Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

Running Capitalism - Corbyn Style

You would be forgiven in believing from the banner headlines of the capitalist media that Jeremy Corbyn sups with the devil. The DAILY MAIL has already marked his card as a “Marxist”. The DAILY TELEGRAPH has trawled through the backgrounds of all his advisers to scream out that they are an assortment of the bad, mad and dangerous to know. And the DAILY EXPRESS discovered that his great-great grandfather was in charge of a Dickensian workhouse.

The truth is less lurid. Rather than being a Marxist, Jeremy Corbyn is a card-carrying Keynesian. The principal advisor of much of Corbyn’s economic policy is the accountant, Richard Murphy who favours a “People’s Quantitative Easing”. And Corbyn’s shadow Chancellor, John MacDonnell announced that his economic advisors will be drawn largely from the Keynesian stable; a group which includes the US Nobel prize-winner Joe Stiglitz, Simon Wren-Lewis, Mariana Mazzucato, Danny Blanchflower and rock-star economist Thomas Piketty. Even Keynes’s biographer, Lord Skidelsky, supported Corbyn for his Keynesian credentials (GUARDIAN, 19th August 2015).

Instead of wanting to abolish capitalism, Jeremy Corbyn has looked favourably upon a series of economic reforms, such as the Tobin tax and measures to prevent corporate and individual tax evasion - hardly revolutionary. In short he favours state-led investment and government-induced inflation - no different to the policies of the pre-Blair Labour governments of Wilson and Callaghan and several post-war Tory governments which all favoured Keynesian policies.

In economic fashion, it really will be a return to the 1970s; the equivalent to wearing tank tops, wide lapels and jump suits. Under no circumstances does Jeremy Corbyn want to establish “from each according to ability to each according to need” a measure once advocated by his hero Keir Hardie.

What of Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifism and genuflection towards Keir Hardie? What of CND? On the centenary of Keir Hardie’s death he was praised by the BBC in a documentary as a principled pacifist. Yet in September 1914 he was urging workers to join the armed forces and he boasted that he had done more for recruiting for the war than his Liberal opponents,: all this conveniently forgotten by the peace-loving Mr Corbyn (see Keir Hardie’s articles in the Merthyr Tydfil PIONEER, 22nd August and 19th December, 1914 cited in The Kier Hardie Myth, SOCIALIST STANDARD no 679, March 1961).

Corbyn may say that he would never sanction the use of nuclear missiles but he, like CND, is not opposed to war if it carries the right UN approval and does not involve “weapons of mass destruction”. If elected Prime Minister and war became a necessity, Corbyn would have no choice but to order either air strikes, the use of the army or the navy against the “enemy”. Capitalism has never been very kind to moralists.

Nothing New about the “New Politics”

What sort of politics was to be found at this Labour Party conference? Was it the same as before with its tight control over what could and could not be said, adulation of the leader and a servile membership doing as they were told? What of the “new politics”?

On the eve of his speech to the Labour Party Conference gave the shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, gave an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live. John McDonnell, unlike Jeremy Corbyn, claimed he was influenced by Marx and drew attention to Marx’s analysis of capitalism and how it works but there it ended. There was no revolutionary socialist conclusion; and for a very good reason. From McDonnell's speech we got this soundbite: "the Entrepreneurial State” - and an emphasis on improving productivity, which is only another way of employers increasing the workers’ rate and intensity of exploitation.

For John McDonnell the problem of capitalism is not one of profitability but “effective demand”. Reform not revolution is MacDonnell’s watchword. Not much in his speech to frighten the Media Barons, Lord Rothermere, The Barclay Brothers and Richard Desmond whose class will continue to live off the unearned income of rent, interest and profit if Corbyn ever makes it to Prime Minister.

Hillary Benn said that: "Labour is now and has always been an internationalist party". What a lie! In both world wars the Labour Party was only too happy to help with the job of persuading or forcing workers to fight their fellow-workers in the “national interest”. For this betrayal, Labour politicians were rewarded with Ministerial posts in both wars; this was how they earned their reputation as an “electable party”, a party of government.

The Labour Party’s unifying theme is not class but the ' national interest'. And this will mean that in any case where there is a conflict between workers and the 'national interest', the state will back the employers against say striking workers. Their vaunted 'internationalism' will also be defined and limited by care for the over-riding issue of the 'national interest’ and the need to go to war, particularly against Isis in Syria.

As for their 'socialism', Ann Black from the Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) spoke clearly as to the continuity with Blairism and Tony Blair's new version of 'Clause 4'' when she stated that: "There can be no contradiction in the New Politics between Socialism and Enterprise". And that too is a lie. You cannot square this particular circle: the interest of labour and Capital are diametrically opposed to one another.

Black’s proposition is a contradiction in terms. Socialism and capitalist “enterprise” are both mutually exclusive. You cannot have production for use existing simultaneously with production and exchange for profit. You cannot have the democratic ownership of the means of production and distribution existing simultaneously with the private ownership of raw resources, factories, transport and communication systems and distribution points. If socialism has a meaning, it means an end to the class system of exploitation, and end to the wages system.

Labour is not a Socialist Party

One of the most preposterous propositions coming out of the Labour conference was that the Labour Party was “socialist” again (Suzanne Moore, GUARDIAN 1st October 2015). The Labour Party has never been socialist; it has never stood for the common ownership of the means of production and distribution by all of society. The Old Clause 4’s objective was the establishment of state capitalism which the policy of nationalising the railways amounts to.

The Labour Party has taken a step back from Corbyn's radicalism of only a month ago when he was being hailed as the new Keir Hardie. The massive support he got was largely down to the unpopularity of so many spiteful Tory policies which hurt those eking out an existence on benefits and the subsequent explosion in food kitchens throughout the country. The hope of his naïve supporters was that this swing to the capitalist Left may actually mean some hope of a change for the better. Some hope!

The result will be a disappointment if the Labour Party under Corbyn gets elected as the policies they can pursue may not be so very different from those of the Tories. What if Corbyn was elected as the economy went into another economic crisis and trade depression. What happens if there is simultaneously increasing unemployment and inflation? What will become of his Keynesian economic plans then? What will the trade unions say when his government orders troops to break strikes. That happened under the much-praised 1945 Attlee government, and also under the Wilson and Callaghan governments. That is how the 1970’s ended for the Labour Party; in utter failure. And it also led to a decade of Margaret Thatcher and the imposition of market fundamentalism.

So does Corbyn represent something new? As the Who sang on “Won’t get fooled again

Meet the new boss
The same as the old boss


Quite!

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