A few juicy snippets from the accounts of Res Publica, the ‘think tank’ set up by the portly protagonist, Phillip Blond, in the glory days of the Tory election campaign. Blond, you may recall was doling out large dollops of economic and social advice to David Cameron – big society, locality, family, moral economy, virtuous elites, common popular customs.

But Blond is on less firm ground dealing with his own economic realities: funding shortages, staff laid off, rented premises locked due to unpaid rents (more here and here). So let us have a closer look at a few records (available at £1 per item from Companies House).

First, Blond is the sole director …

member …

and shareholder:

A dodgy set-up, is it not, as Political Scrapbook points out? All of which becomes even more dodgy when Res Publica is not, as is usually the case with such valuable social institutions, a non-profit organisation, but actually a private company:

Given that Blond plays cymbals, drum, ukelele and mouth-organ, he can also undertake business dealings purely with himself:

And his liabilities should the whole business go belly up?

Nice, cosy set-up, especially in light of some big sums in the creditor-debtor columns:

No wonder his guru, John Milbank, should come to the ‘rescue’ earlier this year, becoming a second director:

WTF! Is Milbank related to Maclagan? Bugger me …

Over in the UK, Res Publica, the bastion of Red Toryism, source of the ‘big society’, home of the self-styled ‘philosopher-king’ Philip Blond, has run out of cash. Staff are being locked out due to unpaid rents, paychecks are empty … Looks like David Cameron’s cuts are coming home.

Where are those bloody elves and their bags of gold when the worthy folk of merrie England need them?

(ht aps)

 

I have just completed the 600-page work by Lenin called The Development of Capitalism in Russia (vol 3 of the Collected Works), written while he was in exile in Shushenskoye village in eastern Siberia. Nothing like ‘exile’ for some productive work! Before a few wayward comments on this text, I realised when reading it that I have been in this area, on the Trans-Siberian train. Shushenskoye is in the region of Krasnoyarsk and that city is a stop on the railway line. It’s a bloody long way from Petersburg:

Here’s the house, or rather shack, in which he lived for three years, from 1897-1900:

And today:

Not bad, really, although it gets a little chilly in winter:

Not quite the same village, but you get the picture.

But travelling through the area, it strikes you that the infamous ‘exile’ to Siberia, often for mere misdemeanours, was actually a large-scale resettlement program. Begun in the 18th century, the populous west was encouraged by whatever means to move to the sparsely-populated east. For example, during World War Two, whole populations, industries and universities were moved to Siberia, out of harm’s way and a big boon for resettlement. The result: in 1709 the total population was 230,000; now it is over 36 million. And cities such as Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk and Perm  have populations of a million or more each.

As for the book, it covers in very sober detail (minus Lenin’s usual polemic and love of exclamations) the shifts in agriculture, handicraft and manufacturing that manifest the growth of capitalist relations. I must admit to being intrigued by discussions of the ‘melon crisis’, ‘pulling squirrels’, Lacanian-style diagrams, the measuring of horse-shit in ‘poods’ (as a feature of the economy), and the tendency to classify peasants as no-horse, one-horse or many-horse, so much so that he uses the intriguing term ‘horse employments’.

But above all a very Hegelian Lenin appears in this book, even before he had systematically studied Hegel (he knew Marx back-to-front by this stage). Hegelian? Like a bass-line, an underlying dialectical theme keeps re-emerging: capitalism is the best and worst thing that happened to Russia. So we find statements like:

Capitalism for the first time broke down these purely medieval barriers – and it was a very good thing that it did (p. 316).

Alongside assessments of working conditions:

People have to work in a stifling atmosphere filled with the harmful vapours emanating from accumulated horse-dung (p. 420).

The agricultural workers … travel on foot, since they lack the money for a rail fare … The journey takes from 10 to 12 days, and after such a long tramp (sometimes undertaken barefoot in the cold spring mud), the travellers’ feet swell and become calloused and bruised (p. 242).

How to make sense of such a contradiction?

Recognition of the progressiveness of this role is quite compatible (as we have tried to show in detail at every stage in our exposition of the facts) with the full recognition of the negative and dark sides of capitalism, with the full recognition of the profound and all-round social contradictions which are inevitably inherent in capitalism (p. 596).

Wouldn’t be bad reading in today’s Russia, it seems to me, although a post-script would need to be added on the transition from communism back to capitalism…

Lenin’s immediate theoretical targets in the book are the Narodniks, liberal romantics who saw the development of capitalism as completely evil. These Narodniks stressed the uniqueness of Russian history (which Lenin counters), the evils of multi-national industry, the value of small producers, communal bonds in villages and towns, the attachment of people to place, the great boon of cottage industries and mutual co-operation between master and servant. In short, they espouse locality, family, moral economy, virtuous elites and common popular customs – just like Alasdair Maclagan and the Red Tories.

Not a few people will have noticed the wordplays running through the UK’s student protests last week (I arrived in London just after these events). To begin with, students targetted Tory headquarters in Millbank:

Give or take an ‘l’, we all know that Milbank is a pseudonym for Alasdair MacLagan. However, the students seem to have taken a dislike to Alasdair, offering a more vigorous form of argumentation:

It was not that long ago that Maclagan and his protégée, Phillip Blond, were touting the virtues of ‘red toryism’. Other terms come to mind these days, like Tory Pigs:

Or Dickhead Tories:

The only things red about them, as AA suggests, seem to be the flames of burning effigies:

All the same, it is great to see the return to community values, the ‘big society’, the moral economy and popular custom, touted by Blond, Maclagan et al.

As the old saying goes, better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are stupid than to open it and confirm their suspicions. The Itself bunch point out that Philip Blond’s long awaited book, Red Tory, has hit the shelves. He really couldn’t sit on this any longer, since the Brits have an election coming and Blond’s fortunes are pretty much tied up with the Tories, but he probably wishes he did. Jonathan Raban describes it as follows:

Red Tory is like a 300-page Sunday sermon, preached by an autodidact country parson whose shelves are stuffed with old blue and white Pelican books on subjects like modern psychology, literature, sociology, government and economics, which the parson (in civilian life, Blond used to be a lecturer in theology) believes must hold the key to the alien and ugly civilisation he encounters on his parish rounds.

Now, I wonder if there are any citations of Alasdair Maclagan …