The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Conservatives Appear to Have Won in the UK: What the Left Should Do

Or so the exit polls are showing.  A likely bare majority government.

The consequences of this are likely to be severe; I would expect most of the remains of the post-war welfare state to be swept away.

I am torn between two reactions:

  • Although this is only a bare majority government, people did vote for Conservatives enough for them to get in and it’s not like they didn’t know the consequences. They have had years of Tory austerity. As H.L. Mencken once said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it, good and hard.”
  • On the other hand, Labour under Miliband ran as Tory Lite; as the lesser evil. Voters tend not to be inspired by the “not quite as bad as the other bloke, but they’ll get in eventually and do what they were going to do anyway.” And that was his platform.

I’m seeing a lot of despair from my British friends on the left. And my British friends on the sane, for that matter. Here’s what to do: Either take over the Labour Party, or, if you think that’s impossible, pile into the Greens. Or, heck, create a new party.

I will point to Alberta, where the left-most party in Canada won on a platform of, among other things, raising taxes.  They came, essentially, from nowhere.

Want to win from the left? Be left-wing. Offer a real alternative to neo-liberalism.

I note, also, that Scots may really be regretting not voting for independence. Most of the wonderful social policies Scots value more than the English will now be taken away from them.

Failure of courage when there is a real alternative will reap the expected results.

This is all very sad, but the post-war welfare state has been under assault in England since Maggie Thatcher’s election in the 1970s. The true magnitude of Thatcher’s victory was not her policies, it was that Labour became Tory Lite; she changed the acceptable policy matrix for not just the Conservatives, but for the main opposition party as well.

Until that “acceptable policy window” changes, the trend will continue right–it cannot do anything else. Each Labour interregnum will be just that, a period in which neo-liberal policies are pursued at a slower rate than during Conservative governments, but in which the trend is not reversed.

This is true in almost every country in the West of which I can think (Iceland and perhaps Finland being the lone exceptions).

Offer a real alternative, with real left wing policies. If you can’t capture an existing major party, pile into a minor party or create a new one.

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  1. Dan

    There’s very little evidence to suggest that what you suggest would actually work. This may well be the last UK general election ever and a rump English state is probably going to be significantly more right wing than any previous UK one. The total failure of all genuine left-wing challenges (Foot in 1983, for example) to the status quo hardly adds to the prospects for success and a few bicycle-riding middle-class voters in Brighton doesn’t do much to outweigh this.

  2. Tom Robinson

    May I just point out that the Tories received only 36% of votes cast? So they win a narrow majority of the seats in Parliament with just over a third of the votes? Not exactly a mandate.

  3. Ian Welsh

    They won under the rules as they exist, that it is not a PR system does not mean they will not rule as if they do not have a mandate.

    Foot in 83? So, 32 years ago?

  4. Joona

    “This is true in almost every country in the West which I can think of (Iceland and perhaps Finland being the lone exceptions).”

    As a Finn, I’d argue that Finland is not an exception. Since our very own Great Recession in the beginning of the 90’s, our economic policy reforms have been decidedly neoliberal. Our reforms probably haven’t been as stark as in other places, but the trend is clear.

    One interesting side note is our strange political tradition of the so called ”rainbow coalitions” which mean governments consist of parties from all over the political spectrum. Our recent government was a mishmash of parties from all over the left-right-spectrum and this was also the case in the early 90’s. What is constant is our government officials, who have been trained within the neoliberal framework of economic policy.

  5. Socialist

    Concerning Finland,

    Their new government is right-wing and conservative, the new prime minister is a millionaire and a business man (which is something new for Finland), it is clear who Finland caters to and who controls the country. Things are starting to go badly for the average Finn and I have no doubt that the new government will use austerity and cut social security as much as possible and Finns will just buy into their rhetoric because they still believe that everyone in their country is an honest man trying to do the best for society.

    Although, being a socialist, I don’t give a damn about bourgeois elections. Left, right, center – they all serve the same capital. The only difference is how they choose to **** you.
    Want the latest example? SYRIZA anyone?

  6. Dan

    “Foot in 83? So, 32 years ago?”

    Meaning what? That there are other, more successful and more recent examples? Really? Who?

    There are left-wing candidates in many constituencies. None of them receive more than a tiny number of votes. and George Galloway just lost his seat to a Labour candidate so that hardly points to a burning desire in the British public for a hard-left alternative. Yesterday, half of the electorate voted for the Conservatives or UKIP. Do you really think many of them are going to vote for a party more left-wing than Labour (with an o) under Miliband (one l, no r)? Don’t be ridiculous. To think that a few people can start some kind of hard left alternative (as if this hasn’t happened over and over and over again already) and this will accomplish what has singularly failed to happen at any time in the past is pure fantasy. And as advice, it sounds more like the kind of bland nothingness which a parent or teacher would say to a snotty teenager. “You don’t like the system? Well it’s a democracy. Go and do something about it or stop moaning.”

    “it is not a PR system”

    Correct. UKIP have 12.5% of the vote and 0.15% of the MPs. A hard-left party couldn’t dream of that level of success,

  7. The problem appears to be that people particularly in the English south actually like what Thatcher wrought. It’s like health care in the USA: if you accept that a lot of Americans like the idea of their neighbours dying in agony in the gutter for lack of money, then the politics and the votes all make sense.

    Scottish voters vote SNP now because they have finally lost all hope of influencing the English south. Labour won’t de-neoliberalize to recapture those seats anyway. Until a large number of people in England decide consciously to repudiate the Thatcher legacy and mentality, this is how it’s going to be. Austerity, boo-yah!

  8. Want the latest example? SYRIZA anyone?

    I don’t understand the anger at Syriza, particularly what is coming from quarters like NC. What did you expect? So many lefties seem to think that people would be as convinced as they are about the right path, if ONLY the right person came along to EXPLAIN it COURAGEOUSLY and build facts on the ground. Greek voters want an end to austerity, but not at the cost of leaving the Euro—and you’re not convincing anyone that they’re not just magically going to change their minds if someone just explains to them the nirvana that exists beyond the Euro exit door. Syriza tried to square that circle and (perhaps) failed. It’s clearly failure, not betrayal.

    Similarly, English voters aren’t going to vote for a left-wing party unless said party manages to “decode” and react to what the voters are reacting to, in a way that voters understand. Or voters have a sea change in terms of mentality. That can’t just be conjured out of thin air. It requires left-wingers to learn how to sell stuff, for one thing.

  9. Socialist


    Well, first of all, marxists and people who understand what bourgeois democracy is all about didn’t expect SYRIZA to do ANYTHING differently and were proved correct. You see, the problem here is that they have the guts to come out and call themselves almost socialist in their intentions and play off of that to get an enormous amount of votes. It doesn’t matter what the contradictory opinions of the Greek people are, SYRIZA promised to stop the rape of the nation by not cooperating with the financiers and capitalists and other scumbags like them. Yet, they have fallen in line and haven’t changed the direction Greece is going to. You can defend them all you want, I personally don’t see why you are trying to do that. I will repeat once again, I personally don’t see how democracy could work in a capitalist society where money is bound to influence politics.

  10. DStein

    Defining the acceptable policy window is the ballgame. Witness Obama and the stimulus: by not staking out a “left-wing” ask based on a clear view of what is needed, and then endorsing the “compromise” as adequate, as opposed to inadequate, but the best the Republicans would allow; Obama saddled Democrats with the mantle of failure, and freed Republicans from any public accountability. Voters are rightly confused about whom to blame. (Please note that I am not claiming anything about Obama’s “real” values or beliefs.)

    Be left-wing, indeed; say clearly what you’re for, and let “compromise” be seen as such. If you don’t, there’s no “right-wing” anywhere in sight. Don’t debase the coinage of political speech – watch the effect of Sanders/Warren on Clinton. (Please note that I am not claiming anything about Clinton’s “real” values or beliefs.)

  11. Well, first of all, marxists and people who understand what bourgeois democracy is all about didn’t expect SYRIZA to do ANYTHING differently and were proved correct. You see, the problem here is that they have the guts to come out and call themselves almost socialist in their intentions and play off of that to get an enormous amount of votes. It doesn’t matter what the contradictory opinions of the Greek people are, SYRIZA promised to stop the rape of the nation by not cooperating with the financiers and capitalists and other scumbags like them. Yet, they have fallen in line and haven’t changed the direction Greece is going to. You can defend them all you want, I personally don’t see why you are trying to do that. I will repeat once again, I personally don’t see how democracy could work in a capitalist society where money is bound to influence politics.

    That last sentence represents a coherent position that whose consistency I can respect. That is mostly not the critique that I have heard so far, however.

  12. Defining the acceptable policy window is the ballgame. Witness Obama and the stimulus: by not staking out a “left-wing” ask based on a clear view of what is needed, and then endorsing the “compromise” as adequate, as opposed to inadequate, but the best the Republicans would allow; Obama saddled Democrats with the mantle of failure, and freed Republicans from any public accountability. Voters are rightly confused about whom to blame. (Please note that I am not claiming anything about Obama’s “real” values or beliefs.)

    This takes more than merely a stand during political campaigns. Defining the acceptable policy window, if you’re going to engage in electoral politics in a capitalist environment, requires an attempt to figure out what engages voters psychologically.

  13. mike

    Mandos is right (bet he never thought he’d hear those words here) about Syriza, especially the silly spew regularly coming from Naked Capitalism since Smith decided her boardroom negotiation days bore any resemblance at all to what the Greeks are faced with. The first week of May happens to be important in political history for more than May Day. The British used the first week of May to execute the leaders of Easter Rising of 1916, acting very much like the current EU et al. leadership [sic] in believing that, if we’ll just be tough on these guys as an example, especially that guy too injured now to stand upright to be shot (so we’ll sit him in a chair), everything will go hunky dory for us and our power in the future. The blog commenters at the time all agreed how stupid and naive the Pearse and his colleagues were for thinking that resistance could lead to change. No one “got” that the British were tearing away the curtain to reveal exactly who they were and why “reason” wouldn’t work with power so breaking away was the only other course. Similar to what they brayed when the Second Continental Congress in the first week of May ordered its delegates to get approval from their states to vote for independence, proclaimed a couple of months later in a document that was more statement of everything the Colonies had done, all the compromises they had made, before taking the step, a fine piece of political theater very much like what Yanis and colleagues have been providing the world to tear away the to reveal exactly who the European leaders [sic] were and why “reason” wouldn’t work with power so breaking away was the only other course. Commentary on Greece right now needs to be far more circumspect, as Mandos’ is (again, bet he never thought he’d hear those words here), and far less like ESPN’s coverage of who “won” and “lost” in the recent NFL draft regarding seasons that haven’t even been played yet and whose outcomes guarantee to have surprises for proclaimed “winners” and “losers.” We won’t be able to tell the impact of Syriza’s combo of theater for its masses and outside audiences and bazaar (not bizarre, despite Smith’s disdain) negotiations for weeks, months, and years. What the examples and others above (Gandhi, anyone? Mrs. Parks, anyone else whom bloggers would have been snarking and calling foolish in the past) show is that the odds of the EU leadership [sic] finding the outcomes to their liking are far less in their favor than their Dunning-Kruger effect thinking has led them to believe. And Syriza will be calling in its chips in future history, no matter what happens to it in the next few weeks or months. Just like Mandos said.

  14. charlie

    I have to say much of the problem does stem with the professional class itself. Any hint of leaning left is met with fierce resistance, and any ideas which do not conform to any ideology of the last 200 years is brushed off with a sneer. I would say there is no real “left” wing anywhere anymore, including NDP. We just have the same old ideas rerun and then abandoned to far right ideologues.

  15. someofparts

    The sooner we are extinct the better the world will be.

  16. ErgonomicallyTerrific

    You’re just rambling Mike, and not saying anything of value. Yves Smith and the good people at NC know a good deal more about the Greek situation than you do- that is blatantly clear by your unintelligible verbal diahrrhea.

  17. Labor want to loose this, as much as the Tory wanted wanted to win.

  18. DStein

    As H.L. Mencken once said, Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

    The key to psychological engagement with voters is helping them to identify (with) what they “really” want (or want most, or should want) and then helping them to remember it long enough to notice who stands with & for them, or against them, when it counts (during electoral campaigns, legislative battles, policy-making, wars, etc.). Mencken’s irony is double: if they want what they shouldn’t, and get it, then they deserve it: and if they don’t “know” what they (should really) want, they’ll deserve what they get, and they won’t like it.

    But it all turns on being able to say, and hear, true speech about what is (really, most) wanted and what then gets done; giving a true account to hold and be held to as voter and pol; or else language becomes unmoored and money-power easily rules over a collection of voters too dazed and confused to unite collectively. As Ian says, “be left-wing.”

  19. CMike

    I didn’t follow the election over there at all closely. However, something that radio host Thom Hartmann is suggesting sounds like it may have been decisive. Labor failed to sign on to a Cameron proposal which the Labor Party should have been taking the lead on to begin with. Wikipedia says [LINK]:

    In January 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised an “in/out” referendum on British membership of the European Union in 2017, after a period of renegotiation with the EU, if the Conservative Party wins an outright majority at the general election of May 7, 2015, which they subsequently did win.

    Since 2010, polls have indicated that the British public is divided on the question, with opposition peaking in November 2012 at 56% compared to 30% who wanted to remain and support peaking in 2013. The largest ever poll (20,000) showed the public to be split on the issue, with 41% in favour of withdrawal, 41% in favour of membership, and 18% undecided. However, when asked how they would vote if Britain renegotiates its terms with the EU, and the government says British interests are better protected, a wide majority of over 50% said they would vote to stay….

    Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats oppose the policy of guaranteeing a referendum in 2017, holding instead that a referendum should only be held if there is a further transfer of sovereignty to the European Union….

    I don’t think Cameron’s proposed referendum on the question of porous if not open borders for labor, which is essentially what’s at stake on a vote on whether to remain in the EU, is anything that expanded his support among ideological conservatives but it sure might have attracted some votes from working class Brits who don’t want to be competing on UK soil with “cheap labor” from the EU countries that have the worst labor markets.

    Meanwhile, back in the States, it’s always been pretty hard for me to reconcile the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party position that so-called free trade agreements are bad but adopting a “see no evil” position on undocumented immigration is the only way to escape the accusation of being a racist.

  20. CMike

    Whoops, I guess over there they think they’re in the Labour (not the Labor) Party. No wonder they’re so fouled up.

  21. Tony Wikrent

    What I fear is that the dichotomy is not necessarily conservative vs. liberal, or right vs. left. These partly artificial dichotomies obscure the real contest, which is between neo-liberalism, and – what? What party or part of the political spectrum has come out with a clearly elaborated alternative to neo-liberalism? Socialism? Socialist parties the world over have bowed to neo-liberalism and the global elite of corporatists, financiers, and technocrats. Just look at how the ANC backed down from confronting South Africa’s bond creditors after Mandela was elevated to the presidency.

    All somebody on the right has to do is figure out how to keep their mouth shut on social issues, and begin to espouse some of the populist rhetoric against neo-liberalism, and they’re going to be unbeatable I fear. I watch with great anxiety, for example, Senator Paul Rand’s rhetoric against the U.S. Federal Reserve. Check. If he actually starts to go after some of Wall Street’s more egregious and arrogant criminals, by name, it will be check mate.

  22. kj1313

    @Tony Wikrent Rand has said he doesn’t want the government to prop up banks yet at the same time doesn’t want the government to regulate them.

  23. JustPlainDave

    I would be pretty hesitant to generalize an approach from Alberta. That one reads a lot more like: “Wait for climactic upheaval beyond that seen in two generations, significantly change the demographic base of the province, and even beyond that for some complete morons to destroy their parties. Then you can run from the left and still win.” than the electorate suddenly discovering their inner leftie.

    Me, I’m gonna go with the fundamentals of the political ground game and having a deep talent pool. Used to work for us back in the day in the province next door. Everyone knew the NDP was going to actually be competent to govern and quite non-ideological compared to the PCs. The kicker is the talent pool. Guys like Blakeney are harder to find in the political sphere these days.

  24. You’re just rambling Mike, and not saying anything of value. Yves Smith and the good people at NC know a good deal more about the Greek situation than you do- that is blatantly clear by your unintelligible verbal diahrrhea.

    I’m sure that Smith and the NC crowd are very knowledgeable, but their mode of analysis, with the whole hard-nosed “show-me-the-money” posture, is rather too narrow and quite incomplete. It was never the case that Syriza was going to square the circle, and quite a lot of Syriza voters probably knew it. If they hadn’t promised not to provoke a Grexit, they would never have come to power. The sort of lefty site embodied by NC has basically nothing to say about how to obtain power and how to conduct left-wing governance given the real-existing constraints that our neoliberal, globalized world imposes—not to mention, the complicated wishes of the people, who do not necessarily line up around a coherent political platform.

    Now, what Socialist said above is a complete answer: that under capitalism, democracy cannot actually be exercised. That sounds correct to me, but it’s not what NC et al seem to be saying: they’re evaluating left-wing governance without regard to the existing constraints and expectations. It’s not that they’re unaware of these, but it’s a methodological choice.

    But we are left with the problem that, well, we aren’t particularly close to replacing capitalism. So left governments better have a way to make policy and retain power given the existing constraints, with an eye towards loosening or changing those constraints in the longer term.

    Syriza is walking a tightrope, and it’s execution has hardly been flawless. But nevertheless, their behaviour seems to me to be, for once, a left-wing political movement seriously attempting to exercise government given very real constraints. I don’t know how much planning or intention there is behind it, but mike’s interpretation rings true to me and matches what I have seen of the reported negotiations so far. To a large extent, the curtain has been pulled back and the Euro-Wizard exposed. And where once Greeks may have supported Euro membership based on a belief in the Dream of Europe or whatever, that particular feeling is now gone—Euro membership support, which remains widespread, is clearly based on the feeling that they still have something to lose (many Greeks do).

  25. People need to know what they’re really voting for before they can be said to have made a real choice. Although, very often, when they vote “wrong”, they know more about what they’re doing than progressives give them credit.

    But in the case of Scotland, for example, when many Scots voted No in the referendum, they did so thinking that there was some level at which the people of England thought they were British along with Scots. Since then, repeatedly, English politicians and voters have done their best to remove that illusion. That illusion seems to have been duly removed, therefore, and the SNP took almost all of the Scottish seats in London.

  26. This is a really good post on the British election result:

    The part that spoke most to me was this:

    Margaret Thatcher was explicit about how deep the project of neoliberalism went. Two years into her first term, she told the Sunday Times: “Economics is the method: the object is to change the soul.” The left has never taken this seriously, we have never even tried to contest neoliberalism on the territory of the soul.

    Neoliberalism isn’t merely policy-making as though Homo sapiens were Homo economicus — it is the project to MAKE Homo economicus. To build a world that works as though rational, individually optimizing agents were real.

    And also,

    I had a public conversation last summer with Steve Wheeler in which he sketched out a set of thoughts about the need for a politics of “depth”. I must edit the recording and get it online, but the thrust of it was that the left has associated depth and the darker, less rational side of ourselves with the worst kind of politics. His argument – which parallels the one Zizek makes about Nazism in his Perverts’ Guide to Ideology – is that it’s a terrible mistake to cede the territory of the intuitive, the emotional, the unconscious, the irrational to the far right. It’s only by people of good will engaging with these sides of ourselves, at a cultural as well as an individual level, that we can prevent a political “return of the repressed”. We need to go there vigilantly, but we need to go there.

    That is what I was referring to, to some extent, in the previous thread on East Germany, and in threads before that. If progressive are going to fight electoral politics—or in any political battle at all—they are going to have to engage with how people feel, the irrational decisions and resentments, the desire for status dominance, etc.

  27. Tony Wikrent

    Many, many thanks to Mandos for the above link and quotes regarding Thatcher’s understanding that the neo-liberal project was (is) intended to “change the soul.”

    I was just thinking this morning about “noblesse oblige.” It used to be that many of the rich and the aristocracy felt themselves under a general social obligation to do good. So you get many of the British and other royals promoting projects like hospitals and orphanages, or Andrew Carnegie building a hundreds and hundreds of libraries, or the Kennedy’s spirit of public service. I sense that the past half century has seen a great retreat from the very concept of noblesse oblige, and no small part of the cause, I believe, is the crusade by people like Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises to not just redefine, but actually celebrate, selfishness as a supposedly positive force in human affairs. Part of this is the neo-liberals’ explicit attack on the very concept of the General Welfare or the public good as a “slippery slope to tyranny.” For example, Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.

    Not only have the liberals and the left utterly failed to understand and oppose these neo-liberal conceptions as cultural and epistemological warfare, they have also largely rejected the cultural foundations against which this neo-liberal cultural and epistemological warfare has been waged: the Judeo-Christian message of the social gospel, and the American Revolution’s Enlightenment concept of the equality of all people. Having already abandoned the redoubts being assailed by the neo-liberals, what is left to defend? Nietzsche’s will to power? Freud’s id? Sartre’s existentialism? No wonder neo-liberalism has emerged triumphant and dominant across the entire globe.

  28. Ian Welsh

    Great politicians change how people feel, and build off that.

    Yes, obviously Thatcher was looking to change British culture, and she did. So did Reagan, and to a large extent, so did George W. Bush, which is why I say that while he wasn’t a “good President”, he was arguably a “Great” one.

    But in practical terms it is also about the opposition party: the victory of FDR is made manifest by how Eisenhower ran the country; the victory of Thatcher by how Blair did — as I noted above. Make the opposition feel it can’t win offering the previous policies, correctly or not, and you’ve won.

  29. Great politicians change how people feel, and build off that.

    So then the question is, if so: why don’t progressives produce great politicians? Well, Scotland’s Lord and Lady of the Fishes (Salmond and Sturgeon) seem to have succeeded in changing the feeling, and we’ll see how Rachel Notley fares in Alberta in the longer term. But those are, basically, a couple of provinces, one literally (the other is called a “country” but is actually less autonomous).

    I would argue that it’s not just particular politicians, but the intellectual apparatus that supports them, the time and groundwork it takes, and so on. For some reason, progressives do not have that apparatus — seem, in my opinion, averse to developing one, even.

  30. subgenius

    @ mandos

    Just occured to me…

    Could it be that the right exists as a pyramid/power (with a singular peak) while the left is by nature more about circularity/inclusiveness? At least in essence…the realworld left is obviously captured at thos point and is now just a subset of the right…

  31. subgenius

    Power should be exclusive…’smart’ phone my arse

  32. CMike


    As to your link to “The only way is down…,” I thought this was an especially useful insight for people in a progblog comment thread to consider:

    5. Social media is not delivering on its promises to change politics. There are lots of reasons for this, including that many of the promises were hype. But here’s one element in the mix. If you’re old enough to remember when Google was new, then think back to the first time you saw the Google search page: how long did it take before you got why it was good? Not much longer than a few keystrokes and a click. Then think back to the first time you saw Twitter: how long did it take you before you got why it was good? Probably months. Or maybe you’re still not convinced.

    The social technologies that have grown up over the past decade layer a depth of social and cultural subtlety on top of the technical platform in a way that wasn’t true for the information technologies of the internet in its earlier phases. This creates an under-recognised gap between the people who have invested the time to get initiated in the kind of active, engaged use of a tool like Twitter and people who don’t get it and aren’t likely to get it any time soon. So it’s not just the self-selecting echo chambers we create that make social media problematic, it’s also the unrepresentative section of the population who are actively present there and the detachment this fosters from the rest of the population.

    Otherwise, I’m not thinking the recommendations suggested in that piece provide a useful direction to proceed towards at this late hour. In fact, I think the following is an approach that’s a loser for organizing budding Anglo and American working and middle class movements, aside from the part about making common cause with faith based organizations:

    16. Build a movement that starts by being present in the place where you are and supporting the most vulnerable. Look at the role that the grassroots movements around Syriza have played in helping people to endure the hardships of austerity in Greece. That needs to be one of the models for whatever happens in Britain, as five more years of austerity are piled on the weakest. And for heaven’s sake, work with the churches (and the mosques, synagogues, gudwaras and temples) – whatever the rational differences many on the left may have with people of faith, the everyday engagement of religious communities puts most of us to shame. And the churches have shown more courage in criticising austerity than most of the Labour frontbench.

    If you can’t offer members of the majority group people some benefit for themselves and instead try to either rally them either around the interests of the rich or the interests of the poor a large number of them are going to choose to align themselves with the successful.

    Among the other “18 notes” in that piece there’s the suggestion that there needs to be more, if you can believe it, strategizing or consciousness raising about the meta. What’s really needed are some left of center concrete proposals on offer that people can believe will leave them better off if put in place. Over the medium term the interests of the most vulnerable will be best served by first empowering the general population, the members of which by their nature are rather generous and altruistic but more so when the wolves are a good distance from their own doors.

    And it is with reference to that nature that the neo-liberal thesis should be challenged, and along the lines you suggest Mandos, though I’d argue to keep it simple. A critique a couple of paragraphs long should be worked back into the discourse stating the preposterousness of the notion that the individual human chooses to enter into a social contract with the many in a monomaniacal pursuit of ones own personal advantage when, in fact, we’re a species evolved to live in groups of our fellows and with whom it is in our nature to assume all sorts of complex social roles for what evidently is our primary purpose of assuring that the group/groups to which we belong thrives/thrive.

  33. Oaktown Girl

    Here is a link to some coverage of the anti-Toris rallies going on in London today.

    In case that link did not work (it’s been a while since I’ve done it!), here’s the url:–London-Conservatives

  34. Oaktown Girl

    Great politicians change how people feel, and build off that.

    I’m going nuts trying to remember where I read just recently how one of the main Republican strategies very early on in rolling back the New Deal was to slowly but steadily change workers from identifying as workers, and instead make every worker identify as an independent entrepreneur (or something to that effect).

  35. CMike: that’s the kind of thing with which, unfortunately, I explicitly disagree, if I am understanding you correctly. It’s one of the left-wing fantasies/failure modes to imagine that merely a straightforward presentation of costs/benefits and the majority’s Real True Self-Interest will result in victory down the line. My complaint is that the grassroots left engages not too much, but too little with the “meta” issues. Depending on how you define *those*, of course. But the tolerance level for “meta” is so low in some quarters that of course it seems like the discourse is flooded with it. The right pays people to do it, knowing how necessary it is.

  36. While I deeply disagree with the NC “approach”, they do collect great links, which I check religiously. This one is also pretty good:

    The New York Times ran an article today on the electoral results in Scotland featuring the election of the youngest MP in three centuries, the SNP’s Mhairi Black (no relation as far as I know). The article begins with her rage when Labour members taunted her after the defeat of the referendum in favor of independence for Scotland. The reaction of the people of Scotland to the abuse was not to get simply get mad, but to change politics.

    Remember, Cameron – the nation’s actual head of state – believed that prejudice against the Scots was sufficiently widespread and strong in the south that a campaign strategy premised on the need to turn back the “threat” that the Scots would actually have a voice in helping to determine policy in the “union” was the optimal means for the Tories to take control of the Commons. Cameron proved correct. That says a great deal that is worrisome not simply about Cameron, but also too large a segment of his constituents. Economists should understand “revealed biases.”

    SNP succeeded electorally (though not in a referendum) through the positive harnessing of negative emotion. The PQ/BQ in Canada once had this knack, but it appears to have lost its mojo that way, as soon as they decided that they’d engage in *negative* harnessing of negative emotion (attacking conspicuous religious minorities, which the Marois government thought would lead them to easy victory).

  37. CMike


    I understand “the right pays people to do it,” and has done so with a shotgun approach for decades [LINK] [LINK]. However, the right-wing bottomless pit of money approach isn’t available to serve the progressive/liberal/left wing of Anglo-American politics as a template for developing and selling its message going forward. The left just doesn’t have those financial resources, nor the time at this late hour, nor access to the full gamut of corporate mainstream media platforms with which to mirror the post-WWII right wing approach that halted the post-1929 trend toward an acceptance of social democracy as the preferred model for government and replaced that preference with the fetish for neo-liberalism that dominates today.

    Instead, the left is going to have to choose, hone, and rely on policy proposals to galvanize their natural constituencies including those who are growing more worried about their futures. Practically speaking, there’s no other way for the left to go about this.

  38. Until you get off the rock, then your going to have the same choices. Now that the elites know that the little people are going to inflict enough suffering on themselves, it’s only a matter of time.

  39. Lisa

    Oh England is a deeply conservative, class ridden and racist society at heart.

    There was a counterbalance to that in the industrial working class, long (and it was no coincidence or accident) destroyed (ditto the US). The elimination of them by massive deindustrialisation was a deliberate political move (again ditto the US) to eliminate the only coherent political movement capable of resisting the move to return to a ‘pseudo’ 19th century society (including the endless wars), expect compulsary forelock tugging being introduced any day now.

    It is no accident that all the Anglo Saxon countries, UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand deindustrialsed within an amazingly short period of about 30 years, preferring to base their economies on the ‘gentlemanly’ persuits of endless financial speculation….

    England, overall, has got what it wants and very much deserves. As an ex Scot and a current Australian my priorities are an independent Scotland and that Australia doesn’t follow this path any further than it has already. Both of those countries have potential futures, the others (with the possible exception of New Zealand and at a very long shot Canada) don’t.

    In the end it is a path to total economic and social collapse, but the ‘senile elites’ in the A.S. countries (as Dimtir Orlov calls them) are fixed on this path and they are not going to change. As for the ‘ordinary’ people supporting and suffering from this in those countries? It is also no accident that most of them are pig ignorant, easily led into racism and classsim and even more easily conned into believing that somehow ‘they’ will personally be better off even if everyone around them is getting done over. Thick as planks the lot of them.

    Just watching how many have been so easily led into Muslim racism or being anti-Russian instructive in just how pathetic most of them are.

    I just hope an independent Scotland builds a BIG wall across the border to stop the starving refugees from England.

    England’s ‘future’ is bleak, the most indebted nation in the world (when you add up all debt Govt, personal, company, financial system), endemic (and now unfixable and will ever grow) trade deficit, can’t even feed itself (about 20 million short), an industrial wasteland, an originally poor education/training system smashed even more to bits and incapable of even replacing the current skilled people now retiring/dying, collapsing energy systems……. A country so broke it is gutting its military, while expanding its wars…and seems totally desperate to go to war with Russia. If it was up to the so called ‘left wing’ Guardian British troops would be heading for Moscow tomorrow….all 10 of them…lol.

    An elite so bad that it doesn’t even not recognise these issues as problems …it revels in them, deep in their miserable hearts this is what they really want (and pardons for paedophiles, an endemic Conservative syndrome).

    As for the US (that bastard offshoot and now dominant in the Anglosphere and that western satrapy sometimes called Europe) well Dimitri probably outlines the most probable outcome of the next 2 decades, excepting a US breakup or (getting ever more probable) nuclear war with Russia.

    To give myself a bit of credit I was saying this many years ago, the US was going to collapse (England far sooner), the elites unlike the Soviets and UK ones would not go down quietly, rather they would try and take everything down with them. “A race between US collapse and global nuclear war” has been my ‘fond’ statement from at least 2002. IMO it is going to be close, real close…….

    Anyway from Dimitri:
    “…would indicate that, short of an outright nuclear mutual self-annihilation, there isn’t much that the US military could throw at Russia that Russia couldn’t neutralize…..”

    “Instead of collapsing quietly, the US has decided to pick a fight with Russia. It appears to have already lost the fight, but a question remains: How many more countries will the US manage to destroy before the reality of its inevitable defeat and disintegration finally catches up with it?”

    “There is no question that the Americans will continue to try to create mischief around the world, “touching” vulnerable, exploitable countries, for as long as they can.

    But there is another question that deserves to be asked: Do the Americans “touch” themselves? Because if they do, then the next candidate for extreme makeover into a bombed-out wasteland might be the United States itself. Let’s consider this option.”

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