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On Bernie Sanders

2016 July 12
by Ian Welsh
Sanders-021507-18335- 0004

Sanders-021507-18335- 0004

I am not upset by Sanders endorsing Clinton because I never expected anything else.

What is important about Sanders is that he showed how well a self-avowed socialist can do. He won super-majorities of the young. In four years there will be more. In eight, even more.

The demographics are shifting, real left-wing politics are now viable.

That is what matters.

Four years ago, if you’d told me someone with Sanders’ policies would have come this close to Clinton, I’d have been happy with that result. I am today.

Sanders himself is now irrelevant. He’s an old man; he showed there is a constituency for left-wing politics, now his time is done.

Something similar may turn out to be the case with Trump, if he doesn’t win election: He will have proved that right-wing populism is viable and a more disciplined candidate will step in and execute it better.

Chill. Sanders run isn’t a victory, but it did show the tide of history is turning in favor of those who favor a kinder and far better-run world.

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Labour National Executive Votes Corbyn is on the Ballot and Purges Members

2016 July 12
by Ian Welsh

Jeremy CorbynSo, both sides got something.  Corbyn is on the ballot, but all members for the last six months are not eligible to vote, and those members who could vote before under the 3 pound membership (most of whom signed up to help Corbyn), must sign up for the 25 pound membership during a 48 hour window.

There can be no question that the NEC membership ruling hurts Corbyn, and badly, but labour unions are still for him, and I suspect he’s still the frontrunner.

The rebel MPs may still take the question of whether Corbyn is on the ballot to the courts.

I have been covering the Corbyn situation as closely as I have because it is important, very important. Corbyn is a modestly radical socialist, and if he winds up changing the Labour party in his image, it becomes an important anti-neoliberal force in one of the world’s most important countries.  This is the potentially the first serious, English speaking world, crack in the “you may choose from neoliberal party A or neoliberal party B” facade in my adult lifetime.

It matters, because as long as we can only choose neoliberalism, we cannot get off the train to hell.

Note that Corbyn, for example, believes in workplace democracy.  He is quite a bit more to the left than Bernie Sanders was.

Update-in case you’re British. Unite:

labour Vote

Update 2: Turns out to be even more sleazy than I realized.

Labour Meeting pic

Corbyn may take this to the courts, himself, since the Labour website people were signing up on as members said they would have a vote for leader.

I do not know if the NEC can be recalled to change this.

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What the UK Labour Party Leadership Rules Actually Say About Nominating a Leader

2016 July 11
by Ian Welsh

Angela Eagle has launched her leadership challenge against Jeremy Corbyn.

The plan is to keep Corbyn off the ballot. The rebels claim he needs to be nominated, his camp claims the leader does not need to be nominated.

Here are the rules:(pdf)

Election of leader and deputy leader
The leader and deputy leader shall be elected separately in accordance with rule C below,unless rule E below applies.
In the case of a vacancy for leader or deputy leader, each nomination must be supported by 12.5 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.
Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers each year prior to the annual session of party conference. In this case any nomination must be supported by 20 percent of the Commons members of the PLP.
Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.

Those who wish to suggest that the rebels are correct, or that the law could easily be read either way, tend to quote only one part:

In this case any nomination must be supported by 20 percent of the Commons members of the PLP.

Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.

This section later seems key to the “not on ballot” argument.

Valid nominations shall be printed in the final agenda for party conference, together with the names of the nominating organisations and Commons members ofthe PLP supporting the nominations. In the case of a vacancy under E below this information shall be included with the documentation circulated with any ballot.

This suggests that everyone must be nominated in order to go on the ballot.

The first section clearly implies that only challengers need nominations. The second section, however, speaks of nominees being printed.

I am given to understand that those who drafted the regulations say that the intent was for the leader to automatically be on the ballot.

There is a strong argument that, legally, Corbyn, in the name of fairness, should be excluded from the ballot. You may read it here.

In any case, it seems clear that this will go to the courts. I am not sanguine, but we shall see.

I would suspect, if Corbyn is not on the ballot, that we may see some very bitter battles as members attempt to de-select and re-select MPs. There is also a real chance of the party splitting (as there is if Corbyn is on the ballot). The Conservative party will do very well out of this, but clearly it is most important to rebel MPs to keep the party as a neo-conservative party, not to oppose the Conservative party. (As it happens, I think they’re right. The Conservatives will do mostly what they would do, just somewhat more of it.)

The game continues.

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The World Has Always Been a Shit Show and It’s Always Been Beautiful

2016 July 9
by Ian Welsh

Well, as long as recorded history, anyway.

I see a lot of angst and a lot of worry and a lot of anger about events. We have gun and police violence in the US. The rise of Trump, the crises shaking the European Union, economic stagnation or decline in multiple major economies, a military buildup on the Russian border, a refugee crisis, and a Middle East and North Africa which looks shakier and shakier. In the Far East, China seizes more and more, bringing it into potential conflict with multiple nations.

The neoliberal consensus is crumbling, the far-right is rising, and the real left is beginning to rise as well (Corbyn and Sanders are significant, not sidelights, and not the only ones). In South America, the left is retreat, even in shambles, with the right resurgent.

We have onrushing climate change and some reason to believe that we have passed the threshold beyond which change will be much more rapid. Fish stocks are collapsed and collapsing, there is some danger of ecosystem collapse, and on and on.

The most likely next US president (Clinton) is a terrible warmonger who appears to have a deranged hatred of Russia, the only other country in the world with enough nukes to, well, destroy the world. And it’s not as if Obama hasn’t been ratcheting things up already.

So, yeah, good news, there’s some, but overall it’s looking bad. We’re coming up on an age of war, revolution, and very probably serious food and water shortages combined with a practically unprecedented refugee crises.

Fun, fun, fun.

Or, as the case may be, not.

It’s always been bad for some. There was the Great Depression. There was World War II. There were huge famines in China, war in SE Asia, including the Khmer Rouge genocide. Terrible atrocities in Indonesia.  And on and on.

Never in history has it been the case that large chunks of the world weren’t hellscapes. Some nations or regions managed peace and prosperity for generations, even occasionally for centuries, but those must be understood as beautiful outposts of peace and civilization, ever in danger of falling back into barbarism.  (Not that the actual barbarians were often so bad. The barbaric Celts may have done the occasional human sacrifice, but Rome enslaved half the world.)

Human memory is short. In historical terms, we don’t live long and we think our lived lives are “normal” even if, in fact, they were lived during one of those rare civilized prosperous interregnums.

We think that industrialization changed everything, but it’s not yet clear that it did. Industrialization mostly allowed Europe to conquer the rest of the world, really. It created some high standards of living in core regions, and advances in medicine allowed unprecedented increases in population.

But it’s not yet clear that industrialized prosperity, in the style to which we’ve grown accustomed (and which has never reached everyone), is more than just an interregnum. There may be some rather hard and ugly limits on growth and prosperity due to Earth’s limits, both in resources and in our ability to handle the pollution we have spewed. Add to that our complete overpopulation, driving entire species to extinction, and threatening the ecosphere.

Again, fun.

So, the bad times will soon be on us again, for those of us they aren’t already on, anyway. If we’re old or sick, we may avoid them. If not, we’re going to get it in the neck.

But why despair?

Even in bad times, there will be good. Most of history has been bad, but people have still loved, they have still enjoyed food, and the beauty nature so generously provides. There has always been wine (or bathtub gin). Life has gone on.

It’ll probably go on this time, and if we manage to drive ourselves to extinction (still unlikely) well, no humans will be suffering any more.

Enjoy your lives as best you can. Take joy in the real things of your immediate lives. The horrors that are happening to others are not happening to you and making yourself unhappy because others are unhappy does nothing to help them, and harms you.

That doesn’t mean “do nothing,” it means do what you’re reasonably able to do, and don’t sweat the rest.  There are billions of people on Earth, you aren’t personally responsible for this, and your contribution is not going to be the key if other people don’t also get off their asses.

Be realistic, accept no more than your tiny bit of blame, and then go eat a good meal, make love, and listen to some beautiful music.

Don’t destroy your real happiness over events for which you are almost entirely not responsible, and which you do not have the power to change.

The world’s always been hell for a lot of people, but there has always been beauty and love for many. If you can, be one of those who is kind to those whom the world is not. No more is, or can be, asked of you, certainly not that you crucify yourself: Your suffering will not redeem the world. Leave that to the messiahs, be human, and be as happy as you can.

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Blair, et al. Committed War Crimes

2016 July 6
by Ian Welsh

So, the Chilcot report is out and it’s not pretty.

Jeremy Corbyn has apologised on behalf of the Labour party for its role in the 2003 Iraq war, and warned that the people who took the decisions “laid bare in the Chilcot report” must now face up to the consequences.

The Labour leader’s apology went further than he had earlier in parliament, when he responded to the Chilcot report after David Cameron. At that point, Corbyn called the war an “act of military aggression”, arguing that it was thought of as illegal “by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion”. (emphasis added)

I very much hope this next man, who has far less worth than the toilet paper I clean myself with, is not a Labour candidate in the next election.

As Corbyn issued his excoriating statement to the House of Commons, he was heckled by his own backbencher Ian Austin, who shouted: “Sit down and shut up, you’re a disgrace.”

When you’re screaming at someone for apologizing for a war crime that is identical to that which many Nazi leaders were hung for, you’re officially a waste of human skin.

Corbyn hasn’t actually called for “war crimes trial for Blair,” but he’s made the case. The European Criminal Court, being also basically worthless, had already said that they would not try Tony Blair, but might charge ordinary soldiers.

I have never had any respect for the ECC, whose mandate appears to involve prosecuting the politically powerless, especially Africans, and avoiding anyone with any influence. Justice as unevenly applied as the ECC applies it is not a step in the right direction, it is actually injustice. Saying that they would not charge Blair even before the Chilcot report was out simply confirmed the primacy of political over legal considerations for them.

Yet again, Corbyn has proved he is one of very few honorable people in a den of scum. May he become Prime Minister and, once Prime Minister, may he ensure Tony Blair and those who aided and abetted him in selling the Iraq war with lies, have the fair trial they so richly deserve.

Oh, and as usual, doing so is not just the right thing to do ethically, it would be the right thing to do politically, keeping Corbyn’s primary enemies completely occupied. Because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the people who fear actual left-wingers or people of principle the most aren’t Tories, they are Blairites.

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The Control of Parties and the Rise and Fall of Ideologies

2016 June 30

All political parties have ideological beliefs. If it seems a party does not, it generally means they accept the status quo (invisible as an ideology) or they are a cult of personality, which is still an ideological position.

(Originally published May 19, 2015. Back to the top. This is why the fight over Labour is so vicious. – Ian.)

For those who hold an ideological position which does not control the current majority party, the job is to keep a party firmly in an alternative ideology.

In first-past-the-post systems, there are often two or three parties which are viable. In most places with real democracy, parties do not have more than two or three terms, then the public grows tired of them and votes for the second party.

If your ideology controls the second party, odds are strong you will eventually wind up in power, simply due to public fatigue with the current party.

Therefore your job, as a left-winger, right-winger, or whatever, is to keep control of that party. This takes precedence over winning the most immediate election. Winning by becoming a lite version of the other ideology does not serve you. Having the second (or every) party be neo-liberal is not in the interests of anyone but neo-liberals.

If you are the first party, of course, it is your job to make it so that the second party (and however many other parties there are, if possible) accept the postulates of your ideology. As many have noted, Margaret Thatcher was not successful so much because of her policies, but because Labour came to adopt her policies as well, just somewhat watered down.

There is no alternative

– Margaret Thatcher

Now, what was said about second parties is true of third parties and so on, all the way down. The New Democratic Party (socialist, labor-based) came from virtually nowhere in Alberta to win because they still existed. They will be able to raise corporate taxes and so on because they remained true to some socialist principles. Though I have grave disagreements with Syriza, they are in power because they still exist and came out strongly against austerity. They could have watered that down–and they would have been in power sooner.

The Communist Party in Greece, castigated by many for not joining Syriza, was correct not to do so: They did not believe that Syriza would do what was necessary, or what they believed in, so they did not join.

The Liberal Democrats in England killed themselves by joining the Tories as a minority partner. They gave in to almost everything the Conservatives wanted, and, as a result, were seen as “Tory-Lite.” No reason to vote for them.

Let me put this precisely: The job of a political party is either to get a few specific people into power, or it is to offer a clear option to the voters. If it is the latter, then your job is to make sure that this option you offer remains available. In many cases, if you do so, you will get into power fairly soon after two to three terms. In other cases, if you are a minor party, it may take decades.

If you genuinely believe in your policies, in your ideology, or whatever it is, then that is fine. The public has a right to choose, you just make sure they have a real choice and not a menu that is all of the same.

Every ideology fails. Every one. There will always be a point where people are hungry for something else, and you will be there.

Once in power, your job is simply to show that your ideology can work. If you fail to do so, the public is entirely justified in throwing you back out. Of course, an ideology can be badly implemented once, or even twice, but this does not mean it is necessarily flawed. It may just mean it was badly executed or that the circumstances were not right for it to succeed. You will need to evaluate which of these is the case before you dedicate your life to such an ideology and fight to keep your party aligned with that ideology.

An ideology can lose for a long time before it wins. The Greens and the Pirates have won little, but that does not mean they might not be the parties of the future. Old parties can become new parties: Labour was not always neo-liberal; in Canada, the Liberal party under Justin Trudeau is directly opposed to many of the policies of his father in the 70s and early 80s. (The elder Trudeau having introduced the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which Justin had the Liberal party vote to largely abrogate.)

Neo-liberals should fight to keep Labour in England and Liberals in Canada neo-liberal. Those who support other ideologies can fight to change those parties; fight for other parties, or create new parties.

In all cases, again, the job is to provide a clear choice for the population, someone to vote for. (This is why I dislike purely regional parties, though obviously that problem is hard to avoid if your mandate is independence. It is a pity the Scottish Nationalist Party could not have run nationally–perhaps all of Britain should join Scotland.)

Party control, in any case, and in many democracies, and especially one where structures favor having only two or three major parties, is generally more important than winning any individual election. Most anything your opponents do can be undone if you get into power and still believe in undoing it. Again, this is why Thatcher won by changing Labor–because the old Labour party would have just undone virtually everything she did.

What we have had, now, for about 40 years, is a right-ward ratchet: A very right wing party gets in power and does radical things or a moderate neo-liberal party like Labour or the Democrats gets in power and basically accepts the status quo, with very minor rollbacks, and continues the rightward drift in most areas.

Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall, pushed through NAFTA, started the no-fly list, and heavily restricted welfare. Obama ramped up the drone program, went after whistle-blowers far more than Bush ever did, and is, in general terms, far worse on civil liberties than even George W. Bush.

Stopping ratchets means keeping control of the party which will be back in power eventually. This is hard to do, after two consecutive losses, a party will begin to believe it needs to become like its opponents to win. This was true of the Republicans in the 40s as much as it is true of Democrats after Reagan and Bush, Sr. or as much as it was true of Labour after Thatcher and Major.

If you have lost the battle for the second party, then (while maintaining an outpost there for a future takeover attempt), you should find a third party to champion your cause. You will not be able to stop the ratchet effect (left, right, totalitarian, permissive, or whatever). But when the ideology fails, as it will (I guarantee this, it is not in question, only matter of time), then you will have another fair shot at power. You may not succeed, new ideologies may arise to supplant you, or other problems may stymy you, but you will have your shot.

Keep control of parties. If you cannot, create them.

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Neither Corbyn Nor Labour Need the Rebel MPs

2016 June 29
by Ian Welsh

I see a great deal of fear around the idea of Labour splitting. While this is a slight concern, it isn’t a major one:

  • Corbyn has the support of the membership. Even most who don’t support him are unlikely to leave the party if he wins this confrontation.
  • If Corbyn wins, Britons will have a choice between an actual socialist party and a neoliberal party.
  • I suspect that “actual socialists” will do as well or better at the polls than “Tory light.”

It is possible that the rebel MPs, once kicked out through re-selection, will form a rump party. That would be a problem, but the next election is will be so non-standard, and likely wild, that I doubt they will make the key difference.

In any case, if you’re a left-winger, a chance to elect a left-wing party instead of choosing between two neo-liberal parties is too important to pass up. In a first pass, the post-system people eventually lose patience with the lead party and elect the second party, it’s just that simple.

Make sure you control that second party, and you will have your chance to enact your policies.

Labour, as a Blairite party, basically continued Thatcherism, but not as quickly. Labour was, simply, the slower road to hell.

Perhaps a party that offers “not heading to hell” will do better than one which offers the scenic route to the same place Tories want to go.

It’s certainly worth a flier. Hell ain’t that pretty. People should be understanding that by now.

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Corbyn Loses No Confidence Vote 172-40 but Vows to Stay

2016 June 28
by Ian Welsh
Picture of Jeremy Corbyn

Picture of Jeremy Corbyn

I hope to hell he means it.

So, the MPs have enough votes to trigger another leadership contest. Most likely, Corbyn would win it, though if they put up just one candidate against him the rebels might win.

Of course, if Corbyn wins, mandatory re-selection of all MPs must be enacted immediately. He can’t run a Labour party in which 80 percent of the MPs won’t work with him.

I wrote, right after Corbyn was elected, the following:

So, you voted for Corbyn. You’re a Labour party member, old or new. What MUST you do to have Corbyn’s back?

Because, be clear, he will fail without you. He will lose. He and his few allies within the Labour party cannot win this fight alone. He will be destroyed by lack of cooperation, scandals, and engineered crises. The vast majority of all media coverage will be negative, etc.

If Labour wants a left-wing leader like Corbyn, they must re-elect him and get rid of the MPs. That will probably cause the MPs to form their own party; so be it.

No one who had Corbyn’s politics would not have faced the same coup, no one. This isn’t about Jeremy, it is about Labour’s refusal to follow left-wing politics.

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Leave Won Because It Has a Better Story

2016 June 27
by Ian Welsh

Leave’s story is as follows:

  1. Your life sucks and you do not have a job, or a good job.
  2. There are a lot of immigrants. They have jobs and many of them have good jobs.
  3. If there were less immigrants, you’d have those jobs.

Leave’s story is coherent. It has defined the problem and proposed a solution. The solution won’t work, but Leave says, “We got a problem, and we can fix it, and your life will be better.”

Remain’s story is this:

  1. Your life is as good as it’s going to get.
  2. Leaving won’t help, it will make your life even worse.
  3. Your life will continue to get worse, regardless of whether you leave. “Remaining” will simply slow down the process of your life getting worse.

Now, Remain’s story is true. “Life is a shit sandwich, but you don’t want to eat a bigger shit sandwich sooner than is absolutely necessary.”

That narrative is not going to win against a lie which says: “We can make your life not a shit sandwich”.

Until the sort of people who supported Remain have an argument for how the 50 percent of Britons whose lives suck under the current economic and political regime can have good lives–not lives that just get shitty at a slower pace–they will continue to lose the people whose lives are “Here, eat this shit sandwich and say ‘Thank you, EU, for making this shit sandwich slightly smaller than it would be otherwise.'”

People will accept a lie over a truth that requires their lives to be a shit sandwich.

If you refuse to offer them a way out, do not be surprised if, like a wolf caught in a trap, they will even gnaw their own legs off to try and escape.

Oh, and your legs.

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On the Anti-Corbyn Coup

2016 June 26
by Ian Welsh
Picture of Jeremy Corbyn

Picture of Jeremy Corbyn

So, six shadow ministers have resigned. People Corbyn should never have put in the shadow cabinet, in my opinion, but he’s a good man and thought they could be appeased.

A lot of people think he’s toast. I don’t know. I hope not. He has the support of the Labour membership still, so far as I am aware. If I were him, I’d call their bluff. Indeed, I would escalate and say that re-selection is now on the table. Purge the party of the disloyal MPs who don’t follow the party’s will.

Will this happen? Don’t know. At least he sacked Hillary Benn, the instigator of the coup.

What I do know is this, a lot of people who think they are left-wing want Corbyn gone. These people are fools.

He will be replaced by a Blairite. That means the next election will be between bad and worse, a choice of two evils. There will be no good Brexit scenario.

Machiavelli and America’s founders observed that, in time, a people can become so bereft of the virtues required for a democratic government to function that all they can hope for is a somewhat benign dictatorship.

The reason British left-wingers and centrists were scared of leaving the EU, which is a terrible, anti-democratic organization whose enforced austerity has wrecked multiple economies is this: British politics are even more broken than EU politics. As bad as the EU is, the British needed the EU to protect them from themselves–from the governments they keep electing.

Now, upset that Corbyn did not save them from themselves, they want to get rid of their only prospect for a better future.

One cannot help such people.

On a personal level, anyone who wants Corbyn gone will be telling me who they are and what their judgment is worth. I will almost certainly never trust any such person ever again, just as there are only two people who supported the Iraq war for whom I have time now.

On a larger scale, it will prove there is nothing to be done to help Britain, or rather, England and Wales. Scotland should leave (and should have last time). I’m less sure Ireland is some prize; they massively mishandled the financial crisis and lucked into what recovery they’ve had, but I suppose Northern Ireland will still be better off with them.

The British people have made their choices, again and again. Having been given a light out of the darkness, and having extinguished it, while I wish them well, it will be time for sensible people to find other things to do than concern themselves with England’s fate. Those stuck there, of course, will have to do what they can. Those not there will have to triage to places which might still be salvageable.

As with the US, their hope will be old people dying and young people taking over, but while there’s a lot of ruin in a country, qua Keynes, it isn’t infinite and the English have been doing a lot of ruining for a long time.

So I most sincerely suggest my English friends: Don’t shoot off your own jaw to spite your face– which is what it seems you’re about to do.

Support Corbyn, or you are getting rid of your last chance to avoid a terrible, terrible future.

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