In the real left of Northern Europe, the year 2024 has become a window of opportunity which, in the eyes of several leaders, has opened up due to the imperialist wars of NATO and Israel. The long-awaited reconstruction of the left, so many years aground in postmodern filth, seems to be finally a reality. Although with very different characteristics depending on each country, two common factors are at the center of the proposals for reconstruction: peace and reindustrialization.
In the multiple election campaigns of 2024, the Northern European left will pick up the banner of peace sullied by the European parliamentary left. Immediate peace in Palestine and Ukraine. That is going to be the main message. Negotiation, a halt to arms and troop shipments and immediate exit from NATO. These three axes, fundamental for the left of yesteryear, have been abandoned by the post-modern left mired in embarrassing identity politics. The dreadful reality of the war has left the postmodern left with its embarrassment in the air. This is giving the real left in Northern Europe, hibernated for decades, the opportunity to rebuild a clear and majority-driven discourse in favor of peace and disarmament.
The other strong idea of reconstruction is the need to reindustrialize Europe. Peace and reindustrialization go hand in hand. The pandemic has already shown the obvious weakness of Western supply chains. Without a strong industrial sector and with an almost absolute dependence on imports, especially from China, the European productive sector suffered crises that were not created by COVID alone. Millions of workers with very poor quality contracts in the service sector lost their jobs or their lives unnecessarily. That was the first time Northern Europe remembered the times when the industrial sector offered good quality, stable contracts protected by collective bargaining agreements and committed trade unions.
The raw materials crisis resulting from the current wars has once again revived the memory of the working class. Massive privatizations and relocations, as well as the destruction of the mining and manufacturing sector, have exposed an inane continent in the hands of the U.S. and export elites who care least about the welfare of the working class. That is why the message of the leaders called to rebuild the European left in 2024 is simple and powerful: Europe needs to go back to producing what it consumes with good quality contracts and avoid the absurd and lying confrontation with the countries from which we import raw materials and supplies.
I fully support this reconstruction of the left. However, I differ with the main leaders of the Northern European left on certain aspects of their strategies for reindustrialization. I will now analyze the case of the Workers Party of Great Britain, which held its congress on December 2 and 3 in Birmingham and which I had the great pleasure of attending. Although the case of Great Britain has its own characteristics that are not found in other countries in the north of the continent, the analyses I heard in Birmingham are very similar to those of the continental left in gestation. Therefore, one could adapt the analysis of the proposal of the British comrades to the proposals of the left in other parts of northern Europe.
Thatcher’s post-traumatic stress disorder
The first aspect I would like to highlight is that, in my opinion, the European left, but especially the British left, suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder that has its origins in Margaret Thatcher’s policies and does not know how to cope with it in a functional way.
The damage Margaret Thatcher did to the left was terrible. She pulverized the labor movement through massive privatizations and closures of industries that were offshored to distant countries. The once buoyant British working class, as well as its political and trade union organizations, fell into disarray. British workers were pushed into the service sector with working conditions far worse than in the industrial sector and the financial and banking sector was liberalized. The consequences were terrible. Both the levels of poverty and precariousness and the profits of financial rentiers skyrocketed. This set the tone for what was to become the European Union, which also crippled the working class in the rest of the continent, although it favored the net exporting countries which, as in the case of Germany, were able to maintain a larger industrial sector than the British in exchange for not having to compete with the rest of the world thanks to the single currency and the EU treaties.
In my opinion, the British left grouped around the Workers Party has not been able to digest the defeat inflicted on it by Thatcher. That is why they maintain a message typical of people who have not overcome the trauma of the past. That message holds that the same industrial fabric that existed in Great Britain before Margaret Thatcher’s governments must be rebuilt. This means going back to having the same kind of businesses, the same kind of factories and the same way of life as then as if nothing had happened, as if all these decades of neoliberalism had been nothing more than a nightmare from which one day we will wake up to reintegrate into a life of prosperity and well-being.
Unfortunately, life is not like that. Time does not stand still and does not go backwards. Before the Thatcher governments, China played no significant role in the world economy, today it is an unstoppable superpower. It is true that it benefited in part from the relocations and privatizations that hurt the British working class, and it is also absolutely true that these relocations and privatizations should never have happened, but it is just as true that there is no turning back. Thanks to Chinese industrialization, global poverty has been reduced by hundreds of millions of people. So much so, that a country impoverished for centuries is already raising the prospect of the disappearance of poverty within its borders, which is a historic achievement for the working class of all humanity. To posit an increase in unemployment in China in order to achieve a decrease in unemployment and precariousness in Britain is unrealistic for two fundamental reasons.
First, because the goals of the Chinese government and the British left are different. The Chinese government’s primary objective is to end the marginal poverty endemic to its country, the British left’s objective is the welfare of the working class. Consequently, the living standards pursued by the European left cannot be achieved by returning the production centers of British companies to Britain.
And second, because these British companies are private companies. The analyses of the leaders of the Workers Party don’t include this fact. British private companies would never agree to return their production to Britain in exchange for diminishing profits. Before accepting such a thing, they would leave their home country and become, for example, private Chinese companies.
The need for a functional roadmap
I therefore believe that the British Workers Party should propose a roadmap to the necessary reindustrialization that does not start from the trauma caused by the Thatcher governments. Some psychologists call this process the transition from stress to post-traumatic growth.
Bringing the industrial production of British companies back to Great Britain is a perfectly legitimate objective that, if it had the majority support of the citizenry, should take place, but for this to happen, practically 100% of the British industrial sector would have to be nationalized. I am afraid that there is no social majority in favor of such nationalization. Nevertheless, a roadmap towards the desirable industrialization of the country could be constructed in more functional terms. I will now outline a proposal for such a roadmap divided into two legislatures.
- Implementation of a job guarantee in Great Britain: the great advantage of the United Kingdom with respect to the EU countries is that it has monetary sovereignty. It is therefore in a position to implement a job guarantee based on an employment buffer stock, so that permanent and quality full employment would become an endogenous variable of the economic cycle.
- Nationalization of savings banks and reduction in the size of commercial banks so that no commercial bank would have assets in excess of 2% of national GDP. This measure should be accompanied by financial sector regulation along the lines of the Proposals for the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and the Banking System.
- Re-nationalization of the NHS public health system and reversal of all the cuts and privatizations carried out in the health sector since the Thatcher governments.
- Exit from NATO.
- Implementation of a reindustrialization plan based on three types of technologies: genetics, nanotechnology and robotics (GNR).
- Majority participation of the public sector in the GNR reindustrialization plan to avoid further relocations and privatizations in the future.
- Limitation of the participation of private companies in the GNR reindustrialization plan to those companies (domestic or foreign) that make a binding commitment to maintain their future investments within Great Britain.
In my opinion, this roadmap towards the reindustrialization of the country divided into two legislatures would be much more functional and would have much broader popular support than a roadmap whose origin was the trauma caused by Margaret Thatcher. The GNR is giving rise to a new industrial revolution similar to the first industrial revolution born of the steam engine. I believe that it is there, at the technological forefront of GNR, that efforts for the re-industrialization of the UK should be focused.
In my book Fiat Socialism I detail how to implement a job guarantee based on an employment buffer stock so that only job offers that equal or improve the working conditions offered by the job guaranteed
can survive. This would eliminate poor quality employment. I also discuss banking reform and analyze the main GNR technologies, as well as the other points of the roadmap.
The Workers Party of Great Britain has great leaders such as George Galloway (who will run for Mayor of London in 2024) and Chris Williamson. Their political capabilities are enormous and they would certainly be capable of carrying out a roadmap such as the one I propose. They have my full support.
Euro delendus est.
Carlos García Hernández, 8th of December, 2023
This article was published in Spanish by the newspaper El Común at https://elcomun.es/2023/12/08/paz-y- reindustrializacion-mas-alla-del-trauma-de-thatcher/.