Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Lessons of The Local Elections (4) Nationalism v Internationalism

Nationalism v Internationalism

In the US, there was the Tea Party, and now Trump; in Britain there was UKIP, whose clothes the Tories have now slipped into in their entirety; in France the main conservative party is now the Front National, and the Republican Party has been pulled on to almost identical nationalist and xenophobic territory; in the Netherlands, the ruling conservative party has again adopted much of the nationalistic and xenophobic positions of Wilders and the Freedom Party. In all these cases, the division is no longer one on the old traditional grounds that commentators superficially deemed to be the determinants of “Left” and “Right”, i.e. of the role of the state in the economy, but is between nationalism and internationalism.

Trump in the US has no problem with proposing large-scale state spending, Le Pen has no problem proposing large scale state intervention in the economy, and so on. But, anyone who thought that the real division between right and left came down to questions of state intervention should simply be reminded that Hitler was the main proponent of state intervention during the 1930's, that the Nazi state took over control of large sections of industry, established a national economic council to plan and regulate economic activity, that the state undertook large-scale fiscal intervention to build the autobahns and so on.

The very nature of productive-capital means that it increasingly must operate within the context of larger markets, and intrinsic to that is a free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. But, as Marx also said, the basic requirement of all capital operating within such markets is that there should be a level playing field, and the only arbiter of the rules governing this playing field is the state. That is why as capital quickly grew beyond national borders, the smaller states had to begin to try to create these larger structures. The United States had to fight a Civil War before it established such a structure, and Europe fought many such wars during the 19th century, as different national powers sought to create a unified Europe under its own dominance, whilst Britain largely intervened to prevent such unification, which threatened its own global dominance, and that was true in the two European Wars of the 20th century that formed a major part of what has come to be called WWI and WWII.

The large scale fictitious capital, because it is dependent on this socialised capital for its revenues, must itself support the EU, and oppose those reactionary forces driving towards Brexit. The Tories are a declining force, because the economic and social basis for the ideology they represent is declining, as socialised capital becomes more and more dominant. The only way they could bolster their electoral position was to shift increasingly on to the ground of reaction. That is they had to move further away from that section of their support that resides within the super rich owners of fictitious capital, and on to the ground of their core electoral support and membership base within the ranks of the millions of small business people, and backward sections of the working and middle classes. As UKIP started to eat into that section of their electoral support, they found themselves increasingly driven in that reactionary direction.

And now, the Tories have eaten UKIP whole, as they move decisively on to that reactionary territory, following the Brexit vote. In some ways, this is a repetition of the early 1980's, when May's idol Maggie Thatcher wrapped herself in the flag during the Falklands War.   As I wrote recently in relation to British threats to go to war with Europe over Gibraltar. Thatcher never intended to actually end up in a shooting war, believing that her friend Galtieri, who was wrapping himself in the Argentinian flag for his own immediate political reasons, would back down. But, wars have their own dynamic once the antagonisms have been set in motion.

Boris Johnson and others thought that the threat of Britain leaving the EU, would bring the Europeans rushing along to plead with Britain to stay, and offering lots of further concessions to Britain to do so, enabling him to champion such renegotiations, and Britain then remaining in the EU. Instead we have increasing verbal war breaking out between Britain and the EU, as last week demonstrated. 

Theresa May, seemingly now knowing that Britain will get less than nothing from the EU, in the negotiations, and knowing that the Tories will bear the responsibility for the economic catastrophe that will follow, and knowing that in the intervening period, the British state, along with other political forces will attempt to put Brexit through the political meat grinder, in the same way that Trump has faced in the US, has decided to preempt that. The real reason for calling the election now, is that within weeks, she will declare that the negotiations are going nowhere, that the EU is imposing impossible conditions, and so, within six months, she will simply pull Britain out of the EU, in line with what UKIP and the Tory Right have been proposing all along.

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