Friday, December 20, 2019

The Labour Party and “Social Democracy in One Country”

It is not up to me to tell social democrats what to do (or anyone else for that matter!), but here is my two-bits worth, anyway. I am sad that Labour lost to the Tories. One can only imagine how much British working people are going to suffer as a result. But a small part of me wonders if this result, as frightening as it is, might not be a better choice in the long run.

Considering how vicious the attacks were upon Labour before the election, imagine what would happen if they had been successful. It would have been all-out war. Every means would be applied by the British, EU and American ruling classes, to prevent Labour from carrying out its program. Had they not been able to enact their reforms, the result would have been cynicism and the party would have been crushed for another decade or more. On the other hand, had they been able to carry out their program, you can be assured that they would have been Venezuela-ed. Economic warfare, both internally and internationally, would have been combined with subversion and terrorism. Britain would have been wrecked (in order to save it for the ruling class) and the hyper-inflation, lack of consumer goods and chaos would be touted in the media as the result of “socialism.” (See, socialism doesn't work!)

The Labour Party and social democracy (I mean REAL social democracy, not neoliberalism in pink tights) is still oriented toward the nation state. This was fine for most of the twentieth century when capital was mainly national and industrial. In 1948, it simply wasn't possible to rip up an auto plant in Dagenham, Oshawa or Detroit and move to some Third World country. Nor was it all that easy to move finance capital about. The cappies had little choice but to go along with reforms, albeit doing their best to water them down. Since the 1970s capital is international, yet social democracy is not. This means that with capital flight, off shore accounts and currency manipulation they can ruin any country that dares not march in time to the neoliberal goose step.

Social democracy's capitulation to the nation state goes back a long way – to August 1914, to be exact, so this is nothing new. In doing so, it pandered to, or at least waffled over the chauvinistic and xenophobic sentiments found equally among the working and professional classes. As long as social democracy was oriented toward the nation state, it only reinforced those sentiments, whether it wanted to or not. That the older generation of Labour supporters should be for Brexit and turn against the party for its ambiguity on the question should come as little surprise. Rather than pointing out that the source of their problems was found in Thatcher's neoliberalism, the party under Blair become Thatcher-lite. Imagine the education that could have been done had they not capitulated to the religion of greed and austerity. It seems that reversing course and returning to social democracy under Corbyn a couple of years ago was not enough to allay the fears of the EU boogy man and win back the betrayed Labour voters.

What is needed is definitely not the utopian “social democracy in one country.” Rather they should build a European-wide movement against neoliberalism. Capital can destroy a single country, but taking on a bloc – the second or third largest economy in the world, depending on how you measure it, is another matter entirely. A social democratic Europe – allied with progressive movements in Latin America, could prove victorious against neoliberal absolutism.

The potential for such a movement exists among the younger workers. The working classes are always in a state of flux, artisans, the first working class, were replaced by industrial workers and they in turn by white collars and lately the precariate. While the older workers were tied to the nation state, the youth are not, their outlook is much more international and multicultural. Though their awareness of the climate crisis, they know the only successful solutions must be those that cross borders. An entire generation has grown into adulthood with a background of international struggles such as the anti-corporate movement, Occupy, Extinction Rebellion and Climate Strike. Needless to say, they rejected Brexit, hands down. As for the older generation, the Grim Reaper will have his final say and those fortunate enough to escape the scythe until after the next election, will have to deal with the consequences of Brexit. Finding themselves worse off than ever, they may return to the fold, if Labour is sensitive to their qualms.
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