Brexit’s Disaster Socialism

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Yves here. I am overdue on a Brexit post, which I hope to get to before the end of the week. Recent events look a lot like churn, if you look past the fracturing of the major parties, but even that says a lot about where the UK is(n’t) going.

However, the UK press seems to be doing its regular disservice to the public by obsessing over the Tory-Labour Brexit talks as if they might lead to an agreement. Labour has no incentive to make itself a supporting actor in Brexit and have to own whatever the Tories deliver. It is the Government that negotiates any agreement, so this will continue to be a Conservative game until the next general election in 2022. It is difficult to come up with a scenario in which the Tories vote themselves out of office. Similarly, the DUP will never have as much sway as it does now, so it has no incentive to blow up the coalition.

On top of that, with Theresa May redefining what it means to be a lame duck by sticking so long in the role, there’s no reason for Labour to trust any commitments she makes. She will be gone by December, and any deal point she offers to Labour could readily be repudiated by a successor.

By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics. He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK

Many who read this blog will be familiar with the idea of disaster capitalism. This, in essence, is the idea that there is always money to be made out of economic mayhem, in which case, to use the vernacular, ‘bring disaster on’. I am sure this motivated many who promoted Brexit. Disaster socialism is a less familiar idea but I have little doubt that it is now gaining in popularity on the left, including in Momentum.

Essentially Trotskyist, disaster socialism is based on the idea that revolutionary change is not possible without the collapse of the current order. In that case that collapse has to be encouraged. Brexit provides the perfect opportunity for this in the case of the UK. It is well known that Brexit will precipitate chaos. Lexiteers who subscribe to disaster socialism are as aware of it as anyone. And they see that as the opportunity to create a new socialist order, which they are convinced will happen because people will blame the existing order for the economic chaos  that will occur. So, to use the vernacular again, they too are inclined to suggest ‘bring disaster on’.

From reviews of twitter, comments now being posted here on occasion and feedback from those I talk to, the idea that disaster socialism is good reason to support Brexit is growing. It would appear that those involved know that they will harm the well-being of very large numbers of people by supporting Brexit. I suspect they know that some will die as a result. And it seems that they do not care. The utilitarian argument that it is all for the greater good prevails, they think. And they appear to have no doubt that it is socialism and not fascism that will follow from this chaos. Why, or how, I have no clue. 

How far spread is this thinking? I do not know. That’s an honest statement of fact. That it exists within Labour and, it would seem, Momentum (albeit, and I stress it, as a minority view, overall in both cases) seems indisputable. The idea that Brexit is the opportunity to overthrow capitalism and establish what might be termed old-fashioned Clause 4 socialism appears firmly established amongst some now. 

I should be clear: such ideas have always existed on the left-wing fringe. I admit I have always treated them dismissively: the reality is that I cannot think of any way that an economy can be organised in accordance with the idealism that underpins this logic, and I fear that those promoting it cannot either. The consequent alternative might be at least as deeply oppressive as disaster capitalism might be as a result. 

Let me also be clear. I would love a world of more opportunity; wider use of co-operative structures; better trade union participation and rights; better pay; more flexible working without loss of employee protection; reduced wage inequality and much more. I think we need all those things, in fact. I do not see them as nice options to afford if and when a land of milk and honey arrives. They are the pre-conditions of a better economy. So I am not going soft on my ambitions here.

But the idea that better outcomes can result from Brexit is absurd. I cannot countenance that there are those on the left who treat their communities with such contempt that  they would put the people who live in them through potentially significant unnecessary hardship for a deeply uncertain and candidly improbable supposedly socialist outcome.

And I cannot also imagine those proposing such a change have for a moment wondered how people are going to take to this new world. As I asked one coffee drinking socialist recently, was he going to be happy to find there was just one state run cafe chain in the future? And how was the temporary employee of that chain ever going to associate their work for it with ownership or control? He had no answer. 

Now, this may be a caricature, and it was tainted by my genuine recall of the British Rail sandwich, but the point is real: the fact is that there are large sectors of the UK economy where the private sector is undoubtedly better suited to meeting need than the state sector could ever be, just as the reverse is true.

There is no doubt that we have that line wrong now. But even then I cannot see state ownership of railways, water and even power companies radically transforming the well-being of people in this country. I hate to say it, but large organisations will remain slightly dysfunctional large organisations that feel remote from their employees and customers whoever owns them: that’s because we as human beings have not yet adapted to embrace their reality even though we have benefited from their existence. That will not change even if we have disaster socialism. 

So I remain of the view that a much better regulated mixed economy is, overall, what we need.

Actually, I think it is essential. I cannot see anything else eventually adapting anything like fast enough to climate change. Of course nothing might. And outright capitalism of the sort right-wing Brexiteers want never will, by simply denying the need for change exists. But nor can I see state socialism reacting either: the demand for innovation requires economic diversity of action at present and that appears unlikely in a socialist system. So the biggest challenge we face would not be addressed by disaster socialism, in my opinion. 

So why get worried about this? Only because I do not trust the Labour leadership on this issue. I do think those around Jeremy Corbyn, led by Seumas Milne, want a hard Brexit. I do, of course, think they want it to happen on a Tory watch. And I do think they believe it will be good news for the left, embracing in the process at least some of the thinking within disaster socialism. And I think some, at least, are taking  part in talks with the Tories right now to tick the clock down, just as May did earlier this year, thinking it suits their agenda, and denies her choice, just as she finally found it did in March. I suspect the aim of some of those  involved is to deliver Lexit. 

And I think they know this will impose significant cost in the country. And they are indifferent to it. I suspect they are more realistic than those on twitter, and in the grassroots. I would, at least hope so. But do they share a goal? I fear some do. And that is as worrying to me as the knowledge that there are those who undoubtedly want Brexit for the short term profit taking opportunity it creates. 

And to those who think this is me moving to the centre? Forget it! I want radical reform. I want a Green New Deal. I want a world better for everyone – including all the 99%. And I think we can deliver this. But not via a politically created disaster. We have one human made disaster to deal with in the form of climate change. We need no more to distract attention from the one core and essential task we have of preserving the chance of life in earth. 

Disaster socialism, like disaster capitalism, wholly ignores that risk in the interests of a few and not the planet as a whole. That’s why I reject it out of hand. This is no time for 19th century politicking. This  is time for real change. And disaster socialism is a million miles from the reform we need. 

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92 comments

  1. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves?

    The British Rail sandwich, eh? That old (neo-liberal) chestnut (raked from time to time to make people chuckle).

    Perhaps the author is not aware that under state owned British Rail, much of the system was electrified. Until Labour went neo-liberal under Genial Jim Callaghan and communist turned imperialist Denis Healey, a thoroughly nasty piece of work with a witty turn of phrase (ask Geoffrey Howe about sheep), there were plans to electrify the rest of the network. The much maligned British Rail also developed the Advanced Passenger Train in the 1970s, a high speed train that ran until this decade.

    With regard to that other Labour target, the water utilities, there were government plans for a nationwide water grid. This was abandoned by the Tories in the 1980s.

    British Telecom, under public ownership, developed the Prestel information network.

    Corbyn’s hero, Tony Benn, set up the National Enterprise Board. This invested in a firm that became ARM. ARM’s products are to be found in Apple products.

    Rolls-Royce was kept afloat and revived under state ownership.

    Anglo-French projects like Airbus, Concorde, Jaguar, Puma and Gazelle projects came to fruition under state owned British Aerospace and Aerospatialle.

    It’s interesting that Kevin Kuehnert, leader of the youth wing of the German Social Democrats, is now speaking up in favour of wider state ownership.

    Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Thanks Col., that Guardian article is excellent. I’ve always been amazed at how lightly the UK let world leading companies like GEC and ICI just disappear. The Japanese in particular find it astonishing that a country would voluntarily break up and sell off their strategically core companies.

        I think it is an interesting point that ownership isn’t necessarily that important if a major company is dysfunctional. Some State owned companies simply weren’t very good at what they did for all sorts of reasons, just as others were far better than they were given credit for. People only missed British Rail when it was gone. It was slowly starved of resources, other State owned rail companies are outstanding. But then again, I’ve experience here in Ireland of two State organisations that thanks to poor initial organisational design seem congenitally dysfunctional and may be beyond repair. In both cases the problem comes down to politicians thinking that if they just passed a law and appointed a CEO, things would just happen magically. Instead, they created incoherent bureaucracies with big budgets but little power.

        You could argue I suppose that the alternative is the sort of quasi public/private companies you get in Germany or Japan – they are notionally privately owned, but so tightly bound to their regional or national governments they never lose their strong obligation to the public. Of course, this can also create the TBTF problem, of which I know you are strongly aware!

        So much as I support widespread public ownership and/or strong regulation of key companies, I don’t think there are any simply or easy answers to how you ensure all major organisations work for the public benefit.

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        1. vlade

          On the ICI, GES/Macroni etc., I suggest that people read John Kay’s articles. His argument is that those companies lost their vision, and instead got shareholders (well, analysts and managers).

          I don’t think that nationalisation can solve everything. National Rail is public, so is London’s tube. But both are still starved of resources, lack long term planning, and are in lots of problems – especially when you look at a lot of their European peers (who tend to be publicly owned).

          What matters for me is people who can, and do, enforce long-term perspective. Is it any easier with public companies, where the “bosses” (politicians) get changed every few years, but the election cycle runs pretty much all the time, than with private companies focused on their next quarterly reports?

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          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, PK and Vlade.

            Apart from the bit of ICI that forms part of Akzo Nobel, another bit forms part of Ineos and made Jim Ratcliffe, Brexiteer turned Monegasque :-), the UK’s richest man.

            Vlade is right to highlight the work of John Kay. At a City talk to launch Other People’s Money, he wondered why City traders and bankers were held in such high regard when talking about the economy, ownership etc. Having worked alongside such “experts” for over twenty years, I wonder, too.

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          2. Jerry B

            Thanks vlade. Do you have any links to the John Kay articles that you are referring to that you can share? I did some Google searches and did not find much.

            Thanks

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        2. Anon

          You could argue I suppose that the alternative is the sort of quasi public/private companies you get in Germany or Japan – they are notionally privately owned, but so tightly bound to their regional or national governments they never lose their strong obligation to the public

          This sentiment is echoed in this article:
          https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2011/10/why-tokyos-privately-owned-rail-systems-work-so-well/389/

          Everything is fine if the ridership and funding/resources makes the transportation system profitable. Otherwise, not so much.

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        3. Knute Rife

          The Japanese in particular find it astonishing that a country would voluntarily break up and sell off their strategically core companies.

          But there was no alternative (TM). Didn’t they get the neolib memo?

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      2. Redlife2017

        Colonel Smithers: Thank you very much for your comment. I’m pretty horrified by the trolling / pearl clutching. I’ll presume that the author doesn’t know that DB is a national company, which operates buses, etc. here in the UK?

        I also can fundamentally say that people who are close to Corbyn want no such thing as a Hard Brexit. They are desperately trying to negotiate and get something that can’t be watered down later. I recognise that that is basically trying to square a circle, but the negotiations are in good faith from the Labour side. As is their concern for their communities. I saw Corbyn speak a few months ago about his experiences with the growing homeless problems on Holloway Road (in his constituency near where he lives) and he spoke about what needed to be done. It’s not just nationalising the natural monopolies. It’s about real democratic community engagement, where communities make the decisions about how to best approach their problems.

        Thanks again for setting the record straight…

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the comment about Seamus Milne. I have been hearing for years how influential he is with Corbyn and how his views are precisely those presented by Murphy. He may or may not have much say over Brexit, but he’s long had a lot of sway with Corbyn over his policies.

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    1. upstater

      Well said, Colonel.

      This rubbish about “As I asked one coffee drinking socialist recently, was he going to be happy to find there was just one state run cafe chain in the future?” has got nothing to do with predation of monopolies and oligopolies in modern economies. I believe Yves said a while back something like “leave ice cream flavors up to Ben & Jerry’s” or something like that.

      With respect to electricity, there is absolutely no sense in private ownership and so-called competition. In the US public or cooperative ownership almost always results in lower cost because such organizations are not burdened by heavy debt loads at higher rates and the nonsense of “competition” (there are a few exceptions to failed coops or public power agencies, but VERY few). Integrated resource planning with renewable and conservation mandates can only be accomplished with state intervention, if not outright ownership.

      In “competitive” electricity markets with Investor Owned Utilities, there is considerable bureaucracy and systems in place to foster “competition” which are paid for by consumers. Independent System Operators exist to insure open access to markets. Thus, the ISO have large planning and operations functions with large control centers, as do the IOUs. Consumers are essentially paying twice for planning and operations. The net result is facilitating the current day Enrons the ability to play and game the markets. They have the ability to react to real time outage data to arbitrage spot prices. Consumers have no ability to do this — they just get the shaft and pay the bill. No useful societal purpose is served.

      Much the same is true with water, sewage and waste disposal — they just move at slower rates than electricity. And they have been loaded up with considerable debt in the UK.

      Railroads are another example where state ownership would tremendously benefit the public. One only has to visit Switzerland to understand. The notion that separation of freight, passenger and infrastructure is necessary is a recipe for high costs and poor service, which the UK and US have in spades. Of course, the EU is mandating competition in railroad service which only serves to crapify for the public and establish toll takers.

      I cannot pretend to know the right political course for establishing socialism in key economic sectors and how Brexit may or may not facilitate socialism. But needless to say, 40 years of Reagan-Thatcherism only serves to crapify everything it touches and impoverish the 99%.

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      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Upstater.

        You are right to highlight the indebtedness of the UK utilities. They have often become the playthings of private equity parasites.

        In my home county of Buckinghamshire, after rail privatisation, hundreds of acres of land, now generating profit for private investors, were sold. The income from that could have been used to subsidise what are amongst the most expensive trains to travel on in the world.

        I was tempted to stop reading when Murphy raked that old chestnut and then talked about the “coffee drinking socialist”. For a so-called academic to write like that, oh dear.

        Murphy lectures at nearby City university. If one was to be charitable, one could say that he needs to sing for his supper.

        Reply
    2. bold'un

      Re sandwiches, my father used to wax lyrical about breakfasts in “proper” first-class dining cars.

      Reply
      1. Colonel Smithers

        Merci, Antoine.

        When the project was set up in the 1970s, it was an Anglo-French combination. Germany then joined, followed by Spain(‘s CASA).

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    3. Alex Cox

      Hear hear, Colonel! The author is coming from a very tired old neoliberal place. “I cannot see state ownership of railways, water and even power companies radically transforming the well-being of people in this country.” Indeed!

      The commentariat deserves better stuff to get its teeth into.

      Reply
    4. Joe Well

      lol blaming bad 20th century British food on socialism…don’t forget to blame it for the teeth and the weak tea…

      Reply
  2. vlade

    very good. I especially like that someone else is making the point that large companies will stay large companies (with all that it means – and that includes money grubbing management) no matter what.

    I’d also make another point. Disaster capitalism works, because it relies primarily on what is guaranteed to happen. I.e. the disruption created by the disaster. As long as society recovers into some form that does not entirely repudiate private ownership, or that entirely annihilates the counteparties that are supposed to pay (last time the bet on the end of the world was saved by the fact that banks got bailed out, more the pity), the disaster capitalist wins.

    I cannot think of a single case of disaster socialism working. Because it relies on what _could_ happen post the disaster. But that is, by definition, a period of flux, where the most opportunistic get to run the things. Or psychopaths. And both of those categories, almost by definition, aren’t well suited for creating a well working socialism.

    Reply
      1. harry

        The Bolivarian revolution in Vene also comes to mind. Now i think of it, wasn’t the French revolution really a case of disaster socialism?

        That said im not in favor. Just noting.

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          I don’t think the Bolivarian Revolution was really a ‘disaster’ form of socialism, it was a relatively straightforward handover of power. There was no bloodshed and Chavez was very careful not to break up what already worked. Arguably, he should have done more, especially when it came to the media.

          Reply
          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, PK.

            Bolivia is doing well and has a decent sovereign wealth fund for the future.

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          2. Harry

            Not saying the handover wasn’t democratic, but the economy had been poor for quite a while before the population had enough and went “Bolivarian”. Of course it wasn’t just a referendum on economic mismanagement. There was also a substantial race or anti-colonial component to it as well, which is best seen by comparing the pictures of all previous presidents with that of Mr. Chavez. But I guess “disaster socialists” might worry that electorates take the view “if it ain’t broke why fix it?”

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      2. vlade

        Uh. Yes, it’s a diaster socialism. But that’s why I wrote “working”. Or do you really mean that the socialism in the SU worked, given the millions of dead by Stalin’s hand?

        The _only_ reason I can really think of on that is that a cogent argument can be made that w/o Stalin’s forced industrialisation in 1930s Germans would have rolled over Russia in WW2. But it’s not a 100% convincing argument, as it relies on way too many “what ifs”.

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        1. fajensen

          Or do you really mean that the socialism in the SU worked, given the millions of dead by Stalin’s hand?

          Disaster socialists / capitalists are not people who mind breaking a few eggs to get what they want.

          The instigators of the Soviet disaster rose to assume unlimited powers to impose their desires onto others and they even made out like the bandits they were, which means it “worked”, as in “worked even better than designed”.

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        2. David

          It depends what you mean by ´work’. Here it just seems to be equated with nationalisation, as though that were some kind of disaster in itself. I’m old enough to remember nationalised industries and I’d rather like to have them back.
          Whether Russia counts as disaster socialism is debatable because the Bolsheviks largely improvised to stay in power and win the Civil War. We can be glad they did, and they transformed and modernised the state, since otherwise we would be having this discussion in German, if indeed we were having it at all.
          If the term has any meaning it must involve taking advantage of political and economic chaos to decisively move the economy in a socialist direction, and that goes well beyond (if it even involves) nationalisation. At least that’s how I see it : I don’t know whether Corbyn does.

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          1. vlade

            For me the nationalisation is only a trivial part of this – and, as I write above, it’s not a silver bullet (because there are no silver bullets).

            As I wrote, it’s arguable whether we’d be speaking German if say Whites won in Russia. For example, it would mean that Germans would not have the office corps they did, as until early 30s Soviets and Germans had extensive military ties, and a lot of tank/air theory was tested by Germans in Soviet Russia. Not to mention all the raw materials that Soviets were selling to Germans up to literally the last hour before invasion (IIRC, the last train from SU to Germany went in an hour before the invasion started). So waaay to many what ifs.

            My point is that I would most certainly not class SU regime as what I’d like to see as socialism.

            Even discarding labels, while we can say that a for a lot of people conditions in the SU changed for the better compared to Tsarist Russia (this is especially true for women and children, where both education and health was – on average – incomparably better), the regime also imposed huge suffering on its people.

            Whatever else we say about liberal democracy, not one of those regimes forced (yet) artificial famine on millions of its citizens to the point where people killed their own children to feed the rest of the family (there are well documented cases of this happening during Ukraine famine in 1930s, which was entirely man-made).

            Reply
            1. Really?

              Those “liberal democratic” regimes foisted articial famines and other atrocities on their colonies. Such as the enlightened western liberal democratic UK did to India.

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            2. Harry

              “Whatever else we say about liberal democracy, not one of those regimes forced (yet) artificial famine on millions of its citizens to the point where people killed their own children to feed the rest of the family (there are well documented cases of this happening during Ukraine famine in 1930s, which was entirely man-made).”

              So this is not a settled question. Its true that Stalin had concerns about Ukrainian nationalists and was more than happy to crush them. But there were food shortages all over the country and hidden food stores were confiscated where ever they were found. Ukraine just happened to have more agriculture. There is little evidence to show that the policy was focused on Ukraine disproportionately. Ukrainian nationalist historians have good reason to suggest this was so, but then they also have good reason to hush up their subsequent enthusiastic cooperation with Nazi death squads too, which makes me question their impartiality. So this is a question I am cautious in coming to a conclusion on. My suspicion is that it shared features with the Bengal famine, the Irish potato famine, or the pacification of Native Americans. Long term policy goals meets racism, incompetence and utter indifference.

              And right now we have Yemen. An attempt at deliberately starving the Houthi out. Whether you attribute this to KSA or the US is the only question.

              That said, nobody thinks Stalin or Lenin were warm fluffy geezers who were overly concerned with human rights.

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              1. JBird4049

                My suspicion is that it shared features with the Bengal famine, the Irish potato famine, or the pacification of Native Americans. Long term policy goals meets racism, incompetence and utter indifference.

                The very large famines in 19th century India as well as the Irish famine were due at least partly to legislation and military force used to protect the wealthy. This does not include the famine in Bengal during the Second World War which was probably enhanced by the shifting of food to Great Britain despite the circumstances, just like how Ireland remained a net food exporter during its famine.

                Most of the famines during the 19th century started with drought but really were the creation of European countries forbidding other countries and colonies to stop the export of food to Europe, forbidding the subsidizing of food to the poor, as well as the distribution of food stockpiled locally or even the shipping internally of food from areas of surplus to those of scarcity. The destruction of the economies of India, China, and various Asian countries via colonialism did not help either. IIRC there were also examples in South America at the same time. It was disaster capitalism on a massive and international scale.

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            3. Ander

              Not to be entirely derailed from the subject at hand, but didn’t the population of the Soviet Union and its recently assimilated satellites grow consistently throughout the “artificial famine”, even despite the fact that it was essentially an at-war third-world country still in the process of modernizing its agricultural apparatus?

              As far as the well documented cases of child cannibalism etc., I am under the impression that those are traceable largely to Nazi and far right Ukrainian nationalist propagandists. A good example is the book, ‘Evils of the Kremlin ‘whose opening pages hold a picture of a mass grave, allegedly resulting from the famine, but in reality the grave was a leftover from the anti-Jewish pograms which had been perpetrated in the region prior to Soviet occupation.

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        3. SOMK

          The forced industrialisation of the United Kingdom took nearly a century to bring any significant elevation of quality of life to most people in Britain, it brought famine for many and that was with a global empire and as the world’s primary economic and military power, the USSR barely had barely 70 years, but arguably cared a great deal more for its citizens in managing to achieve close to full employment, free education, housing and socialised healthcare and defeated the bulk of the Nazis (though not selflessly) at huge cost.

          The model for the USSR was essentially the German war economy. The nature of both Russia and China as countries of such varying ethnicities and geographies they are arguably better understood as empires than nations in the modern mono-cultural sense, a mutual defense pact propped by the cultural memory of knowing they are usually better off together under one strong leader, but a togetherness than can only be maintained with crude, brutal instruments.

          Which may sound like apologetics for disaster socialism, but it’s worth bearing in mind, it was assumed that the 1917 revolutionary wave would spread to the more advanced and developed western nations who’d then take the lead, but it never did, so the country which much like revolutionary France was fighting a constant defensive war for its first few years of existence, which made industrialisation not merely the first step on the road to socialist nirvana, but a matter of survival and were forced to engage in a project they were hopelessly illprepared for (after all it wasn’t as if European nations would pinky swear not to invade and give a few decades to expand the university and administrative sectors to sort out the intricacies of transitioning from imperial feuadalism to industrial state to socialist utopia).

          Stalin wasn’t just a cartoon monster, but AFAIK a fairly well read true believer and remains a popular figure in Russia who are perhaps better placed to judge (their fondness for him could be likened to the British fondness for Churchill, (who could similarly be portrayed as a cartoon monster), though they hardly suffered the worst of him as the Russians did Stalin). Still it’s worth pointing out one of the reason post-revolutionary socialist regimes have a history of draconian brutality at odds with their stated ideals (setting Lord Acton’s dictum aside) is less to do with doctrine than because they tend to have to fight perpetual defensive wars against the countries of their former rulers family members and business partners.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            *Sigh*

            Don’t make shit up. We hare written at some length about how the early Industrial Revolution lowered living standards of working people in England. However, that point is very much disputed among economists that have studied that period (as in collected and analyzed actual wages and worker living costs), and even then, the economists who found standards found a period of decay of decades, not even remotely a full century.

            https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/IndustrialRevolutionandtheStandardofLiving.html

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              1. Yves Smith Post author

                You are treading on thin ice. The point is that when you have a case to make, wildly exaggerating it only serves the other side.

                Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Vlade.

      Your last paragraph is true. Just to add that there are forces already in wait for a Corbyn victory and ready for whatever it takes to disrupt a Labour government, especially one in an internal coalition with Blairites and an external one with the Scottish Nationalists and Liberals.

      These forces have been at work in the US and, according to Craig Murray, already infiltrated the Sanders campaign. Well founded rumour has it that a senior SNP politician, a former bankster from the same firm as Sajid Javid, is on their pay roll.

      I thought that it was interesting that “clean skins” like Rory Stewart, formerly of MI6 and son of a former No 2 at MI6, were recently promoted by May.

      Reply
  3. Norb

    Critics of Socialism always downplay the fact that champions of private property will never allow socialism to take root- anywhere. Period. Thru time these champions have developed sophisticated techniques to undermine collective societies, if not their outright destruction. Talk about bringing about millions of deaths- they are just not counted.

    Instead of using the clever arguments about coffee and sandwiches, how about answering the question- is destroying the planet worth your private billions? Acknowledging the fact that people who answer yes to that question are the true sociopaths, not Stalin.

    Unchecked capitalist ideology is leading humanity to extinction. The disaster capitalist’s cannot see, and don’t want to see this as a warning sign. Their mission is not to reduce or eliminate chaos and suffering, but to try with all their skill and expertise to perpetuate it. Suffering is for the little people.

    One question I would have for the author, is what type of society would be better capable of finding a cure for cancer? A PPE (private property evangelical) or socialist? Look to America for the answer to that question. Look at the quality of its citizens.

    Hitler envisioned a 1000 year Reich. Substitute Corporations for Hitler and you see the arch of the future. How is this not the triumph of fascism when corporations are a law unto themselves? How is this not fascism when the people of the nation become secondary or subservient to the smooth functioning of a private property system? There will always be some group of people seen as expendable or worthy of sacrifice in order to perpetuate the status quo. Instead of building a diverse- multipolar- world of balance. The desire is for a capitalist hegemony.

    Interesting to see how quickly PPE become collective social champions when they shift onto the list of expendables. Explain that away will you…it is all self-serving. Socialism for the rich.

    The whole notion of private property distorts the human mind. No wonder societies with a different vision of reality, and different notions of what was truly important in the world were and are, destroyed.

    Reply
    1. dcblogger

      I share the view that capitalism cannot be reformed, only dismantled. But I think it is critical to start building parallel structures so when the collapse comes you can put in place a better way of life. Actively engineering the collapse strikes me as an exercise in hubris. I also share Yves view that shaving the environment is the highest possible priority, and how we do that will define the social order of the future or even if we have one worthy of the name.

      Reply
  4. Norm

    Either socialism or capitalism can work well if those systems are controlled by intelligent conscientious people with adequate (no small word!) regard for the welfare of the people.
    Without such leadership, neither system works very well, and either system can turn into something catastrophic as the quality of leadership deteriorates.

    A reasonable leadership should be able to gauge the cost/benefits of public versus private ownership in different sectors. But both private and public sector activities must be regulated by people who cannot be bought off or intimidated by concentrated political power or the power of wealth – another very tall order.

    The legitimate fear of Stalinist left wing regimes should be balanced by a comparable wariness of concentrated wealth such as the current neo liberal order.

    Reply
  5. PlutoniumKun

    There is unfortunately a strain of left wing thought which is as much cultish as political. In my younger years I sampled a few left wing groups and I found some of the beliefs more akin to religious cults than political movements. A disturbing number of people seemed to see them as vehicles for their own egos. Some of them were so internally destructive that myself and some likeminded people had regular pub discussions to see which individuals/groups must surely have been secretly funded by the intelligence services and/or Koch Bros like backers – they did that much damage. My rule of thumb now is that most Lexiters fall into that category (we have lots of them in Ireland, but they almost all pretend otherwise as that stance is electoral suicide here). They are surely the useful idiots of the Far Right, because that’s who will benefit from Brexit, or any other poorly planned ‘..xit’. They seem unable to see the contradiction between calling for international solidarity, while breaking up the very organisations that can facilitate that solidarity.

    There is, incidentally, a very large group of Disaster Republicans in Northern Ireland. I’ve heard numerous anecdotes about hard Republicans who voted Brexit, entirely because they saw it as leading to the breakup of the UK – and how right they were. There may well have been equivalents in Scotland.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, PK.

      One of my friends, also the son of immigrants and a City time waster, voted out, so that the UK could be destabilised like his ancestral Zimbabwe.

      Reply
    2. Harry

      “There is, incidentally, a very large group of Disaster Republicans in Northern Ireland. I’ve heard numerous anecdotes about hard Republicans who voted Brexit, entirely because they saw it as leading to the breakup of the UK – and how right they were. There may well have been equivalents in Scotland.”

      Yes they were!

      Reply
  6. Democrita

    While I am sympathetic to the author, it just doesn’t seem like we can get the change we need without some kind of shock or upheaval.

    I don’t want to bring it on, but don’t really see another way to shake off the complacency that denies the need for change.

    I’m fighting for bernie, but not wearing rosy glasses.

    Reply
    1. vlade

      The point I tend to make to people who want revolutions (I’m not saying you do, just raising it as a point) is that no revolution ended the way its orginators wanted it to. American revolution come closest, but even there you then had massive arguments, and ultimately a civil war. Which was, IMO, a very much product of the fact that the ‘founding fathers’ could not very well reconcile their revolutionary rhetoric and economics of slavery.

      So yes, an upheaval may be necessary. Just don’t expect it to end your way.

      Reply
      1. Joe Well

        The blame usually gets put on the disruptive technological genius Eli Whitney for reversing the declining fortunes of Southern plantation agriculture. At the time of the Revolution, the state leaders were pinky-promising to gradually abolish slavery over the coming decades, but that only actually happened north of Delaware.

        I haven’t studied the period well enough to know if this is true. Clearly, even Southerners like Thomas Jefferson who advocated abolition were not prepared to sacrifice their own social position for it, and the Northerners who interacted with them in person should have seen that.

        If they didn’t have the world’s most evil empire trying to starve them out and threatening another invasion, maybe New England at least could have formed an independent republic untainted by domestic slavery, but as it was I don’t know what they could have done. When the civil war did come, the empire initially took the side of the rebels as expected, but at least by that point the North was strong enough to bribe and threaten them out of an actual invasion. Echoes of US hegemony in Latin America in the 20th century and today.

        Reply
      2. Democrita

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get what i want. :{

        But also, I include climate change among the sources for that upheaval. So we will either upheave ourselves, or nature will do it for us.

        Those who make peaceful revolution impossible…etc.

        Reply
  7. Clive

    And yet, what is Labour supposed to do? We’ve arrived back, nearly three years after the Referendum, right back where we all came in. In the absence of Brexit and continued dissatisfaction with the EU, it isn’t tenable that Labour (or the Conservative Party, for that matter) can simply stuff the genie back into the bottle and carry on like nothing has happened and Brexit isn’t an issue on which voters are going to give — or withhold — their votes on.

    Just like the Conservatives in 2016, Labour too is at the whim of Leave voters who will vote for the Brexit Party if Labour fails to support some sort of Brexit (and current sentiment, amongst Leave’ers is that this can’t be a Brexit in Name Only such as Common Market 2.0 or some such less-than-credible thing). So for Labour to be a party of Remain means it is going to find it very difficult to form a majority government. Conversely, it is just as likely to face the same difficulties if it nails its colours more firmly to the Leave mast. Hence the current attempt to avoid the predicament by Labour’s fence sitting. The Conservative Party has much less to lose by cutting adrift its Remain supporting voters — it will be far more likely to pick up former Labour Leave defectors in greater numbers than it loses Conservative Remain switchers who can go to not only Labour, but also the Liberal Democrats, the SNP in Scotland or CHUK (the latter however seemingly has lost its way, perhaps terminally).

    The writer’s malaise is that they are of the opinion that Brexit is a disaster. Yet it is a disaster which, bizarrely if it is so self-evidently and undeniably a disaster, no-one has quite managed to avert. Hence they have to now explain why, being a continued disaster, it has not succumbed to being remedied by either the left or the right. And also why the center ground, too, has failed to effectively intervene. We therefore have to accept it being both disaster capitalism and disaster socialism, simultaneously. Otherwise, either the opposite forces of disaster-averting capitalism or disaster-averting socialism would have prevailed.

    Hmm. A disaster which is apparently so obviously a disaster (“people will die because of it”) and yet resists any attempt to circumvent it or change course by the interventions of either the left, or the right or the centre. A strange phenomena indeed.

    On the other hand, there’s another clue in the writer’s comments which perhaps suggest where they might be mis-stepping. When they say “… It is well known that Brexit will precipitate chaos”, what he might actually be stating, put more exactly, is ” It is well known among Remain’ers that Brexit will precipitate chaos”. Leave’ers have offered differing views on that. Since neither Leave nor Remain arguments are particularly keen on offering their competing theories up for peer review nor of moving to a more academic approach to trying to settle the matter, we’ve spent the past three years listening to both sides talking past each other.

    Richard Murphy will therefore have to convince Leave voters why they are, to cut it short, doin’ it wrong. Lamenting Brexit, lamenting Labour, lamenting Leave voters, lamenting socialism, lamenting anything and everything will not achieve this. Only more convincing arguments will.

    Reply
    1. Keith Newman

      A silly post by Richard Murphy – a rant stringing together disparate and unconnected ideas, including the ”socialist” single coffee chain. Even Cuba doesn’t do that. Murphy’s post is a reflection of the poverty of thought regarding Brexit and Leave by all sides of the issue and is informative in that sense. Sadly a general poverty of thought seems to be occurring across the advanced capitalist world and involves many big issues.

      Reply
      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you and well said, Gents.

        With regard to Chuka’s plaything CHUK, it gets a good press in part because of Chuka’s maternal first cousins, Dan Milmo at the Guardian and Cahal Milmo at the Indy, can do their magic. A couple of weeks ago, Richard Seymour wrote a piece about the racism of the Blairites for the Independent. It was spiked within hours of online publication and before printing. Oddly, leftist hacks seem(ed) unaware of the Milmo connection at work.

        One hopes and prays CHUK disappears. Still, Chuka is a rich so and so and can retire to his villa in Ibiza and listen to UK garage music. I am sure that his Savile Row tailor can fly out.

        Reply
    2. fajensen

      Brexit should be seen as a religious construct.

      It doesn’t matter that it is a disaster because all earthly discomfort is ephemeral and everyone of the proper faith will just go to Brexit-heaven.

      It is heretical to suggest catastrophe avoidance measures, because that would mean that Brexit-heaven doesn’t really exist and the suffering is for nothing. That kind of thinking never goes over well in any congregation.

      Reply
      1. Maff

        Even as a committed leaver, and an atheist, I can actually see something in your religion analogy. Most religions hold that suffering in the present will later be rewarded. Some things should be held sacred, above personal gratification, above the cult of GDP growth maximisation. People like me hold the traditions, character, language, independence (even religion?) of our country “sacred”. Without a desire to save some things from that list, what are we? A floating conglomerate, worshipping the false icon of GDP maximisation above all else? A “barge of Babel”, with its doors wide open to all? A uniquely rich culture, a rare orchid, replaced by a cocktail of all else, put in a blender and whizzed until there isn’t a trace of identity left. A fate that may await the entire world. Not on my watch. Brexit may fail to deliver my utopia, or even delay the fall of that which I love, but at least I will have tried – a forgotten martyr to a forgotten cause.

        Reply
  8. a different chris

    >by the interventions of either the left, or the right or the centre. A strange phenomena indeed.

    I dunno. The Roman Republic was replaced by a dictatorship. And I suspect that will be the norm again in 100 years, it’s just a matter of curiosity in which order of countries that will happen. If you can even put dates on a process that goes by fits and starts, and sometimes steps back as the Roman (de)evolution did.

    Brexit, not the economic “we want out” part but the exposure of how sad our betters have become, is a clear signal of the future. As is the accelerating power of the US Presidency – Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be interested in Grover Cleveland’s job. People tell us China is the future, and Xi is now “President For Life” if he wishes and I am darn sure he does.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      The Roman Republic was a nasty oligarchy with extreme limitations on the rights of the plebs to participate in the state. Caesar, and later Augustus, were popular because they distributed power and opportunity outside the traditional propertied classes (funded in the former case by despoiling Gaul, mind you). And – and here for me is the cautionary tale – Caesar’s success was based on the cooptation of more democratically minded movements like those of the Gracchi, Drusus, or Marius and their transformation into a new sort of oligarchy.

      Reply
  9. Synoia

    q: Why Brecit fervo r
    a: Leavers are disgruntled, and the blame is cast on the EU because of neo-librilism.

    The UK NHS is underfunded.
    The rail system is overprice, and is more expensive tha flyi f on Ryan Air.
    Housing is wickedly ecpensive
    Utilities are expensive

    Brexit is a response to neo liberalism, imposed by both neo-liberal parties, and reinforced by the EU,. The EU is a visible target and public discontent is focused by propaganda on the EU, and deflected away fron the Powers in London where the blame belongs.

    I do wonder if Murdoch’s malign influence is driven by two factors, not one, greed and hate of the English.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Synoia.

      Last summer, at one of a series of City events dealing with such matters, an Italian diplomat, echoed by French and German counterparts, said that Brexit asked the right questions, but came up with the wrong answers. Much sympathy was expressed for the plight of a Britain broken by four decades of neo-liberalism. The trio said that their countries were going through the same thing. They appeared to be losing faith in their elites and, not just the Euro project, but the EU, too.

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      1. Synoia

        Thank you Colonel, I shall be in London in September, visiting my sister who lives in Hackney. Perhaps we could meet over a pint of two.

        Reply
  10. chuck roast

    We had a disaster on the island during the coldest part of last winter. Thousands of people had to leave their homes, and much property damage resulted. National Grid, a trans-national corporation ensconced across the sea 3,000 miles away failed in it’s responsibility to provide natural gas to a populace of 40,000 people. A recently vacated commercial class-action lawsuit against NG cited a number of factors involved in the outage including, “NG’s six-month lockout of 1,200 of it’s union employees, reliance on contract labor and failure to analyze, invest, renew and maintain the infrastructure relied upon to supply natural gas to (the island).” The outage occurred the day the new contract was signed and the scabs were ushered out the door.

    The disaster actually occurred the day the local private gas utility sold out to National Grid, and the neo-liberal Democrats in control both allowed and encouraged it to happen. Unless the people of the island wise-up and “socialize” National Grid, it will happen again.

    The old saw was: socialism delivers equity at the cost of efficiency, and capitalism delivers efficiency at the cost of equity…pick your poison. In this advanced stage of monopoly finance capitalism the old-saw no longer applies as everything turns to shit. How could disaster socialism be worse than this?

    Reply
    1. Tony Wright

      Here in Australia power generation and distribution has been privatised by the State Governments which previously owned and ran them. They did so to try to balance their own books and used the neoliberal mantra of “private enterprise is more efficient and will deliver power better” . Utter BS. Power prices have doubled and sometimes worse, and failures are more common. And State Governments still can’t balance the books, despite receiving guaranteed shares of the GST, our national sales tax/VAT since it was introduced two decades ago.
      Mind you, here in NSW the Government is wasting money on the old tried and true Roman recipe of “feed them bread and circuses”- well circuses anyway, via the unnecessary construction of multibillion dollar sports stadiums. And they still won their bloody election. Sigh.
      Oh well at least we look like getting a change of national government on Saturday week, and I will be out there doing my bit in the “Democracy Sausage” – the now traditional election day sausage sizzle fundraisers run by P&C’s held to help make up for the inadequate funding of state schools – primary schools are the main polling stations here.
      Hence the new Australian affliction ,RSI – repetitive sausage injury.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        My commiserations Tony. We got the same up here in Qld. I sometimes think that both parties will not be happy in selling off assets until the only places you can spend money and keep it in the Australian economy is in garage sales, prostitutes and tattoos.

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  11. Red

    If anyone can point out a country that achieved improved living standards for its citizens without some disaster or artificial suffering imposed on others please share. I can only think of extreme outliers like Luxembourg and Switzerland. The greatest net improvements in human living standards in history happened in the USSR (as the author begrudgingly acknowledges) and China, many of whose citizens demonstrate through polling yearn for those old days.

    Reply
  12. Summer

    No mention of revocation of Article 50?
    Hard to believe there are no plans in the works to make that a palatable option.
    I don’t picture the remainers as being hapless, biting their nails in anticipation of May and Corbyn talks.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      What would that achieve? While Leave is still A Thing, it’s only going to set the scene for Brexit 2.0 and, indeed, some ERG types are already gaming out the possibility that, if what they consider isn’t the “right sort” of Brexit is in the offing (such as a in their view bad deal looks likely rather than their preference which is No Deal) then it’s better to rescind Article 50, regroup and have another go later on.

      Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      There aren’t. No one is even talking much about a second referendum, which is widely seen as politically necessary to give air cover for a revocation. Labour and others are talking up a confirmatory referendum for whatever deal Parliament approves, assuming it even gets that far. I can’t see the EU going for the additional 6+ months delay (minimum of IIRC 141 days needed for a referendum, and that assumes absolutely everything goes likety-split, which has never evah happened).

      Reply
  13. Matthew G. Saroff

    When the author says:

    So I remain of the view that a much better regulated mixed economy is, overall, what we need.

    He ignores the political realities of the EU which is that their dedication Neoliberal consensus (Because Markets, go die) , financialization of the economy, and German soda-monetarism makes such a system largely impossible in the long term.

    Brexit is an appallingly poor alternative to reforming the EU, but I do not see a path to reforming the EU in the foreseeable future.

    Reply
      1. St Jacques

        Soda-monetarism. That would be MMT ?

        Quite. The EU seems almost unreformable at that level, and that’s a feature, not a bug.

        Reply
  14. ChrisFromGeorgia

    I’m not a British citizen so I admittedly have no skin in this game, but I feel like the author (Murphy) goes too far in making an analogy between “Disaster Capitalism” as defined by Naomi Klein and those on the left in the UK who are pulling for a Brexit, calling that “Disaster Socialism.”

    For one thing, it attributes malice where none may be. How would anyone on the left benefit from a Brexit “disaster” in the way that the elites in the US benefited from the financial crisis? Second, I think one can make a case that if your political goals are to see Britain have better policies on progressive ambitions like getting some real action on climate change, or stopping imperialistic wars, a Brexit might enable that. For one thing just having separation from the EU will mean more local control as the EU is all too eager to please the neo-liberal crowd. Just look at Venezuela.

    Certainly I get it that the people pushing Brexit the hardest seem to be on the right, but remember about those laws of unintended consequences. I cannot begrudge any sincere progressive in the UK who sees Brexit as a means to an end.

    Reply
    1. Anders K

      Certainly Brexit allows for things that are not possible (or at least easy) to do in the EU. The likelihood that those things will be from the left utopian treasure chest is quite another.

      If I would be crude, I would also point to Venezuela, and state that while Venezuela is “free” from the EU and the US (currently), that does not mean that they’ll become a socialist utopia, particularly not if a more powerful nation wishes to tear them down.

      Seeing Brexit as a means to an end is certainly a viewpoint; but ignoring the consequences of the Brexit you are likely to get is, at this stage, wilful blindness. Any Brexit will leave the UK poorer in the short and probably mid term. Any result that leaves the UK poorer will lead to (some) deaths, with a non-UK-managed Brexit (No-Deal) at the higher end.

      Now, you may very well consider those deaths worthwhile – and I would argue that all policies that touch on economics will lead to people dying somewhere along the line. The issue is in my opinion more that the people that hope for a Lexit without wanting to take responsibility for it, and I am including Corbyn in this group, as that seems one of his plans, another being no Brexit at all and the Tories taking the – rightful – fall for that.

      The failure of Brexit advocates to own up to the disadvantage of their plans is what makes me furious, and their attempts to make any bad outcomes the responsibility of others would be laughable if they weren’t seeming to work for now.

      The EU is the way it is because it has been ignored by too many of its member nations population (not that that was not the intent of some of its architects). The EU can be reformed, but it will take time and energy and a lot of hard work. From that perspective, I could argue for Brexit, as it could lead to the EU reflecting on its purpose and going away from just money money money. I would not argue that Brexit would not lead to suffering, though.

      Reply
      1. Clive

        Italy started off more-or-less in the same GDP position as the U.K. in the 1990’s. It diligently took all the EU-administered medicine it was told to swallow. The effect on Italy’s GDP trajectory has been, being diplomatic, less than stellar.

        I’m not entirely convinced that GDP growth automatically improves population health and, similarly automatically, reductions in GDP cause death. A poorly managed Brexit will increase the risk of population harm. But poor management or good management would be political choice. The people in Flint, Michigan, for example, were harmed not because water supply is a state/county responsibility (competency in the EU parlance) rather than a Federal one, but because the party which has the competency — whoever it ends up being — was guilty of maladministration.

        Moving competencies around, which is what Brexit is, is a neutral act (otherwise population harm would be an inherent and observable outcome when a competency was moved to the EU from the Member States). It, as an abstract, neither produces harm nor lessens it. Whether harm arises is a question of government actions. Governments harm their people all the time. They also alleviate and prevent harm. It’ll be up to the U.K. government which it does for Brexit, just as it’s up to the U.K. government which it does in, say, public health, the environment, workplace safety, educational standards etc. etc. etc.

        Reply
        1. Anders K

          Some harms of Brexit can’t be prevented (but could, as you say, be mitigated) by the UK alone (i.e. going to trade with friction from the currently frictionless – or at least far less friction – state).

          I disagree that Brexit is merely moving compentencies around – the trade negotiations that has to end up at a worse state (for both parties, but especially the UK) makes it a bit more than that in and of itself – the other deals (intelligence sharing etc) that need to be made adds issues on top of it. Even if they end up – at a future date – at precisely the same point they are now (and the point they would be if the UK stayed), there will be wastage of time and poltiical capital in order to get them right.

          Moving competencies around is not free; the EU usually managed it by lubricating the process (with cash if needed) and doing it slowly. The UK process looks more like a “bite the pillow, I’m going in raw” situation, if you pardon the crudity of my analogy.

          While it very true that mitigation is a political choice, I suspect that it will not be high up on the agenda for either Tories or Labour. Arguably Labour could do less mitigation if they were in power to do so, as they could blame it on the EU and Tories (but especially the Tories). Whether the tactic of “blame the EU, it worked every other time” will work this time is a different matter.

          Reply
  15. Susan the other`

    I read Richard Murphy on a different level. I think he’s looking straight at climate change. And I think he’s right. What the UK needs is what we all need and that is an integrated economy. Well regulated. Doing the things that are essential. To do a crash-out would be the worst disaster the UK could create for itself; a waste of both time and money in a time of ecological emergency. He says it’s insane to go looking for a disaster to promote irrelevant political agendas because the biggest disaster of all is right here, right now. Climate change. It doesn’t matter, whether capitalist or socialist, who comes up with the best ways to mitigate climate change. I agree with that assessment. A big question for the UK might be to ask what advantage they will have for dealing with climate change if they leave the EU v. what advantage if they stay. I would assume that it would be better for the UK to hang in there with the EU for the synergy of those efforts. I’m now rethinking what my reaction was to the World Bank trying to sell indemnified private money contracts to sovereign governments for infrastructure projects. We might just need that level of adaptability. Properly regulated.

    Reply
    1. VietnamVet

      You are correct. Neoliberal capitalism cannot even design and manufacture passenger airliners that take off safely. There is no long term planning only profit taking. Mitigating climate change requires utilizing hoarded wealth and planning. The current system is incapable of addressing a looming catastrophe. The only hope is that elections restore governments that are dedicated to the public good. Brexit’s message is that unless an agreement can be made that is in best interests of the United Kingdom’s citizens, not oligarchs, western civilization is inevitably doomed.

      Reply
  16. Raulb

    There seems to be a sly and disingenuous revisionism of ‘socialism’ in process conflating socialism to communism and scaremongering to set up a false choice straight to ‘Stalinism’ vs whatever disaster to perpetuate status quo however bad it is.

    Since the general understanding of socialism in a democratic context is far away from communism and has been for decades now, those making this conflation have to be held to account for naked propaganda.

    The privatization of UK is well documented and well known, It was about hayekian free markets and more specifically neoliberalism and more ‘efficiency’ and less government. Neoliberalism is well understood and this blog has hundreds of posts dedicated to exposing its hollow claims and its risks to democracy not to glorify stalinism, communism, socialism but for its own defects. Privatization can be an euphemism for loot and plunder by capitalists as we saw in the post soviet USSR led by US neoliberals leading to oligarchies, corruption and zero democracy. Either way If the voters in the UK are happy with the results of privatization or if they prefer something else they can seek to change by voting those advocating alternatives into power. The problem now is right wing hysteria and paranoia smearing any opposition to neoliberalism, oligarchies and corruption as ‘communism’ or socialism conflated to stalinism deliberately setting up a false choice of extremes.

    Most if not all democratic countries in the world are running mixed economies with hundreds of parties with socialism – not communism – as their defining policy participating in the democratic process for decades now, not as a paean to communism but a commitment to social empowerment and general societal well being, is anything with ‘social’ in it or any social goals now communism? Since that describes democracy maybe democracy itself is communism. This is a farce.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Corbyn is calling for widespread nationalization, unlike the tame democratic socialism advocated by Bernie Sanders and AOC. That’s an even bigger hill to climb, hence the perceived utility among people like Seamus Milne for a crisis to flatten political obstacles.

      Reply
      1. Seamus Padraig

        In fairness to Corbyn, I was told that the Lisbon Treaty effectively illegalized the nationalization of sectors now privately held. If true, that would mean that leftists in favor of nationalization would have little choice but the exit the EU before they could carry out their plans.

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        1. Anders K

          There are ways to do it within the EU framework. One can simply nationalize it, then look vaguely surprised when people complain to the EU courts, or one can simply regulate the private sector into compliance (or bankruptcy, after which the State, more in faked sorrow than anger, is forced to take control of the companies).

          What the EU provides are not absolute safeguards (on the national level) but imposes extra costs to some actions a member takes.

          Reply
  17. Anon

    Thanks, Raulb.

    In the US it seems the “Red Scare” of the 1950’s is being replayed by neoliberal think tanks and the media (MSM) to a new generation.

    Reply
    1. rtah100

      Where to begin?

      1) German soda monetarism sounds nice, a kind of spritzer of sour monetarism and lemonade. I think the OP meant sadomonetarism….

      2) I reject the idea we have no successful examples of “disaster socialism”. But I would term them more accurately “emergency socialism / collectivism”. The greatest is WW2, where in the face of mortal strategic threat, red-blooded capitalist economies collectivised overnight. And the strongest participant turned out to be the USSR (correlation is not causation though). Although the Nazis were also pretty collective. The Chinese civil war laurels went to the socialists and not to the profiteers too. Finally, the global financial crisis was another great example of emergency socialism although sadly in most countries only the losses were socialised….

      3) I don’t think there are many examples of countries that have prospered without visiting disaster on their neighbours. Britain stumbled into Empire. Japan pillaged eastern China. Switzerland shot to wealth in WW2 because its neighbours destroyed themselves. Luxembourg and other tax havens have eroded the tax base of their neighbours. HK and Singapore are children of Empire. The only countries which might qualify are Australia and NZ (their first people’s might disagree) and Costa Rica and perhaps Uruguay.

      Reply
      1. Tony Wright

        In Australia many of the first people would disagree, and many of their survivors suffer the deep psychological scars of the Stolen Generation,and the ravages of alcohol, petrol sniffing and Ice(crystal meth.)
        And don’t get me started about the effect of us whitefellas on the many other species which used to live here – extinct due to land clearing, pollution and many disasterous introductions of exotic species, such as feral cats, foxes, rabbits, cane toads, deer, donkeys, camels, water buffalo and feral pigs.

        Reply
  18. Susan Butler

    Since when is socialism about State control of everything? Socialism is about social control, rather than private, wealthy individuals in control of everything. That could be British Rail sandwiches made by inspired local people who grow the food locally and take pride in the quality of what they offer in a cooperative worker-owned format. Why is that so hard to imagine?

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Corbyn is calling for extensive nationalization of private industry, so in this context, the version of socialism he is pushing for does involve state ownership.

      Reply

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