Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Ecole polytechnique Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Ecole polytechnique

Things have got so bad – with Brexit and the Tories – that the establishment long for the reincarnation of another unblemished Blair argues Brian Heron

Traditional media have a new boy.

Current British-based political and economic Annuals (see ‘The world in 2018’ – Economist, and ‘the Future issue’ – Prospect) are unconventionally enthused by the French President, M. Macron. The British chief of the Intelligence Service 1999 – 2004, Mr Dearlove, is positively enraptured by his potential. Things have got so bad – with Brexit and the Tories – that the patrician, old gents of the establishment clubs, long for the reincarnation of another unblemished Blair!

Blair and globalism

Blair’s latest campaign is to get the Brits to have another referendum. If necessary that can be achieved through two stages. First the UK adopts all of the EU rules to ensure access to a European ‘free’ market and then discovers it has even less power to decide the rules and accordingly reverses its EU exit.  Blair wants the UK to return to the EU because he sincerely believes that globalisation is unstoppable and only Europe as a whole has the heft to at least regulate some of its more negative aspects. And that is necessary both to maintain the super rich and also to defend them against what would become inevitable social and political upheaval in the West from the right and the left. Look at Corbyn and Trump – he moans.

Blair to Macron

Blair is at the rear end of the arc of ‘new’ politicians across the West that emerged in the 21st century having a common outlook on the inevitability of globalisation and who reconstruct or by-pass the traditional parties to create the new political order will support and defend it. Blair’s original continental twin was Berlusconi despite their very different styles and origins. This is what Blair said to the ‘New Labour’ Party in 2005.

“I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation. You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer.” He added “our changing world (is) replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift to adapt … and slow to complain.” Social groups and communities were not to “resist the force of globalisation”. The labour Party’s job was “to prepare communities for it.”

Macron and the old magic

Macron has exactly the same global view as Blair had. Notwithstanding the 2008 financial crash, when the world’s biggest bank became the now minuscule Royal Bank of Scotland, courtesy of Labour’s leaders Blair and Brown opening the City of London’s door to ‘globalised finance’. And despite a decade of reduction in the western working classes’ standards of living. And accepting the years of diminishing taxes from the richer and richer international corporations, Macron has a new plan to make sure that ‘autumn follows summer.’

The man with a plan

Like Blair he wants the power of French labour shackled; a precondition for any Macronic EU reform according to Germany’s Merkel. Blair carefully maintained Thatcher’s anti-union ‘reforms’ in Britain. Macron has to introduce them. Why did Blair and why does Macron want to destroy organised labour? To open up the ‘opportunities’ provided by endless working weeks, by zero-hour contracts and to dissolve assumptions about job security or state-based living pensions. Following his first battle, like Blair, Macron imagines himself as the first (elected) President of Europe, courtesy of a new European Finance Department, covering taxes and government expenditure across the EU, attached to the European bank. The economic federation of Europe then becomes the powerful lever to curtail the ‘bad’ effects of globalisation in a way that is unreachable for any single countries – with the partial exception of the USA. It is the same beat that Blair introduced in the UK in 2005, on the same drum, but after 12 years of failure.

Financial globalisation – bankers fail …

The biggest of the globalista’s catastrophes was the fantasy that financial globalisation – the ‘free’ flow of Capital across the world – would benefit humanity (see – make a lot of Bankers extremely rich). Even after the 1997 East Asia banking crisis the US and the UK led the charge into an epic disaster. The Lehman Brothers’ $639 billion collapse collapse pulled most of the world’s attention but it was the British RBS that was the biggest melt down. Ross McEwan, one of the bank’s two chief executives after the crash, said

“It has taken nearly 10 years to undo the consequences of the global ambitions pursued by RBS in the run up to the crisis”, and they are not there yet. Besides the mountain of bad US mortgages bought by the bank, it has had to drop a hospital in Australia and get rid of the largest cosmetic surgery business in Asia. The RBS balance sheet is now £751 billion – down from £2.4 trillion in 2008. It has withdrawn from 34 of the 50 countries it bought into, and dumped 150,000 staff. It only survived at all because UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown nationalised it.

And rule!

While globalisation and the free movement of Capital still continues to dominate most of the capitalist world, freedom of labour has never applied and even in those sectors of the world which espoused freedom of movement, the heady phrases in the treaties died the death (as between Mexico and the US or as in the EU faced with the refugee crisis) given any sort of real test. The Financial Times (1 December 2017) attacked Labour Party leader Corbyn for his criticism of big bank “gamblers and speculators.” When the US’s Morgan Stanley Bank issued a report stating that a ‘Corbyn government would mark the most significant political shift in the UK since Thatcher’s election and might represent a bigger risk than Brexit’ Corbyn replied “bankers like MS should not run our country, but they think they do” because, commented the FT, ‘of their ties to Teresa May’s Conservative party.’

Has the EU helped to curtail globalism?

As Capital (and mostly Capital) becomes more mobile, it is more difficult to tax. Trump is currently slashing taxes of big corporations, but as Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard points out that corporate taxes have been falling in all advanced economies since the late 1980s, often by more than half. The tax burden on wages have remained constant, rising with inflation while rates of consumer taxes, like VAT, have been rising to the detriment of society’s poorest sectors. In the EU, financial globalisation, expressed through the Euro, has caused sustained recessions and slumps in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

… and once as farce.

Macron thinks Paris can take over London’s role in global finances. Presumably he would then build the European financial centre he covets around the new Paris. Tidy up the French working class. Build a new economic centre (and EU leadership) which Germany has to accept, especially while Merkel is shaken. Cest ca! Meanwhile the reality of the grinding disaster of globalisation, unmitigated by the EU’s institutions, continues.

What are the conditions for the use (fulness) of Capital, for free movement and for international trade?

Broadly to be used for the benefit of societies and not privilege, Capital needs mostly to be held by the state. Without that condition serious, longterm and fruitful investment cannot withstand the world’s flows of private wealth – and Capital – as a means of production, becomes instead almost entirely parasitic. Corbyn’s remarks about the banks and the investment policy of the Labour Party are simply the most practical response to the decade and a half of failure of the current ‘uses’ of Capital in the West.

Free trade deals (besides blowing up all over the globe just now, courtesy of Trump) have never even begun to be ‘free’. Instead trade deals are actually tied to all sorts of preconditions which protect various interests important to ruling classes in different countries. The most distinct feature of ‘free trade’ at the moment is the colossal terms and conditions that are written up into law for their exercise. These terms and conditions are universally a response to the special interests of ruling classes, in the relevant participant nations and in respect to owners of the multinational companies.

To really win free trade requires fair trade. Let the conditions for trade be based on the populations that are effected by it. The most obvious basis for fair, free trade is that the price of labour is levelled up to the highest amount among the participating countries. These conditions, applied to genuine fair trade, are much simpler that those that now pertain to ‘free trade’ (and which are collapsing.)

Free movement is simply an unconditional human right. Again all sorts of obstacles, like the West’s wars used as an instrument of foreign policy need to end. Marshal plans are required to repeat and secure the advances made most recently, for example in China, which if nothing else, proves that millions and millions can organise to lift themselves from want. Similarly the determined defence and extension of the social gains made by the working classes of the West in general and Europe in particular, can offer a bench mark to raise conditions for all – thus ceasing the fractious results of increasingly rationed services.