by Patrick Daws Andrew Coates of the Tendance Coatesy Left Socialist Blog opposes Brexit and has written a series of pieces championing ‘Freedom of Movement’ (as guaranteed by the EU’s Schengen Agreement) as a socialist value. I’ll be commenting on that position – which strikes me as being rather peculiar and un-socialist – in this article, but first I’ll explain who Coates is and what the British Left, c. 2017, is all about. Coates looks and sounds like a Marxist-Leninist, but really should be characterised as a left-social democrat who rejects Trotsky, Stalin and Mao (although he does affiliate himself with Sean Matgamna’s Trotskyite sect the Alliance for Worker’s Liberty). (The trouble is that, these days, liberal and ultra-left social democrats can barely be distinguished from Marxist-Leninists – you’d have a hard job separating the liberals from the Marxists in the US Democratic Party and the UK Labour Party, for instance – and Coates shares much of the British Marxist-Leninist world view (which I’ll describe later) anyway). Like much of the Left, Coates practices a hyper-intellectualism and writes long theoretical pieces which, I suspect, aren’t as read much as his more succinct ones (and regrettably so). A Francophile and fluent French speaker, he will reproduce long passages in French which most of us Anglophones can’t read – this is done (at least unconsciously) to distinguish himself from the hoi-polloi and mark himself as a true gentleman and scholar. Class still matters to the Left, and your average Leftist is at pains to show himself to be better – morally and intellectually – than the working class, which he has now come to despise; he opposes nationalism, for instance, because the working classes still (supposedly) support it – likewise Brexit, likewise immigration restrictionism…
Once you understand this truth – about the Left and class – you understand the secret of the Left. But to go further: what does the Left, and in particular, the British Left, want? What sort of society do they envisage?
For the UK, the British Left wants as many immigrants as possible; the UK ought to be filled, from top to bottom, with hundreds of thousands, millions, of Indian, African, Muslim and Chinese immigrants (for the purposes of this article, I will treat India and Pakistan as the one and same). This will have deleterious consequences for the British quality of life – e.g., it will bring about severe overpopulation, especially in the urban centers -and any British sense of identity, culture, nationhood will be adversely affected (if not destroyed) by such an arrangement. But this hardly matters to the British Left. The UK of the capitalist and imperialist past shall be replaced by a UK of the socialist future. It will be structured like a pyramid with an elite group of social democrats and Marxist-Leninists standing at the commanding heights; the ethnic composition of this elite shall be British, Jewish and Western-educated Indian (think of Tariq Ali and Harpal Brar). (This model sounds attractive to bohemians, intellectuals and the university-educated for the reason that it will place them, more than any other class, at the summit of power).
Notice here that I haven’t mentioned here at all nationalisation, the working class, economics or any of the other traditional preoccupations of textbook Marxism. Outside observers misunderstand Marxist-Leninism by viewing it as an economic doctrine; it should instead be seen as something primarily political.
As it is, under ‘socialism’, the UK economy shall be resemble Cuba’s or Venezuela’s. That must inevitably follow, for, extreme leftist illusions aside (illusions of ‘council communism’, ‘left communism’, ‘libertarian Marxism’, anarcho-syndicalism and the like), any ‘socialist’, that is Marxist-Leninist, economy must tread the same path as an East Germany or a North Korea: there is no other way.
Now, were the UK to go down the full communist route, that would be a wonderful thing to a British nationalist: non-white immigrants to the UK would pack up and leave (they hate anything that smacks of communism and socialism – why do you think that so many Chinese are emigrating to the UK?) within 24 hours of the communist neo-Bolshevik revolution being announced. But what is more likely to happen is that the UK will lurch halfway towards the ‘socialism’ sketched out above and thus life in the UK shall become increasingly unpleasant, if not unbearable; all sorts of what the economists call ‘externalities’ (that is, unpleasant consequences) shall follow.
Coates sees himself as a sort of shariah policeman who ensures that the faithful stay on the straight and narrow. The UK Left constantly deviates. Because of the growing power of Muslim immigrants in the UK Left, the ‘socialist’ movement is in constant danger of veering into anti-Semitism and Islamism and away from ‘democratic socialism’ and secularism (the Francophile Coates is a big advocate of laïcité). Muslim immigrants have imported corrupt political practices from their own countries (such as the [ward of Stoke-on-Trent Central]7), he admits. But worse than the Islamic and anti-Semitic deviation stands the Brexit and nationalist deviation. Some of the Left have opportunistically jumped on the Brexit bandwagon. Coates has denounced this repeatedly. See here, here and here to read some of Coates’ epistles against the pro-Brexit Left.
As I said before, Coates’ equating freedom of movement with ‘socialism’ and ‘anti-capitalism’ seems bizarre to me. He writes: ‘Internationalism, that is not just defending universal rights, an injury to one is an injury to all, is the only practical way of standing up for the labour ‘interest’ when Capital weakens our living conditions, our wages and our ability…..to move freely’. But it was the classical liberals who first put the freedom of movement idea on a pedestal, and the later revivalists of liberalism – the free-market liberals, or as the Left calls them, the neoliberals – followed their lead. Here is Ludwig von Mises, the doyen of the neoliberals (and a man who, incidentally, was Jewish and fanatically anti-German and anti-Nazi) in his chapter, ‘Freedom of Movement’ from Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition (1927); von Mises gives a fair summation of Australia’s immigration-restrictionist measures of the time and then goes on to demand that these be done away with:
It is clear that no solution of the problem of immigration is possible if one adheres to the ideal of the interventionist state, which meddles in every field of human activity, or to that of the socialist state. Only the adoption of the liberal program could make the problem of immigration, which today seems insoluble, completely disappear. In an Australia governed according to liberal principles, what difficulties could arise from the fact that in some parts of the continent Japanese and in other parts Englishmen were in the majority?
Coates’ cognitive dissonance here was noticed by at least one reader. In the comments section to ‘More Splits Loom as Socialist Workers Party Tries to “defend” Brexit and Free Movement’, we find this exchange:
My response is: while I don’t know much about the Suffolk Tories, surely von Mises stands closer ideologically to the Tories than Marine Le Pen? (But perhaps I’m thinking of the Tories of the 1980s and 1990s).
Now, an old thought-cliché on the Far Right is that socialists and capitalists both agree when it comes to immigration – both want as much of it (especially when it is non-white) as possible; Coates’ work presents us with a tempting target, a line of attack which would once again seek to prove that the socialists and the capitalist class are acting in collusion. But I won’t be going down that route here. All I’ll say is that freedom of movement and the Schengen Agreement have had deleterious consequences for the British workers. See ‘Number of British-Born Workers Falls as Non-UK Employees Increase by Almost 450,000 in a Year’ in the UK Telegraph and the same news story ‘Employment Figures: British Workers down 120,000, Foreign Nationals in Work Up 233,000’ in the American Breitbart.
Now, no doubt the UK Left could come up with some sort of convoluted argument to the effect that the above somehow benefits the British workers. But the Left here, and elsewhere, is facing a tough sell.