One popular ailment that has been the cause of much merriment in recent years is man-flu, or the common cold as it is conventionally known. It is the charge, levelled at men, that they exaggerate the symptoms of having a simple cold to the extent that it appears they are describing some incapacitating condition. This is widely regarded as a kind of sympathy-getting ploy directed at the female partners of the afflicted male morally to blackmail them into providing enhanced (or sometimes, any) care for their ailing partner. By contrast, according to this concept, women are able to battle through a similar infection and not bat an eyelid. A major tissue manufacturer has made at least one advertisement depicting the concept.
This apparent disparity between the sexes’ response to the common cold may explain Natalie Bennett’s dramatic recovery on the same day that the infection reduced her to having a series of coughing fits on live radio when confronted with a forensic examination of her Green Party’s housing policies. She had been stating that the abolition of tax relief for private landlords would be able to more than pay for the construction of half-a-million affordable dwellings. The radio interviewer for LBC, Nick Ferrari, had done his sums and had deduced that the amount of money that Bennett stated would be spent, some 2.7 billion pounds, could only result in the houses being built from plywood. This is due to the simple arithmetic that the Green Party was suggesting that it would cost only five thousand four hundred pounds to build each house. This estimate apparently excluded the cost of the land that the house would be built on. Bennett, however, went on to state that the final cost to build each house would be sixty thousand pounds. This means that the total cost of building each house would actually be thirty billion pounds. Bennett thus demonstrated that her grasp of figures closely resembled that of failed socialist the Rev Paul Flowers, aka the “crystal methodist”.
When Ferrari asked further probing questions on the basis of the leader of the Green Party’s decreasingly confident assertions, there were awkward silences from Bennett. The broadcaster’s nightmare of dead air was broken only by Bennett’s coughing that she attributed to the ‘cold’ that was apparently defeated in a matter of hours by her body’s defences.
It would be uncharitable to suggest that Bennett’s coughing fit was a way of delaying inspection of Green Party policy while she thought of a way to do so, something that her self-acknowledged ‘brain fade’ prevented her from doing. Such tactics of procrastination by a professional politician only really work when an interview is being recorded for broadcast later on, the necessary retakes allowing a cornered individual some time for their desperate mind to formulate a media-friendly answer or plausible evasion to a incisive question. Such a ploy never works on live radio, except to demonstrate that the hapless interviewee should have sucked on a Fisherman’s Friend prior to appearing in front of the microphone.
There does remain the possibility that Bennett was not suffering from a fading of the brain at a critical moment. She may have known exactly how the Green Party in power could buy land and build a family dwelling on it for no more than sixty thousand pounds. It may not have been incompetence that caused the silences, but that Bennett dared not reveal how her party was going to pull this trick off.
Ferrari was correct when he pointed out that Bennett’s figures did not add up. However, he was basing this on a scenario that a Green government would continue to operate the economy using the principles of free-market capitalism. He was also assuming that money would continue to perform the same function under a Green regime. Neither of these are the case.
The Green Party is an anti-capitalist party. Thirty years ago if an informed person was asked to define the term ‘anti-capitalism’, they probably would have used the word ‘communism’. The problem for socialists and communists alike is that the c-word has lost whatever shred of credibility it ever had in British politics it held on to after the repressive Soviet military actions against the East Germans in 1953, the Hungarians in 1956, the Czechs in 1968, and especially after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Today it is impossible for a politician to describe themselves as a communist and be taken seriously by anyone. Thus if you wish to advocate communist principles, you have to use this awkward compound word, one that has been adopted by the news agencies too lazy or frightened to call anti-capitalism exactly what it is. Their motivation for this may be that calling a protest ‘anti-capitalist’ makes it newsworthy. Calling it ‘communist’ condemns it to being regarded as a gathering of self-deluded nostalgic fools who hanker after a globally discredited economic policy.
The collapse of communism was really the collapse of its most significant power, the USSR. This country went through what is these days described as the ‘communist experiment’, resulting in the deaths of millions due to state terror, incompetent war-fighting and organised famine. The communists were easily the worst polluters of the planet and their misuse of technology has left large parts of the former USSR uninhabitable. Their failed attempts at sending a man to the moon in the 1960s were so embarrassing that they were a state secret for twenty-five years. After the communists had been swept away from power, it was clear to see that these secretive states were without exception economic and social basket-cases, using modern technology to repress and control populations that were physically prevented from walking out on the whole mess and enjoying the prosperity and freedom provided by capitalism in the West.
Some elements of the Hard Left in the UK and elsewhere defend communism by stating that the USSR and its vassals practised ‘state capitalism’ and were in effect just as bad as the Western economies. All that assertion does is to demonstrate that communism cannot be put into practice as it reverts to capitalism. It also is a tacit admission by the comrades that there has never been a successful communist economy in human history.
Bennett’s anti-capitalist party captures its support by way of a sentiment that our technological society is somehow disharmonious with natural law and that it is heading towards catastrophe lest we turn away and embrace Mother Nature again, like we did before those dark satanic mills sprung up a couple of centuries ago at the behest of plutocrats. It is also boosted by the reaction to the banking crisis, where it appeared that the highly-rewarded decision-makers whose banks had to be rescued by the taxpayers evaded any personal responsibility for their incompetence while the rest of us had to endure the consequent recession. On the back of this support, fuelled as it is by the relentless propaganda that has transformed global warming into a secular religion, its economic policies are clearly communistic.
The Green Party’s housing policies do not have to be costed in the way Ferrari would have liked simply because under a Green anti-capitalist regime, money would have been stripped of its functions as a means to convey true price information and also as a storage of value for the exchange of goods and services. A Green government would most likely substitute money’s vital functions with the central plan. The underpinning of capitalism, sophisticated laws protecting property and ownership, would also probably be swept away. Put simply, the land for the Bennett’s half-a-million new houses would be appropriated with minimal real compensation to its legal owners. Labour under Miliband has already advocated a similar policy. Thus there would be no financial cost to the Green state. Similarly the materials and the wages paid to produce them would not cost anything as they would be delivered according to the same central plan.
Bennett’s policy of a ‘basic wage’ would probably also see a maximum wage as well as punitive measures against holders of great material wealth, such people being the traditional ideological enemy of the Left. An argument could be made by the Greens that no-one really needs to be earning much more than, say, sixty thousand pounds a year, if that and any surplus could be redistributed. Under communism, money provided in wages is only really needed to permit a small degree discretionary purchasing above and beyond the highly-subsidised essentials.
No-one in the USSR became truly wealthy by accumulating large amounts of capital. There was no commercial competition, demand was centralised and no amount of money can buy a good that was not actually been made available for purchase. Under the Greens there would be no real need for people to accumulate capital as supply and demand would be regulated by the central plan. Whole sectors of the economy would cease to exist. For example, there would be no need for well-paid investment bankers if there was no investment banking. The demand for graphic designers would drop as the need for commercial advertising would be reduced as the number of competing brands of consumer products were axed. Some state-limited goods would inevitably only be obtainable through bartering, taking them out of the monetary system altogether.
As well as controlling supply and demand, a Green government would also heavily regulate energy use. In fact, given the party’s rejection of the conventional means currently used to generate gigawatts of power, it would have to. In the Green future, it may become illegal to operate more than a set number of electrical devices in a household lest this exceed a quota of energy consumption. Car ownership and usage would be heavily restricted. These clearly repressive measures would be ideologically cloaked by being described as a necessity to save the human race from planetary disaster. To quote Pitt the Younger, ‘Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.’.
This is but a fraction of what is actually meant by anti-capitalism.
If to the older reader this sounds like a précis of life behind the Iron Curtain, it has to be remembered that this political barrier collapsed a quarter of a century ago. Thus there are well-meaning but misguided voters in the UK now in their late 30s or younger who have never directly or indirectly experienced communism, or have a rose-tinted egalitarian view of it, bolstered by idealistic demagoguery and the USSR’s supposed heroism in the 1940s. Their dislike of the USA has been moulded by educators and the liberal mass media. They have no first-hand experience of the ridiculous and unpleasant joke communism was revealed as being just before its dramatic and relatively sudden demise. The economic catastrophes in Cuba and Venezuela are too remote to be fully understood by them. All they know is free-market capitalism and they cannot understand how a superficially compassionate and fair alternative to it could be catastrophically worse.
It remains possible that Bennett could not answer Ferrari’s direct questions, not because she did not know, but because she knew too well. She knew the truth and she also knew that we could not handle it.