Wednesday 24 October 2018

I Am A Pro-Business Candidate

Every evening, I raise a glass to Laura Pidcock's baby son, my next ex-wife but two, born with a full set of teeth, Alvin Simon Theodore Pidcockebede. In the meantime, though, I have to get on with removing his mother from Parliament, where her presence used to be a national embarrassment, but where her absence is now a national scandal. Not that I am standing against her, as such. I do not stand against people. I stand for things. Specifically, I am a pro-business candidate.

For example, I am now working with all of the non-Labour members of Durham County Council and with the trade unions, to bring Volkswagen's production for the British market to County Durham after, or even before, Brexit. I am more than open to further suggestions along similar lines. Among many other things, this project will guarantee the financial future of the Durham Miners' Gala and of the Durham Miners' Hall. The absence of the County Council Labour Group is that Group’s own sorry fault. I unreservedly condemn the decision of that Group to award to the Kier Group, with its history of blacklisting, the contract to build the new headquarters of Durham County Council.

I am pro-business because I am firmly a man of the Left. I believe in economic equality and in international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends. In the struggle for economic equality, the leading role belongs to the working class, and the leading role within the working class belongs to the trade union and co-operative movements. In the struggle for international peace, the leading role belongs to the working class and to the youth.

Each of those struggles has always been fundamental to the other, and it always will be. The anti-racist and anti-imperialist struggles have always been fundamental to each and both of them, and they always will be. All other identity issues are subordinate within this, if they can be, or they are precluded by it, if they cannot be. Yes, I am firmly a man of the Left.

I am not, however, a Marxist, in the straightforward sense that I do not believe in dialectical materialism. Marxism asks many of the right questions, but it almost always gives the wrong answers, at least in practice. This is not about any body count. Everyone has body counts, and Marx never prescribed any specific form of government. Rather, this is about a philosophical critique that predates any attempt at a Marxian revolution. Marxism's sense of its own inevitability is particularly and thoroughly pernicious. Our gains have not been inevitable. We had to fight to make them, and we have to fight to keep them. I can and do work with Marxists. But I am not one of them. As they would be the first to tell you.

Therefore, I rejoiced at the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a serious candidate for the Leadership of the Labour Party in 2015, ending a 21-year period during which Britain had had no political debate as such. Both economic policy and foreign policy had been off the agenda, and that despite the widespread unpopularity of the catastrophic economic and foreign policies that had been pursued as if they had been self-evident.

I have now been out of the Labour Party far longer than I was ever in it, and I have profound differences with Corbyn. But he has reopened the space for those of us who stand in the pro-business tradition of the planned economy that came down from the ultraconservative Colbert through the Liberal Keynes to the Attlee Government, and for those of us who stand in the pro-business tradition of the Welfare State that came down from the ultraconservative Bismarck though the Liberal Beveridge to the Attlee Government, in both cases holding sway in Britain until the Callaghan Government's turn to monetarism in 1977, the year of my birth.

That tradition looks critically but clearly to the domestic achievements of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, placing it within the pro-business tradition of the Hamiltonian American System, as expanded by the pro-business American School that between the 1860s and the 1970s worked to make America the world's largest economy, with the world's highest standard of living.

That is a System and School of the strict division between investment banking and retail banking, and of large amounts of federal credit (in Britain, central government credit), at low interest rates and over a long term, to build great national projects, notably enormous expansions in infrastructure, which then pay for themselves many times over. America urgently needs all of that, and so does Britain.

Like America, Britain urgently needs industrial protection through tariffs or subsidies; I prefer the latter, where possible. Like America, Britain urgently needs targeted government investment to improve infrastructure on a colossal scale. And like America, Britain urgently needs a National Bank that promotes the growth of productive enterprises rather than speculation. Brexit offers Britain these opportunities at last, as does Modern Monetary Theory.

There must be co-operation with the BRICS countries, and integration into the Belt and Road Initiative. The countries that dominated the nineteenth century cannot cling either to each other, or to the country that dominated the twentieth century, in the hope that that will make the twenty-first century go away. We need to get on the train, or we can expect to be run over by it.

Economic growth must deliver high wages, with absolute priority given to industrial and agricultural protection over finance capital, and with the protection of the Welfare State and other public services. Our response to climate change must not be our retreat from human progress. There must be real mass education, providing the general population with access to the best that has been known and thought. And so on.

If Laura Pidcock has any view on any of this, then I for one would be fascinated to hear it. Another hung Parliament is coming, however, and our people need to hold the balance of power in it. My crowdfunding page is here, or email for other options. That address accepts PayPal.

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