Blocl activism

Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation

By Grace Blakeley

If the reader takes only one thing from this book, let it be this: poor regulation, bad economics and greedy bankers all contributed to the particularly explosive events of 2008, but the financial crisis had far deeper roots. A crash — if not necessarily the crash that we got — was woven into the DNA of the economic system that was built in 1980. And nothing but wholesale economic transformation will deliver us from its shadow

What happened at Grenfell was a violent crime committed by elected officials in one of the wealthiest parts of the country. The lives lost at Grenfell were, and are, seen as expendable.

The towering inferno at Grenfell has emerged as a symbol of the ruthless and unnecessary cruelty shown by the British state to its most vulnerable citizens as part of the austerity programme introduced in 2010.

The life expectancy for homeless people in the UK is forty-three for men and forty-seven for women — lower than in some of the poorest countries on the planet.

As the global economy stumbles from one crisis to the next, the environment that sustains human life is collapsing around us. Climate change is accelerating at such a rate that, in order to avoid planetary catastrophe, the world must reduce carbon emissions by at least 45% by 2030.

If these trends are not arrested, catastrophe will ensue. The planet will be transformed into a “hothouse Earth”, with environmental collapse rendering many parts of the planet completely unrecognisable. The loss of life and the political chaos this would cause would be apocalyptic

According to the logic of our economic model, nothing is too precious to be sacrificed on the altar of profit — not even the planet itself.

Systemic breakdown can only be undone through systemic change — a transformation in the very logic of our political and economic systems. Only a mass mobilisation of society’s resources, along the lines of the Green New Deal recently advocated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, will enough to avert climate catastrophe.

The fate of our planet will never be ascribed the same importance as the fate of our banks until we change who is in charge, and to whom they are accountable. It is no exaggeration to say that today we must choose between protecting free-market capitalism and safeguarding the future of the humanity.

Without a massive decarbonisation programme — which would require coordinated state investment, tax changes, and regulatory changes of the kind unthinkable under finance-led growth — capitalism, and indeed human civilisation, may end anyway within our lifetimes. It is up to us to save ourselves.

Those in positions of power are aware that the political economic settlement upon which financial capitalism is based is crumbling. But they have no answers.

Unless we are speaking of a state that is run in the interests of workers rather than owners — why would a state captured by big business and the City of London implement policies against the interests of its core constituents? Politicians do not have the incentive — let alone the ability

In fact, establishment politicians have no incentive to deal with the current crisis at all, and this is what is generating the peculiar economic and political conditions that prevail today.

Neoliberal governments have no interest in funda- mental economic reform as their primary constituency is the wealthy elite. The coalition that supports finance-led growth is based on asset ownership. At the top end, it is dominated by those who live off wealth.

People have benefitted substantially from the system of financialised capitalism brought about from the 1980s, and they will not see it end without a fight.

We must chart a route out of this political–economic quagmire by building an electoral coalition that unites working people against elites: those who live of work, against those who live off wealth.

We must fight for democratic socialism — not only because it is a better system, but because the capitalist model is running out of road. If we fail to replace it, there is no telling what destruction its collapse might bring.

All capitalist economic models are subject to contradictions, which eventually lead to crises. During these moments of crisis, the institutions that support the normal functioning of the system break down and society enters an extended period of systems collapse.

American capitalism presents an opportunity to rebalance power away from capital and towards labour.

After decades of stagnation caused by a financial crisis, the financial elite centred in the City of London is the natural villain in any left populist narrative.

Socialists must take on the banks the way Thatcher took on the unions.

This investment agenda should be undertaken under the mantle of the “Green New Deal”, involving a dramatic increase in state investment to decarbonise the economy. This would involve decarbonising transport, energy, and other infrastructures through nationalisation and a programme of green investment; investment in research and development in green technology; and investment in decarbonising production, at home and abroad.

To achieve any of these measures it will be necessary to democratise the UK’s existing financial system.

As has been argued elsewhere in this book, the removal of significant portions of economic policymaking from the realm of democratic accountability has served to facilitate policy capture by elites.

The privileges currently enjoyed by the City of London Corporation should also be removed. The City of London Corporation is currently the only part of the UK over which the democratically-elected government has no authority.

After decades of capitalist realism, it would be possible to imagine a world based on cooperation rather than competition, on mutual aid rather than exploitation, and on stewardship of our common resources rather than ruthless extraction.

In few other parts of the world did austerity proceed as swiftly and as brutally as in the UK, where the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government implemented a programme of cuts so harsh that it has been linked to 120,000 deaths over the last decade.

All around the world, people are turning to one another and saying the same thing: “things cannot go on as they are”.

In this febrile political climate, the so-called centre — committed to propping up the status quo — cannot hold.

Elites may continue to claim that “there is no alternative”, but deep down they know that capitalist realism is dead.

Only those who know that a new world is coming can prepare for its arrival, and today, we face a choice between socialism and barbarism.

Were the planet not staring down the barrel of a gun, such a project might seem like nothing more than a utopian dream. But capitalism is dying, and it is bringing the extractive, neo-colonial international order down with it.

At this critical juncture — at the crossroads between extinction and utopia — human beings must take back control of our history.

It is now clear that the only power we can rely on is our own.