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

The Duty and Responsibility of Left-wing Leaders

Let us say that you are leading a movement which, if it wins, will save hundreds of thousands to millions of deaths, and will take millions of out of poverty.

The corollary to this is that if you fail, if you lose, those people will die or be stuck in poverty, and generally that many others will fall into poverty.

Your loss, then, occasions a great deal of suffering.

It is often hard to know what to do to win, and there are red lines. Unless a situation has descended to civil war, or you intend civil war, like America’s founding fathers or slavery abolitionist John Brown, you shouldn’t murder, and obviously rape and torture are off the board no matter what.

But because the stakes are so high, you do have a responsibility to play your hand seriously. It isn’t actually a game.

In modern democracies, the most important thing is to control parties. Margaret Thatcher said that her victory was only complete when Labour accepted her ideology. If they hadn’t, when they got into power, they would have just un-done everything she did. John Major, the Tory PM wasn’t her true successor–Tony Blair was.

When Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour party he took over a neoliberal Blairite party. Most of the MPs had voted for most of the worst Tory policies, or abstained from the key votes. They were complicit in a great deal of the evils of austerity.

They were implacable enemies of Corbyn, as were the party bureaucrats. Indeed, a story came out with emails proving that these bureaucrats worked against Corbyn in the 2017 election. Given just how close that election was, they probably cost Corbyn the victory.

Had Corbyn won, he would have refunded the NHS. If it was a majority victory, he’d still be Prime Minister and he wouldn’t have bungled the Coronavirus response like Johnson, a bungling which appears to have about doubled the death rate next to comparable European countries.

Those bureaucrats, then, are responsible for the deaths caused by Johnson being PM. If you don’t understand this, you need to learn how, because this sort of thing is the key driver of why our societies are so bad: The forseeable consequences of evil actions are treated as if they are incidental. Having incompetent ideologues in charge of government who believe that “society doesn’t exist,” and that government isn’t responsible for people’s welfare has consequences.

Corbyn also failed in another important way: He never kicked out MPs who were traitorously constantly attacking him, nor did he support the mandatory re-selction of MPs, a process by which the Labour membership gets to vote for their nominee.

Doing both of these things would have transformed Labour back into a proper left-wing party, and given Corbyn a much greater chance at victory. Even if he lost both elections, his successor would be left-wing and properly supported by the party, and in first past the post democracy, the second party will eventually wind up in power.

Nothing is more important than ideological control of a party.

Now, the thing here is that neither of these strategies required Corbyn to go against his beliefs: Corbyn always said he believed the party should be run by the membership. Re-selections, indeed re-selection every election, is exactly and completely in accord with that.

Corbyn is a truly good man, but like a lot of people of his generation, he has an addiction to being nice, confusing it with being good.

Being nice to bad actors, to MPs who support cutting the NHS and social welfare and bailing out bankers, isn’t good, it’s evil. They need to be removed from power. This isn’t terrible for them, no centrist MP is likely to wind up on the bread lines if they aren’t an MP (which is part of why they were willing to be evil).

Then we have Sanders. Sanders was never as good a man in political terms as Corbyn, his politics are nowhere near as good. Still, he was a good man in American terms.

Sanders is also addicted to niceness. He refused to attack Biden on Biden’s terrible record, a record which is at odds with everything that Sanders claims to believe in, supposedly because Biden was his good friend.

This is dereliction of duty. If he had done it because he believed it was the best strategy, fine. It might or might not be. But to put his friendship with Biden against the welfare and even the lives of millions of Americans is a sickening betrayal of principle and of his followers.

Power has responsibility. Those who work to save millions of lives and make sure millions more are not in poverty, have a responsibility to their mission, and that responsibility does not allow one to put one’s personal desire to be “nice” ahead of the mission.

Good and nice are not the same thing. Niceness is, well, nice, but people who are willing to impoverish and kill millions are evil people and they need to lose their power. The actions taken to remove their power may not be “nice,” but they are good.

I admire Corbyn more than any other British politician of the past 40 years. But he failed in part because he wasn’t willing to be even moderately ruthless against people who were, well, doing a lot of evil. Traitors, in fact.

As for Sanders, well, it appears the same is true. He asked his followers to fight for someone they didn’t know, but he wasn’t willing to fight someone he did know.

A hypocrite, in effect.

Sanders’ and Corbyn’s times are done. They were the best of the Boomers, the last major politicians who hadn’t sold out or sold their soul. Their failures are not theirs alone. Brits and American Democrats genuinely prefer to let people die and live in poverty than vote for a moderate left-winger. That it is older Brits who voted against Corbyn whom Johnson’s policies are killing is ironic.

New politicians will now rise. Hopefully those on the left are people who understand that if one is the champion of the people, one has responsibilities which go beyond being nice to those doing evil. That, in fact, their responsibility is to remove all power from those who use that power from evil.

Doing so won’t be nice to the people who lose their power. It will be “nice” and good to those who are lifted out of poverty or who don’t die due to evil austerity policies, corruption, and incompetence.

Gotta decide what’s more important. Being nice to bad people, or doing good.

And you have to be willing to actually use power when you have it. The right certainly is. The left needs to be.

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  1. S Brennan

    I’ll will be interesting to see who the DNCers et al will select to run against Trump. It will also be amusing to watch the insertion maneuver, I mean, does Biden get bumped-off after the nomination, or do they wait until he takes office and do a VP switch-a-roo.

    Curious times, whoever gets the VP slot is somebody to watch, never, [in my time] has a Presidential Candidate been so obviously impaired to the point where the 25th amendment is clearly in play at the outset. I am sure the DNCers et al gave the 25th Amendment a lot of thought back in 2017 when they brought the tactic to public attention as an available weapon to replace Trump with Pence.

  2. DMC

    I’m still putting a fin on HRC for veep, although there’s talk around the water cooler about drafting Andy Cuomo. Is it just me, or is this shaping up to be the least legitimate sham of a presidential election since…ever?

  3. Hugh

    I am reminded of Capt. Crozier of the Theodore Roosevelt. He exercised command responsibility when he went outside the chain of command to do what was both necessary and right. It will probably cost him his career, but he did what his duty required. He treated his crew as the citizen-soldiers they are. The rest of the chain of command from Crozier’s immediate superior Rear Admiral Stuart Baker who commands the Theodore Roosevelt strike group to Adm. John Aquilino, head of the Pacific Fleet to Admiral Michael M. Gilday, chief of Naval Operations to Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Thomas Modly, the acting Secretary of the Navy to Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense to Donald Trump, the President blew it. They couldn’t be bothered about sailors dying unnecessarily. They saw them as cheap, expendable fodder. They were more interested in the hardware, the carrier, than the people who made it something more than a very expensive lump of steel. And rather than do anything meaningful, exercise leadership, and do what needed to be done, they are hiding behind the chain of command, forgetting that chain and its responsibilities run both ways.

    And this is what resonates with me about Sanders endorsing Biden. Crozier recognized his duty to those he led and stayed true to that duty and to them even though that brought him into conflict with his superiors and cost him personally. Sanders did the opposite.

  4. Joan

    In both situations, the people need a candidate who will drain the swamp. I remember Bernie tweeting after Nevada something like “To the Republican establishment, and to the Democratic establishment: we’re coming for you.” I was so stoked when I read that.

    But nowadays I wonder whether that was one of his staffers who typed it. His campaign staff had apparently tried to get him to call out Biden’s cognitive decline and Bernie wouldn’t do it. This was when Trump had already run an attack ad about it, so Bernie would not have been the one to do it first.

  5. Eric Anderson

    Reupping the bet line for veep.
    $10 from every loser goes to Ian.

    Me: Michelle Obama
    TenBears: HRC
    Joan: Klobuchar
    DMC: HRC

    Those not yet committing yet to $10, but have made their thoughts known:

    Z: Klobuchar

    Come on gang. It’s for a good cause. Put your money where mouth is.

  6. Stirling S Newberry

    John Brown not John brown.

  7. Mojave Wolf

    Shout out to Hugh for the comment above re: Crozier. Hats off to that man.

    Of possible VP choices, I am not putting up money unless I get rich or least comfortable again, but I’m saying either (not picking one) Kamala Harris or Stacy Abrams. (This is assuming Biden intends to actually stick it out and get inaugurated and the D’s expect to win. If not, different line of thought applies)

    Klobuchar would be the best choice as to “who would be the best-suited to lead among the other corporatists” but I think the D’s will have a “woman of color” replacement ready so that when the next election comes up, and Biden is gone, they can say to any lefties who don’t like her, “how dare you not support the woman of color you evil bigots!”

    Michelle Obama would give him the best chance of winning and I really hope he doesn’t pick her for that reason, but I don’t think she wants it, especially since w/Biden someone else, possibly the VP, would have to be the real President.

    If they plan to replace Biden before the election, that changes everything, and any of the above are possible, as is Cuomo, whom they appear to be floating constant trial balloons for.

    IF they plan to replace Biden before nom, slight edge to Cuomo but would never put money on it; I don’t know the thinking enough.

    I am assuming HRC has had enough of running and even if she desperately wants the “replace Biden” spot both she and the DNC will be too afraid of losing again.

    All this assumes that they do not have such a high degree of confidence in voting machine tabulations that the true outcome is unknowable and irrelevant.

    I want both Trump and Biden and all the DNC and all the RNC to lose so badly even tho one of them will surely win; it is genuinely painful thinking of what is coming down the pike and how badly we as a species (not just we as a nation, tho that too, but the whole species everywhere) have blown it.

  8. KT Chong

    Back in 2016, only two professors, Helmut Norpoth and Allan Lichtman, went against all the polls and pundits and prevalent predictions that Hillary would defeat Trump in a landslide. Using different models, both Norpoth and Lichtman predicted that Trump would defeat Hillary, win the election and become the president.

    Professor Helmut Norpoth has just updated his “Primary Model” and released his prediction for the 2020 election:

    “91-95% Certain Trump Will Be Re-elected”


  9. bruce wilder

    One thing a good voter and supporter needs to try to do, and that a serious politician needs to master doing, is to tell the truth. Realistically, telling the truth ought to be surrounded and supported by tactful discretion and emotional awareness, if it is to be a basis for practical politics, but it is ultimately the only adaptive strategy in an uncertain world.

    The corruption of American politics is rooted in manipulation. The political class are composed of cynical manipulators whose first instinct and last philosophy are to lie. The impulse toward telling a “good story” — meaning something radically different from objective description or analytic insight — dominates and the reasons it dominates has to do with a seeking after power, a corrupt seeking that permeates the life of the American elite.

    I used to think empathy is what people and politicians need to produce a decent politics, but I came to see that even hard-hearted truth makes for better politics than kind b.s.

    Truth is not simple or necessarily easy. Most of political discourse is about promoting and trafficking in fictions in the best of times. There is no replacing fiction with truth. The good fight is a battle for true fiction: stories that find meaning in factual reality, not convenient lies.

    I think Cornyn was doomed from the moment he let accusations of anti-Semitism, accusations made by deeply cynical people hostile to Labour, go forward in a formally serious investigation. I think Sanders was doomed when he let Russia,Russia,Russia go without objection.

    Sanders had difficulty finding a reflective register where he was not shouting and pointing his finger, but simply affirming simple truth and challenging corrupt intent. He should have called out Biden in a quiet litany of policy malfeasance. People in the U.S. are so snowed by propaganda, they do not know that politics is about the power to make policy. He should have called out Biden as a serial fabulous to his face. He should have called out Tom Perez and primary voters for the irresponsibility behind nominating a dementia patient. And his campaign should have been more deeply prepared for voter suppression and corrupt ballot counting.

    All those things require the ability to tell the truth in a way that can be heard for truth. I am not sure Sanders is “nice” so much as he lacks the deft ability to change registers that effective truth-telling requires. And a large handicap is the audience, which really does not want to hear the truth.

  10. Stephen

    This is the kind of guy you want:

    “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin”.

    – Nye Bevan

  11. bruce wilder

    @ Stephen

    Bevan was committed and effective, exactly the kind we want, but that quotation! That is not truth as I see it, nor politically effective rhetoric.

  12. Mojave Wolf

    Came across a favorite quote just now and wished to promote it here.

    Speaking of left wing leaders, I may actually write in this person, even tho she’s not real. She deserves my vote (tho weirdly enough, from what I remember of his timeline in elections past, Richard Morgan very likely would not vote for her):

    From Altered Carbon:

    “The personal, as everyone’s so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here – it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft-. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide from under it with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across. That way, you stand a better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous marks the difference – the only difference in their eyes – between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it’s just business, it’s politics, it’s the way of the world, it’s a tough life and that it’s nothing personal. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.

    Quellcrist Falconer
    Things I Should Have Learned by Now, Volume II”

  13. krake

    @ bruce

    If you are calculating the efficacy of rhetoric you are already very clearly the enemy.

  14. Chiron

    Real Left-wing politics aren’t going anywhere if they don’t start to confront the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the israel lobby and the Zionist plutocracy that took a hole in the West.

  15. krake

    The class war is a real war. But it is not between equals; because: class.

    The plutos are organized. When they act, everywhere, real people become real corpses. The survivors’ lives get worse. Measurably less worth living. And measurement is part of the winners’ way of scoring, conquering, ruling. Money measures the “right” to exist, and the ‘freedom” to enjoy that existence.

    When the proles act, more often than not it’s to police each other, often in “competition” for flimsy, insulting patronage from a clever pluto.

    That’s what all the concern about rhetoric, right speech, messaging and optics reveals: that the concerned parties have already chosen their surrender clothing and the bedazzles for their chains. It’s about signaling to the bosses that they have nothing to fear; when it comes to the class war, the cowards will out.

    If you don’t have as your primary and often only goal the visceral and measurable destruction of the enemy’s ability to produce misery and corpses with impunity, it is because you already belong to that enemy, body and worm-eaten little soul.


    And ffs, no, the problem isn’t ‘Zionists’. Israel is a client state. Subsidiary, and wholly owned. Its security apparatus does what the Anglos tell it to do or it ceases to exist.

  16. Hugh

    Mojave Wolf, everyone remembers the line from the Godfather movie: “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.” But in the book, it is Tom Hagen who says this, and Michael takes exception to it:

    “‘You shouldn’t let that broken jaw influence you,’ Hagen said. ‘McCluskey is a stupid man and it was business, not personal.’

    For the second time he saw Michael Corleone’s face freeze into a mask that resembled uncannily the Don’s. ‘Tom, don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That’s what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal. Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes. Right? And you know something? Accidents don’t happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult.'”

  17. Aqua Lung

    Spot on comment from krake. The electoral process is a sham. It’s a travesty of a mockery of sham of a mockery of a travesty. I pull my hair out, because I have more than enough and always will have enough to be able to pull it out whenever the moment calls to pull it out, every time I see otherwise intelligent commenters at this venue seriously and earnestly discuss politics as though it has any legitimacy whatsoever and as though it actually addresses the root of the issues that plague us. Politics, or at least politics as we know it, is anathema to the truth. Politics is predicated on lies. Big little lies and little big lies and all lies in between. In fact, politics as we know it is not the art of the deal but in fact the art of lying.

  18. bruce wilder

    Ordinary politics in ordinary times is conflict, but not war. Revolutionary moments happen because conflict and commitment create political cycles, as Ian clearly says: in a two-party system, the other Party sooner or later comes to power. But, actual violence is extremely costly. The Right uses that fact for political intimidation and extortion where it can, in ordinary “peaceful” politics (under which plenty of violence can be done to the lower classes). If violent revolution comes — and historically it often has originated as counter-revolution or conflict among right-wing elites — a real Left must fight, remembering that if your plan is to kill the king, kill the king. But, also knowing that revolutions must end; ordinary people soon desperately want revolution to end. A millennial Left, or a Monty Python left, that refuses to see that conflict — yes, class conflict! — is inevitable and in a sense perpetual, but that means of peaceful resolution short of total oppression should be the goal, makes itself useless.

  19. Aqua Lung

    But, also knowing that revolutions must end…

    Ah, see, that’s where you’re wrong and that’s one way amongst many it’s all gone wrong. Che would disagree with you just as he disagreed with Fidel. The revolution must go on in perpetuity for otherwise, corruption entrenches. The system calcifies. Ultimately, it’s usurped by the psychopaths who rise to the top and cement their power positions and use that power to maintain in perpetuity the corrupt, sadistic, abusive status quo that protects their status within the system.

  20. Ché Pasa

    How close is the US to civil war?

    The recent spats between the governors and the president suggest the strains and fallout of the Outbreak are leading the US toward breaking up into regional semi-autonomous polities, none of them particularly beholden to the central government nor necessarily to one another.

    It’s not unexpected given how unreliable and chaotic the federal government has shown itself to be in this pandemic — not just the White House but the whole emergency apparatus. Congress is out of session and may stay that way for the duration. The courts are a partisan mess mired in fear and injustice. The very idea of elections under these circumstances is becoming more and more absurd.

    Absent rational federal leadership in this or another emergency, the vacuum will be filled by whomever assumes authority. In the immediate case, it isn’t presidential candidates. Not Bernie, not Biden, not Trump.

    At no time did Bernie show leadership in the context of the immediate crisis, and so he became irrelevant. Biden has not shown leadership ability, either. He is as irrelevant. Trump has flailed so badly so often, he’s a clear and present danger who no one has shown the ability to wrangle and overcome.

    The governors are asserting authority, but how long will that last? The regional consortiums and compacts are necessary stopgaps. Can they be sustained or expanded? Hard to say. While Cuomo and Newsom are showing flashes of leadership, they are both mired in the past. Other governors are at best treading water. There is yet no future vision among them.

    The vacuum has not quite been filled, and there are opportunities for warlord types to assert themselves — assuming they aren’t all cowards like Trump and his enablers.

    If warlords rather than regular military do assert themselves, then civil war is guaranteed. The US isn’t at that point yet, but if the situation continues deteriorating for the masses, we could be there sooner rather than later.

  21. Good one wolf. Throw a wrench in it.

    How close is the US to civil war? I’m pretty sure if my biological brothers and I were in the same room it would quickly devolve to violence. Yes, because of the life I have lived I have a tendency to jump first, and tho’ we haven’t in over thirty years each in their own not only represent but revel in the evil, the harm, that has been done to me. One a four millions a year braggart Manhattan construction contractor (hiding out right now in penciltucky) the other one of those California mega ‘minister’ today very concerned with his churches future financial security should the Trump Pandemic lock-down continue.

    What’s funny? Neither knows fuck-all about huntin’ or fishin’, fightin’ or fuckin’, guns or guts.

  22. highrpm

    and the demons are still the party-of-choice? what have the demons on the repugs for good over evil? both parties slop at trough of corporatocracy. fail to see the blind spot of repugs: bad, demons: not-as-bad. (btw, obama should be ashamed of himself for such a sellout endorsement of dementia joe. as his blatantly obvious tool as useful idiot in the orchestration of biden’s nomination.) (as well, sanders: may he live in infamy for such despicable behavior, which he’s always wanted to avoid. ) peoplespartydotorg. (zero hope.)

  23. John

    The DNC apparat is probably studying closely the Reagan second campaign and term for how to manage a Dementia Presidency. Looked at from a dementia management point of view, Reagan’s handlers did a pretty good job, made easier by Reagan’s acting experience. He knew how to read script others had written. Biden not so much.
    But I think Trump will win anyways. Nothing is more important than winning for Republicans and nothing is off the table to support that end. They will go full Game of Thrones if necessary.

  24. Z


    And ffs, no, the problem isn’t ‘Zionists’. Israel is a client state. Subsidiary, and wholly owned. Its security apparatus does what the Anglos tell it to do or it ceases to exist.

    What the f*ck are you talking about? Israel is not a client state, FFS. When was the last time Israel didn’t do something that they wanted to do because the U.S. told them not to? The settlements?! Ha. Israel thumbed its nose at Obama on the settlements and just kept driving Palestinians out.

    You’d probably have to go back to 1991 to when Israel last obeyed an order from the U.S. that they didn’t want to and the circumstances surrounding that was that Iraq bombed them and we asked Israel to stand down so the conflict didn’t expand while we bombed the hell out of Iraq, for us and for them.

    Israel has an extremely entrenched power structure within the U.S. government, including a fair amount of people within the U.S. government who have dual citizenship. AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), probably the most powerful lobbying group in the U.S., even brags about their influence within the U.S. government.

    “In November, Electronic Intifada obtained and published the four-part series, but it did so during the week of the midterm elections, and the documentary did not get a lot of attention then.

    In it, leaders of the pro-Israel lobby speak openly about how they use money to influence the political process, in ways so blunt that if the comments were made by critics, they’d be charged with anti-Semitism. “

    We also just saw the top pro-working class politician in the U.K. get toppled out of power largely due to baseless anti-antisemitism accusations and Sanders get bounced out from the democratic nomination partly by an almost unanimous opposition by Jewish Zionists in the media and within the funding structure of the democratic party. And the turn for Sanders happened right after he attacked AIPAC, and even got Amy K and YR Pete to agree to not attend AIPAC’s conference. And then Amy K and YR Pete almost immediately afterwards unexpectedly dropped out, probably partly due to “funding” issues, and ran back to AIPAC and basically apologized.

    But, yeah, go ahead. Go on with your bullshit and then cry “anti-semitism” like a child when anyone refutes it. That seems to be the way with this particular brand of intellectual dishonesty.


  25. Zachary Smith

    I’ve been reading about how the Zionists worked endlessly to defeat Corbyn. Just a few moments ago I found an article specifically addressing the issue.

    Jeremy Corbyn was defeated because he refused to defend himself against the Israel lobby
    There is a bit of weird justice involved here – the UK was one of the major forces in setting up the Apartheid state, and now that little horror is starting to take over both the the internal politics and foreign policy of its former benefactor.

    They openly bragged about it. Headline:
    We “slaughtered” Jeremy Corbyn, says Israel lobbyist at the Electronic Intifada site.

  26. Z

    Eric Anderson,

    I’m not partaking in the bet and I don’t believe that Amy K, her of Swiss Army Komb infame, will be Biden’s VP choice.

    It will be Lyin’ Liz IMO. She must have been promised something by Biden because she basically came to his rescue with her misogynist insinuations about Bernie when Bernie’s campaign started firing on Biden. Plus she never attacked Biden at all during her campaign even though she sparked her political career by criticizing his bankruptcy bill.

    It’ll be Lyin’ Liz as a symbolic fig leaf to the left.


  27. Mark Pontin

    @ Bruce –

    ‘Bevan … but that quotation! That is not truth as I see it, nor politically effective rhetoric.’

    Here’s the rest of the Bevan quotation: “They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through.”

    Re. the truth question —

    Once you see a thing, you can’t unsee it. “They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation.” I think this was absolutely truth as Bevan had lived it and seen it.

    Remember: Bevan was born in 1897, a Welsh coal miner’s son, left school at 13, and went down the mines in his early teens. where he was named head of his Miner’s Lodge at 19. After attending Central Labour College in London (American workers and unions have never much cottoned to this, AFAIK, but the British working class understood from the 19th century on that the upper classes didn’t want them educated and set up institutions to redress that), he went back home to Wales and couldn’t get any work for three years.

    So, besides going down the mines, Bevan had lived through WWI and the Depression, .

    As regards those mining communities’ extraordinary poverty, recall D.H. Lawrence’s or Orwell’s accounts. For that matter, in the 1950s my mother arrived in the UK from South Africa and worked as a singer in touring musicals and pantomimes, so she rented lodgings in local working-class homes in Wales. A half-century later she still talked with incredulity about their poverty — how they were unable to afford sufficient blankets for their beds and so used layers of old newspapers, for instance. And for some perspective, she was from a hard-scrabble, white trash Cape Town background, with murder and alcoholism in the family picture.

    So, yes, absolute, heartfelt truth as Bevan had lived it.

    Re. the politically effective rhetoric question —

    You’re right about that. It absolutely wasn’t.

  28. Mark Pontin

    Ché Pasa wrote: “How close is the US to civil war?”

    Is civil war the only historical model? No. The collapse of the Soviet Union occurred without civil war. (Well, the ensuing decade of looting by Western-supported oligarchs counts as a low-key civil war, which I suppose you could argue).

  29. Mark Pontin


    Well, _unless_ the ensuing decade of looting by Western-supported oligarchs counts as a low-key civil war, which I suppose you could argue

  30. Zachary Smith

    The Duty and Responsibility of Left-wing Leaders

    The new UK Labor Leader saw what happened to Corbyn, and decided his Duty and Responsibility was to immediately start smooching the backside of the local Zionist Lobby.

    Now the Apartheid state owns both UK political parties. Just like in the US.

  31. dbk

    Speaking from a purely personal standpoint, I consider that Sanders has placed those who believed in the policies he advocated for in an impossible position.

    It’s not rational to vote for the presumed nominee for anyone who supports M4A, student debt relief, the GND, etc. I’m old and admittedly an exception, but it seems very unlikely that Sanders supporters under 30 will vote for Biden no matter how much his acolytes try to shame them; in all likelihood, they won’t vote at all in November.

    All that jazz being spouted over at LGM about pressing JB to shift a little bit leftward – er, no. Has anybody seen the Useful Idiots podcast where Matt Taibbi, a cynical political journalist, looks about 12 years old as he laughs in hapless disbelief at what the DNC accomplished on Super Tuesday? He just keeps laughing haplessly while repeating “Biden, he’s a pathological liar, a serial liar, I can’t believe it” (and Taibbi has been around the block a few times; he’s seen a lot). We’re supposed to believe Biden can be held to a single promise made in the next six months? Got a bridge to sell me? [Note: Taibbi appears to have decided to abandon political reporting and sit the rest of the 2020 campaign out; he’s returning to financial reporting, and will concentrate on the shenanigans in the CARES Act bills – that’ll keep him busy.]

    I’m starting to wonder whether the person to lead the American left out of the wilderness might have to come from outside the traditional political system. But where is that person? I am not given to despair, but is there anyone between the ages of 30 and 70 with the character, politics, and killer instinct to lead the left? [I agree with Ian here – that person will need to possess the killer instinct Corbyn and Sanders lacked, to their own and everyone else’s detriment.]

    My favorite political blogger often reminds his readers that “politics ain’t beanbag,” meaning that politics is a brutal sport. You’ve got to be cunning, you’ve got to be clever, you’ve got to be single-minded, and you’ve got to believe.

    Any ideas, anyone?

  32. Hugh

    dbk, no progressive should vote for Donald Trump because he stands for nothing that we believe. The only logical choice then is Joe Biden because he stands for nothing that we believe. OK, maybe “logical” is a stretch but somehow this is the thinking of Establishment Democrats. They think they have a winning argument with “Do you want Trump choosing more judges/Supreme Court justices?” But the answer is do they want this, and if they don’t, why are they foisting some candidate on us who offers us nothing.

  33. nihil obstet

    The good traditional Democrats I know firmly believe that each GOP presidential candidate is the worst ever and poses a threat to the republic. They’ve believed it for at least 35 years. I wonder if the ruling members of the DNC and the party believe anything like it, or do they just see it all as a business?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that they are utterly clueless about any kind of policy or public service. Winning the next electoral cycle is simply increasing your sales figures for the quarter. Your commission will get bigger, and you’ll earn more flattery.

    It’s the only way I can figure out how they can screech about the Republican president destroying our constitutional government (which they’ve done with every single one of them since 1968), and then voting more and more and more power to each one (to be fair, this only started in about 1982), issuing full pardons for any crimes that couldn’t be overlooked (till 1992) and then just overlooking the crimes (2008). Trump is filling the judiciary with right-wing hacks because the Democrats left the seats open. Then Schumer agreed to confirm nominees in groups rather than having hearings or votes on them. But damn, they assure voters that we must must must vote Democratic because of the courts. I don’t think they’ve even promised to nominate progressives or to force confirmations — they had the Supreme Court opening in 2015 and couldn’t fill it. What’s changed?

    We can all look forward to the Democratic National Convention in 2032 when the Democratic politicians cite their noble bipartisan forebears; added to Reagan and the two Bushes as in 2016, they can remember with fondness Donald Trump!

  34. anon

    Elizabeth Warren says she would accept an offer to be Biden’s running mate:

    Warren shouldn’t make these sort of comments unless she knows something we don’t. If she doesn’t end up as his running mate, she ends up looking like the sell-out she actually is and some of her most rabid supporters won’t be happy if Biden chooses another pick (Klobuchar or Harris) who didn’t win as many votes in the primary.

  35. Willy


    Mandos once ridiculed me for stating the bizarre irony that most American blacks are utterly clueless about what MLKs economic politics were. I didn’t get the joke. I think his punchline meant that everything has to do with the prevailing common culture, which today, seems to center around an indoctrinated, brain dead, selfishly nihilistic, jingoistic neoliberalism.

    Yet there are lots of pundits, academics, comedians, famous whatevers, who seemingly have far stronger economic populist views than anybody we’ve been electing. Moore, Chomsky, Reich, Uygur, Ball, Colbert, Dore, Rogan, Rock… come to mind. These people seem to be all over the place, if one just pays attention or looks for them. You’d think that any one of them would make far better ‘common good’ presidents than the establishment fools and con artists we’ve been electing.

    I’ve been somewhat agreeing with Mandos, but don’t discuss much with him since he speaks a version of English I’m not so good at. A large minority of us have enough common sense to agree with famous common sense people, but we don’t vote in large enough numbers to make a real difference. The rest are mostly objectivist assholes or bleating herd fools who cannot think for themselves.

    If I’m getting Mandos right, these are dark times culturally. We have to figure out how to make progressivism “cool”, since making it logical doesn’t work.

  36. Manqueman

    The primary problem is that too few voters recognize and comprehend evil acts when they’re ruining lives — and in these times, killing people.

  37. Sid Finster

    This essay should be tattooed on the brain of anyone seeking to learn from the failures of the Sanders and Corbyn campaigns.

    To paraphrase Ian Welsh in another piece – none of this is “nice”, but if you want to get power, you are going to have to play by the rules of the game as it is currently played.

    Also – if Israel is a “client state” why do we dutifully fight the wars that Israel wants us to fight, but Israel itself never has to join in?

    For that matter, what kind of fucked up feudal relationship demands that politicians in the patron country swear fealty to the client? But every election year, candidates have to travel to AIPAC to kiss the ring.

  38. Sid Finster

    This essay should be tattooed on the brain of anyone seeking to learn from the failures of the Sanders and Corbyn campaigns.

    To paraphrase Ian Welsh in another piece – none of this is “nice”, but if you want to get power, you are going to have to play by the rules of the game as it is currently played.

    Also – if Israel is a “client state” why do we dutifully fight the wars that Israel wants us to fight, but Israel itself never has to join in?

    For that matter, what kind of fucked up feudal relationship demands that politicians in the patron country swear fealty to the client? But every election year, candidates have to travel to AIPAC to kiss the ring.

  39. krake

    The US fights wars that serve US corporate interests. Israel is a garrison state, subject to those interests. It is a buffer, not the architect. It is a catspaw, not a managing director.

    If Israel “pulls its support” nothing changes for anyone in the American security state, its corporate boards, its sinecures or a compliant academia. A few South African mercenaries have to shop for a new paymaster.

    If the US pulls its support, Israel ceases to exist within a year, prob. earlier.

    If ostensibly labor-friendly parties police criticism of Israeli apartheid, its not because of Zionists-full-stop. It’s because some Zionists serve the interests of American profiteers, and an easy way to obscure that power and control over Israeli existence is to shroud it in obfuscation. Nothing quite obfuscates, in Europe or the States, like being tarred as a Hitlerian.

    Israel is, absolutely and obviously, a client state. As a colonial project, it was always more susceptible to corruption and control. It requires powerful patrons and a paranoid garrison politics just to survive any given year, and the odds will always be against it. But it does not make American or European policy. It absorbs some regional blowback, and it functions as a lightning rod.

    To continuously blame Zionists, Israel and other Jews for the mistakes, successes and evils of the ongoing Anglo-American project is to fall prey, yet again, to the relentessly morbid idiocy of anti-semitism.

  40. StewartM

    Ian– the point you say about Corbyn and Sanders being “nice people”–that is true.

    However, the real villain here is the Labor MPs who betrayed Corbyn, and Obama who interefered to stop Sanders. Sanders and Corbyn are not “radicals” or “revolutionaries” but “progressive reformers” in the best sense of the word. They want to substantially reform the system to work better for everyone. They’re being “nice people” means they have empathy for other humans and are loathe to treat them as ‘enemies’ to be only politically defeated, not personally destroyed.

    “Those who would make peaceful reform impossible make violent revolution inevitable”–JFK. Labor MPs and Obama just made peaceful reform impossible Now the next people who come won’t be so nice, and we may get our Robespierre or Lenin.

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