Thursday, 6 January 2011

Masters of the Universe

As British bankers resume their culture of huge bonuses and manage to evade many of the regulatory measures proposed in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, so one turns with a mixture of glee and relief to Paul Lafargue’s account of the Morrow of the Revolution in Commonweal on 9 July 1887 – an article which Morris, as editor, described in that issue as ‘surely well worth our attention’.

For in the industrial towns, Lafargue tells us, the Socialists ‘will have to get hold of the local governments ... open the prisons to let out the petty thieves, and put under lock and key the big ones, such as bankers, financiers, big manufacturers, landowners, etc ... Not that one would do them any harm, but to treat them as hostages responsible for the good behaviour of their class’.

I can’t recall any mention of bankers in News from Nowhere, but since Morris in a later lecture remarked that ‘our friend Paul Lafargue’s late article in Commonweal points out clearly enough the direction of the steps to be taken in the re-organization of society’, we can assume that the bankers and hedge-fund managers find themselves locked up after the revolution there too. After all, as Bertolt Brecht put it, in a finely pithy example of his plumpes Denken or ‘crude thinking’: ‘what is robbing a bank compared to founding one?’

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