Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, January 20, 2004
GUY RUNDLE is a Marxist who moonlights as a humorist. His day job is moonlighting as a humorist, and after midnight, it seems, he has dark thoughts about the fearful persistence of personal liberty in twenty-first century capitalism. And twenty-first century socialism, for that matter.

You really should listen to comrade Rundle's contribution to Radio National's national conversation. Otherwise you could not imagine how deeply reactionary, in the simple sense of the word, how malign and pessimistic, are the night thoughts of a hard leftist whose ideological foundations have gone very soft indeed.

Rundle's thesis is simple. Present-day liberal capitalist societies are plagued with social problems that stem from one source, an excess of individual liberty. Just read the newspapers.

Left sociology has been damning the anomie of modern capitalism for at least 150 years, but very few proletarians have chosen to submerge themselves in collective discipline when the choice of pursuing their own prosperity was open to them.

Rundle is still looking for the right formula, because he knows any attempt to tame the excesses of individualism by regulation is, by his imposed definition, "reactionary". Down with speed limits? Perhaps Rundle will join the campaign against speed cameras.

That's all Rundle thinks he needs to say to anathematise the democratic left's third way - 'civilising capitalism' as the labourites see it.

So what's Rundle street on the way to human happiness? I've already told you. It's pure reaction.

science and innovation becomes as much an enemy of the wellbeing of any given generation of humanity as it becomes a friend because you then get a small global elite innovating and transforming people's life worlds without any sort of democratic or reflexive process of discussion about which parts of your lives people want innovated and which parts they don't. This is a process being driven overwhelmingly by the global economy.

You know what he means. Capitalism.

For example, he thinks we should oppose all uses of the new options that technology opens up for us. Ban all GM, of course, without consideration of the needs of the starving. It's the deep green agenda, with the same aim, killing off the forces that are driving material prosperity into places it has never been before.

Even Barry Jones can see what's wrong with Rundlism:

there wasn't too much democratic choice about say the development of penicillin. It wasn't put to a referendum as I recall.

Rundle prefers to identify technical progress with the possibility of nuclear armageddon. Presumably authoritarian economies don't make bombs.

Of course, Rundle hates stem cells, one of the most prospective technologies coming out of the test-tube today.

And what does Rundlism achieve for social justice and equality? Not a blind thing, of course. It's not meant to.

What it does is assert the evil of the present order, liberal capitalism. It tells us we should feel deeply disturbed, worried and afraid. It tells us, as hard leftism always has, that we can do nothing about our problems by the only means that have ever worked in the modern world. I guess we are then in the right frame of mind for the next oppressive, obscurantist group-think that comes along.

Old Karl Marx might not have been clever enough for his maniac ambitions, but at least he thought his job was to release the potentials in capitalism for wealth and freedom.

Not so Guy Rundle. He thinks we can do nothing but resist all change, until some new dark force reveals itself to the anti-democratic left, and they can begin again the game they lost in the last century. The repression of liberty in the name of collective welfare, leading, no doubt, to new assaults on the increasing welfare of the world's population.

This is what gives the hard left the potential to ally itself with other forces of dark reaction, like Islamism.

If that's the best you can offer to the political debate, you really need to think of a few jokes.