It's a sign of our strange times that not only is the Bank of England more radical than many on the left but also the Archbishop of Canterbury shows more sign of thinking about how to abolish capitalism than many on the left.
His promise to try to compete Wonga out of existence can be seen as part of what Erik Olin Wright calls (pdf) an "interstitial transformation" - the creation of non-capitalist forms of organization in the interstices of capitalism which, if they can expand, could eventually marginalize capitalism itself. So, for example, credit unions and Roscas might eventually grow at the expense of banks (especially if the latter's state subsidy is withdrawn); farmers' markets and even allotments nibble away at supermarkets; the internet is undermining the media and music industries.And so on. These are examples of everyday decommodification.
You might object that this such yogurt-knitting self-indulgence is no immediate threat to capitalism. This ignores two things. First, existing leftist strategies of sanctimonious posturing, talking amongst themselves and hoping for a government with "political will" is no threat to capitalism either. Secondly, small changes can beget bigger ones, for example:
- If the capitalist media were to go out of business, one source of pro-capitalist ideology would disappear.
- If people can organize themselves into credit unions and other forms of community activism, it would unleash an energy and appetite for self-determination that could challenge capitalism in other areas. If people can organize some of their affairs collectively, why should they be content to let bosses organize them in others?
- The growth of non-capitalistic organizations would help shift the Overton window, by demonstrating that alternatives to capitalism are feasible.
But it's not just self-organization that can help here. So too might reasonably modest government policies. For example, some reasonably small tweaks could change universal credit into a citizens' basic income. This would give people the real freedom to choose to work or not. In response to that, firms would have to offer less exploitative conditions, and perhaps even ownership stakes in an attempt to retain workers. That's a stepping stone to socialism.
Or increasing public sector workers' control over their workplace - say by putting services out to tenders from coops - would increase the amount of self-organization and hence set the ball rolling towards socialism.
Now, these are only a few examples. More imaginative and knowledgeable folk than me could no doubt think of others. My point here is that lefties should consider the interplay between policies, institutions, norms and culture. It's possible that some small changes in policies and institutions can eventually have big effects, to the extent that they encourage the growth of anti-capitalistic norms.
The transition from feudalism to capitalism did not generally happen because peasants protested in the streets, nor because they found a government with the "political will" to overthrow feudalism. It happened because a sequence of smallish individual actions - often without consciousness of their full effects - meant that, eventually, people found better things to do than obey feudal lords. Perhaps the transition from capitalism will occur in a similar way.