New Times II: Swindon, Communism, and finance capital
Previously, I detailed the arguments put forward in the book New Times (1989), a publication by the Eurocommunist Marxism Today magazine. I want to zoom in on one particular story contained in that book: Beatrix Campbell, a feminist journalist from a Communist family, visited Swindon to see how the town instantiated the “new times”—the post-Fordist just-in-time world that had replaced the assembly line. Swindon had been a major depot for the rail industry—then nationalised, about to be privatised; it was a prosperous mildly social-democratic town, albeit with little history to it—very much dominated by concrete blocks.
Campbell visited Allied Dunbar, an insurance sales company that represented a change for the town—its sales force was dominated by women; one woman even got her father, formerly a worker at a car factory, a job at the white-collar company. For Campbell the feminist, this represented the inversion typical of post-Fordist life: women took the lead now—dad used to look after his daughter, now the daughter looked after her dad. In a products and services economy, female “people skills” came to the fore—sweaty hands at the steel mill or on the assembly line were out.
Campbell took Allied Dunbar as representative for the whole movement—right down to its (post)modernist architecture and its frank (white) South African manager who saw no need for unions if the employees are treated well (neither did the man from the car line, having once being a shop steward and now being outside a union). However, Campbell sniffily reported that “there were only white faces” leaving Allied Dunbar when the day’s work finished—even though one of the founders was formerly involved with the Commission for Racial Equality.
Allied Dunbar was founded by three South African Jews, one of whom, Joel Joffe (Baron) represented Nelson Mandela at the famous Rivonia Trial for terrorism that saw him imprisoned. Joffe was also involved in Oxfam and attempts to legalise euthanasia—the other founders were similarly progressive, hence the CRE reference. Allied Dunbar was founded in the 1980s and folded up in the 2000s; really, it represented the core of Thatcherism: as a patrician Tory remarked at the time, “Her cabinet has more old Estonians than old Etonians.” In other words, it had more Jewish immigrants in it than members of the old British landed aristocracy.
The Thatcher period also saw Barings Bank (bankers to royalty), an old aristocratic institution, undermined by a working-class trader, Nick Leeson, who committed a fraud so massive the bank collapsed—he started in the Thatcher era with a cadre of working-class traders, he broke the bank in the mid-1990s. Similarly, Jimmy Savile rose to his apogee under Thatcher—who adored him—and he was, again, another working-class boy (underclass, really) made good (highly intelligent, Mensa and all that).
You get the picture: the Thatcher period was a time when people of high intelligence but low character came to dominate Britain—greedy and unscrupulous people. The so-called “classless” philosophy of the period was just about getting rich as quickly as possible without regard for the consequences. After all, Thatcher was the daughter of a grocer herself—a petty woman who just followed the bottom line, spiteful and without any real character; and, as with all women, she was greedy and materialistic.
Hence her philosophy, derived from Hayek, was genuinely liberal (neoliberal) and “progressive”—the market, catallaxy, will drive us forward technologically based on our self-interest; if necessary, traditions and social norms will be removed (nothing is sacred). Hayek was often mistaken for a Jew, though he claimed this was not so himself—intuitively, I think he was a crypto-Jew; and this explains his materialistic bottom-line philosophy. “The market decides” was really a blind for “greed, sharp practice, and materialism decide”—fundamentally unrealistic and irresponsible.
So the Thatcher period was not really on the right; it was an attempt to return to classical liberalism, albeit without the aristocracy and clergy that underpinned Victorian Britain—hence it was responsible only in the financial aspect, and then only vaguely (inflation was controlled). It opened the way to Blairism, an approach to politics that accepted the new “networked world” and elaborated a social justice take on it—so that maximum migration would be encouraged as a necessary corollary to the easy movement of capital around the screens of City traders. It was not that private business wanted immigration—it did not, it was just that the left always seeks to adopt the right’s stance and undermine it; since Thatcher advocated free capital flows globally, Labour advocated free labour flows.
Thatcherism marked a revival for Britain in a narrow aspect, in the pure cash nexus aspect—as Carlyle would have put it. The credit card came to dominate life and the social liberalism of the 1960s was not rolled back but was instead incorporated into the new marketised world—hence today’s OnlyFans culture and the like; and so, ultimately, it was a degeneration—a last bonfire of social capital and a chance for men like Savile, Leeson, and Joffe to satisfy their piggy instincts. Allied Dunbar lasted slightly over a decade, much less time than the railways—and it stands as an interesting testament to how men like Baron Joffe can be simultaneously involved in high finance and the legal defence of Communist terrorists.