Blog Archives

FT: a strange blend of truth and spleen unwittingly affirms Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘superannuated socialist’ stance

The FT’s Philip Stephens, Tony Blair’s biographer, pertinently remarks:Today’s elites should ask themselves just when it became acceptable for politicians to walk straight from public office into the boardroom; for central bank chiefs to sell themselves to US investment banks; and for business leaders to pay themselves whatever they pleased”. He continues:

“Now as after 1945, the boundaries between public and private have to change. At its simplest, establishing trust is about behaviour. . . The lesson Europe’s postwar political leaders drew from the societal collapses of the 1930s was that a sustainable equilibrium between democracy and capitalism had been shattered by market excesses.

“Citizens were unwilling to accept a model for the market that handed all the benefits to elites and imposed the costs on the poor. In the US, then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded with the New Deal. Europe waited until the continent had been reduced to rubble in 1945 before building what the British called the welfare state and continental governments called the European social model. Economic prosperity and political stability were the rewards.

“The present generation of politicians should learn from the experience. Defending a status quo that is manifestly unfair in its distribution of wealth and opportunity serves only to put weapons in the hands of populists . . .

“One way to start redrawing the boundaries would be to take on the big corporate monopolies that have eschewed wealth creation for rent-seeking; to oblige digital behemoths such as Google and Apple to pay more than token amounts of tax; to ensure immigration does not drive down wages; and to put in place worthwhile training alongside flexible markets”.

The difference: Corbyn would act for altruistic reasons, but thepresent generation of politicians’ concede only to retain privilege

Stephens (right) ends by saying that what we need is a social market economy – combining the central elements of a free market (private property, free foreign trade, exchange of goods and free formation of prices) and universal health care, old-age pension and unemployment insurance as part of an extensive social security system

And most of this is precisely what Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour party leader, wholeheartedly supports. Though dismissed by Stephens as a ‘superannuated socialist’, he would uphold and enhance the system presently faced with public disgust at the ‘fat-cat’ political-corporate revolving door with its rewards for failure. This disgust is combined with anger at the austerity regime imposed by those currently in power, which prevents local authorities from continuing basic public services and deprives some of the least fortunate of food and decent housing.




Oil, blood and the west’s double standards – Philip Stephens

As U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan have entered their third consecutive day, with rockets killing 27 people in northwest Pakistan to date, Pakistani protesters take to the streets, shouting anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration in the city of Multan. They burnt U.S. and Nato flags and held up signs stating ‘America and Nato are war terrorists.’


In NewsX TV’s videoed Pathways to Peace conference last year, there was common agreement, ‘Don’t bring in the US’. The video can be seen by cutting and pasting


A little further afield, Philip Stephens (Financial Times) describes the Middle East as a graveyard for ethical foreign policies. People there habitually talk of the west’s double standards and – setting aside colonisation – examples include the 1953 overthrow toppling by of Mohammed Mossadegh by the US incited by the British. That Iranian prime minister made the mistake of thinking that Iran rather than Britain should own its oil industry.

Mr Stephens records: 

“The archives of western foreign ministries bulge with evidence of the contradictions and hypocrisies. Diplomats stationed in the region – American and European – have for decades crafted eloquent dispatches questioning whether support for Arab autocrats sat easily with the espousal of universal values; or if one-sided support for Israel did not ignore the legitimate rights of Palestinians. The telegrams went unread. The tyrants had the oil and the Palestinians were powerless. 

The reaction to the Arab spring 

“After some hesitation, western leaders have decided that popular demand for representative government is by and large a good thing. Listening to some of these politicians one could almost imagine that they had always carried a torch for Arab democracy.” 

He points out that support for the uprisings has been selective and conditional: 

“Nato lent its military to the overthrow of Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi. But mention repression of the Shia majority in Bahrain and silence descends.” Why? Much of the world’s oil passes through Bahraini waters. 

“Saudi Arabia is a no-go area. Much of the Islamist extremism within and without the Middle East has its roots in the Wahhabi fundamentalism that flourishes under the House of Saud. But Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter. The Saudis also buy hugely expensive military kit . . . “

Stephens: “ . . . the deeply corrosive effect of the accumulated hypocrisies on the west’s standing and influence” 

“Confronted with charges of double standards, western policy makers tend to shrug their shoulders and reply this is the world as it is. What the realpolitik misses, I think, is the deeply corrosive effect of the accumulated hypocrisies on the west’s standing and influence.”



More on this and allied subjects in due course from Vijay Mehta’s new book “The Economics of Killing: How the West Fuels Wars and Poverty in the Developing World”, Pluto Press/Palgrave Macmillan in February 2012.  Book website