No 1593 30th April 2021
The British wing of crisis-wracked international bourgeois imperialism is more and more a loser, a weakest link mired in sleaze and corruption. Its Union Jack posturing is “world beating” only in Covid incompetence and callousness and facing a desperate economic future against sharper competition. Despite bluster and boasts about “post-pandemic upturns” the future is one of slump and war with far greater austerity and repression for workers. Anarchic anti-crackdown riots, and feminist turmoil, are a long way from the revolution needed to end the system as it plunges into war but a sign of trouble – the Irish riots are the opposite, just a sour sulk by once-triumphalist Orange colonialism long beaten by the Irish national-liberation, now on the last stretch of full re-unification (undermining rotten jingoism still holding back the British working class). Leninism needed
Pathetic sulking Orange colonist “riots” in Belfast; anti-police anarchy in Bristol and feminist vigil turmoil in Clapham; racist anti-Islam provocations in Batley, Yorkshire; Brexit breakdown and pandemic chaos, and the deluge of unstoppable corruption revelations, all point to a slump-ridden British capitalism in deepening difficulties.
Of all the “great powers” the has-been hollowness of moth-eaten British “empire” pretension is looking more and more like a weakest link in this collapsing international monopoly capitalist system, mired in sleaze and corruption on a greater scale than ever before, wracked with turmoil and social breakdown, incompetent, incapable and uncaring over the pandemic, and with a squabbling ruling class losing all its authority.
All these particular upheavals have different, even contradictory immediate or surface causes; some express partial revolt, some have a reactionary content, or diversionary impacts or divisive effects, however well meaning or genuine the rebelliousness might be.
Each needs concrete analysis.
But whatever the specifics, they all need to be understood first of all as symptoms of the same overriding issue, the spiralling of the entire 800-year old world imperialist “free market” system into the greatest Cataclysm in history, the biggest ever of the recurring crises that Karl Marx identified (see Capital etc) as the unstoppable consequence of a class domination system built on production for private profit.
The turmoil also exposes the complacent uselessness and even treachery of the traditional TUC/Labour movement and its festoons of fake-“left” pretend Marxists, trailing like seaweed on an old boat’s hull.
Even now they refuse to put forwards the only possible solution to the world’s problems, revolutionary class war to end capitalism, continuing instead with the same old manoeuvring and parliamentary game playing, social-pacifist “peace struggles” and avoidance of revolution by taking up PC single-issue reformism, or diversionary “identity politics”.
None explain that all these upheavals result from the unbearable alienation, antagonisms, frustrations, agonies and humiliations of life in a system of profiteering exploitation (and outright thieving corruption) by a small and growing smaller class of ever richer owners and rulers, dominating and ruthlessly exploiting the masses.
Nor do they make clear that this increasingly contemptuous, vicious and arrogant class domination is breaking down, undermined by the overripe contradictions of an economic system which cannot sell everything it produces at a profit, nor even reach the point of profitable investment in production at all for its mountains of capital and credit (sloshing around the tax havens uselessly), and which make it impossible for the increasingly sophisticated masses, necessarily educated by capitalism for modern technological production, to tolerate relentlessly deepening inequality, injustice, austerity and repression any further (see economics box).
These disparate events are the rumbling of revolt that will erupt like a volcano once the Catastrophic crisis collapse really bites, as it will in short order, giving workers no choice.
But the “lefts” leave the working class disarmed, hoodwinked with reformist illusions and shackled with defeatism instead of drawn into a discussion about the necessary revolutionary future for mankind and crucially including an understanding of the great achievements already made, in the Soviet camp workers states (and those remaining like Cuba, China, North Korea and Vietnam) as well as the revisionist leadership mistakes which led to their eventual (unnecessary) liquidation.
If they do discuss the crisis, it is in academic terms, as a “potential factor” to consider, which “makes things worse” not an unfolding collapse on a never before experienced scale, about to change everything.
Few even see the crisis, and even those that academically spell out some sounder Marxist economics do not put it at the heart of their understanding as the great motor of history and erupting world revolt.
But the Catastrophe grows riper by the minute across the imperialist world, as the EPSR has been consistently warning the working class from its foundation forty years ago.
Since 2008’s global bank failure the monopoly capitalist system has teetered on the edge of the abyss, propped up only by insane dollar credit creation, now gone berserk with Bidenism’s ludicrous $ trillions, in a desperate attempt to buy yet more time before the inevitable implosion of the entire dollar finance system and its shattering world historic consequences.
As even the serious bourgeois economic analysts are warning, this desperate credit pumping is unsustainable, heading for raging inflation or dollar collapse.
Basic Marxist science has long warned that while capitalism continues, there is no way out from the intractable contradictions built into production for private profit and ever intensifying monopoly dominance save ever more vicious trade war and its degeneration into full-on blitzkrieg and destruction, already wiping out country after country from Iraq to Yemen.
Whatever temporary “upturn” respite there might be as Covid comes to an end, it is incidental.
Far worse collapse is coming yet, and soon, driven by the economic implosion inseparable from the system itself, pandemic or not.
The Bidenite burst of $trillions – well beyond even the desperate payouts to keep the banks afloat (at workers’ expense) in 2008-9 – can only put off the final dénouement for a very short period more, until reality catches up.
Then, like the famous Roadrunner cartoon coyote running off a cliff and suddenly noticing there is nothing but air underneath his feet, the whole world capitalist system will tip into the abyss, taking with it all supposed “normality” and the class relations of antagonistic competition established through centuries of capitalism’s initial rise under feudalism to the 400 years of world domination of society from Cromwell’s English Revolution onwards.
The greatest Cataclysm of all history will culminate in inter-imperialist conflict far beyond the horrors of even the First and Second World Wars, and already equalling it in some places (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen etc).
In other words the Third World War has already been deliberately set in train for the last two decades, bombing Yugoslavia to start things and then using the ridiculous notion of a “war on terror” to blitz and terrorise the Middle East, the Ukraine and increasingly Africa, and to bully and threaten the whole world (including and especially the major “free market” rivals) to save bankrupt US-dominated imperialism.
But the result has been disastrous, hugely multiplying ever greater anti-western hatred and waves of anarchism and “jihadism” etc, which for all its crude and backward ideology is the start of worldwide revolt, striking blows against imperialism.
Mass street revolt has followed, like the 2011 Arab Spring.
The just-confirmed US pullout from Afghanistan after 20 years of pointless slaughter underlines the intractable difficulties of re-establishing the imperialist writ in a “New American Century”.
Not just the Third World is now in permanent uproar – so too the domestic masses even in the “advanced” US, inevitably limited by anti-racist consciousness yet, and still requiring a Marxist-Leninist class perspective, but shaking the foundations of the dominant Empire power.
The missing element everywhere now is revolutionary Marxist science, developing by constant polemical struggle to guide all such upheaval towards the only possible solution – ending capitalism by the working class taking power.
The stifling impact of revisionist retreats over decades in Moscow (see EPSR analysis in EPSR Book 21 - Unanswered Polemics against Stalinism) have temporarily reduced the struggle for Leninism to a tiny minority.
But with imperialism on the back foot, in one sense conditions have never been better for re-building a revolutionary movement particularly in an imperialist country like Britain.
More than most its economy is detached from physical production, centred around parasitical finance operations in the City of London, software development and vaunted “research”, while “buying in” cheap labour and raw materials from elsewhere after wiping out working class communities like the miners (themselves held back, despite heroic struggle and sacrifice, by reformist notions and “British jobs” chauvinism from their leadership).
Such industry that remains, is reduced now to mostly assembly work for foreign owners, save some arms production for the vilest of regimes like the gangster Saudi royals and others in the Middle East; fire sales of heritage, property and land to similar clients also makes up a major part of ruling class income.
Small wonder the fat, smug smirking arrogance and disdain of the failing “imperial” British ruling class is now universally reviled by all self-respecting sections of the population.
Its prime minister is denounced as an outright liar, along with all the cabinet ministers, “advisers” and civil servants all busy moneygrubbing and prostituting themselves to the vilest murdering international sheikhs, Russian gangster oligarchs, mafia money and offshored tax-evading monopoly billionaire exploiters, both individually and as a government.
The bread and circuses soap opera of the monarchy and its parasitical “aristocrat” hangers-on, wallowing in indolent hyper-luxury and subsurface fascist sympathies, has gone from a mainstay of pomp and empire propaganda and control, bemusing an empire-corrupted, racist and chauvinist petty bourgeoisie (and hoodwinked layers of the working class) to fatuous celebrity soap-opera antics at best and mostly to total irrelevancy, an object of supreme contempt, as it deserves to be for its stuffy arrogance, privilege, racism, and reaction.
Even the “Queen’s great loss” of Prince Philip, when supposedly a “nation mourns” in sombre respect and empathy – once a sure-fire great ace played by the establishment to keep the petty bourgeois masses bemused and forelock tugging, – has fallen flat on its face with the great mass response being a deluge of complaints about missing episodes of favourite telly programmes because of the media’s slimy pretence of “deference”.
The future king is derided openly as a hopeless specimen and the rest of the family is either up to its neck in degeneracy and sleaze itself, or decamping to Hollywood, preferring the sale of their “prestige” for the riches and artificial high-life of American media money to the sour pomposity and empty rigidities of a defunct monarchy (both sides equally shallow, venal and useless).
The ruling class government edifice is now kept upright by the most disgusting gang of low-level spivs, barefaced liars, cheats and charlatans pretending to “defend democracy” by pumping out Nazi-level hate-stories about non-existent “genocides” and murder plots not even up to adolescent James Bond fantasy standard, while the real warmongering, assassinations, criminality, blitzing and torture from the collapsing Western capitalist system are ignored and, more usually, censored and covered-up (as with Saudi princes or the latest Ministry of Defence edicts preventing soldiers being tried for “vexatious” Iraq and Afghanistan warcrimes, torture and civilian massacre – despite plenty of incidents and evidence for them).
Whistleblowers are silenced by yet more monstrous state repression all the way to near-murder such as the cruelly imprisoned Wikileaks editor Julian Assange, with more draconian censorship laws passed, universal cynical police-spy penetration (sometimes literally) against the tamest of protests, surveillance likewise, and sinister cyberwar software developed not just for even more international war and sabotage (against Iran for example) but for use on all “leftism” and objection.
Desperate efforts to whip up chauvinism and jingoist aggression in all directions, behind a disgusting pretence of “concern for human rights” are larded with ever more lurid and fantastical LIES blaming imperialism’s victims for the stinking mess it has created, while the vilest warmongering, torture and pandemic massacres, from Egypt, Yemen and Zionist occupied Palestine to the Philippines, Colombia, Brazil and even the US, are ignored, encouraged and aided.
Lurid hype about “assassinations” pours out without evidence while the West mounts attack after attack, like the recent American agent duo’s attempt to assassinate Belarus legacy revisionist leader Alexander Lukashenko (ignored by the bourgeois press of course).
Brutally murdering and backwardly tribal Saudi and Gulf sheikhs, gangster Russian oligarchs and Latin American fascist dictators, assorted drug barons etc, thugs all, are grovelled to and their barbaric domestic suppression and external warmongering, killing tens of thousands and putting millions in famine jeopardy, are not only tolerated but aided and armed, even as ministers declaim from the podiums about “maintaining our values of peace and freedom” against “rogue states”.
“Hypocrisy” is far too weak a word for all this sick and degenerate propaganda, and its cynical lying pretence that the ruling class is “upholding the rule of law” and “defending democracy” against “totalitarianism” and other garbage trigger words for anti-communism.
The real point is that this brash in-your-face Goebbels lying, going far beyond the knowing WMD lies which were the excuse to utterly destroy Iraq, underlines the weakness and fear of the ruling class as the crisis deepens.
As with all the bourgeoisies, it serves to whip up chauvinist and xenophobic hatred, to corral public opinion for the intensifying hostilities of unavoidable trade war and all-out war to come, while splitting the international working class and burying any revolutionary stirrings at the same time.
Jingoist reactionariness, finger-pointing hatred against foreigners (particularly Europe), divisive hate-mongering racism against the black population, Muslims and Arabs, the Chinese, (and against the very white Irish etc), and scapegoating of all kinds have always been the last resort of every bourgeois when the inevitable economic breakdown and collapse of its system returns – each time worse than the last.
It is what Brexit was all about in large part.
Every bourgeoisie is heading down this path – the whole of “united” Europe is like a bag full of cats – but Britain has been earlier out of the trap because it is particularly threatened.
British imperialism, long outcompeted in general on industry and agriculture, knows that its existence depends primarily on the continued ability of the City to turn a profit on finance rackets and scams, cutting corners and bending regulations to ensure a continued flow of funds through London, from which it can cream off fees and “service charges”.
One section of the ruling class saw it as crucial to get out from the constraining regulations of the European Union, which are tailored to serve the interests of the biggest monopolies like the German engineering sector, which alone can afford the research and technology to keep up.
With its control of finance secured by undercutting the rest, and every kind of dirty dealing money-laundering and tax evasion, the British ruling class hopes it has an ace up its sleeve to give Britain an edge in the cutthroat trade wars as they rapidly intensify.
But even this is threatened by more efficient capitalist rivals:
In a development to coincide with the budget on Wednesday, the chancellor will publish the findings of a landmark review into UK listings rules to boost Britain’s attractiveness as a place for firms to grow and be taken public.
Led by the former EU financial services commissioner, Lord Jonathan Hill, the overhaul could introduce the most significant reforms in the City of London in decades.
It comes amid concern at the heart of government that Britain risks losing out to international rivals such as Amsterdam, New York and Hong Kong when it comes to hosting stock market debuts for fast-growing technology firms, and as the chancellor and prime minister attempt to frame the country as a destination for global business after Brexit.
Commissioned by the chancellor last year to further enhance the UK’s position as an international destination for share listings, the report proposes more than a dozen reforms that are designed to make it easier for innovative firms to list in the UK.
At present the most significant companies listed in London are either financial or more representative of the old economy of mining, energy and natural resources. The US technology giant Apple was worth more at one point last summer than the combined value of every company in the FTSE 100.
Amsterdam overtook London as Europe’s largest share trading centre earlier this year, and as experts say the symbolic blow could be followed by the City losing jobs as well as more business owing to Brexit.
Lord Hill told the Guardian he believed the strength and depth of London’s financial service industry meant it would be difficult for competing European cities to topple its status as the continent’s leading hub for global finance. However, he said rule changes were still needed to maintain and increase competitiveness after Brexit.
“The worst thing for London to do is to sit here waiting to see what happens and hoping that Europe will give us equivalence and everything will come out all right in the wash.
“I’m not a Singapore-on-Thames man, but the opportunity to set rules and regulations more speedily, flexibly and proportionately in areas like sustainable finance and technology, I do think there is an opportunity there,” he said.
The review calls for a shake-up of listings rules to allow dual class share structures on the London Stock Exchange’s premium segment, which would give directors and company founders enhanced voting rights.
The changes would enable such listings to be eligible for inclusion in the blue-chip FTSE indices, which attract a wider pool of investors than the standard segment of the London exchange.
Other measures include cutting the amount of shares a company must sell to the public from 25% to 15%. Steps are also recommended to liberalise rules regarding special purpose acquisition companies, known as Spacs, which are “blank cheque” shell companies launched to raise money from investors first and then hunt for a business to buy later.
...Faced with increasing competition from abroad, Hill also recommended that the chancellor produce an annual report to parliament each year on the competitive position of the City.
However, the plan to reform the listings rules could prompt concern that Britain is downgrading standards of corporate governance in favour of chasing high-profile trophy listings – echoing the debate over the mooted $2tn listing of the petrol group Saudi Aramco.
Hill said he had recommended safeguards to maintain investor protections, while arguing that it made no sense to have a theoretically perfect listing regime if, in practice, users increasingly choose other venues.
“The recommendations in this report are not about opening a gap between us and other global centres by proposing radical new departures to try to seize a competitive advantage. They are about closing a gap which has already opened up.
The desperate turn to jingoist hostility in Brexit is failing just as badly in virtually the rest of the economy too with much of the petty bourgeoisie and more backward workers who got taken in by the flag-waving hyperbole of “standing alone in the world as a sovereign nation”, now bitterly seeing their “small and medium” businesses wiped out by the inevitable imposition of tariffs:
Small businesses have reported a marked drop in exports to the EU as another company bemoaned the post-Brexit “nightmare” of delivery delays and increased costs.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), a lobby group, said 35 of the 132 exporters it surveyed had temporarily suspended trade with the EU or stopped it permanently. One in 10 of the exporters surveyed said they were also considering giving up trade with EU customers.
Some smaller businesses have been badly affected by the overnight change in trade rules on 31 December, with new paperwork and a rush to secure delivery space causing widespread delays and extra costs. UK exports to the EU fell by 41% in January, according to government figures.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Sharon da Costa, the managing director of Fighting Films, a Bristol-based producer of judo movies.
One option available to larger companies is setting up a warehouse in the EU in order to fulfil orders from customers in the bloc. However, this would represent a major cost for smaller companies and could mean they have to hold more inventory to be able to offer the same range of products.
While trade between the UK and the EU is dominated by larger companies, exports are an important source of business for smaller and mid-sized enterprises. About one-fifth of smaller British businesses exported in 2019, according to government figures, although that represented a decline from the roughly 24% that exported before the financial crisis of 2008.
The government-backed British Business Bank calculated last year that smaller businesses accounted for about one-third of UK exports in 2018, or £200bn of goods and services.
Import costs have also risen from the EU, with the end result likely to be price rises of about 5% for British buyers on some products such as judo mats.
“We’ve been sold a dud,” she said. “If it weren’t for Covid, people would be shouting from the rooftops.”
Matt Griffith, a spokesperson for the British Chambers of Commerce in the south-west, said members had experienced short-term costs plus “what looks like permanent deterioration in their competitive position due to higher admin, paperwork and shipping costs”.
Mike Cherry, the FSB’s national chairman, said smaller businesses faced “incredibly demanding, unfamiliar paperwork”.
Remaining in the European Union would not save the situation either which is driven by the crisis of the entire capitalist system. Europe is facing potentially even worse conditions than the bankrupt US:
The increasing risk of a return of inflation in the US and Europe is beginning to galvanise debates among economists.
...today’s unprecedentedly large government bailout programmes will have powerful inflationary multiplier effects.
But the international debate has been strangely US-centric. Few people have yet considered the particular inflationary dangers that lurk in the eurozone, where the monetary base has risen in recent years to a much higher level than in the US, relative to annual economic output.
In January 2021, this ratio, known as the cash-holding coefficient in the economy, was 43% in the eurozone, almost double the 24% recorded in the US. By contrast, when the global financial crisis began in 2008, the figures were almost identical – 12% and 11%, respectively.
Since then, the monetary base in the eurozone has risen to about 3.5 times the level that was once sufficient for transactional purposes; in the US, it rose to double its previous level.
For the time being, this money overhang cannot cause inflation, because short- and long-term interest rates are near zero and the economy is currently in a liquidity trap. Indeed, this extra money is mostly being hoarded by banks, rather than circulating.
This is the archetypal situation that Keynesians have pointed to for years as proof of the ineffectiveness of monetary stimulus. It is correctly described by the common metaphor that likens monetary policy to a string: it can be pulled, but not pushed, and only if it is held tightly.
From this point of view, the monetary overhang seems harmless. But it is not, because if aggregate demand increases after the pandemic, and is boosted by huge fiscal spending packages, then the string should be pulled to raise interest rates and curb investor purchases of machinery and building material.
But such a response is not likely to succeed in the eurozone, because the euro system would have to undo the many asset purchases that stand behind the expansion of the money base.
From the start of the 2008 financial crisis until January of this year, the net asset purchases of the ECB and the national central banks that form the eurozone system have totalled €3.8tn. Of this amount, the lion’s share, worth over €3tn, comprises securities issued by state and quasi-governmental bodies.
Political resistance to any reversal of these asset purchases is now so great that it can be assumed it will not take place for the foreseeable future.
Indeed, any such sales would destroy the market value of these assets, thereby forcing banks, which still have many similar assets on their books, to book huge depreciation losses.
Should this unwinding begin, the bubbles created by the ECB’s zero-interest-rate policy (which account for a large share of banks’ equity capital today) would burst, triggering a wave of bankruptcies.
Moreover, the European Union’s Mediterranean member countries, whose debt has reached exorbitant levels, would have enormous difficulties in taking on new debt and rolling over their existing liabilities. From this point of view, the eurozone system would be exposed as lacking any real brake on inflation when it matters.
...The huge hoards of base money that banks now hold in their central bank accounts are not even covered by M1 to M3 monetary aggregates. In this respect, these aggregates obscure the actual risk of inflation, which is already more than obvious from the monetary base itself.
If the economy recovers and fiscal stimulus turbocharges pent-up demand, a lot of bank credit could suddenly emerge from central bank money. Price growth will then begin to accelerate, and the ECB will have a very hard time curbing it.
Hans-Werner Sinn is professor of economics at the University of Munich.
As the EPSR has said, Brexit is about intensification in the trade war between the great monopoly blocs.
As crisis deepens towards ultimately war levels of conflict the desperate British ruling class has split down the middle over which side to come down on, German-dominated Europe or aligning with US imperialism as a shelter despite the cost in lost trade and subservience to American monopoly interests.
Either way the working class loses, whether European bosses or international, primarily US monopoly power, get the whip hand (like the tech giants milking the economy virtually tax free).
But for the ruling class the leave campaign had the added “advantage” of more easily fomenting Union Jack belligerence around the Empire nostalgia still embedded in middle-class minds and some, especially older, workers.
Jingoistic narrowness and nastiness is now a key weapon for the ruling class to try and hang on to power, using “patriotism” to head workers away from the internationalism that is an intrinsic part of the socialism that is the only way forwards for the working class.
Despite the seeming childishness of ever-more overt attempts to mobilise this reactionary populism, down to such risible antics as propped-up flags during government Zoom interviews and instructions to town halls to “fly the flag”, it is a major weapon for the ruling class and will take in many.
The same with the hollow boasting about “world beating” this and “world beating” that, which while easily mockable in the teeth of the pandemic death toll, becomes a tool for scapegoating blame and stampeding aggression.
The belligerence of the “vaccine wars” for example, turns the ruling class’s own cynical and callous pandemic failures outwards onto allegedly “incompetent foreigners”.
But despite this hype, British imperialism loses ground year by year relative to the rest of imperialism – which itself is heading for Catastrophe.
Few recent events make this clearer than the burst of teenage rioting in the north of Ireland by disgruntled colonialist remnants, the archetypal Union Jack wavers trying to turn the clock back.
Far from being a “potential return to the Troubles” as some of the more inflammatory bourgeois press accounts presented things, these were more like the last sputterings of a burnt out bonfire, very nasty for a few threatened nationalists, but so little of a serious threat that bystanders gathered to “watch the fun” as a bus was burned, and a few Molotov cocktails were thrown around.
Dangerous as that could be, and especially for the PSNI (police service of Northern Ireland) force injured while trying to control things, the week or so of demonstrations was a far cry from deadly and sometimes fatal conflicts of the past under thuggish Orange colonist ascendancy and triumphalism, backed by the British state and military, and using a panoply of repressive measures like H-block concentration camps, no jury trials, silenced nationalist politics (literally voiceless on TV etc), torture barracks so brutal the European courts stepped in to shut them down (see also Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain), nightly street and house raid intimidation, and the sick and murderous activities of the Orange sectarian killer squads as well as the MI5 Gestapo and other secret state security forces’ deathsquads.
While it is not ruled out that a few nastier incidents could yet be provoked by the truculent colonists (encouraged by the most reactionary wing of Toryism) and by the demoralised gangster remnants that now-defeated colonist-thug supremacy has turned into (and who it is likely, as the bourgeois press has been speculating, were instigators), they will still be a far cry from triggering a return to past conditions.
These riots were an impotent tantrum rage of a beaten political force, as is clear from some of the bourgeois press reports of the sour sectarianism which has been deliberately stirred up:
For the schoolboy commander who stood on the grassy hill and gave his name only as Bob, the intricacies and compromises of politics, policing, Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol could all be boiled down to this: his side was losing, and that had to stop.
His side were the Protestants, unionists and loyalists, bulwarks of Britishness on the island of Ireland, and they needed to assert themselves, starting with the traffic roundabout at the bottom of O’Neill Road in Newtownabbey, outside Belfast.
A singed and tattered union jack fluttered from a stick planted in the middle of the intersection, testament to three cars hijacked and set alight there in Northern Ireland’s week of riots. Bob and his band of teenagers, some clutching rocks and bottles, would defend it from any police officer who dared remove it.
The Democratic Unionist party (DUP) and other unionist parties were not defending Northern Ireland’s place in the UK, said Bob. “They’re all ball bags that don’t know how to put their foot down. That’s why we’ve been out here.”
In a nutshell, that is why petrol bombs have been flying. Working-class loyalists feel forgotten and marginalised and are using mayhem to get attention and leverage.
They got the attention. The region’s power-sharing executive held an emergency session, the Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis rushed to Belfast, Boris Johnson issued a joint statement with his Irish counterpart, Micheál Martin, and the White House expressed concern.
Whether it advanced the loyalist agenda is another matter. The governments and political parties all condemned the violence, which injured 55 police officers, as reckless and unjustifiable. Arlene Foster, the DUP leader and the region’s first minister, called it an embarrassment.
But Bob and his ilk, clad in dark fleeces, hoods and masks, had their own political calculus.
A trade border down the Irish Sea; nationalists flouting pandemic rules at the funeral of a former IRA commander; police and prosecutors not arresting or charging anyone who attended the funeral; in the zero-sum politics of Northern Ireland that meant loyalists were losing.
“We’re part of the UK, but they’re trying to make Northern Ireland into a united Ireland,” said Bob, as his lieutenants nodded. Few had travelled south of the border, just 60 miles away, for the Republic of Ireland was hostile, alien territory. Bob, taller and bolder than the others, had done so, to visit Dublin zoo, and that was enough.
In their view the other side, colloquially known as “them’uns”, was winning. Police patrols and drug busts in Newtownabbey’s housing estates, they said, showed a biased police service beholden to ascendant nationalism.
It is part of a loyalist narrative that the rot set in after the 1998 Good Friday agreement. Instead of a settlement, a new dawn, Sinn Féin and its allies used the agreement to chip, chip, chip away at Northern Ireland, removing royal symbols, removing the union jack from Belfast city hall, erecting Irish-language signs.
...Bob was adamant: loyalists had become second-class citizens. “You have police treating Protestants like shit and Catholics like upper-class citizens. The police were born Protestant and should remain Protestant.” He displayed his scorn when up the hill tramped three officers, two of them male. “Hello ladies.”
Older loyalists such as John Scott, 61, a retired musician, were not manning barricades but felt the protests served a purpose. Johnson had betrayed unionists over Brexit, just like previous occupants of Downing Street had betrayed the most British bastion of the UK. “It may help get politicians off their arses. Every now and again the prime minister, whoever he is, needs a slap up the bake [mouth].”
Blunt honesty, perhaps, but there is a murkiness to the riots. Middle-aged men have hovered amid the youthful missile-throwers, raising suspicion that paramilitary elements are directing the violence. “They let us know when something will happen, they warn us so we can close in time,” said one store owner in Newtownabbey, which has a strong Ulster Defence Association presence. Asked who “they” were he smiled. “I can’t say more.”
Some sense the DUP’s hand in the riots, saying the party demanded the chief constable’s resignation over Bobby Storey’s funeral to direct loyalist anger towards the police and away from the DUP’s role in creating the Irish Sea border. [...]
A 63-year-old Catholic council worker who gave his name only as Patrick had a blunter critique. “Unionists and loyalists were used to getting their way – and now that they’re not getting their way they’re complaining like a spoilt child.”
Peter Shirlow, a director at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies and an authority on unionism, said many working-class loyalists viewed compromises inherent in the Good Friday agreement as concessions, surrender, a drip-drip erosion of sovereignty. “They’re constantly told the other side is winning.” In fact most of Northern Ireland’s deprived areas were Catholic and loyalist communities boasted success stories, said Shirlow.
These truculent demands for a return to the old privileges of the colonists – which is what the whole “unionist” population should properly be called, whether ‘working class’ or not, until Ireland’s reunification is accepted and completed – are a bit late in the day, just catching up with the historic reality of the Irish national-liberation struggle’s victory in 1998, settled with the Good Friday Agreement and its coda in the St Andrews Agreement in 2006. And they are further proof in themselves of exactly the understanding reached by the EPSR over 30 years of the dogged and heroic Irish national-liberation guerrilla war, that British imperialism and its Orange colonist stooges had been fought to a standstill and forced into a retreat (see EPSR Books Vol 8, 15 & 22*[*in preparation]).
Against all the defeatism of the petty bourgeois fake-“left” which in various ways suggested, and mostly still suggests that the IRA/Sinn Féin had been forced to capitulate, or had “sold out”, in the late 1990s under supposed world consolidation of US imperialist power, sorting out the “hot spots” of revolt on the planet, the long and detailed analysis of the EPSR throughout that period said the very opposite; that the ever-declining position of British imperialism made it more and more impossible, or affordable, to hang on to the monstrous occupation of the north-east corner of Ireland by fascist-colonist triumphalism.
The permanent supremacy of “no surrender” settler colonists, engineered by the carefully gerrymandered borders of the Partition exactly 100 years ago, and imposed by Black and Tan bayonet violence against the democratic wishes of 85% of the Irish population in the 1918 all-Ireland election, is over.
With it goes the grinding humiliation and oppression of the one-third Irish national population trapped inside the twisted and manipulated border (not all of “six counties”), kept in poverty, unemployment and powerlessness, the condition these Molotov throwers obviously think the “taigs” should be returned to.
Their sour inverted whinges about “privileged” nationalists, who have obtained no more than a rightful equal footing (or are on the way there) after 100 years of colonist-fascist lording it are disgusting.
The slow dawning on the colonists of their lost position is due in part to the deliberate obfuscations built into both the GFA and the subsequent St Andrews Agreement, to prevent the reality of a victory for armed revolutionary struggle being too obvious, and thereby teaching too many lessons to the world’s masses.
As analysed (see EPSR books op cit), British imperialism realised that it could no longer sustain its hold on even this corner of Ireland as far back as the 1960s and set in train (or rather began to accept) a snail’s pace withdrawal, pushed along by Provisional IRA/Sinn Féin harrying liberation war and then also by pressure from American and European imperialism, the latter two wanting to see the disgusting fascist mess taken off the agenda, because of the appalling damage being done to the fraudulent international “freedom and democracy” façade built up for Cold War anti-communist purposes post-1945.
They also feared the Irish struggle could go all the way to communist revolt if the more strictly bourgeois-democratic national-liberation ambitions of the IRA were frustrated, (calculating that eventual Irish reunification as a bourgeois-democratic nationalist state was liveable with, and sufficient to satisfy the huge US Irish diaspora in the main).
The incompetent hesitancy of Westminster, fearful of firmly tackling the colonists and their dog-in-the-manger disruption and sabotage, combined with this obfuscation, with constant feints, duplicities and reversals to obscure its retreat, enabled endless prevarication and foot-dragging before the determined IRA/Sinn Féin struggle was finally negotiated with, and even more again in the first years after the GFA up to the St Andrews Agreement and power sharing arrangements in Stormont were finally agreed.
Even then there has been constant obstructiveness since by the hatchet-faced colonists, particularly in the DUP.
The “loyalist” bigots have lately been hoping to use the Brexit breakaway from Europe and its “restored sovereignty” as a lever to stall or even reverse the GFA, particularly as the ultra-reactionary empire-nostalgic wing of the Tories, the mainstay of Brexit, are also in full sympathy with Orange colonialism and turning back the clock.
So they have arm-twisted and blackmailed the Tories when they were able, particularly during the Theresa May government and its permanent knife-edge majority balancing act, when for a period the “Unionists” held the balancing vote.
And they have tried to ride the jingoism being whipped up by the ruling class.
But for all the sulkiness and pomposity about having it declared that the “union is inviolable” the reality is that the snail’s pace progress continues, exactly as understood in the GFA negotiations.
There is not the remotest possibility of British imperialism putting into reverse the long, slow withdrawal from the north of Ireland, however much it sticks in the craw of the colonists and Tory backwoodsmen.
“No surrender” long ago became “surrender”, obscured only by the in-name-only pretence that the bogus “state” of “Northern Ireland” remains part of a “United Kingdom”, reinforced by the empty declarations of the Tories that “no prime minister” would ever break up the United Kingdom.
The Peace Process is now too solidified for all but a tiny minority of die-hards to want to jeopardise it, and the political momentum of Sinn Féin is unstoppable, increasingly becoming the dominant political force both north and south of the border (and with cross-border coordination, in contrast to the treacherous green Tories in Dublin and the “Unionists” in the north).
Interim powershare arrangements in the Stormont Assembly, and ever more consolidated cross-border institutions and bodies, coordinating political, economic and administrative arrangements with Dublin are the reality, which much of the population has already grown accustomed to, including much of the colonialist population.
Most of them do not want to jeopardise this with the danger of a renewed border across the island which is why the population in the north voted overwhelmingly against Brexit in the referendum.
And such is the momentum now that Sinn Féin is confidently declaring that the increasingly de facto re-unification of Ireland, which all this amounts to, is on course for a formal political settlement in the next decade, achieved by the “border poll” referendum process set out in the GFA.
It was part of the retreat by imperialism, withdrawing and dismantling its military, security and police occupation, and all the mechanisms suppressing the nationalists, allowing them to complete the political struggle for unification without the necessity for further armed struggle.
Part of that deal was for the colonists to keep part of their material status for the while, which they have milked with such rackets as the “cash for ash” renewable fuels scandal and the additional subsidies to the province, blackmailed out of Westminster in exchange for votes during the Tory hung parliament period under Theresa May.
Everyone in the talks knew that the GFA was an acceptance of the eventual ending of “Northern Ireland”, drawn out long-windedly to muddy the waters and obscure the revolutionary core of the nationalist victory behind a pretence of “valid democratic methods” (which were “allowed” only because of the preceding bitterly fought conflict).
All the parties knew it, but not the petty bourgeoisie, fed by the capitalist press with the “fake-news” pretence that the republicans had “given in” or “sold out”, and bolstered by the whole 50 shades of fake-“leftism”.
But the obvious relentless progress of the nationalists, just described, becomes harder and harder to explain, if they supposedly relinquished their struggle because they were “fatally penetrated by the security services” and “falling apart” etc etc.
Why would anything have been conceded at all to a “bunch of criminal terrorists” as the persecuted republicans were slandered for decades????
The fake-“left”, both revisionist and Trot, are still pouring out this defeatism even while forced to concede that the historic ending of the bastard “Northern Ireland” statelet draws ever closer, covering over their glaringly wrong analysis with such weasel phrases as “bizarre deals” and events “ironically” moving forwards, as in a recent piece by the CPGB academic revisionist-Trot hybrid Weekly Worker which still finds it necessary to overtly dismiss the republican struggle for fear of admitting their hopelessly mistaken petty bourgeois gloom:
In the end, despite the prestige of the hunger-strikers, the Provisionals were brought to the negotiating table. The Good Friday regime represented peace purely in the sense of ‘absence of war’. The sectarian divide was enshrined in its constitutional arrangements. Stormont politics, intended to be a regime of the ‘moderate’ Ulster unionists and (nationalist) Social Democratic Labour Party, rapidly gave way to a bizarre power-sharing deal between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein, which collapsed and rebuilt itself repeatedly over the subsequent decades.
The irony of the present situation is that a united Ireland is arguably closer at hand than it has been for a long while, though still a way off. The Good Friday agreement provides, in principle, for a plebiscite on reunification – a provision that at the time looked like a sop for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to take back to their comrades. But two months ago, for the first time an opinion poll found 51% in favour of holding a border vote in the next five years – though it also found that a plurality of voters would favour remaining in the UK for now.
This situation has been brought about by almost everything except the initiative of the republican movement. The aforementioned demographic changes played a role, of course, but the main problem is Brexit. The Good Friday regime depended on frictionless trade with both the 26-county republic and Great Britain. Brexit made that flatly impossible – so long as the Republic of Ireland does not follow the UK through the exit door. The result is both symbolically and materially disastrous for the north. There is now a customs barrier in the Irish Sea, which is both a grave insult to unionist pride and a cause of shortages in many sectors of the economy.
Though Northern Irish voters favoured remaining in the EU, the Democratic Unionist Party did not. With the ‘Shinners’ on the ‘remain’ side as well, we have the peculiar sight of the republican goal of a united Ireland coming closer at hand through a policy opposed by the heirs of Bobby Sands and supported by those of Dr Ian Paisley, in an extraordinary act of counterrevolutionary suicide.
Good to hear that while the CPGB is so ready to insult the republicans as effectively useless, it remains concerned for the “insulted unionist pride” – perhaps they will once more advocate offering them a 3-county version of the stinking fascist colonial-partition enclave, complete with a repressed minority, to salve their hurt triumphalism?? (EPSR No1010 01-09-99)
Meanwhile none of it is “bizarre” to a Leninist analysis; it is exactly on the path the EPSR alone identified (see EPSR Books 8,15 and 22 [forthcoming]), including early on seeing the defeat for imperialism represented by the mass support for the Hunger Strikers and by Margaret Thatcher’s signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, which even the republicans, lacking Marxist perspectives, took as a “setback”.
But the fake-“left” still cannot grasp this, with its sour description of the Provisionals “brought to the negotiating table”.
It was what they wanted and had been fighting for over 30 years when they were not even allowed a voice, let alone the chance to put their demands - and they did not go there by capitulating and “handing over their arms” as the colonists and Westminster constantly demanded and as the WW implies – weapons were dropped only when everyone was verifiably dismantling and disarming, most of all the British army and the Orange sectarians.
Such is the desperation of the ruling class at present, in the teeth of the crisis, that further complications might yet emerge, as the ruling class Brexit wing and the die-hard DUP colonists have clearly been trying to provoke with jingoist hostility to Europe and stirring of violent threats because of the “border in the Irish sea”.
But attempts to bully Ireland and the EU behind it, into some kind of retreat by trampling across international treaties, have so far failed; in fact the EU has aggressively taken Britain to court over the protocol issue which specifically insists on no land border on Ireland, achieved by keeping the north inside the EU market as a special area, and imposing border checks between the north and Britain.
British bluster is even further exposed – it cannot contemplate re-imposing the Partition border unilaterally which would open a pandora’s box of upheaval and potential Troubles.
Is it really to be supposed British imperialism would do that, with all implications of an escalating need to re-install police and then military and security crackdowns?
It took nearly half the British military to try (and fail) to control the occupied zone in the past, and a cash strapped government has just cut the army by another 10,000 personnel, more than 10% of numbers.
Only Trident nuclear warheads are to be increased according to the recent military spending review and while that is a significant and terrifying signal of the war path that imperialism is on – and not just a “symbol that would never be used” as petty bourgeois pacifist complacency likes to delude itself – it is difficult to see how nuking Dublin would solve this conundrum.
And how would it help secure US trading deals for a “new standalone sovereign Britain”, to carry this through in defiance of American imperialism (and its huge Irish descent population) which told the British to sort out its occupation before – and repeated the warning recently.
And this is the only alternative to a border in the Irish Sea if the aggressive trade-war Brexit move continues on its current uncompromising path; since leaving Europe by definition means putting up a border.
The contradiction of asserting jingoistic “Britishness” against the EU while not installing a border with Ireland is irresolvable – and only accelerates the formal full retreat of British imperialism from its oldest colonial possession.
That in turn opens up further cans of worms.
The resignation of DUP leader Arlene Foster, and the fragmentation and bitterness within the colonialists, would indicate that even the lingering colonist attitudes expressed in the press cuttings above can find no coherent expression or inspiration.
The failure of the Orange reactionaries to stir any real conflict on the back of the Tories’ Brexit jingoism also has huge implications for the opening-up of revolutionary understanding in Britain itself as the EPSR has said in the past:
The imperialist-era corruption of the British worker with reactionary class-collaborationism has, potentially, been usefully & greatly undermined by British imperialism no longer being able to boast about its utterly fictional “defence of the rule of law against terrorism” in Ireland, or win sympathy for “our heroic boys in danger, and defending themselves bravely” in Ireland, – the source of anti-Irish hatred and racism in Britain for centuries.
But an acknowledged DEFEAT for British imperialism’s ill-managed and badly-judged and unjust war in Ireland against an acknowledged, truly inspired, and justified revolutionary guerrilla army would contribute immeasurably more to the healthy class-war spirit and rationality of the British worker.
All of that, however, continues to be unrealised because of the fake-‘left’, – still misleading its thin following of ‘militant’ workers into not even any conception of imperialist defeat, anywhere at any time; nor any grasp of British imperialist defeat obviously; and least of all into any understanding of a British imperialist defeat in Ireland at the hands of the despised “thick Irish bogtrotters” (who in reality proved themselves to be some of class-war history’s most outstanding guerrilla-war successes of all time).
On top of that, the feeble fake-‘left’ agnosticism of “does it matter so much if something was got wrong in the past”, cuts the working-class off from so many other insights, potentially flowing from a correct understanding of British imperialist defeat in Ireland.
The Sinn Féin/IRA triumph, against all the odds, cemented more firmly than ever that post-1945 was the epoch of national-liberation defeat of direct colonial domination, even where the imperialist power was in a massively favourable position to keep on and on, trying to crush independence, or to frustrate or delay it endlessly.(EPSR No1147 06-08-02)
The famous quote on Ireland from Karl Marx that the British working class would never be free while it colluded in the oppression of other nations, is finding a new form, as the Irish process undermines jingoism across the board.
Marx underlined that the British ruling class is fully aware of the damaging effect on working class consciousness of this class collaboration with its colonialism, and calculatedly uses it as a weapon to hold back revolutionary understanding.
So not only does the republican victory have a direct political impact as a defeat for imperialist prestige in itself, it also potentially unlocks pent up working class revolutionary potential stifled for two centuries or more by feelings of “superiority”, part of the deep-seated racist attitudes inculcated by empire.
But that will not happen without a conscious fight for revolutionary understanding – and the battle for a deepening grasp of Leninism.
That in turn is a further issue inside Ireland as well.
As the EPSR has always made clear, the republican fight, titanically heroic and determined as it has been and remains, has never gone beyond bourgeois national-liberation consciousness (though with a strong admixture of socialist principles which outdo even most “left” reformism):
...the correct programme, strategy, and tactics, — the correct theory, — that Sinn Féin did have for its colossal anti-imperialist triumph in Ireland was STRICTLY LIMITED to a national liberation victory.
But national liberation and socialism are two totally different things entirely. In some specific historical circumstances, they have run on to each other. But they won’t be doing it out of the GFA. And they won’t be doing it in Ireland when Sinn Féin becomes the governing party there soon.
Capitalist “reformism” is all that is guaranteed, — such as has temporarily nearly killed off working-class struggle in Britain after 100 years of Labour/TUC class-collaborating lies and treachery in the interests of British imperialism and warmongering.
No, more is needed, — Sinn Féin inspired or otherwise. (EPSR No1224 16-03-04).
The nationalist advance is removing a major obstacle to working class progress in Ireland and in Britain but the frustrations among the youth on the deprived Shankhill Road area, and other crisis hit colonist areas being bent around by defeated Orange sourness, and those of the even more deprived nationalist areas, are not going to be overcome even by the most integrated and unified Irish economy while it remains capitalist, however much there is a temporary effect that administrative streamlining might have (and has already been having since the 1990s’ establishment of cross-border bodies).
For that only the revolutionary socialist programme – overturning and ending capitalist ownership and rule – will change anything.
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Fans-in-the-stands 1 - Billionaires 0. For now. But the relentless greed and consolidation of capitalist monopolies will not be stopped so easily. Football raises the revolution question too
The quick retreat of the big time football teams from the proposed European Superleague is another sign of the fragility and nervousness of a ruling class sitting on top of a potential volcano of revolt as its plundering and profiteering system plunges towards Catastrophic breakdown and collapse.
In the febrile conditions of the ever deepening capitalist crisis, with its grossly wasteful and callous, corrupt, sleazy exploitation standing out ever more sharply against Covid incompetence, food bank deprivation, child poverty, unemployment and homelessness, as austerity and despair bites harder, who knows what might be the trigger which sets mass revolt underway?
The slick opportunism of the ultra-right Boris Johnson populism was quick to back off from the football billionaires, still desperate to pretend it is on the side of the “ordinary people” even as it is almost overwhelmed by the grotesque greed and scuzzy sleaze which is the normality of capitalist exploitation at even the best of times, and virtually the whole of it in crisis.
Football is in many ways the embodiment of working class mass community spirit and comradely loyalty, as many of the demonstrating fans were voicing – and over decades it has incorporated much class war rebelliousness, not least in such dogged fights as the Liverpool fans’ battle for justice around the Hillsborough massacre-by-incompetence and contempt.
That still continuing fight to hold the stupid, negligent and uncaringly contemptuous capitalist authorities to account for the disaster, merges at the edge with the bitter struggle of the 1984 miners’ strike.
Football also gets saturated in the jingoism and xenophobic thuggery that is an inevitability as the capitalist system plunges into deeper and deeper trade war conflict for collapsing markets – heading for all-out deadly world war three (in some senses already well underway in the destruction of country after country in the Middle East and the vicious hate campaigning).
But the hostility over the weekend, tapping into all kinds of class emotions and sentiment, was clearly focussed on the billionaire exploiters.
Even so this victory is a pyrrhic one – overall there is no stopping the relentless profiteering of the monopolies except by overturning the very system they are at the core of, the capitalist production for the profit of a tiny number of private “owners”.
Some of the bourgeois commentators, like Adrian Chiles, have made part of the point even if still fantasising uselessly about “legislative solutions”, meaning bourgeois “democracy”:
I wish I had the urge to dance in joy with every other right-minded football fan, but I don’t, because this thing is far from over. The central idea behind the Super League was born a long time ago and it hasn’t died with the ignominy of this week’s pantomime. Sooner or later, in some form or other, it will be with us. The rich and famous clubs will get their wish to play only other rich and famous clubs. To stop them will require a cooperative, transnational legislative effort akin to that needed to stop multinational corporations dodging tax. And look how well that’s going.
There are clues in some of the heart-rending apologies issued by our “super” six clubs that they regard all this as unfinished business. Consider this from Arsenal: “When the invitation to join the Super League came, while knowing there were no guarantees, we did not want to be left behind to ensure we protected Arsenal and its future.” Protect Arsenal from what exactly? Missing out on the lucre even if the whole project stank?
...the statement goes on to say that the intention was also “to support the game you love through greater solidarity and financial stability”. Really? I’ve yet to hear anyone explain how it would have been to the benefit of the wider game. Oh, hang on, here it is: “Stability is essential for the game to prosper and we will continue to strive to bring the security the game needs to move forward. The system needs to be fixed.”
...what they think needs fixing isn’t what most football fans think needs fixing. Their idea of stability and security is different from mine. The system that we have is already rigged in favour of the rich and famous. The bigger you are, the more money you’ll make from broadcast rights, the more money you’ll get to spend on players, and the bigger you’ll get. People like me think these riches should be redistributed throughout the game to help create a bigger, wider, fairer contest. People like them reason that since their clubs are the ones more people want to watch, they should get more of the money. In fact, between them, it looks like they want not just more of that money, but all of it. One way or another, I fear they will get their way eventually. Lawyers everywhere, as usual, will trouser a fortune making it happen.
[...]The problem is increasingly, the game has come to belong to fair-weather armchair fans... By definition, they watch their football on the television, and television is where the money is. There’s a good deal less to be made from fans like me, who traipse around the country paying for our seats in stadiums.
Free-market capitalism is supposed to work through competition, which means no barriers to entry for new, innovative products. In football’s case, that would be a go-ahead small club with a manager trying radical new training methods and fielding a crop of players it had nurtured itself or invested in through the transfer market. The league-winning Derby County and Nottingham Forest teams developed by Brian Clough in the 1970s would be an example of this.
Supporters of free-market capitalism say that the system can tolerate inequality provided there is the opportunity to better yourself. They are opposed to cartels and firms that use their market power to protect themselves from smaller and nimbler rivals. Nor do they like rentier capitalism, which is where people can make large returns from assets they happen to own but without doing anything themselves.
The organisers of the ESL have taken textbook free-market capitalism and turned it on its head. Having 15 of the 20 places guaranteed for the founder members represents a colossal barrier to entry and clearly stifles competition. There is not much chance of “creative destruction” if an elite group of clubs can entrench their position by trousering the bulk of the TV receipts that their matches will generate. Owners of the clubs are classic rentier capitalists.
Where the free-market critics of the ESL are wrong is in thinking the ESL is some sort of aberration, a one-off deviation from established practice, rather than a metaphor for what global capitalism has become: an edifice built on piles of debt where the owners of businesses say they love competition but do everything they can to avoid it. Just as the top European clubs have feeder teams that they can exploit for new talent, so the US tech giants have been busy buying up anything that looks like providing competition. It is why Google has bought a slew of rival online advertising vendors and why Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp.
...In the intervening half century, the men who made their money out of nuts and bolts and waste paper firms in north London have been replaced by oligarchs and hedge funds. TV, barely mentioned in the Glory Game, has arrived with its billions of pounds in revenue. Facilities have improved and the players are fitter, stronger and much better paid than those of the early 1970s. In very few sectors of modern Britain can it be said that the workers receive the full fruits of their labours: the Premier League is one of them.
Even so, the model is not really working and would have worked even less well had the ESL come about. And it goes a lot deeper than greed, something that can hardly be said to be new to football.
No question, greed is part of the story, because for some clubs the prospect of sharing an initial €3.5bn (£3bn) pot of money was just too tempting given their debts, but there was also a problem with the product on offer.
Some of the competitive verve has already been sucked out of football thanks to the concentration of wealth. In the 1970s, there was far more chance of a less prosperous club having their moment of glory: not only did Derby and Forest win the league, but Sunderland, Southampton and Ipswich won the FA Cup. Fans can accept the despair of defeat if they can occasionally hope for the thrill of victory, but the ESL was essentially a way for an elite to insulate itself against the risk of failure.
By presenting their half-baked idea in the way they did, the ESL clubs committed one of capitalism’s cardinal sins: they damaged their own brand. Companies – especially those that rely on loyalty to their product – do that at their peril, not least because it forces politicians to respond. Supporters have power and so do governments, if they choose to exercise it.
The ESL has demonstrated that global capitalism operates on the basis of rigged markets not free markets, and those running the show are only interested in entrenching existing inequalities. It was a truly bad idea, but by providing a lesson in economics to millions of fans it.. may has performed a public service.
Despite this second piece making sound points about monopoly dominance, it is precisely not “drawing out the lessons” with its notion that “politicians” or “consumers” and supporters “have the power”.
Certainly capitalists have to pay attention to their product being one to satisfy a need (or for which advertising and consumer celeb culture can create an artificial “need”).
But boycotts and consumer strikes are very difficult to organise and except in exceptional historic circumstances (like the Bolsheviks’ Duma (parliament) boycott in 1905 where a mass revolutionary movement was underway which overrode diversionary “democracy gains” ) have rarely had success in themselves – South African apartheid was stopped primarily by the uMkhonto we Sizwe armed struggle, the Anti-Apartheid movement contributing support perhaps; the Vietnam War was stopped by the Vietnamese national liberation struggle primarily, not anti-war demonstrations in themselves; BDS boycott of goods from Zionist occupied Palestine (ie “Israel”) has not stopped the Nazi-colonialists).
“Consumer power” is just another variant of the petty bourgeois delusions in “democracy” which the liberals and the entire fake-”left” continue to pump out, leading the working class up the garden path away from revolution.
Global capitalism has not “unfortunately become” the domain of the billionaires – it has inexorably always headed that way because of its very nature – the contradictions of the system relentlessly leading to monopoly power and wealth growing ever more concentrated.
The original “competition” between rival capitalists, which certainly did push innovation, and invention in the early period of the rise of the 8oo year old bourgeois system, albeit at the expense of a ruthlessly exploited working class (see most of classical Marxism such as Capital and Frederick Engels’ book The condition of the working class in England) was always laced with dirty dealing, sabotage, market manipulation and crises, but this became the norm at the end of the 19th century, when the “free market” became monopoly capitalist imperialism, with the merging of banking and industrial capital into finance capital as explained by Lenin in Imperialism - the highest stage of capitalism.
At that point basic competition disappears as the EPSR has explained throughout its existence:
It has long been axiomatic that despite all their aggressive class-propaganda for the virtues and sanctity of the ‘free market’, capitalists in fact do not like competition at all. They hate it. The bourgeoisie has always dedicated its entire history to trying to find ways of wiping out the competition by hook or by crook, and achieving as close to a monopoly position as possible.
In a long boom period there is competition but there is also the big possibility for all of the big competitors to all survive safely.
It is only when the slump comes that the capitalist system really starts its cut-throat competition. The really serious market-rivalry for capitalists (and cut-price benefits for consumers from ‘competition’ as monopolies threatened with bankruptcy from loss of market share, start cutting back as hard as possible on profits, dividends, and bosses perks, in some cases) begins when trade war means a fight for survival. Then some of the cartel rackets start to break up, and some of the more grotesque profiteering margins and cynical easy-money scalping of gullible consumers comes to an end.
It is this atmosphere of real competition which can start to alter the whole behaviour-patterns of the bourgeoisie, and start to undermine confidence in deep and sometimes surprising or unexpected ways.(EPSR No 758 05-07-94)
Wiping out by hook or by crook eventually comes to mean by total war destruction as it did in the First and Second World Wars with the ruling class preparing the way with as much hate-filled chauvinism and jingoism as possible, as the Boris-ites have been doing with their empty Union Jack bragging and bullying:
It is about as much use decrying the way that capitalism gives rise to these nationalistic explosions as it is to wish that the superannuated bourgeois farts who run the football industry might one day be able to organise a decent competition which is not nearly wrecked by the abysmal standards of refereeing which have been turning supposed contests of footballing talent into a completely unjust lottery of chance on some occasions. More worth having a go at is the way that capitalist football enforces excellence through financial competition but also introduces, simultaneously, the most commercial cynicism and calculating deceit in individual and team behaviour depending on the mercenary circumstances, mocking the sporting endeavour which is the basis of this whole artistic form. The chauvinism is much less complicated, and not at all surprising, – however sad.
The ‘free world’ imperialist economic system is all about big nation rivalry and nothing else.
The precise aim of the ‘competitive markets’ is to totally triumph over your main challengers, both at the monopoly-capitalist multinational firm level, and later, when the slump-crisis turns really nasty, at the level of collective state effort organised by governments, rivalling each other in such beggar-thy-neighbour strategies as competitive devaluations, import controls, surplus-product dumping, interest-rate contests,– in general in all-out trade war.
The first aim is to completely outstrip the opposition companies and countries. Later it might become necessary to take them over or wipe them out completely.
Nothing can stop this cut-throat process of the ‘free market’ system. It has routinely gone to economic crisis and inter-imperialist war, – at least since 1870, the first great modern struggle between France and Germany, – and cannot avoid doing so again.
In taking entire nations to war, capitalism cannot help but take these countries’ entire cultures to war as well, little by little, in one sphere after another, with ever increasing bluntness and steadily sharpening venom.(EPSR No859 25-06-96)
The community fan sentiments which just found a voice – in Italy, in Spain and elsewhere too as well as in Britain – are encouraging but like all reformism they will be swamped by the power of the monopolies, using their financial firepower, and by the bullying actual firepower that backs them up.
Only building a movement with conscious, revolutionary communist “sentiment” to take advantage of capitalism’s defeats and difficulties, to overturn it all, can change anything – building a socialist society in which healthy community sports and competition will finally be possible at all levels. Alan Moss
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