The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Britain’s Conservative Government on Verge of Breakup

So, the expected has happened. Prime Minister May’s minority government has been unable to deliver a Brexit which keeps her MPs happy. Two senior ministers have resigned, and should there be a confidence vote over Brexit, it is likely that May will not muster a majority and her government will fall.

The figures who have jumped ship are hard Brexiteers, but the tightrope for May is that many of her own MPs want a soft Brexit. With almost no margin in the commons, she cannot please everyone, and likely cannot stand.

If the UK government falls, there will be a new election. Its outcome is uncertain. Both Labour and the Conservatives are pro-Brexit, with only the Lib-Dems as anti-Brexit, but the Lib-Dems, after their coalition government with the Conservatives, are unpopular and distrusted.

Brexit has been bungled from the beginning: May’s third option was never going to fly, neither enough of her party nor the EU want it. There are only two real options: Something close to Norway’s arrangement, in which Britain will have to pay for access to the common market, or a hard Brexit and reliance on World Trade Organization norms and enforcement.

I personally hope Corbyn wins. I believe he is the best chance for Britain. Various claims otherwise, being in the EU does compromise what an actual left-wing government can do in terms of unions, re-nationalization, and many other issues. The European Union, as it is right now, is a neoliberal organization and its laws and regulations enshrine neoliberal economic relations. That it is also socially liberal obscures this point.

We’ll see how this plays out, but it’s important. Remember that the current world order started in Britain, not the US, with the election of Thatcher. Britain is a bellwether for the Anglo world.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


On July 4th as American Evil Comes Home


The Mueller Indictment


  1. Synoia

    I personally hope Corbyn wins. I believe he is the best chance for Britain.

    That is a poisoned chalice. Better to let the Tory Party continue to be the Government which does Brexit. Then have a Labor Government.

    Various claims otherwise, being in the EU does compromise what an actual left wing government can do in terms of unions, re-nationalization and many other issues. The European Union, as it is right now, is a neo-liberal organization and its laws and regulations enshrine neo-liberal economic relations.

    That it is also socially liberal obscures this point.

    How socially liberal is it? It appears to be sliding right all the time, with programs driven by the ECB, so letting the various government escape blame.

  2. Hugh

    And that’s the problem with Brexit. It is not a reaction to neoliberalism. I think this is what Corbyn needs to make explicit. Brexit needs to be about neoliberalism. The EU isn’t working for most Europeans precisely because it is neoliberal and hides behind an anti-democratic ‘European’ bureaucracy covered over with a veneer of pan-European gloss. But if Europe was working, Greece would not have been crushed, Brexit would not be an issue, Spain and Italy would not be in disarray, and the East would not be going authoritarian. I think Corbyn could use Brexit to talk to ordinary Europeans about why the EU isn’t working for Brits or them.

  3. StewartM

    I too hope Corbyn wins. If he does, he’ll have a heckuva job to accomplish, as many in his own country (and his own party!) will try to torpedo him, let alone the Masters of the Universe financial class.

  4. someofparts

    Ian, Hugh, Stewart M – my personal thanks for how much I learn from each of you.

  5. marku52

    No. Let the Tories go down in flames first. The first thing to happen after a no deal Brexit is that the pound will be crushed. Britain can’t be an autarky, hence it needs imports to stay alive. These will sky rocket in price, a massive inflation will be the result.

    Corbyn needs to be sure that the Tories are tarred with that brush fist. It is the bed that they made.

  6. different clue


    If the Tories see the future you see, and analyze it the same way you analyze it; they will probably try to throw the election like it was a flaming bobcat on meth. In which case, Labor should try to throw the election even harder, so the Tories are left with their victory and their legacy, and so that they will . . . as you say . . . drown in their own tar pit.

  7. 5150

    I hope England suffers and fails. They make the Nazi Germans look likd dapper gentlemen. (100 million + civilian deaths due to their colonialism)

  8. V

    July 12, 2018

    After a fashion, they already have failed.
    The U.S. will follow before too long.
    And I’ve no doubt the hegemon will exceed the 100 million by a wide margin.
    After all, history goes way back; back beyond modern memory. A memory sooner forgot; but historians, true historians, never forget.
    History records in divergent ways, not alway in keeping with the times; which we call now.
    Now is temporal, never fixed, past, present, future, not yet, but in waiting; will out with no constraint.
    Reality will not be denied…
    There be monsters afoot…always…

  9. Stirling Newberry

    It is not the populace, it is the business that need to be taken into account. Only the Conservatives have connections. Do you think that the people matter?

  10. someofparts

    Hell just froze over. I’m linking to Andrew Sullivan.

    His take on Trump’s impact on public opinion in the UK is unexpected. Wondered how it sounded to the commentariat here.

  11. bruce wilder

    Like many other commenters, I am inclined to root for Corbyn and Corbyn’s leftish populism to somehow benefit from this turn of events, but I do think some deeper analysis than just an expression of a rooting interest in Brexit politics seen as an entertaining spectacle is called for.
    I happen to have spent the last week in London as a tourist. There’s not much opportunity to gain insight into the thinking of the person-in-the-street, especially given that one encounters mostly other tourists. Even the low-level service workers are as likely as not to be recent immigrants or sojurners. Still, one cannot help but note that London remains a boomtown and has been one for how long now? The skyscrapers dotting the cityscape are scarcely a dozen years old; much of the Underground is running crowded trains with as little as 2(!!!) minutes headway and the streets are thronged with people. (Cf New York’s decrepit system; even the Tories have not produced scum as dysfunctional as Andrew Cuomo!)
    Leftist thinking, including my own, is too prone to be dystopian and critical without taking into account what really “seems” to work for large numbers of people as well as, of course, oligarchs and billionaires. Ordinary Londoners can crack wise about the proliferation of ULAs (unaffordable luxury apartments) and Russian oligarchs and Indian and Arab kleptocrats who own but do not always occupy their pied-à-terre’s in central London.
    Of course, i am aware that Britain as a whole experiences large-scale urban poverty and despair, with most of the poorest cities of northwest Europe in an increasingly crowded England, now the most densely populated large country in Europe. What I am saying is that it matters that the Left does not have an intuitive and sophisticated ideological critique or the institutional capacity to indoctrinate large numbers of people in what used to be called class consciousness. People have their direct experience — London works, Germany works, Greece doesn’t (big time!); Italy works but is seriously frayed around the edges. A Corbyn or a Sanders can penetrate mass consciousness only with carefully targeted “ideas” and they are politically vulnerable to the subversions of a left-neoliberal media and political establishment that has a lot more bandwidth.

    I can explain till I am blue in the face why the Euro is badly structured, but monetary economics is esoteric for most people — a perfect example of an area where the working class is not going to understand how the world works absent a major effort at ideological indoctrination; most people like the Euro as a “hard” currency, even if they suffer for it. And, what I regard as “bad” structure is good, if your ideological goal is a neoliberal disabling of democratic will as it will deliver a series of crises as opportunities for a politics of crisis capitalism, destroying the welfare state. (And, so-called “liberal” economists like Krugman are worse than useless, conceding that the Euro was badly done, but offering no practical analysis of how it goes wrong nor any practical alternative — yes, Virginia, Krugman is a neoliberal who loves “there is no alternative” as a bottom line.)
    In the context of Brexit, as Hugh says above (my interpretation anyway), Brexit is not presently about a left coalition rejecting neoliberalism. It is about a Tory factional coalition rather instinctively (my nice way of saying, as Mill did long ago, that the Conservative party is always the party of stupid) grasping at “sovereignty”. That’s not an argument or sentiment that many on the left can even grasp in our present political configuration: for much of the left, the nation-state is inherently a racist and evil construction; the centuries when the once dominant liberal argument for the nation-state as a framework for institutionalizing popular democracy has been lost to memory. So, the Brexiteers on the right are dismissed as driven by racist bigotry and nothing else needs to be said, for many who identify themselves with the Left.
    What the unstable politics of Brexit has illustrated so far, imnsho, is the on-going legitimacy crisis. The legitimacy crisis in U.S. politics is undeniable, with the derisive Trump and the moral insanity of Democrats pursuing Russiagate. In British politics, it is revealed instead in Brexit.
    It is unfortunate for democracy that the mass of people fail to understand even the rudiments of political economy and in their mystification rely on their immediate experience of good times or bad times without knowing much about the why’s and cui-bono and all that: people at the bottom of social and economic hierarchy are never likely to know all that much about how the system of political economy works (or fails to work) though they certainly can intuitively understand more than they apparently now do. (A lot of media propaganda is agnatology in practice for a reason.)
    But, Tory Brexit (and Trump and the anti-Trump Democratic establishment in the U.S.) reveal something else: a lot of people at the top of the political hierarchy do not understand much about how the political economy as a system works either. They are a bunch of cargo cultists at best.
    Brexit requires a massive restructuring of institutions in detail and the Tories around Theresa May have precious little grasp of the complex structure of institutions that underlie the overlapping domains of European Union. These people are simply incompetent. They are not even corruptly incompetent, corruption usually requiring some modicum of cunning and calculation regarding obscure details.
    The neoliberals, left and right and most especially among the official negotiators from the EU itself, have tried to use this incompetence as a point of leverage in favor of their battlecry: “there is no alternative”. Some of the hot points of contention are rich with irony: post-imperial Britain’s residual reluctance to acknowledge that Ireland is a foreign country not least among them.
    That there is no alternative political concept (left or right) for Britain’s relation with Europe is very concerning. The EU is a neoliberal scheme and Brexit may be the best opportunity for this generation to begin a turn away from neoliberalism. If the neoliberal EU succeeds in undoing Brexit or using Brexit to interrupt/disrupt Britain economically as an object lesson pour encourager les autres, no one in Europe may ever be allowed to vote meaningfully again. It is that serious. Italy really needs to exit the Euro, but I cannot see Italian politics evolving in a positive way to bring that about; they will try to muddle thru and cross a line past which the servicing cost of their national debt will drain the country.

  12. bruce wilder

    what I should have written above was, “half of Italy works . . . and half doesn’t

    — I wish I had a better editor!

  13. Willy

    Leftist thinking, including my own, is too prone to be dystopian and critical without taking into account what really “seems” to work for large numbers of people as well as, of course, oligarchs and billionaires.

    Never been to London, but I do live near a trendy boomtown (Seattle), which I moved to as a child after it had gone bust. The apparent wealth (high rises, various tax-fed public constructions, McMansions…) is somewhat more than I can remember, but the general personal wealth, worker dissatisfaction, and hope for the future seems far less.

    The inner city hood may have been gentrified, but the former ownership of those once decrepit homes has gone to street-presentable suburban apartment complexes which cost two working jobs to afford. I don’t remember homeless camps, or the insane traffic, or corrupt medical institutions, or unaffordable higher education, or so many garbage household products for sale.

    The general anxiety and hopelessness of yesterday doesn’t begin to compare with what I remember from back then. Most workers today live in the place between “you’re only as good as your last job” and “your only job is to make the boss like you”.

    Most everything here is tied to tech and real estate. It’s not hard to imagine that when automation comes and the bubble is popped, we’re screwed. Well, most of us anyways.

    When I speak to my many nieces and nephews about the way things were, they can’t believe how different things were back then. Household products worked and even the music was better. But at least they have tech and pro-sports. While being mostly progressive thinkers they are also mostly anti-Democratic Party. Only the parent-indoctrinated few are Republicans, and it all sounds like cult gibberish from those few. I’d say that all but the most apathetic of them don’t trust the institutions we built and/or allowed to be built. Except for maybe tech and pro-sports.

  14. StewartM

    Bruce Wilder:

    As usual, Bruce makes a lot of valid and insightful points. But I am gong to focus on this point, because it highlights a dispute between Bruce’s point and someone like George Soros:

    That’s not an argument or sentiment that many on the left can even grasp in our present political configuration: for much of the left, the nation-state is inherently a racist and evil construction; the centuries when the once dominant liberal argument for the nation-state as a framework for institutionalizing popular democracy has been lost to memory.

    You’re absolutely correct, Bruce, from the time of the French revolution up to the revolutions of 1848, the nation-state was integral to the “liberal” and democratic ideal; then the battle lines were drawn between the ‘internationalist’ aristocrats (like Metternich) and the democratic “patriots” or nationalists. Why much of “the left” soured on the nation-state and nationalism was that, starting in the 19th century, it was shown by Bismarck and others that nationalistpatriotic sentiments would be just as easily hijacked by the right as it could be by the left. Indeed, nationalism became the Right’s way of appealing to the non-propertied classes and diverting their attention from matters of equality and democracy towards matters if national security and tribalism.

    That, and the fact that geographical borders are not readily amendable to tidy nation states, that populations don’t reside in strictly delineated borders and never did, gave rise to persecution and two world wars that left tens of millions of dead in Europe alone. I had a college professor (an expert on Metternich, in fact) who once rhetorically asked our class if nationalism was this brief period of insanity that if Europe had managed to get through things might have turned out differently. The problems intrinsic to the nation-state are not isolated to Europe, either; the India-Pakistan partition resulted in some 14 million refugees, and upwards of two million dead in violence, among people who had more-or-less lived peaceably together for centuries.

    The legacy of that violent separation has endured, resulting in a bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan. “When they partitioned, there were probably no two countries on Earth as alike as India and Pakistan,” said Nisid Hajari, the author of “Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition.” “Leaders on both sides wanted the countries to be allies, like the U.S. and Canada are. Their economies were deeply intertwined, their cultures were very similar.”

    This historical record makes me more sympathetic to George Soro’s cosmopolitan liberalism. It’s true that many of the “left” today may have forgotten there was a time when those espousing freedom and equality also celebrated the nation-state and nationalism. But it’s also true, I feel, that those who their nationalist critics seem to have forgotten the problems inherent in nationalism, which are far more recent.

    What I think we’re talking about two distinctly different sets of goalposts. Nationalism and the nation-state ideal can be and have been at times both coupled to the proponents of democracy and economic and social equality, and their opponents. The problem is since the 1990s that it’s been the proponents of neoliberalism that have also been more favorable to cosmopolitanism. Even critics like George Soros can’t bring himself to ditch the whole system though he admits its flaws.

    The people who are against the neoliberal economic order have reacted, I feel wrongly, to a significant degree by centering their opposition on a nationalist response (one that I feel does not really fix the problems created by neoliberalism) as opposed to focusing on creating an economic response to bad economic policy. The danger here is that since nationalism per se won’t fix bad economics, what will happen once nationalists get power and their policies fail to bring about prosperity, they–instead of questioning the holy grail of economic orthodoxy–will just double-down on uglier and more brutal policies.

  15. bruce wilder

    @ StewartM

    In my view, the fundamental and transcendent problem of politics in a hierarchical society and political economy is how to mediate between the governed and the governors. Aka, “who will guard the guardians?”

    I don’t have a ready-made solution to that problem. Afaik, no one does or ever has. People struggle with governance and contending ideas about how to govern, with varying degrees of success. One generation may throw up a remarkably visionary leadership and achieve new heights of social cohesion, only to be followed a couple of generations later by short-sighted careerism and corruption. So it goes. Every generation faces a choice about whether to invest or disinvest in the renewal of social and economic institutions, to become more egalitarian and fair or more unequal and unfair.

    A well-governed society is better for the governed, the 80% or 90%, but there remains the problem that those at the top of the pyramid may be tempted to self-serving negligence, predation or parasitism. And, that’s not to even mention the problems of training and selecting competent leaders and inventing, organizing and administering institutions or generating some shared concept of and enthusiasm for the public interest.

    Marx taught us that ideology is rooted in semi-conscious awareness of the material interests of a social and economic class. In that sense, neoliberalism is the ideology of the managerial and professional classes, particularly in service to the 0.1% and large business corporations. Apparently, in a very concrete sense, neoliberalism has been manufactured at the behest of the 0.1% and the related class of top corporate business executives by academics and political operatives and policy entrepreneurs in a cottage industry assembled for this purpose. A libertarian-flavored right-neoliberalism interacts with a liberal-identity-politics obsessed left-neoliberalism to the virtual exclusion of other conservative and progressive or left viewpoints. “There is no alternative.” “All the serious people agree . . . ”

    Going forward, I do not know that nationalism, per se, needs to be part of the next solution to the problem of elite malfeasance. I think the precedent of the nation-state will be a reference point for whatever ideas are proposed and tried.

    I will note that neoliberalism, left or right, is no friend of the Left in defining or pursing a public interest or the general welfare by whatever institutional means, if by “the Left” we mean political persuasions that try further the interests of the 90%, what we formerly referred to as the working classes and other subaltern, oppressed and dispossessed layers of society. Neoliberalism, and the political forces that created that set of apologies for predation, has undermined any putative Left, taking away the material means and institutional support any political movement needs, putting the would-be Left into a long game at long odds. I know I can hardly contain my optimism as I watch my country crumble under neoliberal dominance, knowing Europe will follow in due course albeit at a lag.

    The neoliberal con is the promise of freedom (from the state). Thus, the EU touts its four freedoms: free movement of people, capital, goods and services. This freedom sounds great, but it implies disabling the state, which can no longer control its borders or enact law as a sovereign; ultimately, residual power to control the evolution of society is ceded to wealth and private business corporations, which are made effectively untouchable. No channel of political organization and pushback by the subaltern is left open; you can vote, but your vote cannot matter. Apparently, the reality of this connection between the promise of “freedom” and political impotence for the 90% is too hard to grasp amid the daily cacophony of political discourse bought and paid for by the 0.1%

    It is perfectly plausible to me that the global economic elite will move steadily toward more authoritarian and unresponsive (to the general interest or claims of personal right) government, ending in a general policy of extermination to cope with resource shortages brought on by upward redistribution of income and wealth combined with depletion of resources, global warming and ecological collapse. Something to look forward to for those with the misfortune to live long enough.

  16. bruce wilder

    @ StewartM re: nationalism

    I think British Imperial policy, an update to the Roman dīvide et imperā, might have had something to do with partition in India, Cyprus, the Middle East and Ireland, not to mention the infamous famines of India and Ireland.

    Nationalism in India, in particular, is a remarkably abstract idea, since there really is no organic basis for an Indian nationalism — no shared culture, religion, language or history outside the hodge-podge governance of the British Raj itself. I think an Indian nationalist can reasonably wonder why there had to be a distinctly muslim Pakistan, assembled at such a cost.

    As for whether, Muslims and Hindus “had more-or-less lived peaceably together for centuries” strikes me as . . . ahistorical at best.

  17. different clue

    If one has, or is, a country with two or more ethnic groups inside the country; one could speak of the CountryState, as opposed to the NationState. That way, all the persons and peoples inside the CountryState could have whatever equal and equitable rights within the cartographic borders of the CountryState that they can work out for themselves. Maybe they could be a liberal democratic CountryState interethnically defined so that no ethnic group within its borders need feel or be specially deprived or specially elevated.

    If that can be achieved for and by the people within a CountryState, then the CountryState makes a fine vehicle for secceding from the NeoLiberal Corporate Globalonial Plantation. Especially if it is a big and potentially autarkable or semi-autarkable CountryState like the Russian Federation could be. Or like the United States could be.

    Russia or America are big enough to practice a Militant Belligerent Protectionism for themselves and make it work for themselves. Once they did that, they could ban neoliberal ways and means from within their borders. Then they could ban economic contact between themselves and any other jurisdiction or entity which did not accept rules of economic behavior at least as high and decent as what could be achieved within a Militantly Belligerently Protectionised Russia or America from which neoliberalism had been thoroughly purged and banned.

  18. StewartM

    As for whether, Muslims and Hindus “had more-or-less lived peaceably together for centuries” strikes me as . . . ahistorical at best.

    It’s more true than not; as Gandhi said, in arguing against the partition, that ‘every village in India is divided amongst Hindu and Muslim’–how could that occur if they were constantly at each others’ throats? I’m not saying that there were no problems–there has been religious violence in the US and the west too, and while Muslims ruled India there were spats of religious persecution (though even Aurangzeb, one of the more stridently orthodox Muslim rulers, still built Hindu temples, employed Hindus as counselors, and forbade discrimination against Hindus and Shia Muslims). Though you’re likely right about the British exacerbating these conditions.

    To whit:

    The bottom line is, that any ideological construction that causes people to take the infant of their neighbors, and bash its head open against a brick wall, all in the name of furthering the cause of an abstraction like the nation-state, has to be called into question. That is why it has left a bitter taste on many people who compose ‘the left’ today.

  19. different clue

    I just read a comment at NaCap which is so pertinent ( if true) to the reason of why Brexit and why exactly now, that I will copy-paste it here for people to consider.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    July 15, 2018 at 2:38 am

    Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why the Prime Minister invoked Article 50 on 29th March 2017?

    It’s because that’s the date the EU adopted the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive (ATAD) Part II. As the name implies, ATAD is an attempt by the EU to crackdown on tax avoidance across the Single Market.

    In case you didn’t know it, the UK with its former colonies, is the dominant player in the global offshore tax avoidance industry. As of 2012 that industry was estimated to be worth $32 trillion.

    ATAD Part I was adopted by the EU in 2016, but as is the nature of these things, it would have taken a great deal of time to have drafted and gotten it approved. ATAD didn’t just happen overnight; it would have been in development over the course of a number of years before 2016.

    Rest assured the Tories would have been briefed about these plans the moment they were first mooted. They would have understood straight away that ATAD posed a serious threat to what is clearly a hugely lucrative industry – not least their donors.

    As the Tories couldn’t stop the EU adopting ATAD, if they were to save the UK offshore tax-avoidance industry, the only course of action was to Leave. That’s why they invented Brexit.

    Brexit is a Trojan Horse for getting out of the EU. Outwardly, to ordinary people, Brexit looks like the UK ending freedom of movement and sticking-it to the ‘undemocratic’ EU, but in truth its a pretext for saving the super-rich many, many billions and sparing them from some rather embarrassing questions.

    When the EU adopted ATAD Part II on 29th March 2017, the Tories knew every last chance of avoiding ATAD had gone, so they didn’t waste another minute and invoked Article 50 that day.

    Ok? Got that? Has the real purpose of Brexit now dawned on you? It should be crystal clear by

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    How many Channel Island and Caribbean Tax Havens are British-allied or British Dependency?
    Is it many or most, as the above comment claims? If so, this becomes very plausible as the real secret inside reason for Brexit to begin with.

    And if it is, then how should a Corbyn Labor Party approach Brexit? While the Corbyn Laborites would like to seccede Britain from the Corporate Globalonial Plantation, wouldn’t they also like to destroy and exterminate the Tax Havens if they could? How can they do both at the same time?

  20. Hugh

    However, this does not gibe with how the vote went. London and the City which benefited from secretive banking practices were anti-Brexit while the North and Midlands whose industries had been decimated went Brexit.

  21. different clue


    You raise a good counterpoint. Both things deserve further study/thinking.

    Could it be that most of the people living in the City and Greater City Metropolitan Area don’t know the intricacies of tax havening? They only know that they do well if the City does well, that they are cosmopolitan and enjoy their cosmopolitan culture, that they can afford to do the all-Europe travel which membership in EU permits, and that Brexit would spoil their fun and cramp their culture-consumer lifestyle.

    So the Topside-Insiders could pull the Leave Trigger to preserve their tax haven system and the well-paid servant majority living in-around London would know nothing of those particular intricacies.

    And neither would the Brexit-voters of Poor Britain. And of course that particular information would not be shared with them.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén