Book Review: ‘Against Austerity’

‘Against Austerity – How We Can Fix the Crisis They Caused. By Richard Seymour. Pluto Press. 208 pages. £11.50

Judging by this book, Richard Seymour, journalist and a leading instigator of a revolt within the SWP a couple of years ago, must have been itching to leave them anyway. He sees the way forward as building a party in Britain similar to Syriza in Greece which is a conglomeration of various leftwing and reformist groups, similar to what Left Unity aspires to be. Seymour is in fact now an LU member.

Despite the subtitle, he does not set out an alternative economic strategy to austerity but is more concerned with austerity as an ideology, examining how the ruling class has got people to accept it as a necessity. He sees this as something more than simple propaganda, saying that it goes deeper than this and reflects people’s experience of everyday life that leads them to view what is possible and what isn’t.

He expresses this in Gramsci’s terms, but it can be put more simply by saying that as long as most people see no alternative to capitalism (as unfortunately they don’t) then they are going to be able to be convinced that there is no alternative to austerity under capitalism in an economic downturn (as there isn’t).

Seymourdoes make a good point against those ideologists of Occupy he calls “anarcho-reformists” and other anti-parliamentarists when he writes:

‘The fact that the materiality of the state imposes certain limits, that it is heavily pre-structured in favour of the already dominant classes, that it is selective in favour of strategies that benefit the capitalist class, does not mean that one can abandon it as a site of contestation.’

Unfortunately, he has in mind a reformist use of parliament, but the same point applies to the propagandist and revolutionary use we envisage.


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