[Marxism] Labour’s Economic Plans: What Went Wrong? | Novara Media

MM marxmail00 at gmail.com
Tue Dec 17 21:00:26 MST 2019

> On Dec 17, 2019, at 8:47 PM, Louis Proyect via Marxism <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:
> https://novaramedia.com/2019/12/17/labours-economic-plans-what-went-wrong/

Meadway makes an odd slip at a crucial point. Here’s the salient passage:

"The economy is a zero-sum game.

"This is the starting point. Understanding this was critical to the success of the 2017 manifesto. Failing to understand it was critical to the failure of 2019. The economy has grown, weakly, since 2008. Real  wages have not and public services have disintegrated. An economy that behaves like this, in which some people get richer but most very visibly do not, is one in which the broad promise of growth has broken down. Many people perceive the economy to be, broadly speaking, a racket in which a minority at the top are doing well at the expense of others, and they are, broadly speaking, quite correct.

"To see the economy like this is to see it as a zero-sum game whose brutal logic is this: I can only do better if somebody else does worse. If I want to be better off, someone else must be worse off. There are, of course, plenty of ‘Keynesians’ out there who might see that improving the functioning of the economy – through investment and so on – can produce gains for everybody, and that the question is the distribution of the gains from this growth. But for significant numbers of people, and particularly for those people who have found themselves on the wrong side of a zero-sum game for a long period of time, such arguments don’t work. Note that austerity reinforces these arguments: the worse things get, the harder it can seem to imagine things getting better. (I made a barebones version of this argument in a piece I wrote back before Jeremy was first elected.)”

There’s an ambiguity in this argument which Meadway leaves unresolved: Is he arguing that every economy (or at least the UK’s economy) is, as a matter of political-economic law, a “zero-sum game,” or is he arguing that *people perceive the economy* to be a “zero-sum game,” and therefore that’s the social / psychological reality in relation to which electoral political strategy has to be formulated? The reference to “Keynesians” suggests that the former isn’t really the case (although the reference itself is unhelpfully flippant), but then the rest of his argument seems to assume the contrary: It’s always necessary, not just as a matter of politics but as a matter of economics, to show “how things will be paid for,” and this is understood in terms of *who will be taxed to pay for them*.

So this seems like another example of an ostensibly left thinker perpetuating the (false) premise that social programs are paid for out of taxes — rather than, as the author seems to want to be credited for doing, *strategizing in light of the fact that many people (falsely) believe that social programs are paid for out of taxes* (which leaves open the possibility of pointing towards another horizon).

To the extent that left forces engage in electoral politics, our message should be, “Don’t worry; we’ll tax the shit out of the rich in due course — but that will be easier once you’ve got what you need, so making sure of that is our first priority, and we don’t need their money to do that.” Or words to that effect.

We need to stop perpetuating the enabling myths of ruling class rule. We need to stop making their war against us so easy for them.

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