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Leave Means Leave National Populist Spring Fête : Cartoon by John Rogan.

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Populism is a struggle for democracy: John Holbrook Spiked, on Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin’s National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy (2019).

It’s time for a radical populism. Brendan O’Neill.

Labour does not speak for ordinary people. Others must.

It should be clear to everyone that Labour does not speak for working people, and nor does it aspire to. This party is now the property of an emerging new establishment; of a political set defined by ‘wokeness’ rather than class, by PC rather than populism, and by a belief that clever, ‘aware’ people who become members of Labour deserve a greater democratic say, but those people out there do not.

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We need a new radical populism. A populism that takes both people and ideas seriously. A new politics that is open and also intellectual. A new approach to public life which breathes life back into the radical idea that ordinary people are if anything better than cut-off elites at making wise decisions for the benefit of communities and the country. This new politics will not come from Labour or the Tories. So others will have to tease it out, develop it, and give it some kind of shape. That’s what spiked plans to do. Join us for this debate in the months ahead in our new-look magazine.

September 2018.

Frank Furedi. Former leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, now Spiked Guru.

What next for the populist revolt? December 2018

In the West in 2018, we witnessed the intensification of a new conflict – that between anti-populist political elites and a growing grassroots movement that is hostile to these elites.

Whether the positive, democratic potential in the new populism can be developed further remains an open question. As the protests in France show, people are searching for a language through which they might express their very 21st-century form of solidarity. But they seem to lack the intellectual resources and leadership necessary to give their aspirations clarity. In the UK, millions feel empowered by the vote for Brexit. But none of the political parties represents their interests; the pro-Brexit majority is bereft of an institution that might enforce its ideals.

Democracy’s shadow. Matthew Goodwin. Spiked.August 2018.

Brexit in particular was not just a formal request for Britain to leave the EU. It was the politics of faith rubbing up against the politics of scepticism; an attempt to correct an imbalance in a nation that had become more interested in big business, cities, social liberals and middle-class graduates at the expense of workers, conservatives, rural communities and towns.

This should not prevent us from calling out instances of racism or xenophobia that often come with the politics of faith. But it is also true that many of those who flock to populism do not hold such views and are instead pursuing radical political change in the hope of nudging the dial away from the politics of scepticism and back toward the politics of faith and salvation, however they might define it. By obsessing over what happened during the campaign, we are losing sight of a deeper tension that is at work and losing an opportunity to reflect seriously on where politics as scepticism has gone wrong.

Verso author, New Left Review and Jacobin contributor,  Wolfgang Streeck, supporter of the German ‘left’ populists Aufstehen, joins the National Populists.

The EU is an empire

Spiked 29th of March 2019.

Wolfgang Streeck on why the EU is a deplorable institution that we must leave.

..the left-liberal ideal of internationalism has been hijacked by neoliberal anti-statism, and international solidarity is identified with free markets. This is purely ideological, and it doesn’t speak well for the political acuity of the left middle-class that it bought the ‘Third Way’ version of international peace and friendship.

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To me, there is no left in Europe and the United States that is more demoralised and defeatist than the pro-EU left in the UK.

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The British pro-EU left has, for fear of Thatcher and her current and future acolytes, sold its anti-capitalist birthright for the thin gruel of a European minimum entitlement to a few days of parental leave.

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With the European anaesthetics withdrawn, workers and voters might remember the British tradition of powerful trade unions and a universal welfare state, get together again, strike for better employment conditions, and elect a Labour government worthy of that name. If this could be the result of Brexit, would it not be worth at least trying to ‘take back control’?

(Wolfgang Streeck was talking to Fraser Myers.)

Here

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For a Left Populism. Chantal Mouffe. Review: “Neither Left nor Successful”.

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Left Populism, “Neither Left nor Successful”.

For a Left  Populism. Chantal Mouffe.  Verso. 2018

Review: Andrew Coates.

(From the Latest Chartist Magazine.)

Chantal Mouffe and her partner Ernesto Laclau published Hegemony and Socialist Strategy in 1985 She begins For a Left Populism on the “challenge represented by the ‘populist moment’ by referring to the “incapacity of left politics” during the 1980s to grapple with post-68 movements, from the women’s movement to ecology. Anything that could not be thought of in class terms had been rejected. They offered, she states, an alternative, which became associated with the monthly, Marxism Today, against this “class essentialism”. It focused on bringing these new social forces into a left project, the “radicalisation of democracy”. There were angry debates on the left about these claims, focused around the authors’ ‘post-Marxism’ and the importance of class in left politics.

The world has changed. Today Mouffe argues that neoliberalism, austerity, and “oligarchisation”, has brought down living standards and eroded popular sovereignty. The political system is hollowed out. It is “post-democracy”, a term she takes from Colin Crouch and Jacques Rancière (La Mésentente. 1997). A paradigm of ‘consensus’ around the value of the free-market marks Western societies. There is little more detail about what is ‘post’ democratic in the new millennium’s elections, political competition for government and the possibilities for public debate opened up by social media.

How this differs from the previous consensus around the Keynesian welfare state, known in Britain during the 1950s as ‘Butskellism’, is not explored. The thrust is that social democratic and Labour Parties, notably during Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s premierships, accepted the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. As part of this ‘hegemonic’ package they put concern for the Taxpayer over generous public spending. New Labour agreed that privatisation of state functions and industries were “what works”. They aimed at competing on the global market. .

After the 2007 financial crisis people across Europe began to question the belief that these policies brought them any benefit. Those “left behind” by austerity in the wake of the baking crisis and globalised economies, demanded “democratic recognition”. Many Mouffe says, have turned to anti-establishment populist parties of the right, or have expressed their unhappiness through backing the Hard-Right project of Brexit in the UK European Referendum.

The message of For a Left Populism is, “To stop the rise of right-wing populist parties, it is necessary to design a properly political answer through a left populist movement that will federate all the democratic struggles against post-democracy.” She commends the Spanish Podemos, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI) and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, for “left populist strategies.” 

For a Left Populism draws on many, often very abstract, ideas that Mouffe has developed since the 1980s. This include her writings on Carl Schmitt, Claude Lefort, Jürgen Habermas (amongst many others) and  ‘agonistic democracy”. This is a concept which puts conflict and dissensus at the heart of democratic debate. Conflict, she argues, are the keynotes of pluralist democracy. This is an idea familiar from less elevated works. Bernard Crick’s In Defence of Politics (1964, and later editions) made a vibrant democratic socialist case for the importance of open disagreement and debate for the democratic left. Crick also wrote on how Machiavelli saw “liberty arising from conflicts.” (Introduction to The Discourses. Niccolò Machiavelli. 1970)

For a Left Populism talks about constructing a “collective will”. Left populism, she asserts, draws into its orbit by a “chain of equivalences” a variety of progressive demands, open citizenship. This is the ‘construction of the People”, a collective political agency, “ opposing the ‘people’ against the ‘oligarchy’. For this to work Mouffe follows the late Ernesto Laclau. There has to be “some form of crystallisation of common affects, and affective bonds with a charismatic leader… “ One can see the attraction for Jean-Luc Mélenchon who has made sure that there is no “so-called” democratic opposition in his Web-Platform based movement. It is a “lieu de Rassemblement” (rallying point) not a political party. (1)

Mouffe’s left populism also, centrally, draws on the “libidinal investment at work in national – or regional – forms of identification”…” National identities should be left to the right.  Instead of leaving the field to national populists there should be another outlet, “mobilising…. around a patriotic identification with the more egalitarian aspects of the national tradition.”

Much of this approach to nationalism is drawn out from the tangled thickets of Frédéric Lordon. The French theorist developed from some of  Spinoza’s ideas a picture of the importance of ‘affects’, which he illustrated as attachments of people to national identities, and, above all, nation states. La Société des affects (2013). Lordon, a supporter of Mélenchon has faced charges of nationalism himself. Chantal Mouffe’s French critics have not been slow to point out to the emotional ‘affects’ of voters motivated by anti-immigrant feeling. These are neither legitimate concerns nor are those who have them likely to drop their views to join a left-wing Collective Will. (2)

Since For a Left Populism was published Mélenchon’s Movement has stagnated and declined in polls, down below 10% of voting intentions for the coming European Elections. It has faced a series of internal crises, centring on the lack of democratic decision-making. Marine le Pen appears to have had more of an impact in the Gilets Jaunes uprising than the leader of La France insoumise. After poor regional election results in Andalusia and declining support Podemos, has suffered a serious split. Her interlocutor, Iñigo Errejón (Podemos, In the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón. Chantal Mouffe. 2016) is now aligned with Más Madrid, a catch-all progressive alliance. Pablo Iglesias is said to project a long-term alliance with the Spanish socialists, the PSOE. The radical left “Anticapitalista” current is in outright opposition.

The problem with left populism is, as Éric Fassin has remarked, is that, “it’s neither left nor a winning strategy.”  Perhaps we should follow his advice and concentrate on creating broad and effective democratic socialist parties and not on ‘federating’ the “people”. (Populisme: le grand ressentiment. 2017) (3)

 

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  1. À propos du mouvement «La France insoumise» Jean-Luc Mélenchon. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\My Documents\À propos du mouvement «La France insoumise» Jean-Luc Mélenchon.htm
  2. Populisme de gauche, du nouveau ? Pierre Khalfa
  3. See also: Left-wing populism.A legacy of defeat: Interview with Éric Fassin Radical Philosophy. 2018. For an overview of Mouffe and Fassin see Jacobin, Can There Be a Left Populism?Jacob Hamburger. There is much to say on the intellectual structure of the ‘affects’ argument, and the abstract account by Mouffe construction of the ‘people’ in a counter-hegemonic direction through relations of equivalence which he does not. Hamburger however makes the valdi points that ‘left populism’ is hard to pin down as one thing (the gulf between Sanders and Corbyn alone is immense, and Podemos and La France insoumise) but fails to deal with anything like the different party structures. One can also see that the “degree of porosity between left and right” is politically fraught with dangers, as, even if minority, Gilets Jaunes red-brown cross-overs indicate. One would also prefer an account which focuses on sovereigntism, national independence as a rampart against neoliberalism, something Jacobin writers have themselves embroidered into a ‘left populism’.

 

As the attraction of ‘left populism’, which is still influential in publications such as New Left Review, and the American Jacobin, and other pro-Brexit groups, wanes,  this important article also in the latest Chartist, continues the argument:

THE DANGER OF LEFT NATIONALISM IN THE UK AND EUROPE

Extract:

A recent book on Corbynism by Frederick Harry Pitts and Matt Bolton argues that its key components lie in “seeing the world as constituted essentially of nations” and “posing the nation against global and international capital”. But, the authors point out, the search for sovereignty is destined to fail, not least because “we live in a world structured by capital, a social relation which exists as a world market, from which single states cannot abdicate, no matter how hard they try”. Not only is this emerging aspect of Corbynism pitting itself against the tide of history, but it also produces political rhetoric that shares territory with the nativist Brexiteer right wing. In casting the ‘national community’ as the primary community for whom the left speaks, and in describing not only global flows of capital but also of people as threat to this primary community, the left has clearly contributed to racist othering of migrant workers. Which is why some of Corbyn’s speeches on Europe have drawn praise from the likes of Nigel Farage.

Corbynism’s emerging left nationalism is treading the same path as parts of the French and German left. As far back as 2016 Sahra Wagenknecht of Die Linke challenged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to accept more than one million refugees, calling for limits on entry. In an environment where the far right is stoking fears about ‘violent’ immigrants with fake news and conspiracy theories, Wagenknecht has called for the deportation of any refugees who ‘abuse’ German hospitality: a call in complete contravention of the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, and one that drew praise from the far right Alternative für Deutschland.

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The Brexit Left and the Legacy of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy.

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Image result for State Intervention in Industry. A Workers’ Inquiry.

A High-Point of the AES years.

The Brexit Left and the Legacy of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy.

“…the AES represents a transitional strategy, capable of mobilising working class struggle around immediate issues within an overall and coherent framework of advance towards socialism.”

London CSE Group. 1979. (1)

After the Brexit Referendum result, in the middle of the “birth of a post-neoliberal order” in which right-wing forces are on the rise, we were informed that the left needs a “progressive vision of sovereignty”. For some, to adapt Walter Bagehot, the dignified part of this new socialist Constitution, lies in left-wing populism. To “excite and preserve the reverence” of left-wing thinkers, there is the prospect of a collective will arise from a federated People uniting resistance to neoliberal hegemony. This will be capable of standing up to the “post-democracy” of international oligarchs. For others, the efficient mechanisms of nation states, by which this “works and rules” there is popular sovereignty to create, “democratic control over the economy, full employment, social justice, redistribution from the rich to the poor, inclusivity and the socio-ecological transformation of production and society…” (2)

To combat right-wing national populism this left must be, it is said, itself national. Tying these two strands together, standing for the “little people” against “neo-liberal internationalism” and “cosmopolitan identitarianism”, Wolfgang Streeck chooses “the reality of national democracy imperfect as it may be, over the fantasy of a democratic global society.” A key element in such an approach is said to be a break with austerity, based on command of a sovereign currency. Some, standing out perhaps from Continental left-populists who are often  guarded about sovereignty, and reluctant to leave the EU,  claim that  Brexit offers the terrain on which to offer a “radical break with neoliberalism”. Chiming with the People’s Brexit cry this should be “a radically progressive and emancipatory Brexit narrative”. Modern Monetary Theory” (MNT), has, William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi consider, is the key to such a Labour Party strategy, its financial motor, if adopted within an efficient national framework. This, they hope, may offer the prospect of Karl Polanyi’s ‘organic rationality’ to counter the logic of markets. They are among an array of writers, some with long standing hostility to the European Union, predating any views about currency, that hector doubters about the radical democratic prospects of national sovereignty. (3)

Matt Bolton and Frederick Harry Pitts made some wide-ranging criticisms of this approach. They detect a coalescence of right wing and left pro-Brexit strategies based on will and the nation. Corbynism mirrors the obsession with ‘taking back control’ which underpinned the vote for Brexit, with the two movements even agreeing on the political agent needed to wrench back that elusive control – the nation-state. Both claim to be able to free society from the necessity of living through the economic forms of capitalism through the building of national barriers. Apparently different but strangely resonant, each shows the Janus-faced indeterminacy of populism in an era of democratic crisis.” (4)

Brexit.

This is where the issue of Brexit enters. Plans based on MMT require sovereign states and sovereign money. If there is one thing that the EU is, it is a limit to such schemes. Yet, is this theory about to take earthy form? A large group, including Labour policy makers, and many who have attended talks on the matter, may be unwilling to base an anti-austerity strategy on a theoretical picture of the Production of Money. An adviser to John MacDonnell has gone so far as to comment that, “MMT is just plain old bad economics, unfortunately, and a regression of left economic thinking. An economy with its own currency may never run out of money but that money can become entirely worthless (5)

Is Labour moving in the national populist direction outlined, either positively by left theorists Mitchell and Fazi or negatively, by Bolton and Pitts? There is little sign of rage against “the moral failings of the international financial elite,” when we get down to the details of plans for an overhaul of taxation to increase revenues within a more equitable system. Nor are pondered proposals for “new models of ownership” a sweeping attempt on behalf of society to assert “social self-protection”. Indeed if anything Labour has been too cautious to offer a worked out reform of the Universal Credit system. They have preferred to float improbable limited experiments for a Basic Income – at least a more equitable idea than MNT’s “job guarantee programme” which leaves many more questions open – rather than a wholesale reform of social security.

A larger group nevertheless considers that freedom from European treaties and institutions is essential for some programmatic pillars: re-nationalisation programme, taxation and control over the financial sector and some direction of the movement of capital. Others contest that Labour’s public ownership proposals, investment and anti-austerity plans, are challenged by membership of the EU. This is strongly contested by many, above all by writers for Another Europe is Possible’s publications. Many will now point to the turbulence of the process of “transition” to Brexit. The prospect of a Hard Exit to trade on WTO rules, demanded by the Communist Party of Britain amongst others, leaves the country open to international markets, transnational companies, and states, headed by Trump’s US. Is this an escape from capitalist domination? It would seem that the principle of ‘sovereignty’ does not translate easily from political theory and Constitutional law into the world of economics and global politics. (7)

The “transition to socialism” is an uninvited guest in modern left debate about populism, Brexit and Europe. Yet there was a moment, a long moment, in the 1970s, when there appeared to be feasible plans in Britain – paralleling French Socialist, Communist and other continental European left parties’ strategic policies – that claimed to lead in that direction. The Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) was at the centre of discussion, “The AES formed the philosophical core of Labour strategy, culminating the 1973 Programme” writes Simon Hannah, “which stands as crowning moment of Labourite anti-capitalist thought.” It “was a declaration of struggle against capitalism”. Labour governments of the 1970s, it is claimed, thwarted the left’s socialist thrust. Today it is said that Brussels would play the role of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, the Parliamentary and media Right, Business, cautious trade union leaders, the IMF, and markets, all combined to face down efforts to shift power away from capitalism to ordinary people. (8)

The Rise of the Alternative Economic Strategy.

The Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) can be said to have originated in Labour policies developed after the 1970 election defeat, reflected in the 1974 election Manifesto. Elected in 1974 the Labour Party faced an economic crisis with a radical programme, including plans to nationalise 25 leading companies and the creation of the National Enterprise Board committed to “extending public ownership into profitable areas of manufacturing industry” and “industrial democracy”. The left, with Tony Benn as Minister of Industry, Eric Heffer as his Minister of State, and Michael Meacher as his Under-Secretary, and advisers, Francis Cripps, Stuart Holland Frances Morell as advisers, had a strong, though not decisive,  presence.

Harold Wilson ignored proposals to bring companies into public ownership. After Britain voted to continue to be part of the European Economic Community in 1975, which the left had opposed, they lost their toehold in the Cabinet. The age of ‘Bennery’, best remembered as support for workers’ co-operatives Triumph Motorcycles, KME and the Scottish Daily News, to replace failing companies, had ended. Industrial strategy elements, such as the National Enterprise Board (NEB) and “voluntary planning agreements” floated around in limbo until Labour lost power in 1979. Famously Labour, faced with pressure on public expenditure, presented as severely as possible by Treasury forecasts, and the failures of income policies, gave in to a variety of interests demanding austerity. The swingeing cuts in state spending culminated in agreement to terms for an IMF loan, in 1976, which is considered the start of a shift from Keynesian economics to Monetarism.

This turn helped the development of the AES as a distinct counter set of policies. “By 1976” John Callaghan summarises, “the AES envisaged a programme of reflation and redistribution of income defended by import controls, and an extended sector of public enterprise, planning agreements and industrial democracy designed to boost investment and productivity.” In this shape the AES became the programme, of variable geometry, of the Tribune Group of Labour MPs, many trade unionists, stressing variously the manufacturing or public service aspects, and a variety of left-wing ‘think tanks’ such as the Institute for Workers’ Control, the Conference of Socialist Economists and the Cambridge Political Economy Group. It enjoyed wide backing in Constituency Labour Parties, and influenced many of the incoming ‘New Labour left’ members, including Marxists, inside and outside the party. Despite (or because of) this, Prime Ministers, James Callaghan adds, it was “effectively ignored”, amongst efforts by Tony Benn and his allies, to give some tangible ideas life. (8)

Stuart Holland began from these premises “In both domestic and international policy the modern capitalist State is plunged increasingly in the dark by the simultaneous trend to monopoly domination and home and multi-nationalism abroad. Keynesian policies are increasingly eroded both by the increased market power and self financing of the big league at home, and by their capacity to thwart government taxation, monetary and exchange policies.” The economy was weakening. The alternative, “industrial regeneration” lay in forthright measures. John Callaghan summarises, “urgent action was needed to assume control of the strong points of meso-economic sector, including its financial institutions, so that the state could a adopt new planning instruments. “The alternative was a crack down on union power and workers’ rights by a government adapted to decline by attempts to increase profitability at wage-earners’ expense.” Holland’s version of the AES focused on new public enterprise as a countervailing force to multinationals and planning through formal agreements and industrial democracy. (9)

The AES resonated widely on the left. Over the following years the AES inspired a variety of radical visions. For the London CSE Group, on the eve of Thatcher’s victory, the radical aspects of the AES offered a means to “impose greater working class political control on each of the forms of capital” and (without defining clearly what this meant) a rise in “socialist consciousness”. In their view, “the policies proposed represent a challenge to the control by capital of the internationalism of its commodity, money and productive forms, and in particular to the role of British imperialism in the world economy.” Geoff Hodgson had already argued in 1977 that that, despite Holland’s “weak” position on the state, “the only effective strategy of advance”. Core proposals, on Planning Agreements and a real National Enterprise Board, “can encourage a powerful interaction between mass struggle and legislature advance”. Hodgson continued throughout the decade to see “the Alternative Economic Strategy is a means of mobilising the working class for socialist ends.” The AES allowed many ideas to flourish. Mike Prior and Dave Purdy followed a curious byway. They proposed to develop a “socialist” social contract, based on wage and price restraint, as part of the alternative strategy to expand trade union influence and “impose conscious social regulation” on capitalism. (10)

In 1980, in the pages of International Socialism, the SWP theoretical journal, Bob Rowthorn talked of “the implementation of this programme as the first stage in a revolutionary process characterised by intense conflict and struggle.” It was both democratic containing, a “number of measures for extending the influence of the working class and its allies, and for exerting social control over the direction of the economy” and national “based primarily on changes within Britain itself, and does not consider the wider question of how to overcome the present crisis in world capitalism.” For Rowthorn, this involved “withdrawal from the Common Market”. By 1981 with Thatcher in charge, Rowthorn believed, writing in the pages of Marxism Today,  “A real challenge to capitalist power, as envisaged in programmes like the AES, can only succeed if either (1) the Left has overwhelming support in civil society — in which case the old military apparatus will disintegrate if the bourgeoisie seeks to overthrow the legitimate government by force; or (2) the Left has a strong foothold in the armed forces — in which case the Right, and its foreign allies, may be frightened to sabotage the economy, for fear of provoking a conflict which they might lose. Others had already pointed to the absence of a committed “revolutionary party” able to fulfil the promise of the AES and ward off such threats. Holland, however, had other obstacles in mind and had warned against “go it alone” Labour policies, without the backing of left parties in France and Italy, a view he was to develop in the 1980s. (11)

For some, writing after the AES had disappeared from sight in the 1980s, the strategy was bound up with the fate of efforts by Labour’s ‘transformative’ left to change the party. It marked the high-tide to, in Tony Benn’s words, “to build a bridge which links democracy with socialism and merges the arguments for one with the arguments for the other.” Inside the party it paralleled, in this view, attempts to bring together grass-roots inner-party control with a wholesale transformation of the state and economy. Yet Labour governments in the 1970s neutralised its radical thrust before, in the eyes of the left, democratic change – that is, the socialist left’s advance – inside Labour was, in the 1980s, first thwarted, and then driven back. The inability of these efforts to make headway coincided with the Callaghan government’s turn to Monetarism, described retrospectively as a “key moment in globalisation”. The strikes and party infighting that followed fuelled, it is said, the rise of Margaret Thatcher before ‘authoritarian populism’ appeared on the horizon. In response to the fall of the Labour government in 1979 and “left wing capitalism” Stuart Holland wrote of the failure “to defend their nominal autonomy” and their “capacity to command support for an autonomous development.” (12)

The issue remains, what kind of socialism was offered by this autonomous path? Government legislated planning and nationalisation, are, tradition has it, is not a socialist panacea. Benn believed that “capital” should be made “accountable to the people it employs”. “Planning agreements were to make the power of the major companies subject to the assent of the people who worked within them, without putting workers on the board.” The Trades Councils who produced the report, State Intervention in Industry (1980) pointed to the key role of “workers themselves being actively involved in formulating the policies”. Did this actually happen? Their report indicated that in practice, “The NEB distanced the government even further from shop floor representatives.” (13)

By contrast, Andrew Glyn suggested, in line forms of co-operation already existed within capitalism, ready to be taken over and perfected by social ownership Aligned to Militant at the time and critical of many aspects of the AES he stated, “As Marx pointed out in Capital, the same people who extol the organisational excellence of capitalist factories and businesses and the sophistication of the planning techniques available to the individual capitalist enterprise, also deny the possibility that the same techniques can be applied to the co-ordination of production between the different giant enterprises which dominate the economy.” Glyn continued, “why could not a workers’ government in Britain apply the same systems to planning the British economy?” (14)

This insight, awakened from the dead Engels’ Socialism Scientific and Utopian (1880). Marx’s comrade, noting the increasing “socialised means of production” and “socialised producers” at odds with private ownership. For Glyn, in today’s conditions, one could unleash the potential of these forms by a smooth ‘technical’ transition, by a legal change of ownership, to socialist relations of production. The Militant economist accomplished the not inconsiderable feat of ignoring decades of left thinking on the way the capitalist labour process meant deskilling and domination by management’s “organisational excellence”, not to mention the wishes of groups represented in the Trades Council’s Report. (15)

Despite the interest of important sections of the trade union movement, often organised through inter-union bodies such as Trades Councils, there was no mass movement inspired by the trade union leadership (anxious to negotiate with the Labour government), and only a minority interest from the rank of file, for this aspect of the AES, or for the Bullock Report on Industrial Democracy (1977). Many unions, and some on the left, saw collective bargaining as the horizon of their democratic input. Holland has since pointed out that he never channelled management’s right to manage. Workers’ rights were to remonstrate, debate, to get redress for grievances, but not to legislate over business plans or company accounting. This is an understandable pragmatic approach, but falls short of the hopes of radical AES supporters. Only in the calm of political marginalisation would prominent AES backer Geoff Hodgson write an account of how an economy might correspond to the Workers’ Inquiry’s aspirations. (The Democratic Economy. 1984)

The AES and Socialism.

How radical was the AES? Donald Sassoon wrote in his history of the European left, “to anyone willing to brush aside the fog of rhetoric …an industrial policy that is based on planning agreements and a stakeholding company is, in fact, a policy of coexistence and partnership with the private sector, aimed at improving the latter’s performance.” He observes that the AES was one of the “very few attempts by British socialism to develop an industrial strategy aimed at making capitalism more profitable.” A more balanced judgement would hold that the strategy was an effort to expand the scope of political action to change economic relations, within the boundaries of the possible. Yet, Sassoon also adds, this was not necessarily realistic: “economic independence” between countries could not be waved away. The plans were not thought through. One aspect of this stands out. What were the measures kept in reserve to prevent capital flight and financial movements that resisted attempts to “harness of the market power of big league firms”? Bob Rowthorn’s warnings about military intervention, and implicit call for a socialist armed forces strategy, aside, the example of the IMF loan, and the campaigns against ‘Bennery’ indicated that the scope for radical change within the institutions might have been narrow. (16)

It is not only historians who have poured cold water over the prospects of the AES. “It is simply not possible to make a mixed economy work in a socialist way.” wrote David Coates in 1981, “while the size of the private sector remains large and in the control of a class that is hostile to Labour radicalism, and at a time when the development of class forces has already produced serious problems of profit realisation and capital accumulation.” In other words, Britain was capitalist and had a capitalist state.

Coates developed this theme, pointing to the lack of instrument to transform this, , “…the Parliamentary Left prefer to meet the threat of the multinationals by using the power of one national state and its associated national trade unions, in spite of the vast evidence that the nation-state is less and less able to play that role effectively, and without considering that the Left’s purposes might be better served by attempting to build international linkages both within each multinational (between the workers at each plant) and between the different national trade-union centres and socialist and communist parties—linkages made possible and necessary by the interlocking nature of the capitalist economies, the similarity of the problems faced by the Western European working class, and the emergence of similar programmes to the AES in left-wing parties across the continent.” This leaves open the issue of what exactly the workers were to do to show solidarity. Yet it has the merit of pointing to the need for those who had elaborated these left programmes to work together. This has in fact happened, through the existence of the structures of the European Union, by legally empowered pan-Continental Works’ Councils, and the creation of political blocs inside the European Parliament. Open to criticism, far from solid or powerful, without a doubt, these moves are under threat by Brexit.(17)

Europe.

What of the Common Market, the European Economic Community, as the European Union was known at the time? Sassoon, and many others, observed “a staunch defence of the nation-state as the best instrument for the development of ‘socialist’ planning was part and parcel of the AES.” Looking back over the decade Stuart Hollande wrote on the “New Communist Economics” of the still substantial Communist Parties in France Spain and Italy, and noted moves, which extended to the French Parti Socialiste, towards programmes for “political and industrial democracy”, and planning embedded in the “democratisation of the economy”. Could their projects be coordinated with the UK Left? At the time European Parliamentary blocs were out of the range of sight. But alongside talk about the “transformation of capitalism” Holland did not fail to mention the need to “stem a national decline.” As Paul Auerbach underlines, behind the AES was the “implicit assertion of the possibility of economic renewal thorough unilateral national action”. (18)

Francis Cripps wrote in 1981, “The Alternative Strategy seeks to counterpose democratic national self-government against the anarchic pressures of a global market system.” “The mere fact that the Strategy is national in its scope is not sufficient to condemn it out of hand. Indeed, if successful, it would provide a progressive model for other countries with similar social and political institutions.” Leo Panitch and Colin Leys have claimed the “national policy autonomy” or national sovereignty..” “some degree of collective control over politics and society, and in particular over the flows of capital, trade and people” are pillars of left politics. (19)

There is much to say on what confronts the left today. It is clear that very few people would find much in common with the starting points for the AES. In Andrew Glyn and Bob Sutcliffe’s influential British Capitalism, Workers and the Profits Squeeze (1972) the historical decline of British decline and its profitability crisis needed a left response. Based on “converting the fight for the rights and conditions of the workers” it should lead to a “revolutionary political strategy inside the labour movement.” (20)

Instead the minds of some of the radical left today are focused on how terrible the European Union is. This is more sophisticated ways than Tony Benn’s description of Britain as a “colony” that should be “liberated” from Brussels. From the Left’s Senate, pours forth the icy realism of one of its oldest members. Waving, as one likes to imagine, his long fingernails, from the arch-conservative Paleo-Marxist bloc Perry Anderson fulminates: the EU is, “an oligarchic structure ever more indifferent to expressions of the popular will, even to legal appearances.” Economically it is a de-regulating body, the plaything of globalisation, and a facilitator of privatisation and market competition.” This space approaches the neo-liberal ideal of an economy protected from politics – the popular will. The Euro-Zone is a means to enforce not just fiscal discipline, but in the case of countries burdened with debt, headed by Greece, sell-offs and, more widely, austerity. Stuart Holland wakes up and concurs, “an anti-democratic disaster” that stands in the way of my “entrepreneurial state” ! (21)

Blue Labour fellow travellers William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi. The Socialist Workers Party imagines another Europe, but Callinicos warns, this “will be achieved through breaking the autocratic, neoliberal structures of the EU, not by pursuing the Utopia that they can reformed.“ (22)

And yet, Europe itself cannot be said to be Nowhere. “What makes the EEC a constraining power at the moment is not any directive from the Commission but Britain’s de facto integration in and dependence on the European Economy.” Left populism, from a splintered Podemos to a La France insoumise, dropping to 8% or less, in the polls,  is in crisis. The  demand  sovereignty resonates only  on the national populist right.The internationalists’ call to reform the institutions goes on, the march, together with our comrades in the rest of Europe, continues, through the political institutions governing this economy and above through alliances of the left and unions.  There is only one Brexit, with dreams of restored Imperial sovereignty, Popular Sovereignty, a People’s Brexit, attached. That is the only possible Brexit, one that leaves us without any hook into directing the continent, floating, as a directionless buoy, in the oceans of the world neoliberal economy. (23)

*****

  1. Crisis, the Labour Movement and the Alternative Economic Strategy. London CSE Group. Capital and Class No 8. Summer. 1979.
  2. What Is Needed Is A Progressive Vision Of National Sovereignty. Thomas Fazi. Social Europe. 19th of May 2017. Page 4. The English Constitution. Walter Bagehot. Oxford University Press. World’s Classics. 1928. Chantal Mouffe. For a Left Populism. Verso. 2018. Reclaiming the State. A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi Pluto Press. 2017. The Return of the Repressed. Wolfgang Streeck. New Left Review. 104/2. 2017. 
  3. William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi Op cit. The authors claim to be on the radical left. Their use of Polanyi draws on Blue Labour’s Maurice Glasman see: The Great Deformation Maurice Glasman. New Left Review. No 205/1, 1994. 
  4. Page 54. Corbynism: a critical approach. Matt Bolton. Frederick Harry Pitts.Emerald Publishing 2018.
  5. Cited in, Pete Green Is Labours economic policy really neoliberal? Open Democracy. 14th August 2018. See the various plans for finance and macroeconomics in The Corbyn Project. Robin Blackburn. New Left Review, 2018. 111/2.
  6. THE LEFT AGAINST BREXIT – AN INTERNATIONALIST CASE FOR EUROPE. : Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms’, Communists propose.Page 145.A Party with Socialists in it. A History of the Labour left. Simon Hannah. Pluto. 2018.
  7. Pages 57 and 59. The Retreat of Social Democracy. John Callaghan. Manchester University Press. 2000. See also: Chapter 5. The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Leo Panitch & Colin Leys. Verso. 1997.
  8. Page 32. Strategy for Socialism. Stuart Holland. Spokesman. 1975. Page 59 John Callaghan op cit.

  9. Crisis, the Labour Movement and the Alternative Economic Strategy, London, CSE Group. Capital and Class No 8. 1979. Pages 156 – 157 Socialism and Parliamentary Democracy Geoff Hodgson. Spokesman 1977. Geoff Hodgson. Britain’s crisis and the road to international socialism: a reply to Jonathan Bearman. International Socialism, 2/7 1980. On a Socialist Social Contract see: Out of the Ghetto. Mike Prior and Dave Purdy. Spokesman. 1979.

  10. Bob Rowthorn. The Alternative Economic Strategy.International Socialism. Spring 1980. Bob Rowthorn The Politics of the Alternative Economic Strategy Marxism Today. January 1981.The Eclipse of Politics: the Alternative Economic Strategy as a Socialist Strategy. Donald Swartz. Capital and Class. No 13. 1981.

  11. See The Impasse of Social Democratic Politics. Leo Panitch. Socialist Register. 1985/86. Merlin. Page 244 Stuart Holland. Capital, Labour and the State. In: What Went Wrong, Explaining the Fall of the Labour Government, Edited by Ken Coates. Spokesman, 1979.

  12. Pages 90 to 91. Tony Benn. Interview with Eric Hobsbawm. In The Forward March of Labour Halted? Eric Hobsbawm. Verso. 1981. Page 9. Pages 96 and 157 – 8. State Intervention in Industry. A Workers’ Inquiry. Coventry, Liverpool. Newcastle N. Tyneside Trades Councils. 1980. Russell. 

  13. Andrew Glyn. Capitalist Crisis: Tribune’s ‘Alternative Strategy’or Socialist Plan. Militant Pamphlet, 1979. Stuart Holland said in 2017. “One of the main claims about my proposals in the 1970s was the allegation that I wanted civil servants to run industry. I didn’t and I don’t. They’re not qualified, not up to it. You need professional managers (my emphasis) in holding companies with a strategic remit from the government. I made that argument in shaping the case for the National Enterprise Board, submitting that the NEBshould have such a remit for six main roles, including regional development, gaining direct information on the cost and profit structures of big business, using this to counter transfer pricing by multinational companies, locating more R&D in the UK, as well as long-term innovating investment not influenced by the short termism of stock markets.” Martin O’NeillStuart Holland Hope amidst despair?Renewal. Col 25. 34.

  14. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific Friedrich Engels. Various Editions.

  15. Page 525. One Hundred Years of Socialism. Donald Sassoon. Fontana Press. 1996.

  16.  Labourism and the Transition to Socialism. David Coates. New Left Review. 1/129. 1981.

  17. The New Communist Economics. Stuart Holland. In Eurocommunism. Myth or Reality?Paolo Filo della Torre, Edward Mortimer, Jonathan Story, Penguin 1979. Paul Auerbach. The Left Intellectual Opposition in Britain 1945 – 2000: the Case of the Alternative Economic Strategy. Socialist History Society Conference. September 26-7 2003.

  18. Francis Cripps. The British Crisis—Can the Left Win? New Left Review 128/1 1981. Page 170. The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Leo Panitch & Colin Leys. Verso. 1997.

  19. Pages 215 – 6. Andrew Glyn and Bob Sutcliffe British Capitalism, Workers and the Profits Squeeze . Penguin. 1972.

  20. Page 539. The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso. 2009.  Martin O’NeillStuart Holland Hope amidst despair? Renewal. Col 25. 34.

  21. Why the Left Should Embrace Brexit. Thomas Fazi and William Mitchell. Jacobin. 29.4. 2018. The Internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism No 148. 2015.

  22. Vol. 2. Page 284. Marx’s Capital and Capitalism Today. Antony Cutler, Barry Hindess, Paul Hirst and Athar Hussain. Routledge. 1978

In US Jacobin Magazine, Back Brexit, “with or without a Brexit deal.”

with 5 comments

Image result for gammon slang Usa

Open UK to US Gammon says US Jacobin.

The “leading voice of the American left” has not published a single article opposing Brexit.

This, despite the fact that opposing Brexit is the majority view of Labour Party members, and a substantial part of the left, including much of the most radical wing.

As Another Europe is Possible says,

Brexit is a hard right Tory project – the only way to resist it is from the left.

“Progressive entrepreneur” Bhaskar Sunkara, who owns the magazine, and its British subsidiary the new Tribune, has this weighty argument behind his opposition to the left-wing internationalists who oppose the hard-right Brexit and fight for a People’s Vote to Remain in the EU:

Image result for Bhaskar Sunkara Brexit

 

No doubt the last sentence was proved by the way Corbyn and his leadership team had to be dragged kicking and screaming to take a pro-immigration stand this week in parliament.

 

The chap appears to have never heard of Another Europe is Possible (above)  – though one suspects that at least one of minions has a sad personal story, located in the mists of time, to tell him about his own relations with one of the groups backing it.

Now we have this essay.

Even for the Gammon left it is piss-poor.

Leave the EU Already Alex Gourevitch. 

29th of January 2018.

The European Union is one of the chief enemies of democracy in the world today. Britain should leave it, with or without a Brexit deal.

One does not know where to begin but the learned associate professor of political science at Brown University helpfully continues:

The European Union is one of the chief enemies of democratic politics, and therefore the mass of people, in the world today. Its central purpose is to constrain popular sovereignty through an executive-heavy, often-secretive complex of organizations. It has no fewer than five presidents; makes key decisions behind closed doors, with no recorded minutes; has a parliament that is its weakest branch; and renders amending its basic constitutional features nearly impossible.

Dreadful.

Not only does the EU rank with enemies of democracy like Putin’s Russia, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, Iran’s  Ali Khamenei, Bashar Hafez al-Assad (halting there for the moment) but it has bleeding 5 (count ’em) 5 Presidents!

The eminent author of books on Slavery and the Co-operative Commonwealth in the 19th century does not have to look far to find the root faults of this monstrous aberration:

National politicians created the EU institutions in a bid to avoid the rough-and-tumble of democratic representation, turning Europe’s nation-states into member-states. These member-states retain the worst, coercive elements of statehood while reducing the influence of the democratic element, allowing elected officials to avoid accountability by retreating into supranational and intergovernmental institutions.

Supranational, inter-governmental!

Say no more.

As a result, the historian of Republican Liberty spots the reason why the Brexit side won a slim majority in the Referendum.

The vote in favor of leaving the EU is therefore a product of longstanding popular frustration at the sense that politics is out of the electorate’s control and that elites have little to offer but ruses to avoid being held to account.

Most people, if they have persisted so far, will not be astonished to find that the crack political scientist can see clearly that democratic “popular sovereignty” is at stake.

Yet there is still enormous resistance to doing the democratic thing and actually leaving the EU.

Democrats always bow to popular sovereignty: they never contest the Will and the Voice of the people as she is spoke.

Unlike that them there “chief enemy of democracy in the world” – the EU.

The cultured critic of wage labour  talks of

the lure of the second referendum. They are hoping to be let off the hook by engaging in what has practically become a Brechtian tradition of EU politics.

No, he is not talking abut The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Boris-Johnson-Rees-Mogg-Nigel-Farrage. 

*******

* Alex Gourevitch is an associate professor of political science at Brown University and the author of From Slavery To the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2019 at 6:17 pm

Mélenchon and la France insoumise in Free-fall.

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Mélenchon : Aux portes du pouvoir par Fayol

Looking Further from the Gates of Power than Ever.

“la vertu est cette capacité à mettre en adéquation les principes qu’on applique dans sa vie avec ceux qu’on voudrait voir appliquer au plus grand nombre au benefice de tous”

Virtue is the faculty to be able to properly line up the principles that you apply in your life with those that you would like to see applied to the greatest number of others to the benefit of all.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon. De La Vertu.2017.(1)

Tout commence par la mystique, par une mystique, par sa (propre) mystique et tout finit de la politique.”

Everything begins in mysticism, by a mystique, one’s own mystique, and ends in politics.”

Notre Jeunesse. Charles Péguy. 1910 – 11. (2)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, writes Chantal Mouffe, is a successful left-populist. He has channelled a feeling of being “left behind” and the “desire for democratic recognition” away from the far-right. Mélenchon’s Rally, la France insoumise (LFI) has been able to “federate all the democratic struggles against post-democracy”. Like Jeremy Corbyn his “anti-establishment discourse” “comes from the progressive side”. (3)

Mélenchon has ambitions grander than picking up the votes of La France périphérique, the ‘somewhere people’ stranded on the margins in the age of globalisation. He seeks support in that direction. LFI’s reaching out to protests against the rise in engine fuel, backed by the far-right Rassemblement National (ex-Front National) – despite previous green commitment – underlines the approach. But the goal of the movement is to create the multitude, the common people, are transformed into a People by collective action. The fight against the “oligarchy” the push for equality, what remains of class struggle, the deeply rooted “anthropological” need for sovereignty, are woven together into a vision adequate to the ecological demands of a planet under threat. (4)

Out with Class Based Parties!

In these conditions the old class based “party forms” of the left have consigned the left to a dwindling “archipelago”. Their vertical structures correspond to the old Taylorist and Fordist forms of work. The emergence of the dissatisfied People, broader than the traditional working class, as a category, a potential political subject, facing the financial Oligarchy rends them obsolete. Horizontal on-line debate makes the old ‘rigid’ democratic procedures out of date. His movement, a “brand (“label”) is a vehicle for common action. It is not (his quotation marks) “démocratique”, with different tendencies, factions, or even votes on opposing motions at conferences of elected party representatives from branches. It is, in line with these social changes, a “movement”, in which its politics are visible, and through which supporters are involved not by old-fashioned voting but through selection by lot to participate, to a degree decided by their own wishes, in the grand replacements of the old politics of La France insoumise. (5)

It was hard not to be reminded of this vision when listening to the radio station, Europe  1 this morning. The news began with the results of an opinion poll which put LFI’s list for the 2019 European elections in free-fall, down to  11% (drop of 3%)  three and a half points above the Parti Socialiste (7,5%if Ségolène Royal lead their list, otherwise 6%)   Its follows surveys which indicated that, after his public exhibition of petulant rage over an investigation into the Movement’s finances, Mélenchon himself has lost 7 points in personal popularity though some polls put the loss higher at a drop in 15% amongst those who voted for him in the Presidential elections (Jean-Luc Mélenchon dégringole de 7 points). Marine Le Pen’s  Rassemblement national  (ex-Front National) meanwhile is scoring the same, around 20%,  as La  République en Marche of Emmanuel Macron.

L’enfance d’un chef.

The coup de grâce came with an interview with Mélanie Delattre et Clément Fayol, the authors of a book, to be published this week, on Mélenchon and La France insoumise. Mélenchon : Aux portes du pouvoir.This attempts to unravel “le système Mélenchon” It began with a description of LFI as a “business” (Chef d’entreprise et anticapitaliste), and its Leader’s considerable personal fortune. The canny homme d’affaires prefers, they allege, to squirrel away money in a variety of companies rather than reward his long suffering staff. We were then treated to a sketch of its internal ‘operations’, tightly controlled by those in the ‘club’ around the leadership.

Next, the authors asserted, far from being a ‘new type of open to all, a” participative” structure, it is ruled by ‘Trotskyist’ organisational practice – that it a very special kind of ‘Trotskyism’, the Lambertist centralist type which brooks no opposition. They managed to suggest that his screaming and foot stamping against those officials and police agents trying to investigate some of the secrets of this “business” was a premeditated piece of theatre. In short, the accusation is that Mélenchon has retained the political practice of his youth inside one of the most sectarian narrow-minded nationalist (both of its two existing splinters advocate Frexit) French left currents.

Finally, the interview raised the issue of Jean Luc’s long-standing membership of the Freemason, Grand Orient lodge. This, for those wishing to pursue further, may be compared to the deceased leader of Mélenchon’s former faction Pierre Lambert, who enjoyed a life- time friendship with one of the founding figures of French Trotskyism in the 1930s, Fed Zeller, who passed from the Fourth International to the same loge…(6)

To their credit after his tantrum and disrespect for republican legality the French freemasons have suspended Mélenchon and some have asked for his expulsion (Des francs-maçons veulent éjecter Jean-Luc Mélenchon du Grand Orient à cause de son attitude lors des perquisitions).

Where does this leave  La France insoumise?

Many people have the impression that their intellectual support was from the kind of academic or student who, had they been born at the time, would have admired Péguy. That is, a kind of faith in the capacity of socialism to effect a cultural and spiritual renewal beyond sordid (‘post-democratic’) politics. One can see them warming to the nationalist exaltation of Le Mystère de la Charité de Jean d’Arc (1908) It is to be doubted if they would have belched at the author’s railing at “bourgeois cosmopolitanism” and hatred of Jaurès’ Teutonic socialism. (7) The might well have had a sneaking admiration for the Camelots du roi, armed with lead-weighted canes against rootless youpins. If few would accuse Mélenchon of anti-semitism, LFI, we are informed is none too fond of George Soros, and as for Germans….

Rather than awaiting the Second Coming the supporters of Mélenchon  expect a laïque  révolution citoyenne and the Sixth republic led by the genial LFI Chief – any day now…

The painful realisation that Mélenchon’s ‘mystique’ is evaporating and that they have ended up in the sordid world of less than virtuous politics will be a hard to manage…

Mélenchon aux portes du pouvoir,  published at the end of the week, looks set for the leftist must-read list….

  1. Page 136. Jean-Luc Mélenchon avec Cécile Amar. Editions de l’Observatoire. 2017
  2. Page 115. Charles Péguy. Notre jeunesse. Folio Essais. Gallimard. 1993.
  3. Pages 22 – 23. Chantal Mouffe. For a Left Populism. Verso. 2018.
  4. Le Peuple et son conflit. Pages 142 – 147. Jean-Luc Mélenchon L’ère du Peuple. Pluriel. 2017 (new edition).
  5. Le Peuple et son mouvement. Pages 148 – 156. Op cit.
  6. Fred Zeller. Témoin du siècle. Du Blum à Trotsky au grand Orient de France….Fayard. 2000
  7. This is how he described the German influence on the politics of Jean Jaurès: “une sorte de vague cosmopolitisme bourgeois vicieux et d’autre part et très particulièrement et très proprement un pangermanisme, un total asservissement à la politique allemande, au capitalisme allemand, à l’impérialisme allemand, au militarisme allemand, au colonialisme allemand.”(P 1259) .Charles Péguy: Oeuvres en Prose. 1909 – 1914. Tome ll. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Avant-proposes et notes. Marcel Péguy. 1961.

Sanders and Varoufakis to launch ‘Progressive International’ “Green, Radical Left and……..Liberal”?

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Nobody could accuse them of lacking ambition!

Sanders and Varoufakis to Launch Progressive International

Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are teaming up to launch a new initiative for common international action by progressives.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is teaming up with former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis to formally launch a new “Progressives International” in Vermont on Nov. 30, Varoufakis said in Rome on Friday.

Varoufakis, who made the announcement during a Friday press conference in Rome, told BuzzFeed News they were also inviting incoming Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador to join the new movement. (López Obrador spokesperson Jesús Ramírez told BuzzFeed News he had received no “formal invitation” to “join a “progressive international” front.)

Varoufakis described the initiative in part as an attempt to counter the work that Steve Bannon, who also made an appearance in Rome last month, has been doing to help nationalists forge a united front in elections for the European Union’s parliament next spring. Varoufakis also accused immigration critics like Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of being part of an extremist alliance.

“The financiers are internationalists. The fascists, the nationalists, the racists — like Trump, Bannon, Seehofer, Salvini — they are internationalists,” Varoufakis said. “They bind together. The only people who are failing are progressives.

Sanders and Varoufakis Announce Alliance to Craft ‘Common Blueprint for an International New Deal’

The pair hopes to promote a “progressive, ecological, feminist, humanist, rational program” for not only Europe, but the entire world

After arguing in a pair of Guardian op-eds last month that a worldwide progressive movement is needed to counter the unifying rightwing “that sprang out of the cesspool of financialized capitalism,” former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announced in Rome on Friday that he and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plan to officially launch “Progressives International” in the senator’s state on Nov. 30.

Varoufakis told BuzzFeed News that the movement aims to challenge an emerging extremist alliance of nationalist political figures—from immigration critics such as Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to President Donald Trump’s ex-White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who is working to garner voter support for rightwing parties ahead of the May 2019 European Parliament elections.

“The financiers are internationalists. The fascists, the nationalists, the racists—like Trump, Bannon, Seehofer, Salvini—they are internationalists,” Varoufakis said. “They bind together. The only people who are failing are progressives.”

As Sanders wrote in the Guardian, “At a time of massive global wealth and income inequality, oligarchy, rising authoritarianism, and militarism, we need a Progressive International movement to counter these threats.” Warning that “the fate of the world is at stake,” the senator called for “an international progressive agenda that brings working people together around a vision of shared prosperity, security, and dignity for all people.”

Varoufakis, denouncing the global “brotherhood” of financiers and “xenophobic rightwing zealots” who foment divisiveness to control wealth and politics, said in the Guardian that those who join the movement “need to do more than campaign together,” and proposed the formation of “a common council that draws out a common blueprint for an International New Deal, a progressive New Bretton Woods.”

In addition to the forthcoming progressive alliance—which incoming Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, will reportedly be invited to join—Varoufakis is leading the campaign efforts of European Spring, a new progressive political party, for the upcoming European Parliament elections.

As a European Democratic Socialist – and leftist – it is hard to know what the  term “progressive” means.

In our Continent, the word still has associations with the old Communist Parties and their fellow travellers, often called ‘progressives’. Or, to put it simply, progressive was used to embrace a broad swathe of potential allies. For very obvious reasons this usage is not just out of fashion today, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

More recently. the right-wing of Labour (Progress) , and Emmanuel Macron, are fond  of calling themselves ‘progressives’ .

Both of these usages would put off many left-wingers for a start!

The word reeks.

Yet, apparently in the US ‘progressive’ is  linked to the most liberal wing of the Democrat Party.

I believe that in its origins in US political thought  progressive refers to a broad stream of thinkers, from Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, to advanced liberals like John Dewey and, more recently Barack Obama.

If it has any meaning the word appears to signify,  “support for or advocacy of improvement of society by reform””, which does not get us very fa.Not when just about privatising fiddle in the UK is called a “reform” for the better.

Still, ‘reform’ could, at a pinch, be extended with more hopeful connotations, to the left, including Sander’s wing of the Democrats.

The Democratic Socialists of America use the word, “the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics.”

The European Spring alliance promoted by the Greek former Finance Minister certainly is “progressive” in this sense.That is, if one talks up ‘movement’enough to include self-important commissions and top-heavy public events.

This ‘alliance’ was built originally by DiEM25:

DiEM25 is a pan-European, cross-border movement of democrats.

We believe that the European Union is disintegrating. Europeans are losing their faith in the possibility of European solutions to European problems. At the same time as faith in the EU is waning, we see a rise of misanthropy, xenophobia and toxic nationalism.

If this development is not stopped, we fear a return to the 1930s. That is why we have come together despite our diverse political traditions – Green, radical left, liberal – in order to repair the EU. The EU needs to become a realm of shared prosperity, peace and solidarity for all Europeans. We must act quickly, before the EU disintegrates.

But how many on the left, who  identify with the various strands of democratic socialism, would wish to be in an alliance with liberals? Or indeed, for all the fact that there is  larger constituency who identify with the US Sanders left, or are at least encourage by the fact that it exists, at all, how many  would wish to drop their allegiances to parties like the British Labour Party, and the very long list of European left parties, to join up with a movement headed by these  two individuals on the strength of a few articles in the Guardian?

Assuming that they have read them…..a brief trawl in the French language reveals no trace of this ‘international’ to begin with.

The European Spring Alliance, of “democrats of all political persuasions” does not seem to have much of a basis either.

Their support, such as they are, include (indeed is limited to) for France  Nouvelle Donne.

We are informed the party was named after the US ‘new Deal’ (which is not how I would translate a term normally referring to a ‘new fact*), an experience far from the forefront of the French Left’s collective memory.

Nouvelle Donne is  a classic French political ‘club’, around Pierre Larrouturou. He and his friends have  spent a couple of decades on the fringes of the Parti Socialiste (unsuccessfully bidding for influence  as a ‘current’) and the French Greens, to mention only a few. It has had two elected figures, David Derouet,  who was the Mayor of Fleury-Mérogis until 2017 and Fabienne Grébert, a regional councillor in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

A more serious force, Génération.s, (which claims, optimistically, 60,000 members), one MP, three MEPs and one Senator, was founded by former French Socialist Presidential candidate  Benoît Hamon (6.36% of the vote in the first round), also forms part of the  DiEM25 sponsored European Spring.
That is, after trying for an alliance with the French Greens (EREV) and,  and various leftist  strands described as “« altereuropéennnes »..At one point Mélenchon offered him negotiations .

Two days ago we learnt that Hamon has called his own list of “citizen candidates” outside of the old party machines. He is now  negotiating with the centre-left intellectual Raphaël Glucksmann in the tradition of Michel Rocard (he is also the son of the New Philosopher André Glucksman).

Le mouvement Générations fondé par Benoît Hamon a lancé lundi un appel à candidatures citoyennes pour une liste aux élections européennes située “en dehors des vieux appareils partisans”, une initiative compatible avec la création de “Place publique” par Raphaël Glucksmann

Européennes : Générations de Benoît Hamon lance un appel à candidatures citoyennes

Génération-s may maintain links with The European Spring (though it is unlikely the presence of Nouvelle Donne is welcome).

Facing at least 5 (f not more)  other left-wing or green lists in next year’s European elections, very few people give Hamon’s group and allies much of chance of winning seats.

Experienced commentators (that is, my good self) predict Hamon is going nowhere.

The forces that could be brought together by this new international could include the European Spring. This, at least according to Wikipedia involves  such strange bedfellows as the substantial  Czech Pirate Party the Danish Green splinter party, Alternativet and a Spanish initiative Actúa which seems largely a discussion and networking group (“un espacio de reflexión, debate cívico e intervención política”) outside  the main force of the left, Podemos. Not to mention others…. I’d lay a hefty wager they are not part of the central core of the European left….

Any residual sympathy one might have for this lot evaporates at the sight of this list of supporters behind DiEM25:

Nor is this just a matter of a few signatures:

The more I find out about this, the less I like it:

Tue 10, 2018, 
Update: * Nouvelle Donne according to my trusty Petit Robert, means the, snappy, ” new hand of cards “.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Novra Media’s James Butler Laments British Labour’s Failure to Read Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn.

with 3 comments

Image result for anderson nairn for socialism

Latest Woke Book for Corbynistas. 

Top Jeremy Corbyn supporter: Britain’s problem is failure to execute the rich

Speaking on Monday for a video on the pro-Jeremy Corbyn media site Novara Media, a Novara founder explained why socialism hasn’t found a natural base in British society.

According to James Butler, “the great problem of British politics is that we never had a successful bourgeois revolution so we never executed all of these people. And therefore they remain in this kind of continual alliance that is extremely powerful between land wealth and a nascent bourgeois. It means that the structure of British politics is weirdly deformed as opposed to the standard European political model.”

Not only this but this!

(Last year…)

On #NovaraFM, Nina Power joins James Butler to talk about ‘decapitalism’ – from severed heads to sovereignty to contemporary anticapitalism and more.

Comrades were not slow to point to the errors in Cde Butler’s analysis.

We, notably Kylie and George, have delved into the depths of the Nairn-Anderson thesis, that Britain “never had a successful bourgeois revolution”.

This are some modest fruits of our research.

There is, about them, the air of an inverted Podsnappery.

“We Englishmen are Very Proud of our Constitution, Sir,” Mr. Podsnap explained with a sense of meritorious proprietorship: “It was Bestowed Upon Us By Providence. No Other Country is so Favoured as This Country …”

“And other countries,” said the foreign gentleman. “They do how?”

“They do, Sir,” returned Mr. Podsnap, gravely shaking his head; “they do – I am sorry to be obliged to say it – as they do.”

But now the rôles are reversed. Mr. Podsnap (who has swelled to engross all British culture over the past 400 years) is being arraigned in his turn.

“And other countries,” said Mr. Podsnap remorsefully. “They do how?”

“They do,” returned Messrs. Anderson and Nairn severely: “They do – we are sorry to be obliged to say it – in Every Respect Better. Their Bourgeois Revolutions have been Mature. Their Class Struggles have been Sanguinary and Unequivocal. Their Intelligentsia has been Autonomous and Integrated Vertically. Their Morphology has been Typologically Concrete. Their Proletariat has been Hegemonic.”

E.P. Thompson

The Peculiarities of the English  (1965)

Since that time many people have been influenced by the debates arising from François Furet’s Penser la Révolution Française (1978).

Many in New Left Review have taken the view that by criticism the paranoiac ultra-nationalist Terror during the French Revolution, and finding some parallels with the Terror in the Bolshevik Revolution, was a key marker in the French intelligentsia’s’ turn against Marxism in the 1970s

Others, who have read the book (really a collection of essays) for themselves,  see a critique of the ‘stage’ theory of bourgeois revolutions. That is the view that only a “proper” political Revolution,with some bloodshed (see Butler) on the model of 1789 can clear the way for a bourgeois society with its appropriate state.

For Marxists the most striking aspect of his essays  is that they pointed out, like Thompson, that there was not one model for the bourgeois revolution, or for the coming of bourgeois society.

There is little doubt that Furet was inclined to hint that the Jacobins foreshadowed, in some way, the Bolsheviks. That the belief that they incarnated “popular sovereignty” and the ‘General Will’ (an object which has never been sighted in the flesh) and convinced of their own Virtue, had something in common with the belief that Lenin’s party embodied the progress of history and the will of the Proletariat. More broadly he signalled how the Jacobin version of direct democracy – restricted to ‘active citizens’ – facilitated their ‘machine’ open to the evocation of this General Will against dissent.

Furet  central point is that the terror and the hysterical fear of ‘aristocratic plots’ cannot be explained away by adverse ‘circumstances’, the need to defend France against foreign intervention, and domestic armed opposition.

Whether the explanation for the repression, the Guillotine, and the ferocity of the revolutionaries,  lies in proto-totalitarianism or in the historically far from unique paranoia of a state of siege, remains an issue for historians.

Jacobin rule, the power of the original Commune de Paris, was overthrow with only token resistance. With a broken jaw a screaming and whimpering Robespierre was guillotined on 10 Thermidor (28th of July 1794).

But to return to Anderson and Nairn.

Nicos Poulantzas commented,

The characteristic conclusions of Anderson and Nairn follow from this short passage, which must seem strange to anyone who has been concerned with British political problems. For in their analysis, what Marx called ‘the most bourgeois of nations’ presents the paradoxical situation of a capitalist formation ‘typical’ in its origin and evolution, within which, however, the bourgeois class has almost never taken the ‘pure’ role of the hegemonic or dominant class. Because of its ‘aborted’ revolution between the 15th and 18th centuries, the bourgeois class did not succeed in changing the objective structures of the feudal state, and remained in practice a class politically dominated until its ‘absorption’ within a ‘power bloc’ belatedly formed by the landed aristocracy.

This aristocracy, by imposing its cultural and ideological hegemony on the British social formation as a whole, remained permanently the determinant class within the structures of political domination of this capitalist society. [6]

The bourgeois class, having missed its vocation as the hegemonic class, did not succeed, as in France, in structuring a ‘coherent’ ideology of its own which could be the dominant ideology in this formation: the ruling ideology of English society as a whole was the ‘aristocratic’ ideology.

MARXIST POLITICAL THEORY IN BRITAIN

More critiques of this false route:

 The Pristine Culture of Capitalism 

Ellen Meiksins Wood on the Nairn-Anderson thesis and the Bourgeois paradigm

The Nairn-Anderson theses, which sparked a wide-ranging and fruitful debate in particular with the historian E. P. Thompson, were elaborated in the 1960s and 1970s in the pages of the New Left Review. Their principal object was to explain the ‘origins of the present crisis’, at a time when Britain appeared to be unique among capitalist countries in its pattern of industrial decline. Some twenty years later, that debate was revived in a context of international crisis and restructuring of capital, which tended to mask any particularly British disorder. This was also a time when the dominant capitalist economy of the earlier period – the United States – began to reproduce the pattern of decline that once seemed peculiarly British. The powerful and influential Nairn-Anderson theses, constructed in the sixties to explain the British decline by tracing it to its historical roots, were called upon to defend not only their explanation of a specifically British disease but also the very notion of its specificity. At the same time, there has emerged a movement for constitutional reform in Britain, whose leading proponents (especially those associated with ‘Charter 88’) subscribe to something very much like the Nairn-Anderson thesis about the incompleteness of Britain’s bourgeois revolution and the immaturity of its bourgeois democracy.

The original Nairn-Anderson theses rested on two principal assumptions: that the British decline was special and unique, and that these specific disorders were traceable to the priority, and consequent incompleteness, of capitalist development in Britain, where a fundamentally unchallenged early capitalism emerged under the auspices of a landed aristocracy instead of a triumphant urban bourgeoisie, lacking the complete sequence of bourgeois revolutions which on the Continent produced more ‘rational’, bourgeois states. This still agrarian and aristocratic capitalist class experienced no need completely to transform the social order and its cultural supports, while the immature bourgeoisie never seized hegemony over the process of ‘modernization’, leaving British industrial capital permanently dwarfed by more primitive commercial and financial forms of capital. An essential corollary of this thesis was that other, late-developing capitalist countries were not subject to the same disorders because they were more ‘modern’ and their bourgeois revolutions more complete.

These major assumptions were later modified in various ways by each of the original authors. Perry Anderson argued in ‘The Figures of Descent’ that the British case may have prefigured a more universal pattern, already replicated in the United States and show­ing signs of ‘its ultimate generalization throughout the advanced capitalist world’. At the same time, he accepted the view, most boldly expressed by Arno Mayer, that the ‘ancien regime’persisted throughout Europe well into the twentieth century, implying that the ‘backwardness’ of Britain is not in itself so exceptional.  Tom Nairn went even further than Anderson or Mayer in his claims for the persistence of the ancien regime in Europe. We may, he suggested in his remarkable book on the British monarchy, only now be ‘living in the first decades of true capitalist ascendancy’ – which he identifies with the triumph of an industrial bourgeoisie and the formation of a state to match.

So Britain is apparently unique neither in its ‘backwardness’ nor even, perhaps, in the pattern of its crisis. Indeed, if Nairn in particular is right in postponing the definitive triumph of capitalism to the 1970s, his theses seem to be in need of substantial adjust­ments: the decade which, according to Nairn, saw the decisive victory of capitalism was also marked by the replication elsewhere of precisely those patterns that supposedly signal a peculiarly British disease – most notably in a capitalist country with none of Britain’s archaic residues.

Perry Anderson’s ‘The Figures of Descent’ concludes by pointing to the signs that the British pattern may become universal through­out the advanced capitalist world. At the same time, he still regards the British instance as specific, in the nature, timing and scale of its decline as well as in the poverty of the instrumentalities available to British capitalism for reversing its industrial decadence. The question for him must be whether the original historical explanation can withstand the generalization of British ‘backwardness’ to include all the capitalist countries of Europe.

The simple option of generalizing his British explanation, so that the universal ‘backwardness’ and uneven development of Europe is invoked to account for the general crisis, is clearly unacceptable to Anderson, not just because it leaves unexplained the American case, which so far has shown the most pronounced inclination to follow the British example, but also because there really are significant specificities in the British case which remain to be explained. Anderson stresses, for instance, the particular scale of British industry, the inclination to favour small-scale production of consumer goods over heavy industry, the resistance to the concentration and centralization of capital and production, and the disproportionate weight of Britain’s investment abroad. There remains, too, a particular cultural configuration which, as Ander­son has argued in the past, sets Britain apart from the general culture and intellectual life of Wes tern Europe, and which, accord­ing to Tom Nairn, has left Britain with a national identity defined by the archaic forms of the monarchy and pre-capitalist ideologies of class.

If other capitalist economies are destined eventually to suffer a similar fate, and if the archaic remnants of Britain’s past must be situated in a larger context of European backwardness, Anderson seems to be suggesting, the particularities of the British decline can still be explained by the peculiarities of its ancien regime. While the Nairn-Anderson theses must be further specified to provide an explanation ‘at a lower level of individuation’ which spells out the specificities of the British ancien regime in contrast to other persis­tent antiquities, the original theses remain fundamentally intact, argues Anderson, vindicated in the court of history.

Yet, these modifications aside, it is possible that two distinct theses have from the beginning competed for primacy in Anderson’s account of British history. Because the two theses tend to be interwoven in his work, the distinctions are not immediately evident; but it is possible to separate out the principal strands.

Thesis 1 (which, on the whole, appears to be dominant) depicts a precocious capitalism and a ‘mediated’ bourgeois revolution, a capitalism stunted by its aristocratic and agrarian origins, the absence of a clear antagonism between bourgeoisie and aristocracy and the failure of the bourgeoisie to escape its subaltern position or to transform the state and the dominant culture. In contrast, Continental capitalisms benefited from more complete and unme­diated bourgeois revolutions, and from clear contradictions between bourgeoisie and aristocracy which issued in a decisive triumph of the bourgeoisie and its thorough transformation of archaic political and cultural superstructures. The relative failures of Britain and the successes of other capitalisms have to do with the premature and incomplete development of the former and the greater maturity of the latter.

Thesis 2 (which could be, though it is not, detached from the dominant thesis and made to stand on its own, with some extrapolation) again begins with a precocious capitalism, but this time the critical factor is not the persistence of the ancien regime so much as the absence of obstacles to the development of this early and unchallenged capitalism. Here, the defects of contemporary British capitalism are ascribed to the advantages it derived from its head­start. It is not simply a matter of first to rise, first to decline, nor even a question of antiquated material infrastructures. The argument is rather that Britain’s early and unrivalled evolution as a capitalist power left it bereft of the means to reverse the decline once set in train, while other European capitalisms were, at least for a time, better equipped. Early English capitalism never faced the need to establish institutions and practices to enhance or accelerate development – for example, certain kinds of state intervention or administrative skills; and its slow and ‘natural’ industrial revolu­tion, unlike, say, the later German process of industrialization, generated no need for ‘the “bureaucratic” creation of a widespread, efficient system of technical education’. So have ‘the triumphs of the past become the bane of the present’.

These two theses do, of course, overlap and are not entirely incompatible; but there are significant differences, not all of which can be reconciled. Thesis 2 (early leadership) can more easily accommodate the persistence of the ancien regime throughout Europe, but Thesis 1 (incomplete bourgeois revolution) could in principle survive the postponement or prolongation of Continental bourgeois revolutions. Thesis 2, however, can explain the replication of British patterns elsewhere, which Thesis 1 cannot. For example, in Thesis 2, although Britain would remain unique because of its early and unchallenged origins, other capitalisms, emerging later and attaining dominance in a more competitive setting, might still reproduce the effects of leadership, ‘trapped and burdened by its past successes’.  The recent history of American capitalism illustrates how a period of dominance can eventually produce its own competitive disadvantages, not least because leaders can for a time make profits without developing productive forces. According to Thesis 2, the priority of British capitalism, its very early leadership, would still account for relatively greater disadvantages, and no later leadership could exactly reproduce the effects of earlier dominance; but in this version, the successes and failures of any capitalist economy have more to do with the conditions of competition than with the persistence of, or ruptures with, a pre-capitalist past.

She continues,

In other words, Thesis 2 could accept, as Thesis 1 cannot, that archaic forms are not necessarily incompatible with a dynamic capitalism -as the examples of Germany and Japan have so vividly demonstrated. The second thesis could even entertain the possi­bility that there may be circumstances in which the survival of archaic forms can promote, rather than impede, capitalist develop­ment -for instance, the availability of bureaucratic state-forms whose interventions can override the inherent contradictions of ‘pure’ capitalism, or the persistence of cultural forms that under­write the deference of workers. Indeed, the first successors of early English capitalism may more exactly fit the case of capitalist development conducted under ‘pre-modern’ auspices, as post­absolutist states responded to the competitive challenge and the example of English capitalism (sometimes also benefiting from the availability of English capital and technology). It was precisely in such cases more than in Britain that a dynamic capitalism could develop prematurely, in advance of fully ripe indigenous conditions and even adapting pre-capitalist relics to the needs of capitalist development.

The two theses, to put it another way, differ in their underlying conceptions of capitalism: the first is predicated on an unambiguously progressive capitalism which, left to its natural logic, will always promote industrial advance and a ‘rational’ state; the other acknowledges the contradictions inherent in the system. The first must attribute failures to the incompleteness of capitalist development; the second can ascribe them to the inherent weaknesses of capitalism itself. It is worth adding that Thesis 2, the early-leadership thesis, is more compatible with arguments put forward by E.P. Thompson in the original debate, and less subject to his persuasive charge that Nairn-Anderson operated with an abstractly idealized model of a ‘Bourgeois Revolution’ drawn – somewhat tautologically – from the experience of Other Countries.

Much of the discussion that follows here will be conducted against the background of the Nairn-Anderson theses, though not always in direct debate with them, sharing their basic premise that the priority of British capitalism provides a key to its current condition, and drawing on their insights about British history and culture, but not necessarily arriving at the same conclusions.

One major point remains indisputable. Britain – or rather England – was the world’s first capitalist society, and its priority profoundly affected its future development. There can be little doubt that its specific course of development left British capitalism singularly ill-endowed to undertake the kind of restructuring, notably the concentration of capital and production, required in the later conditions of international competition. But these facts are susceptible to more than one interpretation. If English capitalism was the first, and hence also the only one to emerge, as it were, spontaneously and not in response to external competitive press­ures from more ‘modern’ states, it is undoubtedly true that this ‘organic’ evolution left archaic forms in place instead of sweeping them away in a series of revolutionary onslaughts. But it may also be true, and for the same reason, that capitalism was more deeply rooted and its laws of motion more firmly established here than elsewhere, transforming the substance while preserving old forms -new wine in old bottles.

This is the decisive point:

Is Britain, then, a peculiar capitalism or is it peculiarly capitalist? That question is no less significant for an understanding of capita­lism in general than for an interpretation of British history in particular. It makes a very great difference whether the flaws in the world’s first capitalism and its pattern of industrial decline are the weaknesses of immaturity and incompleteness, specific to a peculiar case of arrested development, or the inherent contradictions of the system itself.

It may turn out that many of the qualities attributed to the incomplete development of British capitalism belong rather to capitalism as such, while the apparently more complete bourgeois revolutions elsewhere represent deeper continuities with a pre­capitalist past, and even that those continuities have sometimes benefited other European capitalisms. We may also find that, while Britain is indeed remarkable for its attachment to archaic forms and its tendency to revive – or even to invent- obsolete antiquities, and while these forms undoubtedly play an important ideological role, continuities with a pre-capitalist past are here more formal and symbolic than the structural continuities that connect other European states (without the symbolic trappings) to their ‘pre-modern’ antecedents.

There are certain conventional hallmarks of modernity, associated with the bourgeois paradigm, which have been absent in Britain and present in its principal historic rivals – in particular the so-called ‘rational’ or ‘modem’ state, with corresponding traditions of political discourse and cultural forms. It will be argued here that the emergence of these hallmarks in Continental Europe did not signal the maturity of ‘bourgeois’ or capitalist forces but on the contrary reflected the continuing strength of pre-capitalist social property relations. In fact, the appearance of ideas commonly associated with the advent of the modern state – certain conceptions of indivisible sovereignty and nationhood, for instance – testify as much to the absence of ‘modernity’, and indeed the absence of a unified sovereignty and nationhood, as to their presence in reality. The principal case is France, which has given the world its domi­nant model of ‘bourgeois revolution’ and the birth of modernity.

Conversely, what are taken to be the conventional signs of a ‘modern’ state and political culture were absent in England not because the English state was backward or because English capita­lism was deviant and immature. On the contrary, these absences signalled the presence of a well-developed capitalism and a state that was evolving in tandem with the capitalist economy. What England lacked in political discourse it possessed in historical reality. In Britain, then, there has been no fatal disjuncture between a capitalist economy and a political-cultural ancien regime suspended in time somewhere around 1688. On the contrary, the formation of state and dominant culture has been inextricably bound up with the development of capitalism, conforming all too well to its economic logic and internal contradictions. Britain may even be the most thoroughly capitalist culture in Europe.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 24, 2018 at 12:54 pm