Monday, 21 January 2019

Tories and The Customs Union

Tories and The Customs Union

Build That Wall 

Trump has his demand for a wall to seal off the US from the outside world; the Tories already have a huge moat around Britain, and seek to reinforce it, by imposing additional borders. Both are expressions of economic nationalism, of an ideology based upon isolationism and protectionism. Protectionism runs deep in the Tory Party. It split the party in the 1840's over Repeal of the Corn Laws. It reared up again, at the end of the 19th century/start of the 20th century, as the Tories fought it out with the Liberals. It reflects a basic dichotomy for the Tory Party. 

The historic base of the Tories was amongst the landowners and financial oligarchy. The landowners had an interest in protectionism of British agriculture, because high agricultural prices meant high agricultural rents. The financial oligarchy had close family and economic ties to the landlords, and as a rentier class themselves, living off interest, had a similar political outlook. But, the rapidly rising industrial bourgeoisie had an interest in scrapping the Corn Laws, because as well as meaning cheaper food, enabling them to pay lower wages, and thereby make bigger profits, it meant lower prices for all of the raw materials they used in production (constant capital). and lower prices for that meant a higher rate of profit. With the urban bourgeoisie having won the vote, following a long struggle, culminating in the 1832 Reform Act, their interests now came into direct conflict with those of the old landed and financial oligarchy. It split the Tory Party, and enhanced the fortunes of the Liberals that now became the clear political voice of the industrial bourgeoisie, pulling the industrial proletariat behind them. 

When that long proletarian tail, broke free from the Liberals, and created the Labour Party, it meant that, as the Liberals dwindled into insignificance, the bourgeoisie were led to pursue their interests via the Tory Party. But, that simply meant that these diametrically opposing interests of landed property, financial capital, and industrial capital had to confront each other within the party itself. 

In addition, the nature of capital itself became transformed. The big industrial capital, upon which the future of the economy depends, became socialised capital (corporations and cooperatives). On the one hand, this meant that the interests of this socialised capital – to maximise the profit of enterprise, available for reinvestment - and the interests of the financial oligarchy (share and bondholders) to maximise the interest paid to them, and to maximise the capital gains made from increases in asset prices, came into direct contradiction. This contradiction is the basis of the division between conservative social-democracy and progressive social democracy. On the other hand, the interests of the share and bondholders became inseparable from the interests of this socialised capital, which produced the profits from which the interest on its money-capital was derived. 

That big industrial capital depended upon a social-democratic state that created macro-economic conditions of stability via monetary and fiscal policy that facilitated longer-term planning and regulation, required for very large-scale, long term investment of capital. Conservative social-democracy defends the interests of the share and bondholders, i.e. of one form of property, fictitious capital, whilst progressive social-democracy promotes the interests of another form of property, real capital, in the shape of socialised capital. Ultimately, the former is subordinated to the latter, because without the expansion of the real capital, there is no expansion of profits, and thereby of the revenues, of the owners of fictitious capital. It also meant expanding the basic framework for such planning and regulation to an international level, with the creation of larger economic blocs such as the EU, as well as global para state bodies, such as the WTO, World Bank, IMF and so on. 

And, that emphasised the division of industrial capital between this dominant socialised capital, and the plethora of small privately owned capitals. In Britain, it is comprised of the 5 million small businesses, the market traders, the shopkeepers, the backstreet sweatshop owners, and so on. And, the interests of this small-scale, privately owned capital, backward looking, dependent upon low wages, poor conditions, lack of regulations, narrowly national focussed, is antagonistic to the interests of that large-scale socialised capital. 

It is that which has erupted repeatedly, in the last twenty years, over Europe. As the contradiction becomes more acute, the forces driving the Tory Party into a split intensify. Had the Liberals been a more significant political force, or some new party, as with the SDP, in the 1980's been formed, then the social-democratic wing of the Tory Party, representing the share and bondholders, and their representatives on company boards, would now have split, to join it, and it would have the overwhelming backing of the dominant section of the ruling-class. But, we are where we are. 

Hunting Unicorns 

And, because we are where we are, the solutions being proposed to get the Tories out of their internal conflicts amount to unicorn hunting. It has been suggested that if Theresa May had not imposed her red lines, at the start, she could have not only negotiated a deal with the EU, in which Britain could have a Norway plus arrangement, but that she could also have obtained a majority of support for such a deal, in parliament, as it would be backed by enough Labour, Liberal and SNP MP's, to outweigh any opposition to it from the ERG, and the DUP. In fact, there is no particular reason why the DUP itself should oppose such a deal. 

Such a Norway plus deal would mean that Britain would be a part of the Customs Union, in the same way as Norway and other EEA countries. But, in order to also deal with the question of the Irish border, and to meet the needs of that large-scale, multinational capital, it would mean that Britain would also have to be in the Single Market. Technically, this does not mean “remaining” in the single market, because Britain would leave it, at the point of leaving the EU, but, in reality, it would rejoin it again, instantly, as part of this new arrangement. So, this all sounds fine. Except it is not at all achievable. 

The reason that May set down her red lines, in the first place, is that that is what the Tory rank and file demands, as its version of Brexit. And, it demands that version of Brexit because the Tory Party itself is dominated by that plethora of small private capitalists that comprise the numerically preponderant mass of the ruling-class. As Engels described, in his later Preface to The Condition of the Working Class in England, the dominant section of capital, that which represents this large-scale socialised capital, is numerically small, and can only achieve political dominance with the aid of the votes of the working-class, which itself is the basis of the social-democratic states that were created at the end of the 19th century. The real representative of that social-democracy has always been the Labour Party, not the Tory Party, but recognising the reality that it is the large-scale socialised capital that is dominant, and upon which the state itself depends, the Tories, for the last century, have always themselves contained a social-democratic wing. 

In the 1920's, it was represented by Neville Chamberlain, who brought forward proposals for a welfare state. After WWII, as the socialised capital grew at a very rapid pace, all conservative parties themselves had to pursue such a social-democratic agenda. It is the peculiar conditions of the last 40 years that opened up the potential for those conservative parties, once more to become dominated by the interests of the small private capitalists, and their narrow, nationalistic agenda. I have described those peculiar conditions many times elsewhere, as they created the conditions, via inflating asset price bubbles, for the dominance of conservative social-democracy, until the crash of 2008, brought that period to an end. It is no longer an option, which has caused the political centre that held for forty years to collapse, driving the only potential solutions on to the ground of progressive social-democracy, leading towards socialism, or else to reaction. Brexit represents the attempt to resolve the current impasse, by a political counter-revolution, seeking to overturn the foundations of the social democratic state, and thereby to revert to an earlier less mature form of capitalism, constrained within national borders, and intent on furthering the interests of that plethora of small private capitals. 

May cannot agree to go down the route of a Customs Union and membership of the Single Market, because the Tory membership will not wear it. It will not wear it, because it is contrary to its fundamental interests, which have now become an existential issue for it. Every time May wandered away from her self imposed red lines, designed to meet the needs of the Tory membership, because she found it came into conflict with the requirements of securing even a withdrawal deal, that Tory membership, whose vanguard is the ERG, slapped her down, and forced her to come back inside those red lines. Each time she then had to dissemble and fudge, so as to get through the next day of discussions with the EU. As time ran out on her, and despite all of the claims that the EU would change its stance, it was May that had to capitulate, as the EU, itself necessarily stood firm. And, the consequence of that was that May lost the support of a third of her MP's, which meant that her botched deal was dead in the water. 

Last week, when some Tory Remainers in the Cabinet proposed reaching across to Labour MP's on the basis of an agreement to remain in the Customs Union, they too were slapped down, and they and May were told that the Tory rank and file would not wear it. They would all face being thrown out by the Tory associations. In parliament today, May having claimed to be open to some form of deal, was asked repeatedly if she would implement a decision by parliament to stay in the Customs Union, each time May pointedly refused to answer the question. She cannot answer, because her response can only be an emphatic no. Rather than agree to such a course of action, or even to hold a referendum, which she knows she would be likely to lose, May will call a General Election, as I predicted at the start of the year. 

A Red Unicorn Is No More Real Than A Blue Unicorn

Tory members could agree to membership of a Customs Union, and Single Market under certain conditions. The Tories insist on the need to be able to strike their own trade deals with other countries across the globe; they insist on being able to have regulatory divergence, to be free of the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and to end the right to free movement. In other words, if the Tories could have membership of the Customs Union and Single Market, so as to be able to continue to sell goods and services into the EU, as they do now, but without having any of the costs and obligations of membership, they would be fine with the idea. But, of course, there is no way that the EU, or any other organisation would agree to such an arrangement. The trouble for Labour is that this is also exactly the position they have tied themselves to, in their six tests, which demand such an impossible solution, as part of a requirement that Britain should have the self-same advantages outside the EU that it currently enjoys inside! 

The Tory Brexiters, at least, have the advantage, in rejecting such a solution, of recognising reality. The Tory Remainers also recognise that reality, which is why their proposals for staying in the Customs Union and Single Market, drop the insistence on being able to negotiate separate trade deals, ending free movement, being outside the jurisdiction of the ECJ and so on. Its because they drop all those things that the Tory rank and file would not wear such a solution. Blair-right MP's like Stephen Kinnock, also recognise that its necessary to drop all those impossible demands, which is why they promote an EEA/EFTA type deal, or Common Market 2.0. But, it is also impossible. 

Firstly, Norway and other EFTA countries have said they are not keen to have Britain join them, especially as they know it would only ever be a stop-gap solution. Britain's 70 million population, and diversified economy is significantly different to Norway's 7 million population, and dependence on North Sea oil and gas revenues to finance its economy. Secondly, such a solution leaves Britain bound by the rules and regulations of the EU, but with no say in formulating them. Why would any rational government do that rather than simply remaining inside the EU? Those that promote this solution are really being dishonest, because they know that it is only a stop-gap until such time as in a few years, they promote rejoining the EU, possibly even drawing the rest of EFTA into the EU at the same time. It is a similar dishonesty that leads Gove and other Brexiters to support May's deal, on the basis that once out of the EU, they would simply press for regulatory divergence, leading to a hard Brexit. 

The Tory rank and file, therefore, will not tolerate membership of EFTA, which keeps all of the aspects of the EU they seek to ditch, but denies them any say in decision making. The EU will not grant the UK any such deal that enables it to have a say, whilst continuing to strike its own trade deals and so on, as ridiculously proposed by Labour. So, the idea that some kind of lash up between the Tories and Labour could provide a way out, is simply not credible. The only way that would be possible, would be if a sizeable chunk of the Tories split, and joined with a sizeable chunk of Blair-rights that split from Labour, to create a new party, that then nominated its own Prime Minister, and then pursued this course. But, the Tory Remainers had their chance to do that, when Corbyn put down his motion of no confidence. The RINOS, failed that test miserably, and without the prospect of a sizeable Tory split, there is no prospect of the Blair-rights splitting either. They remember the SDP. 


The way forward for May now appears clear to me. Having run down the clock, she now faces parliament taking back control to stop her No Deal Brexit. The logical progression of that will be that parliament will then legislate for another referendum. Tory Remainers, and Blair-rights will prefer such a solution for several reasons. In a referendum, party lines are crossed. They will seize control of the anti-Brexit agenda and campaign, marginalising all those that seek to put forward a remain and reform agenda. To the extent reform enters the dialogue they pursue, it will be a backward facing reform, focusing on further appeasing nationalistic sentiment, restricting the free movement of workers and so on. Secondly, a referendum means that the question of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister is avoided. Indeed, for the Blair-rights, to the extent that Corbyn is marginalised in such a campaign, the easier it will be for them to move against him afterwards, or to simply transform their pro-EU campaign with the Liberals and Tories, into some new centre party, in the manner of Macron's En Marche

May's answer to this is clear. Having run down the clock further, as the RINOS failed to move against her, and Corbyn continued to push his pro-Brexit stance, she will declare that there is no way forward on the basis of the current parliament, and so she will call a General Election. In that election, she will throw the RINOS under the ERG bus. Current polling shows 28% of voters would support a No Deal Brexit, but that hides the fact that around 80% of Labour voters are opposed to it, but 80% of Tory voters would back it. As a core vote strategy, for May it is a No Brainer. The likelihood is that May, who was nicknamed “The Submarine”, because she was invisible during all of the referendum campaign, was a Brexiteer all along, who only mouthed her support for Remain, as a tactical ploy as a member of Cameron's Cabinet, with her eye on a future leadership bid. Everything seen over the last two years suggests that her inclination is with Leave, and her willingness to shamelessly run down the clock towards a No Deal Brexit reinforces that belief. 

In a General Election, the Tories will be able to go into it, as a more or less unified Brexit supporting party. True the RINOS will have to bite their lip, and eat humble pie, but they, at least, will be able to claim that they were in favour of Brexit all along, after the referendum, only that they sought a different kind of Brexit. Labour will have no such luxury. If Corbyn came out to oppose Brexit following the announcement of a General Election, his late conversion to that position would be treated with well justified derision. In every debate, every doorstep discussion, his duplicity, wavering and incompetence, on the issue, would be impossible to avoid, and would give the Tories an open goal in every such encounter. If, on the other hand, Corbyn continued with his current disastrous position of arguing the need to “respect” the reactionary Brexit vote, he would face tens of thousands of party members going into open revolt, refusing to back his reactionary line, and arguing for stopping Brexit. To the extent that rank and file party members did not quickly remove him, or establish some new organisation such as a Socialist Campaign For Europe, they would end up following that steady flow of party members out of the party and into other channels, giving life back to the dead corpse of the Liberals, or resuscitating the Greens and other anti-Brexit forces. 

As Paul Mason has said, Corbyn must now change tack and come out to oppose Brexit. And, as I've said in my response to him, even waiting another two weeks is time we do not have. 

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 20 - Part 31

Demand and supply are only identical if we include in the equation money, as the general commodity. In other words, if I have 1 ton of iron, with an exchange-value of £3, I supply 1 ton of iron and what I demand is £3 in money. But, what I also then require is that there is someone who who demands 1 ton of iron at the price of £3 per ton, and who is prepared, and able to supply the £3 of money to obtain it. This is a far cry from the belief that just because a range of commodities are produced in the economy, which theoretically all could be exchanged for each other at their values, they will do so, because it excludes completely the issue of use value, of demand for those commodities, which is determined by completely different laws than those which objectively determine the value of commodities. 

Marx then proceeds to set out a series of comments by Mill, whereby he proceeds from the form of demand and supply of commodities, as it applies under barter, to the conclusion that the same equality applies under capitalism. 

““But it is evident, that each man contributes to the general supply the whole of what he has produced and does not mean to consume. In whatever shape any part of the annual produce has come into his hands, if he proposes to consume no part of it himself, he wishes to dispose of the whole; and the whole, therefore, becomes matter of supply: if he consumes a part, he wishes to dispose of all the rest, and all the rest becomes matter of supply” ([James Mill, Elements, p. 225;] Parisot, p. 253).” (p 102) 

All this means, Marx says, is that all the commodities placed on the market constitute supply. 

““As every man’s demand, therefore, is equal to that part of the annual produce, or of the property generally, which he has to dispose of” 

[Stop! His demand is equal to the value (when it is realised) of the portion of products which he wants to dispose of. What he wants to dispose of is a certain quantity of use-value; what he wishes to have is the value of this use-value. Both things are anything but identical]” (p 103) 

In other words, I have a ton of iron, which is a use value. I put it in the market, because, for me, it has no use-value; I do not demand it. By putting it on the market, I create a supply of 1 ton of iron, as use value. What I demand is its exchange-value. Under barter, that exchange-value might be, say, 10 metres of linen. If someone else has 10 metres of linen, which they take to market, we might exchange our respective commodities. But, even under barter, this is not guaranteed. The value of 1 ton of iron, and 10 metres of linen may be the same, but, if the owner of the 10 metres of linen only has a demand for half a ton of iron, they will have no reason to exchange all of their linen for all of my iron. That would mean they had given up 5 metres of linen for half a ton of iron, which has no use value for them, and which they would then need to sell. 

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 20 - Part 30

The basis of Say's Law is that because every buyer has money, because they were themselves previously a seller, there is an equality between buyers and sellers. That is true under barter, but not under systems of exchange based on money. Every buyer has money, because previously, they were a seller, but not every seller necessarily becomes a buyer. They may, instead, simply hoard the money they receive. 

Simply because producers of various commodities produce quantities of those commodities at values, and in proportions, that mean that they could all be happily exchanged with each other, at those values, does not at all mean that they will be. And, this is a point that many Marxist economists also fail to take account of, in formulating their theories of crisis, because they fail to take into account any question of demand

“It is true that the man who buys has in his possession merely the converted form of a commodity—money—i.e., the commodity in the form of exchange-value, and he can act as a buyer only because he or others have earlier acted as sellers of commodities which now exist in the form of money. This, however, is no reason why he should reconvert his money into my commodity or why his need for my commodity should be determined by the quantity of it that I have produced. Insofar as he wants to buy my commodity, he may want either a smaller quantity than I supply, or the entire quantity, but below its value. His demand does not have to correspond to my supply any more than the quantity I supply and the value at which I supply it are identical.” (p 102) 

If I am a worker who has produced 100 metres of linen, I may have £100 in money paid to me as wages, the price of my labour-power. The linen I produced may be bought by a producer of chocolate, who, in buying the linen, realises the profit of my employer, and provides him with the £100 required to reproduce my wages. But, there is no reason why I will use my £100 to buy chocolate, so as to realise the value of the commodities produced by the chocolate producer. Indeed, there is no reason why my employer will use his profit for that purpose either, and that is true for the entire complex of relations between buyers and sellers of these various commodities throughout the economy. 

The potential exists in all these exchanges for the sellers of commodities having realised the value of their own commodity to simply hold on to the general commodity – money. 

“At a given moment, the supply of all commodities can be greater than the demand for all commodities, since the demand for the general commodity, money, exchange-value, is greater than the demand for all particular commodities, in other words the motive to turn the commodity into money, to realise its exchange-value, prevails over the motive to transform the commodity again into use-value.” 

(Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 17) 

If we examine things even at the level of individual commodity producers, the reason that demand and supply, production and consumption, which form opposing poles within a contradictory unity that comprises the process of exchange, can fall apart, is quite clear. If I produce iron, I do not demand iron. This is not the condition of the self-sufficient producer who produces only to satisfy their own needs. I may take some iron from my own production to meet my limited need for it, but the reason I produce iron, what I demand, having produced iron, is its equivalent value, i.e. money. And, I want money, because, with money, I can buy coal, iron ore etc., so as to be able to produce more iron, but I will also be able to use the money to buy food, clothing etc., required for my own personal consumption. However, how much I demand, i.e. buy, of these other commodities, and how much I am prepared to pay for them, is not at all determined by, or equal to the exchange-value I recover from selling my iron. What I receive in money, from its sale, only puts a limit on how much I can spend, it does not force me to spend to that limit. 

The reason I sell the iron is because it only constitutes a use value for me up to a certain extent. The same applies to the producer of yarn, linen or any other commodity. There could never be a crisis of overproduction if the producers of commodities had their own endless need for the commodities they produce. They could simply consume any overproduction themselves. But, that does not apply for commodity production, in general, let alone for capitalism, which produces commodities on a vast scale only for sale in the market, rather than for direct consumption. 

And, what applies for my demand of other commodities, having sold my own, applies to others' demand for the commodities I produce. The maker of railway tracks only has a demand for a certain quantity of iron, and it is no concern of theirs if I produce too much iron for that requirement. Their demand for iron is determined by how much they need to produce track, not by the amount I produce, or the value of it when produced. 

“Insofar as I supply iron, I do not demand iron, but money. I supply a particular use-value and demand its value. My supply and demand are therefore as different as use-value and exchange-value. Insofar as I supply a value in the iron itself, I demand the realisation of this value. My supply and demand are thus as different as something conceptual is from something real. Further, the quantity I supply and its value stand in no proportion to each other. The demand for the quantity of use-value I supply is however measured not by the value I wish to realise, but by the quantity which the buyer requires at a definite price.” (p 102) 

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 20 - Part 29

Capital must continually stimulate these new desires. It is what Marx refers to in The Grundrisse, as The Civilising Mission of Capital

“On the other side, the production of relative surplus value, i.e. production of surplus value based on the increase and development of the productive forces, requires the production of new consumption; requires that the consuming circle within circulation expands as did the productive circle previously. Firstly quantitative expansion of existing consumption; secondly: creation of new needs by propagating existing ones in a wide circle; thirdly: production of new needs and discovery and creation of new use values. In other words, so that the surplus labour gained does not remain a merely quantitative surplus, but rather constantly increases the circle of qualitative differences within labour (hence of surplus labour), makes it more diverse, more internally differentiated. For example, if, through a doubling of productive force, a capital of 50 can now do what a capital of 100 did before, so that a capital of 50 and the necessary labour corresponding to it become free, then, for the capital and labour which have been set free, a new, qualitatively different branch of production must be created, which satisfies and brings forth a new need. The value of the old industry is preserved by the creation of the fund for a new one in which the relation of capital and labour posits itself in a new form. Hence exploration of all of nature in order to discover new, useful qualities in things; universal exchange of the products of all alien climates and lands; new (artificial) preparation of natural objects, by which they are given new use values. The exploration of the earth in all directions, to discover new things of use as well as new useful qualities of the old; such as new qualities of them as raw materials etc.; the development, hence, of the natural sciences to their highest point; likewise the discovery, creation and satisfaction of new needs arising from society itself; the cultivation of all the qualities of the social human being, production of the same in a form as rich as possible in needs, because rich in qualities and relations -- production of this being as the most total and universal possible social product, for, in order to take gratification in a many-sided way, he must be capable of many pleasures [genussfähig], hence cultured to a high degree -- is likewise a condition of production founded on capital. This creation of new branches of production, i.e. of qualitatively new surplus time, is not merely the division of labour, but is rather the creation, separate from a given production, of labour with a new use value; the development of a constantly expanding and more comprehensive system of different kinds of labour, different kinds of production, to which a constantly expanding and constantly enriched system of needs corresponds.” 

The quantity of iron, as use value, is in no way proportionate to its value, because the value is dependent on the labour-time expended. So, one time, a ton of iron may be equal to £3 of exchange value, but, at some other time, is equal to only £0.03 of exchange-value. At any one time, it may be the case that 1 ton of iron is equal to £3, and, therefore, 2 tons of iron is equal to £6, but, as seen above, the fact that 2 tons of iron has an exchange-value equal to £6 does not mean that the £6 of exchange-value can be realised for it, if only demand for 1 ton of iron, at a price of £3 per ton exists. 

“The quantity of iron (use-value) which I supply and the quantity of value I supply, are by no means proportionate to one another, since the latter quantity can remain unchanged no matter how much the former changes. No matter how large or small the quantity of iron I supply may be, it is assumed that I always want to realise the value of the iron, which is independent of the actual quantity of iron and in general of its existence as a use-value. The value supplied (but not yet realised) and the quantity of iron which is realised, do not correspond to each other. No grounds exist therefore for assuming that the possibility of selling a commodity at its value corresponds in any way to the quantity of the commodity I bring to market. For the buyer, my commodity exists, above all, as use-value. He buys it as such. But what he needs is a definite quantity of iron. His need for iron is just as little determined by the quantity produced by me as the value of my iron is commensurate with this quantity.” (p 101-2) 

As a seller of a commodity, I can determine the quantity of that commodity I take to market, but I have no control over what demand for that commodity there will be, having done so. As a producer of a commodity, I am constrained, in relation to the individual value of that commodity, by the labour-time required for its production. That depends on the general level of social productivity, which determines the labour-time required to produce all of those commodities required for the production of that particular commodity. In other words, for iron, it depends on the value of coal, iron ore, furnaces and so on. In addition, it depends upon the immediate labour I use to process those materials, and turn them into iron. For each capital, that depends on its own level of productivity, which depends upon the technology used, the scale of production, and so on. 

Moreover, in a capitalist economy, where commodities exchange at prices of production, it depends upon social productivity in another way, that the price of production of the iron is determined by the cost of production plus the average profit. As an individual capitalist, therefore, the value of my commodity is determined by all those factors, and my aim is to recover this value, whilst the quantity I can send to market depends upon the capital I have at my disposal. My aim, as a capitalist, is to maximise that capital advanced, so as to maximise my output, and maximise the profit from the sale of my output. But, I have no control over the demand for that output, at the price of production. Nor do I have control over how much of the same commodity is sent to market by my competitors. 

For any buyer, who has money, the assumption is that they have this money, because they have previously sold some other commodity. The worker has money to buy commodities, because they have previously sold their labour-power, as a commodity. As Marx sets out in Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 6, the landlord who has money from rent, to buy commodities, in fact, owned a part of the product of the farmer who cultivated the soil. The money rent is rather like a certificate given by the farmer to the landlord, in lieu of the portion of the product owed to them. In other words, the landlord sold the portion of the product owed to them, to the farmer, in return for money rent. The landlord then uses this money rent to buy other commodities. 

Brexit and the Left Behind Myth

Brexit and the Left Behind Myth 

As an explanation for Brexit, it has been proposed that a large cause, and a similar argument is put forward in relation to the election of Trump, is that it was some outpouring of resentment by Les Miserables, of a great constituency of people who were left behind by the “neo-liberalism” of the last thirty years. This argument is much loved by Tories, who use it to blame Blair/Brown in Britain, and Clinton/Obama in the US, as well as using it to frighten off gullible Labour MP's in Northern constituencies, already prone, given their right-wing, nationalistic political inclinations, to look for easy populist explanations, to blame foreigners, and support protectionist measures, rather than blame capitalism. It is also promoted by the supporters of Lexit, who see every opposition to the status quo as a bandwagon to jump on, no matter how reactionary that opposition might be, as with their support for the gilets jaunes, and their support for various reactionary governments and movements across the globe on the basis of their supposed “anti-imperialism”. But, even at first inspection, the idea that Brexit was driven by a revolt by the “left-behind” is bullshit, and the same is true about the support for Trump. 
Firstly, in relation to Trump, analysis shows that his main vote did not come from those “left-behind”, but from higher-income groups. Secondly, analysis of the Brexit vote shows that around 65% of the Labour 2015 vote, and 70% of its 2017 vote, voted Remain, whilst around the same proportion of Tory voters voted Leave. So, unless we are to believe that the typical Tory voter is someone who sees themselves as having been left behind, as a result of 40 years of what many call "neoliberalism", but I call conservative social-democracy, then, even at first glance, the argument is patently false. The average Tory voter, is not someone who feels left-behind, and nor have they been left behind, as with the average Trump voter. Far from it, they are people who largely benefited from 40 years of conservative social democracy, starting with the election of Thatcher in 1979, and of Reagan in 1980. 

The typical Leave voter is the child of the Thatcher revolution in Britain, just as the typical Trump voter is the child of the Reagan Revolution in the US – though, in fact, as I will show later, the term child here should not be taken literally. In Britain, far from being some seething mass of discontentment, waiting to be mobilised by Lexit into a revolutionary fervour, they are far more likely to be one of those that benefited from Thatcher's Sale of the Century of council houses, and of nationalised utilities. If they had not already benefited from having bought their own house in the 1960's, when houses were dirt cheap, compared to today's astronomically inflated prices, then they would have bought their council house in the 1980's, with the 60% discounts that Thatcher was bribing them with to do so. And, during that period, they are more likely to have agreed with Thatcher that trades unions were too strong, and that the closed shop should be scrapped so that they could get out of belonging to them; they would have agreed with her condemnation of “Loony left” Labour Councils, and their idiotic policies supporting equality for women, and gays, and their meaningless policies of promoting Nuclear Free Zones, and so on. In fact, all the subsequent polling of Leave voters, shows that they hold these bigoted views alongside their bigoted views on immigration and the EU. 

They are far more likely, during the Miners Strike of 1984-5, to have been scabs, or supporters of scabs, backing Thatcher's war against the NUM. It's no wonder that a centre for the idea that it is Labour voters, “up North”, that backed Leave, is Nottingham, because, during the strike, the Nottinghamshire coalfield was scab central, the base of operations for the Thatcher supporting UDM. The idea that it was Labour voters in these constituencies that voted Leave, is disproved by the actual data, but it is promoted by nationalistic sections of the Left that want to promote Brexit, and who have this nonsensical idea that every revolt against the status quo is somehow spontaneously progressive, or in their short-term view, an opportunity for them to sell a few papers, and gain the odd recruit. 

It is promoted by the Tories, and the Tory media, for the simple reason that they know that to the extent that they can get Labour MP's to back Brexit in those seats, those MP's are far more likely to alienate their existing Remain supporting voters than they are to pick up any additional Leave supporting voters. Labour MP's in those seats that back Brexit, will split the Labour vote, sending their Remain supporting majority into the hands of the Liberals, Greens, (and, in Scotland and Wales, the SNP and Plaid) or else simply into disillusionment and apathy, so that they just stay at home. They will then enable the Tory vote to come through the middle to take the seat. 

If we look at the analysis of those voting Leave, we see that not only is it the case that, based on the 2017 election, around 70% of  Tory voters backed Leave, as against only around 30% of Labour voters, but the other striking difference is the age of those that voted Leave. Again, even at first glance the evidence disproves the idea that the Leave vote was some vote of the dispossessed or left-behind. Younger voters voted overwhelmingly for Remain. More than 70% of 18-24 year olds voted Remain; 60% of 25-34 year olds; 55% of 35-44 year olds, and even 44% of 45-54 year olds voted Remain. Only amongst the over 55's does a sizeable majority for Leave appear, with 61% of 55-64 year olds, and 66% amongst 65-74 year olds, 63% amongst the over 75's, although further surveys show higher percentages amongst those in the 80's, and over. 

Again, typically, this does not indicate a correlation between Brexit and the left-behind. In the US, for example, wealth is concentrated in those aged over 55. In Britain, the over 55's are people born before 1964. They are people who entered the workforce at a time of high levels of prosperity, and when the rate of unemployment was between 1-2% or less than half its current low level. In absolute terms, it was below 600 thousand, made up mostly of those moving between jobs. They became adults at a time when lots of houses had been built in the post-war period, and when house prices were relatively low, certainly compared to today's levels. The mortgages they took out on those houses, were quickly eroded by rising levels of inflation and wages. In the years after the 1970's, when many of them would by then have paid off those mortgages, they saw the price of the houses they had bought quadruple during the 1980's, and quadruple again from the early 1990's until the financial crash of 2008. They certainly are not part of the demographic that was left behind by astronomically rising property prices. 

Moreover, having paid off their mortgages by the 1980's, they are also part of the demographic that had disposable income to be used for savings, to put into the privatisation shares, sold off, on the cheap, by Thatcher, or to put into the ISA's, and other tax free funds, promoted by Thatcher and her heirs, in the 1980's and after, which increased in price, if anything, by even larger proportions than the rise in property prices. For those that did not buy their own home, they had been able to obtain Council houses, in the 1950's and 60's relatively easily, including those built to replace older terraced slums. Come the 1980's, they were able to buy those houses under Thatcher's Right To Buy scheme with 60% discounts, meaning they could often be bought for less than £10,000 (ten thousand pounds). 

Moreover, the argument about Brexit being a consequence of a group of people who feel that they have been left-behind by the impact of neoliberalism (conservative social-democracy), simply does not tally with the existence of the same racist and bigoted views that underpin Brexit, in previous times. Up until the early 1960's, there effectively were no immigration controls in Britain. The talk about restricting free movement, today, is rather anachronistic, because until the early 1960's, Britain's borders were open to all comers. Indeed, after WWII, Britain sent envoys out to the Commonwealth to actively recruit immigrants, required to fill severe job shortages, the manifestation, more recently has come in the form of the Windrush scandal

The clamour for immigration controls in the early 1960's, certainly had nothing to do with British workers, at that time, not having access to jobs, or houses, or healthcare etc. or any of the other excuses used to explain racism today. Yet, in the 1960's, the elements that marched in defence of Enoch Powell, after he had been sacked by Ted Heath, following his “Rivers of Blood” speech, were not the left-behind, but well paid, militant, London dockers. It wasn't the left-behind, but Tory voting landlords who put notices in their windows saying “No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish”

In 1975, with the Tory Party being firmly under the control of its social-democratic, EEC supporting wing, epitomised by Heath, those opposing the EEC, like Powell, were mavericks, with the support of a tiny group of fascists in the NF, and other splinter groups. The large majority of the Tory party backed the EEC, which is why, in 1975, the electorate voted 2:1 in favour of staying in. At that time, the issue of the EEC and immigration was seen by most people, and particularly most Tory voters as two different things. They saw opposition to EEC membership in terms of it being a hobbyhorse of the far-Left, which opposed it, and as they opposed the Left, something they should back, on the basis of my enemy's enemy is my friend. They saw it in terms of facilitated foreign holidays, and so on. As far as immigration was concerned, they saw it, as with the later TV series “Auf Wiedersehen Pet”, as something that British workers were more likely to do, than vice versa, and in any case, at that time, whilst they might refer to Deigos, derisively, the main concern they had over immigration was the immigration of blacks from the Caribbean, and Asians both from the sub-continent, and those being expelled from Africa. 

Whilst a majority voted against leaving the EEC in 1975, had the referendum been to ban immigration, it would have received a similar vote in support of it as did Leave in 2016. It had nothing to do with people being left-behind then, and nor does it today. Its real basis is the deep seated bigotry amongst sections of the British population that goes back to its colonial empire, and the feelings of natural superiority that were engendered by it amongst its population. That is one reason that those ideas, and that bigotry are entrenched amongst the older cohorts of the population that grew up in the afterglow of that imperial majesty, and is reflected in the support for Brexit and other reactionary views, but is absent largely from the younger sections of the population. Indeed, one reason that the Tory Brextremists are desperate to push Brexit through now, and to avoid a further referendum, or a General Election in which Labour would call for Brexit to be scrapped, is that this is their last chance to achieve that goal. 

The older voters infected with that bigotry, as Peter Kellner has shown, are literally dying out. They are being replaced by younger voters that do not have those same bigoted views, and overwhelmingly oppose Brexit. Already, as Kellner has shown, just from that fact, Remain would now have a majority, and as every year goes by, the majority for Remain will increase, as ever more young people join the electorate, and the old people die off. The same process is what lies behind the inevitable decline of the Tory Party itself, and similarly of the Republican Party in the US. 

In 2016, unlike 1975, the primary concern of Leave voters was not the EU itself, but was the issue of immigration. But, unlike 1975, immigration was now seen as inextricably linked to the question of the EU. It was now not just Western European migrants coming to Britain in relatively small numbers, and of little concern to those whose main gripe was over the immigration of people with darker skins, but was migrants from Eastern and Central Europe, some also with darker skins, and of refugees, and migrants from further afield that came up through the Middle East and Turkey, and that migration was conflated, in the minds of bigots, with all other migration, and the existence of communities of immigrants from previous generations. So, after the Brexit vote, just as we have seen some of the less intelligent bigots confuse paedophiles with paediatricians, so we saw the same kinds of elements tell anyone with a darker skin, or an accent that they had to “go home”

Some years ago, long before the Brexit vote, I wrote that this bigotry, of racism, homophobia, misogyny and so on, was the result of the shit of ages that had been passed down over the centuries, and which was not actually conducive to the interests of modern capitalism. Yet, the bourgeoisie itself, in its more enlightened sections, having divested itself of those ideas, had not undertaken the required ideological struggle, against that bigotry still prevalent amongst its less enlightened sections. In other words, racism and other forms of bigotry have existed in various forms for centuries, long before capitalism. The enlightened layers of the bourgeoisie, amongst the top 0.01% have largely divested themselves of it, as have those that act as their representatives in the management of the big companies. It is an encumbrance to the kind of social-democratic polity they require for efficient capital accumulation. Not so, for all of those small capitalists, market traders, shopkeepers, and sweatshop owners that comprise the numerical majority of the ruling class, though not its economically dominant element. 

The former have failed to purge those ideas from the class as a whole, because to do so would have required an all out political struggle with that section of its own class, and that would have exposed it to the potential of attack from the working-class itself, particularly the more advanced sections of the working-class. Yet, in truth, they need not have feared. The leaders of the workers movement have themselves been motivated by an ideology of Economism. Faced with the existence of bigotry within the ranks of the working-class, rather than confront it, they have accommodated to it, preferring instead to concentrate on the “bread and butter” issues of jobs, pay, the welfare state etc. That is why they quickly buckled, and agreed to introduce immigration controls in the early 1960's, which in turn created the conditions for the Windrush Scandal

The Militant tendency was infamous, in the 1980's, for quickly dropping any kind of principled position in relation to women, gay rights, the occupation of Ireland, and so on, if it thought it might alienate any of its industrial militants, or potential recruits. The same was true of the SWP, which was also infamous in more recent times for subordinating its positions on women's rights, gay rights and so on, to its attempts to recruit amongst reactionary forces within the ranks of supposed “anti-imperialists” such as Hezbollah, or Hamas, as well as trying to avoid alienating its reactionary allies in groups such as Respect

For the last three quarters of a century, the dominant elements within the bourgeoisie failed to engage in a political struggle in its own ranks to root out the last vestiges of bigotry, even though it was contrary to its own interests in developing a social-democratic framework within which large-scale capital accumulation could take place. That failure has come back to bite it, as those reactionary elements within its own class, based upon the large number of small private capitalists, have captured the Tory Party in Britain, the Republican Party in the US, and a similar picture has occurred across Europe. It has now created the conditions for undermining one of its main post-war achievements, the creation of the EU, and via Trump, looks set to undermine the other social-democratic organisations created at Bretton Woods, such as the WTO, and so on. 

Similarly, in the post-war period, Stalinism following its national-socialist ideology of socialism in one country, promoted a programme of economic nationalism, including the reactionary protectionist ideas of establishing immigration and import controls that act to shift the blame on to foreigners, and particularly foreign workers. Social-democracy, which had originated as a nation state based ideology, burst asunder that limitation after WWII, as it became apparent that social-democracy itself could only exist at an international level. But, typical of the managerialist, bureaucratic nature of social-democracy, it attempted to manage that transition by bureaucratic rather than democratic means. It developed the EU by such bureaucratic means, thereby enhancing the democratic deficit, and it responded to bigotry likewise by bureaucratic means, establishing laws against bigotry, as though that could change what was in people's minds, and creating numerous quangos to police what people said, when what was in their minds occasionally slipped out. No wonder, that having failed to actually deal with the underlying bigotry and reactionary ideas, for more than 40 years, and instead having tried to hide it under the carpet, when the Brexit referendum, lifted up that carpet, all of the stored up bigotry rushed out and resulted in the Brexit vote! 

That vote was not the result of people who have been left behind. It was the result of centuries of bigotry and reactionary ideology that have not been thoroughly confronted and defeated. We need social-democratic parties, and factions of parties to undertake that political struggle, on the same kind of basis that they would undertake a political revolution, because essentially that is what is taking place. It is a political revolution in which the interests of large-scale socialised capital, and of the social-democracy that rests upon it, must assert its dominance against the attempts of small-scale privately owned capital, to turn back the clock, and to install a reactionary political regime that is designed to meet its interests, and, like fascism, seeks to do so by mobilising behind it, the atomised, backward layers of society, by appealing to all of those bigoted ideas and prejudices that have been cast down upon it, like shit rolling down hill. This is an all out political battle against those forces of reaction. It is a defining point of departure for our epoch. 

Northern Soul Classics - That's Enough - Roscoe Robinson