Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday 14 December 2019


We say “global Left” to indicate the Left as a historical progressive movement not just nationally but also across the globe and with global aims and values. Of course, many divergencies and contradictions exist between the aims and policies of individual national left-wing parties and movements, on one side, and the more properly “global” aims and policies of the historical Left.
I wish to make two points tersely: first, so far as the analysis and critique of capitalism that the Left advances broadly, most of it implanted on Karl Marx’s original work, there can be no doubt that these critical analyses are broadly correct and still apply to capitalism as we know it at present. Only in one respect (which we have highlighted frequently here) is Marxism inapplicable to the present capitalist reality:- like all other “economists” Classical and Neoclassical, Marx always saw human reproductive and productive activity as a matter concerning “exchanges” between human beings inter eos or humanity as a whole inter se

No economists or critics of economics (Marx saw himself as a debunking “critic” of “economic science” or “political economy”) have ever considered that one aspect of human industry, and especially of capitalist industry, would entail the eventual destruction of the ecosphere – which is what we are witnessing presently. (One of the few to tackle these problems from an orthodox neoclassical perspective was Alec Pigou in The Economics of Welfare where he examined what he considered to be “externalities”, that is, damaging repercussions of economic activity “external” to economic science. As we often emphasise here, far from being “external” to capitalism, “externalities” and the destruction of the ecosphere are very much intrinsic to capitalist industry. In other words, far from being limited to “exchange value” or the distribution of resources among and between human beings, the critique of economics must now start with the pernicious effects that capitalism has on our environment – something that involves the analysis of “use values” as against “exchange values”. All economists to date have assumed that use values were “scarce” in terms of their pricing in inter-human exchange: what we have learned now is that capitalism’s gravest deleterious fault is its tendency to consume and destroy all available resources or use values to the point that the very survival of humanity is imperiled.

So much for the critical analysis of capitalism on the part of the historical Left. The other aspect of the Left concerns not just the critique of capitalism, which is a negative stance, but also its positive advancement of historical humanitarian and progressive aims, goals and policies. It is in this regard at least that the global Left is failing catastrophically as we have asserted vehemently here repeatedly and even ad nauseam. What is wrong with the global Left at present is that whilst its historical “values” remain unobjectionable – freedom, peace, equality, progress -, the policies that it proposes to implement these goals and values are woefully inadequate and indeed entirely counterproductive when they are not also irrational.

This sad state of affairs is especially evident when it comes to matters concerning “globalization” – by which we mean generally the movement of resources and people across countries and regions, the rapid implementation of colossal and sweeping technological changes, and the individualization of political goals (what is called “identity politics” where “the political” becomes exclusively “personal” - as in “the personal is political” - whereas in harsh reality it is the Political that becomes ineluctably and mercilessly personal!).

In one specific regard the Left is especially and contemptibly culpable:- and that is in its inability to see that although the capitalist bourgeoisie pretends to be “conservative”, it is so only in ideology but never (!) in practice! Far from being conservative, the bourgeoisie destroys all communities, values, even nations in its truculent path to seeking profits and the accumulation of capital! And yet it uses the ideology of “conservation”, presenting itself as the party of stability just at the same time as the global Left is absolutely blindly hell-bent on pushing “progress” and “growth” under the rubric of “globalization” at any cost as if they could only bring happiness and fulfilment to humanity!

The absurdity of this lies in the paradox that whilst the bourgeoisie is busy destroying the daily stability of proletarians the world over, it is the Left that pushes the very ideology of destructive creation masked as bleary-eyed progressivism whilst the bourgeoisie (ah, quelle surprise!) is busy pretending to be the passionate preserver of the status quo! Thus, whilst the Left keeps invoking its humanitarian values to facilitate the migration of billions of indigent masses from Asia and Africa to the advanced capitalist countries, to the immediate detriment and destruction of proletarian living standards in the West (!), it is the bourgeoisie that hypocritically and ideologically professes to fight a ceaseless and defiant battle to stop such destructive and abominable migration of false refugees! It is thus that the Left is completely hoodwinked and “taken from behind” by the capitalist bourgeoisie.
Of course, the same goes for the environmental fight where the Left proposes to destroy the living standards of workers in the West while all the while the worst abusers of the environment are those very “emerging economies” whose overpopulation the Western bourgeoisie aids and abets with the full aid of local bourgeoisies, and whose “refugees” Western workers are supposed to welcome into their societies with open arms!

As we have stressed repeatedly here, the sooner the Left realizes that the twin evils of capitalism are (a) overpopulation in Asia and Africa and (b) overconsumption across the globe, the sooner we shall be able to stop the collapse of left-wing politics the world over. If not, we shall simply be condemned to see our planet destroyed by the likes of Trump, Johnson, Le Pen, Salvini, Orban and what not – to leave aside, of course, the greatest usurpers such as the genocidal Han Chinese, the nationalist Hindus of India, the appallingly misogynist Muslims, the delirious and genocidal Turks and so on and so forth.

Recent Developments

Nowhere is the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie more on show than in the US, in Britain and in Germany where, on one side, the Republicans, the Tories and the Christian Democrats profess to protect national values and traditions belonging to “the people” (hence the phrase “populism”) against the ravages of globalization – and yet, as is amply evident, they are the ceaseless and indefatigable proponents of the “globalization” that is demolishing and obliterating those values, traditions and standards of living. On the other side – and here is where the global Left has truly lost the plot – we find political parties and movements from the Democrats to Labour to the Greens that oppose the ravages of globalization whilst at one and the same time insisting on applying those broad aims and policies (freedom to procreate, freedom of movement, access to unsustainable Western life-styles and incomes, assisted fertilization – we could go on forever) that imperil the living standards of those proletarian strata in the West that they claim to be representing and championing!
It is obvious that the contradiction between the universal values of the Left, on one side, and the specific implementation of its idealistic policies can result only in the ultimate discomfiture of the Left as an electoral government alternative to the capitalist bourgeoisie and indeed as a thriving political force in the West and elsewhere.

Appendix: I have just come across this pearl from The New Statesman editor, published in today's Sunday Times in London, to summarise in blunt cold and harsh words what I have written above in my unfailingly obscure (but hopefully not obscurantist) style:

"Labour was once an uneasy coalition of the organised working class and the Fabian intellectual. But today the coalition is broken. What unites a Brexit- supporting working-class voter in Workington and a liberal bourgeois voter in Islington? One wants tight controls on immigration while the other favours open borders and free movement. One wants to leave the European Union and the other wants to remain. One yearns for greater social cohesion while the other embraces racial, sexual and gender diversity. The collapse of Labour is both a parable of what can go wrong when a party rejects pragmatism for ideological purity and a tragedy. It’s a tragedy because a great social democratic party, once hegemonic in Scotland and the north of England, is now little more than a rotten shell."

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