Nationalism, Class Compromise, and Globalisation

The European Union and the BNP are in the news a lot right now. And many lefties are worried that the left is ‘losing the battle of ideas‘, or in general stumbling around with its pants around its ankles. In the spirit of contributing to that confusion, I wanted to offer some comments on, um, well I guess the three things in the title really.

In the middle-section of the 20th century there was in many countries a kind of grand class compromise. In the UK it was the welfare state, the NHS, and the various other measures of the Attlee government: in the US it was the ‘new deal’ under FDR. For the next few decades, Keynesian state regulation, nationalisation, and various forms of left-reformist measures and ideas were comparatively widespread and popular across the world (including, of course, in the USSR and its imitators).

Two things have undermined this compromise. One is the active class fightback waged by capital in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. In the UK this was led by Thatcher, in the US, and globally, by Reagan. It involved the final folding of the USSR, with all its ambiguities. That’s a familiar story, so I won’t focus on it.

The other thing is globalisation. The old class compromises operated at a national level; the economy increasing functions globally. This in itself does not give an advantage to any side – it simply undermines the previous compromise. As a matter of contingent fact, however, capital has reaped the political benefits from globalisation, because it is organised globally.

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