Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Lessons of The Local Elections (5) - The Battle Is between Reaction and Progressive Social Democracy

The Battle Is between Reaction and Progressive Social Democracy

The interests of the large scale owners of fictitious capital, are inextricably linked to the interests of socialised capital, because it is its profits that provide them with their interest payments, without which there is no basis for their share and bond certificates having any value whatsoever, they become simply worthless bits of paper. But herein lies a conundrum, because nor do they want these paper values to collapse, which is what happens as soon as interest rates rise, which is a consequence of real investment increasing. Its a bit like the situation with individual capitalists in the 19th century, who all knew collectively that some kind of regulation of working hours and conditions was necessary, but each individually wanted to be exempt from such conditions so as not to lose competitive advantage.

During every phase of the long wave cycle, where
the demand for capital rises relative to the supply,
and interest rates rise, the prices of stocks, bonds
and property falls in real terms, as the capitalised
value of revenues fall.
Conservative social-democracy is then conflicted. Its mentality is basically, “Please Lord, Make me chaste, but not just yet.” It wants to engender real investment, because it knows that the current situation cannot continue, but it also wants to preserve the current high values of stock, bond and property markets, and these two objectives are simply incompatible. That is why its policies are so vacuous, and the programme of Macron in France, is the epitome of that, but just listening to the right of the Labour Party, or to the Liberals provides just the same picture of vacuity, and endless meaningless platitudes and soundbites.

Those in France who have argued that a victory for Macron will simply open the door for Le Pen in four years time, are absolutely right, other than it may be that it will be something much worse than Le Pen, as currently portrayed. That was clear from the reception that Macron was given by actual workers fighting to save their jobs, as opposed to the reception they gave Le Pen.

But, the same thing has been seen in the local elections in Britain. The message that the right of the Labour Party have tried to give is that the Labour Party under Corbyn, adopting a progressive social-democratic stance cannot win. They present the old Blairite, Third Way argument that elections can only be won from the centre ground, by which they mean the ground of conservative social-democracy. Yet, its clear, as I have described above, that this political centre-ground no longer exists. The material foundations upon which it rested have disappeared, and, in fact, turned into their opposite. Everything that previously provided the basis for that centre-ground now undermines it.

Labour rose in the polls after Michael Foot took over in 1980.
They continued to rise, as the Tories support fell.  Tory support
continued to fall until the Falklands War.  The only effect of
the SDP was to take votes from Labour.  Only very briefly did
the SDP/Liberals exceed Labour before they continued their
steady decline into political death.
The physical manifestation of the political ground on which the right of the Labour Party want to stand is the Liberal Party. That is one reason that in the 1980's, those same political forces, having made a temporary diversion into the SDP, became swallowed up into the Liberal Party. The only reason they did not repeat that experience after Corbyn was elected leader, was that they learned the lesson of the SDP from the 1980's, and with the Liberals having destroyed themselves with their coalition with the Tories after 2010, there was no way that careerist politicians were going to throw away their careers, by jumping aboard a sinking ship!

But, they along with the media, have been keen to emphasise the potential for the Liberals to pick up all of those anxious, centre-ground voters denied a home now with a Tory Party veering off sharply rightwards, and the Labour Party in the hands of Corbynistas. The Liberals were bound to see a remarkable revival we were told, and a handful of isolated by-election results, that went the Liberals way were blown up into a full-scale renaissance. It was never going to happen, and the local elections on Thursday showed it.  In the same way, in France, there was a bigger combined vote for the Left combining Hamon, Melonchon etc. than there was for Macron.  The day after his election, Macron faced large demonstrations of angry workers ready to resist his conservative agenda.

Tim Farron simply looks idiotic when, with his 9 Liberal MP's, he talks about being the real opposition in Parliament to the Tories. And, despite all the hype, all of the media support, all of the potential that the Liberals should have had to pick up disillusioned Remain voters from both Tories and Labour, the fact was that the Liberals lost Council seats, and failed to win any of the metropolitan mayoral contests, including in their traditional stronghold of the South-West.  Internal Liberal polling and estimates now say that the best they can do is to double their seats to 18, and that is probably wishful thinking as much as anything.  The only thing that the Liberals achieved, was to divert potential votes away from Labour, and allow a sharply rightward moving, hard Brexit Tory Party to win in marginal contests. And, if that was true in relation to the Liberals it was also true in relation to the other fringe parties such as the Greens, or Plaid Cymru, and also to the SNP.

Another strong and stable leader, whose rise to power was based
on xenophobia, and ultra nationalism.  His road to power
 was made easier by those on the Left who also accommodated
 to nationalist ideas, in order to follow behind backward sections
 of workers and the middle class in a short term search for votes.
In the same way that Macron will simply open the door for Le Pen, that Obama/Clinton opened the door to Trump, Blair/Brown/Cameron opened the door to Farage/May, so any attempt to relive the hits of the past is bound to end in failure and disappointment. But, the descent of sections of the Left itself into nationalism compounds the problem, as it always has. In the 1930's, the German Communist Party and Socialist Party attempted to undermine the support that the Nazis were getting amongst sections of workers and the middle class, by adopting nationalist positions themselves. All it did was to validate nationalist ideas, whilst those that were attracted to such solutions chose the real nationalists of the Nazi Party over the imitators. The same is true today in relation to those sections of the left that have attached themselves to various forms of nationalism, particularly in Scotland, but also in Wales, as well as those elements that have put forward Stalinoid solutions based around concepts of building Social Democracy In One Country.

The problem for a progressive social democracy is to combine a rejection of all those ideas that underpinned conservative social democracy, whilst putting forward an internationalist perspective built around the need to develop social-democratic solutions framed within an international, and, in the first instance, European perspective. It is not easy to explain to workers like those faced by Macron, in France this last week, losing their jobs, as the factory moved to Poland, that the Polish workers are not their enemy, or that protectionism and nationalism are not the solution. But, that is the argument that socialists, and progressive social democrats have to make. The argument involves setting out the need to remove control of socialised capital from the hands of shareholders, and to place it where it should be, in the hands of the workers and managers employed in those businesses.

A Board of Directors, directly elected from the workers and managers in a business, will not vote to lose their jobs, by voting to transfer the business to some other country! But, it will see the logic in working together co-operatively with similar worker owned and controlled companies across the EU, and working to expand the economy, and the potential for all workers across the EU to enjoy secure employment and rising living standards. Moreover, the experience across the globe of such enterprises indicates that even the interests of shareholders and other money lenders are facilitated by such arrangements, because almost everywhere, employee owned businesses outperform their counterparts by around 10% p.a.

There is a real confluence of interest between workers and managers, and the large scale owners of fictitious capital to move forward on this basis, and to oppose the forces of reaction seeking to turn the clock back more than a century.


George Carty said...

If the spectrum of conservative social democracy runs more or less from Blair through the Lib Dems to Cameron, then what are the limits of progressive social democracy (don't know about the left end, but I'd put Ed Miliband on the right end), and where on that spectrum is Jeremy Corbyn situated?

Boffy said...

Given Corbyn's current trajectory, it won't be far off where you'd put Ed Miliband! Basically, I'd put on the right end of that spectrum those that seek to promote industrial capital at the expense of fictitious capital, but who will not push through the necessary measures of industrial democracy, and economic planning and regulation to put the economy on at least the kind of rational basis that is possible within a continuation of capitalism, for fear of causing a financial panic.

On the left end, I would put those who are prepared to set in place a real industrial strategy that introduces macro-economic measures of regulation and planning, but who will also put in place the necessary measures of industrial democracy that would take controlling power over industrial capital from shareholders and other money lenders. That would mean having company boards wholly elected by the workers and managers employed within the company. But, it also logically requires a commitment to do that on a wider than national basis, at least as far as a country like Britain is concerned.

Large economies like the US, and China could probably pursue some kind of progressive social-democratic agenda, but smaller countries like Britain and other EU nations, could only undertake a rational progressive social-democratic agenda on this wider continental basis, because it requires a large enough area in which to implement common fiscal and monetary policies etc., and to prevent money lending capital from simply moving to other countries etc.

Of course, as far as socialism itself is concerned that would require even further co-operation on a much larger scale.