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The Jeremy Corbyn Okey-Cokey

You put your left wing out, you put your left wing in … (trad. Labour)

What a farce! All we need now is for Boris Johnson to stagger through a door with his trousers around his ankles. Those of you too young to get the reference should look up Brian Rix and the Whitehall Farces. These were staged at the now defunct Whitehall Theatre and involved characters toing and froing through various doors, mostly bedrooms, and invariably ended with the main character, played by the excellent Brian Rix being caught with his trousers down.

It seems that the establishment has woken up to the mistake they made in getting rid of poor Jeremy. Now they have nobody to blame for all the misfortunes currently afflicting our poor, benighted, soon to be even more disastrously affected country. So they staged a Festival of The Suspension of Jeremy, only just falling short of declaring it a public holiday. This, unfortunately only lasted for a few days before even the poor excuses of journalists in the extended Tory propaganda machine had little to return to but the blatant, open corruption at the heart of the British Establishment. Sinking the boats of desperate poor people had lost its appeal. Reporting on the poor people being killed in Yemen, Syria and Gaza remains strictly forbidden. Then someone had a brilliant idea: bring Jeremy back, then you can suspend him again! Joy everywhere! Robert Peston almost choked on his toast and marmalade and Laura Kuenssberg swooned with delight. Margaret Hodges even allowed herself to be dragged away from gazing lovingly at the bank statements for her millions stashed away in tax havens to spit out a bit more bile. It is the gift that keeps on giving. This could run until at least Christmas and by the new year, when the real Brexit misery strikes and people begin to realise just how badly they have been swindled, the Johnson gang will have ridden out of town clutching their ill-gotten gains. A new gang will have appeared clutching hands to hearts saying “it wasn’t me guv” and we will be so happy because when we give them control of all the money they are bound to use it all to help us. That is what they will tell us and, after all, they are such nice well spoken gentlemen, so we can believe everything they say.

Quote of the Week

“I am no longer accepting the things I can not change, I am changing the things I can not accept”

— Angela Davis

Has Labour a Future?

The flood of members from the Labour Party has reached biblical proportions. Figures are difficult to come by, not least because the chosen leaving mechanism for most people seems to be a simple cancelled direct debit. That leaves members on the database as they progress through various levels from late paying through lapsed until the data protection laws (hopefully) force their final removal. In all that time they might still find themselves counted in some quoted figures. Most of the “big beasts” of the left remain, though that could change rapidly, even though Jeremy Corbyn is under suspension. There is, indeed, a campaign to get Jeremy reinstated. During all this the clearly stated message is that members should stay and fight in or for the Labour Party, although there is probably an element of “they would say that wouldn’t they.”

For anybody still wavering, or for those hoping that the Socialist Campaign Group MPs remain within Labour, I would like them to try and answer the question that I have asked repeatedly but never received even an attempt at an answer. This is to provide a clear route map to a genuinely left wing Labour government. In order to achieve this it seems the following steps are a bare minimum.

Force a new leadership election; there is no hope with Starmer in charge.

Get a left wing candidate on the ballot against rule changes designed specifically to prevent this.

Win the ballot following rules specifically designed to prevent a repeat of Corbyn’s victory.

Win an election faced with the same media onslaught, with the same back-stabbing MPs behind you backed by the same big money as in 2019. They will not be complacent and caught napping again as they were in 2017.

Hang on to power and your principles through the shitstorm the establishment will unleash.

Does anyone seriously think this can be achieved for the next election in 4 years, or even the next? Even if this is all managed you will still be stuck in the same system as before, fighting every step of the way. All you will have accomplished in the end is to shift around some real estate in the Westminster Village.

What needs to happen cannot be done by the Labour Party which is no longer the party of the working class and the Trade Union movement. The Labour Party, like other parties around the world that come vaguely within the category “Social Democratic”, has now become the party of the educated technician/middle class. If you want the figures and detail on this you should read the excellent “Capital and Ideology” by Thomas Piketty, with further analysis in the equally excellent “The Tyranny of Merit” by Michael Sandel. Those without a university degree, and particularly those trapped in poverty, no longer have direct representation in any of the major parties. With a few notable exceptions the middle class, highly educated Labour MPs do not ring true with this part of the electorate which leave them wide open to charlatans like Trump and Farage who, despite their own background, manage to convey the “man down the pub” image that strikes a chord. Those who hope for some repetition of the 1945 Labour government should check up on the background and educational status of the MPs and the cabinet, which gave it a lot of credence as a working class party. This is not the same today (except again for those very few notable exceptions).

There is no time to wait for the vagaries of the electoral system to hopefully turn in the right direction. If the recent news about methane leakage in the Arctic is confirmed, the most pessimistic current warnings about global warming will become optimistic. The forests of the Amazon, Indonesia, Alaska and Siberia are still disappearing at an ever increasing rate. Species are being forced into new habitats and closer contact with each other and with humans. With 3000 variations of coronavirus in the bat population alone just waiting to mutate and jump species, the pandemic is set to be another of those once a century events about to become annual. Inequality is increasing at an ever greater rate promoting civil discord and unrest. Huge populations are on the move seeking sanctuary.

The only way we can force action in time is by forging a new mass movement, bringing together movements like Gilets Jaune, BLM, XR who are already almost daily achieving more real change than the Labour Party has managed in 70 years. For this they need leaders, ones that can be trusted not to turn them into personality cults and a path to autocracy.

Don’t sit there indulging in factional squabbles and beauty contests. Don’t argue about the finer points of Marxism or what Gramsci once said. Don’t start yet another debate on what is the working class now. Get out there and change something! #Solidarity.

Quote of the Week

“Ideology is the mistaken belief that your beliefs are neither beliefs nor mistaken”

Quote of the Week

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Not So Noble Art of Bullshit

Politicians have always been among the least trusted of people.They have always had a seemingly limitless capacity to bend, stretch, embroider and be economical with the truth. There has, however, in the past been a limit or perhaps more a Rubicon that you cross at your peril. Back in the days of Harold MacMillan, Rab Butler, Ian McLeod, Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson and so on, including, though it sticks in my throat to say it, Margaret Thatcher and her posse. If someone told an outright, barefaced lie, and were found out, then their career, in public life anyway, was effectively over. In addition in those days we had real investigative journalists so the chances of being found out were quite large. Things started to go bad in the time of Blair with the rise of “spin doctors”, which coincided with large drops in circulation for newspapers and the advent of the powerful, rich owners who were prepared to subsidise a loss-making fourth estate in return for the influence it gave them and the opportunity to mould the world into their preferred shape.

The deterioration in standards continued but new depths were plumbed when the Trump mob took over in the big city and the Johnson gang rode into town. Being the ones left standing in the gunfight at the Brexit Corral gave them a carte blanche to rewrite the rule book as they assumed command everywhere. Lying was now in. To be strictly accurate the correct technical term for what they do is “bullshit”, which has moved from its slang origins to attain academic respectability after the seminal paper “On Bullshit” by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt and subsequent publications. The skill to recognise or call BS is now taught in some American schools and colleges; it might be a very good idea to introduce that into the core curriculum everywhere. A liar knows what the truth is and deliberately tries to induce a belief in something known to be untrue. A bullshitter has a required effect in mind, and works back from that to determine what to say and do now in order to produce that desired effect.

The important difference is that the bullshitter does not care, or probably even know, if any of what they say is true, it is only the effect that matters. In the nature of things most of what they say is untrue but peppered with some accidental truths. For example, the number of tests for Covid-19 carried out in this country has been extremely low compared to most other comparable countries, which is not something a politician would like to admit. They want the public to think they are doing a good job. A liar, knowing the truth, would claim that sufficient tests were being done, knowing it to be untrue; they might quote a figure from the one area where a decent number were happening if they were pressed about actual numbers, but they would try not to give too much detail that might result in them being found out. The bullshitter would not worry at all about being found out. They would decide how many tests would be enough to justify the claim and quote that figure without even considering how large the actual number is. In order to prove them wrong someone would have to be prepared to put in the work to negotiate the maze of statistics to get the actual number and by that time the world would have moved on, even if they could find someone prepared to publish, and, above all, the desired effect would have been achieved. Enough people would have accepted the made up figure in lieu of any other information to the contrary that was readily available to them. Bullshit borrows heavily from what is now the science of propaganda. This is why the likes of Dominic Cummings are becoming so important; they are extremely skilful bullshitters.

It can be very difficult to pin down a bullshitter. Even the amateur bullshitter, we have all met them, seeking the effect of being thought knowledgeable about a subject, will spout a load of made up nonsense with a few half remembered gems, but will very soon change the subject or move away in the face of genuine knowledge or detailed questioning. In the same way the professional bullshitting politician will avoid interviews where possible and seek to exclude any journalists who have the temerity to actually investigate. They will choose a medium, preferably from the social media, which keeps reality at a distance so they can make their pronouncements unhindered by any audience response, or they will delegate where possible and, where not, carefully select the questioners that they are prepared to face.

Is there anything we can do to counter this absolutely disgraceful new weapon in the armoury of the elite? Well, yes, the obvious answer is not to vote these monsters into power in the first place. This is, however, easier said than done. The very quality that we are talking about can be used to its greatest effect at election times, especially when backed and magnified by one of the most effective propaganda machines the world has ever seen. It can be difficult to blame people who have a hard enough time managing their lives through extremely hazardous times, if they are taken in by such a powerful machine wielded by such expert users. The obvious example of this happening, which will undoubtedly become a classic example in future textbooks, is the character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn. How a thoroughly decent, honest person who has tirelessly and consistently fought for peace and against racism in all its forms can become universally thought of as an anti-semite and terrorist supporter is quite unbelievable, except that it happened.

It is somewhat easier to make progress with younger people who have real concerns about the world they are inheriting and real problems eking out a reasonable existence. The big problem lies with the older generation, more numerous than before, secure in their triple-locked pensions and houses bought before prices went through the roof, who quite genuinely believe the political world is much the same as it was 50 years ago with at least an element of truth in everything they hear. They must be taught that the world outside their cosy cottages really has changed drastically for the worse and everyone has to be taught how to “call BS”, recognize and reject bullshit. Once that is done we can start pushing out the real information and build a new society based on truth and mutual respect. Then we can really chuck those *!&%ing bullshitters out!