Why capitalism cannot be reformed

June 11, 2013

capitalism_is_the_crisis_logoJohn Keeley from Folkestone Left Unity argues for a critical approach to capitalism itself.

There are many people who regard themselves as left-wing who do not want to get rid of capitalism. Not only Ed Miliband & others in the Labour party, but also some who consider themselves to the left of Labour. They believe capitalism can be made more equal through government action & that the post-war period demonstrates this. In my opinion, they fail to appreciate the material conditions.

The post-war prosperity & the increasingly equality, exemplified in more equal access to health care & education, was possible due to a genuinely high rate of profit consequent upon the huge capital devaluation of the depression of the 1930’s, the capital destruction of WWII & huge increases in productivity thanks to the application of oil & gas. Unfortunately, to really grasp this point requires an understanding of how capitalism works & why it is prone to crisis. This isn’t an easy subject, but it’s worth the effort.

Unlike any other historical systems of production, capitalism has crises of overproduction. Too many commodities get produced relative to the commodity that acts as money, historically gold. This overproduction occurs due to credit money. Banks can create money by lending out more than they have in their vaults. People & organisation purchase commodities on credit & have debts. This allows aggregate prices to exceed aggregate values. Recorded profit rates are inflated by this credit money. But once debt-saturation is reached & lenders realise they may not get all their money back, panic takes hold, there’s a ‘credit-crunch’ as no-one wants to lend to anyone else & when the defaults start they set off a chain-reaction that threatens the solvency of the financial system & capitalism itself. This is what the world experienced in 2007-08, that has been temporarily patched-up with yet more debt, this time from governments in the form of so-called ‘quantitative-easing’ (buying back the government debt already sold to the financial institutions) & the purchase of other bank bad debts. If ever there was a clear example of how governments & capitalism are joined at the hip, this is it.

But this is not the full story of the current crisis. It is actually much worse than this. For behind the excessive credit/debt lies the falling rate of profit. (Remember the rate of profit is everything to capitalists – they only produce for profit, not for need. It doesn’t matter how hungry or in need of shelter you are, if you don’t have enough money your needs will not be met). Amongst Marxists the falling rate of profit theory is a source of much heated debate. In Volume III of Capital, Marx appears to be offering a basis for the economic cycle of boom & bust in the falling rate of profit consequent upon the growth in so-called ‘constant capital’ (machines, factories & the like) being faster than the growth in labour employed (referred to as ‘variable capital’). Hence many Marxists have attempted to explain just about all of capitalism’s crises with this theory, whilst other Marxists have emphasised the role of excessive credit/debt. This is the falling rate of profit v underconsumption debate.

From what I can grasp this polarisation neglects the fact that behind the excessive issue of credit can lie the problem of the falling rate of profit. It doesn’t have to lie behind all crises & may work on a longer time basis. It may explain the first Great Depression of the 1870’s, the second one of the 1930’s, & today’s crisis, but not every economic downturn. This longer cycle is often referred to as the Kondratieff cycle, or as Ernest Mandel termed it a ‘wave’. Mandel’s argument was that it wasn’t a natural cycle as there could be no guarantee of an upturn, but there was a guarantee of a downturn in the form of the falling rate of profit as more constant capital replaced profit-producing labour. The upturns depended upon historical factors. The recovery in the late-Victorian era was arguably due to the introduction of railways, the telegraph, etc., & the post-war boom, as already stated, by the harnessing of the new energy sources of oil & gas & the resultant automation. There is no guarantee of a new more productive basis for today’s economy even if it were to shed its huge debt problem. It would need something like cold-fusion to stimulate productivity whilst permitting capitalists to steal an even greater amount of the value created by labour whilst leaving the labourer still materially better off than before (what essentially happened in the post-war period). It is unlikely.

This is why I believe we now have the material conditions for the end of capitalism. Capitalism can offer the workers nothing but repression. One way or another the workers will need to find a way to socialism. The creation of a society based upon the social/common ownership of the means of production. It is for us to offer this vision. There isn’t a single blueprint & there is not a single route. These are up for debate & discussion. But what we should be clear about is capitalism cannot be reformed. It’s time has passed.

For those who would like to learn more about crisis theory there are two blogs that are particularly good:

Michael Robert’s http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/

Sam Williams’ http://critiqueofcrisistheory.wordpress.com/

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19 Responses to Why capitalism cannot be reformed

  1. Stuart
    June 11, 2013 at 11:08 am

    We don’t have the material conditions for the end of capitalism. The most important material condition for the end of capitalism would be a population that understood and wanted such a change, and was well organised to achieve it, with large infrastructures of resistance and solidarity with the potential to take over and organise society.

    What is actually being prepared by the crisis and by austerity measures are the material conditions for the survival of capitalism. As the writer points out, the Great Depression and the Second World War (and the suburbanisation of the United States, to bring in another theory) laid the basis for the capitalist boom that has just ended. A long period of austerity and unemployment and devaluation and destruction of plant and machinery and so on will lay the basis for the next boom. Whether we can end capitalism and create a new society is a moot question, one we should continue to discuss and prepare for in the long term. But in the short term what we can certainly do is try to make sure that the rich shoulder as much of the losses of devaluation as possible. This means reformism and struggle against ‘austerity’.

    In the absence of the material conditions for the end of capitalism, and living among the material conditions that are destroying our livelihoods for the sake of the rich, the idea that desperately needed reforms are not possible is a dangerous one. If they aren’t, bigger changes certainly aren’t.

    • John Penney
      June 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      A very important series of points, Stuart ! Whether one leans to a “underconsumptionist” or “Falling Rate of Profit” analysis as the “prime driver”, I think we can all agree that the 2008 Great Crash and its aftermath is a distinctly different order of global capitalist crisis than the periodic economic “downturns” of the postwar period – indeed “1930 ish” in its severity and systemic nature.

      I would add one more critical causal factor to explainthe severity of the current crisis – ie, the growth of the global financial sector within capitalism to a position where its corruption and general “purchase” of the political institutions of most capitalist states allows for no conventional political control, or even limitation, internationally or within states, of the inbuilt drive of financial capitalism to ever greater unproductive speculation and risktaking. Thus in contrast to the post 1929 speculation-driven Great Crash when a host of regulatory measures were eventually imposed to constrain the chaotic , individual greed-based, chicanery and risktasking of the financial sectors – today , not only have all these limitations long ago been abolished, but NOTHING has been put back in regulatory place even after the 2008 Crash – so utterly “bought” by the financial sector are all the political structures of contemporary states and international institutions. Even from the long term interests of Capitalism as a system it is hard not to see contemporary financial capitalism as almost “cancerous” in its disproportionately unlimited growth and influence on the structures of the rest of the capitalist system.

      And yet, as you say Stuart, the overwhelming majority of the population, here as elsewhere, are currently completely dominated by the concepts and values of capitalism – the “ideogical hegemony” which has successfully marginalised the ideas of socialism as offering a viable alternative to the ever deepening capitalist crisis. Indeed, because of the disastrous reality of the Stalinist (“Communist”) states, most people today see “socialism” as intrinsically implying “dictatorship”, “oppression”, and “economic stagnation and failure”, not ” liberation from the chaos and inequality of capitalism”.

      That is why , in building a mass radical party , a resistance movement, to oppose the ever deepening “Austerity Offensive” the capitalist class are imposing worldwide, (not only to restore their immediate profit rates, but more fundamentally to PERMANENTLY remove every significant working class gain in wages, rights, and welfare support, of the entire postwar period), we have to emphasise building the resistance to unfair and ineffective economic measures impacting most on the majority; but lay off all the “General Strike Now” rhetoric – which strikes no current chord in popular perceptions.

      Successful opposition to the most blatantly unfair and oppressive features of the Austerity Offensive will in itself eventually raise the relevant issues about the intrinsic unfairness and unsustainability of capitalism as a system. Then the issue of “Socialism” as a better system for humanity’s future development will start to have “traction” on a mass scale. First though, “build that mass movement of resistance” on a firmly progressive, radical series of escalating radical “reformist” demands and campaigns – and electoral intervention .

      Without that vital “winning of hearts and minds” to a radical Left resistance agenda,which draws masses of people into conflict with the capitalist system around limited but radical objectives, all our “higher order” political pontificating about “overthrowing capitalism” is simply hot air rhetoric for small sects in pub back rooms.

      Capitalism is indeed “unreformable”, overall, but as the huge gains in living standards made by workers in the metropolitan heartlands of world capitalism like the UK in the immediate postwar period clearly shows, even a capitalism in postwar ruin can be “persuaded ” by the competing ideological threat from “statist stalinist Communism” and the determination of millions of demobbed soldiers not to return to the post WWI poverty of their fathers, to concede reforms which significantly cut into short term profit rates.

      That eventually rising mass living standards created a mass consumer society which played a significant part in building postwar capitalist growth was an unknown future to the rich facing supertax rates approaching 70%, and swinging inheritance taxes, and major limitations on capital flows and banking behaviour. The very non -revolutionery Labour Government in 1945 was able to impose these major reforms because of the temporary ideological willingness of overwhelming masses of people to demand major “reform” of capitalism. Of course eventually capitalism undermined the democratic political system through patronage amnd corruption, and clawed back the limits on its profits and operational automnomy. In the UK, Big Business eventually “bought” the Labour Party, lock ,Stock and barrel. As it did every social democratic party across the globe.

      The post 1945 lesson is clear though, with enough popular will, capitalism can be forced to make significant concessions . Eventually it will seek to circumvent these via corruption, or even support for military Juntas or fascist regimes. But that is a political situation so far in advance of our current position( of headlong working class retreat), that building a radical Left party with real mass credibility in leading the resistance on a radical reformist programme would be a huge leap forward. Let’s focus on THAT for now !

    • June 11, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      Stuart,

      Saying that capitalism cannot be reformed is not the same as being against reforms that benefit the workers. Of course we should fight austerity, whether that be the bedroom tax, increases to the pension age, cuts in real wages, etc.

      The point is the end goal should not be a more egalitarian capitalism. Mainly because I don’t believe it’s a possibility, as argued above, but also even if it were, it would still mean the on going ecological destruction that goes with growth. Another powerful reason to be anti-capitalist.

      I accept that the devaluation of capital is part of the cycle that restores the conditions for a new boom. But we need to differentiate, at least theoretically, between cyclical overproduction & the longer cycle/wave associated with the falling rate of profit. The shorter cycle booms & busts do not necessary have to be associated with falling rates of profit caused by increases in the value composition of capital. They can be based on excessive credit which artificially supports the profit rate & encourages even more credit until debt saturation forces a panic. The falling rate of profit due to increases in the capital composition (more constant capital relative to variable capital) operates on a longer time scale & results in a severe depression.

      Possibly what we have today is worse than the 1930′s because the fiat money regime, since the 1970′s, has permitted huge amounts of token & credit money to be created to artificially support recorded profit rates. The devaluation required is probably huge. I don’t see the workers accepting this much pain.

      This takes me to your point about the population not being ready to get rid of capitalism. I don’t think it’s the consciousness of people that determines their existence, rather their social existence that determines their consciousness, at least in the main. Hence politics plays catch-up with economics. Consciousness has changed since the onset of the crisis. To be anti-capitalist, anti-establishment is much more popular. We should be anti-capitalist & set out a vision of a post-capitalist society. One based upon participatory democracy, not commissar vanguards telling everyone what’s best for them. I hope Left Unity is radical enough to offer this rather than being lost in history like the Labour party who cuddle up to big business & the City in their lust for power.

      Consciousness is changing, politics is catching-up, & hopefully Left Unity will lead the way.

      • Andrew Crystall
        June 17, 2013 at 7:46 pm

        Equally, people don’t want to hear dogma.

        Or rather, the wider audience who might be sensitive have been remarkably insensitive, and even turned off by it. What we’re seeing from the right is the triumph of dogma over policy.

        We must do the opposite – offer policy, not dogma. Even people who don’t agree with the dogma may well agree in practice. Heck, as a non-socialist I’ll disagree with them on a lot of dogma…but in practice, my chosen policies will often be near-identical!

  2. Simon
    June 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I think you’re both right and wrong Stuart. I think what is needed is a population not just that wants change, but is *engaged in change*. There is a big difference between bemoaning a situation which seems existentially weighted against you, and being in a situation where change is taking place and the decision making power is in your hands. If you want a change in the abstract, you’ll just come up with a range of utopias that may encourage a leap of desperate hope in a random direction – though it’s more likely that you end up just riding a pew in the Church of the Once and Future Proletariat.

    It’s when our masters *need * us that we have our chance. They don’t know the future any more than we do, and need to give us our head to develop the next round of technologies. We are at the end of the digital revolution now – what once was artisanal construction in Western garages by computer whiz kids is now mass produced in FoxConn hellholes. The internet that once was a wild frontier is now mostly sold off and/or monitored by the NSA. The next wave of technologies should enlist our class and thus give us more freedom, more confidence in our own productive powers, make our productive lives tangible instead of remote. That practical experience of worth has historically led to class shifts, such as the creation of the yeoman class in medieval England based on the tangible role the English farmers played in their masters’ victories, as opposed to to that of the European peasants herded to war as lower value battlefodder.

    In short, we usually think about what has gone before, and seek change in hindsight – thinking how history should have gone differently. What we instead need to do is enter the new and unknown with a class attitude, not mourning the past but seizing the future, to the refrain of “We are the self-preservation Society” – not a moral, but a visceral, struggle.

  3. Terry Crow
    June 11, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    //Capitalism can offer the workers nothing but repression.\\ – as in a state of forcible subjugation. As much as I see the need for a better way for humanity to organise itself, and agree that capitalism is inherently a system of exploitation and injustice, in present day Britain with all its problems I think most workers (that is, the vast majority of the population) would not feel they are repressed.

    Do you think that if you got up to speak in an office, shop or factory, most workers would agree with the statement that all they are offered is repression? I just can’t see that being the case.

    And yet I think there is no time like the present for posing an alternative to corporate capitalism – where the unelected boards of directors who serve the shareholders are instead made up of elected representatives who serve the people (but in a joined up way such that a plan that makes sense can be realised). Public as opposed to private ownership. I’d be happy to voice my alternative to the insurance industry on the back of 30+ years of experience!

    This doesn’t mean that any and every reform, large or small, shouldn’t be supported. But it does mean pointing out that in a period of counter-reforms, you are effectively challenging capitalism, and when capitalism allows a few reforms, pointing out that these are never guaranteed all the while the capitalist system persists.

    • June 11, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Terry,

      Yes, many people are still wedded to capitalism & think they get a ‘fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’. Of course this is more common among those earning a good wage in managerial positions.

      I think that since the crisis started more & more feel they are being ripped off. Many may not blame the capitalist system, but rather greedy bankers, greedy corporations, greedy politicians, or even immigrants. But I think there are increasing numbers of anti-capitalists.

      What we need to do is set out an anti-capitalist vision. Not only a society based upon common/social ownership, but in my opinion, also one that breaks down the division of labour. This will be an area of disagreement. Do we seize the state or form a parallel system of councils that offer true democracy? We can debate the competing visions & routes. What I’m keen to challenge now is the notion that a more egalitarian capitalism is the answer.

  4. grahamb
    June 11, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Inequality and oppression are inherent in capitalism as a system based on wage labour and competition. That is it’s history from the early 19th century, though it’s never fixed and today we have neo-liberalism.

    Marx, I believe, is correct in explaining how the long-term tendency for the rate of profit to fall leads to crisis. And, as you say, Mandel makes an important addition in recognising that the resolution of crisis can involve historical factors along with the devaluation of capital. These may be political and not only technological. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the transformation of China were unexpected and seismic shifts that opened up great parts of the world to capitalist exploitation and, of course, high profitability.

    When we talk of crisis, who is in crisis and where? Millions of people in the UK face unemployment, low pay and austerity but capitalists – big companies – are doing very nicely. As they cut real wages, their coffers are overflowing with historic levels of cash – £750 billion. Furthermore, while the economies of the UK and Europe stagnate, they are growing relatively strongly in the emerging world.

    Austerity in the UK has nothing to do with either ‘necessity’ or low profits, rather the simple fact is that they have been allowed to get away with it. The material condition for stopping it is for us to get organised – the unions, communities and Left Unity.

  5. Lloyd Berriman
    June 11, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Why did you feel the need to define “caitalism” in a very Ayn Rand way? For a point of reference and debate, why couldn’t you have taken an established model. I’m not saying I disagree with you, but to debate your post with anyone, I first have to enlighten them with your ‘flavour’. Yes, John, I’m picking on you a bit because this is another example of “magicians dhoice” in my opinion, something seen here all too often.
    PS Even many arch capitalists consider Ayn Rand (the tea party darling) way over the mark.

    • June 12, 2013 at 6:55 am

      Lloyd,

      Sorry, I don’t understand your point. I haven’t read any Ayn Rand, so not influenced in that respect. I would have thought that I have talked about capitalism as most on the left would.

      • grahamb
        June 12, 2013 at 5:47 pm

        Made sense to me. And I’d also like to mention those two blog links at the end of your article.

  6. Robboh
    June 13, 2013 at 6:51 am

    This society based on “common ownership of means of production” has been tried and it failed. Communist regimes that survive are abandoning this model for a market economy. So why would we want to use a system that has been proven as a failure?

    • June 14, 2013 at 6:47 am

      Robboh,

      Just where was this ‘common ownership of the means of production’ then?
      It certainly wasn’t in the Soviet Union or in any other ‘communist’ country in the 20th century. And to be fair to the Bolsheviks, they never claimed they had achieved communism. They were in a ‘transitional phase’. Unfortunately, their ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was really a one-party dictatorship.

      We need is real common ownership. This requires direct democracy, or rather participatory democracy. The simple principle being that people should have a say in proportion to extent that the decision affects them. This may mean that direct democracy is best in some cases, whilst in others some form of delegate or representative democracy works best.

      See http://www.iopsociety.org/ for a more worked out vision.
      It’s very far from one-party dictatorships.

    • John Penney
      June 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      I’m not at all sure where you are “coming from ”politically with your blanket statement that” common ownership of the means of production has been tried – and failed”, Robboh. The only experiences we have so far of wideranging public ownership, have been either the half-hearted nationalisations of the postwar period in the UK, France, Germany, etc, which were purely structured to bail out bankrupt industries and generously compensate their old capitalist owners, in the overall interests of capitalism, or the “state capitalist” ownership form in the vicious bureaucratic tyrannies masquerading as “Communism”.

      Stalinism arose in the historically specific circumstances of the failure of the isolated and encircled short lived revolutionary workers and peasants state created by the 1917 Revolution, in an economically backward , largely agrarian society, with a tiny working class. The “communist “ party based bureaucracy which eventually usurped that revolution, to then run the society, admittedy on the basis of state ownership, entirely in its own narrow, corrupt, interests, was an abberative, temporary social formation. The Stalinist bureaucracy carefully ensured, by direct conquest (Eastern Europe, North Korea) and political and material influence (China, North Vietnam, Cuba) that all the other “communist” regimes established after WWII matched its dictatorial police state form. We can now see (for those able to set aside their Stalinist illusions that is ) that rather than Stalinist “Communism” being some sort of “halfway house” to real socialism (the “Deformed Workers State” delusion of Trotskyism) that Stalinism historically actually provided a “proxy collective bourgeoisie” , to hold state assets free from workers control, until such a time as there could be a complete conventional bourgeoise capitalist restoration. As has of course happened in the Soviet Bloc, and is now well underway in China and Cuba.

      These Stalinist regimes were undoubtedly murderous dictatorships, though the millions of dead arising from the disasters of collectivisation and gulag slave labour used to build undoubtedly impressive canals, productive infrastructure, and dams, railways, etc actually only match the incredible casualties of early industrialisation in the conventional capitalist states – but in a much shorter timescale. Not that that excuses the crimes of Stalinism – but the conventional capitalist states have their “ mountainous piles of bodies” too, including the black slavery era on which a lot of Britain’s wealth was built. The Stalinist states’ endemic party elite corruption and uncaring brutality, and obsessive bureaucracy and lack of initiative was also highly inefficient – compared to the much more heavily industrially developed (over a much longer timescale) capitalist states. So yes, the Soviet Bloc failed the arms and production competition with Western Capitalism, and China was getting nowhere economically until it “hitched its wagon” to the free enterprise model in its strange “wild west capitalism on a Stalinist political base” hybrid .

      But how’s the “free enterprise” capitalist model doing nowadays , Robboh ? Can you really claim that in the UK the railways are a better service since privatisation ? Is the NHS likely to be a better service for most of us when privatised . Is the increasingly semi-privatised school system working better for its pupils ? Have the banks done well for most of us since being freed from most regulation over the last 30 years ? Has the privatisation of water and gas led to cheap water and power supplies ? The simple fact is that the inefficiency of the former “communist” economies is a red herring. In the advanced West the former nationalised utilities and public services, and the maintenance of strict regulation on the banking sector, maintained a much more efficient and cost effective infrastructure for the vast majority of us than the current set –up – geared purely to generating profit for the superrich.

      If we are to reverse the Austerity Offensive, tackle the post 2008 capitalist crisis in our interests, not the rich, and generally radically bring the rapacious appetites of the superrich under control in the interests of the majority, the bringing back into public ownership of the key utilities, services, and banking sector, and the major monopoly producers, to operate within a system of democratically determined overall national planning, will be essential.

      If you really think that public ownership has “failed” , I suggest you look beyond the unending capitalist propaganda and grasp that it is capitalism that currently is failing bigtime, on a world scale – threatening to drag us all down into permanent slump. A programme of radical renationalisation within a genuinely democratic political system controlled by ordinary working people not the superrich, is the only progressive way out of our current world and domestic socioeconomic crisis. The superrich have another “solution” – mass impoverishment, fascism, and war.

      • Timothy Baldwin
        June 24, 2013 at 11:09 pm

        The railway service in Britain has improved since (but not because of) privatisation, it’s safer, the West Coast Main Line is faster, the frequency of the cross-country services has almost doubled, many new stations opened, some new lines opened.

        Nationalised companies have chosen incompatible electrification and signalling systems, refused safety approval to other companies trains, abandoned a online booking website as “too expensive”, and blame each other for delays. The British part of this mess is the worst, even failing to provide foreign railway companies with a correct timetable!

        History has shown that a unified leadership is required for a well run railway.

  7. David Ellis
    June 13, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Does anybody believe that capitalism can be reformed? I don’t think there are any reformists left are there? That genuinely believe that major national and global monopoly corporations are somehow going to morph into social property and hand the reigns over to workers? Isn’t that why the New Labour regulators emerged because not even a child believes in reformism anymore and nobody’s buying. Of course there are still centrists bouncing back and forward between reform and revolution but that is just a petit bourgeois lack of principles.

    • grahamb
      June 14, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Out of interest, if there are no reformists anymore, what are they?

  8. Andrew Crystall
    June 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Capitalism is the not the free market, the free market is not capitalism.

    The story of failure we are seeing is that of Capitalism alone, the rent-seeking of high returns from everything before it is deemed viable and important.

    Social is one answer. It’s not the only one. The worker cooperative and mutual models have important parts to play, afaik.

  9. August 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    I agree with John Keeley that we cannot go back to the conditions of the postwar boom which underwrote social democracy. It is also a common misconception that the welfare state, NHS and mixed economy was a social democratic creation. The historical fact is that it was a cross-party decision taken during WWII to sweep away liberal capitalism and create a mixed economy based on comprehensive welfare provision and that the political consensus underpinning this remained in place until the 1970s oil crises.

    This is important for two reasons: firstly, because it shows that the British welfare state was part of capitalism’s own re-thinking of what it needed to do to restore its legitimacy after the Depression, and secondly, that it was meant to constitute a social wage – a means of the state compensating workers and their dependents for being paid less than the value of labour, in return for workers accepting reformed capitalism and behaving ‘responsibly’ regarding wage demands.

    This ‘social democratic’ solution was fatally and irreversibly undermined by the 24-fold rise in world oil prices during the 1970s, revealing that it had been based on imperialist exploitation of strategic raw materials, so that they were available to western economies and consumers at way below world market prices. This is the first fundamental reason why the economic space for winding the clock back to the post-war boom no longer exists and why this ambition cannot be a part of any credible project to build a new Left Party. The second is that national economic planning is no longer possible, because the post-1970s world order, through institutions like the IMF and World Bank, maintain a planet-wide regime of cutting public sector social provision. The long statement for the Left Platform includes a sentence – “there are no national solutions to the problems that humanity faces” – which nods in this direction, but the statement then goes on to re-state the idea of ‘restoring the gains of the past’.

    Only regimes that cut themselves off from this Washington-controlled world – Cuba, Venezuela and a handful of others – can carry out significant plans to build up social provision. Vague talk of ‘internationalism’ which falls short of telling workers that the American alliance and membership of the OECD, World Bank, G20 and IMF would have to go, in order to ‘restore the gains of the past’, let alone embark on all the other things we want to do, is fundamentally dishonest and would quickly unravel because any new Left Party would not be able to just talk to the working class but compete for the attention of the working class against a bourgeois politics which will stop at nothing to find and exploit the weaknesses.

    Lest we forget, Thatcher won the battle of ideas against reformism and bourgeois politicians know their way around all the means of denigrating reformist politics. The idea that something new can be built which is deliberately vague about whether it is calling for fundamental changes of a type never seen in this country is nonsense.

    Calling for ‘the gains of the past’ to be restored simply sows illusions. Even if we managed to put the austerity policy into reverse, we would not be remotely near restoring the post-war boom or the welfare state as it was then; it would still be a post-Thatcherite, post-oil crisis Britain, and it was that ‘Thatcherite’ settlement, not the 2007-8 credit crunch, that killed social democracy and the reformist project.

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