in Britain and most comparable countries the left is not thriving. Quite the opposite. The Brown government’s mild tilt to the left has made it no more popular. At the European elections in June, left-leaning parties, whether in office or opposition, cautious or militant, were trounced across the continent. Votes went instead to mainstream conservative parties or far right and anti- immigration groups. Over the summer the broader political debate, particularly in Britain, has shifted in the same direction: “The crisis of the financial markets has become a crisis of public spending – it’s incredible!” says Hilary Wainwright, editor of leftwing magazine Red Pepper. “Public servants are going to be scrutinised down to the last paperclip, while bankers are not going to be scrutinised down to the last million they have received from the government.”
Has the left missed its moment?
Why, yes, says Laban, repeating himself here and here. But it was a comment by 'socialist' StevieB that struck me :
StevieB - “the USSR was better than capitalism because it raised the living standards of the workers and peasants far higher than the previous capitalist regime had. The revolution allowed the USSR to become a substantial economic power.”
These two things were in fact inversely related. The USSR became a substantial power in the 1930s by depressing personal consumption (aka living standards’) to levels which kept the population in poverty and starved several million, but which enabled the government to massively expand education, the military, aviation and heavy industry. Just in time for WW2, as it happened.
Similarly levels of personal consumption are relatively low in China today, though nowhere near Soviet levels and due to a high savings ratio rather than confiscation, which enables the government to expand etc etc.
In the West, by contrast, personal consumption is actually higher then GDP in many countries - the difference being made up by borrowing. Not a sustainable scenario.
This got me thinking about education. When the Soviets expanded education, it was real education, with right and wrong answers. They wanted - and needed - engineers, chemists, agronomists, vets, metallurgists. They weren't targeted on how many peasants' offspring got to college, nor less did they want to dumb down grades to exhibit their glorious sucesses - they needed large numbers of real, competent people to face a real potential challenge.
In the UK now we expand (using borrowed money) psychology, media studies, sociology, while physics departments close. The purpose of education is increasingly to make HMG (and young people) feel good about themselves, rather than to meet perceived national needs (quite apart from education being good in itself).
And if we find we still need 'real' educated people ? Import them.