Month: April 2010

Decentralising investment

Philip Blond, the so-called ‘Red Tory’ is on to something with his idea of decentralising investment.  To do this you have to break up the monopolies and start with the banks.   We need many smaller banks.

The equivalent of the break up of the Bell telephone monopoly into the baby Bells.  Imagine RBS Natwest, Barclays, Lloyds, Tesco all trustbusted into fragments –  maybe re-regionalised.  Go Blond go! The question is whether the rest of the Conservative party is on board with such radical ideas or whether they are simply using him as a sort of communitywash designed to build their credibility until after the election. Holding my breath… The same goes for the idea of employing 5000 Alinsky style organisers.

At first sight my reaction was ‘Bravo’ as we need what the french would call a ‘Contre pouvoir’ at the local level.  Only by challenging public services (and demanding more and better) will we get social justice in poor places.  But remember this has been tried before.  The Community Development Programme in the early 70s came out of the Home Office. It was closed down after a few years because it used radical agitprop methods, and moved the argument from one about individual cycles and pathologies of deprivation to a bigger debate about how structural change had created unemployment in these communities. Obama’s first major success in Chicago as a Community Organiser came in a radical campaign to bring employment services to the South Side by creating an angry movement in the neighbourhood out of the frustrations and betrayals and confronting the bureaucrats with a mobilised and organised group.

Saul Alinsky was a grassroots organiser who believed in provocation and achieving social change by all means necessary.  His book set of rules[6] for radicals provided a toolbox for a whole generation of activists.  These same tools are being used by London Citizens to press for a living wage for the low paid.  Alinsky would have been proud but it remains to be seen whether the Tory Squirearchy will really go for a solution whose logical outcome would be a minimum wage of more than £7per hour. What would be the reaction of the private sector  to paying 15% more on their wage bills when their main hope of the Tories is to pay less national insurance?

I cannot resist ending this post with a quote:

“There’s another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevski said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution. To bring on this reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system, among not only the middle class but the 40 per cent of American families – more than seventy million people – whose income range from $5,000 to $10,000 a year [in 1971]. They cannot be dismissed by labeling them blue collar or hard hat. They will not continue to be relatively passive and slightly challenging. If we fail to communicate with them, if we don’t encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right. Maybe they will anyway, but let’s not let it happen by default.” – Saul Alinsky