Sunday 21 October 2018

The Bourgeois Politics of the People's Vote March

Can anything more be said about the so-called People's Vote march in London that hasn't already been noted elsewhere? According to the organisers, there was anywhere between half a million and 750,000 on the streets. Not content with nicking A to B marches off the left, they've half-inched the revolutionary inflation as well. And what's more, some of Britain's wealthiest reached into their pockets and laid on coaches down to the Big Smoke. For instance, Peter Coates of Bet 365 fame here in The Potteries was one such benefactor. By their friends shall ye know them is a useful compass for navigating around politics, for where certain initiatives, policies and positions attract and cohere certain interests this says something about the character of that politics.

In Richard Seymour's take down of the people's vote campaign, he notes continuity remain went "from being a campaign of the establishment, by the establishment and for the establishment, [and] they’re now styling themselves as a populist insurgency. Or what a PR agency might think a populist insurgency looks like...". While true, especially when their propaganda oozes smuggery, he is wrong to suggest the movement can be reduced to astro-turfing - if it was the case money could buy turn outs for demonstrations, Arron Banks and the Kremlin would have mass mobilisations of Brexiteers macrhing up and down Whitehall every weekend.

It's worth recapping what centrism and, given the degree of overlap, liberalism is. Cast off the identification with liberal ideas, in the main it is a social movement. In Western societies, it always was first and foremost a bourgeois movement, an alliance between the well-heeled in business, in the professions, and in emergent state bureaucracies. In its train liberalism has always dragged some degree of mass support, but with one or two exceptions it was eclipsed by the maturation of the workers' movement. An elite movement liberalism remained, but one increasingly subordinate to (and cannibalised by) conservative forces and the rising elites of the centre left. It's what Bourdieu called a dominated dominant location - here understood as a subordinate position within the scheme of bourgeois politics (think the LibDems in coalition with the Tories), but dominant vis a vis the rest of society. Also like all bourgeois politics, it is in crisis. Though the character of this crisis is different from that afflicting the Tories. Theirs is a slow burn death of a dying electoral base, ruling class fragmentation, petty ambition, and Brexit paralysis. Liberalism's is a case of mounting irrelevance.

Liberalism is effectively locked out of Parliament. The LibDems have collapsed and their vote share at the last election went backwards, despite posting record membership figures. Liberal Toryism has been dead in the water since Theresa May moved to carve out the Cameroons, and they are overrepresented in Parliament but defeated in the Labour Party - virtually by their own hand. And Brexit, of course, cuts them off from the liberal utopia over the water, and is all set to damage the the economic interests they are closest to. For if the Tories under Dave were the repository of political choice for the most backward sections of capital, the shiny doyens of liberal politics are aligned to interests tied up with the single market, with manufacturing, the creative sector and the tech bros of Silicon Roundabout - it's no accident Nick Clegg landed his gig with Facebook. What continuity remain and its network of slick fronts are is a condensation of this movement of elites outside of Parliament. It's a symptom of their weakness that they have to come together this way.

Nevertheless, our liberals are mining something of a rich seam. Had the left pulled off a demonstration of yesterday's size, breathless SWP internal emails would be emphasising the opportunities it opens up and all the usual leftist suspects would be hailing it as an earthquake. Clearly, the closer we inch to the EU departure date the more angsty remain voters were going to feel. And given the practical collapse of talks this week they're right to feel anxious. As we have explained before, the pro-EU marches are different reactions by different sets of people to the same problems bedevilling Western societies: generalised insecurity. Always the lot of the poor and the downtrodden, the consequences of austerity effectively destroyed prevailing politics by polarising them and, of course, delivering the Brexit vote. It brought home to millions of relatively privileged people, and not a few elites, the incertitude only other people - not them - are supposed to feel. This helps explain some of the movement's key features: its crass elitism, the over preponderance of white middle class people, the zero understanding of how we got into this predicament, and the strictly limited character of its politics.

This latter point is particularly important. It's telling that the most active forms it assumes on social media is virulently anti-Labour, and anti-Corbyn. The denunciation of Tory incompetence is secondary. Why? Because this liberal project is fundamentally conservative. It is, on the surface, seeking to prevent the dislocation and hit to living standards an exit from the EU is bound to entail regardless of the flavour of Brexit on offer. But in real terms, this translates into the preservation of an austerity that is far from over, despite what Theresa May is saying. Secondly, but most importantly for those leading the movement - Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, and, yes, Tony Blair - they know their People's Vote posturing is a load of old nonsense. For them and the Anna Soubrys and Chuka Umunnas in tow, it's about restoring their position. They know at the next election the bulk of their movement is going to vote Labour, but by using Brexit they're trying to drive a wedge between as many of them as possible and Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. This makes winning an election harder and in the event of another loss, easier - they think - for them to resume their prominence in and control over the Labour Party. Their antagonism isn't directed at the Tories because Brexit isn't their main concern; it's concentrated at Corbynism because the mass political participation it represents is their main obstacle to a return.

The People's Vote or whatever continuity remain are referring to themselves today are a social movement, alright. A bourgeois social movement. Its objectives are about protecting the interests of a more internationalised and forward thinking section of capital, and the political positions and places its continued health depends upon. The anxiety over Brexit provides the perfect opportunity for them to reach a mass audience but, true to their elite approach to politics, the masses of people who turn up at the demonstrations are not invited to participate further. They have a walk-on part, they are bodies to be used as leverage in the media air war with Corbynism and under no circumstances is their movement allowed to open out to address other concerns. Such as the roots of Brexit in austerity, and the role the EU plays in enforcing similar politics across the continent. The way to counter this is not give in, nor to reply to the pathetic anti-Corbyn baiting we see in kind, but continue developing our programme and appeal directly to the mass of people attracted to these marches in the language of interests - just as the 2017 manifesto began to do.


Shai Masot said...

Probably the first demo Chuka's ever been on.

scruffyduncan said...

Always the lot of the poor and the downtrodden, the consequences of austerity effectively destroyed prevailing politics by polarising them and, of course, delivering the Brexit vote. It brought home to millions of relatively privileged people, and not a few elites, the incertitude only other people - not them - are supposed to feel. This helps explain some of the movement's key features: its crass elitism, the over preponderance of white middle class people, the zero understanding of how we got into this predicament, and the strictly limited character of its politics.

You could be describing Corbynism

Boffy said...

"The People's Vote or whatever continuity remain are referring to themselves today are a social movement, alright. A bourgeois social movement. Its objectives are about protecting the interests of a more internationalised and forward thinking section of capital, and the political positions and places its continued health depends upon."

Even if that was true, and there seems to have been plenty of labour movement representation within that 3/4 million strong march, a Marxist should critically support those representing "a more internationalised and forward thinking section of capital", as against those supporting a reactionary nationalistic, backward section of capital, which is what those supporting an inertia driven carrying through of Brexit represent.

Bourgeois democracy is not our goal, but its Third Period Stalinist sectarianism that fails to recognise the difference between bourgeois democracy and fascism, and the requirement to oppose the latter. A Bourgeois democratic EU is not our goal, a United Socialist States of Europe is, but its similarly a Third Period Stalinist sectarianism, in pursuit of a reactionary socialism in one country, that fails to recognise the difference between an internationalist forward looking section of capital opposing Brexit, and a reactionary nationalist section of capitalism seeking a return to the 18th century nation state, and the reintroduction of an 18th century, free market, private capitalist economy, in a deluded belief as the Stalinists said in relation to Germany in the 1930's, after Hitler us, and as today's equivalent Lexiters seem to think, after Rees-Mogg us.

Speedy said...

Verging on the agitprop here (deliberately?) confusing correlation with causation - yes there is a predominance of bourgeois for Remain, but that does not mean Remain is only in the interests of the bourgeois.

"the consequences of austerity effectively destroyed prevailing politics by polarising them and, of course, delivering the Brexit vote."

Where is your evidence for this? Research has clearly pointed to concerns over immigration, allied to an ageing (mainly retired!) demographic's nostalgia, plus the bias of the press etc for tilting the argument towards Leave. "Austerity" is way down the scale, if mentioned at all.

All social classes will lose out from Brexit - especially the young - so it is sad to see you seeking to paint the opposition as a simpy self-interested bourgeois. Certainly, people who wish for a brighter economic future support Remain but that hardly makes them all bourgeois.

Using your logic we may as well dismiss the entire Labour Party and its commentariat (including you, professor) simply by merit of being "bourgeois".

The truth is Leftists "Lexiters" like Corbyn are even worse than Farage - not only are they opposed to a bloc that, for all its faults, is the sole guarantor of workers rights in a global economy, but they have the naivety to suppose they can bring some kind of socialist revolution in its wake. Toeing the party line like this undermines your credibility.

Darren said...

Your loyalty is admirable Phil, but you really must stop seeing everything as an attack on Corbyn you are beginning to look a trifle paranoid. Many of the dozens of people I know who were there yesterday would readily identify themselves as being very pro-Corbyn and many (if not all) of them are disappointed about our leadership's position on this issue.

Phil said...

You're missing the point entirely, Darren. I'm sure there were pro-Corbyn people on the march. I know a few of them :). But when you're thinking about social movements, their sociology, and how to respond to them politically you have to look at the forces who are hegemonic. In this case the leaders of this movement are your well known leading centrists from the Tories, Liberal Democrats, and Labour. They include Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson, and Tony Blair. These aren't going along with the People's Vote campaign for a ride, they are central to it and define its politics. That they're supported in this by some of the richest business people in the land isn't insignificant either. Dissident Corbynism is entirely marginal and has zero influence over the direction the movement is heading.

So it's not a matter of saying the people on the march were anti-Corbyn - that betrays an absence of a sociological imagination on your part more than anything else. It's a case of understanding whose interests it articulates, and the movement's trajectory - which is what this post sets out to do.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, I would agree with the comments above (with Boffy's blog post an excellent take on it).
As Boffy's blog points to, everything is in a bind, and a double bind at that - 'soft' Brexit opposed by leavers; 'hard' Brexit only has traction amongst Brexiteers; May wants to cling on for dear life; the Tories want to cling on for dear life (hence they don't want a general election). It seems to me the only way out is another referendum - the peoples vote - to get out of the logjam.
Andrew Adonis (bourgeois Labour?!) explains well that Tories from all sides are scared of triggering a general election, but many would certainly sign up to hold a second referendum peoples vote.

TallPauly said...

""the consequences of austerity effectively destroyed prevailing politics by polarising them and, of course, delivering the Brexit vote."

Where is your evidence for this?"

There is evidence that austerity contributed to the Brexit vote.

Also,successive neoliberal governments, of the kind fully supported by the likes of Anna Soubry,Chuka Umunna, Alasdair Campbell,Chis Leslie, Andrew Adonis, Nick Clegg etc have, through their policies, as well as their incompetence, corruption and lies, played a huge role in hollowing out this country, denigrating notions of society and the common good,and ultimately destroying people's faith in mainstream politics and politicians.

Dipper said...

Whenever you lefties try to engage your brains and critique the current situation you always end up in the same place - Austerity. And the solution is always the same - anti-austerity policies and "reversing the cuts".

If you re going to pin your analysis on this, then best to make sure the analysis holds water. And it doesn't.

Public spending has been declining as a percentage of GDP recently, but it is still above what was being spent for large parts of the Blair /Brown years which are regarded by many as an era of successful public investment. The total spend itself has been increasing. Also, the government has been borrowing heavily, and is only now entering a period of anything that resembles parity. So the evidence of government making cuts is fairly non-existent.

Also, employment is at an all-time high, and unemployment at a historic low level. Clearly unemployment and poor wages are a severe problem for those experiencing it and governments can always do more to address it, but there isn't a large lump of about waiting to be put to work through borrowing which would produce beneficial effects. So a basic and perennially unanswered question about labour's anti-austerity policies is that given most extra spending is to be spent on people, where are all the people Labour's policies would require?

All this still leaves the state of public spending in a poor place. Spending per person on health could do with being higher, and there are lots of other services that could do with more money, but given what is for practical purposes full employment and still net borrowing it isn't clear where this extra money can come from unless you believe that you can just produce wealth from out of a hat or from under the sofa.

As a Brexiteering Tory I believe that the mass immigration we have had to perform minimum wage low skill jobs is clearly failing to deliver the kind of additional wealth needed to generate the tax revenues we require. The availability of millions of workers at low wages has lead to under-investment in native workers and non-existent productivity growth. The way to achieve the kind of public sector services we would all like to see is to reduce immigration to make labour a scarce commodity, which pushes up investment in skills and machinery, which drives productivity growth, which means more money to spend on fewer people than would otherwise be the case. Hence Brexit.

Speedy said...

Actually, TallPaul what that independent article presents is a (predictable, given its source) attempted corrective to the dominant narrative. However, that alternative perspective does not add up to a decisive rebuttal.

"On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft's polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that 'Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.

Lord Ashcroft's election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that 'One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving "offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders."'

The uncomfortable reality for the Left and "internationalists" is that the pro-immigration position they supported contributed to the Brexit vote and was probably one of the major factors behind it - certainly enough to tip the balance. Again and again, the Left is hoisted on its own petard because it cannot square this particular circle. And I have to say it is a bit rich Phil going on about bourgeois Remainers (which they are) when he himself supports the same "double-think" bourgeois Leftist arguments. Honesty, you could place a cigarette paper between many of the values of the supposed "Leftists" and the Blairites on this issue (which is why it is such nonsense to condemn them for it).

Darren said...

I'm not missing that point at all, although I didn’t explain myself clearly enough granted - thanks largely to squabbling children on Sunday afternoon and posting on an iPhone whilst listening to competing Ariana Grande and Mario Brothers on the DS in each ear. I see precisely what you are getting at and understand why you are arguing this but I disagree with the premise and some but not all of your conclusions.

Firstly, I'd argue that Mandelson, Campbell and Blair (names deliberately chosen on your part as red rags to many, admit it....) are actually leading the movement and that the hegemonic forces are as you characterise them. People’s Vote comprises many groups committed to remaining in the EU for a host of different reasons. I can see how it suits you to state unequivocally that it is a last vestiges of New Labour opportunistic thing though and is simply the latest anti-Corbyn vehicle as it helps the anti-establishment, new broom, narrative.

I'd also argue that people such as the three you selected may just be supporting it, for the same reasons as I - and probably the majority of Labour Party members - do, because remaining in the EU is clearly in the best interests of the country, the whole of the country and the vast majority of people here. The simple fact is that we will leave the EU next year not to a caring and progressive Labour Government, however much we may wish that to be so, however much we will call for an election – current polling shows that far too close to call anyway. Instead we will leave the EU to a right wing Tory Government determined to undo decades of hard won protections and rights and leave the most vulnerable members of our society even more vulnerable. It will affect our competitiveness and our tax-take and under the Tories you know who will ultimately foot the bill for that. That’s why Peter Coates, a Labour Party member for over 50-years (and a signatory of my nomination papers in 2015) laid on a coach too I’d wager. I’d have laid on a coach too if our business was as successful as his have been…..I’d have laid on a fleet. I also think that is why the vast majority of good left wing Labour people were there yesterday, not for some ‘walk on part’ in a Blairite screenplay, not as ‘bodies used as leverage.’ I give them far more credit than that.

Oh and the bit I agree with is the very end, yes we should continue developing our programme using the language of interests and yes the 2017 Manifesto was a great start - it's a far better platform than we had in 2015. As you know I didn't back Corbyn in 2015 but I do fully back the policy direction that has occurred since, with the exception of our policy on Brexit of course. I happen to believe that we stand a far better chance being able to implement those much-needed radical changes, if we remain in the EU.

Tmb said...

'Always the lot of the poor and the downtrodden, the consequences of austerity effectively destroyed prevailing politics by polarising them and, of course, delivering the Brexit vote. It brought home to millions of relatively privileged people, and not a few elites, the incertitude only other people - not them - are supposed to feel. This helps explain some of the movement's key features: its crass elitism, the over preponderance of white middle class people, the zero understanding of how we got into this predicament, and the strictly limited character of its politics.

You could be describing Corbynism'

Actually, you could be describing the whole political system, left right and centre, for all those terms actually mean these days. Politicians more and more look and operate like mandarins at the Forbidden City. They are there to serve big corporate powers, wealth and to prop up the establishment that offers them largesse for selling the rest of us out. Centralism and liberalism have simply been the means the unprincipled, the money and power grubbers can coalesce around a meaningless yet seemingly profound, and essentially middle class, movement that puts their interests first, after the corporations and the very wealthy and powerful have taken their cut. Less politicians, more like young executives trying to climb the greasy corporate pole. They are the shop stewards in the factory, pretending to speak for the workers, but putting the bosses interests first so they can be rewarded. Problem is, many of us have seen through it, and many others not so politically savvy instinctively smell something is not right with them. Centrism may not be a busted flush, but I would suggest it is dying a slow and painful death.

George Carty said...


To me it seems like the problem is that the Tories embarked on a policy of austerity (which makes sense given how dire the UK's balance of payments is) but it was ineffective because the Tories deliberately shielded their own core voters (southern homeowners and pensioners) from the pain by keeping interest rates extremely low (and thus keeping asset prices high). This meant that while tenants and northerners had their living standards slashed to the bone and their public services wrecked, southern homeowners still lived high on the hog, and spent even more on imported consumer goods!

While you have a point that low-skilled mass immigration doesn't really benefit our country (and it shouldn't really be happening given the aforementioned balance of payments deficit: in a rational international economy people would migrate from trade-deficit nations to trade-surplus ones) I disagree that direct immigration controls (and thus hard Brexit, which will make our economic problems worse by triggering capital flight) are necessary in order to deal with it.

Further increases in the minimum wage do the trick by destroying the low-wage, low-productivity jobs that attract unskilled immigrants (we'll probably go back to machine car washes for example). Action would of course be needed to prevent them staying here on benefits, but IIRC the EU's own Freedom of Movement rules allow EU migrants to be removed after 3 months of joblessness.

I suspect anyway that the Tories will likely betray the nativist voter in favour of their true base: landlords (who naturally love immigrants willing to live like sardines) and the owners of low-productivity lifestyle businesses dependent on poverty pay and/or imputed rent to stay in business. These voters don't oppose immigration, rather their problem with EU freedom of movement rules is that EU migrants actually have rights: they'd much rather employ African and Asian indentured servants like their cousins in Dubai.

Jason said...

The fact that the same Tony Blair who ignored a march of 1 million against the invasion of Iraq now urges the public to 'rise up' against Brexit, well, the irony is overpowering.

Jim Denham said...

(Quoting Richard Symour) "from being a campaign of the establishment, by the establishment and for the establishment"... since when did the word "establishment" have any meaning for Marxists?

Dipper said...

@ George Carty

to respond specifically:
- re Asset prices and interest rates, Andrew Lilico agrees with you, as do lots of other Tories. Mainstream Tory opinion now is that unless young people can afford houses they will vote Corbyn, so anything that makes houses more affordable is a good thing.
- re minimum wage. Probably correct, and I think George Osborne committed the government to increasing it. This is how Singapore went from a sweat shop to a business and technology hub. Yu have to accompany it with a drive on skills.
- re immigration and the EU. Yes you are probably right we could have done more, but respective governments didn't.
- re Tories, nativists, and business, again I think the modern Tory party is well aware of the fact that it needs to retain its new found working class support or else face electoral doom. They are unlikely to just give business everything they want - see Boris and F Business! for the detail.

Unknown said...

"Corbynism" exists only in the minds of the opposition to the mass party membership. That membership is not middle class, crass elitism, but just the opposite, which is what is feared most by the bourgeoise. It is representative of those who have suffered under austerity, the women on whom 85% of the cuts have fallen, the insecure workers, the ones with less than £100 in savings.

In those 5 words you reveals all the angst and fears of the losers, the total inadequacy of the political understanding of the movement of democratic socialism awakening in the UK. The total denial of the real harm being done to millions, with the support of the Petit bourgeoise who never thought it would happen to them. Creating the bogey man of "Corbynism" is another delusional comfort blanket for those who will also try and dismiss the DWPs own figures of 130,000 dead through their actions (on your behalf) or deny the daily reality of poverty and hunger of millions, instead secretly harbour the hatred of the "underclass" that you know are being harmed on your behalf. You hate them because you know what you are doing is wrong but that's still not quite enough for you to give up your last vestiges of comfort, you project your own darkness on to them - they are ignorant, they are racist, they are stupid, they don't understand....... They ....are ..., coming. Be afraid. Be very afraid, they are coming to redistribute the power abd the wealth as better schools, better pay, better infrastructure, and (gasp, oh horror) industry. For the many, not the few.

Jim Denham said...

A-b-c: The basic Marxist assessment of capitalist European integration, based around the fundamentally progressive nature of capitalist concentration, the interpenetration of capitalism and its states, points towards at least a position of not opposing the process but building working class international solidarity out of it. Marx spelled this out in the Communist Manifesto and in his speech on Free Trade.

Ken said...

Maybe I missed it but the sound bites went on about how awful Remain will be, which might of course come to pass, but nothing about why there might actually be sound reasons to think that there might also be some pretty serious problems with the EU, and how they would reform it.
The argument about the progressive nature of large states and opposing attempts to leave them makes Pro Indy supporters north of the border laugh, albeit hollowly. To recap: Indy 1 (as it’s now known) was fought by the progressive “No” camp, or,the “Unionists”, under the slogan that ONLY a NO vote would allow Scotland or remain in the EU. As of this weekend,
England voted Leave, and will get this.
Wales voted leave, and will get it.
N. Ireland voted to remain and it looks like there will something of this for it.
Gibraltar, pop. 34,000 voted to remain and has just announced a special deal with the EU.
Scotland voted to Remain and is being forced to leave.
The problem with the U.K. is that you can’t trust the English working class not to vote Tory and give Scotland a government it didn’t vote for, frequently ; now it’s voting to remove Scotland from the EU against the 66% one to Remain.
So, to recap, Scottish voters were being lectured to that the Indy cause was reactionary because the progressive position (insert your own Communist Manifesto quote here)was,that a No vote was necessary to remain in the larger political entity, that is the U.K.
On the Tory side, the ironically titled the Conservative and Unionist party,has a membership where over 70% would be happy to sacrifice N. Ireland and Scotland to achieve Brexit.
Clearly, Brexit is the hand grenade that’s going to blow the UK apart.

CCAAC said...

“a more internationalised and forward thinking section of capital”

I can possibly accept the latter but the former is disingenuous if not a downright lie. We have internationalised institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, United Nations, all of which are applicable to or accessible to nations whether they are part of the EU or not. Not being in the EU could increase internationalism by providing equal access to commonwealth nations or any other that fall outside the EU.

You could argue that the EU is one big obstacle to what Marx would have understood as Free Trade and yet Boffy tells us Marx was a supporter of free trade! He wasn’t of course as Engels makes clear, doesn’t stop Boffy peddling that line though.

“A Bourgeois democratic EU is not our goal, a United Socialist States of Europe is”

A States of Europe is not the goal either, as this ignores the rest of the planet, I am sure Marxist are interested in humanity and not the white section, though looking at people like Boffy you do wonder.

Of course the United Socialist States of Europe is probably an intermediate objective but who says staying the EU gets us any closer to that? Costas Lapvitsas argues that a Socialist States of Europe is impossible to achieve from within the current EU and the only way to achieve it is through destroying the current EU first.

How anyone thinks closer integration in Europe can be furthered by keeping in its most disruptive member, i.e. the UK, is a logic I have yet to figure out. Surely if the UK stays in the EU that puts back the goal of a United Socialist States of Europe by decades? Anyone even semi serious about a United Socialist States of Europe would be urging the EU to kick Britain out!

The reason the EU isn’t urging this is because Costas Lapvitsas is probably right, the EU is not a vehicle for a United Socialist States of Europe but is a vehicle for better exploitation of the wage slaves and a technocratic tyranny. Now if those who propose staying in the EU would just admit this and cut the bullshit we might be able to start a conversation.

Boffy littering his comment with Stalinist is typical of the straw man building, dishonest way he deals with criticism. Marx pioneered deconstruction in criticism, Boffy just contributes to the swamp where everyone seems to be lying about what everyone else said.

The big mistake in all of this was giving a binary vote to a bunch of morons who had been fed a daily diet of tabloid bile with a twist of pro imperialist social chauvinism.

The pro war and pro imperialist left (the decents as they are called), exemplified by the odious Jim Denham and Boffy, share a portion of blame for the Brexit vote, as their pro imperialist rhetoric has added more toxins to the brexit narrative. Marx warned us about these people 150+ years ago!

“since when did the word "establishment" have any meaning for Marxists”

I think Marx effectively called the state the executive committee of the ruling class, doesn’t take a great leap of theory to get from that statement to a Marxist definition of the establishment! For example refugees in the a rickety boat on the med are not part of the establishment but those flying first class into Davos each year probably are!

Tmb said...

@ Unknown

Well said. The hatred and fear towards 'Corbynism' from all the varying strands of the elite, including the Chuka Umunnas, Liz Kendalls and various other sell outs, shows that even the very idea and mention of some social and economic justice terrifies the establishment and those middle class on both the left and right who have propped them up.

People are fed up. There needs to be a fairer redistribution of wealth, much MUCH more affordable housing, a better minimum wage, higher taxation for corporations and the very wealthy, for a start. The Tories, and the whole neo liberal train they and many others are riding on, has nowhere else to go. They can get much worse, but there is a backlash coming whatever happens. Theresa May is supposed to be a Christian. I see no evidence of this. Perhaps she now needs to reengage with the faith she claims to believe in.

When we know that governments and the establishment are desperately trying to silence people even just criticising them, you know things are bad. This isn't just a political argument anymore, nor just between left and right, this has become a moral issue. The rich should not be getting richer, and the poor should not be getting poorer. Let us start saying it as it is, a moral issue.

Ken said...

Freudian slip on my part, that dammed unconscious.
I meant to write ... how awful Leave would be, not Remain; but maybe my subconscious knows more than my conscious self does.

Jim Denham said...

The ignoramous CCAAC (above) completely fails *even on his own terms) top explain how the term "the establishment" has any coherent basis in Marxism and has to admit that although the word was around at the time, Marx never used it (and with good reason: he had the term "ruling class" avialable to him).

As for the assertion that Marx *didn't* support free trade:

"But, generally speaking, the Protective system in these days is conservative, while the Free Trade system works destructively. It breaks up old nationalities and carries antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie to the uttermost point. In a word, the Free Trade system hastens the Social Revolution. In this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, I am in favor of Free Trade."

First published in French as a pamphlet at the beginning of February 1848

Signed: Karl Marx

Boffy said...

Jim Denham correctly points to Marx's Speech on Free Trade, to illustrate his position. He could have also referred to Engels Introduction to the Speech, where he sets out that Marx saw it as the normal condition for capitalism, and the means by which capital accumulation, and thereby the basis for the transition to socialism. Engels also sets out his discussion with an industrialist on the train, and his messages to US socialists setting how, why Free Trade, more effectively than Protection is the basis for economic growth.

However, the important point in Marx's Speech, is the word "only". In other words, Marxists support Free Trade, as against protection, "only" in this sense that it performs a revolutionary function of developing the contradictions inherent in capitalist production to a higher level, and thereby creates the conditions for the transition to socialism.

We do not favour free trade, in and of itself. We favour socialism as an alternative to either free trade or protection. As I set out in my recent blogpost its not the fact that the EU has free trade within a Customs Union and Single Market, that Marxists promote as progressive, but the fact that the EU itself represents a rational development of capital, on a larger scale, and it thereby creates the conditions for socialism.

Similarly, its not free trade between the EU and other countries that we set as a goal, but in the immediate term, rather the development of the working-class within the EU, and the fraternal relations between that working-class, and the working-class elsewhere. If the interests of the working-class require limitations on the operation of the single market, the use of fiscal measures to reallocate capital and resources within the EU, we certainly do not prioritise free trade, and the free market over such requirements.

The progressive factor of the EU, is that it has abolished borders, and thereby broken down barriers between workers. It has created the political superstructure in which 21st century capitalist relations can proceed, on the basis of large-scale, socialised, multinational capital, and which thereby facilitates the transition to socialism.

Dave K said...

I agree with Jim Denham and Boffy on this. We as Marxists are not neutral between international cosmopolitan Capital and reactionary protectionist capital.

Also I am disappointed that Nowhere do you refer to free movement and the effect of brexit on the millions of EU workers. The indifference of many Marxists to the effect of Brexit on our fellow workers is shameful.

When you talk about the Trajectory of the Leadership I think your a few weeks old. Its pretty clear large chunks of the bourgeoisie you see as leading the Remain movement. They are already in the process of switching to a position of supporting whatever crap deal May can get.

CCAAC said...

Just because Marx didn’t use the word doesn’t mean it is invalid. Any Marxist would understand that language develops over time. You can’t just unilaterally declare that the term establishment is one Marxists don’t recognise, I know you pro imperialists love unilateralism but this is absurd. The definition of the word establishment we are concerned with, namely:

“the existing power structure in society; the dominant groups in society and their customs or institutions; institutional authority”

Didn’t come into effect until the 1920’s! Jim Denham declares Marxists can’t use the word establishment because Marx didn’t specifically use it himself! Not only is this laughable, dumb, beyond parody but is also ironic given Marxists views around how language develops! Jim Denham is the ultimate charlatan, a man of miniscule intellect pronouncing what the truth is and isn’t! A prophet for our times indeed!

Marx wasn’t for or against free trade, as Engels pointed some years later (Engels called it a mock debate where Marx gave the pro side and Engels spoke for protectionism) . Marxists who actually study these things (rather than Denham who just spouts tosh), including Anwar Shaikh, point out that nations shift their view on trade depending on their position in the world market, so when protectionism suits their interests there are protectionist bagmen who provide justification and when free trade is the their interests, i.e. when they can crush the competition!, the free trade bagmen become fashionable. Is Jim Denham accusing Marx of being a bagman of free trade? I mean seriously, as if Marx was dumb enough to lack such nuance! This was a debate held in England at that time, you think if Marx had debated in Russia at that time he would have said the same thing, I mean are you serious?

Typical that Boffy should come along and present us with such a sanitised view of the capitalist system, his comment really does sum up his peculiar apologetic version of Marxism. And then David K comes along to embellish this global capital by present it as cosmopolitan, global capitalism as presented by Hello magazine!

But people like Jim Denham are fundamentalist in nature, they throw aside any nuance and take the doctrine quite literally. It is so laughable and simpleminded. I would urge any comrades to stop listening to Boffy and Denham and start looking at real arguments presented by thinkers should as Shaikh, whose theory of real competition is an antidote to the utter idiocy of Boffy and Denham.

They still can’t answer the question as to why keeping the EU’s most disruptive member, i.e. the UK, is good for the EU, or more particularly good for further EU integration. If the British rejected the EU as it stands now how do you think they will react if deeper integration is put on the table? They will resist and block any such efforts! So Boffy and co are nothing but champions of the status quo! It is in this very non revolutionary sense alone that Boffy and Denham support remain!

“he progressive factor of the EU, is that it has abolished borders, and thereby broken down barriers between workers “

There is no real evidence for this

“It has created the political superstructure in which 21st century capitalist relations can proceed,... and which thereby facilitates the transition to socialism”

The US got there about 100 years earlier and still we see little evidence of socialism proceeding on this basis, in fact we see working class consciousness reducing during the existence of the EU. Clearly Boffy’s transition to socialism is one that does not involve a revolutionary working class! It is merely a technical question for Boffy.

Steve Jack said...

Great article - thank you.