As well as from the left, demanding freedom of movement and social levelling-up, the Tory government is also under pressure from big business over Brexit. Few bosses have come out for stopping Brexit. The big majority, though, are demanding a definite timetable and a long transition period during which Britain sticks to EU rules. Their reasons are interesting in relation to long-running arguments between socialists and advocates of capitalism over economic planning.
Socialists want democratic economic planning. Pro-capitalists say that the only realistic way to run a complex economy is by following the “wisdom of the markets”, tacking and turning as current demand and prices flow and ebb. Planning, they say, produces only bureaucratic nonsense. Listen, though, to what the bosses say about Brexit. Two years’ time, they say, is “tomorrow” for big businesses. They have to plan and they do plan on a longer timescale than that. They make investments and strategic decisions which can only unfold over many years. That is why they are demanding “certainty” from the Tories.
They know they live in an unstable capitalist world in which slumps and crises can mess up their plans, but they insist on knowing at least the broad lines of what the government will do. In fact complex economic life can be run only by planning; is run only by planning. The difference is that today it is the “planning” of dozens of rival and contradictory plans, and all taking the profit of the ultra-wealthy as their criterion. In a socialist society, it will be a single, though loose plan, democratically decided, and taking social welfare as its guide.