New Labour

Book Review: Other People’s Politics: Populism to Corbynism by J.A. Smith

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/03/2020 - 11:08pm in

In Other People’s Politics: Populism to CorbynismJ.A. Smith seeks to critically analyse and historicise our contemporary political moment, tracing the conditions that made movements like Corbynism possible, while also diagnosing their shortcomings and mapping out potential strategies for a new Left Populism. This is a welcome critical intervention into debates on populism and should be read by scholars across the social sciences and humanities, recommends Paul Ewart.

Other People’s Politics: Populism to Corbynism. J.A. Smith. Zer0 Books. 2019.

Following the 2019 General Election, it is tempting to read Other People’s Politics as a book that could only have been written in the heady days of peak Corbynism. This would be a mistake, and would do the author a great disservice: in tracing the conditions which made Corbynism possible, J.A. Smith also diagnoses its shortcomings and maps out potential strategies for a new Left Populism.

Other People’s Politics is a complex, critical work that seeks to analyse and historicise the ‘new populism’ that builds on, and is in conversation with, a now substantial body of New Left thinking and criticism that emerged in the early to mid-2000s, first through theory (in the absence of politics), and later through blogs and books related to the publishers Verso, Zer0 and Repeater.

Other People’s Politics is divided in two parts, the first analytical, the second more polemical. In Chapters One to Three, Smith traces the history of populism and its current, slippery, pejorative and politicised usage. Beginning with a 2016 speech by Tony Blair following the EU referendum, Smith shows how a term that had all but disappeared from the political lexicon was weaponised in defence of the status quo against insurgent movements of the Right and Left from 2016.

Smith, following Mark Fisher, argues that the collapse of centrism was a direct result of its own failings: it was unable to withstand the crisis of 2008 because it had never been popular on its own terms. Populism, described thus, is merely other people’s politics, and other people’s politics are invariably worse than Blair’s.

Having situated the conditions that inform the current, critically lax usage of the term, Smith then sets out to explain how these ‘other people’s politics’ have come to dominate politically since 2016 by focusing on austerity economics, populism and digital capitalism, before taking a look at ‘the new culture wars centrism’ of Stephen Pinker and Jordan Peterson, the alt right and the ‘new socialism, spearheaded […].by Corbyn’s re-modelled Labour Party in the UK’ (4).

Such a structure may appear haphazard at first (how do Petersen and Pinker fit into this story?), and Chapters One and Two cover familiar ground, albeit with added Lacan, but Smith’s critical, synthetic intervention begins to come together with his analysis of the ‘digital libidinal economy’, ‘solutionism’ and expertise from Chapter Three onwards.

If populism is understood as a rejection of elites, what were the conditions that led to such a rejection, and how were these ideas circulated and popularised? Smith argues that Blair, Barack Obama et al were their own gravediggers, that the long emphasis in the 1990s on technocratic expertise and digital ‘solutionism’ produced an alienated, ‘asphyxiated’ political culture, unable to withstand the shock of the financial crisis of 2008:

The professional, “qualified” kind of politicians were mortified to be replaced by populists who denounced experts and claimed to act at one with the popular will. But the case can be made that Trump and the Brexiteers did little more than take the logic of digital capitalism at its word, applying to the explicitly political arena rules and assumptions that had already been accepted in any number of cultural, social, economic, and even military ones. Indeed, with the explicit encouragement of centrist parties. In this way, populism, as well as being a particularly contingent political style, actually runs far deeper in the logic of our culture in our present digital capitalism, and all of us who use digital media have some complicity with it.

Smith’s analysis thus outlines the material conditions that enabled the rise of populism and historicises the processes that constitute its current form. In doing so, he adds some welcome depth to analyses of the current populism (what were 1945 and 1979 if not populist moments?) and extends and expands arguments made by Fisher and Will Davies.

How are we to understand Chapter Five’s diversion into the world of Peterson and Pinker in this light? If we are to understand neoliberalism in epistemological terms, and as a colonising force, as per Davies, as an attempt to ‘anchor modernity in the market […] to make economics the main measure of progress and reason’, then Pinker’s role as a champion of enlightenment values, and thus technocratic expertise, makes a great deal of sense. History is progress plus rational expertise strictly bounded by the limits of the possible, and the limits of the Real, are, of course, policed by disinterested experts, hence the language of post-politics, post-history and post-ideology that defined the long 1990s. If populism is other people’s politics, then Peterson and Pinker would appear to be railing against other people’s histories.

In teasing out Pinker and Peterson’s inconsistencies, Smith begins the necessary genealogical work required to fully comprehend the disparate and dissonant group of cultural and political actors that coalesced to forge and embed the common sense of the long 1990s. This argument goes some way to explaining elite reactions to the rise of a new politics traced by Smith, a form of centrist narcissism unable to adapt to new conditions, characterised at both a cultural and political level by a hectoring demand for the return to business as usual and governance by ‘rational’ experts versus ‘irrational’ populists. History, understood as the movement of people, did not end in 1989, after all.

Which brings us to the present, and Smith’s final chapter, an analysis of the current conjuncture and how the Left might mimic the strategies of the Populist Right. Here Smith extends his Lacanian analysis to the field of Left Populism. In this chapter, Smith argues that the Left, like the Right, has learned how to weaponise the libidinal potential of digital media by creating memes that people want to share. This networked, bottom-up strategy fitted well with Corbyn’s semi-Left-Populist approach in 2017 but proved unsustainable as Facebook changed its algorithm (power, after all, is power), and the Right adapted its own digital media strategy.

Nonetheless, if read in conjunction with James Meadway and James Butler’s recent post-election analyses, Smith’s argument is deepened. It is in the failure to fully embrace, articulate or understand voters’ desires in the present, not in 2017, that Corbynism came unstuck. By apparently siding with ‘the elites’ (parliament) against ‘the people’ in 2019, Labour broke the discursive chain established between 2015 and 2017, allowing Boris Johnson to position himself as the voice of the people against a Left movement representing the status quo. Moreover, Smith’s Lacanian analysis of Johnson’s appeal to the id holds true as Butler notes:

Despite abundant evidence from around the world, many people still find it hard to accept that flagrant lying is no longer a disqualification in public life, and that it might in fact be an attraction.

Smith’s Other People’s Politics is a welcome critical intervention into debates on populism, which interrogates, situates and historicises its usage and should be read by scholars in the humanities and social sciences alike.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

Image Credit: Jeremy Corbyn rallying in Glasgow, December 2019 (Jeremy Corbyn CC BY 2.0).

 


‘I’ Newspaper: Rebecca Long-Bailey Promises to Support Unions and End Exploitative Work Practices

This is another excellent piece from Saturday’s I, for 8th February 2020. Written by Richard Vaughan, ‘Long-Bailey to promise no out-of-hours phone calls’ shows that the contender for the Labour leadership intends to restore the power of the trade unions and back them in industrial disputes, as well as removing work practices that damages workers’ mental health. It begins with her pledge to end the demand that workers should be on call 24 hours a day.

Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey will pledge to give workers the right to switch off their phones outside of office hours to help end “24/7 work cultures”.

The shadow Business Secretary committed yesterday to give employees a “right to disconnect” based on the French system, which forces companies with more than 50 staff to allow them to ignore their mobiles during leisure time.

In a further attempt to show her support for workers, Ms Long-Bailey said she would back the right of employees to hold strike action “no questions asked” should she succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Addressing a rally in Sheffield last night, she said the next Labour leader must be “as comfortable on the picket line as at the dispatch box.”

“As leader, I’ll put trade unions at the heart of Labour’s path to power, and back workers in every dispute,” she said.

She added that under her stewardship Labour would “back workers in every dispute and strike against unfair, exploitative and unjust employers”.

She said: “Standing on the side of workers and trade unions, no questions asked, is going to be crucial in standing up to this reactionary Conservative Government.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Ms Long-Bailey said she wanted to remove working practices that were damaging to mental health. “We can all do better with aspirational socialism, through pushing for an end to 24/7 work culture, and with trade unions empowered to negotiate this, we can work hard, be paid for the work we do and keep that precious time with our friends and family, uninterrupted by emails or demands”.

This is precisely the type of leadership working people need. The Tories and New Labour have done their level best to gut the power of the unions, and the result has been the massive increase in in-work poverty. Without strong trade unions, workers have been left stuck with stagnant wages, exploitative working conditions like zero-hours contracts which bar them from receiving sick pay, paid holidays or maternity leave and a culture that allows work place bullying and casual sacking. Blair and Brown were as keen on destroying union power as the Tories, and in denying workers protection against redundancy and short-term contracts, all in the name of workforce ‘flexibility’. Despite his candidacy for the party being backed by one of the unions, when Blair gained the leadership he even threatened to cut the party’s ties to them, a tie that is integral to the Labour Party, if they didn’t back his reforms and programme.

Long-bailey promises to reverse this, restore union power and so empower ordinary working people. Which means that the Tories and their lackeys in the press and media will do everything they can to discredit her. You can expect them to start running stories about the how the ‘strike-hit’ seventies made Britain ‘the sick man of Europe’ until Maggie Thatcher appeared to curb the union barons and restore British productivity and confidence. It’s all rubbish, but it’s the myth that has sustained and kept the Tories and their wretched neoliberalism in power for forty years.

But this is being challenged, and Long-Bailey is showing that she is the woman to end it.

‘I’ Newspaper on Massive Increase in In-Work Poverty

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/02/2020 - 7:26am in

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, and it’s probably already been covered by Mike over at Vox Political. According to brief report in the I for last Wednesday, 5th February 2020, the number of people in poverty, who are working has massively increased in the last 20 years. The report, contained in a box column by the article on Labour leadership contender Keir Starmer’s pledge to tackle racism in the party, runs

The number of people in working households who are living in poverty has soared in the last two decades, according to a major report. A study by the Resolution Foundation warned that in-work poverty is one of the ‘biggest challenges facing 21st century Britain’. 

The report highlights that 20 years ago, fewer than half of adults (48%) living in poverty were in households with at least one person working, but that figure today stands closer to seven in 10 with 68 per cent in working households. “As a result, poverty is more likely to go hand-in-hand with work today than at any other time over the past two decades.”

The article doesn’t mention it, but I would hazard that most of this increase has occurred over the last decade with the Tory and coalition governments. I’m no fan of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and their war-mongering and privatisation of the health service. But New Labour was serious about tackling poverty did have some success. This mass immiseration has come from the Tories and their coalition partners, the Lib Dems, who have carried on privatising the NHS and gone much further than New Labour with the destruction of the welfare state.

Book on the Bloody Reality of the British Empire

John Newsinger, The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire (London: Bookmarks Publications 2006).

John Newsinger is the senior lecturer in Bath Spa University College’s school of History and Cultural Studies. He’s also a long-time contributor to the conspiracy/ parapolitics magazine Lobster. The book was written nearly a decade and a half ago as a rejoinder to the type of history the Tories would like taught in schools again, and which you see endless recited by the right-wing voices on the web, like ‘the Britisher’, that the British Empire was fundamentally a force for good, spreading peace, prosperity and sound government around the world. The book’s blurb runs

George Bush’s “war on terror” has inspired a forest of books about US imperialism. But what about Britain’s role in the world? The Blood Never Dried challenges the chorus of claims that British Empire was a kinder, gentler force in the world.

George Orwell once wrote that imperialism consists of the policeman and soldier holding the “native” down while the businessman goes through his pockets. But the violence of the empire has also been met by the struggle for freedom, from slaves in Jamaica to the war for independence in Kenya.

John Newsinger sets out to uncover this neglected history of repression and resistance at the heart of the British Empire. He also looks at why the declining British Empire has looked to an alliance with US imperialism. To the boast that “the sun never set on the British Empire”, the Chartist Ernest Jones replied, “And the blood never dried”. 

One of the new imperialists to whom Newsinger takes particular exception is the right-wing historian Niall Ferguson. Newsinger begins the book’s introduction by criticising Ferguson’s 2003 book, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, and its successor, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. Newsinger views these books as a celebration of imperialism as a duty that the powerful nations owe to their weaker brethren. One of the problem with these apologists for imperialism, he states, is their reluctance to acknowledge the extent that the empires they laud rested on the use of force and the perpetration of atrocities. Ferguson part an idyllic childhood, or part of it, in newly independent Kenya. But nowhere does he mention that the peace and security he enjoyed were created through the brutal suppression of the Mau Mau. He states that imperialism has two dimensions – one with the other, competing imperial powers, which have driven imperial expansion, two World Wars and a Cold War, and cost countless lives. And another with the peoples who are conquered and subjugated. It is this second relationship he is determined to explore. He sums up that relationship in the quote from Orwell’s Burmese Days.

Newsinger goes on to state that

It is the contention here that imperial occupation inevitably involved the use of violence and that, far from this being a glorious affair, it involved considerable brutality against people who were often virtually defenceless.

The 1964 film Zulu is a particular example of the type of imperial history that has been taught for too long. It celebrates the victory of a small group of British soldiers at Rourke’s Drift, but does not mention the mass slaughter of hundreds of Zulus afterwards. This was the reality of imperial warfare, of which Bush’s doctrine of ‘shock and awe’ is just a continuation. He makes the point that during the 19th and 20th centuries the British attacked, shelled and bombed city after city, leaving hundreds of casualties. These bombardments are no longer remembered, a fate exemplified by the Indonesian city of Surabaya, which we shelled in 1945. He contrasts this amnesia with what would have happened instead if it had been British cities attacked and destroyed.

He makes it clear that he is also concerned to celebrate and ‘glorify’ resistance to empire, from the slaves in the Caribbean, Indian rebels in the 1850s, the Irish republicans of the First World War, the Palestinian peasants fighting the British and the Zionist settlers in the 1930s, the Mau Mau in the 1950s and the Iraqi resistance today. He also describes how radicals and socialists in Britain protested in solidarity with these resistance movements. The Stop the War Coalition stands in this honourable tradition, and points to the comment, quoted in the above blurb, by the Chartist and Socialist Ernest Jones in the 1850s. Newsinger states ‘Anti-imperialists today stand in the tradition of Ernest Jones and William Morris, another socialist and fierce critic of the empire – a tradition to be proud of.’

As for the supporters of imperialism, they have to be asked how they would react if other countries had done to us what we did to them, such as Britain’s conduct during the Opium War? He writes

The British Empire, it is argued here, is indefensible, except on the premise that the conquered peoples were somehow lesser being than the British. What British people would regard as crimes if done to them, are somehow justified by supporters of the empire when done to others, indeed were actually done for their own good. This attitude is at the very best implicitly racist, and, of course, often explicitly so.

He also attacks the Labour party for its complicity in imperialism. There have been many individual anti-imperialist members of the Labour party, and although Blair dumped just about everything the Labour party stood for domestically, they were very much in the party’s tradition in their support for imperialism and the Iraq invasion. The Labour party’s supposed anti-imperialist tradition is, he states, a myth invented for the consumption of its members.

He also makes it clear that the book is also concerned with exploring Britain’s subordination to American imperialism. While he has very harsh words for Blair, describing his style as a combination of sincerity and dishonesty, the cabinet as ‘supine’ and Labour MPs as the most contemptible in the party’s history, this subordination isn’t actually his. It is institutional and systemic, and has been practised by both Tory and Labour governments despite early concerns by the British to maintain some kind of parity with the Americans. He then goes on to say that by opposing our own government, we are participating in the global fight against American imperialism. And the struggle against imperialism will go on as long as it and capitalism are with us.

This is controversial stuff. When Labour announced that they wanted to include the British empire in the school history curriculum, Sargon of Gasbag, the man who wrecked UKIP, produced a video attacking it. He claimed that Labour wanted to teach British children to hate themselves. The photo used as the book’s cover is also somewhat controversial, because it’s of a group of demonstrators surrounding the shot where Bernard McGuigan died. McGuigan was one of the 14 peaceful protesters shot dead by British soldiers in Derry/London Derry in Bloody Sunday in 1972. But no matter how controversial some might find it, it is a necessary corrective to the glorification of empire most Brits have been subjected to since childhood, and which the Tories and their corporate backers would like us to return.

The book has the following contents:

The Jamaican Rebellion and the Overthrow of Slavery, with individual sections on the sugar empire, years of revolution, overthrow of slavery, abolition and the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865.

The Irish Famine, the great hunger, evictions, John Mitchel and the famine, 1848 in Ireland, and Irish republicanism.

The Opium Wars, the trade in opium, the First Opium War, the Taiping rebellion and its suppression, the Second Opium War, and the Third Opium War.

The Great Indian Rebellion, 1857-58, the conquest of India, company rule, the rebellion, war and repression. The war at home, and the rebellion’s aftermath.

The Invasion of Egypt, 1882, Khedive Ismail and the bankers, demand for Egyptian self-rule, the Liberal response, the vast numbers of Egyptians killed, the Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, and the reconquest of Egypt.

The Post-War Crisis, 1916-26, the Irish rebellion, 1919 Egyptian revolt, military rule in India, War in Iraq, and the 1925 Chinese revolution.

The Palestine Revolt, Zionism and imperialism, the British Mandate, the road to revolt, the great revolt, and the defeat and aftermath.

Quit India, India and the Labour Party, towards ‘Quit India’, the demand for the British to leave, the final judgement on British rule in India and the end of British rule.

The Suez Invasion: Losing the Middle East, Iranian oil, Egypt and the canal zone, Nasser and the road to war, collusion and invasion, aftermath, the Iraqi endgame.

Crushing the Mau Mau in Kenya, pacification, the Mau Mau revolt, war, repression, independence, the other rebellion: Southern Rhodesia.

Malaya and the Far East, the First Vietnam War, Indonesia 1945-6 – a forgotten intervention, the reoccupation of Malaya, the emergency and confrontation.

Britain and the American Empire, Labour and the American alliance, from Suez to Vietnam, British Gaullism, New Labour, and the Iraq invasion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on Tory Plan to Run Down and Privatise the Beeb for Murdoch

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/01/2020 - 6:06am in

Okay, there have been a number of pieces written recently about the Tories’ plan to run down the Beeb in preparation for its eventual privatisation, while at the same time turning it into their propaganda mouthpiece. But Zelo Street today has put up an excellent piece adding a few more details.

The Sage of Crewe begins with the quote from Robert Peston, ITV’s political editor, that Boris and his wretched pet Machiavelli, Dominic Cummings, want to have significant influence over the choice of the next Director-General of the Beeb following the departure of Lord Tony Hall.  Cummings and co are looking for someone sympathetic to their plans for the Corporation.

The piece then quotes the Guardian, which explains that Cummings’ think tank, the New Frontiers Foundation in 2004 called for the end of the Beeb in its present form, and suggested that right-wing activists should try to undermine it by painting the Beeb as the ‘mortal enemy’ of the Tories. The Foundation instead called for the establishment of an equivalent to Fox News to get round the state broadcaster’s impartiality rules. The Groan also reveals that Johnson saw Murdoch for a social meeting the day he announced the date of the election. Murdoch has been the only newspaper magnate Bojob has seen in the first three months of his tenure of No. 10.

Zelo Street also quotes Byline Media, which noted that the first newspaper the Beeb told about its decision to cancel Victoria Derbyshire’s show was the Times. Which is, of course, owned by Rupe. Byline Media also reported how Murdoch has been trying to destroy the Beeb for 40 years, and was three times able to delay Panorama’s investigation into the News of the World’s ‘fake shake’, Mahmood Mazher.

The Street concludes

‘Now that same Murdoch empire has an in with the Government, whose chief advisor is more than sympathetic to the idea of taking the axe to the BBC – just as Murdoch wants.

And the Beeb finds itself in this parlous position just as its trust ratings have fallen – especially among those on the left who would in the past have rushed to its defence.

Who will now come to rescue the Corporation? Don’t all shout at once.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/bbc-now-at-mercy-of-tories.html

This confirms what was suspected since Boris took power and announced that he was considering decriminalisation nonpayment of the license fee. The Murdoch press has been consistently attacking the Corporation, as Byline Media says, for the past 40 years. Murdoch even ranted about it when he spoke at a television festival a few years ago.

Johnson’s support for Murdoch should worry everyone concerned with quality broadcasting, and that includes Tories as well as left-wingers. About 20 or see years ago Private Eye reported that an American Conservative organisation had awarded Rupe the ‘Silver Sewer’ Award for his role in coarsening and degrading American culture. His US network, which I think he’s now sold, Fox News, was so biased that it rightly earned its nickname ‘Faux News’. It’s a cesspool of fake news and right-wing propaganda. So much so that a media monitoring organisation found that you were going to be less well informed about the world after watching it than if you did. Americans have frequently been criticised for not knowing much about the rest of the world. Fox News is one of the factors keeping them ignorant, including about the state of their own country.

And while Murdoch supports Tory policies, his personal interests aren’t identical with theirs. When Murdoch was negotiating to buy the Times back in the ’70s, many Tories opposed him because of his treatment of Profumo. The former Tory minister, who had been forced out because of the scandal over his affair with Christine Keeler, had been rehabilitated after many years in the wilderness. He’d been working with a homelessness charity in the East End, and was ready to make a comeback. But Murdoch made that impossible when one of his papers raked over the Profumo scandal once more, in order to sell a few more copies.

Giving more of the news media to Murdoch also means that he can and will suppress the opinions of government ministers on vital topics when this also suits him. Way back in the 1990s Chris Patten, the former last British governor of Hong Kong, wrote a book about his career. Murdoch at the time was negotiating with the Chinese government, about whom Patten made some strong observations. The book was therefore rejected by its prospective publisher, which was one of Murdoch’s companies. It was picked up by another publisher, but the threat to democracy remains. Murdoch is not afraid to suppress the views of senior government ministers, and while they may find other media outlets, allowing Murdoch even more of grip on our media also endangers this.

And he’s also not afraid to dump the Tory party in its entirety when it suits him. John Major belatedly realised that Rupe had become too powerful and was too mercenary back in the last days of his government. Frustrated that the Tories weren’t giving him enough of what he wanted, he turned instead to Blair and the Labour party. Apparently Major railed at this betrayal during a cabinet meeting, and said that they should find ways to cut Murdoch’s empire down to size. But by that time it was far too late.

Murdoch is an active threat to the NHS and the welfare state, which he also despises and wishes destroyed. But his growing domination of British media and wish to destroy the Beeb for his own network make him an active threat to democracy and free speech in the UK. He exerted a powerful influence over Blair when New Labour was in power. Former cabinet ministers have said that he was always an invisible presence at cabinet meetings, as Blair worried about how policies would go down with him.

The Beeb should remain a publicly owned network. But their flagrant bias towards the Tories and bitter vilification of Labour now makes it difficult for anyone on the left to support them.

 

 

 

UKIP’s Working Class Voters and the Tory Victories in Labour Heartlands

Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin in their book Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support For The Radical Right in Britain (Abingdon: Routledge 2014) argue that UKIP’s brief appearance as a new political force was due to it developing strong working class support. It articulated the frustration with contemporary politics of the people left behind. These were generally older, less educated workers, marginalised through de-industrialisation and social change, particularly immigration and European integration. They write

UKIP’s revolt is a working-class phenomenon. Its support is heavily concentrated among older, blue-collar workers, with little education and few skills; groups who have been ‘left-behind’ by the economic and social transformation of Britain in recent decades and pushed to the margins as the main parties have converged to the centre ground. UKIP are not a second home for disgruntled Tories in the shires; they are a first home for angry and disaffected working-class Britons of all political backgrounds, who have lost faith in a political system that ceased to represent them long ago.

Support for UKIP does not line up in a straightforward way with traditional notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’, but reflects a divide between a political mainstream dominated by a more financially secure and highly educated middle class, and a more insecure and precarious working class, which feels its concerns have been written out of political debate. In a sense, UKIP’s rise represents the re-emergence of class conflicts that Tony Blair’s New Labour and David Cameron’s compassionate Conservatism submerged but never resolved – conflicts that reflect basic differences in the position and prospects of citizens in different walks of life. Before the arrival of UKIP, the marginalisation of these conflicts had already produced historic changes in political behaviour. Blue-collar voters turned their backs on politics en masse, causing a collapse in electoral turn-out to record lows, and fuelling a surge in support for the extreme right BNP, making it briefly the most successful extreme right party in the history of British elections. Since 2004, Farage and his foot soldiers have channelled the same social divisions into a far more impressive electoral rebellion….

(T)he potential for a political insurgency of this kind has existed for a long time. Its seeds lay among groups of voters who struggled with the destabilising and threatening changes brought in by de-industrialisation, globalisation and, later, European integration and mass immigration. These groups always occupied a precarious position on Britain’s economic ladder, and now, as their incomes stagnated and their prospects for social mobility receded, they found themselves being left behind.

Many within this left-behind army also grew up before Britain experienced the recent waves of immigration and before the country joined the EU, and their political and social values reflect this. This is a group of voters who are more inclined to believe in an ethnic conception of British national identity, defined by birth and ancestry, and who have vivid memories of a country that once stood independent and proudly apart from Europe. They also came of age in an era where political parties offered competing and sharply contrasting visions of British society, and had strong incentives to listen to, and respect, their traditional supporters. Shaped by these experiences, today these voters look out at a fundamentally different Britain: ethnically and culturally diverse; cosmopolitan; integrated into a transnational, European political network; and dominated by a university-educated and more prosperous middle class that hold a radically different set of values, all of which is embraced and celebrated by those who rule over them. This is not a country that the rebels recognise, nor one they like. (pp. 270-1).

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters believe that the defeat in the recent general election was primarily due to Brexit and Boris Johnson’s presentation of the Tories as the party that would ‘get Brexit done’. Craig Gent, in his article for Novara Media, ‘Learning the Lessons of Labour’s Northern Nightmare Will Take Longer Than A Weekend’ argues that the northern communities, who turned to the Tories were those which voted for Brexit. He writes

The bare facts are these: Labour’s election campaign did not look the same across northern towns as it did on left Twitter. Swathes of towns that said they wanted Brexit in 2016 still want Brexit. Those towns by and large felt patronised by the offer of a second referendum, a policy whose public support has always been inflated by the gaseous outpourings of its most ardent supporters. And two years on from 2017, the novelty of Corbynmania had thoroughly worn off, with his increasingly stage-managed media appearances beginning to rub people up the wrong way.

See: https://novaramedia.com/2019/12/17/learning-the-lessons-of-labours-northern-nightmare-will-take-longer-than-a-weekend/

It’s also been argued that working class voters turned to the Tories in the north and midlands because the Leave vote was primarily a rejection of the political establishment, and in those areas, Labour was the political establishment.

Some of the features of UKIP’s working class supporters obviously don’t fit those, who voted Tory last Thursday. The people voting for Johnson weren’t just the over-55s, for example, and so wouldn’t have had the glowing memories of Britain before we entered the EU, or EEC as it then was. And it should be remembered that UKIP was never as large or as powerful as its supporters and cheerleaders in the lamestream media presented it. But clearly there are a large chunk of the British electorate, who did feel ignored by Labour’s Blairite leadership and shared their elders’ impressions of a Britain that was powerful and prosperous outside the EU, and which had been actively harmed by its entry.

But Boris won’t do anything for them, except possibly make a few token gestures towards improving conditions for those communities. It will mean hard work, but Labour can win those communities back.

But it means not taking them for granted, as Gent’s article states, and building a solid working class base once again through community activism and campaigning.

And not leaving them behind to concentrate on marginals and Tory swing voters, as New Labour did.

 

 

Private Eye’s Demolition of Cameron’s Book about His Government

Way back at the beginning of October, our former comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to give us all the benefit of his view of his time in No. 10 with the publication of his book, For The Record by William Collins. The review of it in Private Eye was not kind. Reading it, it appears that Cameron was deeply concerned to present a rosy, highly optimistic view of his years as Prime Minister. His was a government that gave Britain prosperity and growth, and had improved conditions in the NHS. The current, wretched economic and political situation is all due to everyone else, not him. It’s entirely false, as the Eye’s review made abundantly clear, citing Cameron’s book again and again as it he tries to claim success in tackling an issue, only to show the present grim reality and how Johnson actually made it all worse with Brexit.

The review, titled ‘Shed tears’, in the magazine’s issue for 4th – 17th October, runs

John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln at a Washington theatre inspired the quip: “Apart from that, Mrs, Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” David Cameron’s autobiography leaves the reader asking: “Apart from Brexit, Mr Cameron, how did you enjoy being prime minister?”

“I liked it,” he declares, and so should we. At 800 pages, this account of his generally tedious career – apart from Brexit – is only 200 pages shorter than Churchill’s Second World War memoirs. Indeed, Dave may have originally matched Winston, for the Mail reported his publishers cut 100,000 words from the manuscript.

The verbose special pleading William Collins so sadistically allowed to survive tries to anesthetise readers into accepting that – apart from Brexit – they should applaud his playing at being prime minister too.

When Cameron stood for leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, he recalls, “Everyone said that I was too young. That I had no ministerial experience.” Instead of worrying that a gentleman amateur would lead the country to perdition, we should have rejoiced. “However new and inexperienced” he was, young Cameron saw himself “inheriting the mantle of great leaders like Peel, Disraeli, Salisbury and Baldwin.”

In 2010, with the world in crisis, he followed his illustrious predecessors and produced one of the “most stable and I would argue, most successful governments anywhere in Europe”. That Brexit has subsequently produced a paralysed parliament, culture war without end in England, the highest support for Welsh independence ever recorded, a revitalised Scottish National Party and a clear and present danger to the peace in Ireland must be someone else’s fault.

Only Ukraine is a less stable European country now. Not that Cameron can admit it. The Brexit referendum was “a sore confronted”, he says, as if he were a doctor who had healed wounds rather than a quack who had opened them. His greatest regret is for himself, not his country. “I lament my political career ending so fast,” he sighs. Brexit ensured that he went from private citizen to national leader to private citizen again in 15 years. “I was a former prime minister and a retired MP at the age of 49.”

He shouldn’t despair. His work experience on the British now completed, Cameron could be ready to hold down a real job should one come his way.

As for his supposed successes, in his own terms he would have a point – were it not for Brexit. “When I became prime minister my central task was turn the economy around,” he says. Now the British Chambers of Commerce reports that companies are living through the longest decline in investment in 17 years. He left Downing Street in 2016 “with the economy growing faster than any other in the G7”, Cameron continues, showing that whatever else he learnt at Eton, it wasn’t humility. The UK is now bottom of the G7 growth table, while the governor of the Bank of England is warning a crash out could shrink GDP by 5.5 per cent.

By the time Brexit forced his resignation, “hospital infections, mixed-sex wards and year-long waits for operations were off the front pages.” In the very week his book appeared, patients were preparing as best they could for a no deal Brexit cutting off drug supplies, while NHS trusts were wondering what would happen to the 8 percent of health and social care staff they recruit from the EU.

“It was clear to me that reasserting Britain’s global status would be one of our biggest missions in government,” Cameron says of the premiership, while failing to add that the Britain he left was both a warning and laughing stock to the rest of the world.

Regrets? Come off it. “One of the core ideas of my politics,” Cameron tells those readers who survive the long march through his pages,m “is that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us, I don’t think Brexit should alter it.” The bloody fool does not realise his best days are behind him  and he (and the rest of us) have nothing to show for them – apart from Brexit.

It’s not the comprehensive demolition that Cameron’s mendacious book deserves. It hasn’t just been Brexit that’s caused mass poverty, starvation, despair and misery to Britain. It was the policies he and his government both inherited from New Labour, and ramped up and added a few of their own. He continued the Thatcherite policy of the destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, as well as the wage freeze and pushing zero-hours and short term contracts. As well as allowing firms to make their workers nominally self-employed, so they don’t have to give them things like sick pay, holidays or maternity leave. Thanks to his policies, as continued by Tweezer and then Boris, a quarter of a million people have to rely on food banks for their daily bread, 14 million people are in poverty and an estimated number of 130,000 people have died after being found ‘fit for work’ by the DWP.

As for the tone of lofty self-assurance with which Cameron makes his assertions, that can only come from someone, who has enjoyed immense privilege throughout his life, and never suffered uncertainty due to the advantages bestowed by his background. He got a job at Buckingham Palace, remember, because they actually rang him up and asked for him. Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris, in his book Great Parliamentary Scandals observes that MPs, contrary to received wisdom, are not polished all rounders. Rather they are more likely to be the lonely boy at school. They have huge, but fragile egos due to the respect the public gives them tempered with the humiliation they receive at the hands of the whips and the awareness of how little power they really have. All the decisions are made by the Prime Minister. Parris’ own career as a cabinet minister came to a sharp end when he sent a rude reply to a letter sent to the former Prime Minister. Clearly, Cameron himself has never suffered, or appears not to have, from any kind of personal or professional uncertainty. He’s always been supremely confident in his own ability, choices and decisions. It’s this arrogance that has caused so much suffering to the country and its working people. But he certainly hasn’t suffered the consequences. Instead of trying to do something about the mess he created with Brexit, he left it for others to do so. And we’re still grappling with that problem nearly four years later.

Cameron’s was the start of a series of Tory governments that have actually left this country far worse than Tony Blair’s administration. Blair was determined to sell off the NHS, but he kept it well funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. It was the Tories who massively expanded the use of food banks instead of giving the disabled, unemployed and poor the state support they needed.

Cameron’s book is therefore one mass of self-delusion and lies. As have all the statements about how well the country is doing from his successors. Don’t vote for them. Vote for Corbyn instead.

 

Short Guardian Video of Corbyn’s Election Promises

Labour launched its manifesto yesterday, as did the Tories, and the newspapers and TV were full of it. The Guardian, however, produced this little video in which Corbyn presents the party’s manifesto promises in just a minute and a half.

The Labour leader says

‘Labour’s manifesto is a manifesto for hope. That is what this document is. We will unleash a record investment blitz. And it will rebuild our schools, our hospitals, care homes and the housing we so desperately need. Every town, every city and every region. So a Labour government will ensure that big oil and gas corporations that profit from heating up our planet will shoulder the burden and pay their fair share through a just transition tax. We’ll get Brexit sorted within six months. We will secure a sensible deal that protects manufacturing and the Good Friday Agreement. And then put it to a public vote alongside the option of remaining in the EU. And yes, be clear, we will scrap university tuition fees.’ 

At this point there is massive cheering from his audience. He goes on

‘We are going to give you the very fastest, full fiber broadband for free. That is real change. And Labour will scrap Universal Credit.’

More cheering and applause. Corbyn’s speech ends with

‘It’s time for real change. Thank you!’

The crowd rises to give him a standing ovation.

Okay, so this is a very short, very edited version of Corbyn’s speech, just giving the briefest outline of the party’s policies. But it shows that Corbyn’s policies offer real change after forty years of Thatcherism, which has decimated our schools, NHS and public services and destroyed people’s health and lives through savage welfare cuts intended to punish the poor so that the rich could profit. All of which was also carried out by the smarmy face of Blair’s New Labour, who tried presenting themselves as some kind of caring alternative to the Tories, while taking over their odious policies and actually going further.

And as Corbyn says, this is a manifesto of hope. Zelo Street has written a post comparing it with the radical changes that set up the welfare state by Clement Attlee’s 1940s Labour government and their manifesto, Let Us Face the Future. The Sage of Crewe describes how Attlee’s reforms, which set up the post-war consensus, were destroyed by Thatcher, leaving nothing but poverty and run-down, struggling public services, including the NHS, so that the rich 1% can get even richer.

But he writes

Today, Labour brought something to the General Election campaign that recalled the message of 1945, and that something was hope. Hope that students of whatever age would not be saddled with tens of thousands of Pounds of debt for years after graduating. Hope that the punitive benefit sanctions régime would no longer target the sick and disabled. Hope that a living wage really would be enough to live on.

Hope that those out-of-towners without cars would not be effectively trapped in their homes at weekends and in the evening because of public transport cuts. Hope that the NHS would be able to cope without leaving emergency admissions on trolleys in corridors. Hope that someone would, at last, take the Climate Emergency seriously. Hope that the scourge of Universal Credit would at last be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Hope that the victims of press abuse would finally see the long-overdue completion of the Leveson Inquiry, so shamelessly ducked by the Tories in exchange for favourable coverage. Hope that bad housing, and bad landlords, would finally become a thing of the past. Hope that the Police and Fire services will be able to cope, giving security and peace of mind to everyone. Hope of an end to homelessness.

Hope that education will be resourced properly, that teachers will be supported in their work, that pupils will not have to ask parents or guardians to help pay for what should be classroom essentials. Hope of real action to challenge racism in all its forms. Hope for 1950s women that pension injustice will be acknowledged – and tackled. Hope that the divisions caused by the 2016 EU referendum can finally be healed.

He goes on to predict how the people, who have profited from the poverty and misery Thatcherism, and particularly the austerity imposed by the Tories and Lib Dems over the past 9-10 years, will fight to prevent these hopes being realised. He points out that

that alone tells you whose interest is served by the decade of decay that has ravaged so many towns and cities across the country.

And concludes

‘Labour has promised us hope. Let Us Face The Future Once More.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/let-us-face-future-once-more.html

This is all precisely what we need, which is why the establishment will do everything they can to prevent ordinary people getting the government, a Labour government, that they deserve. Because, as the Galaxy’s dictator Servalan once said in the BBC SF series Blake’s 7, ‘Hope is very dangerous’.

 

 

The Rise of the Right

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/11/2019 - 8:30am in

GIMMS is pleased to be able to present for our MMT Long Read two chapters of the book “The Rise of the Right – English nationalism and the transformation of working-class politics” by Professors of Criminology Simon Winlow, Steve Hall and James Treadwell.

“Throughout Europe right-wing populism has grown to the extent that we can now legitimately begin to think about the very real possibility of a fascist future. The new right-wing nationalism will not be a carbon copy of 20th-century European fascism, but fascism it will be, nonetheless. For years this seemed unthinkable…We must recognise that the adoption of hippy counter-culturalism was a colossal error, and then begin to repair some of the damage it has caused. The first step is to reconnect with the working class with a renewed order of grounded universal ethics and truthful symbolism comprehensible to all cultural groups…the left can be rehabilitated. Reconnecting with the working class and persuading them to believe in its project is a very difficult task, but it can be done.”

The Rise of the Right – English nationalism and the transformation of working-class politics

The Rise of the Right cover

Originally published by Policy Press in 2017.  Permission granted by the publisher to use this content.

https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/the-rise-of-the-right

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The post The Rise of the Right appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

John Bercow Denies Jeremy Corbyn Is Anti-Semitic

More evidence to add to the plentiful pile of it showing that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a Jew-hater was given by John Bercow the other day. Bercow, who has just stepped down as Speaker of the House of Commons, was interviewed by Alistair Campbell for GQ magazine. Campbell told him that he realised Bercow was a Jew, and asked him about the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Bercow responded cautiously and diplomatically, pointing out that racism was a problem across society. He said that anti-Semitism was an issue in the Labour party, and that it needed to be dealt with and that he respected those, who were concerned about it. But in all his time in parliament he had never encountered it from a member of the Labour party, and in the 22 years he had known and worked with Corbyn he had never experienced it from him either. This was not even when Bercow was a right-winger. Campbell joked with Bercow about Corbyn, as a long-time opponent of New Labour, probably voting with the Tories more often than he voted with the Labour party. Bercow chuckles, and admits that he always got on well with Corbyn, and found him personally very supportive.

Okay, it’s not a refutation of the lie that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour party. It most definitely isn’t anywhere near as serious as the Tories and the right-wing media are making out. Anti-Semitism has actually dropped in the party since Corbyn became leader, and he himself has led numerous initiatives to root it out. But Bercow has said that Corbyn isn’t anti-Semitic, which contradicts what Stephen ‘Goysplaining’ Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle and Rabbi Jonathan Romain in the Torygraph have been telling people this week.

Tory Fibs has put a short clip of this part of Bercow and Campbell’s discussion in a tweet, which Mike posted on his blog yesterday. Along with twitter comments from other people supporting the Labour leader. Many of these messages came from Jewish Labour supporters, who have also found themselves abused as anti-Semites by those taken in or responsible for these lies.

Also, Mike and another twitter commenter, ‘Paul’, point out that Corbyn rarely voted with the Tories. The Conservatives mostly voted for New Labour policies, which is hardly surprising as both groups were Thatcherites. Corbyn, as an old-fashioned Socialist, would have opposed them.

There was also a tweet from RedCountessa, who said that there were plenty of left-wing Jewish people, who support Corbyn, but it was also very noticeable that they were rarely interviewed by the lamestream media to get the other side of the argument.

And Jill Gore showed a twitter response from a Mark Fleischmann to show the odious response some individuals have towards Jews, who support Corbyn. So convinced was Fleischmann that no true Jew could ever support the Labour leader, that he was demanding the Jews who did to prove their Jewishness. I’m not Jewish, but this strikes me as a form of anti-Semitism itself. It’s as racist as Richard Spencer ranting about ‘octaroons’ to smear Blacks and people of mixed race, and in my opinion, anti-racist Whites, ’cause he can’t understand how real White people don’t hate Blacks.

And there were other tweeters attacking Ian Austin, who was in the news yesterday telling everyone to vote for Boris.

Pauline Lane retweeted a message from Children’s Poet Laureate, Michael Rosen, asking the Tory party to stop using the Holocaust and the threat of anti-Semitism to attract people to the party of Windrush, the Hostile Environment Policy, the anti-refugee and 20 years of austerity.

There was also a tweet from ‘Norman’ of Austin interrupting Michael Rosen’s testimony before the Education Committee for Holocaust Education. Norman states that he was aware of Austin, because of his support for Phil Woolas. Woolas was a ‘moderate’ Labour candidate, who got deselected because he ran a dirty campaign designed to get White voters angry and smearing the rival candidate, a Muslim, as a supporter of terrorism. But his interruption of Rosen showed how really horrible Austin is. Rosen testified that when the Nazis invaded the Channel Islands, all nine Jews were deported. Austin says something about how we cannot know what would have happened in Britain, because we fought back and stood alone against the Nazis. Rosen corrects him about this, stating that we had the support of two major powers, the US and Russia.

Rosen is quite correct. We didn’t stand alone. We not only had the support of America and Russia, but we were also supported by the entire resources of the British Empire. If we hadn’t, I gather that we too would probably have only lasted a week. As for what happened on the Channel Islands, Norman states that his grandfather evacuated from Jersey, and that Austin ‘is wrong’.

Absolutely right there, too. The Nazis did invade UK/ Britain, as the Channel Islands are part of it. And the people there were starved, they saw Russian P.O.W.’s worked to death as subhuman slaves, as they were seen by the Nazis, as well as the deportation of the islands’ Jewish citizens. And we can be sure that what happened there, would have happened elsewhere in Britain if the Nazis had invaded. Years ago Anne Applebaum wrote a piece in the Spectator saying that Brits would have collaborated with the Nazis, which I think was probably based on the evidence of the collaboration of the island authorities with the Nazis. This comes from the Speccie, which is the arch-Tory magazine.

And Josh tweeted a clip from Question Time, in which a Jewish lady stood up and attacked the Tories and the Conservative media for using anti-Semitism to smear and demonise Corbyn and the Labour party. The lady states that she and all her family are Jewish, and they’re not scared of leaving the house because of anti-Semitism. The Tories and the press take quotes of context to vilify Corbyn. But only 7 per cent of the time do they discuss his policies. 80 per cent of the time, she says, they’re just attacking his character, because his policies are right.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/08/never-mind-the-newspapers-bercow-buries-claims-of-anti-semitism-against-corbyn/

Clearly, not all Jews buy this rubbish about Corbyn being an anti-Semite by a long chalk. Ken Livingstone, who has now resigned from the party because of the smears and suspensions, said in an interview with George Galloway that he had Jewish people walk up to him in the street and tell him that they know he’s not anti-Semitic.

Perhaps that explains the desperation of the Tories to keep repeating the claim. Because now more and more people don’t believe it!

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