George Monbiot got it half-right: There is a capitalist civil war, but not exactly the kind of war he describes
by system failure
Since at least July 2019, we were supporting the idea that Brexit is primarily the result of a capitalist civil war. Very few people (mostly in social media), were eager to accept this theory, while several were even mocking it as some kind of crazy conspiracy theory.
What puzzled us most, was the fact that even people from the global real Left were completely ignoring the capitalist-civil-war factor in Brexit equation during public debates. Many of them were seeing Brexit mainly as an angry response by the UK working class against the political and financial elites. We thought it would take forever to find someone from the Left to support the capitalist-civil-war theory.
Finally, at last, it was George Monbiot who spoke clearly about a capitalist civil war. And not only that. He correctly supported (as you can hear in the beginning of his analysis) that "The only way really to understand Brexit is as the outcome of a civil war within capitalism."
However, we would like to express some objections concerning a fundamental aspect of Monbiot's analysis, which is basically the "nature" of the capitalist factions in this ongoing capitalist war.
As Monbiot points out:
The only way really to understand Brexit is as the outcome of a civil war within capitalism. There are two dominant forms of capitalism. One you could describe as house trained capitalism. This is corporations and rich people who are prepared to more or less go along with democracy, as long as democracy doesn't get out of hand and actually represent the interests of the people, but as long as it's a sort of thin and narrow form of democracy, they'll go with it. What they want is stability. They want regulations which protect their market position from rougher and dirtier companies who would otherwise wipe them out. They're happy with the administrative state.
And then there's another faction who could be described as capitalism's warlords. These are people who don't want any constraints in their way at all. They see taxation as illegitimate, they see regulation as illegitimate. In their unguarded moments, they reveal that they see democracy as illegitimate. People such as Peter Thiel, the guy who founded PayPal says actually democracy and market freedom are incompatible. The conflict should be resolved in favor of this thing he calls the market. Τhe market is an euphemism for the power of money. And they believe that that power should be unmediated, that it should be able to do whatever it wants without anyone standing in its way. And they see as their enemy house trained capitalism.
And this is really where the power lies within.
The whole Brexit debate, is on the one side, the august institutions of capitalism, like the Confederation of British Industry, saying this is terrible, we don't want this to happen at all. And on the other side, the oligarchs from the City, very powerful people who are funding dark money think tanks and other lobby groups, saying we want to clear it all out of the way. In Steve Bannon's words, "we want the deconstruction of the administrative state". And it's a second group, the warlords of money who have won.
First of all, both capitalist factions in this civil war seek the "deconstruction of the administrative state." And actually, the administrative state could be deconstructed much more efficiently through super-national formations like the European Union. The European Union institutions have been taken over by powerful banking and corporate lobbies. And these are taking advantage of the legislative power of those institutions in order to promote more deregulation and destroy the administrative power of nation-states.
As the Corporate Europe Observatory reported in 2016:
Since Jean-Claude Juncker took office as President of the European Commission in November 2014, there has been an even greater deregulation push, not just on specific rules and laws which should be scrapped, but on how decisions are made about future laws. Under Juncker, fundamental changes in policy-making are being introduced which will put major obstacles in the way of new regulations aimed at protecting the environment or improving social conditions.
When David Cameron was renegotiating the terms of the UK’s membership of the EU with European Council President Donald Tusk, a greater European emphasis on deregulation was one of the four priority areas. To pile on the pressure, Cameron and the UK government spearheaded an appeal from 18 other member states, demanding quantitative targets, meaning that for every new regulation put in place, a certain number of other regulations should be removed. [...] As presented here, Cameron and the European Commission – together with big business - share a common approach on the deregulation agenda.
That's why the "house trained capitalism", as Monbiot describes it, wants the UK to remain member of the EU. And, in fact, it's rather contradictory to say that this capitalist faction is "happy with the administrative state" when at the same time supports a super-national organization whose ultimate goal is to eliminate the administrative power of the nation-states.
Monbiot describes the pro-Brexit capitalist faction as "capitalism's warlords ... people who don't want any constraints in their way at all. They see taxation as illegitimate, they see regulation as illegitimate. In their unguarded moments, they reveal that they see democracy as illegitimate." Yet, these are common characteristics with the "house trained capitalism" faction. That's because both capitalist factions in previous decades were functioning as a united force through the complete domination of neoliberalism. A domination which was evident not only in an economic and a political level, but also in a cultural level, especially in the Western world.
And that's why, as we wrote recently, both the liberal elites and the far right (as representatives of the capitalist factions), are seeing the real Left as the primary threat which must be dealt at all costs, after all.
We need to understand that this civil war between the capitalist factions does not come out of any substantially different ideological or political approach. Essentially, it's only a tough bargain. Capitalists just pick sides to negotiate terms and secure their position in the post-capitalist era, which already looks like a kind of 21st century corporate feudalism.
Yet, we would completely agree with Monbiot's remark that "What happens to us, to the citizens of the UK, is of very little interest. We're just the grass that gets trampled in this civil war."
As we already pointed out, the level of ruthlessness of this capitalist war can also be identified in the behavior of the US political class against the American people. It's astonishing that, inside this terrible situation, where thousands die from the pandemic, millions lose their jobs and live under extreme insecurity, no one is willing to offer anything. Both Democrats and Republicans have turned the oncoming election into a political bargain and they don't even try to hide it.
Inside this ruthless capitalist war, people have become almost irrelevant. What only matters for the political puppets is to secure the interests of the capitalist faction they represent. The rampageous bulls of capitalism are fighting each other in an arena in which democracy has now turned into dust under their violent clatters.
Therefore, we would also certainly agree with Monbiot's conclusion:
We need a political economy which is good for the people, the people who live today, the people of future generations, good for the rest of the living world and is actually governed by the people themselves. Not by this kind of capitalism or that kind of capitalism. These corporations or those oligarchs. A democracy which responds to people not just once every four or five years, but every day, when we have participation as well as representation. We need a system that transcends both of these warring factions, and puts the people in charge.