George Monbiot’s last two Guardian columns have been on a similar theme, as summarised in today’s piece:
[T]he government is not managing the economy for the people of this nation. It is managing it for a tiny transnational elite, a kind of global gated community. … The politicians who get to the top in these circumstances don’t just present no threat to the gated community; they actively do its bidding.
Or as he put it last week, concerning changes in corporation taxes to benefit transnational corporations:
I’ve realised that injustice of the kind described in this column is not a perversion of the system; it is the system. … Our ministers are not public servants. They work for the people who fund their parties, run the banks and own the newspapers, insulating them from democratic challenge.
I think Monbiot is right to shift the focus from “abuses” or “failures” of the economic system (language which implies that the system itself is fundamentally just and sound, or would be if properly regulated) to the inherent injustices of the system itself. However, his rhetoric has some significant dangers in it, because it personalises what are really matters of social relations, impersonal economic forces.
Monbiot presents capitalism as a system in which a wicked “transnational elite” deliberately and maliciously sets out to oppress the rest of us. That’s an analysis which can lead as easily to fascism as to the liberal/democratic/socialist agenda which Monbiot would presumably support. “Transnational elite” is uncomfortably close to “international financiers” – and we all know what that was code for back in the last century. (Hint: try googling “transnational elite” and “zionist”. And then wash your hands.)
Blaming the individual beneficiaries of the economic system – indeed, encouraging us to hate them, the exploitative, gated-community-dwelling, political-system-perverting, Tory-party-financing bastards - is a dangerous path. As a great philosopher put it:
Beware the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will…
What’s needed is not populist rhetoric about the “global gated community”, but a greater awareness of how economic power operates, regardless of the personalities who operate it or benefit from it. Perhaps someone could suggest Monbiot adds some Marx to his reading list?