Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Blair-right Dead End

This weekend, and over the last few days, the Tory media have stepped up their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party he leads. In part, it is because of a desire immediately to get support for Cameron's warmongering plans for bombing Syria. After all, nothing sells newspapers, or fills the ratings of vacuous 24 hours News Channels, better than a good old war, is there? In part, though, it also the other way round. The issue of Syria and the bombing thereof, also presnts the Tory media with an opportunity to play up the divisions between Corbyn's, Labour Party, which voted decisively and clearly just a couple of months ago against bombing, and the remnants of the Blair-right Parliamentary Labour Party, which still has not accepted that it has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

The issue of Syria is actually a good proxy for the problem that faces the Blair-rights, and others who for the last 30 years have occupied the same political centre ground. In both cases, it revolves around the same attempt to see the potential for any political regime to exist separate from the reality of the underlying social forces, and social relations in society.

There is a simple reason that the repeated attempts at liberal intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have failed. It is the same reason that these societies had the political regimes they already had, usually of some form of Bonapartism. It is that in these societies industrial capitalism had not developed to such a stage, whereby the economy could sustain a modern bourgeois social democracy, and in the modern world bourgeois democracy can only take a stable form as a social democracy, in which a large working-class is incorporated, via a universal franchise, in which a large middle class, and bureaucracy based upon socialised capital, acts as a mediating force, and where developed means of production based upon that socialised capital, is sufficiently productive to ensure a minimum standard of living for the working-class, along with generally rising standards of living, and social protection.

When those things are absent, as they were in Britain and other parts of Europe until the latter half of the 19th century, bourgeois social democracy is not possible, and so the capitalist polity, the political regime, takes the form of Bonapartism, and within that category, we could also include the type of bourgeois liberal democracy that existed in those societies prior to that period, when the workers were denied the vote, and where the bourgeoisie, along with the landed class, exercised their rule, on the basis of repeated use of violence by its state, to suppress the workers, who had no other form of political response other than violent opposition.

That Bonapartism is, in fact, the means by which the means of production are developed to such an extent that social democracy becomes possible, which is why, however repulsive some of these regimes might be – and the political regime in Britain, where laws existed that allowed the unemployed to be branded, and taken as slaves existed up until the latter part of the 19th century, was itself pretty repulsive – considered from the Marxist perspective of what is objectively, historically progressive, they meet that criteria. Trying to impose bourgeois social democracies upon such societies when these material conditions do not exist, is not just utopian, and subjectivist moralism, but it is dangerous folly, because the inevitable consequence must be that the political regime collapses for lack of the necessary social underpinning, and leads to chaos and reaction within the society itself.

That is what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Cameron is ludicrously suggesting that he has a plan for Syria, based upon the idea that ISIS can be bombed out of existence, and that a moderate, non-sectarian government can then be installed, so that everything will be sweetness and light. But, of course, not only has recent history shown that bombing alone will not destroy ISIS, but his idea that this moderate government is somehow going to be magicked out of thin air, is not even believed by many of his own MP's, and still less by any serious analyst that has looked at the country. The only people who purvey that nonsense, as was the case with politicians like Chalabi in Iraq, or the the Libyan National Council in Libya, are the handful of professional bourgeois politicians in those countries, who actually lack any meaningful social support, and who need western intervention to replace that support, and put them in office by military power. In other words, it is just a different Bonapartist regime, disguised as liberal democracy. As soon as that external military support disappears, the reality imposes itself, and those regimes collapse.

But, in fact, a similar process has happened across the existing bourgeois social democracies too. Greece is a perfect example. For the last 30 years, the locus of the political centre has shifted to the right. That itself was a function of changed economic and social relations during that period. In the mid 1970's, the long wave boom that had run since around 1949, came to an end. That boom had been the basis of a rapid accumulation of socialised capital, upon which was based a strengthening of social democracy.

When that boom came to an end, there was a choice. Either the representatives of that socialised capital, would assert its primacy, and take measures to deal with the need to restructure, and renovate the productive relations, which would have required further inroads into the power and influence of the owners of fictitious capital, or else the latter would assert their interests, at the expense of a growth of real capital.

In the end, the latter won, and the representatives of socialised capital, and social democracy were thrown backwards. The interests of the owners of fictitious capital were furthered by money printing, and lax credit regulations, to cause bubbles in the prices of shares, bonds and property. The political representatives of that fictitious capital, were thereby strengthened, and so conservative regimes were established across Europe and North America, and along with it the professional politicians in the existing social democratic parties themselves adopted more conservative ideas.

It is that consensus between these professional politicians of all main parties, and the social milieu of journalists, and so on around them, which has defined the political centre during that period. But, that political centre existed on the basis of very definite economic and social conditions that arose during that time. Those conditions were themselves necessarily time limited. It is only possible to keep inflating asset prices bubbles for so long, before they burst, and those that exist are bigger than ever and more likely to burst than ever. And the other side of those asset prices is massive amounts of debt.

When the state attempts to pay off its own debts, as in Greece, and elsewhere by austerity, then it also reaches a point where that is no longer viable. Not only does the economy shrink, and become less productive, thereby undermining the potential to pay off the debt, but there is a limit to how much can be screwed out of workers to cover those debts too. Trying to overcome this by the old methods, of yet more debt, of “extend and pretend”, only exacerbates the problem, as Greece demonstrated, and which is why Varoufakis and Syriza were correct to have initially rejected that non-solution, of simply covering the existing debts, by further loans from the EU and ECB etc.

The only solution for Greece, as elsewhere, was to write off the debt, which means when applied generally a massive fall in stock, bond and property markets, destroying the fictitious paper wealth of all of the bond, share and property owners, in order to promote the real wealth creating power of society. But, of course, the current political centre could not promote such a policy, because it is precisely on the ground of inflating the prices of fictitious capital that it has rested and grown for the last thirty years, and it is to the social forces that depend on that, on which its own political fortunes depends.

The political centre wants to continue in the old way, but the economic and social reality makes it impossible, as Greece, and elsewhere has shown, and the more the parties of that political centre attempt to continue in the old way, the more they ensure its collapse. That is why, in Greece, that political centre collapsed, PASOK was destroyed and the same was true of the centre-right. It is what led to the creation of Syriza, not really as the kind of far-left, or revolutionary party it has been described as, but only really as the kind of social-democratic party that Labour, or the German SPD represented in the 1960's, and 70's. Syriza, Podemos, and Corbyn's Labour Party do not represent some kind of new radical left formation, but only demonstrate the extent to which traditional social democracy had been undermined, and shifted to the right over the last 30 years.

Syriza, Corbyn, Podemos and other formations across Europe, as well as Sanders in the US only indicate the nature to which the underlying social relations has caused a shift of where the political centre now needs to be. The destruction of those parties of the political centre across Europe, also symbolised by the Liberals in the UK, which are a physical manifestation of that political centre, is the necessary consequence.

And that is why the hope of the Blair-rights, and of the Tory media that those elements in the PLP can simply ignore the social reality and organise a coup against Corbyn and the Labour Party is simply wishful thinking. They first hoped that after Corbyn's election as Leader, that a large number of Blair-rights would leave as the SDP did in 1981. They did not leave, because they knew it would be political suicide. It would be to follow the Liberals into oblivion. Nor can they anymore leave today than two months ago, for the same reason.

Odious eulogists for Blair, such as John McTiernan continue to hope that some sort of coup will be organised, but that is just as unlikely. Those Blair-right MP's, who are seeking to override the democratic decisions of the Labour Party by seeking to organise a coup against Corbyn, and seek legal support to prevent him standing in any subsequent election, are already guilty of bringing the Party into disrepute. By plotting such a coup, they are acting as a party within a party, and such be expelled from the Party forthwith, by the NEC. It is also up to the party members to bring to heel any MP's who give succour to such thoughts.

But, let us assume that a handful of MP's launched such a coup against Corbyn, an that the bosses' courts backed them up in preventing Corbyn from taking part in such an election. What would be the consequence? Firstly, it means that Corbyn and his supporters, as I suggested some time ago, should organise an Emergency Rules Conference to ensure that the Party's rules are changed for election of the Leader, to prevent such a challenge. The PLP should have no more greater right in nominating candidates then any other party member. That is what One Member One Vote should really mean.

Secondly, it would mean that CLP's would be infuriated that MP's should take such a callous, undemocratic attitude towards their own party members, so that those MP's would be told to nominate Corbyn, or be threatened with their own deselection. Thirdly, Corbyn, and his supporters would use the party machinery to themselves challenge any such ruling in the courts, delaying any such election for months, during which time there would be civil war inside the party, with large numbers of MP's being put under daily pressure and facing deselection, which currently they do not.

Thirdly, even if all that failed to stop Corbyn retaining his position, the Blair-rights would have won nothing. The Party would not split as much see the Blair-rights within the PLP, fly off as a spark that would burn brightly for a fraction of a second, before dying out. As against the real Labour Party, of half a million members, with all of the trades union movement standing behind it, the Blir-rights would have a party comprising just a couple of hundred members who temporarily were MP's, and a small portion of party members who might follow them into oblivion.

The vast majority of members who already support Corbyn would be joined by others, who would be disgusted at the extent to which a handful of MP's put themselves above the party, and undermined its opposition to the Tories at a vital moment. The party has already seen the return of trades unions that left because of the dominance of the Blair-rights. The reality would be that the Blair-right MP's would be rather like the Tory MP Mark Reckless, who held his seat as a UKIPPER only for a few months until the election brought appearance into alignment with reality. They would have given their political careers a definite and short duration by their actions, as the real Labour Party, whatever name legalities might cause it to have to assume, would simply eclipse them, at every subsequent election.

That is why they have not split before now, it is why they are unlikely to split in future, and why any attempt at a coup against Corbyn would be a disaster for them, and so why they are unlikely to attempt it.

But, for that very reason, Corbyn and the party should not cause confusion over Syria, by giving these Balir-right wreckers, and their party within a party the opportunity to defy party policy with a free vote. Unlike Trident, the party's policy over Syria is clear, and past experience dictates why Labour should not support an attack on Syria. There should be a whipped vote, imposed by Corbyn in line with party policy, and if that means some Labour Shadow Cabinet Ministers decide to walk, so be it. We could probably do with a smaller, more select and cohesive Shadow Cabinet anyway, alongside a much greater role for the party itself in providing policy support for the Leader.

We have to end the undemocratic, and elitist privileging of MP's over other party members, and now is the opportune time to do it.

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