THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE?

New Labour politicians love the phrase “Politics is the art of the possible.” The full quote is “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best” said by Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor (1862–1890) to Wilhelm I of the Kingdom of Prussia, an advocate of Realpolitik.

I am always irritated and puzzled by this use of the phrase by the Labour right because it implies that they think people like me on the left, are trying to achieve the impossible… and are thus irrational.

Corbyn’s modestly left, social-democratic, reforms were regarded by the PLP and the party bureaucracy as completely beyond the pale and not even anywhere near the so-called ‘Overton Window’!

So I would ask what is it the new, New Labourites actually want to achieve… other than being in power for its own sake? Because they do seem to be driven ONLY by the desire to win elections, with no vision of what they would actually do with such political power if they did win it?

The idea seems to be that all we need to do to improve the lives of British people is to replace the Tories as the government in parliament and that this in and of itself is the only political objective. That having a Labour government is ALWAYS better than having a Tory government, regardless of what the parties actually do when in power.

To me this idea is irrational. To me it is self-evident that a political party is not good or bad because of the name on it’s banners and rosettes but because of what it DOES when in power. However, my idea of what is politically valuable and rational is just as much driven by what I think is politically possible.

Thatcher herself proclaimed, there is in fact no alternative to the global neoliberal economic and political systems introduced over the last 40 years. And perhaps this is the idea at the heart of the current split in the Labour Movement?

IF you are a member of the LP but you believe that Thatcher was correct and that there is no alternative to neoliberalism, then New Labour does actually make sense.

And there are good reasons for believing that there is no alternative to neoliberalism. For example you could rationally believe that:

(a) Neoliberalism is supported by the rich and powerful – especially the owners and operators of our media, thus to openly oppose neoliberalism is to launch an unwindable culture war that will result in inevitable defeat.

(b) Neoliberal ideas are today accepted as ‘common sense’ by the majority of the electorate, thus to argue against them is to appear idealistically irrational to the electorate.

(c) The overwhelming power of International Capital now makes effective economic intervention by national governments impossible, thus a national government can do nothing effective to challenge neoliberalism and thus shouldn’t try to do so.

IF you do actually believe that ‘there is no alternative’ to the current neoliberal world-order, and that even a modest, mixed-economy, social democracy, is now a political and economic impossibility, then a party with the conservative (with a small c) economic and political ambitions of New Labour does sort of make sense.

If you are interested in a career in politics or the trade unions, either behind the scenes or as a potential leader and/or as a candidate for election, and IF you believe that ONLY a conservative party (with a small c) can ever win a UK General Election, then yes, New Labour makes sense.

Because IF you believe there is no alternative to the neoliberal world order, then even if you genuinely wished to represent the social, political and economic interests of the labouring classes in the parliamentary system, the very best you could EVER hope to achieve is to ‘pragmatically’ work with the rich and powerful to protect their interests, in return for some crumbs from their table that you can redistribute to the labouring classes by tinkering with the rules of the benefit/tax system.

IF you believe there is no alternative to the neoliberal world order, then the privatisation of the NHS and the BBC are in fact inevitable, and it would indeed make some sort of nihilistic sense to embark on that process even though you theoretically oppose such privatisation.

Capitalist Tories (as opposed to Nationalist Tories) believe in the global neoliberal order. They also believe that there is no alternative… it’s just they think that lack of an alternative is a good thing.

Some members of the new, New Labour party may not like the global neoliberal order, indeed some I know oppose it vehemently, BUT if they believe ‘there is no alternative’ to it, then the much-touted ‘pragmatism’ of New Labour makes absolute sense. What is the point of being ideologically attached to the idea of a better world if such a world is simply impossible to achieve?

Two people could agree 100% on what future would be desirable in an ideal world, but could vehemently disagree on whether such a future is achievable and/or how to achieve it. (Historically, that might describe the divisions in the post-war, ‘broad chrch’ LP.)

Some in New Labour (Mandelson, Blair etc) were/are actually neoliberal ideologues and have more in common with liberal Tories like Cameron and Osborne than with most of the LP membership, but many (most?) members are mixed-economy, social democrats and democratic socialists.

Thus the point of disagreement between myself and a supporter of Starmer’s new, New Labour, may not be about what type of social, political and economic future would be desireable but about whether such a future is possible.

A new, New Labourite may genuinely believe that the best ANY political party can ever achieve these days in terms of representing the interests of the labouring classes, is to tinker with the regulatory/benefit/tax system and that it is important to do that even while acknowledging that it is not ideal.

IF a person believes there is no alternative to neoliberalism then maybe it is rational to believe that “the next best” thing to do is to manage neoliberalism with as much sympathy to the labouring classes as is possible.

I however, still believe there are achievable alternatives to neoliberalism. Indeed, the 2017 election result demonstrated to me that a Labour Party fully committed to Corbyn and the 2017 manifesto could have overcome the media biases and won an outright (if narrow) victory and formed the government.

I see a mixed-economy, social democratic, government as not only desirable but crucially necessary and also as absolutely achievable. But for the social democratic alternative to become possible it has to be at the very least expressed in the public domain and people of good faith have to be seen to fight for it.

It seems to me that to accept Thatcher’s TINA narrative is to prematurely surrender and by managing neoliberalism according to the values of neoliberalism is to participate in the strengthening of the neoliberal order.

The new, New Labourites may regard my as ‘idealism’ as self-defeating but I regard their pessimistic, nihilism, as a form of entirely unnecessary surrender.

In fact I would go so far as to say that the depth of the crisis in neoliberalism means that there is in fact no alternative other than a social democratic, mixed-economy and that this is now inevitable.

The Tories are in effect introducing and overseeing mixed-economy, Keynsian policies, while trying to maintain their neoliberal, market economy, ideology. This makes their management of the economy disastrously incoherent and ineffective.

Today, the ONLY chance for the Labour Party to win an election is if it puts forward a coherent Keynsian, social democratic, alternative to Tory neoliberalism and firmly places the blame for the current crisis on neoliberalism. The small c conservatism of New Labour was clearly effective in the 90’s and naughties but today it is entirely misplaced.

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Alt-Right conspiracy theories are obviously true… except they are not.

Alt-Right conspiracy theorists like to suggest that a nefarious, wealthy, elite are secretly conspiring with each other to run the world in their own interests, rather than in the interests of humanity. 

This is obviously true. 

Even a modest knowledge of history demonstrates that since the birth of ‘civilisation’ 8-10,000 years ago, ruling classes across the globe have ruled in their own interests. Not only that, these ruling elites have almost always inflicted terrible suffering upon those they rule over in order to maintain their rule and protect their own interests. 

This is the history of the human race – Emperors, Kings, Queen’s, Czars, Khans, Moguls, Popes, high priests,  dictators, despots and supreme rulers…  all ruling to serve their own glory and preserve their own wealth and elite privilege.

Indeed, the socialist left has been saying exactly this for at least the last 150 years. We have also pointed out that under capitalism all that has changed is the way these elites justify their elite status. Historically elite status was justified by reference to God and hereditary title and enforced by extreme violence. In the capitalist era elite status is justified exclusively by wealth and enforced by reference to equal opportunity and property rights as expressed by ‘the law’… which ultimately rests on violence.

The fact that the world is run by an informal global network of capitalist, neoliberal, plutocrats ruling in their own interests is blatantly obvious. Just look around you!

Yet the Alt-Right, seem to find that simple truth too hard to bear. For over 50 years the Right have theorised that ‘free markets’ are the key to ‘free societies’. That if wealthy people are ‘free’ to do anything they wish with their money then we will all be free and we will all prosper. Yet in the West it manifestly hasn’t happened that way. On the contrary, global free markets mean that manufacturing jobs have been exported to the third world, living standards have stagnated, pensions are falling, financial insecurity is the norm for almost everyone, even the middle classes, and most work places, even in ‘the professions’, have become managerialist tyrannies.

So for the Alt-Right this lived-reality creates a huge cognitive dissonance. Free markets are meant to free us all and make us all rich and social democracy, let alone socialism, is meant to be inefficient, corrupt and tyrannical. Yet the evidence of lived experience increasingly suggests it may be the other way round! 

It seems that accepting that reality is so difficult for the Alt-Right that they would rather believe that a global conspiracy of satanic, liberal,  billionaire, paedophiles, is ruling the world from the basement of a pizza restaurant in New York. And that these ‘liberal Satanists’ are determined to destroy the capitalist system, despite the fact that their billions have accrued because of the success of neoliberal capitalism in concentrating wealth in their hands.

One conspiracy theory that has been described to me in all seriousness, is that the 30-40 richest billionaires are secretly using Covid to reduce the human population of planet earth rapidly from 7 billion to 1 billion by using vaccination injections to secretly neuter the human race. If such a rapid population reduction actually took place it would of course be catastrophic for global capitalism, destroying markets, transport systems, supply chains and all the rest and quickly rendering ‘Fiat Money’ worthless, which would mean the ‘wealth’ of these paedophile billionaires, which exists only as numbers in computer systems, would entirely disappear and the power and status of the billionaires would disappear with it. There would literally be nothing in it for the billionaires.

Yet many on the Alt-Right regard such bizarre, superstitious, conspiracy theories, that are irrational according to their own logic, as being more believable than the fact that global, neoliberal, capitalism is the cause of most of the problems we face?

It really is extraordinary.

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The civil war in the LP was NEVER about antisemitism.

The civil war in the LP was NEVER about antisemitism. It was and is about the threat a Corbyn led LP represents to the careers of the cynical, unscrupulous, unprincipled, centrist liberal, professional politicians who infiltrated and misappropriated the resources and history of a proud working class, Democratic Socialist party and turned it into a middle class, LibDem-light, in order to further their own miserable careers in obsequious service to monsters like Rupert Murdoch.

Corbyn was elected by a huge majority of members… twice. His leadership led to 400,000 joining the LP, most of whom had never been involved in politics before. Yet despite this, or indeed because of it, the right of the LP led by the professional cabal of professional politicians in the PLP and party bureaucracy launched the most vicious civil war in the parties history.

They corruptly managed party resources and communications to reduce the chance of the party winning in 2017; they collaborated with the vilest elements of the right wing press to defame and malign members of their own party; they corruptly managed the parties rules and disciplinary processes to suspend and expel men and women who had dedicated their political lives to the party.

And YES Corbyn himself was partly to blame for all this. His absurd loyalty to the LP and refusal to acknowledge the true nature of the brutal battle he was/is in is at the core of his failure. His ridiculously naïve attempt to unite the PLP in a ‘cabinet of all the talents’ when he was first elected was his first mistake. Then McDonnel and Lansman’s successful move to emasculate Momentum. Then throwing Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Chris Williamson et al under the anti-semitism bus… the list is endless.

The ONLY thing Corbyn had going for him from day one was the unwavering support of the membership. Yet to appease the right of the party and the right-wing press, he threw them all under the bus and was left with no organised support within the party. So when Brexit happened he was left with nowhere to go.

70% of LP members, including Corbyn supporters, were/are Remainers. Yet 70% of Labour voters in the Midlands and the North were/are Leavers. And despite everything that has been said about ‘unelectability’, this is what led to the defeat in Dec 2019. In 2017 Labour’s position was to honour the referendum result and Corbyn came within 3000 votes of an overall majority. In 2019 Labour had shifted it’s position to become a Remain party openly fighting to get the referendum result over turned. This was/is seen as a betrayal by Labour working class vote in the North and the Midlands and finally the last link that held the working class loyal to the Labour Party was broken.

Yet the right of the LP ignore Brexit and try to claim that the reason for the loss of the Red Wall, was because Corbyn was toxic and they are determined to publicly humiliate him, forcing to prostrate himself and recant for his thought crimes before they allow him to sit quietly on the back benches.

The Brexit defeat is the chance for the cynical, unscrupulous, unprincipled, centrist liberal, professional politicians to regain complete control of the Labour Party and they have already set about doing so ruthlessly. And mark my words there is going to be much more blood on the carpet before this over. Many more dedicated Labour supporters will be suspended, expelled and publicly defamed before the greed for revenge of the new New Labourites is sated.

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English patriotism and the left – a political conundrum

This is a tough one and potentially controversial and I’m still trying to work out if I really think what I really really think I think about this.

A very noticeable shift in rhetoric of Starmer’s LP is towards an attempt to co-opt English ‘patriotism’ to the Labour cause. The way it is being done is pathetically and transparently politically empty and will convince no one, but, though it pains me to say it, I have to say that I think any LP, under any leader, that wishes to regain the ‘Labour Wall’ is going to have address the issue of how the left engages with patriotism and nationalism.

Many of the old school, old Labour, working class activists I met in the 80’s had served in WW2 are were very patriotic. Indeed, ‘patriotism’ is a very important working class value. Proportionally many more working class young people join the military than average and being English or Scottish, Welsh or Irish is a source of pride for many millions. Yet we on the left seem to despise our own birthright… especially if we are English. This arises of course from the left wing values of peace and anti-imperialism. Yet this pacifist, anti-imperialism is often read by working class people as a sort of hypocritical self-hatred and dismissing ‘patriotism’ as a sign of ignorance and stupidity has been a big mistake of  left rhetoric since the mid 60’s. Continue reading

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The new Reclaim Party and the ‘culture wars’ – the incoherence of our two party system and the failure of liberalism

The execrable Toby Young is giving Laurence Fox his full support for the toff-actor’s new political party Reclaim. With Andrew Neil setting up the UK’s own Fox News called GB News, the UK is lurching further and further to the right. For a country that has led the way with neoliberal capitalism since 1979, voted for Brexit, elected Boris Johnson just a few months ago and in which ‘the left’ has had no real political power or even influence since the mid 80’s, moving further to the right might seem impossible!

Yet the emergence of Reclaim, or at least the possibility of a Reclaim type party, is encouraging if you think, like I do, that a realignment of the British party system is urgently needed. Continue reading

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An alternative to the Labour Party?

I’m afraid the last five years have confirmed my previously held suspicion that in terms of challenging neoliberalism, the Labour Party is part of the problem rather than the solution.

I am now convinced that for the left social democratic and socialist left to stay in the LP is to waste our political energies on fighting a perpetual and never-ending, internal civil war.


UPDATE: 3rd October 2020

The execrable Toby Young made some interesting points relevant to this article and my previous article Left, Right and Centre? Who the f**k is who? in his Spectator piece on Laurence Fox’s new political party Reclaim.

In the opinion piece Young states that “Reclaim doesn’t have to win anywhere in order to make a difference. Ukip only managed to win a single parliamentary seat, yet it achieved its main political objective. All Laurence needs to do is persuade the Conservative party that if it doesn’t become more robust on culture war issues it will lose votes to him in Red Wall seats. Not enough for Reclaim to win, but enough for Labour to come up through the middle.”

This is exactly my argument in this piece about a new democratic socialist party – it doesn’t have to win overall majorities and govern, it only needs to take enough votes from Labour to push the LP to the left. New Labour orthodoxy claims that the LP can only ever win a GE by appealing to Tory voters, it assumes leftist voters will always vote Labour because there is no alternative. This was never true and in fact led to millions not voting at all because none of the three mainstream parties reflected their views. But a new left social democratic party, a UKIP of the left, could change that dynamic and mean that in order to win elections the LP would need to appeal to leftist voters.


Continue reading

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