Tuesday, 23 February 2016

A Socialist Campaign For Europe - Part 2 of 5

The Fantasy of Social-Democracy in One Country

The reality is that Socialism is only feasible on at least a European wide scale, which is why the argument that Britain should leave so that some currently non-existent, future left government could implement a left, social-democratic, statist programme, unimpeded by the EU apparatus is itself nonsense, and indeed reactionary. One reason that conservative politicians and the conservative media wanted to present the situation in Greece as “stay in and accept austerity, or reject austerity and get out”, was precisely for this reason. The last thing those conservatives want is the idea to take hold that it is possible to argue for staying in the EU, and fighting against austerity, on the basis of an EU wide struggle for a return to the kind of social-democratic principles upon which the EU was founded.

What, in fact, Greece demonstrated, was that under current political conditions, not only is Socialism impossible other than on an EU wide basis, but even consistent social-democracy is impossible other than on an EU wide basis. It was not the interests of capital, which made resolving the situation in Greece – and the same applies for Ireland, Portugal, Spain etc. – impossible, on the basis of cancelling the debt, ending austerity and so on. Quite the contrary, the interests of productive capital, real capital, the capital that creates the surplus value on which all other forms of capital depend for their revenues, and which creates the potential for growth, reside precisely in the cancellation of large amounts of debt, in the bursting of astronomical asset price bubbles, and an end to the destructive policy of austerity, that undermines capital accumulation.

It is the interests of the owners of that fictitious capital, that are served by those policies of austerity, combined with money printing that are being pursued by conservative governments across Europe, in opposition to the interests of real capital. As Marx described such situations in the past,

“The credit system, which has its focus in the so-called national banks and the big money-lenders and usurers surrounding them, constitutes enormous centralisation, and gives to this class of parasites the fabulous power, not only to periodically despoil industrial capitalists, but also to interfere in actual production in a most dangerous manner — and this gang knows nothing about production and has nothing to do with it. The Acts of 1844 and 1845 are proof of the growing power of these bandits, who are augmented by financiers and stock-jobbers.”

(Capital III, Chapter 33)

And, in fact, it is precisely this which is the real justification for supporting the taking of governmental office by social-democratic parties such as Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Left Bloc in Portugal, as well as the potential of a Corbyn Labour government in the UK. It is obvious that, at the moment, European governments, and thereby the EU Council of Ministers, is dominated by conservative parties. Even the “social-democratic” parties that governed over the last thirty years, adapted to the changed conditions to absorb conservative ideas, just as in the post-war period, conservative parties adapted to absorb social-democratic ideas. This reflects a changed milieu in which these parties fish for votes. But, the strength of Marxist analysis is not to see the world in fixed terms, and to simply accept the superficial appearance of how the world currently looks. It is to understand the underlying objective reality, and how that is constantly changing, creating not only the potential, but the necessity for new social relations, and the ideas and political alignments that flow from them. The subterranean currents as Trotsky once described them.

The fact of the rise of Syriza, as much as the collapse of Pasok, along with the rise of Podemos, of the Portuguese Left Bloc, of Corbyn, of Sanders in the US, are not some kind of accidental and coincidental occurrences. In fact, neither is the rise of the FN in France, of Golden Dawn in Greece, of UKIP in Britain, of Trump and Cruz in the US and so on. They are all consequences of those underlying material changes. They are all a reflection of a feature I have made central in my new novel “2017”, which is “the collapse of the political centre”.

That collapse means that the old economic and political solutions that were pursued by that political centre, over the last thirty years, which have been variously described as “The Third Way”, "neo-liberalism", and so on, are no longer viable. They were dependent upon the idea that what was really just fictitious wealth, reflected in ever more astronomically inflated asset prices, of houses, shares, and bonds was real wealth, that somehow simply grew year after year, and sometimes visibly month after month. All of this fictitious wealth facilitated, as collateral, the increase of ever more private debt, and this ever increasing private debt, was then used to inflate even further all of the prices of the fictitious capital. But, the financial crash of 2000 was an initial tremor, giving warning that this construction was built on shaky ground; and the financial crisis of 2008, was a more powerful shock, giving an indication of the severity of the real financial earthquake, when it comes.

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