The election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour leader in the UK, and the political position of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential candidate race, both serve a similar purpose in the wake of working-class struggle against global austerity (class war). Both these men are proposing to be the remedial solution to capital’s untrammelled growth that has come at a ruinous cost to human beings and the natural world. Both these politicians are pretending to be the people’s voice within the neo-liberal politics.
For over thirty years since Thatcher, Raegan and Pinochet, Capital has reduced its responsibility for reproduction of alienated social labour and has passed this cost on to the working-class itself. No matter which government was elected, Labour/ the Conservative in the UK or the Democrats/the Republicans in the US, each subsequent government has reduced taxes for the capitalist class. What was once a 70% and above tax rate for the big business is now around 20% and lower. The role of the state as the manager of society (in addition to its role as enforcer of capitalist class interests and managing the money supply) has now become strictly the manager of economy. The stream of cash that once came from the taxation of the rich, the 1%, that poured into the coffers of the working-class, in order to pay for such social provisions like education, housing and healthcare, has now gone dry. As part of a total class-war and the disempowerment of the working-class, unions and working-class associations were also set against insurmountable pressures of global trade (globalization). Capital lowered its variable cost of production (increasing the rate of exploitation of labour) by sending jobs overseas in order to pay lower wages and benefits to the workers. This is the same world that Karl Marx described in his book Das Capital, in the chapter called “The Working Day”, is the reality now in the sweat shops in South East Asia (such as in China, Thiland and Cambodia).
Since the 2008 economic crisis, government in the UK and the US have not stopped the unpalatable neo-liberal class-war on the working people. In fact, austerity measure “creating a good business climate” via lowering taxes of the rich, has increased. Large portions of social service infrastructure (such as the NHS) in the UK are being sold on the private market. While wages have remained stagnant over the last 30 years, secondary exploitation has dramatically increased (in the form of rent, cost of food, education and healthcare). Whatever the working-class was left with after primary exploitation via the process of realization of profits (service sector jobs) is taken via secondary exploitation in the form of cost of living. Every government that has come and gone in the UK and the US have continued this neo-liberal path.
Capital does not have another way out crisis. No matter the government that comes into power in the UK or the US, it will be unable to escape capital’s mathematical profit formula: it can only procure profit from the demand or the supply aspect of social production.
From the end of WW2 until the era of Neo-liberalism (mid-1970), capital’s penchant for large profits was fulfilled by the demand side of production in the economy (working-class consumption). This demand (working-class purchasing power), is essentially the working-class forcing the capitalist class to reduce its exploitation at the workplace (by increasing wages) and outside of the workplace (secondary exploitation, by increasing the tax on the rich to pay for social provisions such as education, housing and healthcare) that came from decades of national and international class-struggle. From the mid-1970 (neo-liberal era) until today, capital’s penchant for profits has been generated through the supply aspect of production. Supply, in the form of reducing the cost of production for the capitalist (via lowering taxes and sending jobs overseas to places without a unionized working-class and workers associations).
Both these men are introduced in the media as “socialists”, despite the fact that their economic plan does not have a modicum of socialism in it. Using the above macro-economic logic it helps to understand Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders political platforms and promises they are making to the working people. Both politician demands are essentially Keynesian economics. Jeremy Corbyn “10 point plan” includes providing better funding for the NHS, nationalize the railways, and reduce the cost of housing and the abolition of student fees. Bernie Sanders has made similar promises and has openly said that he wants to increase the taxation for the rich. Both men are making vacuous promises based on the demand aspect of the economy (increasing the working-class disposable income to spend in the economy), and to go back to the pre-neoliberal era. However, due to the almost direct ownership of the parliament and the congress by lobbyists, special interests and corporations, in addition to the globalization of trade, it is impossible for any neo-liberal country (especially the UK and the US) to go back to pre-1970’s economics: any attempts to do so would result in large capital flight and crisis.
Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders represent the pressure valves in today’s class struggle. The working-class as a whole has shifted to the left globally. These politicians are capitalism’s vacuous response to an ocean of marginalized and disenfranchised youth teeming with revolutionary spirit, who are targeting capitalism as a system. Hoping to release some of the pressure that has accumulated through decades of neo-liberal class-war and austerity waged on the working people, capitalism is attempting to legitimize the state and re-consolidate its hegemonic grip on society by using empty promises of “equality”.