We are constantly being regaled on the subject of Fake News, which the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate is happy to tell us comes exclusively from the left. Unsubstantiated assertions, conspiracy theories, paranoid rantings, all are held to have originated from those dastardly lefties. As a result, they can safely be ignored. From this it follows that the establishment media would not lower itself to such deeds.
Iain Martin ...
At this point we encounter Iain Martin. He, we are informed, is a respectable and well-informed voice of reason. His CV includes the Wall Street Journal and the Times; both are cited as pillars of erudition. It follows, therefore, that his commentary on politics and economics is a model of integrity, beyond reproach. Nobody complains when he is asked by broadcasters to dispense his superior insights to a television audience.
In pursuit of his erudite and mainstream commentary, Martin now has an outlet in a pretentious group blog called Reaction, of which he is the editor. This includes contributions from Himself, in addition to such upstanding mainstream voices as Dan, Dan The Oratory Man. From this it is no surprise to learn that Reaction features posts which are highly conservative, and forthrightly anti-EU in tone.
And as a former faithful taker of the Murdoch shilling, Martin can look forward to his copy appearing in the Sun, as with today’s “Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell want street politics to lead to the overthrow of the economic order … Labour hard left are trying to create a different kind of democracy in which workers take over the means of production”.
It is here that we see what is called out as paranoid conspiracy nonsense when coming from the left becomes totally respectable when it originates on the right, as Martin proffers “Jeremy Corbyn and McDonnell want a different kind of democracy from classic parliamentary democracy … They want street politics and demonstrations to lead to the overthrow of the economic order and the creation of a different kind of democracy in which workers take over the means of production, stealing private property and running the economy via a system of, er, cooperatives or soviets”.
Strange, we’ve had the Co-operative movement for a century and a half and nothing got overthrown, other than the occasional stack of baked bean tins. So perhaps Martin would like to pony up a citation for that? But this, as with the rest of his screed, will not be forthcoming. Instead, we receive only an appeal to his supposed authority.
... and a moment when the mask slipped
For starters, you must understand that Iain Martin is a respectable mainstream voice, and not a ranting conspiracy merchant. So he’s not away with the fairies when he howls “A lot would go wrong in a socialist economic revolution, as history shows … I’m not alone in thinking Corbyn is rather naive and idealistic, thinking presumably that this process of transforming the economy to an anti-market system would be rather nice, joyful and peaceful. And there you get to the heart of why this stuff always leads to coercion, control and terror”. No citation followed by dependent false assumption is where it leads.
But he’s serious about this revolution lark: “Several things happen when it is tried, after the initial shock that leads to capital flight and panic. There are case studies from Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, East Germany, China and quite a few more”. Ri-i-i-ight.
Sorry to inject a little reality here, but Britain is a mature Parliamentary democracy. There would not be the easily kicked-in rotten door that begat the Russian Revolution, or indeed those in Cuba and China. And why right-wing pundits have to slavishly scream “Venezuela” so often, when the similarity between that country and Britain is non-existent, is one of those dead giveaways. But do go on.
And go on he does, describing some dystopian fantasy revolution scenario which he clearly believes will follow from a Labour election victory, concluding “Socialism always was a terrible idea … It has failed time and again precisely because it rejects the market mechanism”. Ah, Professor Milton Friedman is among us. Tell us more.
“Corbyn and McDonnell want to eliminate all this in Britain and if you doubt it you are being naive. They want to eliminate profit and retro-fit human beings so they accord with their ideological vision based on class hatred and the journey towards socialism”.
Not the return of Soviet communism, sorry
We won’t be getting a reliable citation for that, either. It is, after all, just another instalment in the right-leaning press’ attempts to frighten readers against Labour’s offering, a set of proposals which would not be out of place in many mainland European countries. We do, though, get some intellectual heft added to the argument.
“But as Adam Smith demonstrated, pursuit of economic self-interest under the law and with respect for private property is healthy and vital … Companies pay wages and corporation taxes. Profit creates the money for investment, expansion and consumption. Profit is not a dirty word”. Ah, Adam Smith. They always wheel out Adam Smith.
So here, Iain Martin, are some of the things on which Adam Smith pronounced. He was deeply suspicious of what in the 18th Century were called joint-stock companies - the forerunners of the modern corporation. He was especially severe on any tendency of businesses to generate excess profits at the expense of their workers.
This is how he put it: “Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people”.
And for those advocating less burdensome taxes for the well-off, Smith had this to say: “It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion”. The difference between Smith’s assertion, and Karl Marx’s “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is not so great. Adam Smith, were he to reappear today, would, for many who worship his name, prove a formidable adversary.
As for Iain Martin, his lame appeal to authority will persuade no-one. Demonising the Labour leader by merely hurling abuse and peddling fantasies isn’t working. Moreover, the thought occurs that, had this low-grade rant come out of anywhere on the left, it would be dismissed as paranoid conspiracy-mongering.
But then, it is paranoid conspiracy-mongering - only from the right, which as any fule kno makes it totally respectable. It is afforded the most learned consideration. It can easily be transported to the mainstream press. And thus the failure of the right-leaning media.