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Macron the Sun King – or the Louis who lost his head?

Emmanuel Macron’s surprise victory in France to potentially unchecked political power has invited comparisons with all powerful leaders of the Hexagon’s past. Is he the Sun King, the most supreme of all Europe’s absolute monarchs? Or perhaps like another King Louis, XVI, who faced a revolt of the masses and lost his head.

After taking the Élysée Palace in May, Macron stormed the National Assembly. His 350 (out 577) seats dwarfed the 137 for Francois Fillon’s Republicans and 44 for Benoît Hamon’s Socialists’. Yet the voter abstention rate hit record highs of 58% in the second round of the parliamentary election. Despite his shock success, Macron’s hold over France is less solid than some predicted and he would like.

Already concerns are increasing over his obsession with pomp, for which he has been rightly ridiculed in the French press. Not content with French historical comparisons Macron has been reaching into classical mythology – promoting himself as King of the Roman Gods, Jupiter, no less.

As he raises himself up above the mortals, he’s also distancing himself from the press. He’s ended off-the-record informal briefings which his predecessor Francois Hollande enjoyed and cancelled the traditional Bastille day TV interview. On the sidelines of summits, the President has also refused to respond to questions about judicial investigations that take aim at his ministers. He prefers Twitter and Facebook Live videos produced by his own media team.

Most seriously Macron appears determined to by-pass parliament and rule by presidential decree.

Initial enthusiasm that France would see a ‘democratic revolution’ as Macron promised, as the old, unresponsive parties of the establishment were swept away, may soon give way to disillusionment. A dramatic situation where the former banker and socialist minister may have all the levers of formal power but lacks backing on the streets.

Not that polls should be believed these days, but this week one indicated his ratings have fallen by 10 points over the past month, leading the media to ask whether his ‘state of grace’ is already over.

Macron’s ambitions are large. His sell to the electorate was to bring France and Europe back from the brink, after Britain voted to exit the EU and euroskepticism appeared to overwhelm even Europe’s founding member and long-time motor. His resounding defeat of Marine Le Pen in Presidential elections in May appeared to put paid to a Gallic rejection of the EU dream. The Front National secured just 8 seats, half of Le Pen’s own modest target of 15. But for how long?

The youthful, energetic Macron has been declared France’s answer to Tony Blair, the ‘Third Way’ Labour leader who joined US president George Bush in the invasion of Iraq and was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” (in the words of his powerful minister Peter Mandelson).

Like Blair, and other more recent European iterations of the pro-European centre-left, Macron pretends he’s reaching beyond the traditional left / right split in politics. He talks of “reforms” – code for rolling back of genuine reforms of capitalism secured by ordinary people and the Left in decades of struggle, from the ‘bloated’ public sector and welfare state to ‘rigid’ labour markets. Rather than workers, it is business interests that must be championed. Gone is the Gaullist defence of ‘difference’. The most pro-European French leader ever seems ready to embrace the federalist dream.

What marks Macron out from the likes of Blair and Italy’s Matteo Renzi (both of whom sought to change traditional parties from within) was his invention of a brand new movement La Republique en Marche, to pursue his project. Against forecasts that he’d soon be facing difficulties “cohabiting” with a parliamentary majority of one of France’s two major parties, in the space of just a few months he converted a vehicle to make him President into a party that overtook them at the ballot box.

The other big change in this electoral cycle was the dramatic collapse of the Socialist vote. After five dire years in office under President Hollande, the electorate has been unforgiving. Hollande made big promises to deliver jobs and defend the 99% against the rich and the greedy bankers.

Instead unemployment rose on his watch (only in recent months falling to close to the levels when he was elected in May 2012) while he quietly dropped plans to reign in France’s financial sector (responsible, among many crimes and misdemeanors for a big chunk of Greece’s unsustainable debt) as well as his 75-percent tax on earnings over 1 million euros. Hollande also promised to defend French interests against an austerity-crazed Germany swaggering over the Continent.

But instead of cultivating a possible pro-growth alliance of the weaker Mediterranean EU members, notably Greece and Italy, he buckled under pressure from Chancellor Angela Merkel, deluding himself France was equal partner in the famed Franco-German European motor.

The Socialists have been punished before from earlier betrayals – notably Francois Mitterrand in the 1980s, and recovered. But they have never been punished so thoroughly. The fate of Pasok – the dominant party in Greece from the time the country emerged from the era of the generals – stares them in the face.

Macron saw this too. So if he got lucky with a scandal in Fillon’s Republican camp, he already had a plan to deal with the socialists: like a vampire he would draw strength from a party that was bleeding to death.

Macron was a protégé of Hollande and then, in appearance at least, he stabbed him in the back. But the policies he is pursuing are just a rebranding of the least progressive elements of the last socialist administration, such as Hollande’s bid – opposed with varying success in the streets – to reduce labour standards and cut business taxes (leading to a huge hole in the public finances).His plans to slash housing benefit and to weaken France’s wealth tax so that it applies only to property, not investments will benefit the richest 10%, a study published last week found. For appearances sake, a youthful, apparent outsider was needed, and candidates with no political experience.

Macron’s plan – backed by many in the establishment, including within the Socialist and Republican parties – was as Tancredi in The Leopard puts it: “For things to remain the same, everything must change”.

But what of Jean Luc Mélenchon and his France Insoumise (Unbowed France) movement? And of the more traditional left flank of the socialists, the communists (PCF). Parties committed to genuine, radical reforms. As in 2012, Mélenchon brought a message of hope with his brilliant oratory, mass meetings and clever use of digital technology. This time, he also effectively tapped into youth culture (Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in Britain perhaps learned a thing or two from him). Mélenchon was pipped for 3rd place by Fillon, with 20% of the vote.

But in the parliamentary elections, winner takes all (in the second round, run-offs, at least), and France Insoumise and the PCF failed to co-operate, except in a minority of localities. This was partly down to frictions caused by a battle for hegemony over the radical left (similarly playing out in Spain between upstart Podemos and the Communist-led United Left), with Mélenchon seen as more assertive of the two.

There was the added complication that the Socialists under new leader Hamon had moved much closer politically to their left flank, again raising the question of co-operation locally. In the end, France Insoumise and the PCF combined won 3 million votes and 27 seats, enjoying the funds and prominence that comes with a parliamentary group. But they nevertheless remain a marginal parliamentary force and importantly still behind the Socialists in terms of seats.

La France Insoumise and the PCF under leader Pierre Laurent will do what they can to oppose Macron in parliament, but the real resistance is going to be on the streets. The unions are already gearing up to resist Macron as he seeks to impose his hire and fire labour legislation, move France’s collective bargaining on wages and working time from the industry (where unions are stronger) to the company level (where they are weaker) and cap severance packages awarded by industrial tribunals (to cut costs to business). And in this and other battles organised labour is are likely to find allies within society, as they did last year against similar attacks on workers, with the youth-led nocturnal protest movement known as La Nuit Debout (or “Up All Night”).

As for the wider pro-European revival Macron seems to herald, how long that will last remains to be seen. Macron has been lucky that Europe’s single currency zone economy has seen somewhat of a recovery recently. But under the terms of Eurozone membership France, like other southern members, is permanently locked into a low-growth, low investment, low-skills vicious circle. There can be no country-level interest rate and currency flexibility (to cut borrowing costs and regain export competitiveness) and no boost to public spending (hitting schools and hospitals). Workers (sacrificing wages and working conditions) are required to bear all the (downward) adjustment. In France austerity rules. And Macron is condemned, like Hollande before him, to crisis management.

Le Pen gained 10.6 million votes in the Presidential elections on the back of calls for a referendum on EU and Euro membership, as well as her politics of law and order and proposed anti-immigrant clampdown. Even her much diminished three million score in parliamentary elections showed she has as much support as the radical left, whose position as critical supporters of the EU and European monetary union have seen many in blue collar heartlands to switch their political colours from red to brown. There’s been little Left Exit, or Lexit debate, in France, even though regaining political and economic sovereignty would be popular. The risks of ducking the issue are huge. For when Macron falters, do we really want Le Pen at the guillotine?

This article first appeared on Revolting Europe.


  1. JohnP says:

    Emmanuel Macron and his, concocted out of thin air in little over a year , En Marche “party” of crooks, opportunists and old re-treads from the corrupt old Republican and Socialist parties on a tsunami of positive French mass media hype, represents nothing more than a “soft political coup” by the French Big Bourgeoisie . This soft coup was only made possible because in their turn the Republicans and socialists had utterly discredited themselves with the electorate by their corruption and incompetence in the face of France’s growing economic paralysis within the German dominated neoliberal straightjackets of both the Single Market and the Euro.

    It is a pity this rather bland article tells us nothing we didn’t know before. Amusing as it is , the juvenile Napoleonic and monarchical posturings of ex banker and briefly Socialist Party minister, Macron, only tell us just what a narcissistic creature Big Business has chosen as their front man to carry through more decisively Hollande’s stalled assault on the French working class. It tells us nothing about the forces behind the puppet, Macron and his pseudo party of stooges , En Marche.

    Because it is the class forces and their vast amounts of MONEY that built Macron and En Marche in little over a year to seize the French Presidency and Parliament , that we need to know more about.

    One thing is clear, Macron and his En Marche cronies are a democratic façade for a very serious assault on the French working class in particular, and the French Welfare System in general. Blood will run in the streets once this battle is joined, as it did all last year under Hollande (and then Minister Macron of course) , but this time with a French State equipped with a fully neoliberal attack government of the capitalist ruling class, bolstered by the now made permanent Emergency laws introduced as a supposed “temporary measure” after the Islamicist terrorist attacks. France is now, whenever Macron chooses to apply these laws, a state under martial law – to “get the neoliberal enforcement job done” without normal bourgeois politics getting in the way.

    This is the façade democracy, authoritarian future of bourgeois democracy in this post 2008 crisis of European capitalism, across Europe. Poland and Hungary have already fallen into what is little more than authoritarian rule, France is now going to be the centre of this cauldron of struggle for the next few years. So much for the liberal , welfarist, “social Europe” promise of Jacque Delors – the EU is now revealed clearly as the enforcement vehicle for the full neoliberal transformation of Europe.

    And still some on the UK Left want to stay inside this capitalist monstrosity !

    1. C MacMackin says:

      I’m not sure you can blame Macron on the EU. The forces you describe which brought him to power were all local to France. Certainly Macron’s blend of technocratic neoliberalism and, if necessary, some authoritarianism (although he hasn’t resorted to this yet) is symptomatic of what the EU is and certainly the EU establishment was supportive of Macron, but they weren’t really involved in his election. When criticising the EU as anti-democratic, the anointment of technocratic prime ministers in Italy and Greece are far better examples to use.

      1. JohnP says:

        Au contraire, C.Mack, on this you are completely wrong. The economic and social forces that brought Macron and his concocted pseudo party En Marche to power are definitely not peculiar to France and French politics, at all, or independent of the neoliberal straightjacket imposed on EU states by the Single Market and the Euro.

        The neoliberal dynamic of the EU project at this particular stage in the global capitalist crisis of competitiveness and profitability and stagnation , and the almost entirely German economy benefitting functioning of the Eurozone (rather like the old gold standard inflexibility during the 1920’s and 30’s in preventing expansionist Keynsian economic strategies for the less competitive EU economies) , can increasingly not co-exist with normal liberal bourgeois democracy.

        Hence the recent , post 2008 Crisis, rise of the pseudo democratic “technocratic” governments we have seen periodically in Italy, the reduction of the Syriza government in Greece to a craven enforcer of EU imposed endless austerity, and the increasingly highly authoritarian neoliberal Right governments in Poland and Hungary, and now the concocted neoliberal puppet Macron set up now in France.

        And what protections has membership of the EU provided against these assaults on bourgeois democracy, and worker’s rights ? A few weak critical murmurs as Hungary and Poland slide into authoritarianism (along with close EU associate Turkey of course) . This is the future of the EU states , as the overall long term EU mission , to reduce workers rights, welfare benefits , wage levels , and restrictions on business power, to those of China, conflict with democracy.

        I hope you don’t seriously think that because Macron hasn’t yet employed the full weight of the French state and its new , essentially marshal law public order laws, against the French working class in order to finish the job that the Hollande government could not over the last year of mass struggle, that that is not inevitably coming down the track ? It most certainly is.

        The Left fantasists in the progressive benevolence of the EU, like the politically naïve Jim Denham , below, need to wake up and smell the “authoritarian neoliberal coffee” !

    2. David Pavett says:

      John, where does all that invective come from? Reading your comment is a but like reading a Soviet show trial transcript in that there is no question of coming to a conclusion on the basis of a careful argument. It’s all there shouting at the reader in the choice of words. There is not much question of stopping to think when the message is delivered with “crooks, opportunists and old-retreads” who in any case are “corrupt”, “utterly discredited” because of their “corruption and incompetence” and all that is down within “neoliberal straightjackets”. As for Macron just look at his “Napoleonic and monarchical posturings” with which he leads his “pseudo party of stooges” and in case you didn’t get it that is also his party of “cronies”. The result will that “Blood will run in the streets”. Who then would want to stay inside this “capitalist monstrosity”?

      The tone of strident certainty does not auger well for the possibility of reasonable exchange of views and suggest that anyone not agreeing with you is probably either stupid or a lackey or possibly a “running dog of capitalism”.

      I recognise the neoliberal nature of the structure and rules of the current EU I don’t need to be convinced about its incompatibility with shifting power in favour of working people. But unlike you I am not able to draw an immediate rejectionist conclusion from that. I could say much the same things about my local council and about the UK government. In the case of the latter two I justify participation on the grounds that I am working for a democratic transformation of those institutions. It is possible to argue for the same thing for the EU as does, for example, the Diem25 group. They may be right or wrong but it is a position which is at the very least arguable. If it is wrong it needs to be dealt with using careful arguments rather than being dismissed out of hand with hot invective. Similarly, if you believe that democratic and even socialist advance is possible in our world of global capitalism on a nation state basis you might at least recognise that there plausible arguments as to why that is even less likely to be successful than transforming the EU.

      I am conflicted about this and honestly feel that I don’t know enough to resolve these problems for myself. So, like many others trying to think these issues through, I look around for good arguments either way. You can imagine therefore that I do not find the use of hectoring vocabulary, or the failure to recognise any sense at all in a contrary point of view, helpful.

  2. Jim Denham says:

    Yet another tired old Stalinist defence of the non-existent “left Exit” fantasy.

    And yet there are still some on the so-called “left” (ie Stalinists, nativists and little-Englanders) who seek to ignore the rise in racist attacks, xenophobia, the threat to the Irish peace process, and the sense of insecurity that EU and *all* non-white, non-British people feel, as a result of Brexit. We expect this of the racist Tories with their delusions of rebuilding the Empire, but the pro-Brexit fake-left are guilty of criminal irresponsibility. Serious, educated, workers and internationalists understand this. Only Morning Star supporters and other Stalinist and nationalist lumpens fail to grasp it, and fal to understand what a thoroughly reactionary role they’re playing.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Jim Denham, an angry liberal

      1. Jim Denham says:

        An angry Marxist: read the Communist Manifesto, Karl … and weep.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          No mate, it might make you sad liberals “weep”, but personally, I’d read it and support it.

          1. Steven Johnston says:

            I agree with you Karl, there is nothing in the manifesto about supporting the EU!

            As for racism, there is plenty of racism in the EU! Witness how they treat the Syrian refugees…

          2. Jim Denham says:

            The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

          3. Karl Stewart says:

            Response to Jim Denham at 4.21 yesterday and 9.32 today:

            Jim, I really can’t see what point you’re making here with those two long quotes from Karl Marx?

            Nowhere does Karl Marx argue for the working class movement to support multinational organisations of capitalists aimed at driving down wages and increasing profits.

            And your characterisation of the EU issue as a progressive ‘pro’ side and a reactionary ‘anti’ side is utter nonsense.

            Both sides had a mix of political viewpoints as you well know.

            Now that the process of withdrawal is under way – and there is no going back – the question before us is whether we exit the EU in a leftward direction or a rightward direction.

            So please stop being a dick and make your mind up whether you are on the left or on the right.

        2. Steven Johnston says:

          Jim, your quote does not support the EU, but nice try.

          Face it, the remainers lost the vote. What is so hard to understand about that?

          1. Jim Denham says:

            …or this:

            This German socialism, which took its schoolboy task so seriously and solemnly, and extolled its poor stock-in-trade in such a mountebank fashion, meanwhile gradually lost its pedantic innocence.

            The fight of the Germans, and especially of the Prussian bourgeoisie, against feudal aristocracy and absolute monarchy, in other words, the liberal movement, became more earnest.

            By this, the long-wished for opportunity was offered to “True” Socialism of confronting the political movement with the Socialist demands, of hurling the traditional anathemas against liberalism, against representative government, against bourgeois competition, bourgeois freedom of the press, bourgeois legislation, bourgeois liberty and equality, and of preaching to the masses that they had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by this bourgeois movement. German Socialism forgot, in the nick of time, that the French criticism, whose silly echo it was, presupposed the existence of modern bourgeois society, with its corresponding economic conditions of existence, and the political constitution adapted thereto, the very things those attainment was the object of the pending struggle in Germany.

            To the absolute governments, with their following of parsons, professors, country squires, and officials, it served as a welcome scarecrow against the threatening bourgeoisie.

            It was a sweet finish, after the bitter pills of flogging and bullets, with which these same governments, just at that time, dosed the German working-class risings.

            While this “True” Socialism thus served the government as a weapon for fighting the German bourgeoisie, it, at the same time, directly represented a reactionary interest, the interest of German Philistines. In Germany, the petty-bourgeois class, a relic of the sixteenth century, and since then constantly cropping up again under the various forms, is the real social basis of the existing state of things.

            To preserve this class is to preserve the existing state of things in Germany. The industrial and political supremacy of the bourgeoisie threatens it with certain destruction — on the one hand, from the concentration of capital; on the other, from the rise of a revolutionary proletariat. “True” Socialism appeared to kill these two birds with one stone. It spread like an epidemic.

            (An excellent description to pro-Brexit pseudo-“leftists”)

            Yes, Steven, the progressive anti-racist side narrowly lost the referendum and the reactionaries and bigots narrowly won.. Since when have socialists given up after (narrowly) losing one vote?

      2. Steven Johnston says:

        Yep Karl and he also wants Britain, governed by Theresa May to stay in the EU…you couldn’t make this up!
        Probably in the same breath he extols the virtues of the 1945-51 Labour government.
        As for Karl Marx and socialism, well he and they would be interested in socialism and nothing but and not a shabby compromise.

        The BS the remainers campaigned on was beaten by the BS of the leave campaign. Both were as reactionary as each others as they failed to tell the workers the truth, either way, in or out, they are shafted.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          Steven: Marx’s words are there to be read. The Communist Manifesto makes it absolutely plain what Marx and Engels’ attitude was to capitalist development and integration, and what they thought of reactionaries (including reactionary – or “true” – socialists) who seek to turn the clock back. You are free to disagree, but there can be no doubt of where Marx would stand.

          1. JohnP says:

            For goodness sakes, Jim, have a think about the 19th century context of Marx’s attitude to his then contemporary , still relatively new not yet fully global industrial capitalism, when capitalism still had a world historical role to play in replacing feudal and peasant economic forms. Hence , even though Marx always recognised capitalism as being built on blood and robbery and the “primitive accumulation” phase superprofits of the slave trade and widespread genocide of native peoples, in the 19th century it was still “progressive” in building up the global means of production and productivity.

            Today, capitalism has done its world historic task, it dominates the globe. The proletarist now outnumbers the peasantry for the first time. But capitalism can develop no further . The globalisation of neoliberalism, including the Big business benefitting Four Freedoms of the EU, are simply about maximizing the robbery of everyone but the Big Business class in the most efficient manner, with unlimited labour supply and repression of trade unionism, and freedom of movement for capital as tools of this ever greater robbery. This is no longer progressive internationalism – but simply a now moribund, stagnating system, trying to keep itself going , at the expense of the majority and the health of our ecosystem.

            It is now time for socialist internationalism. That won’t be built via the institutions of neoliberal globalised capitalism, Jim. You obviously have no understanding of the Marxist method and its concept of the time limited historical lifespan of capitalism, before it either destroys us all, or is replaced by socialism.

          2. Karl Stewart says:


            So what’s your proposal? Are you saying we should all vote LibDem to try to overturn the EU vote?

            Are you supporting those in the Labour and Conservative Parties who are gingerly suggesting a new, pro-EU political party?

            That’s the real, concrete politics of what you’re arguing for.

            There is no left-wing, socialist constituency that’s in favour of setting aside our democratic decision to leave the EU.

            As I pointed out earlier, the fact is we are leaving and the choices we have are whether to leave in a right-wing direction or in a left-wing direction.

            Quoting from the notes of a 19th-century economist about completely different issues from a totally different period bear zero relevance to where we are today.

            The question for you is are you going to choose the left-exit option and join the fight for that, or are you going to just continue whining from the sidelines?

          3. JohnP says:

            My guess is that Jim will just whine from the sidelines, Karl ! Continue to hysterically accuse serious socialists who want to leave the unreformably neoliberal EU and fight for socialism, of being Nazis – and possibly provide us with yet more historically now utterly irrelevant quotes from Marx.

            He is far from alone though on the liberal left in having “drunk the neoliberal ideological fantasy coolade” of the EU propaganda machine, in believing this undemocratic bureaucratic capitalist creation is a protector of all our rights and freedoms.

          4. Steven Johnston says:

            But…your side lost the vote!
            So it’s all academic anyway. If what you say is true, then the masses will come back to your point of view. If not, you have to accept they don’t want to be in the EU.

          5. Jim Denham says:

            John P: “Today, capitalism has done its world historic task, it dominates the globe. The proletarist now outnumbers the peasantry for the first time. But capitalism can develop no further”: and your evidence for that?

          6. Jim Denham says:

            … and to anti-Marxist Karl: I have no intention of “whining from the sidelines”: having won the battle within the labour and TU movement, my comrades and I intend to continue the fight for free movement and take on and defeat (again) the pro-Brexit racists, Stalinists and nationalists within our movement.

          7. Jim Denham says:

            To John P: when you reply, with your evidence to back up your statement that “capitalism has done its historic task”, you may like to also address this:

            The only serious Marxist group on the British left, the AWL, argued that capitalism was still progressive, in the sense that Lenin and others understood it – because it still develops the productive forces and socialises labour. I argued, following Hillel Ticktin, that it was better to characterise the epoch as one of the decline of capitalism. In retrospect, I think I was wrong.

            1) Ticktin and I argued that the scope of the law of value had contracted. We pointed to phenomena such as statised, non-market sectors, as well as whole states, where the law of value was not the dominant economic regulator. There were such tendencies after world war one, but since 1989 – and especially since the debate the opposite has been true. Capital has sought to expand into new and previously non-market areas and has begun to entrench capitalist social relations in vast areas of social life.
            * There has been a geographical, spatial extension of value relations into Eastern Europe and Russia to China, Vietnam and in some respects even to Cuba. Capitalist social relations have developed further in Iran and Iraq, as well as in India, Thailand and Latin America.
            * There has been an internal extension of the market into whole spheres of the economy such as health, education and other areas previously regarded as “public goods”.
            *The commodification of social life has been matched by efforts to commodify nature and the natural environment – notably the through the commodification of the atmosphere in climate politics, though emissions trading and other market mechanisms.

            These processes and not finished, not linear, and highly uneven. But it is vital to register their scope and effects.

            (The developments of monopoly and finance capital, as pointed out by Martin and Bruce Robinson during the debate, do not support the thesis of decline either.)

            2) Everyone in the debate a decade ago accepted that the productive forces had developed substantially since 1945. It might have been rational in the 1930s to suggest capitalism was moribund, stagnating, or on the brink of collapse. At the turn of the millennium, such a description would only be an abuse of language. At the time Ticktin argued that 1950-73 period (the “golden age boom”) had been exceptional. The period after that had seen much lower growth, and even decline in Africa, Latin America and into the 1990s, stagnation in Japan.

            The data provided by Angus Maddison soon after the turn of century suggests that while the first two decades of neoliberalism (1980-2000), global growth was slower than during the golden age, it was still significantly greater than in early periods of capitalism, including the first wave of globalisation between 1870 and 1914. Data for the last ten years suggests a “platinum” period of global growth, especially spurred by China, which receded only in 2008.

            Similarly, the growth of technology and communications – including the internet, mobile phones and the rest of the information revolution have had substantial effects on productivity and global trade. More importantly from our point of view, the size of the working class has increased globally. Getting on for a majority of the world’s direct producers are now waged workers. Those that are not are often subject to market imperatives, or in the process of being sucked into subordination to capital. The Chinese working class is now at least 300 million strong, with over 100 million workers in manufacturing.

            None of these developments suggest “decline”. In spite of the economic downturn in the last two years, the prognosis points towards a renewal of global capital accumulation, despite the slowdown in some places.

            3) The third aspect of the AWL’s argument, though not contested much at the time, was the implications for the labour movement. Martin argued that the perspective of capitalist decline made some sense when the labour movement was forceful and militant, with high levels of organisation reflected in trade unions and crucially, among revolutionary socialists, as it was in the early 1920s. It perhaps made some sense in the 1970s.

            Clearly the last decade has been a period of stagnation and decline in most labour movements across the globe. Even the most militant union movements in the early years of neoliberalism, in South Africa, Brazil and in South Korea, have been markedly less assertive in recent years. Trade unions in the old capitalist heartlands, with few exceptions, are weaker both absolutely and relatively than they were a decade ago. Social Democratic parties have largely been hegemonised by neoliberal ideas. The revolutionary left is politically and ideologically less coherent than previously, and organisationally smaller.

            Martin Thomas of the AWL argued that a lengthy period of renovating and re building the labour movement – as the Second International had to be built – lay ahead. That was true in 2000. It is more true today.

            Many of the objective pre-requisites for socialism – the size and social power of the working class, the absolute volume of social surplus generated that could meet social needs, the development of technology, the global interdependence of peoples, etc – are even greater than they were a decade ago. However many of the subjective elements necessary to achieve socialism – the class consciousness of workers, the level of organisation and militancy, the clarity of ideas on the ideological front and the organisation of Marxists – are in many respects weaker than they were.

            This is not a reason for pessimism. We start with reality, with today’s conditions, in order to change the world. There is much to be optimistic about, but it is more important than ever to gather working class socialists together around rational, coherent, Marxist politics.

            The characterisation of capitalism as in decline is a relic, a fossil from a valid effort by the Comintern to get to grips with the post world war one world. It has long had little useful operative value. We should bury the dead.

  3. Bazza says:

    Yes Macron the Neo-Liberal was actually elected by only 16% of the total eligible electorate in France in the second round.
    In the first round if the Left – CP and Socialists could have combined they would have knocked out the vile FN from the run off.
    Then it would have been the Bourgeois Neo-Liberal Capitalist v the Bourgeois Socialist (CP)/Weak Left Wing Top Down Democratic Socialist(SP) force.
    France perhaps needs a real left wing, grassroots, bottom up, democratic, participatory, socialist instead of top downers – the ‘Great Men & Women of History’!

    1. Steven Johnston says:

      Bazza, clearly they need a Maduro to save them!

  4. David Pavett says:

    The title reminds me of an old song which had the lines

    Louis was the king of France,
    Before the revolution,
    Then he got his head chopped off,
    Which spoilt his constitution.

  5. Steven Johnston says:

    The EU has it’s own flag and even it’s own anthem!

    No doubt the remainers fly it and sing it. But how can that be any less reactionary and xenophobic?

    I mean they think the EU flag is better than yours.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      You’ve summed up the argument excellently, Steven: the idiot “left” (epitomised by the ignorant and politically illiterate Karl S) should read your comment, and ponder … if they’re capable of “pondering”, something that requires thought.

  6. Karl Stewart says:

    This is hilarious from JimD the angry liberal from Tunbridge Wells:

    “…the only serious Marxist group on the British left, the AWL, argued that capitalism was still progressive…”

    Doesn’t that just sum up exactly the political bankruptcy of the liberals.

    They think capitalism is “still progressive”.

  7. Karl Stewart says:

    And presumably, that’s why JimD the angry liberal and his fellow liberals are all so obsessed with trying to set aside democracy, set aside the majority of Labour voters, set aside the majority view of the working class, and stay in the capitalist neo-liberal EU.

    It’s because JimD the angry liberal and his fellow liberals are all very pro-capitalist at heart.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      The ignorant Karl SW says: “JimD the angry liberal and his fellow liberals are all very pro-capitalist at heart”: by that logic, so was Marx.

      As for being a “liberal”: obviously that’s nonsense, but for the sake of argument, better to be a “liberal” than an apologist giving pseudo- “left” cover to Farage, Banks and the far-right of the Tory Party, apparently indifferent to the racism and bigotry you’re party to.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        You liberals are always attacking the left and you tell whatever lies you can find to attack us.

        So according to you, Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill, Bob Crow (all robust solid socialists who quite rightly opposed the neo-liberalist EU) etc were all “far-right” were they? And they were all “indifferent to racism” were they?

        Liberals always do this thing where they say there’s no difference between the left and the right – typical liberal argument, which we’ve all heard before.

        What a piece of filth you are pal.

        Liberals always do this accusing every socialist or any socialist measure as “Stalinist”.

        It’s the classic tactic of you pro-capitalist neo-liberals, from Cameron and Blair to JimD and his joke “AWL” sect.

        And by the way, the “AWL” is held in total and utter contempt by everyone on the left. It’s a fake “left” sect, which in reality supports every single position of the neo-liberals.

        So that’s why you argue that “capitalism is progressive” the same argument that Cameron, Osborne and Blair make for “open markets” because you believe the “trickle-down” of capitalism will, eventually, be beneficial to us all.

        It’s a rubbish argument when Osborne, Cameron, Blair and Thatcher made it and it’s a rubbish argument when the fake “left” of the contemptible “AWL” make it.

        1. Jim Denham says:


          I had some respect for |Bennm but he was overly-inluenced by Stalinism and, not beinf a Marxist, but a reformist, was wrong about the EEC. In the 1970’s this was excusable. Now it’s not: people like you, (sub-Stalinist ignoramuses)who’ve gone along with the rank racism of the Brexiteers, are, indeed, inexcusable. You’re scum and should be excluded from any positions within the labour movement. I-‘m proud to be a member of the AWL and to campaign to make your filthy, racist politics unacceptable within the labour and trade union movement.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            You need to lay off the sauce pal, you’re making an even bigger fool of yourself than usual.

            You might be “proud” to belong to a scab fake “left” sect, but everyone else thinks the so-called “AWL” is beneath contempt.

            Whether you liberal morons like it or not, we’re leaving your Thatcherite EU and we’re moving forward to fight for a socialist future.

            You keep on grizzling like the drunk on the night bus if you like.

          2. JohnP says:

            You are getting yourself into such a tizzy with your daft belief that all socialists who wish to leave the neoliberal EU and its Four (capitalist) Freedoms – based Single Market, are racist Nazis, Jim, you should calm down and do a bit more reading !

            For instance have a read of well respected Marxist professor, Costas Lapavitsas’s excellent interview, in “Revolting Europe” on Syriza’s abject failure in Greece and on the nature of the EU more generally , at

            One quote in particular from this article should give you pause for thought, Jim, ie:

            “The key question is redefining sovereignty. What does popular sovereignty mean today? But we also need to redefine national sovereignty. Transnational bodies of the European Union work against the interests of workers and left-wing governments and maintain the existing hierarchy in Europe. These are crucial issues as they go to the heart of what socialism can be. To this must be added an anti-neoliberal and anti-capitalist economic program: nationalizing the banks, enhancing public investment, strengthening the welfare state … If you think that these goals can be achieved by changing the EU, it means that nothing has been understood about what has happened in the last ten years. It’s impossible. We must fight the mechanisms of the European Union and the power of Germany. It’s not anti-European what I’m saying. It is not nationalism. We must not confuse the international capitalism that has been imposed in Europe for the last thirty years with the internationalism of the Left and the workers.”

          3. Jim Denham says:

            Master Stewart: a neo-Stalinist petty bourgeois dilettante really should be careful about calling me _ someone who’s been on more picket lines than you’ve had hot dinners – I guarantee you . You and your racist, Stalinist chums are a disgrace and will be exposed (actually, already are being exposed ) as such within the labour movement by old-Style Bolsheviks like me and the AWL. By the way, Master Stewart, if you ever meet me in person, I strongly advise you not to use the word “scab”.

          4. Jim Denham says:


            I have read the interview eith Costas Lapavitsas on Syriza’s abject failure in Greece and on the nature of the EU more generally. Like all left reformists, he’s incoherent, but this is interesting, and makjes a nonsense of what the little-England Stalinist/ nationalists are saying:

            Q: Are you therefore in favour of a future European federation?

            Of course. The fact that there is no European nation is not a weakness. We are what we are: Italians, French, Greeks … that’s what makes Europe what it is. What we need is not a European demos, but a genuine internationalism. Having said that, it’s obvious that there are many things we can share. And institutions can be built in this regard.

            Are you optimistic?

            I take Gramsci seriously. [Laughs] I’m particularly optimistic when I look at European youth. If I think about Greece, I am conscious that young people have travelled more and are more educated and informed of all the previous generations. They’re better than we were. We will see what European youth will do in the future. In this, I am confident.

            Source: Micromega

          5. JohnP says:

            Jim, you obviously haven’t understood what Costas Lapavistas is saying at all, so blinded by your assumptions are you ! Re-read his piece, and my selected excerpt ! Of course all socialists should be in favour of an All European federal state, but not one based on the current EU capitalist neoliberal basis – a bureaucratic entity that as Costas clearly states, cannot be reformed to become a benign progressive anti neoliberal capitalist body.

            The point Costas is making is that the arena for struggle today, as the French working class and the Greek working class demonstrated over the last couple of years of independent struggles, is still the individual nation states of Europe. There is no evidence whatsoever of any cross national working class coordinated struggle. Sad, but that is the way it still is. Building solidarity in struggle will be OUTSIDE of the structures of the EU.

            If your uncritical pro EU position is indeed the current position of the AWL, then that tiny sect has indeed taken a wrong theoretical turn. That is no excuse however for denouncing Socialists holding to a leave position of being nazis. That reflects your own immaturity, not AWL politics, on many of whose positions I have found myself agreeing in the past.

        2. Jim Denham says:

          John P:you plainly have not the slight idea of the AWL’s position on the EU; I’d suggest to read up o it: then we can have a serious discussion.

          1. JohnP says:

            You see, Jim, claiming that those who disagree with you “have no idea of what the AWL’s position is on the EU” is not any sort of rebuttal. We can all read what the AWL’s positions are on its website.

            The AWL has an extraordinarily in-Marxist Left liberal line on EU Freedom of Movement for a start, believing (against all evidence and the laws of basic supply/demand capitalist economics) that unlimited labour supply has no impact on UK wages or conditions or worker bargaining power with the bosses !

            And reprinting, for instance “Is The Time Ripe For The Slogan ‘The United States Of Europe’? Trotsky in June 1923” as a supposed contribution to analysis of today’s EU debate is little more than pathetic.

            No, Jim, many of us DO understand the strange Left liberal cul de sac the AWL and other sections of the largely middle class, isolated, Far Left have got themselves into on the EU . The point is to be able to debate this – without descending into overheated claims that hose socialists you disagree with are racists and nazis or Stalinists.

  8. Karl Stewart says:

    JimD, no idea how any “hot dinners” you’ve had pal.

    In fact I don’t know anything about you at all apart from someone who always sounds like a grumpy old Blairite liberal who thinks capitalism is “still progressive” and worships the Thatcherite EU.

    So if you want to post hysterical right-wing Blairite smears about the left then you’ll get some robust counter-arguments in return.

    So stop your pathetic whining – if you can’t take it, don’t give it pal.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Anyone remember that phrase “it’s like being savaged by a dead sheep”?

      Was the person talking about the angry liberal JimD?

    2. Jim Denham says:

      My dear little racist boy, I can assure you that, having been a T&G shop steward in the motor industry, I’ve been on more picket lines that you’ve had hot, petty burgoos dinners. I also understand what the word “scab” means, and if you ever come near me and call ME THAT, I WILL RESPOND: I promise you that. I have never crossed a picket line in my life – and if some lying little sub-Stalinist scum -bag twerp tries to suggest I have, I’ll deal with him by means of proletarian justice-I PROMISE!

  9. Jim Denham says:

    Come on Karl, you petty bourgeois sub-Stalinist: what picket lines have you ever been on as an active participant in a strike? Come on, little sub-Stalinist boy: and then dare repeat your filthy slander that I’m a “scab”…

    1. Karl Stewart says:


      Anytime you like

      Anywhere you like

      1. JohnP says:

        Come on, Jim and Karl – this is getting very, very silly . When socialists arguing about what is actually about tactics, not fundamental principle, get to the stage of pure hate-filled name-calling and threats, its time surely for taking a deep breath and just closing down this line of “debate” .

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          He started it…grrr…

  10. David Pavett says:

    @ Jim Denham (August 25, 2017 at 5:29 am)

    Your assessment of John P’s claim that “capitalism has done its historic task” is based on the idea that he was also claiming that capitalism no longer had the vitality to renew and develop the means of production, communication and transport. In reality the two claims are very different. Some of John’s phrases may not have been well chosen but it is important in discussing differences to start from a generous interpretation of what the other person says. If we start from the most ludicrous interpretation then the likelihood of reaching mutual understanding is zero.

    The idea that the end of capitalism will be when its ability to stimulate innovation grinds to a halt belongs to very mechanical version of Marxism. You seem to think that is what John is claiming. What is more you seem to think that this view is correct but only disagree on whether we have reached that point. All this seems to me to be based on a view of Marx which has little to do with what he actually wrote.

    Your long expose of AWL thinking on the matter is really beside the point. The point being that capitalist development is now threatening the social gains made within its framework and threatening he entire world with its assault on the environment. That, it seems to me, was clearly John’s point. We need therefore to make the case that capitalism has outlived its historical usefulness and it is now a pressing necessity to consider how to go beyond it. It is not a matter of waiting for capitalism to go into decline. It will always renew itself through its successive crises. Rather, it is a matter of making a modern case for a socialist alternative modern terms based on a detailed analysis of contemporary capitalism and developing a feasible programme for making the transition to socialism. I had a look at the AWL website only to find that the battles of Trotsky versus Stalin are still being fought out there. I feel sure that is not the way to go.

    P.S. On a theoretical point, you assume that Marx’s idea of the operation of the law of value only refers to the exchange of commodities. I think that it is clear from his writing that his idea of the law of value is much more general than that. It operated, he explained, in all forms of society but received its most extreme development in the particular form of commodity exchange. All the same, he argued, “Every child knows, too, that the volume of products corresponding to the different needs require different and quantitively determined amounts of the total labour of society. That this necessity of the distribution of social labour in definite proportions cannot possibly be done away with by a particular form of social production but can only change the mode of its appearance is self-evident. Natural laws cannot be abolished at all. What can change in historically different circumstances is only the form in which these laws assert themselves.” (Letter to Kugelman, 11th July 1868).

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