Clause IV’s moment?

Jules Peck

Monday, 24 August 2015

Clause IV as the foundations for the Next Economy

There’s been quite a lot of talk about Jeremy Corbyn shifting back to the much disputed ‘clause iv’ of the Labour Party’s constitution. But its important to recall that the clause’s wording which the neoliberals under Blair and Brown repudiated was the 1944 version 2 of the clause, which aimed at public ownership, interpreted as nationalisation. But Sidney Webb’s 1917 version spoke about the need:

“To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

Whilst the interpretation of ‘common ownership’ can be much disputed, to my mind that clause iv v1 is a great foundation vision for the Next Economy, an economy which is post growth, post capitalist, economically democratic and true to the socialist ideals which are the origins of the Labour Party. Corbyn would do well to consider how to update this vision to help support the flourishing of the Next Economy

Beyond state versus market

If Corbyn really has ambitions to move us beyond the dead dialectic between state and market, collective versus individual then now is the moment to do so. Its no surprise that Blair could not do so, as to all reactionaries and neoliberals anything which smacks of collective solutions are anathema.

But surely someone who purports to be a radical reformer ought to be able to tune into the emergent Next Economy, learn from it and support it. Doing so could represent a vital renewal, not just for Labour, but for politics in general.

Forget the Road to Serfdom, think more Road to Selfdom – an era in which the responsibility and rights of the self are understood in terms of the greater community and p2p relations as in Aristotle’s idea that the individual has no right nor expectation to flourish unless they are an active participant in the flourishing of their community.

Surely we have now learnt enough about the true, collective not selfish, nature of mankind from the worlds of cognitive science and sociology to shake off the fears of totalitarianism and think again about collective and social solutions to the ills of our times?

The emerging Next Economy

Whether Westminster likes and supports it or not, the Next Economy is growing day on day to what Rifkin calls an ‘eclipsing of capitalism’. Indeed, Professor Gar Alperovitz, a leading thinking and practitioner in the next economy, has recently said “just below the surface of media attention literally thousands of grass roots institution-changing, wealth-democratizing efforts have been quietly developing.”

This emergent next economy leaves behind the market versus state, Keynes versus Hayek schism and seeks to empower a p2p economics and politics truly of, by and for the people.

The ideals and principles of this next economy recognizes and learn from the alienation and inequality driven by the ‘market and private enterprise will solve all’ mindset and also the tendency to assume a centralized bureaucracy has the answers to all our ills. It will put responsibility and power into the hands of the people, driven and powered by a digital democracy and p2p energy that Smith, Keynes and Friedman could not have dreamt possible.

The market will still play a role, and the Partner State will support this next economy, as it already has started to do in places like Bristol, Italy’s Emilio Romagna, the Quebec Social Economy and participative budgeting in places like Porto Alegre and Paris.

The p2p politics and democracy, which underpins this, will be about a radical devolution of power and control of the economy to the citizens and the local. It will inevitably entail huge change to the way the market functions, with for instance the inevitable end of private banks being able to create money. It will mean a shift to economic democracy in which consumers, producers and communities control and own the means of production and where the profit motive takes at best a back seat to the key focus of the economy which will be sustainably satisfying our needs to live good flourishing lives.

This and much more is what we are focusing on with the We are celebrating and supporting the building of a movement for the next economy bringing the best thinking and practitioning together. It’s about the Commoning movement led by people like Silke Helfrich, new co-operativism of people like John Restakis and Jason Nardi with the Ripess social solidarity movement, Michel Bauwens and the p2p Foundations work on the Partner State, the Transition Towns movement, alternative currencies, the Maker and fablabs movements.

Whilst much of this is still emergent, disconnected and just beginning to come together into a movement with a narrative, set of values and principles and an early roadmap to change, it is a real economy. There really IS an alternative.

Jules Peck is convenor of the Real Economy Lab, and a founding partner at strategy consultancy Jericho Chambers.

Topics discussed:

DemocracyPolitical Economy

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