I will admit to having drawn a morsel of comfort from the defeat of the last government. I foolishly hoped grumpy libertarians in the Tory fold might consolidate their blossoming romance with Liberty and team up with the Lib Dems to restrain the ever-growing state. Not the state we like, which is about schools and hospitals, but the other one – the one that spies on us, beats us, curtails our right to protest and treats the criminal law as a plaything.
In fairness, Theresa May is no more authoritarian than Jack Straw or John Reid. Indeed, she didn’t have their Stalinist origins. Tankies change, but their methods don’t always. State capitalists become market capitalists, but retain their affection for secret policemen. For those enamoured with the Soviet Union, the problem was never that the British state was oppressive but that it was oppressing the wrong people. In an ideal world – one run by them – the state would have been spying on enemies of the Party; instead it spied on CND, anti-apartheid activists, radical vicars and even Labour governments.
Some old commies have moved so far to the right that they pretend those things never happened, or quip that it was just cold war public-school silliness, and that nothing like it happens now. Most of them embraced the New Labour project of restraining the state by putting it entirely at the service of capitalism, whether in subsidising low pay, marketising public services or battering anarchists. And here we are, with capital and government pooling their resources to crush anyone who pops up to resist war or climate change or poverty wages or gangster banking or the security apparatus itself. A right state we’re in, as I was bound to say.
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