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Financial Crisis Could Herald a Renaissance of Radical Thought

David Williamson

The detonation of the banking sector brought about by the credit crunch has been tantamount to a revolution.

But the greatest transformations in society may come if voters refuse to allow politicians to repair the shattered jigsaw and instead demand a very different future.

Once any institution becomes associated with negligence and greed, the stain is almost impossible to remove.

The true legacy of the economic crisis may not be the emptying of Treasury funds and the decapitation of bank chiefs but the ideas that will circulate in the wake of this scandal.

Aneurin Bevan was able to launch the NHS and build a million homes in the aftermath of World War II. In the calm after the most terrible of storms there was a readiness to think the unthinkable.

The televised horrors of the Vietnam War and the scandal of Watergate stripped the American political establishment of moral authority and emboldened protesters to push for a liberal transformation of society.

Captains of world finance are now similarly discredited. The politicians who danced to their tune may still be in the House of Commons but they stand accused of gullibility.

A political class which accepted claims that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq also failed to heed warnings of the coming financial catastrophe.

The time is ripe for a new generation of Bevans to step forward with a vision of social justice relevant to an interdependent world threatened by violent extremism and ecological disaster -- but where are they?

Barack Obama's top team seem picked to revive the pragmatic politics of the Clinton era rather than pursue a demolition of the status quo. British politics, unlike other European legislatures, has remained remarkably immune to incursions by Greens and radicals of other persuasions.

Britain's Left has not found a home in Westminster but many academics and campaigning charities remain committed to ideas which have been out of political fashion for three decades.

Critics of globalisation have won a following on university campuses. Writers such as Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Naomi Klein line bookshelves -- and recent events will have convinced many that their critical diagnoses of our society were at least partly right.

Those who thought it was barmy to give a mortgage to someone with no job or income have been vindicated. Radicals may feel sufficiently confident to emerge from hibernation and directly engage with politics again.

However, the true hope is not for a new Left-Right confrontation but for clear-sighted leadership. Just as Bevan saw the need for a health service and houses, this bankrupt planet needs a rescue package.

Folly has been exposed; now, there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build anew.

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David Williamson is the Senedd Correspondent reporting on the policies and personalities that define Welsh politics. He has been with Media Wales since 2002, and spent two years as a Business Correspondent. He regularly reports on faith issues and writes a weekly column, Second Glance.

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