Sunday, 31 July 2016

...And The Will Of The People Must Be Respected: Why We Don't Vote As We're Told

The Twofold Principle
I'm currently in popcorn-munching mode over recent political developments. You know that Twofold Principle I'm always banging on about? Well the unfolding events are proving me right: you violate it at your peril; it's a balance, not a contest. Let's take a closer look at what this actually means.


As I've said any number of times you violate the Twofold Principle at your peril. When there is a pronounced imbalance on either side we end up with problems because people see the matter as a clash between two opposing interests rather than a Yin/Yang balance to be maintained. Authoritarians of every stripe hate the part about the will of the people and collectivists can't be dealing with that part about the individual. Maintaining the balance between the rights of the individual and his or her responsibility towards society is hard but it can be done. So what has the Twofold Principle got to to with Corbyn, et al?

People crave change


The neoliberal consensus has resulted in the binary politics that divides our societies today. It's so deeply entrenched that Western countries are copying each others' legislation and the former Communist states are copying us. The growing divide between the very rich and the very poor is being dismissed as a necessary by-product of the necessity of economic growth and to question the role of Capitalism in it is to take the Trotsky line and bite the hands that feed us. But it does need to be questioned. All is not well with the status quo. While capitalism was decimating the economies of the Global South so Western consumers could have cheap goods, etc., we didn't give a rat's because it wasn't our problem. Now that they've brought austerity our way we are kicking off... and how! People crave change in three areas: society, economy, and security.

Society


People swing right when they're scared, and if you look around you'll see that we're scared. While we loftily declare to those in lower income brackets that they shouldn't presume to demand higher wages for the work they do lest their increase decrease our own take-home pay, we vote for people whose policies maintain a status quo in which wages are kept down for everyone except the very rich. Result: fewer and fewer of us can afford the luxury of being able to accept a low wage and try to live on it without claiming benefits or going to food banks. As this vicious cycle continues its downward spiral we cast about for someone to blame and the likes of UKIP pop up with a scapegoat: the foreigners. People swing right when they're scared instead of looking around them for the actual causes of their woes. This makes them susceptible to voting for whoever they think will solve their problems, and it's usually a strongman figure. Too late they realise that what they thought they voted for and what they actually voted for are different things; the strongman can only deliver a turbo-charged version of the regime that created all the problems in the first place. You can see these truths in play in Brexit and in the Corbyn/Sanders and Trump phenomena.

Brexit


Strongman figure Nigel Farage and the Brexit brigade (great name for a band, right?) had promised us control of our borders, i.e. the end of freedom of movement from the EU to Britain. Now we face the possibility of the use of French as the lingua franca of diplomacy where Brexit is concerned. Bearing this in mind it's hardly surprising that former Blair spin doctor Alistair Campbell is spouting off about the need to launch a guerilla offensive against Brexit using words like "unelected elite" as if he knows what that means. His argument opens with this strawman:

Can someone point me to that part of our great unwritten Constitution that says if you lose a vote you must immediately agree with those who won it? - Alastair Campbell on why Remainers won’t shut up and do what they’re told, by Alastair Campbell for The New European

Nobody is telling Remainers they must immediately agree with Brexit but it is the will of the people, however stupid, ignorant, and misguided you think they are. Every authoritarian everywhere has a paternalistic streak that says they know better than you do, lovey, now run along like a good little (gender of your choice), and Campbell's Blairite authoritarianism shines through this article in every phrase. What he can't and won't admit is that we're not obliged at all to agree with the results of the Referendum, but to accept it. Why? Try using those arguments to further an anti-equal marriage campaign. Can I watch? The principle is exactly the same. Meanwhile, the Federalists are working even harder on ever closer union, as if the campaigners in other countries calling for exit haven't said a word.

Corbyn/Sanders


The arguments being made against the most popular Labour MP by a country mile are basically that he's too far to the left to be electable. Most of the people making those arguments are either a) over-privileged or b) cowed by the press. Sanders had pretty much the same problem; neoliberals in their parties are so obsessed with gaining and maintaining power they will ruthlessly oppose anyone who calls them back to their general principles. This is why an apparently socialist party flips out at the thought of Jeremy Corbyn, who is actually a Bennite, leading it. Sanders faced opposition from his own party's establishment, and for the same reasons. The latest development in the Corbyn story is quite astonishing:

Senior Labour rebels are so convinced that Jeremy Corbyn will win the leadership contest that they are planning to elect their own leader and launch a legal challenge for the party's name.

...But the fact the plans are now actively being considered by some of the party’s most senior moderate figures shows the level of despondency at Owen Smith’s chances of success. - Labour rebels plan to elect own leader and create ‘alternative’ group if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected, by Ben Riley-Smith for The Telegraph

Let's get this straight: party establishment members are so enraged at the success of Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election that they're planning to form a breakaway group, then legally hijack the name to push the democratically elected leader out and get their own candidate in? Okay, how exactly is this going to save the Labour party? They lost the last election by being almost indistinguishable from the Tories, not by being too far to the left. That Labour List's Jon Cruddas came to the conclusion that it wasn't promoting austerity enough is a problem in and of itself.

The first hard truth is that the Tories didn’t win despite austerity, they won because of it. Voters did not reject Labour because they saw it as austerity lite. Voters rejected Labour because they perceived the Party as anti-austerity lite. 58% agree that, ‘we must live within our means so cutting the deficit is the top priority’. Just 16% disagree. Almost all Tories and a majority of Lib Dems and Ukip voters agree. - Labour lost because voters believed it was anti-austerity, by Jon Cruddas for Labour List

Cruddas believes that austerity is fiscal responsibility, that there is no other way on Earth to be fiscally responsible. Well if that's true please explain the current state of the deficit after years of austerity. Take your time. If we're spending more than we're taking in, shouldn't we be increasing our intake? Corbyn and Sanders stand against the neoliberal consensus and that's why the Establishment hates them. Whether they are right or wrong (I've got a few problems with their political stances) we need a sharp lurch to the left to give us back our missing middle ground. We need them in opposition, getting the debate going again. Without them we're stuck with austerity and more austerity and scapegoats to blame for it.

Trump


Donald Trump is massively popular despite the media's increasingly desperate attempts to paint him as a loser. They are as scared of him as the UK press is of Corbyn, and for the same reason; he's anti-establishment. The result of this is not the searing soul-searching that should be taking place to win the disaffected over, it's a frantic desire to Make Them Behave:

Part of American democracy’s stability is owed to the fact that the Founding Fathers had read their Plato. To guard our democracy from the tyranny of the majority and the passions of the mob, they constructed large, hefty barriers between the popular will and the exercise of power. - Democracies end when they are too democratic, by Andrew Sullivan for New York Magazine

That the people are exercising their will at the polls is not the problem. That the people are pushing reactionaries into office is not the problem. That the people are angry and irrational is not the problem. The problem is that basically, they're the worst possible combination of thick ignorant and poor, and America has no one but itself to blame for that. When Lewis Powell wrote his famous memorandum that kicked off global corporatism as we know it today, he recommended that kids be taught the value of "the American system," i.e. to reject anything that sounds remotely socialistic. This has been very successful, I've personally seen an American visibly jump at the mention of the word "Socialist." 

Whether or not Powell actually meant well is up for debate but because of his memorandum the Chamber of Commerce has been influencing education in American schools and colleges. This has ushered in a shift to right wing and libertarian viewpoints that has resulted in the mess you see today. Don't blame the people, blame the people who kept them too poor and thick to even know how to think for themselves. People who think like this have been controlling the media for decades; when school and the mass media are your main sources of information, you're going to be influenced by them whether you like it or not. Democracy, then, is not the problem, it's the illusion of democracy and the elites who care little for the people they are trying to control.


Economy


At work we had this half-hour talk about customer service, where an analyst was discussing the "pain points" and the "moments of truth" in our interactions with our customers. At the end of it I asked him why we weren't addressing the need for more boots on the ground; sooner or later you have to actually serve the customer. He said we have to make a profit and I pointed out that austerity is killing us on the PFI side. His response: "I blame Labour." My response: "I don't care who's to blame, I want someone to thump for it." This incident underpins all that is wrong with the neoliberal consensus. The system doesn't work because it's based on a false premise: the idea of a free market. There is no such thing as the free market, though you ignore market forces at your peril. The three trends I mentioned earlier each have a bearing on the economy and each is worth discussing in detail.


Brexit


One of the promises made to us by the Brexit faction was that we'd be absolutely coining it sans the EU with a list of countries lining up to sign trade agreements with us as soon as we're out. Erm... not quite. It seems to take a certain degree of obstinate optimism to believe that we'll do as well in a post-Brexit world as we did before. We're not an empire any more, people, we're not in a position to call the shots, even if we're all involved. The good news is the economy is actually growing. Whether or not this will continue depends on what happens next but I'm not expecting miracles. I'm not saying we can't stand on our own two feet; I'm just asking whether or not we're going to wobble when we do.


Corbyn/Sanders


Corbyn-bashing is fashionable among the establishment members of the Labour party. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has argued that the proposed levy on financial transactions is anti-business. This is exaggeration. While Corbyn would certainly tax and regulate business more he's not necessarily anti-business, just socialist authoritarian. For the record I'm not a mad Corbynista but I do think politics needs to move to the left to re-create the middle ground. Owen Smith is the new contender for the Labour crown and though his policies differ a little they don't differ by much. And they're every bit as authoritarian.


At his campaign launch Mr Corbyn said any business with more than 21 staff would be forced to publish pay audits in an attempt to crack down on discriminatory wage practices. He has said he wants two million new skilled manufacturing jobs and a "full" living wage, starting with care workers.

Owen Smith has said he would bring back wage councils, whereby employers and workers' representatives sit on boards to establish pay rates. He has also promised a £200bn investment package - a "British New Deal" - to renew housing and infrastructure. He is proposing the abolition of "zero hours" contracts and their replacement with minimum guaranteed working hours. He also proposes workers be placed on company remuneration committees and an end to the public sector pay freeze. - How Corbyn and Smith's policies compare, by BBC News

I'd be interested to learn how Mr. Corbyn proposes to create the two million new skilled manufacturing jobs. I'm on board with the full living wage but I can't see how he'd make the jobs happen, particularly if he's going to force companies to publish pay audits, etc. RE: Owen I'm on board with the British New Deal but I'm not really feeling it where the wage councils are concerned. Isn't that what unions and the Living Wage campaign is for? Once the basics are covered the market ought to be allowed to get to work. The trouble with Socialists is they think they can control both the supply and the demand side. This is why I'm not a socialist. However, even though they're too busy trying to get power for its own sake to care about the likes of little old me, we do actually need them, if only to break the neoliberal consensus. The fact is, socialism is out of date and in need of a radical overhaul. The only reason people are interested in Corbyn at all is because they keep being told that the economy is growing but they're not getting their share of it. We need the social safety net, which both candidates promise they'll protect, but which of them can or will deliver on that promise?


Trump


Donald Trump's policies are listed on PolitiPlatform.com. While some of them are utterly bizarre (he's not a fan of China and is in love with IPR without fully understanding what it is) his economic policies are a major departure from neoliberalism. Trump-onomics is basically imperialist protectionism; He seems to believe that China is the embodiment of all evil, forgetting that it's American outsourcing that built its economy. China is already upholding intellectual property laws, thank you very much. In East Texas, no less. I'm enjoying this, I really am. The tax on outsourcing jobs is a great idea, though I can't see it being implemented. Recognising the intellectual bankruptcy of the notion of a free market is one thing but attempting to stifle demand via taxes and tariffs is a stupid idea; a smuggler's economy is sure to grow if the jobs market doesn't recover as a result on taxing all the things where imports are concerned. While this will no doubt play well with the base, protectionism can and does backfire when it's overdone.


Security


This is the issue of the age. ISIS sympathisers went into a church and slit the throat of an elderly priest saying Mass, then killed the parishioners. Madmen with terrorist sympathies have been killing people in clubs and on the streets, shooting them, blowing them up, and driving trucks into them. The press is making a huge deal of this, which of course excites more nutters into coming after us for the sake of getting their names in the papers. Despite the all-pervasive mass surveillance, we don't seem to be able to achieve a state of omniscience where crime is concerned; once again it turns out that the authorities knew about the perpetrators of the latest atrocity but did nothing to stop them.


Brexit


If it bleeds, it leads, as they say in the newspaper business. Today the histrionic take has been that ISIS terrorists are planning to attack a Calais to Dover ferry. This may or may not be the case but apparently all our Navy ships are ashore. Meanwhile, suffering holidaymakers are complaining about massive delays caused by increased checks of people entering France. Cybersecurity concerns are mostly unfounded but we need to ensure we're compliant with EU law if we're to continue trading with them. Meanwhile our physical security isn't going to change much; the Five Eyes relationships are not contingent on membership of the EU and aren't affected by Brexit.


Corbyn/Sanders


Both Corbyn and Sanders are opposed to war and would prefer a peaceful approach to dealing with conflicts. This is both a good and a bad thing. Being overly idealistic can be as bad as being overly aggressive. A pragmatic approach is always the best; being prepared for the worst enables us to expect the best but not everybody sees it that way. What annoys me is that Corbyn seems to be willing to cede the Falklands to Argentina, who insist they are theirs on the grounds that they're sitting next door. Seriously. Look it up. Socialists are supposed to be democratic but this ain't, it's ideological authoritarianism. This is the kind of thing that costs Corbyn votes and because he doesn't quite seem to get the sabre-rattling thing he wouldn't do anything about another attempt to grab them until it was too late, after which he'd probably ask the president of Argentina to please give them back only to return home glumly saying, "He said no, folks!"

That said, bombing the Middle East ain't the answer. The problem is ideological and that is the ground on which this war should be fought, but hey, it's easier to bomb people.


Trump


Some of Trump's policies are actually quite sane but where foreign policy and security is confirmed he's too damn ignorant to form an opinion he can stick with. While he's signalled an end to American imperialism he also seems to want to abandon the international institutions that help to maintain the global order. Result: my insistence that Hillary Clinton is a neocon war hawk is being bolstered by the fact that the neocons are defecting from the GOP to vote for her. He also wants a wall at the border with Mexico and to keep Muslims out of the USA, entirely forgetting that white people commit terrorist acts, they just don't get called terrorists if they're white and right wing.


Conclusion


Depending on whether America is ready for its first female president or it's more interested in a break from neoliberal orthodoxy, we could see Trump in the White House. To be perfectly honest, America has had this coming for a long time; it's what happens when you feed the wrong wolf. Indulging the most base, perverse attitudes while refusing to adequately educate and inform the populace and demanding unaccountable power while refusing to take responsibility tends to bring out the worst in people, and the worst, in this case, has a name: Donald Trump. People who want him to win crave change. They're not going to put up with business as usual and won't be scared into voting correctly by the Establishment. When it's over and they're cleaning up the mess, they might want to bear that in mind. It's the same with Brexit and Corbyn/Sanders. People weren't going to be frightened into voting as ordered, they crave change. And the change they crave must benefit them or the rebellion will continue. I've been warning about this for some time. What are you going to do about it?

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