Archive for the ‘New Left’ Category
“There is a blind refusal to see that a people’s Brexit provides a genuine opportunity for workers to gain confidence, challenge a weak and divided Tory government and elect a left-wing Labour government empowered to see through its socialist commitments.”
This Monday, 13 March, the Commons will vote on a Labour amendment to the Article 50 bill to guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK.
The Tories will use any excuse to scapegoat migrants to divide communities and deflect from their own damaging policies. This is a choice between a society for the few who will use the current crisis to justify their position and a society for the many which recognises the vital and important contributions migrants make to the country. Whether we want to remain in the EU or not, we demand the right to remain and freedom of movement for everybody.
We must show our support as this important issue goes back to the Commons. Join the emergency demonstration at Parliament from 5.30pm on Monday evening.
The government must guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK.
In the latest New Left Review Perry Anderson discusses President Trump.
He includes these comments on ‘populism’ in Europe and the Brexit vote.
In the Old World, the principal reason why populism of the right typically outpaces populism of the left is widespread fear of immigration; and the principal reason why this has not carried it to power is greater fear of economic retribution if the euro—detested as an instrument of austerity and loss of sovereignty though it may be—were not just denounced, as it is by populisms of the right and left alike, but actually discarded. In the UK alone, though nowhere near forming a government, a populism of the right did achieve, in the referendum on British membership of the EU, a score exceeding even Trump’s.
The victory of Brexit, Trump announced from the start, was an inspiration for his own battle in the US. What light does it throw on the unexpected outcome of the election in 2016? Fear of mass immigration was whipped up relentlessly by the Leave campaign, as elsewhere in Europe. But in Britain too, xenophobia on its own is by no means enough to outweigh fear of economic meltdown. If the referendum on the EU had just been a contest between these two fears, as the political establishment sought to make it, Remain would have no doubt won by a handsome margin, as it did in the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.
Over-determining the contest, however, were three further factors.
After Maastricht, the British political class declined the straitjacket of the euro, only to pursue a native brand of neo-liberalism more drastic than any on the continent: first, the financialized hubris of New Labour, plunging Britain into banking crisis before any other country of Europe, then a Conservative-Liberal administration of a draconian austerity without any endogenous equal in the EU. Economically, the results of this combination stand alone. No other European country has been so dramatically polarized by region, between a bubble-enclosed, high-income metropolis in London and the south-east, and an impoverished, deindustrialized north and north-east: zones where voters could feel they had little to lose in voting for Leave, a more abstract prospect than ditching the euro, come what may to the City and foreign investment. Fear counted for less than despair.
Under the largely interchangeable Labour and Conservative regimes of the neo-liberal period, voters at the bottom end of the income pyramid deserted the polls in droves. But suddenly granted, for once, the chance of a real choice in a national referendum, they returned to them in force, voter participation in depressed regions jumping overnight, delivering their verdict on desolations of both. At the same time, no less important in the result, came the historical difference separating Britain from the continent. The country was not only for centuries an empire dwarfing any European rival, but one that unlike France, Germany, Italy or most of the rest of the continent, never suffered defeat, invasion or occupation in either World War. So expropriation of local powers by a bureaucracy in Belgium was bound to grate more severely than elsewhere: why should a state that twice saw off the might of Berlin submit to petty meddling from Luxemburg or Brussels? Issues of identity could more readily trump issues of interest than in any other part of the EU. So the normal formula—fear of economic retribution outweighs fear of alien immigration—failed to function as elsewhere, bent out of shape by a combination of economic despair and national amour-propre.
Put slightly differently, hatred of foreigners, it was the memory, and the real trace, of imperial grandeur, government cuts and people pissing themselves with loathing of ‘Brussels’ that fueled the Leave Vote.
I will leave it to supporters of the erudite Anderson to explain how exactly “endogenous austerity”, a feeling of having “nothing to lose”, led to the vote to Leave, without the first and last (both ‘foreign’) factors condensing into the far from ‘floating signifier’ of Brussels. That was, apparently, crystallised in a “real choice” in the ballot box, though to do what it far from clear.
Oddly comrade Anderson makes no mention of his own, far from brief, writings on how loathsome the Belgium based EU administration is, the architect of a ‘Neo-Hayekian’ neo-liberal order, its prebends and hangers-on, “more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.”
Or indeed that,
The EU is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic structure, riddled with corruption, built on a denial of any sort of popular sovereignty, enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.
Perry Anderson. The Greek Debacle. 27.3.15.
It might appear that the focus of the “populism of the right”, against this structure, is, in Anderson’s judgement, justified.
Which leads us to ask: did Anderson back the vote to Leave?
And what would be his recipe for regaining control from the ‘oligarchs’ (not a term which he defines, let alone relates to anything resembling Marxist concepts of class and power blocs).
There is little doubt that the ‘left’ Brexiters, the ‘Lexiters’, agreed with Anderson’s description of the EU ‘oligarchy’ and many were more than forthright in affirming their own ideas of how to restore “popular sovereignty”, in not sovereignty tout court.
One wing drew their own sense of ‘amour-propre’.
The ‘workers’, apparently, free of the neo-liberal EU, would, as Trade Unions Against the EU asserted, “gain confidence” and …through challenges, “elect a left wing Labour Government”… now no doubt able to exercise a fuller ‘sovereignty’.
But first they have to get there….
For the Socialist Party, “anger felt by millions of working class people at the decimation of their living standards, jobs and services has searched for an outlet, and over many years there hasn’t been a mass socialist alternative to channel it. The Socialist Party predicted that the EU referendum would be used by many as a weapon against the Tory government.”
Only give the Socialist Party the arms and they’ll finish the job…..
Others on the People’s Brexit side unchained their wild hopes on upsetting of the EU capitalist apple-cart without a clue about anything more than the immediate effect of Leave.
For some these dreams were, briefly, realised.
As the Editor of Anderson’s New Left Review, Susan Watkins, put it, ” Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.
Or as Tariq Ali put it finely, he was pleased, “that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside.”
This has not happened.
Trump came, neo-liberalism is mutating into new, capitalist, potentially protectionist, forms, xenophobia got worse, and Labour is not, let’s be tactful, in a position to offer a new Socialist government.
The ruling Tory party has been strengthened, homegrown austerity has got worse, and few would say that the cost of Brexit is going to be small, for workers who are part of ‘globalised’ cricuits, the ‘left behind’ and all who rely on public services.
Although Lord Islington Ali’s bubble may be as happy as he is at their spiteful gesture, many people on the left, who cherish the internationalist ideals of a Social Europe are decidedly not.
For those who give advice to the political class the reality of Brexit is about to hit hard:
No more baggy rhetoric about sovereignty and “taking back control”. From now on, those who got us into this situation have to show they can get us out intact by March 2019.
From those who give advice to the left:
There was a strong xenophobic and reactionary current in the Leave vote, but also a more politically ambiguous desire to give two fingers to Britain’s ruling elite. The most sensible course for the British left is to try and build bridges between those who opposed Brexit and those who voted for it without embracing the full platform of UKIP, the Tory right, and the Daily Mail.
It is generous of Finn to advocate hands across the divide, and the People’s Assembly (that is, the pro-Brexit groupuscule, Counterfire), to follow this up at a grassroots level by calling for people to join with them to protest against the consequences of their Leave vote.
But for many of us, not least the young people who voted to Remain (75% of 18- to 24-year-olds), and who find it beyond bizarre that any ‘left’ force could back turning the UK into a free-market rat-hole led by those intent on sucking up to Mr Brexit, President Trump, it is hard to see why we should support the tattred remnants of the People’s Brexit.
No amount of symbolical protests is going to change this.
Just to give a flavour…
Both the Lexit Left and the Corbynista Left are arguing that socialists should ‘respect’ the Brexit vote. This argument is false. It is a betrayal of every migrant worker whose status has been threatened by the vote. And it is a massive concession to the racist discourse for which Brexit is now the primary framework.
Brexit is being implemented by a hard-right Tory regime that offers permanent austerity, decaying public services, grotesque greed at the top, and mounting poverty and despair at the base. And the clinch-point – in relation to Brexit – is immigration control. May is peddling hard racism as cover for hard austerity.
The EU offers four freedoms of movement – of investment, goods, services, and people. The first three need not concern us because investment, goods, and services are controlled by capital, not us. The key issue at stake for working people is the right of free movement.
As Neil says,
“We do not ‘respect’ the vote: we denounce it and we shout our denunciation from the rooftops.”
Karl Marx. Greatness and Illusion. Gareth Stedman Jones. Allen Lane 2016.
In the Prologue to Karl Marx Greatness and Illusion Stedman Jones announces, the “aim of this book is to put Marx back in his nineteenth century surroundings. (Page 5) For many reviewers, this recalled the last major account of Marx’s life, Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life (2013). Sperber begins by declaring Marx to be a “figure of a past historical epoch, one increasingly distant from our own age…” (1)
When Greatness and Illusion appeared last summer there was little agreement about the merits of Stedman Jones’ efforts, with those sympathetic to Marx finding a variety of flaws in its 750 pages. Their reactions are not unexpected. The biography, from the portrait of the young Karl “would-be poet, dramatist or philosopher” to its survey of the continents of 19th century ideas, its survey of the merits of Marx’s critique of political economy, and lengthy historical chronicles, is never in too much of a hurry to point out Marx’s misapprehensions. Rather than dwell on what would turn out to be a lengthy list (for reviews see the link below), perhaps the most significant aspect of Stedman Jones’ study is the links he draws between Marx’s ideology and political practice, focusing on whether he was, or was not, out of kilter with his own time. (2)
Sperber had argued that throughout his life Marx remained wedded to a “replay” of the 1789 Revolutions in central and Eastern Europe, initially through “Jacobin” republican governments, which would result in a “social revolution (which) would lead from capitalism to communism and replace the rule of the bourgeoisie with that of the proletariat.”(3).
By contrast Stedman Jones argues that while strongly marked by the legacy of the French Revolution, refracted through Young Hegelian radicalism, and the search for “social emancipation” greater than political liberty, Marx’s greatest achievement lay in his contribution to a non-revolutionary body, the First International (1864, formal dissolution, 1876). The International Working Men’s Association marked the most significant stage in the radical and working class movement’s turn from the Jacobin tradition. It set demands for political freedom, ‘internationalist republicanism” on an intelligible socialist footing, “the political economy of labour”, and linked the left to the trade union movement.
In Marx’s Inaugural Address to the body, he conceptualised “the emancipation of working classes as a global project and articulate a transnational community of workers’ interests” From a lifetime of hostility most forms of radical politics other than his own he had now been able to master “a language with which politically aware working men at the time could identity” (Page 465) “It was in the formulation of this new social-democratic language that Karl made his greatest contribution to the International…”(Page 466) He did not just advocate that the working classes “conquer political power” and emancipate itself. His “assumption was that the process the process of a transition from the capitalist mode of production towards the society of associated producers had already begin.” (Page 467)
Those looking for an endorsement of Marx’s politics will not find much else to feed on. Stedman Jones’ devotes many pages to a much less glowing tributes to the classical texts of ‘political Marxism’, from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1847-8), the Class Struggles in France: 1848 – 1850 (1850), The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852) and The Civil War in France (1871). Crucial “moments”, the 1848 Revolutions, Louis Bonaparte’s Coup d’état in 1851, the 1871 Paris Commune, that is historical points in which Marx grappled with the problems of class, the state, revolution and socialism in historical flesh and bones, are extensively covered, with a running commentary on the failings of Marx’s analysis and his wishful thinking.
Karl’s notion of “class struggle” has been treated, he declares, as a “dramatisation of self-evident economic facts of industrialisation”. Yet, historians have come to grasp that “class is no longer…the expression of a simple social-economic reality, but as a form of language discursively produced to create identity.” (Page 306) Marx combined a “teleological account of the place of labour in the world”, derived from Young Hegelian thinking with, the French republican, socialist and even Legitimist terms of “proletariat” and “bourgeoisie” used in opposition to the “bourgeois” Monarchy of Louis Philippe. Culminating in the 1848 Revolution and the creation of the Second French Republic the organised “proletarians”, Blanquist and other republican revolutionaries, were like the British Chartists driven by the flames of labour’s destiny and opposition to private property, to confront the contradiction of capitalism, and the political rule of the bourgeoisie.
Such a template led Marx, Stedman Jones asserts, to ignore the ideological and political context of the French uprising. Marx’s emphasis on class struggle missed the key element of the rule of the Monarchy. For Stedman Jones it was the shutting out of the masses from the system of political power under the ‘censitaire’ constitution, a franchise that covered a tiny minority of the population.
“It was not the activities or strategy of a fictive ‘bourgeoisie’ but the attempt around 1830 to construct a political system based upon the political exclusion of wage-earners that created the ‘struggle’ of the ‘working class and the ‘middle class”. “ (Page 311) It was “political exclusion” caused by the ‘censitaire’ (a high payment level for electoral rights), that was the key issue. Stedman Jones asserts that Marx’s “hostility to representation and the ‘political state’” left him in a “poor position to understand the political determinants of working class action.”(P 311)
How did Marx portray working class activity? In his writings on the 1848 Revolutions Marx asserted that the “working class”, in his republican and ‘communist’ associations, was a potential lever for “overturning the world” through actions outside the system. Louis Blanc and those with influence within the French working class had called for “association” linked hand in hand with “universal suffrage”. These dissolved in the face of more ambitious goals. The “proletariat rallies ever more around revolutionary socialism around communism”, for a “class dictatorship of the proletariat”. He criticised attempts to introduce change through a representative republican democratic state, “the peculiar character of social democracy”, “a means of softening the antagonisms between the two extremes of capital and wage labour and transforming it into harmony, of superseding them both (page 176) This nevertheless stands with his 1852 enthusiasm for the Chartist demand for universal suffrage, which would mean the political supremacy of the working class.” (4)
From these brief passages one can see that Marx, may have been hostile to the mechanisms of representation on offer in the Second Republic. But he spent a great deal of time trying to demonstrate how through their institutional weight they might not only divert the ‘revolution’ but also be a practical dead-end (the episode of the National Workshops amongst others). Marx was already considering as the remarks on Chartism indicate, that the “republic” with universal suffrage, could be a key element in the working class “battle for democracy”. Finally if Marx was dismissive of “social democracy”, in this context, it was patent that efforts of ‘party’ had failed to achieve more than fleeting legislative palliatives. As for the importance of the “religious democracy”, a political force which Stedman Jones is more than justified in rescuing from condescension, it is unclear if their belief in “la Cause Sainte” and “Dieu et humanité” helped the fight against “modern slavery”.
Stedman Jones has every right to try to ‘correct’ Marx. Marx’s claim that Louis Napoleon’s 1851 coup d’état, was supported by the “lumpen proletariat’ – a category which he shows is vacuous – and his description of the peasantry as ‘sack of potatoes’ unable to represent itself (in fact the one major rebellion against him was rural – Page 339) to give a wider social base the 1851 coup d’état, are important, though not exactly novel, contributions to how we understand the period. But we probably do not need the constant presence of Stedman Jones as Eugène Sue’s Rudolph in Les Mystères de Paris, to save Marx from his theoretical shortcomings.
Languages of Class.
To some of his most hostile critics Stedman Jones stands convicted of deeper faults. His appears to operate with a watered-down version of the apparently “post-structuralist” slant in his Languages of Class. (1983). That is, critics allege, writing about class as “talk”. This would be unfair. A key essay in the book unravelled the distinctive ‘radical’ political approach to the State, “The self-identity of radicalism was not at of any specific group, but of the ‘people;’ or the ‘nation’ against the monopolisers of political representation and power and hence financial or economic power” “In radical terms, in 1832, the ‘people’ became the ‘working classes’.” This remains an important account of British radicals’ distinct concept of “class” and the “people” and the way in which writers and activists in and around the Chartist movement claimed to pinpoint political causes of ‘exploitation’ outside of the relations of production. It does not, nevertheless, demonstrate that “class” can be detached from economic conditions, beginning with the occupations of the Chartists. (5)
In Greatness and Illusion Stedman Jones concentrates on the conflicts over “political exclusion”, with a much less coherent account of the ‘figure’ through which French radicals and the ‘working class’ perceived the Second Republic. The reason is simple: there is no easy comparison between the competing but relatively unified doctrines of an body like the Chartists and broader British radicalism or early socialism, and the multitude of disparate forces swept up into active life in France from 1848 to 1851. The Republic unleashed a multitude of different politics of the excluded, but Marx was not alone in underlining its class character.
As Alex de Tocqueville famously observed,
One thing was not ridiculous, but really ominous and terrible; and that was the appearance of Paris on my return. I found in the capital a hundred thousand armed workmen formed into regiments, out of work, dying of hunger, but with their minds crammed with vain theories and visionary hopes. I saw society cut into two: those who possessed nothing, united in a common greed; those who possessed something, united in a common terror. There were no bonds, no sympathy between these two great sections; everywhere the idea of an inevitable and immediate struggle seemed at hand. Already the bourgeois and the peuple (for the old nicknames had been resumed) had come to blows, with varying fortunes, at Rouen, Limoges, Paris; not a day passed but the owners of property were attacked or menaced in either their capital or income. (6)
Stedman Jones’ background as an editor and contributor to New Left Review is perhaps another context for the biography. A taste for lectures on left-wing strategy marked its early years. This can still be heard in Editorial advice on the welcome “knocks” to the “neoliberal order” created by Brexit. One can detect echoes if not of the content but of this style in Greatness and Illusion. By citing Marx’s dislike of the representative state, readers will be excused for thinking that Stedman Jones is offering recommendations on how to improve on his “poor position”. This impression is reinforced in the account of the First International. Marx’s enthusiasm for the Paris Commune, which revived his “critique of Parliamentarism” The description of the self-governing radical democratic Constitutions established by popular rule in Paris (18th of March 1871 to the end of May 1871) was an account of “what might have become”. (Page 502) Marx should have verified his references.
Stedman Jones states that in The Civil War in France (1871) the famous picture of a smoothly running direct democracy gearing up to war was “an imaginary projection of the changes that might accompany a transition towards the rule of associated producers.”(Ibid) Yet Marx, it should be stated here, was so far wrapped in this imaginary portrait that, as Stedman Jones himself mentions he admired and promoted the English translation of Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray’s Histoire de la Commune de 1871 (1876) a book which includes a detailed account of the administrative failings of the Commune. (Page 548)
A particular charge is that, incautiously, Marx underestimated the hostility aroused, not just by the bloody repression of the Communards but also by their own (very limited) violence, amongst British supporters of the International. In short, he had broken with the rule that defined the Association’s alliance: he had begun to preach unfamiliar doctrines. The public scandal created by his words may have pleased Marx and his immediate circle, but began the process which ended in the break up of the International
In The Civil War In France Marx, Greatness and Illusion notes called for “an elected assembly, formed on the basis of democratic and representative principles”. Yet once the proletariat triumphed, “there would be a distribution of general functions assigned as a cooperative factory according to suitability” (Page 528) Stedman Jones’ qualifies this. He points to the need for spaces for differences of opinions and, with a dose of homely doctrine, refers to John Stuart Mill on the importance of individual liberty in a system of “equal ownership” and “combined labour”. As the objective of a proletarian socialist transformation of society, or more simply, democratic socialism, this is a far from a goal that can be consigned to the 19th century.
As others have observed, these thoughts are not developed. Stedman Jones completes his view that Marx spent the last fifteen years of his life trying to produce a theory of modern communism through the “intensive study of ancient, communal and pre-capitalist forms.” Those interested in the Franks, The Gauls, the Germanic Mark, Indo-European cultures, the Slavic Mir and the debate in early Russian Marxism on the place of the village community and its property in the transition to socialism, will find much to reflect on. (7)
(1) Page xii. Karl Marx. A Nineteenth Century Life. Jonathan Sperber. Liveright Publishing. 2013.
(2) Christian Fuchs Karl Marx Greatness and Illusion. Marx and Philosophy Review (September 2016). This provides a very helpful overview of the reviews and Gareth Stedman’s biography. For one review that really dislikes the book see: Who is Gareth Stedman Jones and why is he saying such stupid things about Marx? Louis Proyect.
(3) Page 558 Sperber. Op cit.
(4) Page 123. The Class Struggles in France. Page 176. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Page 262. The Chartists. All in Surveys from Exile. Karl Marx Political Writings Volume 2. Penguin Books. 1973.
(5) Page 104. Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History 1832–1982. Cambridge University Press. 1983.
(6) The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville (1896) (Alexis de Tocqueville) A private journal of the Revolution of 1848 published posthumously.
(7) Page 183. Introduction to The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels. Gareth Stedman Jones. Penguin. 2002.
Sovereigntism: a Dead End for the Left.
The Independent reports,
Labour plans regional immigration system to tighten controls outside London
The system would likely require some kind of work or housing permit to be introduced.
Labour is planning a regionalised immigration policy that would allow higher immigration to London but tighter restrictions on moving to other parts of the country.
Deputy leader Tom Watson said on Sunday morning that Brexit presented the opportunity to fine-tune the UK’s border controls and that the plan was under discussion by the party.
Asked whether he thought immigration should be higher or lower across the UK, Mr Watson said: “I don’t think you can say that. I think you can actually say London requires more liberal immigration policies but there are other parts of the country where immigration may be putting pressure on public services like schools and hospitals.
“That’s why I think when we come out of the EU we can have an immigration policy that maybe addresses both those issues.
“These are nascent ideas, we’re not ready to make them robust in a manifesto yet but they’re certainly the debate that is going on in the Labour party right now and in wider circles.”
The approach could help resolve Labour’s dilemma of keeping both its metropolitan support and its support in former industrial areas happy on the issue.
The idea would likely require some kind of work or housing permit system to be introduced as the UK has no internal border controls to stop people settling where they want.
A policy tailor made for electoral gain?
We sincerely hope that this policy, – requiring perhaps a line to be drawn around ‘open city’ London for ‘foreigners’ who wish to work and live in the UK – is not going further than these news stories.
Indications are however that this could well be part of “a national popular politics”.
Like many countries, notably France, Britain is now seeing the development of a “sovereigntist” left that seeks to base politics on the Nation, or ‘national renewal”. In France it is said that this strategy is needed to answer the Front National’s appeal to, frankly, racist roots of national populism and “the” people, wrapped in moralistic politics.
In words that could come straight from this current, Jonathan Rutherford wrote in yesterday’s Labour List (Labour can respond to Brexit by leading a popular politics that completes the shift away from Thatcherism)
The first is to define a British sovereignty and restore control of our borders and law making. The nation state, accountable to its population, and working through treaties, partnerships and alliances, remains the best means of managing globalisation in the interests of its own citizens. Britain needs constitutional and political reform of its union and its governance. The Brexit vote was an English vote and so the renovation of self-government in England should be a priority in a more federal UK. The free movement of labour must end and immigration brought under national democratic control. It is a case made by Tom Kibasi and by Chuka Umunna.
It is hard to find a better definition of sovereigntism than these lines: the position that supreme power should be exercised by nation state, that ‘pooled sovereignty’ – that is the European Union – is a weakening of its force, that
The Labour ‘interest’ is apparently redefined,
‘ Labour must recast itself as a party of national renewal and reconstruct a broad national coalition around a sociologically changed labour interest. It is the only means by which it can take on populism, transcend its own cultural divisions, and regain its credibility as an opposition and a government in waiting. A national popular politics speaks for the labour interest within the culture of the nation. It means a Labour Party that represents the diversity of working people in the country defining their own interest and so their own shared common identity.
Since Rutherfod considers that Brexit is a “democratic moment” those who opposed it are cast into the darkness of the “minority, metropolitan interest”, not the “real” People.
“Those who voted to leave the EU are a moderate majority of mainstream England “who will respond to “national popular politics.”
The words about globalisation and so on should not fool us into thinking this is any way ‘anti-capitalist’. Who are the first targets of this critique? As can be seen, a key part of this version of sovereigntism is the assertion of control of the free movement of labour.
Inside London, freedom of movement, outside, restriction, passes, permits.
Not only would this be unworkable but frankly it is an insult to those who prime responsibility is to defend the cause of labour, the cause of all working people.
Internationalism is not the preserve of ” a tiny revanchist Marxism and the dried-up old bones of the hard left. The vacuum is filled by a small minority” with egalitarian identity politics.”
Once you give priority is given to ‘British’ control, “our” border and “our” law making you have to define who this “our” is.
How exactly this relates to ‘English’ power and the idea – floated and not yet sunk – of ‘federalism’ is left in the air.
A federal’ system would, perhaps, also weaken the Nation’s unifying power generating capacity….And what could be a purer example of ‘identity politics’ than tossing the word England into the political game?
Internationalism, that is not just defending universal rights, an injury to one is an injury to all, is the only practical way of standing up for the labour ‘interest’ when Capital weakens our living conditions, our wages and our ability…..to move freely.
We have common interests beyond the ‘national popular’.
But let that detail pass in the lyrical nationalism that is the hallmark of the sovereigntist left.
Amongst ” free nations and democracies.” Britain has a special place in Rutherford’s heart.
We stand, in fact, at the very point of junction, and here in this Island at the centre of the seaways and perhaps of the airways also, we have the opportunity of joining them all together. If we rise to the occasion in the years that are to come it may be found that once again we hold the key to opening a safe and happy future to humanity, and will gain for ourselves gratitude and fame.
Another is a belief in the special place of the nation, coincidentally the home country of those supporting this vision, in History.
The “special relationship” with the US is a sentimental one. In reality it is transactional and rarely reciprocal. So be it. Britain must use the genuine affection of the American people and find its points of leverage and use them profitably.
The third circle was once empire, then it became the commonwealth, and now Britain must reinvent this sphere of influence as a democratic moral leader, social connector, trader, ideas maker, and culture creator, in order to build relationships with other creative powers who know how to project themselves onto the world stage. It is in this sphere that Britain can play a role contributing to rethinking the global order.
Jonathan Rutherford ‘s national Messianism apart, this is populism, not any form of social democracy or democratic socialism.
On the one side are the ‘real’ people, moral, hard working, whose wishes Rutherford had a talent to divine.
On the other, the “dried up” hard left and identity politics, the “minority, metropolitan interest”.
There are more experienced populists out there who are likely to beat Rutherford at his own game, in the growing nationalist right of the Tory party to begin with.
A pluralist democratic left should not go down the same dead end.
Trump and His Blessed Friend.
Before the UK EU Referendum the Editor of New Left Review wrote,
…a vote to remain, whatever its motivation, will function in this context as a vote for a British establishment that has long channelled Washington’s demands into the Brussels negotiating chambers, scotching hopes for a ‘social Europe’ since the Single European Act of 1986. A Leave vote would be a salutary shock to this trans-Atlantic oligopoly. It would not bring about a new golden age of national sovereignty, as Labour, Tory and UKIP Brexiters like to claim; decision-making would remain subordinate to Atlanticist structures. It would certainly involve a dip in GDP—around 3 per cent, on the most plausible estimates, so smaller than the contraction of 2009. But the knock-on effects of a leave vote could be largely positive: disarray, and probably a split, in the Conservative Party; preparations in Scotland for a new independence ballot.
Susan Watkins Oppositions. New Left Review. No 98. March-April 2016.
Immediately after the result Watkins’ partner Tariq Ali, who had campaigned for a Leave vote with an array of groupuscules, stated this to Tele Sur (a multi-state funded pan–Latin American terrestrial and satellite television sponsored by the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Bolivia that is headquartered in Caracas Venezuela, about which little needs to be added…)
British-Pakistani intellectual, writer and journalist, Tariq Ali, told teleSUR on Friday that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside,” explaining that the majority of working class “leave” voters felt that overall the EU did not benefit them, was undemocratic and an organization for the rich and the banks.
Ali lamented the fact that “right-wing “leave” supporters used xenophobia and racism to attack refugees and migrants.”
His principal suggestion, however, was that there should be ” new elections, because we want a newly-elected government to carry through the negotiations—hopefully a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and not some wing of the Conservative Party.”
Alas, there were no new elections and Corbyn did not form a Labour government.
In her analysis of the result Susan Watkins concluded (Casting off ? NLR 100, July August 2016)
For now, though, it is plain that Blairized Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianized eu. Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed. Which will ultimately prove more important, and what the side-effects of each will be, remains to be seen.
Ali at least appears to be one of those who consider that Trump’s victory was in part a result of opposition to this ‘neo-liberal order’.
This is a transcription of some of Ali’s words in a video talk about Trump.
A very deep cancer at the heart of modern liberalism today that since the 90s since the birth and emergence of this particular form of capitalism under which we live and which is referred to as neo-liberalism to give a new tag, but which is capitalism all the same, and which is concerned with making profits but nowadays concerned with making profits with no regard for people who are less well off… And so they imagine living in an insider bubble, cocooned from reality that they can get away with it endlessly. Well what the Trump triumph unprecedented in the 20th and 21st century reveals is that you can’t get away with it all the time.”
The idea that because people have become unhappy with the results of ‘globalisation’ or ‘neo-liberalism’ that they vote ‘populist’ (heavily inflected by the nationalist defence of the ‘people’ not just against elites but against other nations) is so well-worn that it operates as en excuse for considering anything more than the origins of this discontent. Watkins’ account of the Brexit ballot is a long and contentious essay on this theme.
If there’s any political thrust to this stand it’s as if there’s a healthy push to protest against the market, and the left’s task is to give it an extra shove.
Thinking about where the urge is going to end up once it gets into the political system is ignored.
Watkins and Ali are only some of the apparently left-wing people who failed to think through the consequences of their call for Brexit : what would happen after leaving the EU “Neo-liberal” framework (a gross simplification that ignores the weight of EU regulation) in a world dominated by large large capitalist powers.
The biggest capitalist power, the USA, is now in the hands of somebody who, whatever the motives of his supporters, who is pretty sure that Brexit is good news for his turn to an America First planet.
We await a response to the new shape of the “trans-Atlantic oligopoly” from the pro-Brexit left’s “insider bubble”.
He vowed to do a free trade deal with Britain, while attacking the European Union – which he described as “the consortium” – for making it hard for companies to do business.
Mr Trump said that the people of Britain voted for Brexit because “people want to know who is coming into their country and have control of trade”.
Then there’s this:
Brexit Good for Terra Firma, Bad for Most People, Hands Says (22nd of January, Bloomberg Markets).
The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union is going to lead to dramatic changes in the way the country’s economy operates, which could create opportunities for a firm like Terra Firma Capital Partners, Chairman Guy Hands said.
The country will have to get rid of much of its social safety net and may see a 30 percent decline in wages in real terms in the next 20 years to enable it to compete outside of Europe, Hands said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. Debt will command higher interest rates as more risk is ascribed to an independent U.K., and immigrants from Europe will be replaced with workers from the Indian subcontinent and Africa, who may be willing to accept “substantially” lower pay, he said.
Still, ultimately, the exit will be a good thing for the economy, Hands said.
No doubt the pro-Brexit left imagine that this will all melt away with some big demonstrations and other protests culminating in a left ‘populism’.
There are few signs of anything with this degree of coherence or support emerging in the UK in the immediate future.
There is no sign that a force of this nature, based solely in Britain, outside the institutions in which the majority of the European Left operate, the EU, could stand up for a progressive model to oppose to Trump and his Tory friends.