Chapter 4 – Permanent Revolution
In the 1970's, social-democracy was prepared to envisage co-determination, as indeed it had existed without any serious threat to capital, for decades, in Germany, provided it was contained in a corporatist, bureaucratic framework, that limited workers real control of production, but, at a time of heightened class struggle, it was certainly not prepared to push that forward, against resistance from conservative political forces, representing the interests of share and bond holders and other money lenders, by mobilising the working-class to overcome their resistance.
And, social-democracy was itself fatally flawed by the fact that its left-wing was heavily influenced by the reactionary ideas of Stalinism and national socialism, most visible, in Britain, with the anti-EEC stance of the Bennite Left, and the ideas of the Alternative Economic Strategy.
Having failed to push through the necessary social-democratic measures, to limit the power of fictitious capital, social-democracy found itself incapable of keeping its side of the bargain with workers, to ensure that their living standards continued to rise year on year. And, so workers increasingly abandoned the social-democratic parties, enabling conservative parties to win elections and form governments. Those conservative governments then pursued policies that favoured fictitious capital over real, industrial-capital.
Asset price bubbles inflated in stocks, bonds and property, creating the delusion that wealth could be created by such paper capital gains, rather than the requirement for the expenditure of labour, in the production of real goods and services. Debt financed consumption was confused with affluence and wealth creation. It bred political delusions about the nature of wealth creation, and individual aspiration that fed conservatism. And, having rejected the idea of a political battle against conservative ideas in the 1970's, the social-democratic parties, desperate to win elections themselves, certainly were not going to undertake such a task in the 1990's and 2000's.
Having seen a large portion of their core vote desert them – the feature that has confronted Clinton in the rust-belt, and Labour in the decayed urban areas recently – the dominant social-democratic politicians instead sought to triangulate so as to win over conservative voters, which inevitably required promoting conservative ideas.
Finally, where the requirements of social-democracy did impose itself upon conservatism, the contradictions this implied were dealt with bureaucratically. Conservative governments, including notionally social-democratic governments implementing conservative policies, pursued the needs of extending the European Single Market (the same can be said for NAFTA, in relation to the US) not on the basis of a political campaign that carried along the working-class behind it, but by bureaucratic agreements over the heads of populations. Indeed, it would have been difficult to have implemented such agreements with mass working-class support, because in the form that conservative governments took forward these new arrangements, they were immediately hostile to workers interests.
That was illustrated by the rejection of the EU Constitution, drawn up by D'Estaing, and its subsequent adoption in the form of the Lisbon Treaty. But, it is also the reason that a pro-EU referendum campaign of the sort undertaken by Cameron and the Blair-rights was never likely to garner mass working class enthusiasm.