Mussolini was reputed to have said that "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini like many of the fascists that followed him was an ex-Marxist, merely inverting many Marxist ideas and organising principles and lined up his interests with that of the conservative small businessman and the Church (sound familiar…). Modern Britain is of course very much different from post-World War 1 Italy but similar trends can be observed when it comes to the aligning of corporate and state power. Many trends in ‘New’ Labour thinking from the encouragement of PFI/PPP to the focus on importing private sector ‘talent’ into the civil service seem hell-bent on erasing the difference between the private and public sectors with it’s neo-liberal corporatist approach.
Government agencies are to be routinely sham privatised, leaving the control and command apparatus pretty much the same if a little more exploitative and efficient at screwing the ordinary worker out of any surplus value they might create. True privatisation would of course place the agency in the hands of the workers rather then selling it to the highest paying rentier, but I digress. How does this tie into the governments plan for making schools more independent and thus more control over their own destiny?
As any political cynic will tell you: ‘follow the money’ which means when it comes to school reforms questioning: how will these schools be funded and by whom? Essentially funding is divided into three different categories that of the Academy which is partly funded by private companies or individual, the Foundation school locally funded by the LEA but controlled by the governing board of the school and the Independent ‘Specialist’ school again funded by the LEA but with central government funding for their subject specialist status. This is all to be swept away with the government’s reforms with City Academies becoming the norm every school is to be independent and self governing, yet funded centrally by the government. This would it seems grant Whitehall unprecedented power over these nominally independent schools further reinforcing the government’s centralising and micromanaging tendencies a further problem is in the way that private interests are allowed to dictate the ethos and nature of the schooling. This has been amply demonstrated by Reg Vardy’s creationist interventions in the City Academy he has part-funded in Sunderland. Part of the deal for his£2 Million’s worth of funding has been the promotion of his highly reactionary and anti-scientific Christian fundamentalist views within the classroom, parents and pupils can do nothing about this as they have no say over how the school is run or organised. The usual rejoinder to this is that Blair’s proposals will give parents more choice and therefore the bad schools will shutdown and the good schools grow. Education is to be marketised and hence made more responsive to parent’s wants and needs. All good solid libertarian stuff I can hear you thinking, or is it?
Now any non-authoritarian Socialist or Libertarian is obviously for reduction or marginalising of state control, Blair’s proposals do nothing to enhance either the parents or child’s liberty when choosing or organising and education for themselves. The market for education is again to be highly cartelised with very high start-up costs for parents and an extremely strong regulatory framework controlled by central government essentially the merging of the corporate and governmental state that I alluded to earlier. Parents in this so-called market are to be reduced to passive consumers with corporatised schools responding by expanding and contracting according the demand of parents. Blairite ultras like the Vulgar Libertarians would argue that this will lead to a diversity of schools and hence happier parents/pupils with local councils reduced to commissioners rather than providers of Education services. This ignores how a highly cartelised market in education would distort price signals leading to the schools rather the parents or children being the main beneficiaries of these reforms. Also the very fact that these schools would be centrally funded would tempt any government to intervene, panic or blackmail schools on a whim. Now the previous LEA model of school funding and planning was not brilliant I would agree but it at least allowed more local democratic input for parents than these corporatist proposals. Also these proposals leave the whole idea of what a school is and how it works completely untouched with all the traditional reactionary authoritarian models of education being reinforced rather than challenged. Any hint of allowing children control over their education is dismissed as ‘child centred’ and ‘old’ labour, truly democratic community and parent controlled schools are definitely off the agenda. Those seeking a truly liberal, humanistic education for their child rather than a better run sausage factory will have to turn to home schooling, alternative ‘free’ schools and parent run co-operatives; New Labour has nothing to offer you.