Many British citizens from the north of country to the south are wondering where their country is heading. The ripple effects of the vote to leave the European Union, the so-called Brexit, still have not run their course, clouding the atmosphere with uncertainty and doubts about the future of the United Kingdom and its political and economic prospects.
For decades, the British capital of London has taken pride of place as the world’s most important financial centre, even preceding the status of New York. But the last few years after the Brexit vote have been troubled and have led to the loss of over one trillion pounds sterling of assets from the United Kingdom. Even the British bank Barclays has moved 166 billion from the UK to Ireland as a result of concerns about the post-Brexit period.
Many international and British corporations have either downsized or moved their operations away from the UK, with companies such as Panasonic and Sony moving their headquarters from the UK to Holland. Others have cancelled plans for investment, such as Nissan and Toyota, which may close their UK facilities by 2023. In short, the economic situation looks worrying.
Then there is British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who instead of calming growing post-Brexit fears and the panic over possible economic stagnation and recession has announced that he will be targeting billionaires and big corporations in the United Kingdom. These, he says, have bankrolled the ruling UK Conservative Party to the tune of 100 billion pounds sterling ($126 billion).
Corbyn has accused British billionaires of bankrolling his opponents, as 48 out of the 151 UK billionaires have donated more than 50 million to the Conservative Party since 2005 alone. He has called their wealth “obscene” and has vowed to tax these billionaires, saying it would take a man on the UK minimum wage 69,000 years to make one billion.
While there may be some truth in the last calculation, this kind of communistic propaganda is a new low for Corbyn’s Labour Party because it instills hate among the public towards success and entrepreneurship. He is comparing the years a minimum-wage worker would take to become a billionaire, while neglecting the fact that an average worker might not even get a job at the minimum wage if it wasn’t for those billionaires with their “obscene” wealth as he calls it.
In his speech on 21 November, Corbyn introduced communist-style plans to nationalise the UK water, post, railways and energy companies, while introducing pay raises for public-sector workers. If Corbyn had not been delivering his speech in English at a conference in the UK city of Birmingham, one might have thought this was a speech by some developing world dictator of the 1960s or 1970s. But the reality was that this speech was made in the United Kingdom in 2019, which breaches the boundaries of sanity.
The desperate tones adopted by the Labour leader reflects his and his party’s panic over the gains of the Conservatives in the opinion polls before December’s elections, with the Conservatives now leading by 19 per cent over the Labour Party. Such polls can be accurate, but there is no way of knowing the effects such speeches about increasing taxes on the wealthy and increasing benefits for the impoverished through acts of nationalisation may have on the average voter. Some voters may feel desperate enough to vote for the Labour Party and its eccentric leader, who appears desperate enough to become prime minister even if this is at the cost of a collapsing British economy.
Most countries that suffered from socialism in the 1960s in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have now become robust and competitive capitalist economies. However, at the same moment in the West there are still some who are apparently still preaching socialist-communist dreams of equality and shared wealth that always fail when it comes to implementing them in reality.
Some of them claim that China, potentially the largest economy in the world and second only to the United States in terms of GDP, is a communist economy, but this is a fallacy and twists the facts. While the Chinese Communist Party still survives and controls the country as the single party, with many aspects of communism still lurking in China, the country’s main drive to the great economic successes that it is now enjoying has been due to its introduction of a capitalist economy. This has allowed the influx of hundreds of billions of dollars to flood the Chinese economy and the establishment of millions of commercial companies and manufacturing plants in China over the past few decades.
More millionaires and billionaires have emerged in the exponentially growing Chinese economy than in most other countries in the world, and yet China has not declared war on them as Corbyn has on the British billionaires. There are 476 billionaires in China, which is only second to the United States, and that is not counting the 4.4 million millionaires and the over 150,000 that appear in China every year.
These people employ millions of Chinese citizens and other nationalities worldwide and have helped to cement China as the world’s biggest exporter and next in line to becoming the biggest economy in the world, with some analysts already calling the 21st century the Chinese century. China did not attain this success by following Karl Marx’s failed theories, proven wrong time and time again, but it did so through capitalist economic plans that transformed China from being a near failed state in 1980 to the economic giant that it has become in 2019.
The failed dreams of the communist economies of the former Soviet Bloc are apparently still lurking in the minds of many, and the latest victim to be claimed by communism is Venezuela, at one time the most stable and robust economy in Latin America. Venezuela is now hammered with failure and astronomical inflation rates reaching 344,509 per cent in February 2019, unprecedented in the history of economics. Venezuelans have late president Hugo Chavez and incumbent President Nicolas Maduro to blame for this resounding failure.
Should Corbyn find his way into 10 Downing Street in Britain and become the country’s next prime minister, given his history of controversy, including befriending the leaders of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hizbullah, there is a good chance of his carrying out his twisted election promises and initiating a war on whomever he deems as being too rich or too successful in Britain. Such acts of government crackdown on the rich have always spelled the beginning of a long and agonising road to a failed economy. Corbyn should drop these childish dreams and act like the political leader of a great country and not as a communist student union leader.
The country that introduced capitalist economics to the world through the work of Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723-1790) appears to be on the verge of an economic breakdown, and this will become certain if Corbyn is allowed to carry out his wild promises on a British economy that even if it can survive the onslaught of the post-Brexit era will not be able to survive a prime minister whose chief concern is to target the successful.
The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.