary reality.

    • Curmudgeon
      October 6, 2022 at 16:05

      “Because we haven’t been able to do this dismantling of the old elite privilege sensibly”
      It is not the “old elite” that is the problem. The “old elite” gained its wealth from what was produced from the land it owned. It is the new financial elite. The “new” have been around for a long time consolidating their position. It uses smoke and mirrors like the Stock market and fractional reserve banking to take control.

  5. worldblee
    October 4, 2022 at 15:48

    I work with many members of the professional managerial class (PMC) and Jonathan Cook nails it when he describes the hive mind. The financial and managerial elites are rarely mavericks. Instead, they operate like a school of fish, never wanting to be seen as out of formation.

  6. Robert Crosman
    October 4, 2022 at 12:30

    The theory and practice of Capitalism “largely ignores social justice and environmental realities” because it was developed by people for whom social justice and the environment were not important concerns. The important thing was to increase wealth, and the rules of capitalism were established to do just that. And they have been extraordinarily successful. To the degree that capitalists worried about them at all, it was assumed that an increase in wealth would benefit everyone, while Mother Earth was large and could absorb all the waste and pillaging without being greatly harmed. Those who enriched themselves naturally continue to think along the lines of what made them rich, and they have no reason to change. They spend some of their millions and billions on charities, and feel that they are doing a world of good, without abandoning the practices that made them rich. They have a stranglehold on the political system, making and remaking the laws that enable them to stay rich and get richer – in the name of sound economic principles. They will never change, and they constantly get new recruits from the ranks of those hungry and clever enough to adopt their practices – a few succeed, while many more try and fail to do so.

    What will make the system change? Only a catastrophe of some sort. The First World War did it for Russia, but they were unable to make socialism work – and the capitalist West did its best to ensure its failure. Socialists in Britain had been campaigning for decades for change, but only the destruction of the Second World War convinced enough of the suffering public to try socialism. In both cases, gradually socialism’s defects, and the animosity of capitalists, ate away at the welfare state. What will the next catastrophe be? Nuclear war? Global warming? Massive migration? Meteor strike? And when will it come? Who knows! But catastrophes always happen. And capitalism requires periodic crises in order to renew itself. So all socialists can do is wait and plan for what they’ll do when their next opportunity comes.

    • Curmudgeon
      October 6, 2022 at 16:32

      I agree with most of your comment, however, take issue with a couple of points. WWI happened because German exports, better made and cheaper, were kicking the crap out of British exports. Hence, George V`s letter to Foreign Secretary Grey to “find an excuse for war.” Cousins Willy and Nikki were on good terms, and both had state owned banks. Russia was taken over by the Wall Street funded communists, and the other by the Treaty of Versailles. Marx`s communism is not socialism. Your local co-op is socialism. The purest form of socialism is anarchy. Sweden, pre globalist shill Olaf Palme, had a form of socialism that had worked for over 20 years, giving them neutrality, near full employment rates, the world`s highest standard of living, low taxes, and very low immigration rates. Palme`s multiculturalism and high taxation killed that model. Norway had a similar model, as did Denmark, which lost that when it joined the EEC. It`s been immigration and multiculturalism, pushed by globalists, that have destroyed us. I never blame immigrants for wanting to come, I blame the treasonous politicians who make it possible for them to come while we have people unemployed.
      Capitalism is about concentrating wealth in the hands of the few. Communism does the same. The people who populate each other`s corporate boards do the same as the politburo did. The faithful are rewarded, the others are left out of the loop. Each uses its own methods to achieve the same goal. The main difference is that capitalism uses unemployment and mass immigration to demoralize the population, pretending that they actually have a say, and communism keeps people occupied so they don`t have a chance to think about how they are being abused.

  7. James White
    October 4, 2022 at 11:14

    Interesting article and worth reading. As Liz Truss has only been in office as PM for a few days, the author is already judging her more on speculation rather than actual performance. That betrays an agenda, more than evaluation of her actions. Truss came in with the incredible good timing to bid the much loved Queen farewell as PM and then pivot to telling King Charles that he will now be required to keep his woke worldview to himself. The Socialist E.U. list of enemies is a growth industry. Add Italy and Sweden to the usual Von der Leyen whipping boys, Hungary, U.K. and depending how the wind blows, Poland. Truss would do well to ally with those countries as much as possible. They have insider influence over E.U. policies. Truss looks a bit awkward in photo ops. She walks funny. Neither a strong gait nor a Paris runway stride. If she were brilliant, she would appoint herself the broker of a peace deal in Ukraine. She should offer an incentive to Russia in the form of relaxed sanctions in exchange for an agreement to settlement talks. That would do more to boost the economy of the U.K. Europe and the world than any other economic executive action she can take in London. Once the U.K. relaxed sanctions on Russia, the U.S. and Europe would appear petty and silly to keep up the spite. Truss’ influence over Europe would have grown by leaps and bounds.

  8. Jeff Harrison
    October 4, 2022 at 10:36

    We have made it all about de monai. That’s going to have to change if mankind is to be freed.

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    October 4, 2022 at 10:15

    Case of the blind leading the blind? Continue on this vein and you’ll hit bottom sooner than you think.

  10. October 4, 2022 at 10:13

    Starmer is not feeble he carries out the wishes of the state. When he was boss of the UK DPP he contacted his opposite number in Sweden not to drop the charges against Julian Assange. Yet the Swedes had decided there where no charges.That nearly sounds like trying to pervert the course of so called justice. Sir Starmer worships the international war criminal Tony Blair.Labour under Blair where just like the tories and I think starmers Labour Party will be Blair on steroids.

    • Deb O'Nair
      October 5, 2022 at 03:06

      There were no charges, Starmer pressured them to keep the investigation going after the Swedes concluded there was no case for charges.

  11. Donald Duck
    October 4, 2022 at 04:19

    Jeremy Corbyn was given the ‘treatment’ by the media backed Jewish cabal in the UK, Israel, and the Labour Friends of Israel, who form an internal and external bloc as they do in the United States. See ‘The Israel Lobby’ by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in the United States. This is an extremely powerful lobby which determines UK and US foreign and internal policy. This is the truth which dare not speak its name and its power resides within the political and economic structures of the Anglo-American behemoth.

    The overwhelming majority in the political parties in the UK – viz. The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats in both the Commons and the Lords, are at the beck and call of this entrenched Anglo-American force.

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