Accidental and Inadvertent

In John Lanchester’s perfectly explanatory LRB piece about finance in general and Northern Rock in particular, there was an interesting parenthesis:

“It may turn out the government has no choice but to announce that it has (accidentally and inadvertently) nationalised the Rock.” (from John Lanchester, “Cityphilia”, London Review of Books, January 3 2008)

Well, it happened. Who knows. Maybe real socialism will come one day as an unintended surprise from the financial services industry.


  1. panik

    This reminds me of an interview quite a few years back by Chomsky – possibly on the BBC but I don’t really remember now – in which he explained the reason he only reads the Financial Times out of all the other UK newspapers ( ) was because the FT was one of the few remaining Marxist (in the materialist sense of the word) publications.

    Of course, with regard to Northern Rock, it is far from clear that any socialist surprise will emerge from the nationalisation. There had been some backstage musings reported in the UK press when nationalisation was first mentioned that it could be used by the government as some kind of funding vehicle to support a ‘social’ housing policy that would help tackle the serious problem caused by house price inflation for ‘key workers’ (nurses, police, fire fighters, teachers etc) in places like London where even rents, let alone buying a house, were becoming unaffordable for these groups.

    Most comment over the last few days, however, has been along the lines of the government-owned Northern Rock winding-down the lending operations, waiting for the portfolio of loans to decrease through the ‘natural’ paying-off of mortgages nearing maturity and ‘churn’ of borrowers as they move between providers to get better deals, and then the selling-off of the remainder through some kind of securitisation once the markets for this kind of investment have (somehow) recovered. Sounds more like asset stripping than socialism …

    The really interesting questions the Northern Rock affair raises relate to mutual vs. for-profit governance and ownership arrangements for financial organisations, and the subversion of the London inter-bank market in a completely inappropriate and systemically dangerous way. There is a very important question that no has not been touch by any commentators about whether the regulatory agencies can possibly regulate the markets if they are not in some way involved in the day-to-day running and operation of the market mechanisms involved.

  2. panik,

    Look, this title from the Financial Times definitely takes something for Mao’s idea of internal contradiction:

  3. panik

    Thought it might be nice to have a link to Mao’s original text on internal contradiction ( ).

    Studying and writing about the financial sector it always made an impression on me how collectivist instincts and extreme individualism could sit so easily side-by-side.

  4. Excellent. And here is a link to the 1983 Labour Party Manifesto, referred to in the FT article:

    Here we go.

  1. 1 This Way Towards Socialism « Test Society

    […] nationalization, revolution, roubini, social, socialism Is financial innovation the ultimate unintended path towards socialism? “Some banks are just going to explode if we do not nationalize them. […]

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