The trouble with liberals is…..

Justin Trudeau, bless him. This is a man who built a whole brand on identity politics, changing laws in Canada to fit his political agenda. This is a leader who is happy to continue former PM Stephen Harper’s work, destroying Alberta in order to pursue only the dirtiest of methods to produce oil. In contrast Trudeau has constructed a government that is morally outraged if an individual is caught using the wrong pronouns regarding someone’s identity. This type of “faux pas” potentially can land you in big trouble under Bill C-16! So forgive me if I take some time out of my day to ridicule this man.

If you are going take the path of the identarian righteous, be sure to have no skeletons in your cupboard/closet or ensure that you’ve deleted any trace of being a fallible human being. It’s a little like “original sin” only Social Justice Warriors usually offer no form of redemption. I’d like to think that the SJW brigade will be as hard on him as they would be on any other cis gendered, white man, who transgresses across their puritanical boundaries, but alas, I suspect equal handedness is not an identarians strong point.

For those who have been living in a cave, or quite rightly have better things to do, you may have missed that Mr Social Justice dressed up as a genie nearly 20 years ago, complete with brownface. Some of you will be instinctively outraged and consider this as deeply racist. While the more pragmatic among us are probably thinking “well that wasn’t a smart thing to do, if you’re going to pursue a career in public office built entirely on identity politics”. Just for reference, you’ll find me in group two.

Do I think what he did was racist? Nah, it has to be put into context, but context appears illusive in this era of instant outrage. Under normal circumstances identarians both in the media and among the activists would devour him, but I guess Super Justin will get a pass. He’s already rocked up to the cameras while giving his best little boy lost impersonation and he may well cop a little flack, but in the end I’m sure he’ll live to fight another day.

This, however, is not an article on the exploits of Teflon Trudeau, but more about the hypocrisy of liberals and centrists in general. Firstly I acknowledge that the term liberal is as wide as the political chasm between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. It has quite specific meanings dependent on the country involved. In the US it can range from centre right often known as classical liberalism through to the centre left sometimes called modern liberalism, which includes social liberalism.

It’s a political stance that could be used to describe Tony Blair, Justin Trudeau, Hillary Clinton, Jo Swinson (Lib Dems UK), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP UK) and Joe Biden (US ex Vice President) among countless others. In short, a centrist makes an appeal to the public based on competency. The idea is to appear slick, media savvy and professional, a political insider if you will. This of course can backfire spectacularly if confronted with a populist or outsider such as Trump, as seen in the case of Hillary Clinton.

HRC smug

Many people have suggested that centrist politics in our current polarised political climate are dead, but not so quick with the obituary. Firstly, I’m going to propose a simple definition to make thinks easier when separating liberals from the left. My view goes as follows; if you embrace capitalism and promote it as the best way for society to proceed and flourish, then you are not on the left. To clarify, you could be stuck in a capitalist society working towards substantial change through democratic means, such as Corbyn, for me that’s fine. But, to not search or strive for a better system outside of capitalism is a departure from the left, in my opinion.

In recent times centrists, liberals, 3rd wayers or whatever you want to call them generally promote shades of a similar viewpoint. It goes roughly like this, they support capitalism, some more fervently than others and they routinely use social justice as a tool of control. The whole “liberal” thing can be baffling, from the Democrats in the US, the Liberals Democrats in the UK, the Liberal Party in Canada and even the confusingly named Australian Liberal Party, which describe themselves as centre-right. Simplistically, what all of these parties have in common is they have nothing to do with the left.

Of course there are a small group of politicians who are part of the Democrats and who proclaim to be on the left, however, the driving force is still very much from the liberal centrists or corporate Democrats. This was never more obvious, than when Bernie Sanders ran in the 2016 primaries and how biased the DNC were in favour of Hillary Clinton. In global terms many of Bernie’s proposals would be seen no more than common sense centrist ideas, hardly an extremist. Although, in the socialist phobic US he is laughably considered in some political circles as the reincarnation of Lenin.

In many ways I have more of a problem with liberals/centrists than I do with the Republicans (US), Conservatives (UK) and the National Party (NZ). With right-wingers you know where you stand, unless of course you are politically illiterate or simply uninterested. Take Boris Johnson, he is an upper class Conservative Prime Minister, who is a direct descendant from George II and a distant cousin of the present Queen. His full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, he was educated at Eton School and attended Oxford University. It doesn’t take a genius to work out he probably isn’t a man of the people or not people you and I know.

In contrast liberals may sound like they care, they’ll talk endlessly about reducing gender wage gaps, and racial inequality. They may even look and appear empathic, but underneath the façade they are deeply committed to corporate capitalism. Former President, Barack Obama was the poster boy of centristism, known for his shapeshifting style of politics, consisting of all spin and no substance. Incidentally, he left the White House with the military still bombing 8 countries, more than George W, while stealing from the US treasury to enrich the corporate elite.

Obama didn’t invent identity politics, but he did manage to force it upon the mainstream’s consciousness. In brief, it is the notion that an individual’s varying identities shape their political views and is the primary method for which most parties now rally support. In many nations within the ‘anglosphere’ the idea of “one nation” or the notion of being “colour blind” or “group blind” is considered oudated and racist. However, this approach was born not out of ignorance for other people’s struggles, rather out of unity to fight against the tiny cabal of the ruling elite that continue to pull the strings even today.

Now, competing groups repeatedly fight for airtime, desperate to be recognised as more oppressed than the other. This moves away from inclusion and universalism towards a society punctuated by deep division. What transpires is exclusivity and a hierarchy regarding who can or cannot speak on certain matters based on their identity. As the game continues, groups split further, in their quest for the title of the least privileged. In general, when groups feel threatened and ignored they retreat into tribalism closing ranks, while becoming more authoritarian and punitive towards outsiders. This is occurring all over the political map and is quite clearly not a galvanising force.

In the US one of the major factors that separates the left from the right is identity politics. Even most political commentators will declare someone on the left or indeed the far left completely dependent on their views around social justice. In the US there is no coherent or forceful economic argument critiquing capitalism while envisioning an alternative path forward. All roads inevitably lead to identity politics, but this is a cul de sac offering no unified vision for a movement that could benefit the most amount of people.

Liberals and centrists are marinated in hypocrisy. They talk about equality, but only in the narrow corridor of identity be it; race, gender or sexuality. This conveniently ignores something that affects more people on a daily basis than any other factor. An issue that can cause premature death, an escalation in crime, poorer education, an increase in wars, a demise in social cohesion, destruction of our planet and an erosion of our wellbeing. This my friends is the gap in social economic status, both through relative poverty and general poverty. It has a profound effect on the quality of life and the cause is capitalism.

Returning to Trudeau and his liberal ‘credentials’. In 2018 Trudeau proposed to nationalise the Kinder Morgan pipeline running from the tar sands in Alberta to British Columbia. Trudeau stated to a room full of oil executives back in 2017, “which country would leave 173bn barrels in the ground”. My answer would be, a government and Prime Minister who truly cares about the planet including its inhabitants. This is a typical centrist strategy which they like to refer to as pragmatism. In truth Trudeau is playing politics, to not go ahead with his pro-oil stance could result in a damaging backlash in Alberta, thus jeopardising any future re-election hopes.

JT
Trudeau virtue signalling

Where Trudeau excels, is playing the equity card and his carefully crafted persona. He calls himself a feminist and was quick to assemble a gender-balanced cabinet, while appointing a significant number of people of colour to cabinet positions. Despite his posturing as a purveyor of all things social justice, Captain Fantastic is still happy to sell weapons to some of the most vicious and misogynistic countries in the world; Saudi Arabia and Columbia to name a couple. Trudeau is pro Trans Pacific Partnership and his main idea regarding reducing economic inequality as stated in Davos recently was to hire more women. He is the master of liberal deception, saying one thing but doing another.

People in the UK have seen first hand the empty rhetoric of a centrist in the form of Tony Blair, the master of spin, treachery and deceit. Like Obama, Blair managed to convince the working class after years of Thatcherism and then John Major that he could offer something different for the people. What Blair did do was market his product better than the Tories, while putting the financialisation of the country on steroids.

To his credit Tony Blair introduced to the UK Sure Start and the minimum wage, but he also ushered in university tuition fees and the “Academy Scheme”, consisting of schools that were publicly financed while privately administrated. In health he created an internal market within the NHS and used the Public Finance Initiative to fund reforms. This was a private-public partnership that has proved more expensive than any publicly funded solution would have been. Blair also deregulated the finance sector, while declaring the Bank of England independent. Most of these ideas were purposefully ripped straight out of the Milton Friedman playbook for a neoliberal economy.

Blair also made a point of switching his target voters from the working class to the middle class, losing hundreds and thousands of core Labour Party members across traditional Labour heartlands. Millions of people in the North, the Midlands and areas such as South Wales felt marginalised or excluded from any economic prosperity. Despite all of this his worst decision undoubtedly, was taking Britain to war in Iraq on a lie centred around the illusive “weapons of mass destruction”. No politician’s reputation should remain intact after such a catastrophic move.

In the UK today still exists what is generally known as Britain’s 3rd party, the Liberal Democrats, a self proclaimed centrist group, currently led by Jo Swinson. The Lib Dem’s recent history is patchy at best, being complicit with the Conservatives throughout David Cameron’s austerity offensive during the time of the Con/Lib Dem coalition government. This saw their MP numbers reduce from 57 MP’s to 8, now however, they seem to be on the ascendancy thanks to their use of Brexit and splits within the two main parties.

New defecting MP’s such as Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger are prototypical centrists, careerist MP’s who fitted in well with New Labour, but not so snug in Jeremy Corbyn’s democratic socialist idea of the Labour Party. Supposedly pragmatic, they are slick, polished and completely driven by identity politics. Spending the best part of the last two years trying to oust Corbyn on fabricated and unfounded anti-Semitic allegations.

Head honcho Jo Swinson has aligned the Lib Dems as the primary remain party, the ultimate safe space for the middle class, bourgeoisie pious brigade. A group who insists on telling any ‘leave’ voter who will listen (or not) how wrong, racist and stupid they are. Without even considering the individual’s personal reasons for choosing Brexit, which incidentally was primarily a kickback against the neoliberal establishment, for which centrists are so wedded to. It’s important to note that during the coalition government, Swinson regularly presided over austerity and tax cuts for the rich. Just to clarify, here’s a portion of Jo Swinson’s voting record.

jo swinson voting record

I’ve written this article with the hope of reminding people that an enemy to the people doesn’t automatically possess diametrically opposing views. Sometimes they are parasitic politicians or parties awaiting a chance to latch on so they can benefit from a volatile situation, such as Brexit. Chameleon’s who will say one thing and do the opposite (Obama) or who will champion the requirements of the wealthy to the detriment of the poorest in society while furthering their own careers (Hillary Clinton).

In summary, centrists are made up of professional politicians who will meticulously groom their image and mould themselves accordingly in order to obtain the highest office. These are people who will never reveal what they truly believe, all we are provided with is the hollow shell of a purposefully manufactured, careerist politician. But sometimes, just occasionally like Justin Trudeau they get caught out. Which frankly makes me smile from ear to ear. Just don’t expect too much to come from it.

The US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Israel, the unholy alliance. Is this a pathway to war with Iran?

In the last week, two Saudi oil facilities have been attacked by what is thought to be Houthi rebels in. These reprisals are considered to be a response to Saudi Arabia’s continuous attacks of Yemen. To confuse matters further the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of conducting the drone attacks, which has been strongly denied by Iran. Meanwhile in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu continues with his “Greater Israel” quest, talking about illegally annexing Palestine’s Jordan Valley. This has been discussed under the guise of establishing the future eastern border of Israel, however, the area has been illegally occupied since 1967.

Netanyahu has proposed this annexe as a sound political strategy. He has an election on 17th September and is under considerable pressure. Criticism of him isn’t necessarily coming from a rejuvenated left or centrist dissent, but rather claims of a failure on the right. This includes both the far right and the ultra-nationalists inability to concoct a united agenda. To put this in perspective, Netanyahu’s main contender to the crown is Benjamin Gantz, from the supposedly centrist Blue and White Party. Gantz like Netanyahu strongly supports settlers, proposing an expansion throughout Palestine. Netanyahu, therefore, has no option tactically other than to trump this strategy, calling for the annexation of the West Bank.

In recent years Netanyahu has felt emboldened due to the support from Donald Trump, which has been highlighted by the US government moving their embassy to Jerusalem. A move which can be seen as the US legitmising the colonisation of Jerusalem. As the rich and powerful celebrated this move, just miles away in Gaza violence filled the air. Israel casually refers to the repeated attacks there as mowing the lawn. A tactic designed to keep Gaza’s economy on the “brink of collapse, with the last major campaign in 2014 claiming the lives of 2,300 Palestinians, 70% of which being civilians.

Gaza bombed.jpg

The US’s support of Israel, exemplified by US ambassador David Friedman’s comment that “Israel has the right to some of the West Bank”, plus cross party support in Israel for ‘settlers’ has led to recent violence across the region. Crowds of 1,200 settlers backed by Israeli soldiers were witnessed harassing Palestinians and international activists in Hebron. While in East Jerusalem 1,700 settlers stormed the Al-Asqa Mosque enabled by the Israeli police. As usual the international community have been conspicuous by their absence. In truth, all that Israel requires to proceed with this bullying behaviour is the continued support of the US.

By supplying weapons, the US and UK have pledged their support to the Saudi regime’s systematic destruction of Yemen, who claim the Houthis are backed economically and militarily by Iran. In this context this can be seen as a conflict between Sunni ruled Saudi Arabia and Shia ruled Iran. What is worth noting is that Yemen is strategically important, sitting on the strait that links the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and is a primary passing point for most of the world’s oil shipments.

Since 2015 in Yemen 7,025 civilians have been killed, with 65% of these linked to Saudi led coalition air strikes. Approximately 80% of the country’s population of 24 million need humanitarian aid and assistance, yet we rarely ever hear about this crisis in the media. It is clear that the hands of the US and the UK are bloody, with both nations heavily involved in the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Between 1999 and 2017 the US had sold $115bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, with Trump signing off on another order reportedly worth $110bn (US) over the next 10 years. The UK has also capitalised on the war as they account for 23% of all arms imported to Saudi Arabia. Since 2015 the UK have sold weapons to the value of $6.4bn (US) effectively supporting the Saudi led campaign in Yemen.

Another interesting aspect regarding these allies is the emergence of a Saudi-Israeli alliance. To be blunt, the two nations have one thing in common and that is Iran. In 2003 the removal of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni Muslim regime altered the balance of power in the region, with the now Shia dominated Iraqi government establishing closer links with Iran. The increasing influence of Iran in the region has been troubling for both of these nations, who fear an Iranian corridor running from Tehran all the way through to the Mediterranean. This is probably the main reason why relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have changed over the last 10-15 years.

muslim map

As well as strategical reasons for Saudi Arabia to team up with Israel, there is of course a religious element to all this. Saudi Arabia sees itself as the primary Sunni Muslim nation and for many years the leader of the Muslim world. This was challenged following the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, which gave birth to a theocratic state. Since 2011 both sides have exploited the Arab uprisings, predominently in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria in an attempt to influence the region.

Up until this point both Saudi Arabia and Iran have resorted to proxy wars such as the war in Syria, however, the recent attack on Saudi soil could indeed alter how this power struggle continues. It’s distinctly possible that Saudi Arabia feels more vulnerable following these fresh events and of course to complicate matters we always need to include the Trump factor.

It could be argued that segments of the US government and the deep state have been spoiling for a fight with Iran for decades. Even Hillary Clinton (do you remember her?) stated that if she was president she would attack Iran. Relations with Iran are clearly not helped by Trump’s recent rhetoric suggesting the US is “locked and loaded”. What is meant by this, metaphorically or otherwise who knows. Aside from all the posturing, however, the US government’s bold claims that the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia were planned and executed by Iran have as yet not been supported by any evidence.

Like many other countries in the world Iran have a history with the US, which generally starts from the lead up to events in 1953, culminating in the CIA and UK intelligence overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. It’s of no surprise that tensions rose when Mossadegh revealed that he wanted to Nationalise Iran’s oil industry, which occurred in 1951. Previous to this, Iran’s oil was controlled by the British owned Anglo Iranian Oil Company. Following the coup and the instalment of the Shah who went on to brutally rule for the next 26 years, the US secured themselves a share in Iran’s oil wealth.

This isn’t all, in 1979 the US backed Shah of Iran was forced to leave the country, paving the way for the return of exiled Ayatollah Khomeini. The Islamic Republic of Iran was declared on April 1st 1979 following a referendum. In November 1979 the US embassy in Tehran was seized and American hostages were held for 444 days, the last 52 being freed in 1981. While in England, London saw their own hostage crisis in 1980, when six gunmen opposing Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime took control of the embassy demanding the release of 91 political prisoners. This all came to an abrupt end following the now famous raid by the SAS, killing 5 of the 6 gunmen.

By 1985-86 the Iran-Contra scandal surfaced, whereby, the US shipped weapons to Iran, in return Tehran would help to free US hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The profits from these transactions were used to support the anti-government Contras in Nicaragua to fight against the socialist Sandinistas. In 1988 an Iranian jetliner was shot down by a US warship in the Gulf killing all 290 people on board. It was claimed by the skipper of the USS Vincennes that the Airbus A300 was mistaken for a jet fighter.

Relations in the 90’s were relatively peaceful, however, tensions returned in the 2000’s when President George W Bush described Iran as part of an “axis of evil”. Great diplomatic relations George! Never have so many lies been told in one speech. Orwellian doesn’t even begin to describe this overt act of sabre rattling, egged on by members from the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2002.

Following allegations of Iran developing nuclear weapons, a period of sanctions ensued imposed by the US, UN and the EU. As a consequence of this Iran’s currency lost two thirds of its value in 2 years. But during Obama’s leadership ties between the two nations started to improve. In 2015 Iran agreed to a long term deal to limit its sensitive nuclear activities, allowing international inspectors to observe in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Any tentative goodwill created by Obama was scrapped in 2018 when President Trump abandoned the nuclear deal reinstating sanctions on Iran. Since then 6 oil tankers have been struck by explosions in the Gulf of Oman in June 2019, with the US accusing Iran of carrying out the act. The most recent events in Saudi Arabia occurred just a few days ago disrupting 5% of the worlds oil production, this too has been pinned on Iran despite nothing to support the claim. All of this goes to show that even without the war-monger-in-chief John Bolton the US government is still more than capable of foreign policy brain farts. The UN Yemen envoy has told the Security Council that it is not entirely sure who is responsible, but stated that the strike would increase the chances of regional conflict and instability.

GULF-SHIPPING-OIL-US-IRAN-JAPAN-NORWAY-DIPLOMACY

So what this have to do with us? These are major events and any escalation could affect even some of the least offensive nations on the planet. In my home country of New Zealand, like many things such as sport this small country punches well above it’s weight and diplomacy is no exception. But foreign policy is a tricky discipline as we clearly don’t live in vacuum. If this was the case it would be easy for Prime Minister Ardern to condemn Netanyahu’s wet dream of annexing the Jordan Valley. It would also be an elementary decision to distance New Zealand from Trump’s posturing on affairs in the Middle East, including his recent unfounded accusations towards Iran.

There are, however, two problems. Despite New Zealand having a proud history of condemning Israel’s humanitarian violations against the Palestinian people, Israel are the undisputed champions of propaganda and misinformation, known as Hasbara (meaning ‘explanation’ in Hebrew). This can be highlighted by the repeated baseless anti-Semitic claims against the UK Labour leader and supporter of Palestinian human rights Jeremy Corbyn. Israel has utilised every anti Corbyn back bencher, mouth piece and pro Jerusalem organisation in order to discredit and destroy a socialist inspired Labour Party led by Mr Corbyn. If NZ are going to stand up to Israel and by proxy the US, they need to do this with their eyes wide open.

A second issue is New Zealand is a member of the 5 eyes, which is under the UKUSA agreement going back over 70 years. This brings together Canada, US, Australia, UK and NZ, which is generally regarded as the world’s most comprehensive intelligence alliance. Under Trump it is not inconceivable that he would threaten expulsion from ‘five eyes’ if New Zealand didn’t toe the line. There has been a taste of this over the 5G Huawei saga, whereby the company was to be allowed into New Zealand’s 5G network via Spark. In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in 2018 that “the US will not share any information with a country which allows the Chinese company into ‘critical information systems'”.

Maybe all this is too “big picture” for some and I’m sure people will say “well there’s nothing we can do about it anyway”. I notice a similar response when writing about climate change or poverty, it seems to overawe people into some catatonic state. In contrast, if something is written about Brexit then all hell breaks loose on all sides. Or worse still, more people are likely to tune into claims of sexist remarks made by Donald Trump 10 years previous, but global instability? Not so much. The truth of the matter is, all of this affects the security of the planet and proves why democracy needs to change rapidly. Collectively we need to stop the US and co from dominating with their usual interventionist style of foreign policy for the good of our home.         

 

 

 

Tackle the policies, not the man: Personal insults will not win back the working class.

The UK has recently acquired yet another upper class Etonian, much the same as David Cameron. A man who has no political principles or moral convictions, someone who will say anything to obtain and maintain power. This is a potential gift for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour if they play it right. Unfortunately, I predict this will be another opportunity lost. I suspect the left in the UK might just mimic the Democrats in the US resorting to name calling, hollow allegations and memes.

Already the signs are there, literally, with protests featuring placards with “not my Prime Minister” on them. This eerily reminds me of the bourgeois middle class in the US, who threw a collective tantrum after the defeat of corporate stooge Hilary Clinton in 2016. Rather than reflecting on why people are drawn to such characters as Trump, many in opposition lazily resorted to pointless ad hominem attacks and his alleged actions of the past.

not my PM

This line of protest may well be considered a valid tactic on Twitter and Facebook, but is it really a pathway to changing the political landscape? I suggest not. Within minutes of any political disagreement on social media vast numbers of people regress to adolescence, often resorting to the petty ‘strategy’ of slinging personal insults at those who dare to disagree. When trying to unite a nation, in particular, attracting the working class back to their traditional parties, these methods only serve to polarise and harden opinion.

In the UK the left historically fought for the working class, but many now feel abandoned, even politically isolated, after decades of blue and later red neoliberalism. Subsequently, many people have voted for change regardless of the outcome. For a left leaning party such as Labour to enter government they need the working class, while the working class require a party or political movement to truly champion their cause.

Labelling whole swathes of a population racist, misogynistic, dumb or simply stupid, won’t endear them to you or promote healthy debate. Brexiteers and corporate Democrats, both who lost recent votes insist on suggesting they are the enlightened ones, while approaching life from an exceptionally myopic and rather advantaged perspective.

For those who struggle for money on a daily basis in areas such as the former industrial heartlands, there is still very much a class war going on, which incidentally they are spectacularly losing. This partly explains why citizens who are financially at the lower end of society in the western world have developed strange bed fellows such as, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and to a certain extent Boris Johnson.

All of these characters are ridiculously privileged, having absolutely no affinity to the very people they pretend to support. Weirdly from the “Rust Belt” in the US to the former industrial north in the UK, right wing parties continue to attract working class voters. All this, despite the Republican’s and Conservative’s open declaration of support for corporations, the rich, low taxation and minimal funding of any state services.

Often the phrase “it’s like turkeys voting for Christmas” does the rounds during election time. This sadly, fails to ask the hard but obvious question…….why? Why are people content to vote against their best interests? Or more reflectively, what have the left done wrong to lose the very group that would benefit the most from traditional left values and when did this start.

A quick and admittedly slightly glib answer to the problem, particularly in the UK could be summed up with one word, Blair. In truth, many leaders of traditional left leaning parties have ignored the plight of the working class, while searching for voters among the middle classes. But Blair even stated in a speech to the centrist think tank Public Policy Research “I want to make you all middle class“, as if this was some sort of aspirational comment. By many, this was seen and with good cause, as an abandonment of the working class. The Labour Party membership not surprisingly dropped from approximately 405,000 in 1997 to 156,000 by 2009.

I’m sure some people who claim to be on the left may suggest that we don’t need the working class, especially those who voted for Brexit. I would argue, that ending neoliberalism, reducing economic inequality, working for a sustainable future, protecting our human rights are all more important issues than the side-show that is Brexit. All these aspirations are heavily dependent on engaging and winning over the working class who largely feel neglected by previous incarnations of so called progressive politics.

Memes inferring a likeness of Boris Johnson to Donald Trump and targeting his repeated gaffs aren’t going to help persuade people to move over and vote for Corbyn’s Labour, for example. We’ve seen the same tactic aimed at Trump in the US having little to no effect. Working class Trump voters often reply with, “but the economy is doing better and unemployment is down”. This is where people in the UK need to deviate from the US strategy by pushing back on the issues, while not focusing on Boris Johnson’s bumbling demeanour, dress sense or hairstyle.

However, if we look back at Trump and his supporters claims, just using GDP as one metric, growth under Trump is admittedly consistent, but Obama had even greater periods at times during his presidency. Regarding unemployment, this has consistently been on the decline since 2011, although primarily due to the rise of the gig economy and other precarious methods of employment. For the left in the UK, finding out why working class voters have switched to right wing parties and challenging their assertions, while offering well thought out answers is better than calling Conservative’s heartless bastards. As true as this may be, it does not help the debate.

bullingdon1987
One Bullingdon Club photo, two UK Prime Ministers

The UK is now on to its second upper class former Etonian and Bullingdon Club Prime Minister within 5 years of each other. If this photo isn’t an example of a failed democracy, I’m not sure what is. Johnson’s recently unveiled cabinet is equally disturbing, starting with Chancellor of Exchequer Sajid Javid. Despite his humble Rochdale roots, Javid is a former investment banker in the US, who can hardly be described as a man of the people. Next, the recently appointed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is even considered a right-winger among his own party. Raab studied at both Oxford and Cambridge University, just like most kids do (1% of the UK population graduate from Oxbridge).

Boris Johnson’s pick for home secretary is Priti Patel. Ms Patel is keen on the death penalty, but not so much on basic human rights. The daughter of Gujarati Indian parents who fled Uganda in the 1960’s, she seems desperate to kick the ladder away, advocating for stricter asylum rules and stronger enforcement of immigration laws. Along with the Prime Minister, this completes the line-up for the country’s top four political jobs, handed to those who have nothing in common with or any interest in the real world.

This is an ideal time to catapult an anti-neoliberal narrative into the minds of working class people. Although some people may not be convinced by Jeremy Corbyn (I’m not one of them), this a perfect opportunity for him. His main problem, however, continues to be elements within his own party who are determined to hamper any concerted effort to deliver discernible change.

Personally I see Jeremy Corbyn, as the first step, someone who can get the UK back on track. This involves moving away from a government that benefits the rich and idolises money, to a system that supports all of humanity. This progress could, therefore, be used as a springboard to promote further radical change in the future. Firstly Labour need to win their traditional base of support back, that of the working class and that will be a huge challenge.

 

 

“How the left was won”. The planned demise of a working class movement.

The left as it was once known is withering away. Of course there are pockets of resistance, the much maligned Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters being a prime example. There are certain politicians who show signs of leftist principles based on the pursuance of economic equality, who then feel the need to balance it up, succumbing to the pressure of identity politics. This is principally because many of the identarian left also make up the rank and file of Bernie Sanders (US), Jeremy Corbyn (UK) and Jacinda Ardern’s (NZ) supporters. To ignore them would be committing political suicide, in a world where winning is paramount to implementing any sort of change within the ‘democratic system’.

This erosion of the economic left has occurred from many directions, from within and indeed externally of the leftist citadel. In the mid to late 70’s Keynesian social democratic policies were running out of steam and so entered Thatcher in 1979, with an individualistic ideology known as neoliberalism. This is a brutal system of capitalism that had been waiting in the wings for the day Keynesian economics eventually spluttered and finally collapsed. Thatcher began an overt attack on the working class, that still persists today, as she laid to waste any remaining industries, selling them off at an alarming rate, for the rich and middle classes to benefit from.

Thatcher

The ‘Iron Lady’ made no attempt to hide her disdain for any semblance of a community, as the UK miners can attest to. The UK and also New Zealand a little later from 1984 entered a rabid world of competition and consumption, where more was better and if you didn’t succeed, you only had yourself to blame. Sadly today, this attitude is considered the societal norm across much of the world, where people fight for whatever metaphorical scraps are left on the table. Neoliberalism for many is the only political system they have ever known. With this in mind it’s not surprising the left with a more collectivist, traditionally compassionate perspective struggles to gain traction among the wolves of capitalism.

It makes sense that right wing policies from the Conservatives, Republican’s and National would attempt to manipulate the working class to gain more profit for their mates, but these attacks also occurred from inside “camp lefty”. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair made it clear that they were switching targets in the 90’s, coveting the middle class vote. While the relaxing of financial restrictions, such as Glass Steagall in the US echoed these sentiments. In the UK, Brown and Blair allowed the banks ever more leeway, contributing to the financial crash of 2008.

To appease their newly found middle class and professional class voters, these disciples of the “third way” focused on social justice concessions. This fight for rights for minorities was music to middle class ears, who had little money worries, just everyday dilemmas such as; where to go on holiday that year, or whether to build a summer house or install a new kitchen. Meanwhile, industry after industry was decimated and areas such as the North, the Midlands and South Wales, became one huge call centre, up until these jobs were inevitably shipped off shore, leading to even more unemployment

call centre

Now in the UK, the gig economy (bullshit jobs to you and me) account for 4.7 million workers, doubling in just three years. These jobs possess sparse workers rights, no paid holidays, little security and often requires employees to take on two jobs to cover the bills. This is not a basis for a secure society, but the disparity between the haves and have nots can be witnessed in voting habits. Starting with Blair and Clinton, these traditional working class parties gave up on the very people they were supposed to represent, in search of a less grimy class of voter. This societal neglect has since been returned with interest by the working class, in the form of Brexit and the election of Trump.

The middle class and lefty elite’s reactions on both sides of the pond, was to blame the very people who been shafted for decades, calling them xenophobic, racist or just plain dumb. I’m sure victim blaming is a massive taboo among the identarian left, but alas, maybe they are just the wrong kind of victim. In centrist, middle class land, the gender wage gap (which is a dubious statistic at best) and the crusade to get an even 50% of men and women in all high powered jobs, seems to be on the forefront of the identarian mind. Often they are people who come from very comfortable backgrounds, have attended university, possess very little life experiences, but insist on taking the moral high ground, but chiefly only on issues that directly concern them.

Maybe, just maybe there isn’t enough women who want to be CEO’s in top corporations to make up the 50% quota, or even MP’s or engineers for that matter. Lets be honest, who would blame them, CEO’s are often “Alpha Male” narcissists, who put their life and family on hold, working 80 hours a week for the sake of financial success, both theirs and the company’s. Incidentally, I have never seen identarians protesting to make up 50% of oil rig workers or other dangerous jobs. It also becomes eerily silent when highlighting areas women dominate, such as education (60% are of university graduates are women), new graduate medical students, psychology and publishing.

I am using this as an example to show the disconnect regarding the priorities of middle class, bourgeois, educated, professionals and the working class. Who’s main preoccupations are centred around feeding the kids, paying the bills, debts and getting decent work. If we look at “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs“, many working class people are desperately trying to get out of “Maslow’s Cellar”. While the champagne identarian pretend socialists are focused on growth needs, self-actualisation and trying get into the penthouse. To the centrist middle classes (who often classify themselves as left), the working class are an eyesore, an inconvenience and an enemy of civility. Personally, I would describe them as being crapped on from a great height, repeatedly for 4 decades and who are increasingly desperate for change.

8 stage maslows

The problem is, the working class have little representation. Most unions are toothless and throughout the western world working class MP’s are as rare as “rocking horse shit”. In the 1920’s 70% of Labour MP’s in the UK came from working class backgrounds. Since the 1980’s this has plummeted to today’s figure of just 8%. The powerless clearly lack any representation from people who can actually enact change. We are now awash with career MP’s, who are more interested in keeping their positions, with little experience outside of the political bubble. This is significant, in a recent study it was shown that working class MP’s have much more interest in welfare policies than careerists. In contrast these professional politicians are increasingly likely to adopt policies for political or strategic reasons in order to win over swing voters and ultimately elections.

None of this is set to change, as the working class will continue to be marginalised, silenced and underrepresented. In all likelihood this group will continue to avoid traditional left leaning parties such as Labour and its ilk. Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s hard work in this area, many people from the working class still consider Labour and the Democrats, as not representative of their values and concerns. The legacies of both Clinton and Blair are of course huge reasons for their warranted mistrust. I will conclude by suggesting that this has been a purposeful act by the right wing, the centrists, the media and the identarian left in order to quash working class concerns, while elevating their own self-serving agendas.

 

 

The information war: Venezuelan edition.

I’ve pondered a great deal about the current flow of information, either fact or fiction for quite some time. Recently, this stream of consciousness was reawakened whilst replying to comments from an old friend. The subject matter was Venezuela and the continued trouble that is occurring over there. This recent issue is principally between the current leader President Maduro and the US who are desperate to supplant their own presidential pick. My friend lives in Venezuela and has clearly different opinions to me, which in a nutshell suggests; “Maduro is a butcher and should be removed”.

Am I supposed to except this opinion on face value, because, after all he is living in the country we are discussing? My sentiments on Venezuela, for clarity are this; the oligarchs in Venezuela with the help of the US have made life difficult for the government and ordinary people. The goal is to manufacture consent for an eventual leadership change. To help with this, there has been an extensive use of sanctions and an intricate promotion of propaganda from the mainly opposition owned media to encourage support. In Venezuela 70% of the TV and radio stations are privately owned, 5% are state owned and the rest are community owned and often pro-government. It’s also important to recognise that the main newspapers although currently with small readerships are private companies and are often critical of the government.

Is it right that because as I don’t live in Venezuela and my friend does, I should forgo all my previous research in favour of someone’s opinion who happens to be geographically closer? I guess the question is; does a person’s position have more validity and objectivity, purely because they have some direct involvement in a particular event? My short answer is no. I would argue that on the contrary, an individual is increasingly likely to be more partisan than someone looking in from the outside, with barely any other motivation other than to unearth the truth.

In contrast, my friend’s opinions will be based, on his social status, his family’s social standing, political allegiances and any historical factors. Furthermore, they will be shaped by the environment he lives in, his work, any direct impact from the current government, what media he consumes and importantly how any potential changes may benefit him in the future, to name just a few factors. Incidentally, would I pick a friend in the UK and decide their views are representative of Brexit solely because they lived there? Probably not.

This highlights a huge problem in the age of constant but inconsistent information. How do you uncover the truth? How do we know that what we hear from allegedly morally upstanding sources is the truth? Finally, what is the truth? We are bombarded with information, much of it purporting to be truth, when in essence, a lot of it consists of masses of opinion wrapped around a slither of fact based evidence. This deluge of ‘alternative facts’ isn’t just confined to the internet either; mainstream or so called ‘old media’ is just as guilty.

Take the US for example; if you regularly watched the conservative Fox News channel, you would in all likelihood possess a completely different outlook than if you tuned in to the MSNBC with Rachel Maddow. The same could be said if we compare a Telegraph (right wing) reader with a Guardian (left wing) reader in the UK. You could argue that these people have probably already chosen their political allegiances and this would be largely true. But these media choices reinforce our partisan behaviour and this does not end with TV and newspapers.

MSNBC - Election Coverage - Season 2016
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

The internet is a minefield if you are trying to obtain facts and it’s all too easy to fall in to the trap of reinforcing what we already believe. This is made considerably worse by algorithms used on many sites. All these mechanisms manage to achieve, is to strengthen any preconceived ideas, which is terrible if you are searching for objectivity. Many of us spend the majority of our time reading what we want to see, watching what we expect and only going on websites that align with our views. I regularly witness individuals dismissing a news piece regardless of the quality of the journalism and the content, purely because it is not a media outlet that they use or indeed trust. By doing this, all we are achieving is further entrenching ourselves within our moral tribes.

So what do we do now? Firstly, it’s OK to acknowledge our biases, we all have them. I am happy to admit I am unashamedly on the left, however, there are some issues that are considered on the left that I don’t subscribe to. Next, read and watch stuff from a range of different perspectives, even if all this does is help you understand your enemy better, it still temporarily transports you out of your echo chamber, while offering an alternative viewpoint. When searching for the truth, it’s helpful to look at an article or website as if you were doing a scientific literature review, check; who wrote it, what’s the motivation, when was it written, is it still relevant, is it an opinion, news or research piece and is there any useful references going back to the original source.

Admittedly, this can be time consuming and a part of me feels we shouldn’t have to do this, but in the age of fake news everything requires scrutiny on both sides of the political aisle. From Breitbart and the National Review to Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post, plus anything in between, all of it requires careful consideration. Mainstream news tends to be slightly more subtle with their biases, such as the BBC in UK. Even so, at this point, many I’m sure will be screaming that the BBC is aligned to the right, while conservatives will contest there is a definite left tilt to the national broadcaster.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand particularly with the national newspaper the Herald, the bias is primarily down to the individual journalist. One area that most mainstream media providers are relatively agreed upon is the support of a capitalist, or more accurately neoliberal political system. You would have to travel to the margins of journalism to find a media outlet outside of the capitalist scope, such as the Morning Star in the UK.

So this brings me full circle, back to my discussion regarding Venezuela. Am I misguided about Maduro? Well, I propose it would be much easier for me to be indoctrinated by the ‘opposition’ than Maduro, purely by listening to the constant mainstream media. After all, most western media outlets promote a poor picture of Maduro and this includes New Zealand. Furthermore, the UK, Canada, Australia and Israel are all backing the US in their attempt to oust the democratically elected President.

In contrast, it is a reasonably arduous task to find a media outlet who is willing to even be neutral on this matter, let alone have any sympathies towards Maduro. Pleasingly the previously mentioned Morning Star appears prepared to report the news as they see it. Plus there are specialist sites such as venezuelanalysis.com which states that they are a left leaning and independent site. It’s worth noting that this is a counter narrative site, openly endorsed by academics such as Noam Chomsky and journalists including BAFTA award winning John Pilger.

A combination of reading non mainstream sites, as well as knowing a reasonable amount about the US in a historical sense and their quest for world dominance, provides me with something to offset the endless anti-Maduro rhetoric. A quick glance at the history between the two countries will tell you that this isn’t something that has occurred overnight. Interference in Venezuelan affairs began in the 19th century, however, in the 20th century most of the meddling was unsurprisingly due to oil. In 1958 while other nations in the region were succumbing to US backed dictatorships, Venezuela escaped.

These military and security personal of the US backed regimes, were often trained by the US Army School of the Americas. This department specialised in training kidnapping, torture, assassination and democracy suppression. US backed death squads authored torture manuals, while they murdered, tortured and terrorised innocent people from Central America to Argentina. In contrast Venezuela were left relatively in peace for decades. Throughout these times, however, the US never gave up on the idea of Venezuelan interference, which would increase in intensity following the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez salutes

During the Chavez period, the Bolivarian revolution reduced poverty and illiteracy, while increasing the health of millions of Venezuelan’s. Despite this, George W Bush backed a failed coup against Chavez in 2002, famously calling him “the devil”. In 2015 Obama declared Venezuela as an “extraordinary threat to national security”. Although, considering the nation had never started a war in it’s history, this assertion was nothing short of ludicrous. It’s worth pointing out that the US has; intervened, attacked, invaded or occupied Latin American or Caribbean countries more than 50 times. To add to the absurdity, while Obama spoke, the US military were regularly bombing seven countries.

In 2017, Donald Trump announced sanctions against Nicolás Maduro, while labelling him a dictator. Despite this, Trump continued to support the brutal Saudi Arabian regime, plus backing dictators in Bahrain, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to name a few. Now, President Trump is under the guidance of neoconservative John Bolton (who has never seen a war he didn’t like), he has thus declared his support for the puppet president Juan Guaido. This is just one of the most recent examples of the US crushing any nation that has the audacity to steer away from the corporate/Washington power base. Nobody is suggesting Maduro’s leadership is perfect. But to call him a dictator, therefore, worthy of regime change, while openly supporting US friendly tyrants, is the type of hypocrisy and baseless rhetoric we have all become accustomed to.

It may well be difficult to obtain good information in the ironically named ‘age of information’. But one thing we can draw upon as guidance is history. When we trace the history US foreign policy it shows us that since WWII the US has intervened in the leaderships of more countries than any other nation by far. It generally has two reasons to enact change; one is ideological, what Noam Chomsky in his book “What Uncle Sam Really Wants”, calls “the threat of a good example“. The second motivation is for resources (in this case oil), sadly for Venezuela, they tick both boxes.

I have no reason to believe that this modus operandi of the US government has suddenly deviated from the last 70 years of foreign policy. So although it is reasonable to be questioning of Maduro and his leadership, I cannot see how a coup will benefit the vast majority of Venezuelan’s. Maduro’s led PSUV party, supports much of the poorer people in the country and not the oligarch led opposition. That is primarily why he is in this current dilemma. I’ll let John Pilger explain my grounds for scepticism towards the sincerity of the US and hope for the sake of the people a coup is avoided.

 

Time to fight for the working class.

For a couple decades, issues of class have been low on the list of priorities. Many of the ‘faux left’ parties have looked down their snobby, privately educated, liberal noses at the working class. In stark contrast, they never fail to grasp any opportunity to virtue signal for an array of gender and race issues. It appears unfashionable to fight for people who have suffered the most from neoliberalism. As a result of this abandonment and derision over the years, many now vote for the right. Despite the fact it is those very same capitalist policies they tick the box for, that are destroying them. So, rather than callously stating “oh it’s just turkey’s voting for Christmas”, maybe we should investigate why this has occurred.

It could be hypothesised that the middling, moderate, smart arse, pompous, plastic left are pushing people to the right, towards the Conservatives, National (NZ), Liberals (Australia), Conservatives (Canada) and the Republican’s. In some cases even further along the left/right continuum, to parties such as UKIP. Who until their recent capitulation, became popular within the working class. Throughout Europe we have also seen a rise of harder line nationalist parties mainly over eastern and central parts. Meanwhile, some traditionally left leaning parties are trying hard to realign back to their working class ideals. Most notably Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in the UK and to some extent Jacinda Ardern in NZ. But mistrust still persists, partly because of a previous centrist hangover in the form of New Labour in the UK. While in New Zealand it was 33 years of neoliberalism first conceived by a Labour government in 1984, that didn’t help matters.

Across the pond despite a recent, small progressive revival, the corporate idiots in the Democrat party are still very much in control and have failed to learn anything from the Hillary Clinton disaster. What makes this a travesty, is the working class have been abandoned by the party that since Roosevelt was supposed to fight for them. This group have been the biggest losers regarding employment and have been told by their so called moral superiors that they voted Trump because they are uneducated, racist, sexist and ignorant. Well guess what, if you really want a truly left government, no matter where you may be from, these are the people we need to understand and reach, because supporting the working class is what the left is all about.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, you will have noticed we’ve had a couple of important events on both sides of the Atlantic. This should have initiated a huge alarm call for the liberal elite; one being the Brexit result to leave Europe and the other Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. What arrogantly transpired, was not a period of deep reflection within the liberal world, but an outright condemnation of people who had the audacity to vote against their wishes. In the US, while Hillary Clinton sulked, the “not my president” brigade were out in force, because to them democracy suddenly wasn’t fair anymore. Following the result, noticeably there were a few very rich, connected individuals (Clinton and co), telling middle class people that it was the fault of those stupid fools from the working class for voting Trump.

We can witness these similar precocious, middle class types at college campus protests. A speaker who may be challenging in some ideological way can be no platformed in a heart beat, as it may rock their precious sensibilities. A similar vibe is also evident at events such as the ‘women’s march’ whereby millions of relatively privileged, educated, pussy hat wearing liberals, gather to protest……..I guess about something (usually Trump). All the while, taking selfies and brandishing brightly coloured banners, to presumably post on Instagram and Facebook. These occasions have more the appearance of a middle class day out complete with picnic hamper and a bottle of Prosecco, rather than a serious protest about something tangible. One concern that never gathers much traction within these groups is economic inequality, primarily because the majority of these fair weather protesters are pretty economically privileged.

not my pres.jpg
I hope it was permanent marker?

In the UK, just like the US, there is a predominantly middle class core of people called ‘Remainers’ who think they know better and propose that people who voted to leave the EU must be racist, stupid and gullible. No internal system checks or reflection as to why this went so badly wrong for them, just instant projection. It would appear that the metropolitan elite apparently know what’s good for the proletariat. Indeed people did vote to leave on issues such as; sovereignty, xenophobia and racism, but millions cast their vote for a myriad of other reasons. For decades there has been an all out assault on the working class from the liberal left and the right, attacking their identities and their places of work. Many politicians see the working class as an embarrassing problem. In return a majority of this group have stopped listening to Westminster and have started trusting their own experiences.

One of the suggested indicators regarding who voted for Brexit was education, areas of average education tended to vote leave, while areas with residents with college degrees were more compelled to vote to stay in the EU (71%). I’ll make it clear now, a university degree doesn’t automatically grant you the intellectual and moral high ground. Contrary to the current orthodoxy, education does not begin and end in the lecture hall either. But, there is a well established link that proposes inadequate education often leads to poor employment opportunities and decreased social engagement, therefore, providing a differing set of experiences from those of the middle class. Recently, as if people haven’t had enough of being told what to do, 670,000 people descended on London for the very Orwellian sounding ‘People’s Vote’ march. Just for the record, I will declare that I have no particular axe to grind regarding Brexit, as I think while there’s a neoliberal system on both sides, it’s a lose-lose. This is why Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to win with supporters from either side, I suspect he just doesn’t have enough of a stake in the outcome.

A large portion of ‘Team Remainer’ I would hazard a guess were created, when most of the ‘anglosphere’ adopted a similar mix of policies from the 90’s onwards, which you could loosely label ‘third way’. This comprised of more deregulation for the banking sector, such as Bill Clinton’s abolishment of Glass Steagall, while governments became increasing corporate centric. Another trait was the transformation of citizens to consumers. We suddenly had an abundance of choice, but this was only restricted to our spending habits, not our political parties. Most ‘supposedly’ left leaning parties, particularly Blair with New Labour abandoned the working class as his core voter base, in favour of the middle classes. This was highlighted by his repeal of ‘clause four‘ which effectively linked the Labour Party with socialism. This move was a definitive break from Labour’s past, socialism and the working class.

remainics

In turn, this new core of labour supporters were offered an enticing lifestyle, through neoliberal economics, punctuated by socially liberal policies. This on the whole, distracted, enriched and anaesthetised the middle classes. With less to worry about, they now could pursue other political issues such as identity politics. Which in turn could be used as moral currency in the sacred land of the pious. Yet, behind the cosy, socially caring rhetoric, economic inequality in the UK and other western nations began to widen. On the other side of the tracks, the working class regularly saw jobs vanish and whole industries dismantled under New Labour’s watch. Blair enthusiastically continued with Thatcherism on many fronts, in particular believing that the maintenance of free markets was the most efficient way to implement economic policy. New Labour also kept most of Thatcher’s sell-offs intact; BP, British Steel, British Airways among others. Additionally Blair continued with the anti-trade Union policies set in the 80’s and 90’s.

In defence of Tony Blair, he was responsible for bringing in the minimum wage, which did help the poorly paid and the exploited to some degree. At the risk of appearing cynical, I always felt this was no more than ‘lip service’ to the poor. Even so, New Labour could boast some impressive achievements; a dramatic cut in NHS waiting times, an 8 fold capital investment increase in education and growth in GDP per head by 20%. So with this in mind, why did Labour lose over 5 million voters from 1997 to 2010? While, at the same time membership fell from 407,000 in 1997 to 109,000 in 2004. Possibly, because New Labour was dedicated to a steady diet of centrist policies, which unsurprisingly did not meet the needs of diverse communities across the UK, many of whom were estranged by globalisation.

Blair doggedly adhered to the free market and services to advance economic growth. While manufacturing and wages declined outside of London, leaving a whole slew of folk left to fend for themselves. Secure trades were often replaced with insecure jobs, such as call centre work and warehouse employment. Blair’s centrist narrative was that of a rights-based individualism, while working class communities talked about the erosion of communal practices and institutions such as; pubs, neighbours and community centres. New Labour had no interest in values that were important to the working class such as; collective self-help, reciprocity and fraternity. Nor did Blair have any inclination to use New Labour as a vehicle for collective empowerment, in contrast he was more invested in managerialism, statism and centralisation. This working class rejection from Blair and by the Labour Party in general, I would wager, had a lot to do with the overwhelming eventual support for Brexit later on.

A similar outright rejection of globalism and corporate liberalism was equally evident in the US, which helped give rise to Trump. In an area known as the ‘Rust Belt’, states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana among others had been caught up in massive deindustrialisation, economic decline and urban decay. Workers had observed their manufacturing jobs shipped overseas, an increase in automation and a diminishing of the coal and steel industries. There have been suggestions that Trump turned these voters from Democrat to Republican, but the most accurate explanation could be that Democrats lost these voters. Obama who was once a big hope, offered nothing in real terms to the people of these regions. His centrist doctrine of ‘free market’ economics and social justice crumbs delivered poor returns in the region. Jobs continued to haemorrhage out the area, while real wages decreased.

nasty clinton

Trump during the campaign, in line with his modem operandi, offered nothing concrete. But he tapped into the desperation, emotion and nostalgia of working class people. He declared that he was going to restore manufacturing jobs to the area, while clamping down on immigration. Now, whether either of these things are possible or even true, is irrelevant, as the campaign had no relation to facts. This was about a narcissistic populist, telling an impoverished, dejected community precisely what they wanted to hear. What did the Democrats under Hillary Clinton do in response? In an act of extreme elitism, she brazenly stated that half of Trump supporters were a “basket of deplorables,” who were incidentally, racist, xenophobic or misogynistic. This comment was been vehemently rejected by Bernie Sanders, who rightly stated that the working class simply do not have a party to support them.

Countless middle class Hillary supporters and the liberal press suggested that Trump supporters were voting against their best interests. This conclusion is simplistic at best and views the problem entirely through a liberal lens. One aspect working class people voted for was dignity. As a group they have witnessed not only their jobs stripped away, but the heart of their community and their role within it. An ability to give, share and their capability as providers has been severely diminished. Although Trump’s campaign may have been disingenuous, it offered a possible return to dignity and when you have no hope, sometimes it’s worth taking a chance on the unknown.

So maybe we now have a bit of an idea why left leaning parties historically lost the working class. It could also be argued that many people don’t even identify as working class anymore. In the UK only 24% see themselves as working classed as opposed to 67% in the 1980’s. Many people who are struggling financially tend not to call themselves ‘working class’ as it is considered just another term for being poor. In contrast 71% state that they are middle class, which if you consider the UK has had 10 years of austerity with declining real wages, this is possibly not an accurate depiction of the truth. On the contrary, as a kid growing up in North Manchester, being working class was the norm and not something I or anybody else gave much thought to. I left school with 1 ‘O’ level in French and before I joined the navy I spent a year on a YTS (youth training scheme) fixing street lighting for the council. Going to the pub and playing footie on the weekend wasn’t just some romantic, wistful or even stereotypical reflection, it was part of life.

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East Lancashire Paper Mill, Radcliffe

Now, no longer is it the working class who feel integral to the spirit of the community. The old working class solidarity has been savaged by neoliberalism’s destruction of industry and the ties that held communities together. Many working class people now feel lonely, unhappy and pessimistic, while in contrast it’s the middle class who feel emboldened and a part of the community. Many factories, steel works, paper mills, collieries and shipyards had clubs, sports teams and some sense of belonging for people. No doubt that a large proportion of this started to decline long ago. Although, even in the 80’s and to a certain extent the 90’s in my hometown, which was primarily centred around paper production, all had popular clubs connected to the mills and some of the best sports facilities in the town. This is not a sentimental view of days gone by, but a reasoned look at what materialises when the ties that bind people together are broken. Thatcher never believed in society and was therefore, determined to destroy it. Blair continued with this philosophy by substituting the importance of the community and people, with consumerism.

Hordes of people from these now depleted communities regularly did dangerous, dirty, manually taxing jobs, that most of us wouldn’t wish to do. These workers often got by due to a semblance of solidarity, which existed throughout the industrial world to varying degrees. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that people who live in communities that didn’t gain from neoliberalism feel cut adrift, angry, lost, confused and are looking for something other than what currently exists. So why talk about the working class? Why are they important? Predominantly it is this group that keeps the place ticking over; refuse collectors, sewage workers and the many poorly treated warehouse workers all over the globe. This section of society have been taken advantage of more than any other, they’ve lost jobs, seen their pay decreased and witnessed government supports stripped away through austerity or pure vindictiveness. Even the phrase ‘working class’ is now, maybe by design, considered a derogatory phrase.

It’s politically ‘en vogue’ now to only care about issues pertaining to melanin levels and genitalia. However, class warfare is constantly being waged and shit rolls down hill. The ruling elite uses propaganda and distraction aimed at the middle class; such as the mainstream media and welcome theatre such as Brexit. The middle class primarily blame the working class, for example, voting Brexit, among these accusations are suggestions of a lack of intelligence, racism and xenophobia. In turn the working class take their frustrations out on the ‘unworking class’ and immigrants. This all plays into the hands of governments and corporations, who thrive when people are divided. Quite simply, if a left leaning party has any serious intentions of gaining power, with a strong desire to dismantle neoliberalism, it needs to engage with the working class and regain that once common ground.

What the hell happened? And the next President of the US is………

For the last few days I have been trying to collect my thoughts regarding the prospect of Donald Trump inhabiting the oval office as the President of the United States in January. For those who follow western politics, this should not have come as much of a surprise, especially if one reflects on Brexit. For the people in the US to vote a clueless, misogynistic, racist, climate change denying, narcissistic bucket of puke, things must have been pretty bad.

Sadly the conditions were perfect and the writing had been on the wall for some time, democracy in the US has failed, more specifically neoliberalism. Whichever flavour of the establishment you chose you ended up with same crappy taste in your mouth. You were left with the unsatisfying feeling that nothing tangible was going to change for the average citizen. Regardless of the tribe, Republican or Democrat, the game would be rigged for life’s winners to continue reaping the benefits, while the peasants suffered year upon year. Some social justice crumbs were thrown off the table during the Democratic Party years, while military spending usually escalated during times of Republican rule, but mostly things stayed on track. The rich got much richer, whilst the poor were completely disregarded. This continues unabated today, inequality is wider than ever and the rich with an army of lobbyist at their disposal makes sure that it stays this way. The vulnerable in society are at the mercy of an unforgiving machine, whilst the working and middle classes have no sway on policies at all. They are given an illusion of democracy in the form of a vote, in between times they do not matter. The rich have used their money to influence government, hence after 40 years of neoliberalism what exists is a plutocracy, an establishment consisting of CEO’s and government facilitators.

Following the financial disaster 2008 Obama was swept to power on a wave of hope and excitement. Eight years later he has achieved next to nothing; a watered down healthcare plan, partial military de-escalation in some regions and a dubious Noble peace prize. On the other side of the ledger; wars have escalated all over the world, nothing discernible has happened regarding climate change and inequality has sky rocketed. People in working class areas and the poorer end of society watched bankers go unpunished despite destroying the economy, while their jobs disappeared overseas, for others pay and benefits diminished out of sight. While all this occurred the neoliberals of varying shades stood by and watched this unfold. People started to get angry, very angry.

This wasn’t the type of anger that is often expressed in mass marches, with hordes of brightly dressed people with face paint, music, placards and whistles, that you often see when liberals are disgruntled. It was a fury that was most probably directed at the TV while watching the news after steelwork or reading the paper. This was the rage of people who worked in car plants, farms, steel mills for 30-40 years, who were witnessing nothing but unemployment and destruction in their hometowns. The enraged were often but not exclusively white, working class, they were seething and desperate. You didn’t hear about them in the polls particularly, but in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin their numbers escalated. No political party or politician could meet their needs or understand their plight, then along came Donald Trump.

If you are a liberal, before this event you may have been relatively happy with the status quo, college educated, maybe living in a diverse community, you will probably have no idea why people were drawn to Trump. You might have watched Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and concluded that the world isn’t great, but it’s not too bad and that ‘steady as she goes’ is just what the country needs. For manyHillary Clinton in the liberal world Hillary Clinton was  deemed ‘a safe pair of hands’, if not too spectacular. Sure many liberals would like to withdraw from war, reduce racism, close the gender pay gap among other things on their wish list, but on the whole Hillary didn’t seems too divisive. From the opposite perspective Hillary represented everything the ‘forgotten’ were fighting against; steeped in governmental bureaucracy, massively rich, totally embedded within Wall St and the ruling elite. For them she was the very symbol of the demise and ultimately the collapse of US democracy. Sadly for Hillary Rodham Clinton she proved in boxing parlance to be ‘tailor made’ for Donald Trump.

I’ve heard people dismiss the near 50% of voters in the US as racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic. While this may be true of the man himself, judging by the debates and media reports, this doesn’t necessarily directly translate to the bulk of his supporters. There is no denying his rhetoric towards Mexicans and Muslims would delight the racists within the movement. Likewise his crass comments regarding women, the disabled and the LGBT community may comfort the odd dinosaur who hasn’t quite made it into the 21st century. This doesn’t mean the millions of people who voted for him are bigoted. Trump managed to harness all that anger among his believers and direct it towards practically anyone who was different to them. Minorities as in most parts of Europe currently, were used as scapegoats, to the converted, this sounded like a plausible reason as to why the wheels had fallen off. He used the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, it was vague and empty, but it tapped into some feelings of nostalgia and a yearning for an America that probably never existed. His debating skills were akin to a bully in the schoolyard, but this didn’t matter. Policies were never mentioned, only baseless boasts and insults aimed at Hillary Clinton. The problem is, it worked, people were so lost and desperate they hung on to every bombastic word that came out of his intensely narcissistic mouth.

During the aftermath over this last week we have heard a lot of opinion from liberal hacks, there was one who declared it’s a white thing and that ‘they’ had nothing to be angry about because other people have it worse. While Amanda Marcotte stated in her article that the male white anger was used as a weapon to maintain their superiority and therefore wasn’t valid. These articles and others like it are dangerous, primarily because they serve to further divide the people by race or gender. They continue to ignore the underlying issue, which is a systemic failure of neoliberalism. Instead they approach this global problem of a broken economic and social entity through myopic ‘single issue’ lenses. In a way they are no different to Trump supporters as they are only interested or angered by issues that are important to themselves.

There is no doubt that this will be a tremendously difficult time for all minorities, as the lunatic has taken over the asylum. This will encourage fellow sociopaths to act out their wildest racist, misogynistic, homophobic dreams. We must be aware, however, even though incidences of hate crimes have increased since the election, these people have always been there, they are the minority, but they will feel temporarily empowered. We need to fight against this kind of abhorrent bigotry, it has no place in a civilized society, these people however should not be confused with the millions of confused but not so dangerous voters who we need to strike up a dialogue with. All sides need to find what binds us together rather than what tears us apart. Most people want safe societies, great education for everybody, clean warm dry living conditions, jobs that pay fair wages, affordable good quality transportation to get us there, excellent health services and many others. These are not race issues, gender requirements or LGBT only problems, these are basic needs that everyone should have access to. If we look towards what we have in common rather than what our differences are, we may create a better society.