Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Imperialism and Social Democracy

This item is a response to comments made by 'Anonymous' on two of my blog articles earlier this month: Immigration and the Imperial Mentality, with a comment on 24 April, and The Dead Sea, with a comment on 27 April. I would prefer that people who comment use a name, but let that be. I would also prefer that the comments or questions had more substance, rather than simply recycling prejudices. But, since the prejudices raised are commonly held, I feel inclined to answer them, rather than to think they are from an Internet troll or a calculated wind up from someone who knew that they would make my blood boil.
I have reproduced each of the main comments in bold below, and then answered the points raised in the text below each one. My replies are brief, partly because I have other things to do and partly because the ill thought out nature of the comments does not deserve a more extensive response. The views of Anonymous reek of imperial prejudice. However, it is not the confident prejudice of the British establishment, but the no less sickening hypocrisy and prejudice of the British ‘labour movement᾿.
The latter is cloaked in a concern for the mass of people, but is really an assertion of the rights of imperialist country workers over those elsewhere. Notably, the comments from Anonymous have been raised on the question of immigration. The answer to this question determines whether you are on the side of the working class internationally, or whether you want special privileges for your ‘own’ working class, ones that you think will come from calling on ‘your’ state to implement the correct policies. This is the core of the argument presented by Anonymous, covered with the stinking slime of ‘Europe’ and ‘Western values’.
So, to begin …

1. “Should Europeans commit the last of their pension money, destroy their social democracy, extirpate their cultures, genetic identity, etc., to facilitate invasion of their countries? Would mass-suicide be a proper move, speeding the process up a few years?” 27 April 2015
a) Pension money. This comes from money invested in financial securities, usually with a return based on income gained from equities and bonds, but perhaps also from property, commodities, etc. This money is not simply workers’ and others’ savings, but savings that are directed into funds that earn revenues from worldwide investments, particularly in the funds run by the major powers. So, pension payments are based on the profits produced worldwide, rather than simply being a means of saving for retirement. Note also that many poor countries do not pay any pensions of significance, while most rich country pension funds have payment liabilities that greatly exceed the expected returns on their assets.
b) Social democracy. This is a form of politics that originated in Western Europe from the late 19th century, one that tried to reconcile the newly enfranchised working class masses with the capitalist system. It offered social reform as a palliative to the exigencies of the capitalist market that drove many into poverty. Particularly in Germany before 1914, it also offered a gradual, reform-based road to socialism, but everywhere it supported the state’s war on other states, mass slaughter and the oppression of Europe’s colonies. No political movement in the West today could in any sense be called social democratic; the mainstream parties all accept capitalism as a permanent fact of life. It is appropriate that even radical ones adopt ‘Keynesian’ views of managing the economy, as Keynes himself wanted to save capitalism.
c) Cultures. Europe? Personally, I prefer Indian and Middle Eastern mathematics to Roman numerals, and jazz and other forms of music (from Africa and the Caribbean) to Classical music. I really do not like Morris dancing. Everyone to his or her own taste.
d) Genetic identity. You should check this out more. Scientific evidence would suggest that everybody comes from Africa. In any case, what has genetics got to do with the development of society, which in its main forms has developed in the past ten thousand years?
e) Invasion of countries. This is a preposterous exaggeration of the scale of immigration. You would also do better to study European military invasions in the Americas, Africa and Asia to find real examples of how to ‘extirpate’ cultures.
f) Suicide. Everyone must make his or her own decision whether life is worth living. More important is the decision whether to try and understand what drives the world, rather than accepting first impressions or whatever the political climate imposes.

2. “Do you know how much wage suppression causes, extending capitalism by keeping profits at that sweet 12 percent/year it demands? Do you know how the accelerated the destruction of social services are, a combination of right-wing cuts and over extension from millions of illiterate, intolerant peasants? Do you know the hundreds of millions in remittances the immigrants send home, further eroding the domestic economy in an age of austerity?” 27 April 2015
a) Wage suppression. It is a mystery where you get your 12% (rate of) profit. In any case, there is always an attempt by capitalist employers to keep wages low. How have ‘millions of illiterate, intolerant peasants’ contributed to this? You also ignore the role of trade unions in colluding with management to split the workforce into insiders and outsiders, the latter being part-time, temporary workers, etc.
b) Destruction of social services. There has been little cut back in social services spending, at least so far in the UK. There will be significant cuts in future, and these are attempts by the ruling class to restore profitability, the lack of which has undermined the revenues from which these unproductive (for capitalism) expenditures can be funded. However, you want to blame immigration for putting pressure on social services, rather than capitalism for being increasingly unable to provide decent living standards. As for ‘right-wing cuts’, you ignore the role of the previous Labour Government in backing privatisation, school academies, etc. In any case, this raises a point about the origin of the social services. If you look, you will find that the 1945'ish origin was (i) promoted by the Liberals (Beveridge) and (ii) was planned under the subsequent Labour Government as being funded by exploitation of Britain's colonies. This was part of a ‘social contract’ between the British ruling class and the mass of people: in return for mass support for British imperialism, the state delivered some social welfare. The economics behind that game is over. But you moan about not getting your goods, while still clinging loyally to the capitalist state. The term reactionary fool comes to mind.
c) Illiterate, intolerant peasants. Is it so hard to meet the relatives of those who made the shirt you are wearing? Those who are more than 10 years behind our elevated standards on women’s rights? Those who often have a stronger sense of community than the British? Your European culture has been fuelled by the blood and oppression of countries that are the source of your fearsome peasants.
d) Remittances. Yes, I do know the scale of remittances. It is very small indeed compared to the other items in the balance of payments, on imports, exports, etc. Notably, you are more nationalist-minded, not to say racist, in these calculations than British and other national capitalists, who also take into account the benefits they get from the supply of cheap labour from immigrants. For example, since the 1950s, low-paid immigrants have increasingly staffed the NHS. Presumably, you would be opposed to higher wages in such jobs because that would only increase the remittances these foreigners could make. That would be consistent with your choice of nation before class.

3. “Have you ever traveled? If so, you know full well not one non-Western country is importing workers, much less to the point of total destruction of the home culture by ones that do not believe in tolerance or left politics.” 24 April 2015
a) Have you ever travelled? Yes.
b) Not one non-Western country is importing workers. Migration is affected by many things, wars, social disruption, natural disasters, people seeking a better life or job elsewhere. Countries have many different ways in which they regulate immigration, naturalisation of immigrants as citizens, etc. While economics is a key driver of migrant flows, with poorer people usually moving, or attempting to move, to richer countries, it is not a one-way street. It is simply wrong to say that non-Western (meaning poorer) countries do not import workers. There are about six million migrants from other countries in India. Brazil even has co-official languages (usually Italian or German) in cities where there is a large proportion of immigrants.
c) Total destruction of home culture, tolerance and left politics. I cannot tell you how much I miss bread and dripping, a day at the dogtrack, breeding pigeons, colour bars on jobs and housing and racist chanting at football matches, because I don't miss them. Tolerance is a function of relative comfort. ‘Left politics’ has been moribund for decades in rich countries, not least the UK. It tried to connect with the pro-imperial mentality of the masses in rich countries and was always delusional, relying on the state.

4. “There's nothing in Marxism that demands obliteration of one culture by importing unlimited amounts from another culture to offer a one-off wage suppression.” 24 April 2015
There is nothing in Marxism that calls upon the state to defend the privileges of one group of workers at the expense of another.

Tony Norfield, 29 April 2015

1 comment:

  1. This post is a true highlight from a genuinely wonderful and informative blog.

    I've been learning a lot here the past couple of weeks.

    Thanks, Tony!