Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

Jun 28, 2016

Crisis: Brexit and: Britain, Trump, Class War
Sections                                                                                             crisis index
Introduction

1.
Making Sense of Brexit: Paul Mason on Britain's
     Growing Economic & Political Crisis

2.
Brexit and Trump: Populism or Manipulation?
3.
EU v. Brexit = Class War

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

This is another crisis log, and this one is only about Brexit. There are 3 items and 3 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interview of Amy Goodman with The Guardian's Paul Mason (whom I don't like much, and I explain); item 2 is about an article by Paul Pillar, who thinks Brexit is not so much populism as a fight between two elites; and item 3 is about two articles on Washington's Blog that say that Brexit = Class War. (I disagree, and explain.)

1
.
Making Sense of Brexit: Paul Mason on Britain's Growing Economic & Political Crisis

The first item today is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:
Britain remains in a widening crisis days after voters chose to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his resignation. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing a coup within his own party as more than a dozen members of his shadow cabinet have resigned or been sacked. Scotland has announced it will take any steps needed to stay inside the European Union, including possibly holding a second independence referendum. (..) To make sense of what’s happening, we speak to longtime British journalist Paul Mason, who has worked at the BBC and Channel 4. His new book is titled "Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future"
It took some searching, but Mason's book is nearly a year old, and was reviewed by me on July 18, 2015, and most of that review was not well.
Here is my summary of the book (after having read a so-called "long read"
on it):
Well... I have done my best, and have read it all, but I could find little decent rational argumentation, amidst a lot of utopian thinking, and a few more or less factual bits.
I still think that was correct, and therefore I will select more or less factual quotes from this interview.

First Amy Goodman, with a quite important point:

AMY GOODMAN: Global stock markets have plummeted. More than $2 trillion was wiped off global equity markets on Friday in the biggest daily loss ever. Earlier today, the British pound hit a 31-year low.
To see how much this was: A trillion = a thousand billion, and a billion = a thousand million, so in one day $2,000,000,000,000 were - somehow - lost,
in a single day.

That is a whole lot of money. Then there is this on David Cameron:
PAUL MASON: (..) Mr. Cameron, who’s signaled his resignation but is not yet gone, will go down in history as the Conservative leader who, first of all, destroyed the European Union—I mean, we have left the major bloc in the world economy—and he’s going to destroy the United Kingdom, as well, because, as you suggested in the introduction, Scotland will leave. (..)
This is probably more or less fair, simply because politicians are rarely recalled for something other than the most important thing they did or let happen.

There is this on British young people (who mostly did not vote):
PAUL MASON: (..) Seventy-four percent of young people who voted voted to stay in the European Union. The only problem is, we think somewhere between 35 and 45 percent of that age group actually voted—much, much lower than any other age group. The dislocation from politics meant that the people for whom this is going to mean the most had the least say.
Well... yes and no. I have not voted since 1970 (when I last had to), and my reason is that "politics" in Holland then meant what it means now, except that now it is worse: Voting for liars, frauds, or degenerates, who are for the most part about the least fit for governing the country.

I think I was right then, and I am right now that the ordinary "politicians" are eminent as liars only, and not as good minds, nor as good intellectuals, nor as honest people.

And while I agree that it is a pity that the ignorant and stupid majority voted Great Britain out of the EU, I insist that the reason most young did not vote is
based on a correct analysis of the majority of political frauds who lead them.

Finally, there is this on Jeremy Corbyn:

AMY GOODMAN: What’s happening to Jeremy Corbyn right now?

PAUL MASON: Right now, behind me in the Parliament, there is a revolt of his own MPs. I think he won’t be able to face that down. And what it will lead to is another leadership election. I think this is the last thing we need. I think it’s driven by—there’s quite a big middle-class hysteria since the vote. The people really are feeling, "My whole life was shaped around the European Union." European Union is kind of the soul of the democratic and social justice story here in Britain. And many of those MPs have just lost their nerve. They say they don’t think Jeremy Corbyn can win the election. I think, for the right wing of the Labour Party, the neoliberal wing, their fear is he can win the election, because the Conservative government barely exists. (...)
If Corbyn survives this leadership challenge, we have a chance of having the first radical-left government in the developed world, you know, from a big country. And I’m sure, absolutely sure, that these challenges to Corbyn are being coordinated by the political representatives of big business and, you know, TTIP and free trade. You know, that’s who’s behind it.
I like Corbyn for the same reason as I like Bernie Sanders: He is one of the very few who remained both honest (mostly) and real leftist (mostly). But they are among the very, very few real and honest leftists who are now elected politicians.

And this also leads me to my last point: I do not know whether Mason is correct in accusing "big business (..) TTIP and free trade" as being behind the current attack on Corbyn.

Mason does not give any evidence, and besides: it isn't needed, for most of the elected Labour politicians are not real socialists, and are not really honest, and are in fact Blairites (<-Wikipedia) i.e. neoliberal careerists who went Labour rather than Conservative because their parents weren't rich enough to get them through Eton + Cambridge, but who - for the most part - have no proletarian background, and are - for the most part - simply and only political careerists out for their own welfare.

2. Brexit and Trump: Populism or Manipulation?

The second item is by Paul R. Pillar on Consortiumnews:
This comes with a summary:
The Brexit vote, like Donald Trump’s campaign, is less a populist uprising against the elites than a contest of one elite over another in manipulating popular sentiments, argues ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.
I say. But one problem Pillar does not raise or discuss in this article is that there are several kinds of elites, and notably these three: the political elite, of elected politicians and governors; the financial elite, of bankers; and the economic elite of rich industrialists (and CEOs of rich companies) who do not make their money from banking. (And these differ fundamentally, because each makes their money in a different way than the other two.)

We will come to this, but first there is this, which is quite correct:
The vote exhibits something else that transcends Britain: most of those who voted for Brexit were voting against their own interests, certainly as defined by whatever affects their economic well-being. The economic case for remaining in the E.U. was strong to overwhelming. The issue was not one on which honest and competent economists split evenly, or anything close to evenly.
(..)
And the portions of the British electorate that voted most heavily in favor of leaving, including many of the less well educated and less well off, will feel some of the worst effects of non-membership.
Yes. So the next question should be: Why do people vote against their own - fairly obvious, for those who are well educated and intelligent - interests? Here is part of Paul Pillar's answer:

But beyond these categories of voters is another reason many people vote against their own interests; they are simply mistaken about which outcomes would help and which would hurt those interests. Many British voters genuinely believed that erecting higher barriers to the cross-border movement of people, goods, and capital would make them better off than the alternative.

The situations of some of those people made them correct, but most such people were mistaken. We see the same phenomenon all the time in the United States, in the form of working-class people voting for politicians who enact policies that favor the one percent and disfavor the working class.

Simply put, people are ignorant. The ignorance is underscored in Britain by lots of people scrambling after the vote to learn what this European Union business is all about. It is underscored in the United States by Trump declaring after one of his primary election victories, “I love the poorly educated.”
Actually, most people are (in my highly educated eyes, that were born in a very poor proletarian family, unlike most intellectuals) both stupid and ignorant. And in case you doubt this: Check out the last link in the quote, which shows that many Brits didn't even know what the EU is.

Finally, there is this:
The ignorance that causes many people to vote contrary to their interests is not all spontaneously generated. Much of it is nurtured by elites for their own purposes. The contest is more one of elites versus other elites.
I agree on the ignorance (and the stupidity). As to the elites: Because both the financial elite and the economical elite were for remaining in the EU, this can only be - if true - a struggle between different political elites (notably inside the Conservative Party and also inside the Labour Party).

And while I think this may be true, in a sense, I think in the present case all elites miscalculated, and
the vote for Brexit indeed was mostly due to the ignorance of the voters about their real economical interests, and the stupidity
that kept them from seeing and curing that ignorance.

3. EU v. Brexit = Class War

The third item is by Washington's Blog (and in fact consists of two items from that source):

This starts with an item attributed to "Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid" that ends as follows (bolding in the original):
So there’s no escaping the fact that this is a class war. Whether its globalisation, immigration, inequality, poor economic growth or a combination of all of them it’s quite clear from this and other anti-establishment movements that the status quo can’t last in a democracy. Eventually you’ll have a reaction.
I did not give you the start of this quotation, which consists of a listing of the diverse income groups and their votes ("the ABs, the C1s, the C2s and the Ds") that just do not prove that "this is a class war", at least not from the side of the ordinary people, who make up 90% of all.

But let me step back a moment. For me, "class war" is (originally) a Marxist idea (in which I am quite correct), which is based on Marx's notion that there
are the classes of capitalists and of proletarians, that are naturally (Marx might say: dialectially) opposed, and that are constantly fighting, which must end with the destruction of the capitalist class by the proletarian class, who then can start socialism.

In fact, this is what my communist parents thought, and what I came to reject from age 20 (in 1970) onwards, in part for the reason that while I could think of something like "an organized capitalist class", I found it very difficult to think of "an organized proletarian class", in either case because organization implies the presence of groups that are (to an extent) personally acquainted, and for proletarians there were no such groups (in other countries, or other continents).

In other words, "a class" seemed to me too high an abstraction to analyze what happens in a society: Societies - in practice - are made up of groups rather than classes.

I still think I am correct, but I agree there is a considerable amount of "class talk", and I also insist most of it is quite vague (and not based on any real knowledge of Marx). And this also seems the case with
"Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid".

So we need to consider "class war" - in some sense.

To start with, here is Vincent Bevis quoted by Greenwald (in an essay I reviewed two days ago)

since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.”
And this is Michael Sandel quoted by Glenn Greenwald (also in the essay I reviewed two days ago):
 “A large constituency of working-class voters feel that not only has the economy left them behind, but so has the culture, that the sources of their dignity, the dignity of labor, have been eroded and mocked by developments with globalization, the rise of finance, the attention that is lavished by parties across the political spectrum on economic and financial elites, the technocratic emphasis of the established political parties.”
I agree with both points, but I also gave a list of seven points then that were all due to me (none of which mention "class" as indeed wasn't done by Greenwald):
  • Since 1980 the rich elites in the US and Europe systematically, both politically and economically, have taken more and more of the power, and made more and more of the decisions in their own interests, without any care for the incomes, chances or health of those who were not rich.
  • This also was a major change in the New Deal and Keynesian policies that had dominated from 1933 till 1980, and that were almost totally given up by most of the rich.
  • The rich did get most of what they wanted (which I agree was both egoistic and greedy, in their own financial interests, and socially very dangerous), and they also did get, and still have, the main media, which were changed from a more or less free press into a press that mostly relays government propaganda as if it were true.
  • The rich have mostly sidelined democracy, namely by replacing the free press (in the main media) by the propaganda press (in the main media), and by getting a lot more votes for themselves and their rightist views by simpleminded but effective propaganda.
  • The same holds for many "social democratic" parties, that turned "neoliberal", and in fact ceased to be leftish except in terminology and slogans.
  • The "working-class voters" are no longer "working class", for the simple reason that their working class jobs in factories have been mostly terminated.
  • Clinton and Blair expressly and proudly killed social democracy in their parties (outside the levels of slogans and some propagandizing) and they also both killed any hope for any other economic system than capitalism.
So if there is "a class war" it was and is from the side of the rich elites (that I think are best indicated by "the 1%" plus some 10% of the people who work for them, that include almost all politicians of almost any party these days) and indeed it was the last 35 years not faught by "the proletarian class" nor indeed by "the 90%", even though these were victimized in an enormous way.

Next, Washington's Blog provided an interesting reference to an article he wrote on October 10, 2011. I quote some bits of it, that in fact all made the point I just made: If there is a class war, it was from the side of the rich elites (who do know each other, or at least can know of each other), and not from the side of the - massively plundered - 90%.

First, there is this:

Pimco boss Bill Gross – one of the 1% – tweeted today:

Class warfare by the 99%? Of course, they’re fighting back after 30 years of being shot at.

No, "the 99%" for the most part did nothing, though indeed "the 1%" achieved a lot since 1980.

Next, here is Warren Buffet, indeed in 2006:

Gross joins Warren Buffet, who pointed out in 2006:

There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war ….

And next, here are Ashel Edelman and someone from Calpers:

Asher Edelman – the well-known corporate raider who helped inspire the character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film “Wall Street” – supports the protests and says:

The greed of the banks are the cause for the terrible economic situation that we have today.

And the Chief Investment Officer for Calpers – California’s $235 billion dollar pension fund – said today:

I understand why people are protesting: Wall Street is a rigged game.

And here is Washington's Blog himself, from 2011:
As I noted last month:

Yes, this is class warfare. But it is class warfare by the 1% against the other 99% (and see this). Specifically, it is the looting of the country by the top .1% through fraud.

That is another reason that conservatives and liberals are uniting in protesting the status quo. We currently have crony capitalism, socialism or fascism … not free market capitalism. Those who commit the biggest frauds and are part of the aristocracy get richer, while everyone else gets poorer.
This is true. But if it is "class warfare" it was almost exclusively - and since 1980 - by the few rich against the many poor. And so far, the few rich won almost everything, for more than 35 years, indeed in good part because they also succeeded in deceiving and misleading the poor, making education a whole lot poorer, and by buying academia, either straight away, or by having made them accept enormous loans for their education.

----------------

       home - index - summaries - mail