Whilst I was away, Mrs May’s latest Brexit plans were rejected by Europe. I voted Remain to stop transnational corporations (TNCs) becoming more powerful than nation states. With every twist in this sorry, no frightening, tale it makes more sense.
TNCs already are in control of the world economy. ExxonMobil already has an annual turnover greater than Austria, and therefore more financial power. The neoliberal ideology already holds sway globally. TNCs financial clout has already ensured enough placemen on the larger ‘democratically elected’ national bodies, and of course they control most of the media.
But the neoliberals do not feel safe. China is not necessarily amenable to their plans, but apart from the Chinese support for the 2019 ‘Paris’ Climate Change Agreement, they have generally played along. But there are worrying signs of grass roots revolt elsewhere. Trump was not part of their plans, nor was Macron or Corbyn. (Corbyn could theoretically shortly be in charge of the 6th largest world economy, but his naivete makes him far too easy to demonize.) They are countered by populist figures such as Salvini in Italy and Orban in Hungary who aid TNC’s atomization plans.
In Paris on my way home from holiday I saw a sticker for a Frexit party. Separate Scotland from Britain, Catalunya (where I had been) from Spain, but above all Britain from Europe, all are part of the neoliberal game plan.
Austerity is a confidence trick. The graph of a growth economy has always looked like a factory roof – long steady rises interrupted by short steep falls, but the trajectory has always been upwards. As yet damage to the ecosphere does not affect the proposition that there is quite enough wealth to fund whatever is needed for everyone. But those steep falls, the pretext for austerity, do have an alternative – redistribution.
That redistribution may be temporary, though probably not when sustainable eco-footprints become the aim. Hitherto the instinctive grass roots revolt to the neoliberal austerity has been either socialism or nationalistic, often right-wing populism. There is another alternative: a basic income. Eventually this will need to be world wide, but as soon as it is introduced in any community (preferably but not necessarily nationally), individuals within that community can begin to contemplate and vote on ecological realities without short term insecurity.
There are basic income trials which appear to fail, notably in Finland. They will fail unless given to a community, not just to a small number of individuals within that community.
Trump’s unexpected success, like that of Corbyn, was based on a belief in places such as Ohio and Scunthorpe, that rust belt post-industrial industries can be resurrected. If they are, you can forget saving the ecosphere. Corbyn’s dislike of the EU stems from his mentor Tony Benn – it is controlled by capitalists. There is a minority view within the UK Green Party led by Peeress Jenny Jones which favours Brexit for this reason. Although true, that neglects the potential for the basic (citizens’) income to allow places such as Ohio and Scunthorpe to think and vote differently.
There is another possible scenario: neoliberals still in charge, but collectively deciding not to destroy the ecosphere, the source of their profits. But without the basic income that will look too much like one of two earlier systems which delivered sustainability within a limited environment: Feudalism or the caste system in India. It is not necessary to smash capitalism. It does not look likely to be possible in time to save the global environment. But what is possible is a system where in return for guaranteeing basic needs for everyone in a stable population, TNCs can continue to make whatever profits inventiveness makes possible within eco-limits.