Freedom News

1,800 days on either side

As we barrel out way towards a general election, Freedom maintains its longstanding position: vote if you like, it’s what we do between elections that mattters.

Once again we are barrelling our way towards a general election. Freedom as a collective has of course had roughly the same take on such events for most of its 140 years: vote if you like, the important bit will be the 1,800-odd days on either side of the popularity contest. Although, as of 2024, “popularity” is stretching the term. Is anyone enthusiastic about the battle between Starkers and Rishy Rich for the title of Prime Minister? A pair of wannabe technocrats vying for the same conservative audience with a woke-bashing twist from one and more lies than a golf ball from the other.  

The problem these two pipsqueaks of politics have is, ultimately, the same once faced by Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn before Covid — and in fact by Theresa May, and Cameron before Brexit. They are being asked to solve problems that are largely insoluble, at least by politicians, for which they blame each other, aided by media pundits who either don’t understand the situation facing Britain or are complicit in spinning it.

This is represented, in many ways, by the far right’s biggest two whinges (beyond incoherent fury about woke), which remain roughly similar to what they were when Labour was last in power: migration and money. The former is something the Tories have made stringent efforts to stem through the tried, tested and failed method of “make life difficult”, still seemingly unaware that travelling vast distances and risking your life to cross deadly seas involves a level of determination far beyond that of the average civil servant. The latter, primarily the idea that taxation is too high and spent inefficiently, is a gripe they directly share with neoliberals and for which they have no better answers.

The fundamentals, in both cases, are economics and global power. 

Migration

What creates immigration? Beyond the so-called “legitimate” reasons like a job or study offer, there are a few which come to mind. Social instability. Exploitation of resources from the global South by the global North, causing dramatically unequal access to the means of life. The impacts of climate change. All these factors stem primarily from the mechanisms of neoliberal economics playing out across globalised power structures, pushing people to abandon home and hearth. 

The North consumes, while the South is exploited and manipulated to provide at the cheapest possible cost. Cheapest, of course, also requires fuel to move the goods (and people) around, energy to power production, etc., all exploited by profit-making companies with extensive lobbying machines designed to maintain a status quo where their bottom line isn’t threatened. Unions are busted, environmental regulations quashed, taxation systems undermined, social safety nets cut. Occasionally regimes are overthrown, though more often captured from within. Life is made hard, and polluted, and increasingly unlivable. 

We don’t look at these factors in our everyday discussions on migration. Our media doesn’t talk about them, while UK politicians keep their eyes resolutely on the shores of Dover and Calais, ruminating over how to “stop the boats”. There is no simple way to deter the boats, not without gunfire and death — an option we rumble closer to every year because we can’t bear to talk about the bigger picture of generating migration. And that’s because politicians must pretend they have the wheel, that an election is a choice on competency and policy, when in fact what they do is represent a single minor influence on global events — one which frankly does nothing to help its own case. 

We sell more guns — a key means by which migrants are generated — than green technology. Rather than offer mutual aid to other nations we flog finance capital — the means by which the global south is grifted out of its resources, and has its labour skimmed for profit. Our society is in fact part-built on the creation of ever more migration, the consequences of which we fuss about but can’t admit having a hand in, let alone begin the difficult process of addressing.

The economy 

Gary Stevenson, over on his very decent economics channel, recently broke down why Rishi Sunak’s claims that Tory policies had lowered inflation in April were bunk. Rather than “fulfilling a pledge” to reduce it from the highs of 2022-23, all he’d done was to wait until the passage of time cycled the worst year-on-year figures out of the statistics. He went on to note that despite claims of competence from the Tories themselves and, obviously, accusations of incompetence from Labour, this entire process had been reflected across most of Europe, based largely on known factors —quantitative easing during Covid (primarily enriching the rich), which devalued purchasing power while companies profit-gouged. Sunak, and Johnson before him, had followed the rules and ridden out the consequences as instructed by their advisors — of the same class and education as those in Germany, France and Belgium. 

This, in a neat package, illustrates a problem that no government can really fix — how macroeconomics is not really in the hands of national governments, but merely interpreted by their experts. The logics of State behaviour are the same across the West, driven by similar pressures. The Markets, in their infinite wisdom, press on politicians left and right to do what’s best for stable profit generation. That’s the entire emphasis. And of course, this means extracting profit — squeezing us just as the North does to the South. Even the elites’ own allies, like Liz Truss, can’t radically change anything if The Markets don’t believe. It’s a sort of decentralised dictatorship of Capital, one which would have disciplined Corbynism as surely as it informs and embraces Starmerism. 

The process is thus one of gradual, steady tightening, as profit is extracted ever more efficiently from a dwindling pool of capital held by, primarily, the middle to upper-middle classes (the working class having long since been stripped of assets for the most part). It’s been noted, but not intelligently critiqued, in the process of generational loss — Millennials having less than their parents, Gen Z less still, etc. — where all that’s left, for some, is the prospect of an inheritance that may or may not be enough to buy a house. The means of production being out of reach, the means of life are now subject to harshened regimes, as everything from luxury goods to foodstuffs drifts further out of reach. As Britain declines in comparison to other countries, we survive in an exhausting hustle culture where the line between small business, self-employment and wage labour has been deliberately blurred. 

All this, of course, has the knock-on effects we see in our everyday lives. The strangulation of communities by big box chains, the syphoning off of immense wealth by online giants, the for-profit domination of everything from key utilities to news consumption to our dating lives. Capitalism’s crisis is, effectively, its own success and politicians have as little real say over that as they do about the turning of tides. 

New New Labour’s bankruptcy

Democracy’s crisis too, stems from this process — what point is there having faith in a system which cannot respond to public need? That not only does nothing to fix the things which have broken, but which through its own internal logics cannot. Of course the far-right is making headway worldwide through promises of restored national proactivity, it speaks to what people want from “their” governments even as we see every day that such jingoism holds no more real answers.

And therein lies the trouble, from an anarchist perspective. As it stands, we have two serious sources of pressure on the status quo. On the one hand there is the economic pressure of The Markets, which at present overrides any public demands for serious challenges to the decay of the State as redistribution and provision service. Education, the NHS, communications, housing … little positive change is likely to happen over the next few years. Starmer, like Sunak before him, will present an aura of There Is No Alternative as he implements a new wave of austerity.

On the other we have the far-right, which will use the collapse of Tory technocratic power as an opening for the sort of proto-fascistic bluster that’s served it so well in the US, Italy and France. The social conservatism angle will be hammered and every effort made to drag the Overton window rightwards, with little resistance likely from the new government. The fact Labour has no answers to capitalism’s ailments will be weaponised to justify the rise of a new protectionist current — just one more retreat to the good old days will sort it mate — and the preparations will be for a Meloni-style government towards the end of the decade. Starmerism has no answers to this threat, if it’s even aware of it — he seemingly has little ideology beyond the short-term chasing of polls. 

What they, and we, lack of course is any real ability to force The Markets to accept a revision of the social contract that might lessen the pain set to be inflicted on working people. But while we are treated as an opposing force, the far-right are not, at least to the same degree. All the evidence suggests a broad section of our ruling classes is quite relaxed about a decline in public freedoms, democratic norms, and economic power among both the lower classes and the State itself. They’re reasonably confident the far-right can be incorporated to serve the Markets’ needs, particularly since Orban and Meloni have shown themselves to be reasonably obliging in Europe, and are certainly not against governments dropping some of those pesky civil rights that have often enabled troublesome direct action from the hoi polloi.

So the two major pressures, economic and social, are not in fact at particular loggerheads. And without economic power, more specifically leverage to worry The Markets, we could subsequently struggle with maintaining what social power we have. The acceptance of women’s and minority rights is fragile, relying heavily on a tendency in liberal society to emphasise personal liberty — but as we’ve seen in the US, Poland, Hungary and Italy, once the far-right takes over it is not at all shy in dismantling such progress, and rarely faces much tangible opposition from the liberal rich. These battles certainly won’t be fought by Labour, which has for example already given up on defending trans people or the disabled from a rolling back of their position, but by us. And we need extra-parliamentary forms that are up to the job. 

The needs and ambitions we have do not translate to the corridors of Westminster, the grand halls of The City. Our solutions to this latest crisis of capital, its problems with congealed wealth, rampaging automation and inability to square infinite growth with finite planet, are anathema to these institutions. They exist in opposition to engaging constructively with the changes that we all know are coming. Society as a whole needs to accept that radical action needs to be taken, that capitalism is incapable of doing so, and that childish retreats into nationalism, or delusions about a lost age of social conformity, aren’t going to cut it. We haven’t the advantages the far-right has of pretending to anti-elitism while actually attacking the poor and marginalised, nor the money they gain from courting the approval of aggressive sections of the ruling class. There is a mountain to climb, and limited time to do it.

Vote if you must — it’s the other 1,800 days that count.

~ Rob Ray


Freedom News team will be chatting about the election on Thursday June 13th from 7pm over on our Youtube Channel, and doing a watch-along for election night. Subscribe to our social media to stay updated!

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