Hard times bring increased illusions in Labour Party

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jk1921
Hard times bring increased illusions in Labour Party
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Hard times bring increased illusions in Labour Party. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

jk1921
Populism?

Is it correct to describe this result as "shocking" as the bourgeois press has? Is this really an upset for the establishment factions of the UK bourgeoisie as it has been described by many leftists (unlike the result in France) or is this result a return to kind of political normalcy: i.e. UKIP was embarrassed, the SNP appears on the decline, Labour is relevant again, etc. I suppose the question underneath this is was this result an effect of a continuing populist wave or was it its antithesis in revitalizing Labour as a viable party after several years of decline, irrelevance and an inability to assume the reigns of the state? Underneath that lies the continuing question as to whether or not a left populism is a possibility?

The Atlantic published a piece today that was an absolute hit job on Corbyn--describing him as enabling Labour's anti-semitism problem, which is really a way of calling him an anti-semite (similar suggestions of being soft on racism have been raised against Bernie Sanders). This article was in line with many others that have come out since the election that have listed an entire litany of Corbyn's political sins from being soft on the Argentine junta to praising Hugo Chavez. In fact, The Atlantic article seemed to suggest that if Corbyn were to become PM it would be just as dangerous to the future of Western civilization as Trump. This kind of campaign would seem to indicate that the main factions of the bourgeoisie (and his would include the Atlanticist wing of the US bourgeoisie: Clinton, Obama, etc. who have all publicly derided Corbyn) do not want Corbyn anywhere near 10 Downing and this result is another example of the extreme volatility of the bourgeois political arena in the era of populism. Then again, he was endorsed by the The Guardian.

Of course, he is not even PM yet and the leftists are already celebrating an amazing victory because he was able to win on a campaign based on solidaristic themes rather than racist and xenophobic rhetoric around Brexit and Trump. Bernie Sanders himself praised the result stating that all around the world people are rising up to fight gross levels of inequality. Of course, a year ago people "rose up" and voted for Brexit and eight months ago they "rose up" and voted for Trump. It may not be the same people exactly--but the electorate just seems angry and confused and wanting to punish whoever is in power. Macron had to pretend he was an outsider to win. It seems hard to take the lessons of these elections when they are so all over the map other than to conclude that people are angry--sometimes at things we recognize as legitimate (income inequality, stagnant wages, soaring housing costs, etc.), but other times at things that make us queasy (immigration, etc.).

Here is a link to the Atlantic piece: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/06/jeremy-corbyn-theresa-may-labour-conservative-brexit-jewish/530046/

baboon
The article is correct to

The article is correct to point to the dangers of the Labour Party and jk raises some good points about how to situate this event. It was a surprise and shows the overall weakness of the bourgeoisie's political apparatus to manage its affairs more efficiently. I don't think that this electoral outcome is an expression of populism but of the strengthening of the left wing of capital. The Corbyn line, which was played with some intelligence, was a direct pitch to the working class: anti-austerity, anti-cuts, the rich are doing alright and so on. The election results in Scotland confirmed that it wasn't so much independence and nationalism that underlined the strength of the SNP's mobilisations but their (completely phoney) anti-austerity stand. Though there's no immediate prospect of profound class struggle the bourgeoisie are cute enough to know that discontent is growing and the Labour Party tapped into that quite effectively. Far better for the bourgeoisie to have a stronger left wing, particularly one so well-rooted in the democratic process from the beginning, than a stronger populist movement whose unpredictable consequences could turn out to be more dangerous.

This governmental uncertainty and reliance on the DUP brings with it more problems for the bourgeoisie and Europe as a whole - who would have probably preferred a stronger Conservative government. There looks to be a move towards more economic "cooperation" line with Europe over the divorce and possibly some stepping back in the longer term. .

There is also a strong element of the interests of British imperialism in the rise of the Labour Party and its relationships towards and between Europe and the USA.
 

jk1921
Possibly

baboon wrote:

I don't think that this electoral outcome is an expression of populism but of the strengthening of the left wing of capital.

You may be right Baboon, but certainly this question is worthy of some serious discussion and development. It is one thing to strengthen the left-wing, another to empower a dangerous "populist" current (if that is what the Corbynites really are, but clearly that is also subject to debate) in order to do so.

jk1921
Today, the new PM of Ireland

Today, the new PM of Ireland said this:

“The government that I lead will not be one of left or right. The government that I lead will be one of the new European center as we seek to build a republic of opportunity …  in which every citizen gets a fair go and in which every part of the country stands to share in our prosperity.” Quoted in The Atlantic.

So, centrism reveals itself as a full blown ideology in its own right, which I guess is another way for the bourgeoisie to confront populism, but can centrism--which would seem to entail a certain sense of itself as above ideology--ever constitute a basis for legitimacy in and of itself? This doesn't seem like the lesser of two evilism that the US bourgeoisie tried to run with in the last election and failed or what brought Macron to power, but an attempt to build a kind of centrist form of legitimacy associated with--well, its a little unclear--hip, young, "progressive" or demographically appealing  political figures like Obama, Trudeau, Macron (kind of) and now Vradkar. Interesting development that also seems in contrast with what happened in the UK election.

baboon
The Grenfell Tower massacre

The Grenfell Tower massacre will fit right into and further strengthen the Labour Party's move as the left wing of capital. Most of the cuts, deregulation and general attacks on the working class that directly led to this "accident" were implemented by "New Labour" and reinforced by the Tories and this further bolsters Corbyn's left wing position. Theresa May looks like a broken ghost and, having sacrificed her old adivisers for the election debacle, has now appointed a new one, Gavin Barnwell who, more than anyone, was responsibile for the non-implementation and relaxation of fire safety measures. Boris Johnson, the new "saviour" of the Tories was heavily implicated in cuts to the fire service as mayor of London.

The full public enquiry promised by May will be, as we know time and again,the beginnings of the cover up. There is no need for such an enquiry because everyone knows what happened and who is responsible - and the fire service, like the NHS over Hillsborough, also has its share of the responsibility. A public enquiry "for the victims" won't allow the victims to ask questions as an inquest would and this was shown very clearly in the inquest over the Camberwell tower fire in 2009 which got right to the heart of the matter; ie, cuts and deregulation. For years this deregulation has been promoted by the state as "red tape" and "health and safety gone mad" which was also woven into a anti-EU narrative by the populist Little Englanders. Corbyn's position is further strengthened here.

The mainstream media was rightly abused and attacked by the residents and their supporters as representing the interests of the right wing of the state and had ot appear sympathetic as in the case of Chanel 4. But this is breaking down with this channel, which supported the al-Nusra Front in Aleppo and ignores the far greater coalition killings in Mosul, said in the form of slimy reporter Micheal Crick, that May didn't want to get involved with the tenants because of the terrorist danger. The left wing of capital can be strengthened by all of this.

Hawkeye
Tower blocks

The enormity of the massive disaster at Grenfell Tower must be a wake-up call for workers everywhere. The comradeship of working people doing so much that they done already to help  survivors is impressive. In a world context it seems likely that millions of urban workers live in dangerous blocks. And then I found myself asking, how many tower blocks are there in London and Moscow ? What would result in a nuclear war between the states based there ? They would be blasted and burned to radioactive rubble, shrouded in radioactive dust, blown in all sorts of directions. Old Londoners and Russians know what war, the pre-nuclear sort, is like, and, do not want any more. The total abolition of imperialism ought to remove the threats of wars anyway, but I hope that the more that workers everywhere can realise the sheer enormity of the likely outcomes of modern war,  the greater workers' pressure on governments to abandon such folly might give our (or their !) planet a chance to survive.  We won't persuade imperialist capitalists to stop being what they are, but enough pressures from the working class against war plans and refusing to participate in inter-worker bombings might avert disasters pending whatever communism might be. .There is enough technical knowledge and raw materials for us to turn this planet into a paradise, but first of all we must get hold of it. Then fire-storms caused by capitalism should be a thing of the past.

jk1921
The Great Mayor Khan

baboon wrote:

The Grenfell Tower massacre will fit right into and further strengthen the Labour Party's move as the left wing of capital. Most of the cuts, deregulation and general attacks on the working class that directly led to this "accident" were implemented by "New Labour" and reinforced by the Tories and this further bolsters Corbyn's left wing position. Theresa May looks like a broken ghost and, having sacrificed her old adivisers for the election debacle, has now appointed a new one, Gavin Barnwell who, more than anyone, was responsibile for the non-implementation and relaxation of fire safety measures. Boris Johnson, the new "saviour" of the Tories was heavily implicated in cuts to the fire service as mayor of London.

The full public enquiry promised by May will be, as we know time and again,the beginnings of the cover up. There is no need for such an enquiry because everyone knows what happened and who is responsible - and the fire service, like the NHS over Hillsborough, also has its share of the responsibility.

Pardon my ignorance of precisely how the UK "unitary state" works, but what is Mayor Khan's responsibility in all this? It seems this hero of the anti-Trump resistance is being spared any blame in the media and is actually being turned into a kind of left-wing voice against the austerity that was repsonsible for the fire. How does this stack-up to reality? It seems to me that he has spent a good deal of his time twitter fighting Trump since he got elected, while London remains a fire trap.

Demogorgon
I'm not sure Khan is too

I'm not sure Khan is too popular with residents in and around what's left of Grenfell Tower. He was heckled by locals when he went to the scene earlier this week. I don't think this has been widely pushed though; at the moment, the narrative is to blame the Tories.

jk1921
Right

Demogorgon wrote:

at the moment, the narrative is to blame the Tories.

Right, just like in the US it is to blame Trump for everything (but when that doesn't work; blame Bernie or his followers.) Of course, this is just a little too easy and perhaps too comforting. What a lonely place it would be to figure out not one of the establishment pols are on your side. It might be enough to make you vote for Trump, or maybe Corbyn?

KT
On the British Situation...

I believe a number of elements have combined to make the current political situation in GB more unstable than it has been for decades – a product of generalised capitalist decomposition for sure – but also one which cries out for the sober assessment of communists and the attempt to disseminate this within a small but possibly receptive milieu.

If the electoral results in The Netherlands and, most evidently, in France, has shown the continuing ability of the ruling class to react relatively successfully, for the moment, against its tendency to lose control over its own political machinery (the rise of populism), the situation in the UK displays real difficulties on this level.

Certainly the oldest and most adaptable ruling class on the planet has and will survive, adapt and adopt - the relative rehabilitation of Corbyn and the Labour Party is proof of this – but this was an unplanned swerve in the British bourgeoisie’s road-map to managing the crisis, I believe.

Consider: in the face of generalised disquiet over cuts in services and wages, a growing social ‘wealth gap’,  and the ‘spectre’ of refugees fleeing capitalist hells in Africa and the Middle East, the well-honed divide-and-rule tactic of ‘blame Johnny Foreigner’ fostered the appearance three or more years ago of populism (in GB, the rise of the now almost defunct UKIP party) and the subsequent massive opportunist miscalculation of former Tory leader David Cameron to call a referendum on remaining within the EC.

This referendum was held a year ago. We all know the result. It fell to a “remain” supporter, Teresa May, to assure large parts of a population forced-fed on the ‘Little Englander’ mentality that their ‘democratic’ wishes would be carried out. This was never going to be an easy task but, in the early stages at least, there was little need to resurrect the Labour Party and Corbyn – like Michael Foot and Ed Miliband before him – played the role of the hapless and impotent outsider, merely adding to the demoralisation and lack of perspective of the working class whom they supposedly ‘represented’, while the ‘remainer’ May was the most ardent advocate of ‘hard Brexit’ – leaving Europe on Britain’s terms (more guff and bluff for home consumption, even if France and Germany had no wish to further rock the pan-Euro boat).  In any case, Corbyn’s equally nationalistic Labour Party was no real alternative for those horrified at the idea of exiting Europe: it was clear that the leadership also favoured ‘going it alone’, and shied away from debate on the subject.

In April this year May decided that support in the country for the Labour Party was so weak, and the population was still so entranced by the ‘anti-immigrant’, anti-Europe rhetoric, that she was safe in resorting to the ballot box yet again (following the referenda on Scottish Devolution and on Cameron’s EC vote gaff) by calling a general election with the avowed aim of cementing both her position within the Tory Party and the Tory Party’s majority in Parliament, enabling it to act without restraint vis-a-vis Europe. Another massive and uncharacteristic miscalculation by the British bourgeoisie!

In the year following the referendum on Europe, those who voted to leave in the belief that their economic situation would improve had enjoyed no such benefit; the state had proved powerless to protect people from terror attacks just prior to the election so outrages in Manchester and London did not, by and large, benefit the ruling clique as might have been imagined (raising the drawbridge on Europe was evidently not going to halt ‘extremist’ attacks), and the Tory election Manifesto terrified millions of middle class and working class property owners by saying their homes would be sold to fund their old age care (this has been and will continue to be the case, but the Manifesto insisted on an extension of this policy in a clumsy way: too late the plan was withdrawn).

In short, ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ has been slowly reasserting itself and, as Baboon wrote earlier, it’s this that Corbyn and co have been feeding off.

Result: further confusion over ‘who rules’: the Tories won the election but with no over-all majority in Parliament. It has been courting one of the most backward sectors on the British bourgeoisie – the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, further threatening the fragile social peace imposed on this divided island by the Good Friday accords – which at the time of writing has yet to result in the formation of a new government. Labour was the main beneficiary of the election, as the ICC article shows, and with inflation rising, wages falling and the ruling party in some disarray, it’s a necessary and now increasingly conscious tactic by the ruling class to strengthen a Parliamentary ‘alternative’ as most posters in this discussion have acknowledged. (In Scotland, the ruling SNP retained overall control but saw its support widely slip as its ‘populist’ home-rule rhetoric and threats of yet another Referendum on ‘independence’ backfired. Ironically, the Tory Party was the main beneficiary in Scotland!)

Into this confused situation, with negotiations between GB and Brussels beginning, the horrific fire in West London resulting in 80 deaths to date (with more to come), many injuries and instant mass homelessness for hundreds, has eclipsed most other concerns and is, I believe, destined to become, in the short-term, the most significant event in GB, eclipsing both the election result, terror attacks and EU negotations.

The fire in the 24-storey block in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has been identified first and foremost as a class issue because:

- the residents at local level, safety officers within the state apparatus and even cross-party parliamentary commissions had all warned of an impending disaster because of cost-cutting and a callous disregard for human life, and working class lives at that;

-  the building was ‘refurbished’ with cheap, inflammable, external cladding - apparently banned throughout the rest of western Europe - partly, it is said, to appease the locality’s wealthier residents who did not wish to look upon an ‘eyesore’. They truly have one now...

- some 4000 other tower blocs in the country – with their tens of thousands of largely working class residents – are at risk and their inhabitants in a state of anxiety;

- the local community, the instantly homeless, the survivors, have insisted they are the victims of a ‘profit before people’ policy; even the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has to admit that the dead and dispossessed have been ‘failed by the system’ (without, of course, saying precisely what this ‘system’ is...)

- local council leaders, local social services; the Prime Minister, etc, have been conspicuous by their absence at the scene... the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, despite his ‘ethnic’ and Labour credentials, was met with a hostile reception – he was largely seen as a stooge of the elite. The Prime Minister Teresa May’s car was chased from the area... There have been large and noisy demonstrations at local council headquarters, clashes with police, marches..., etc

- there was for 5 days after the fire almost no help from the state at local or national level and a clear tendency from local residents and largely working class volunteers from across the metropole towards self-organisation; distributing food, clothes, water; organising temporary shelter, etc. “The rich wouldn’t be left to fend for themselves like this” as one resident said. "They would have been rehoused in half an hour." Another said:"It's just poor people dying."

- despite the fact that many immigrants and relatively few ‘white Europeans’ occupied the bloc, there has been a determination to insist that poverty, class, unites the community and that race is not an issue here.

Of course, the recently revitalised Labour Party and left have been keen to turn this tragedy into recruitment fodder, into anti-Tory (and pro-Labour) propaganda and this will, in time, take its toll.

But the blatant ‘us and them’ world brutally illuminated by this fire will continue to smoulder throughout the country, combining with political uncertainty and rapidly declining purchasing power to provide a more fertile soil for clarification of the underlying issues than has been the case for some time...

jk1921
KT's post is very

KT's post is very illuminating. It seems to end with suggesting that the Labour victory (Well, not really victory, but you would think so from leading the leftist press) is in a way some evidence of an increased questioning within the broader working class. This may be true at some level, but it is also probably the case that the voters who voted for Brexit a year ago were not necessarily the same as those who voted Labour this time. Labour's vote share went up 9 percent? Obviously, there was some shift going on from the Tories and UKIP to Labour, but there have also been many reports that this result was largely an effect of a surge of young people voting for Corbyn. True or not--this suggestion has led to something like existential panic in the opinion columns of the neo-liberal press. Not being able to blame the dangerous Corbyn on racist white workers (Of course, Corbyn is still portrayed as an anti-Semite), they have conjured up a new demographic menace to the Western order--so-called "illiberal millenials," who simply do not understand the threat to democratic norms "left populist" figures like Corbyn and Sanders represent.

Article after article has come out since the election denouncing Corbyn's multifaceted political sins from supporting the Argentine junta to his concilatory words about, Chavez, Qadaffi and Iran. Similarly, in the wake of the shooting of a Republican congressman by a former Sanders campaign worker (and white guy with a gun who was nevertheless taken in by the establishment Democrats' merciless Russia conspiracy campaign against Trump) the mainstream press has accelerated their attacks against Bernie with a particularly scandalous article in the New York Times essentially laying the blame for the shooting at his feet. Whatever the attempt to revitalize a left opposition--its also clear the main factions of the bourgeoisie do not want these figures near power right now: they long for the days when they could pass off a demographically or stylistically appealing neo-liberal centrist as in the common people's best interests.

baboon
I don't think that the Corbyn

I don't think that the Corbyn movement is populist and seems to me a clear expression of the left-wing of capital, with a "socialist" costed state capitalist programme with anti-cuts  anti-austerity rhetoric aimed at the working class. This movement, which is made up of young and old, virtually saw off the more dangerious populist tendency which itself had been conjured up by governmental and British state pollicies.

I think that KT is correct and the Grenfell Fire can be a very important lesson for the working class. It looks like possibly hundreds of workers and their families have been killed in one of the richest parts of the world in an entirely preventable event. Seven days after the fire the government has sent the Red Cross into the area! This is "The Condition of the Working Class in England" 2017. The same disposable commodities whose health and welfare is not the concern of capitalism.

I thought that there was a class nature to the response and its aftermath in both the wider and local solidarity and self-organisation shown (particularly in the complete absence of the state) with food, shelter and care being organised and delegated in very difficult and harrowing circumstances. Though disparate in political outlook, there was already a degree of self-organisation in the tenacious tenants committee that was acting for the worker-tenants and up against the state. The large number, over days, of spontaneous slogans,benners and posters, tended to show the fundamental class nature of this man-made disaster and the disgust against it. The move to the left by the British state, or a significant part of it, will do all it can to keep any reflection on this event firmly within the democratic and peaceful process while aiming to profit from it. The fire at the tower, and its remains, is hugely symbolic for the attacks of the bourgeoisie and the stakes involved for these victims and the wider working class.

jk1921
Power?

baboon wrote:

I don't think that the Corbyn movement is populist and seems to me a clear expression of the left-wing of capital, with a "socialist" costed state capitalist programme with anti-cuts  anti-austerity rhetoric aimed at the working class. This movement, which is made up of young and old, virtually saw off the more dangerious populist tendency which itself had been conjured up by governmental and British state pollicies.

You think the main factions of the British bourgeoisie are comfortable with Corbyn taking power?

baboon
I think that the state

I think that the state capitalist policies of the Corbyn movement were popular, in the sense that they struck a chord with a large mass of the working class who were becoming more and more indignant, but not populist in the sense of the analysis presented by the ICC in "On the question of populism".

A brief answer to your question jk which relates more widely to the composition of the ruling class on a historical scale and certainly the effects of decomposition upon it and that would be too much to go into here.

The Labour Party is one of the main factions of the British ruling class (which possibly surprised itself in this election campaign) and its counter-revolutionary antecedents are profound. There are no doubt elements among the British elite at the moment that are appalled at the prospect of a Corbyn government and genuinely believe him to be a marxist. I think that these are the more backward elements of the bourgeoisie - in the face of its needs - and the ones that were generally but not exclusively, behind the Brexit victory. That's a battle that's still to be fought by the contending cliques and intests. There are a large number of mainstream Tories that hate Corbyn and the Labour Party and there are a large number of Tories that hate other Tories more than Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. There are cliques, cabals, competition everywhere but they will work with each other for the national interests and against the interests of the working class, particularly given the rise of the "social question" up the agenda.

The upper layers of the very powerful, resiliant and intelligent civil service, the ones that really matter, would work with Pol Pot.

 

jk1921
Trump

baboon wrote:

The upper layers of the very powerful, resiliant and intelligent civil service, the ones that really matter, would work with Pol Pot.

Or Trump if necessary, but its also clear that much of the permanent state apparatus in the US really wants to get rid of him and has done its utmost to hamstring him. He is an interloper, generally regarded as extremely dangerous to the interests of the US national capital. If there is an off ramp to the Trump disaster that doesn't overly risk the image of the democratic state, the US bourgeoisie will likely take it. Its not clear to me if Corbyn is a figure on this level or not, but his press clippings don't read like someone being prepped for power. 

MH
I think it’s a measure of the

I think it’s a measure of the mess that the British bourgeoisie has got itself into with this election that Corbyn now finds himself quite so close to power - given the instability of the political situation it’s still possible he could find himself prime minister. For the bourgeoisie this would be a tragic waste of a very useful anti-Tory, anti-austerity faction, whose value in mopping up popular discontent was only just becoming clear in the election campaign, and would only lead to further political instability. But baboon is right to emphasise the credentials of the Labour Party, including its left factions, in running the national capital. The 'Corbynistas' represent a Syriza/Podemos-type force, not a Trump.

I think one of the things we need to clearly explain now is why for all factions of capital there is really no alternative to austerity - it's not just some Tory policy preference. Or are we seeing something of a shift in capitalist strategy today, given the obvious contradictions involved in suppressing solvent demand and provoking popular discontent? Baboon emphasises the state capitalist programme of the Labour Party but does this also represent an alternative option for the bourgeoisie?
 

LBird
Is Corbyn the last throw of th bourgeois dice? 'After him, us!'?

MH wrote:

I think it’s a measure of the mess that the British bourgeoisie has got itself into with this election that Corbyn now finds himself quite so close to power - given the instability of the political situation it’s still possible he could find himself prime minister. For the bourgeoisie this would be a tragic waste of a very useful anti-Tory, anti-austerity faction, whose value in mopping up popular discontent was only just becoming clear in the election campaign, and would only lead to further political instability.

I think that you're wrong here, MH, and that sections of the British bourgeoisie would be quite happy to see a Corbynite, anti-austerity government. At least in the short term (a decade or two, perhaps?), this will lead rather to political stability.

MH wrote:
But baboon is right to emphasise the credentials of the Labour Party, including its left factions, in running the national capital. The 'Corbynistas' represent a Syriza/Podemos-type force, not a Trump.

Yeah, a 'Trump' is the last thing the bourgeoisie here want!

MH wrote:
I think one of the things we need to clearly explain now is why for all factions of capital there is really no alternative to austerity - it's not just some Tory policy preference. Or are we seeing something of a shift in capitalist strategy today, given the obvious contradictions involved in suppressing solvent demand and provoking popular discontent? Baboon emphasises the state capitalist programme of the Labour Party but does this also represent an alternative option for the bourgeoisie?

I'm inclined to see 'something of a shift in capitalist strategy today', similar to that in the post-war, Keynesian era. Perhaps 30-40 years of a 'non-austerity', pro-state-investment, anti-neo-classical- economics period is in front of us.

There's clearly lots of room here for us to discuss whether this would be possible, or are we really in a 'final' period of capitalism, where the room for political manoeuvre by world capitalism no longer exists?

I know that the ICC posters will point to their theory of 'decomposition', but I'm inclined to think that, without revolutionary proletarian class consciousness being developed, that capitalism has a long life still in front of it.

I suppose this all comes down to one's political views about 'determinism', and whether one believes that 'material conditions' determine 'consciousness' or not.

Clearly, I don't subscribe to the 'material conditions' viewpoint, but in contrast look to social theory and practice to change the world.

jk1921
Flash in the pan...

MH wrote:

The 'Corbynistas' represent a Syriza/Podemos-type force, not a Trump.

You may be right, but the problem with this statement is that not everyone agrees there is a ton of difference between a Trump and Syriza/Podemos or put another way, between Trump and Sanders/Corbyn. This belies I think some continuing problems with how we are deploying the concept of "populism." If Corbyn really is a more traditional "left" capitalist politician then perhaps the ICT is right that populism really will be just a momentary flash in the pan?

MH wrote:

I think one of the things we need to clearly explain now is why for all factions of capital there is really no alternative to austerity - it's not just some Tory policy preference. Or are we seeing something of a shift in capitalist strategy today, given the obvious contradictions involved in suppressing solvent demand and provoking popular discontent? Baboon emphasises the state capitalist programme of the Labour Party but does this also represent an alternative option for the bourgeoisie?
 

I don't know the answer. But what are the implications for decadence/decomposition if such a shift is possible and if it occurs: We need to keep in mind real things happening on the ground today--in the US there is a move at the state level towards free college tuition, despite whatever the Republicans are doing today many think universal public health care is inevitable, the minimum wage will go up, there is serious talk of a "universal basic income" from some sectors of the bourgeoisie, etc. Is this all "left in opposition" ideological bluster or is it a real policy alternative to correct some of the problems of neo-liberalism, if only temporarily?

mhou
Quote:I'm inclined to see

Quote:
I'm inclined to see 'something of a shift in capitalist strategy today', similar to that in the post-war, Keynesian era. Perhaps 30-40 years of a 'non-austerity', pro-state-investment, anti-neo-classical- economics period is in front of us.

I think it's quite the opposite. MH's comparison with Syriza seems spot on. The crisis isn't as deep and apparent in the UK (and the US) which is likely why there is still some room to interpret Corbyn/Sanders (& Melanchon, etc.) as something else--whether or not the presence of that room means Corbyn/Sanders/etc. could be something else, is.. something else.

The question of the end of neo-liberalism has been raised elsewhere and in drips and drabs lately. But it isn't a binary situation where the only alternative to austerity is increased state investment. A global Trumpland, where increasingly drastic cuts are combined with opposition to free trade in an environment of increasing political instability, seems far more likely than any kind of Keynesianism 2.0. 

LBird
Trump(waste)land, or Keynes revisited?

mhou wrote:

LBird wrote:
I'm inclined to see 'something of a shift in capitalist strategy today', similar to that in the post-war, Keynesian era. Perhaps 30-40 years of a 'non-austerity', pro-state-investment, anti-neo-classical- economics period is in front of us.

I think it's quite the opposite.

Yeah, your view would fit with the theory of decomposition, but I don't agree with that, either. This all seems to me to be a view that has existed within Marxist thought (and probably originated with Marx himself), that the 'end times' of capitalism are just around the corner. To me, this seems to be just 'wishful thinking' by revolutionaries. Capitalism has lasted so far, perhaps, 500-600 years, and another 100 seem entirely possible. IMO, capitalism will only 'decompose' when we actively 'decompose' it. In the absence of proletariat revolution, capitalism will evolve and continue to be 'composed'.

mhou wrote:
The question of the end of neo-liberalism has been raised elsewhere and in drips and drabs lately. But it isn't a binary situation where the only alternative to austerity is increased state investment. A global Trumpland, where increasingly drastic cuts are combined with opposition to free trade in an environment of increasing political instability, seems far more likely than any kind of Keynesianism 2.0. 

Although you mention that there could be three or more alternatives, of the two you actually suggest, I'm inclined to think that a 'Keynesianism 2.0' is on its way, in the absence, once again, of a class conscious proletariat.

Non ex hoc mundi
Reject linear causation!

LBird wrote:
This all seems to me to be a view that has existed within Marxist thought (and probably originated with Marx himself), that the 'end times' of capitalism are just around the corner. To me, this seems to be just 'wishful thinking' by revolutionaries. Capitalism has lasted so far, perhaps, 500-600 years, and another 100 seem entirely possible. IMO, capitalism will only 'decompose' when we actively 'decompose' it. In the absence of proletariat revolution, capitalism will evolve and continue to be 'composed'.

We disagree on much LBird, but I like this passage a lot.

LBird
Just who are the 'revolutionary subject' - class or party?

Non ex hoc mundi wrote:
LBird wrote:
This all seems to me to be a view that has existed within Marxist thought (and probably originated with Marx himself), that the 'end times' of capitalism are just around the corner. To me, this seems to be just 'wishful thinking' by revolutionaries. Capitalism has lasted so far, perhaps, 500-600 years, and another 100 seem entirely possible. IMO, capitalism will only 'decompose' when we actively 'decompose' it. In the absence of proletariat revolution, capitalism will evolve and continue to be 'composed'.
We disagree on much LBird, but I like this passage a lot.

Well, I think that it reflects Marx's views - that a conscious revolution is required, and that that revolution can only be the act of the majority of workers.

To me, Communists should be helping to develop workers' self-confidence, rather than telling them that either 'capitalism is deteriorating without workers participation' or that 'an elite of conscious revolutionaries will do the participating for them'. Neither of these formulations require active workers, so it's not surprising that active workers who wish to change their world will reject both.

The only 'solution' for workers is 'class conscious workers'. And I'm yet to hear of a 'communist party' that allows the workers that join to democratically run the (so-called) "workers' party". Certainly, the one that I joined (the SWP) and all the others that friends joined (CP, RCP, Militant, WRP, Workers Power, etc. etc.) didn't allow workers to run them. They always had a Central Committee of long standing members who 'knew better' than the workers who joined.
 Apparently, they have 'the correct theory'... even though workers haven't developed their theory, yet.

jk1921
Global Trumpism?

mhou]</p> <p>[quote wrote:

The question of the end of neo-liberalism has been raised elsewhere and in drips and drabs lately. But it isn't a binary situation where the only alternative to austerity is increased state investment. A global Trumpland, where increasingly drastic cuts are combined with opposition to free trade in an environment of increasing political instability, seems far more likely than any kind of Keynesianism 2.0. 

Certainly, that is what Trump's Presidency is turning out to be--ideological opposition to certain features of neo-liberalism with only the faintest follow through coupled with severe austerity and repression. Of course, this isn't what has the main factions of the bourgeoisie's hair on fire--its his upsetting of the apple cart on imperialist strategy and his degradation of the image of the US state.

Still, politics matter and its not clear if Trumpism can sustain itself politically and capitalism will have to find other ways of legitimating itself. Whether or not this involves some substantive change away from neo-liberalism--or whether such a thing is even possible--is unclear. Certainly, the experience of Syriza seems to suggest only one way forward for capital regardless of the ideology of the party in power--austerity. But its not clear if it is appropriate to make extrapolations from Greece to the capitalist world economy itself.

Speaking of Keynesianism, we tend to forget that historically it was accompanied by Fordism--which was a particular way of ordering the labor market and social consumption that involved things like a reasonable guarantee of a job for life, home ownership (in the US at least), consumerist forms of legitimacy, etc. It seems clear that that arrangement is done as a matter of technological reality. But could there be another model of Keynesian redistribution that fits post-Fordist captialism, which even if it doesn't resolve the system's fundamental contradictions at least gives it a new form of legitimacy? Certain factions of the ruling class seem to think some change is necessary and that the politics of austerity at all costs will run out of possible legitimations before too long.

mhou
Quote:To me, this seems to be

Quote:
To me, this seems to be just 'wishful thinking' by revolutionaries. Capitalism has lasted so far, perhaps, 500-600 years, and another 100 seem entirely possible. IMO, capitalism will only 'decompose' when we actively 'decompose' it. In the absence of proletariat revolution, capitalism will evolve and continue to be 'composed'.

I'm in agreement with you.

Quote:
Certainly, that is what Trump's Presidency is turning out to be--ideological opposition to certain features of neo-liberalism with only the faintest follow through coupled with severe austerity and repression. Of course, this isn't what has the main factions of the bourgeoisie's hair on fire--its his upsetting of the apple cart on imperialist strategy.

Still, politics matter and its not clear if Trumpism can sustain itself politically and capitalism will have to find other ways of legitimating itself. Whether or not this involves some change away from neo-liberalism--or whether such a thing is even possible--is unclear.

It shouldn't be any less possible than the transition from the Keynesian consensus was in the 70's: crises compelling an international reorganization of capital accumulation. 

Some of the characteristics of neo-liberalism: a pivot toward privatization, asset stripping, lowering the value of labor, intensifying the commodification of education-healthcare-services in general, increasing reliance on the FIRE sector and exponential strides in technological improvements in production --- in the advanced nations; with massive capital development in formerly underdeveloped/undeveloped nations into export-driven economies, 'workshop nations' like South Korea, Taiwan, the BRICS--- and all woven together through free trade agreements and global organizations like the IMF and World Bank.

That model is certainly in crisis and has been since the economic-political-social shocks of the 21st century, and lately we're seeing large chunks of this arrangement coming undone. Maybe Greenspan's comment to Congress in 2008 that the crisis had left him in a "state of shocked disbelief" as it contradicted his life's work is the best encapulsation of this. Changes on all sides of the neo-liberal regime have been going on for several years, but now we're starting to see the political ramifications of it. It appears possible that we're on the cusp of another of capital's global reorganizations on par with the end of Keynesianism.

 

LBird
What model will/can replace the neo-classical?

mhou wrote:

LBird wrote:
To me, this seems to be just 'wishful thinking' by revolutionaries. Capitalism has lasted so far, perhaps, 500-600 years, and another 100 seem entirely possible. IMO, capitalism will only 'decompose' when we actively 'decompose' it. In the absence of proletariat revolution, capitalism will evolve and continue to be 'composed'.

I'm in agreement with you.

I'm glad of that, mhou. But this position we evidently share, seems to me to reject the 'theory of decadence/decomposition', because 'decadence/decomposition' then becomes a product of workers' conscious activity. And since we haven't yet produced this, we can't be in a period of it.

mhou wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
 Whether or not this involves some change away from neo-liberalism--or whether such a thing is even possible--is unclear.

It shouldn't be any less possible than the transition from the Keynesian consensus was in the 70's: crises compelling an international reorganization of capital accumulation. 

....

That model is certainly in crisis and has been since the economic-political-social shocks of the 21st century, and lately we're seeing large chunks of this arrangement coming undone. Maybe Greenspan's comment to Congress in 2008 that the crisis had left him in a "state of shocked disbelief" as it contradicted his life's work is the best encapulsation of this. Changes on all sides of the neo-liberal regime have been going on for several years, but now we're starting to see the political ramifications of it. It appears possible that we're on the cusp of another of capital's global reorganizations on par with the end of Keynesianism.

Yes, perhaps the ideological changes of the late 70s, from Keynes to Hayek, will provide a model for the contested process of such change - though the actual content of any new model to replace 'neo-classical Thatcherism' is not yet clear. Keynesianism 2.0, Neo-fascism, an as-yet-undefined 'New Capitalism (with added social responsibility!)', Autarchy,... certainly, Workers' Democracy is nowhere in the frame, in the least. Any desire for democratic control of social production will have to be argued for, which I don't think any party is yet capable of doing.

mhou
Quote:Yes, perhaps the

Quote:
Yes, perhaps the ideological changes of the late 70s, from Keynes to Hayek, will provide a model for the contested process of such change - though the actual content of any new model to replace 'neo-classical Thatcherism' is not yet clear.

Basically.

It does seem significant in recent years that the likes of Trump and Syriza seem to agree on the value and importance of 'Public-Private-Partnerships' (PPP) in place of traditional privatization, which brings into question the more blatant calls for renationalization from Corbyn. Not just infrastructure in general, but rail in particular, is featured in the new LP manifesto (including Corbyn's promises re: British Rail). It's also an industry where PPP has a decent beach head in the UK-- and where business expects such investment to take some form of PPP:

http://www.turnerandtownsend.com/en/insights/could-rail-public-private-partnership-make-a-comeback-in-the-uk/

Is it possible to estimate what Corbyn in power would look like at the policy level? 

Quote:
Antonopoulos testified that “I have heard from the very beginning SYRIZA’s economists saying “we do not want, and we cannot go back to a statist model…the vision is not of the state becoming the producer…the state sets the stage and makes rules…but I think there is an eagerness that Greece emerge a country with fair laws. That exploitation [is ended] and that the less privileged are uplifted,” she said. . .

“Greek Banks are not in a very good position…it is very difficult for them to lend out money…but Tsipras is not calling for takeovers…Rather, people should be placed on their boards of directors who will be sensitive to the need to lend to companies, as was the case with the recent U.S. bank bailout.”

https://www.thenationalherald.com/73111/greek-american-syriza-mp-rania-antonopoulos-talks-greek-elections/

"People's Quantitative Easing" indeed. 

 

LBird
Labour's 'money tree' might not fight back?

mhou wrote:

LBird wrote:
Yes, perhaps the ideological changes of the late 70s, from Keynes to Hayek, will provide a model for the contested process of such change - though the actual content of any new model to replace 'neo-classical Thatcherism' is not yet clear.

Basically.

....

Is it possible to estimate what Corbyn in power would look like at the policy level? 

Well, if all the policies that the Corbynistas have said might happen, do happen, then the working class of the UK will clearly benefit - free education (again), higher basic wages, increased investment in the NHS, care for the old and sick, state control of railways, all funded by higher taxes upon the rich...

Our problem is how to warn workers of the dangers of Labour governments (notwithstanding the benefits), so that they will be forewarned of what we think will (eventually) happen (ie. attacks upon workers), and so gain some support amongst workers, for the future.

It's a difficult balancing act, but being simply critical of Corbyn, will only drive workers away, who clearly will benefit from his policies, in some way, even if only for a relatively short period.

Of course, perhaps Corbyn has discovered the Golden Goose, the 'money tree', and capitalism has solved its problems for ever...

... but I don't think so, and there'll be a new, younger, audience for Marxist ideas.

If only we can get away from the 19th century idea, that telling them that 'material conditions' will 'determine' their future, rather than they themselves, organised as a class conscious class, then we might have some future ourselves as Communists. But.. we've been here before, in that discussion...

MH
Corbyn and capitalist strategy

Just to re-iterate, I think if Corbyn finds himself in power in the near future this would primarily be a result of the current political instability of the British bourgeoisie.

But economically Corbyn’s policies would appear to address the problem for capital that austerity lowers solvent demand and risks provoking a further recession.

If implemented they would represent a shift in strategy of the British bourgeoisie, which in the wake of the 2008 crisis clearly favoured austerity aimed at lowering the cost of labour to boost the competitiveness and profitability of British capital.

As an experienced state capitalist party Labour would be well placed to make the massive investment needed to address British capital’s chronic low productivity while increasing the role of the state and disciplining the working class, no doubt in the interests of the many, not the few…

But the only way Corbyn could even begin to finance this investment would be by increasing debt, which would again pose the question for capital of the limits to debt and threaten as in 2008 to destabilise the world economy - and of course by massive attacks on the working class to lower the cost of labour and boost competitiveness...

 

LBird
More austerity, a re-run of Fascism, or workers' activity?

MH wrote:

As an experienced state capitalist party Labour would be well placed to make the massive investment needed to address British capital’s chronic low productivity while increasing the role of the state and disciplining the working class, no doubt in the interests of the many, not the few…

But the only way Corbyn could even begin to finance this investment would be by increasing debt, which would again pose the question for capital of the limits to debt and threaten as in 2008 to destabilise the world economy - and of course by massive attacks on the working class to lower the cost of labour and boost competitiveness...

Yeah, I agree with what you've said, MH.

I suppose the next question is: will the bourgeoisie really attempt 'massive attacks on the working class', given that 'austerity' was a peaceful attempt to do just that, and it hasn't solved their problems - it seems that the choices, for them, are either 'violent attacks'... or that a section of the bourgeoisie, realising its separate interests from the rest of its class (like, for example, 'human survival'!), breaks away and joins the revolutionary class conscious proletariat, in its attempts to solve humanity's problem on this planet.

Of course, the latter choice would be considerably helped if there was a revolutionary class conscious proletariat, aiming and able to do just that!laugh

Whatever... but I don't think that the Engelsian 'material conditions' are going to do anything.

jk1921
Transaction Tax?

MH wrote:

But the only way Corbyn could even begin to finance this investment would be by increasing debt, which would again pose the question for capital of the limits to debt and threaten as in 2008 to destabilise the world economy - and of course by massive attacks on the working class to lower the cost of labour and boost competitiveness...

A transaction tax on the City of London (or Wall Street, Bay Street, etc.) wouldn't do it? Isn't the major momentary economic problem for capital the accumulation of wealth at the top that is not reinvested? Or is this just a trope?