Neoliberalism’s useful idiots

Corbynistas pose as radical and yet they’re campaigning day and night to keep us in the capitalist machine that is the EU.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill

Topics Brexit Politics UK

I wish people would stop saying Labour’s Brexit policy is confusing. It is actually incredibly straightforward. Labour will kill Brexit. It will block the enactment of the largest democratic vote in UK history and ensure that we do not leave the EU in any meaningful way. It could not be clearer: Labour will betray millions of its working-class voters, its own history of Euroscepticism, and the values of Jeremy Corbyn’s own hero Tony Benn, by subverting British democracy and keeping us in the EU against the people’s will.

Anyone who doubts this – or anyone who is still, inexplicably, confused about Labour Brexit’s policy – only needed to listen to Crobyn’s comments at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday. Corbyn first assured the assembled capitalists that he is not anti-business. Then he assured them that if he were prime minister, no harm would come to their beloved neoliberal institution, the European Union. Corbyn essentially promised the gathered bosses that he would override the stupid plebs’ democratic wishes and keep Britain entangled in the EU.

He said Labour’s policy is to get a good Brexit deal with the EU and then put it to the people in a confirmatory vote – otherwise known as a second referendum. This referendum would, in his words, be a choice between the ‘sensible deal’ struck by Labour and fully remaining in the EU. That ‘sensible deal’, by the way, would include ‘a customs union, close Single Market relationship, and guarantees of rights, standards and protections’. So we’d have a choice between remaining and… remaining. A customs union, Single Market links, and EU-guaranteed rights and standards – that is, immovable EU regulations – do not not add up to Leave. By any stretch of the imagination. With complete contempt for the democratic will, and the basic principle of democratic choice, a Labour government would say to us: ‘You can stay in the EU or you can stay in the EU. It’s your choice.’

This is not confusing. Labour would pursue a backroom coup against Brexit. It would not only renege on the democratic vote to leave – it would then remove the option of leaving entirely from the ballot paper in a second referendum. It would deprive the British people of the thing that the largest number of us in the democratic history of this country called for: a break from the EU. Labour MPs, activists and bureaucrats would engage in a bloodless coup against the people’s will.

There are so many things wrong with Labour’s Brexit policy. It is anti-democratic. It is deeply dishonest, presenting the suppression of the people’s will as a ‘people’s vote’. It is an astonishing about-face by Jeremy Corbyn, who has been Eurosceptic his entire adult life, and who in fact has mocked the EU’s tyrannical tendency to force dissenting electorates to vote again if they ever dare to oppose EU diktat. That Corbyn himself is now leading the charge for a second referendum represents one of the most shameful abandonments of political principle in recent British history.

Labour’s determination to keep us in the EU, or intimately tied to the EU, also shatters the party’s pretence of radicalism. So much of what the Corbyn-led Labour Party wants to do, including monopolising via nationalisation the broadband market, would be forbidden under EU rules. The EU is a nakedly neoliberal body. As Tony Benn said, ‘The EU has the only constitution in the world committed to capitalism’. He said: ‘It destroys the prospect of socialism in Europe.’ Remember that next time you see middle-class Corbynistas campaigning in the streets, with their fists raised, secretly loving dim right-wingers’ description of their ‘free broadband’ policy as ‘broadband communism’: these people are campaigning to preserve the UK’s relationship with the only institution on earth that is constitutionally committed to capitalism and which is so disgusted by socialism that it effectively makes it illegal.

These are lefties for neoliberalism. Whether it’s Owen Jones acting as Labour’s unpaid media spokesman or Ash ‘I’m literally a communist’ Sarkar beating the streets for Labour votes – these increasingly ridiculous people are campaigning for a party whose policy is to overthrow a strongly working-class revolt against neoliberalism and to keep the UK beholden to Brussels’ rotten capitalistic rules. Revolutionaries? They’re counter-revolutionaries. Socialists? They’re capitalism’s useful idiots. Pro working-class? They are overthrowing millions of working-class votes and trying to ensure that the British working classes, and the rest of the UK, remain subservient to ruthless EU neoliberalism. These people claim they want to overthrow capitalism and yet as soon as millions of ordinary Brits demand a break from the globalist EU they’re weeping into their almond-milk macchiatos. ‘Is this fascism?!’, they cry when the people of Britain raise their voices against EU neoliberalism, bourgeois buffoons that they are.

The only red in Corbyn’s Labour Party is its idiotic devotion to an EU neoliberalism that is red in tooth and claw.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Christos Papachristopoulos

24th November 2019 at 7:24 am

Congratulations…. this is one of the best articles about socialist neo-liberalism, bureacracy and its close bond with ”le Socialisme d’ Etat” (beginning in Germany with Adolf Wagner, Albert Schaeffle, Gystav Schmoller against the Classical Liberalism of Manchester School which expressed the ideals of Smithianism and Cobdenism). This article reveals that nowadays the E.U. neoliberal institutions are NOT liberal but they consitute actually the continuation of the socialist, so-called ”welfare state” which, however, is based on the socialist Keynesian ideas (about degrading the citizens on a level of the least common denominator, by giving them the least salary of all possible developements). In fact, all the austerity politics of the E.U. (former E.E.C.) after 1984 are socialist, failed, illeberal policies -proof: the E.U.’s financial commissioner Moschovisi was some years ago a hard Stalinist in France!

Stephen Gwynne

23rd November 2019 at 1:39 pm

Labour’s sensible Brexit policy is a reheated May’s Deal with a permanent customs union which creates the ‘democratic’ choice between EU vassalage or EU membership.

Labour’s radicalism is a rhetorical front for EU neoliberalism with Jess Phillips admitting on live TV that Labour’s manifesto isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

At least she does have some scruples.

Similarly, Labour’s victim narratives and hollow prosperity expectations is simply another dimension of #ProjectFear.

Remainiacs are alive and well in the Momentum driven Labour Party and have now taken mendacity and ‘democratic’ corruption to a whole different level.

antoni orgill

22nd November 2019 at 10:22 pm

All very well for you to slate Corbynism from your cosy council home but you’ve no politically viable alternative. You upped the BP (after a meeting of minds with Farago-&–collect-£200) and now … 15 years ago ‘spiked’ came up with the Manifesto Club … still, no manifesto … so, is it a ‘contract with the British People you fancy now ..? Answer the question. Do better than Mick Hume (that can’t be so hard)

christopher barnard

21st November 2019 at 1:53 pm

Middle class, public sector Labour members have done very well out of capitalism and don’t want to hinder it.

Their socialist posturing is merely a hobby.

scummy birrch

20th November 2019 at 11:21 pm

Spiked push a massive amount of neoliberalism. I suppose this is an endorsement.

Tim Wheeler

20th November 2019 at 6:59 pm

What use is appointing democratic representatives if they do what the E.U. commission wants instead of what British voters want? What use is it to voters being able to sack their MPs and appoint new ones, if the new MPs also carry out the will of the E.U. and NOT that of British voters?

James Knight

20th November 2019 at 6:27 pm

When Corbyn became leader he was unique: an antidote to the Blairite era and somebody you could believe had convictions and principles he would stick to. But what a transformation we have seen from that to cynical opportunist.

Now he is just another corporate shill.

Steve Roberts

20th November 2019 at 6:14 pm

BON brings a clarity and determination to address the situation with the Labour Party, this is extremely important, there can be no doubt that the LP has played a historical role in this nation for over a century.
It is not necessary to write here of the entire contested history and the social and political effect it has left deep within society, but what we have presently is of a different order altogether, as BON outlines the LP has now travelled in a direction – of which there is no doubt whatsoever – from which there is no return, its openly antidemocratic stand against the will of the people, its complete subservience on its part to the EU, and its preparedness to reduce the citizens of this nation to little more than objects of an antidemocratic empire building project.
There is no return from this traitorous betrayal, this is not reneging on manifesto promises , something that they have a particular penchant for, no, this is as bad as it gets, no way back now, completely exposed.
However, while i am sure, it must really grate, living day by day with the likes of the tens upon tens of thousands of open antidemocrats who march on the streets of London, almost surrounded by the political and media establishment, and the undoubted swathes of “leftist” corbyinista types around every corner of London, this is not just a London centric phenomenon, yes it is its beating heart but the issue is wider and deeper and deserves just as much attention, in fact i would argue it deserves more attention , clarification and isolation of the problem.
These latter day products of labourism as an ideology have deep roots, not just in the middle classes and metropolitan areas, they reach into every area the LP has cast its shadow upon, throughout the nation all these activists/lackeys will be just if not more enthusiastically doing the dirty work of the LP as the corbynistas do, in every CLP , Trade Union, Local Council , “left” pressure groups, the far reaching policy areas of the state and its employees are mostly labourites etc etc.
And then we have those “critical” lefties the ones who sound oh so radical,so sincere, so posturing, so dismissive of the leadership and controlling lefties, and these come in two varieties , one within and one outside the LP.
And yet here we are at this most treacherous time in the history of the LP and the above critics will , in varying forms be the cheerleaders of that LP, it is undoubtedly a parasitical relationship, they are incapable of political existence without it, of course they will have “no illusions” be “critical” but they will still agitate and support and ask others to vote and support this treacherous party.
Which raises another question of course, if at this most important junction, when the betrayal to ordinary folk is complete, the above still cling to that ship, willingly getting others on board , of what use are they to building a genuine radical democratic progressive movement in future, how much more does an organised form like the LP have to do before it is abandoned.
The LP has always been , is now, despite it losing its social base and support in droves, an obstacle to building something new, those that continue to actively support its existence,who continue to direct the best activists and democrats towards that party are just as bad if not worse than Corbyn and his direct followers, who wants to be associated with them, these leftists, why, where is the potential for change in their political outlook. I am struggling to see any, this really is the point of no return for the left, as never before.


20th November 2019 at 4:14 pm

O’Neill, like other Brexit ideologues, would rather have our society and institutions left to the mercy of America’s Randian/Hayekian capitalism with its asset-stripping and denial of fundamental environmental and worker protections than the relatively benign social-democratic capitalism of the EU. What an absolute nutter.


20th November 2019 at 4:58 pm

Zenobia, like other Remainiacs, would choose to cancel the votes of those she disagrees with.

And why oh why do such people imagine that the choice is binary? That there are no possibilities for this country other than either remaining in the EU’s anti-democratic project or being swamped by American values?

James Knight

20th November 2019 at 6:23 pm

Yes, if that is what people vote for. A deregulated Hong Kong or Singapore model. Or a North Korean economic model if people vote for it. It is called “democracy”. The point is to change it, as somebody once said.

But inside the EU, capitalism is enshrined in law via EU regulations and it is practically impossible for people to change it. And when they try people like Corbyn lie through the back of their teeth saying they will respect the result when they never had any intention of doing that.

Corbyn is like Syriza who were superficially radically but shafted their own people. They were the useful idiots of EU, they pushed through austerity measures the traditional parties would not have got away with. Like Corbyn they will soon be seen as no longer useful, just idiots.

Tim Wheeler

20th November 2019 at 7:08 pm

Last time I checked Ordinary British citizen voters (wanting more democracy & more accountable policy-makers) and extreme US Randian neoliberals we’re NOT the same thing. I suspect their aspirations would be almost diametrically opposed.

Mike Ellwood

22nd November 2019 at 8:30 pm

QUOTE: “the relatively benign social-democratic capitalism of the EU.”

Tell that to the people of Greece.

Peter McKenna

20th November 2019 at 11:33 am

“Labour will betray millions of its working-class voters”. Unfortunately Labour’s constituency has become increasingly middle-class – in line with its membership. YouGov reported that only 15% of voters who voted Leave in 2016 and Labour in 2017 were working-class – which would put the number of working-class voters betrayed at just under 2 million (not ‘millions’).

That, and the concomitant decline in the trade union movement, is the *really* significant change with Labour: its position on what Labour used to see as the Bosses’ Club reflects that change. Most Labour members are remote from the lived experiences of working-class people and are often consumers both of identity politics and cheaper services of ‘self-employed’ workers from lower-wage economies.

Fred Forsythe

20th November 2019 at 11:02 am

Elections are a fire sale of politicians.
The population seem to have lost interest, job done, roll the presses and break open the Champagne.


20th November 2019 at 10:47 am

Corbyn now comes across as a tragic figure. A lifetime’s political commitment – albeit commitment to supporting any political movement or regime that is sufficiently opposed to the USA in particular and the west in general, no matter how vile and violent – has been pissed away. He has been captured by a party machine that is terrified of losing the support of its young, ‘progressive’, faction, and is consequently prepared to offer whatever fantastical policies it believes will appeal to the politically naive, while at the same time desperately hoping that its traditional supporters won’t melt away.

I suspect that the only prospect that frightens him more than that of losing the election is winning it. How on earth would a man who has spent his entire political life in opposition manage if compelled to make the sort of compromises that are the lot of those who exercise political power?

Winston Stanley

20th November 2019 at 2:21 am

In a somewhat similar vein, it is often claimed in these comments that the mass migration of workers to the UK is a “socialist, neo-Marxist, radical or left” policy. So much for that “theory”.

The FT reported on Sunday that the CBI and the BCC are very nervous about any suggestion that Boris may somehow reduce migration or may limit entrance of the low and medium skilled workers that the UK economy so relies on. The migration of workers to maintain and to expand the capitalist economy is very much a capitalist policy – certainly the CBI and BCC think so.

LIkely they will not have much to worry about with Boris, the TP is after all a capitalist state party that exists first and foremost to represent and to further the interests of capital, which is the material foundation of this society. A “points based” system can be regularly revised to let in any number of workers according to the needs of the economy, indeed that is the entire point of it.

Cameron, May and Boris let in six million migrants since 2010, before emigration is subtracted, even though they each promised in three TP manifestos to reduce migration “to the tens of thousands”, and there is no reason to suppose that Boris will not continue to do the same once the election is over.

> Business warns on Tory points-based immigration system

CBI and British Chambers of Commerce fear system will lead to skills shortage

Business groups have expressed concerns over Conservative party plans to cut immigration if they win the general election by making it harder for low-skilled migrants to come and work in the UK after Brexit.

The CBI, the employers’ organisation, said the Tory plans — which are broadly modelled on Australia’s points based immigration system — could lead to skills shortages in key industries.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, told Sky News that certain sectors including construction needed access to workers at “all” skill levels. “When we hear [Tory] talk about brightest and best, I think that is a worry”, she said.

“If you do want to build . . . houses . . . you don’t just need the architects and the designers — you need the carpenters, you need the electricians, you need the labourers.

“We need people to come and help us renew our economy. It’s not just brightest and best, it’s people at all skill levels across our economy that we need.”

The main concern among employers is that the proposed Conservative immigration regime after Brexit could make it much harder to employ EU workers in relatively low-skilled sectors including agriculture, construction, food processing and social care.

Hannah Essex, co-executive director at the British Chambers of Commerce, said “access to skills at all levels” was essential for business.

She added a “flexible and simple immigration system” was needed to allow companies to “recruit the people they need at all skills levels, including temporary, seasonal and permanent roles”. – FT, Nov 17

Winston Stanley

20th November 2019 at 5:52 am

“Revolutionaries? They’re counter-revolutionaries. Socialists? They’re capitalism’s useful idiots.”

British capital would have collapsed without the mass migration of workers over the last decade. Capitalism is a profit-based economic system that must always expand in order to survive. Productivity growth has collapsed across the developed west and with no recovery since the 2008 financial crisis, and in UK it has been zero for 11 years now. Any growth in GDP is entirely due to the expansion of the labour force. Without that migration, capital would not have expanded, it would not have made a profit, accumulated capital or paid off dividends. Capital would have completely broken down in UK.

These days we have the bizarre spectacle that the “left”, which is supposedly against capitalism and wants to bring it down, adamantly supports the very policy without which British capital would have collapsed, on the pretext that it is somehow a “left” policy, rather than just a capitalist policy for the interests of capital. While the “right” on here who are supposedly in favour of capitalism, and who want to maintain it at all costs, are staunchly against that policy of British capital, that it desparately depends on in order to survive, at least partly on the pretext that it is a “left”, “neo-Marxist” policy.

In the weird world of contemporary British politics, the “left” are the oblivious counter-revolutionaries who support the one policy that avoids the collapse of capital, and the “right” are the unwitting revolutionaries who oppose that policy. Bizarre. Likely they are all “capitalism’s useful idiots” in their own way, the one in support of the policy, the other in helping to disguise the policy as anything than what it is, a capitalist policy, and by helping to stigmatise any contrary policy. The CBI likely has a belly laugh at the lot of them all the way to the bank.


20th November 2019 at 10:30 am

Absolutely right! Indeed the problem now is that capitalism is the only game in town since there is no ‘Marxist-Leninist’ alternative any more. So surely all both Left and Right can do now is support it? What (else) is to be done?

LUKE 74567 74567

21st November 2019 at 10:14 am

There is a third way, something that resolves the self-destructive elements of the prior poles into a system that works – that sustains. National Socialism – fascism.

Why do you think it is the most lied about system in history? The one the elite are most desperate to propagandise against and make people fearful of?
None of what the masses are told about ww2 is true, almost all is inversion.
The little people of the world will only be saved if they realise it in time.

Winston Stanley

21st November 2019 at 5:16 pm

Well, why not just democratic socialism?

The material and ideological development and conditions are quite different in Britain today.

Germany had a largely homogeneous population; it was heavily overpopulated; it had limited resources like land and oil (millions starved after WWI). It had only recently industrialised and it had no empire like Britain to allow for its development as a capitalist power (that was the imperial stage of the development of capitalism). It had only recently tried to transition to democracy in those circumstances. It still had strong influences from feudal aristocratic ideology, like Prussian administration and ideas of “better” breeding. And a heavily militarised and nationalistic population. The harsh Versailles Treaty reinforced its backward development b/c Britain and France really did not want it to emerge as a rival industrial and imperial power; the competitiveness of capitalism was fought out as industrial and imperial conflict. The stew was already there and WWI and Versailles brought it to crisis.

Britain has a heavily mixed ethnic population, 40% of babies born in UK are now of a migrant background. It has a long tradition of democracy and if anything people want more democracy not less. It has a collapsed birth rate. The problem today is not overpopulation or lack of resources (no one is starving) and British capital has access to Europe and world markets. It has successfully been through imperialist and post-imperialist capitalist development. It does not have a late transition to capitalism or to democracy. Capitalism is now post-imperial and we rather see the formation of continental blocks. The population is not militarised in the same way or as nationalistic. We have a proletarianised view rather than notions of “breeding”, we have been out of feudalism and into capitalism for centuries.

It is a very different stew today and from a realistic, historical material perspective one would not envisage a utopianist switch to mimic the ideology of a brief period in the development of another country. That had its own developmental background, conditions and problems, and we have our own.

The problem today is specifically that capitalism seems to have hit its developmental limits in “mature” economies like Britain. Just as feudalism could take us so far and no further, it is beginning to look like the same may be true of capitalism. Western Europe has been in economic decline since the 1970s, productivity growth has been downward, it has collapsed without recovery since 2008 and it has been zero in Britain for the last 11 years now. It is questionable whether capitalism can take development any further. The capitalist state is now totally reliant on mass migration to expand the labour force as the only way to grow GDP and to maintain the viability of the profit-based capitalist system. How long that can go on for is anyone’s guess. It is bound to put stresses on social infrastructure like housing and the NHS. The TP is currently planning to remove rights and benefits from migrant workers and there is talk of house building but realistically there is no way that they can keep pace with demand, and thus we have overcrowding in the cities, high mortgages, rent and debt.

So, the question is how long capitalism can now continue, as an economic system that is no longer materially progressive, that can no longer develop the quality of the means of production and that is reliant on ever more migration to boost GDP and to keep the whole thing going. There is no question of some “vanguard” organising a revolution in these circumstances. We will just have to wait and see what happens. Britain may eventually be forced into a transition to socialism but there are good reasons why no one is eager to do that. Capitalism has served us well thus far and it is going to take time and a further development of the situation before anyone starts to seriously question that. And we had the spectacle of developmentally backward countries like Russia attempting socialism (or a stunted capitalist development with a socialist face) in USSR – although to be fair China is not doing that badly, with higher rates of growth than the the “mature” west. People largely see socialism as a failed experiment and there is still, for understandable reasons, a lot of ideological ill disposition toward it.

We may be on a medium term trajectory toward democratic socialism but we will just have to wait and see. In any case, the conditions are very different from 1930s Germany. And Europe as a whole, not just Britain, is likely to experience the same capitalist developmental problems and we will just have to wait and see how it all develops and what happens. No crystal balls. There may be other elements in the mix, peak oil, peak everything or who knows?

Winston Stanley

21st November 2019 at 9:11 pm

Interesting, the TP has moved to limit child benefit. Hungary has moved to try to boost the fertility rate by providing positive financial incentives for larger families. The TP has rather moved to remove any such incentives. Presumably the TP has decided that it makes more financial sense to discourage a high ferility rate and to simply rely on migration for future workers.

It is pricey to raise and to school kids, hundreds of thousands per kid, and it is much cheaper to let other countries raise and educate kids and to then poach workers off them. TP seems to be fully committed to the present demographic-economic model of mass migration of workers to maintain British capital and we can expect its “points based” migration system to be pretty status quo.

As with the the attack on migrant workers, TP is moving to remove rights and benefits and to maximise capital. That suggests that TP sees the social situation of workers worsening in coming years and decades as capital tries to keep things going. The austerity of the last decade may be a prelude to a more general worsening social situation.

We have already lost 20% of economic productivity and 20% of wages and living standards from trend over the last decade and TP appears to be trying to streamline the model to channel money away from workers and to capital. It definately does not want more kids being raised here, fewer is cheaper for the capitalist state.

> The Catholic Church has been a leading opponent of the two child benefit limit, which was introduced by the Conservative Government in April 2017. It restricts the child element in Universal Credit and tax credits worth £2780 per child per year to the first two children. Children born as a result or rape are exempt. However, controversially, mothers have to make an application stating the circumstances of the child’s conception.

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