Left Right? (Original Title)
It looks as if the UK were emulating Sri Lanka where attractive promises in election manifestoes are concerned. Instead of addressing core policy issues the UK is faced with, Conservatives and the Labour Party are busy trying to endear themselves to voters by offering to liberate the masses from the clutches of big businesses; they have also promised enhanced welfare measures. As the article on this page today points out, their manifestoes resemble shopping lists, as it were, and are indicative of a swing to the left.
The Labour Party has gone so far as to promise free university education, the nationalisation of most of the public utilities and proofing state pensions against inflation, among other things. Conservatives, in power, have been somewhat realistic and cautious in making promises, but they, too, have undertaken to grant relief to the public such as a cap on utility charges. Any incumbent administration is wary of making the same promises as the Opposition at elections. However, measures promised by the Conservatives such as streaming in education, which allows successful pupils to enter selective schools, requiring universities to sponsor secondary education and setting aside funds they raise from course fees to fund schools can be considered progressive.
Theme cartoon googled and added by TW
If Jeremy Corbyn got elected by any chance with the Labour Party getting its act together and turning the tables on the Conservatives, he would find himself in the same predicament as Sri Lanka’s yahapalana leaders who promised a massive pay hike in a bid to win the last presidential election and got into trouble later on. Whether the Labour Party will be in a position to nationalise utilities companies in the event of coming back to power remains to be seen. However, Corbyn can rest assured that his offer of free university education will go down well with the voting public, especially the young voters. The party which wins over the youth usually enjoys social media backing, which is a prerequisite for winning elections in today’s world.
Intriguingly, while the main Opposition party in the UK is promising to abolish university fees and nationalise some businesses the yahapalana government here is promoting the establishment of fee-levying universities to cater to the increasing demand for higher education and mulling over the divestiture of some state ventures! Are we witnessing, in this country, the opposite of the left swing in Britain?
It will be interesting to see the reaction of the international lending institutions, which frown on nationalisation and free education, to the Labour promises.
There have been some misconceptions about free education and free healthcare. It is being argued in some quarters that nothing should be given free of charge. What the critics of these welfare measures have failed to realise is that social expenditure which was once erroneously considered detrimental to capitalism is, in fact, supportive of capital accumulation. Social expenses create an environment conducive to the growth of capital as the seminal works on economics such as The Fiscal Crisis of the State by James O’Connor point out. The state, O’Connor et al have argued, seeks to achieve this objective through two kinds of expenditure—social expenses and social capital. Social expenses are necessary for law and order purposes, social security, rehabilitation etc to maintain social order and legitimacy: social capital is essential for the promotion of capital accumulation either directly in the form of social investment designed to lower the cost of constant capital such as spending on economic infrastructure or indirectly in the form of social consumption such as spending on housing, healthcare etc. What would happen if free education and free healthcare services were to be scrapped in this country? Besides the attendant social upheavals which would inevitably dislodge the government responsible for such a move, the cost of labour would increase with workers demanding higher pay; the quality of the workforce would also suffer without ready access to education and healthcare. This is why most private sector institutions consider their expenses on healthcare facilities etc for workers a worthwhile investment.
As for the recently unveiled ‘shopping-list’ election manifestoes in the UK one may ask whether the former colonial power which used to consider socialism as evil as the devil himself has come to realise that the left is right.