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

TINA trauma


I have been thinking about writing another post about Britain and Brexit for some time, but every time I’ve started it, there’s been literally another new dramatic twist, so I stop. But now it seems like a corner is being turned. What the corner really is, we’ll still have time to find out. Even today, I thought I would wait until the real British election results had come in. But the exit poll gives such a wide margin for the Tories that it seems a little pointless. Even if a miracle happens, and the Tories are reduced to a minority…in what world does it make sense that the result should be so close?

Either way, I repeatedly tried to suggest, gently at first, but eventually more strongly, that Labour’s strategy has been based on a set of misconceptions driven by a certain kind of well-intentioned, passionate left-wing politics that has briefly managed to get a little bit of its day in the sun, with its perhaps now-declining control of Labour. From this viewpoint, the issues that drive the rise of right-wing politics are really just matters of economic self-interest. Questions of identity, ideology, and anything that is in the sphere of the political that cannot be traced (even through an imputed, popular subconscious) to an economic or class conflict are just distractions–un-things. One can see this painfully in the way that Corbyn and his team have handled Brexit — despite words, constantly signaling ambivalence about the issue, wanting to talk about other things, wanting to treat Brexit as though it were just another extension of a wished-for popular economic uprising.

This strategy has pleased no one. It’s now nearly a cliché to say that Brexit is the matter at hand, the only truly salient object. And Brexit is not reducible to economic matters, even through the “false consciousness” route of tracing identity conflicts to latent economic conflicts.

But this fact put Corbynite Labour on the horns of a dilemma. Full-throated rejection of Brexit, and endorsement of the emotional core of the Remain argument (the view that the Brexit referendum was a frontal attack by Nazis, more or less), yields up the economic reductionism and requires diverting attention from the emotional core of the economic left, compassion for the welfare recipient, compassion for those in need of hospital beds, and so on. Full-throated acceptance and support of Brexit, on the other hand, while superficially aligning with a traditional Labour constituency, also comes at a steep price: There is no credible way to support Brexit that does not also traduce the cultural direction of the Labour left, because the traditional Labour voters who support Brexit are not only doing so for economic reasons, but for reasons of cultural identity apart from economic need and in solidarity with people from classes with otherwise antagonistic economic interests.

Labour has failed to transcend this dilemma. Their “strategy” has been to signal that membership in the EU is something that they reluctantly accept–if they can’t get a better deal outside the EU. Implicit in this is the belief that there is a “place” for Britain outside the EU that is better than inside, but merely one different from what the Tories envisions: a post-neoliberal nirvana, freed from the (somewhat hypothetical, in the non-Eurozone-UK’s case) chains of the EU’s neoliberal bureaucracy. This is not a credible message, because it is extremely difficult to envision what that would look like in the big picture, under any kind of plausible terms of an EU departure. It pleased no one and alienated both Remain and Leave-now-ex-Labour voters.

Why is there no credible halfway position? The reason why is that, actually, the EU is a neoliberal institution. Its main bodies were formed during the the rise of the neoliberalism, and its staff are trained in neoliberal ideology. It just happens that, as a neoliberal institution, it is designed to accommodate the residual aspects of European social democracy, and, crucially, it exists in the context of an international order that is even more neoliberal. That is, any departure from the EU involves getting drop-kicked into a variety of neoliberal systems that are not designed to accommodate European social democracy– quite the opposite. The neoliberal EU, with its free movement and Excessive Deficit Procedures, is a buffer against a more neoliberal global order.

At this point, on this blog, when somebody points out that there is no solution to this problem that involves treating it as an economic conflict or a battle against neoliberal ideology or whatever, there is often a chorus in the comments section cynically needling, “There Is No Alternative, amirite?” This whole Labour situation gives me an opportunity to propound a theory about this: “TINA trauma,” an affliction that prevents much of the economic left from doing anything other than make a surprisingly conservative demand to roll back neoliberalism to a pre-neoliberal halcyon idyll, in one form or another.

When Margaret Thatcher propounded TINA, at the time she was making a normative or aspirational claim. The success of that program has traumatized the left into a kind of mental/strategic paralysis, which finds them eternally trying to prove her wrong, posthumously. Yet, decades later, the hegemonic control of the neoliberal gestalt has transformed that claim from an aspiration to a mere statement of fact. What can anyone think it means for an ideology to become “hegemonic”? It means it has successfully constrained the future to pass through its institutional bottleneck. TINA is now fact. We are all neoliberals now, and whatever comes next, if anything is there to come next, is going to bear some of the features and some of the scars of neoliberalism.

If UK Labour–and indeed the global left as a whole–is to recover from the UK Tory victory, it needs to accept that the only way out is “through,” or not at all. The left needs to get over its TINA trauma.


Britain’s Election Today


Open Thread


  1. Mark Pontin

    “We are all neoliberals now …. If UK Labour and indeed the global left as a whole is to recover from the UK Tory victory, it needs to accept that the only way out is “through”, or not at all. It needs to get over its TINA trauma.”

    I can glean from this rhetoric, definitive as it may sound, not one shred of specificity about what such ‘a way through’ would actually mean in the real world. Care to elaborate on what you think you’re saying?

    As for the ‘we are all neoliberals now” part, speak for ourself,chum.

  2. Herman

    The left never really recovered from the collapse of socialism. The decline of social democracy in the West and the collapse of Marxism-Leninism in most of the Eastern Bloc was devastating to the left because it removed the ideological support for its policies. Politics is only partially about measurable things like income inequality, growth rates and other “bread and butter” issues. People need to believe in something.

    At one time millions of people believed in socialism as not just a way to get universal healthcare or free college, it had a millenarian aspect to it that was similar to religious belief. Those days are gone and to the extent that people say they are socialists now they are only in favor of a beefed up welfare state like the image of the cozy Scandinavian countries. This is more the politics of comfort than revolutionary fervor.

    Liberalism has also lost its power to move most people and to the extent that the right is winning it is because they are utilizing deep-seated yearnings for what some people (rightly or wrongly) see as better times. In the USA that could be the 1950s, in the UK perhaps dreams of Empire. The right-wing politicians are taking people for a ride, but they understand the deep emotional nature of politics better than many people on the left. Personally, I have underestimated how important identity and emotion are to people when it comes to voting.

    Perhaps Corbyn could not have done anything differently given the nature of his party and the wider electorate. From my own cursory reading online it seemed like people who were pro-Brexit did not trust Corbyn and the Labour Party to get Brexit over and done with, which is what they wanted. I have to wonder how much of this problem was caused by Remainers refusing to accept the results of the Brexit referendum and continuing to make a stink about it. It confirmed many of the stereotypes about the cosmopolitan left bashing ordinary people and refusing to accept matters when they don’t go their way.

  3. Dan Lynch

    Mandos said “constantly signalling ambivalence about the issue [Brexit], wanting to talk about other things,” EXACTLY.

    And Brexit was not a side issue. As the late Tony Benn pointed out, the EU was designed from the get-go to dismantle the welfare state and cram capitalism down everyone’s throat. You can’t stay in the EU and do the welfare state things that Corbyn wanted to do. And no, you can’t negotiate for a better Brexit deal, because the powers that be are going to make an example of anyone who exits.

    So Labour and Corbyn never had a coherent vision, and I have said as much in previous comments here.

    The right sucks, but at least the right has an ideology that they truly believe in, while I don’t know what today’s left believes in — the left lacks a consistent ideology. Brexit being one example, open borders being another example, personal weapons being another example, M4A, and so on — there’s no consistent ideology at work on the left.

    And “Labour” is no longer labor, just as Democrats are no longer labor. Instead, they’re urban professionals plus minorities. Not that there is anything wrong with urban professionals or minorities, but that alone is inadequate to build a national coalition that can win bigly and get things done.

    The “left” has no political path forward under the present circumstances. Even if by some miracle Bernie takes the White House, he won’t be able to pass the Lord’s Prayer. To get things done requires building a new coalition. No one knows what that coalition might look like, but what the left has now is not working.

    I’m not sure that I agree with Mandos’ TINA point. History tells me that change is inevitable, but history also tells me that there are dark ages when things don’t improve for a long, long time. Add climate change and stir.

  4. Mark Pontin

    I go to the UK every six months, to the North where my father has a SME employing ten people. It was very obvious to me when I talked to most working-class people there that they thought being in the EU had been detrimental to the well-being of their communities in that it had allowed an influx of foreigners who were willing to work for less and who were overloading social services like the NHS and housing.

    It also seemed to me that they were largely correct in that conclusion. Of course they were: there are literal instances of UK employers advertising in Poland for workers to come to the UK to work at jobs for a quarter of the salary those employers would have had to pay native British workers. There are documented cases of factory plants owned by British companies that were moved wholesale to Eastern Europe.

    Something else that was obvious was that there are whole towns in the UK where, despite the whole Remainer PMC schtick of the Brexit-voting folks being deplorable “turkeys voting for Christmas”, there’s no way that Brexit is going to hurt them. Because they’ve been ground down so far under the current system that they have literally nothing to lose.

    Brexit was in no small part those folks realizing that and acting on it to the utter consternation, rage and perplexity of the PMC. Economists talk about Minsky Moments; maybe, somewhat similarly, sociologists and political science folks should talk about Marie Antoinette Moments.
    Brexit is a Marie Antoinette moment.

  5. Some Guy

    Good comments by Bruce on the previous post, which I think picked up a couple of key points.

    The U.K. electorate is realigning along the lines seen in North America, a cosmopolitan ”left” in urban areas, and an older, whiter, reactionary right wing in rural areas. I find this depressing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    And another good point that the U.K. is fracturing ever further into component parts, with English parties in England, Scottish parties in Scotland (any bets that Scotland gets a Scottish unionist party at some point, so that unionists have a chance against SNP?) and of course Irish parties in Northern Ireland, and Plaid Cymru in Wales.

    In an election that was basically a referendum, the right did a better job of uniting its vote effectively, with the Brexit part sinking to only 2% while the remain vote was more split than in the prior election. Of course, Labour was always going to find this difficult given that it was the party most split on the topic, no matter who was leader. Having said that, in an alternate (more probable in some paradoxical way) universe, Labour would have been led by a Blairite for the past few years, would have campaigned on a pure remain platform, would have been clobbered in the old ‘ghost’ Labour heartlands, but would have wiped out the Liberal Democrats and done better in the remain areas. But the Conservatives would still have won – after all, leave did win the referendum and the leave vote is better spread geographically to win a first past the post election.

    Taking it all together, superficially, the result is horrible, the smirking Tories will run rampant over the U.K. and many people will suffer. 50 years from now, if the media, or even civilization still exist, Liberals will still be telling phony stories about how this result proves you have to run as Hilary Clinton to win elections.

    But stepping back a bit, it doesn’t bother me too much. Coming from an Irish background, of course there is some (uncharitable, but there you go) satisfaction in seeing the U.K. implode, and greater hope than in a long time for Irish reunification and also for Scottish Independence.

    Also, since ‘leave’ did win the referendum, it is satisfying to see the endless efforts of the Globalists to reverse the result defeated. And there is a pleasing irony in that only by taking and holding the leadership of the Labour party, and putting himself in a position to be defeated, was Corbyn able to secure the Brexit he wished for. Had there been a Clinton/Blair type Labour person in charge, the globalists could have gone full bore in favour of them, but with Brexit on one side, Corbyn on the other and their campaign to bolster the Liberal Democrats falling completely flat, the globalists were cornered in much the same way that they tried to corner Americans with a Clinton/Bush choice in 2016. I called the Tories ‘smirking’ but had to admit some smirks of my own every time I came across one of the seemingly infinite series of sad Liberal laments about their horrible choices in this election.

    Also, looking to the future, and taking a less schadenfreude-esque attitude toward England, it seems like the era of centralization has passed, and now bigger entities are struggling more and more. I’m reminded that some of the great flowerings of Western civilization, ancient Greece, the Romans, medieval Europe, all arose from a multitude of small principalities, and that big centralized entities like the EU are precursors of decline.

    From that perspective, the U.K. may benefit over the long haul from breaking away from the EU and also from splitting into Scotland and England and leaving Northern Ireland behind. If nothing else, the right wing will have to find new scapegoats for the failures of their policies. We can at least hope that they don’t turn on the Jewish population for this purpose, since we have seen that movie too many times before, and with the Jews likely having alienated so many in England with their interference in the election they are far more exposed than they were a few short years ago.

  6. Mark Pontin

    Dan Lynch wrote: ‘The right sucks, but at least the right has an ideology that they truly believe in….”

    Not really. They believe in the Magic of the Market taking care of everything. And how well is that incoherent wish fulfillment fantasy working against global climate change or China having a coherent industrial strategy? Or against pretty much anything, really?

    Although I’ll add that it does depend on _which_ right you mean. Conservative family values are incompatible with hyper-capitalism. Amazingly enough, some folks on the right (Tucker Carlson, Josh Hawley) are starting to get that and articulate it.

    “Even if by some miracle Bernie takes the White House….”

    So we learned in the wake of the 2016 election that because Obama had let the regional Democrats lose so many seats regional Democratic party branches across America as a whole were so financially destitute that Hillary Clinton had stepped in to underwrite them with some of the profits from the Clinton Foundation graft. Essentially, Hillary become the owner of the Democratic party.

    As far as I know, that hasn’t changed. If anybody knows more, please educate me. So, yes, between that or whatever else they have to do, establishment Democrats will probably be able to stop Sanders from getting the Democratic Party nomination. However….

    “…. he won’t be able to pass the Lord’s Prayer. To get things done requires building a new coalition. No one knows what that coalition might look like ….”

    Sanders and his people know and they’re building it. Look at how far they’ve come, given that even though the MSM is doing their best to avoid mentioning it Sanders is now frequently polling in first or second place as Democrat front-runner.

    The polls almost certainly underrate his numbers, furthermore, because they’re based largely on calling old folks who still have landlines, who answer their phones when strangers call, and who watch television. A better indicator is Sanders’s mass of small donors.

    I think there’s a strong likelihood that when the Democratic primaries start happening the establishment is going to be unpleasantly surprised, because most of them — not all — have been drinking their own kool-aid. That’s when it’s going to start getting nasty. Ultimately, they’ll do whatever it takes to stop Sanders and they’ll probably be successful, and the Democrats will lose to Trump.

    And it’ll be a Marie Antoinette moment. The Democrats get their money from their big donors essentially to prevent the left gaining any traction in America. We all know this now. So they have one job to do and they’re increasingly failing to be able to do it.

    I suspect the Democratic party as it’s currently constituted may be much nearer going the way of the American Whig party than people realize.

  7. Peter

    There is no one reason for this, but that doesn’t mean it can all be explained by philosophical musings in rarefied air about neo-liberalism, a word the vast majority of voters would be hard-pressed to define. After Trump, Johnson and many other so-called populist revolts in many countries, surely the left should start coming to terms with the brutal truth that it is on the wrong side of public opinion on many specific issues, including the opinion of many demographics it likes to tell itself it champions. I’m sure we will see much progressive punditry in the coming days about racism, uneducated voters, an unfair press, right-wing lies, etc., or even how it is the voters themselves that should be blamed (really, Ian?). Few of them seem able to admit what should be obvious by now, that much of the public distrusts the left and the media, etc. more than they do these populist poseurs.

    I have no idea what will happen in the States next year, but after three years of fevered. non-stop high-profile efforts by the Dems and most of the media to discredit and get rid of Trump (Mueller, impeachment, endless other scandals and outrages), the 40-45% of the electorate that despises him and will do anything to remove him hasn’t grown a whit. To the contrary, his numbers have crept up and we now see the phenomenon of the anti-anti Trumper, i.e. those independents and even Dem-leaners who have no use for him but are completely put off by, and even fearful of, the arrogance and self-righteousness of his opposition. Given Trump, it should be a romp, but it will be a wild ride

    The left writ large seems too often to have locked itself into absolutist, idealized positions it is throwing at a public that sees things as more nuanced and pragmatic, and wants their politicians to as well. If they can’t see any difference between patriotism and nativism or between lawful and uncontrolled immigration, can’t accept by definition that the left can be anti-Semitic, can’t stand firmly against some of the wilder excesses of identity politics and can’t see the tensions between what climate change scientific orthodoxy screams at us daily and the fact almost nobody detects substantial change where they live after thirty-five years, then too many of them will just keep talking among themselves and keep treating the public as ninnies to be finessed rather than listened to. The ninnies know this and are taking objection.

  8. I repeat: we are all neoliberals now, and it’s time for you all to accept that. That doesn’t mean we all “like” neoliberalism or “support” or “believe in” it, somehow, it doesn’t mean we don’ t have deep ideological objections to it, it doesn’t mean we can’t deeply, deeply wish the universe had gone another way. You may not believe in neoliberalism, but it sure believes in you!

    It often seems like “neoliberalism” is often loosely used as an indiscriminately-sprayed epithet to refer to anything that a commentator of an “old-school” left orientation dislikes and wishes to discredit, but I realize now that there is a unifying theme: “neoliberalism” is used to define anything that does not endorse piecemeal attempts at actively “repealing” the last four decades. From a left-wing perspective, Brexit is just such a piecemeal attempt at ideological “repeal”.

    The last four decades were spent building systems that create and manage global interdependence. The meta-ideological core of neoliberalism, if there is one for such a wide-ranging phenomenon, is the establishment of “de-political” autonomous and automated mechanisms for settling economic claims.

    This is why left-wing Brexit is so incoherent, and why so many of the above comments repeat the very error I was trying to, probably unsuccessfully, warn against in the original post. Brexit is not the repeal of neoliberalism you are looking for! Its painfully obvious for everyone outside a committed ideological core that Brexit is going to take the UK from the managed neoliberal automatism of the EU, with regulatory safeguards and some relative buffer for social democracy, to a much purer, more direct exposure to the automatism of the WTO world. That is what is meant every time a Brexiter lionizes the prospect of a “WTO Brexit” without a protective deal with the EU. It’s why the NHS is on the table in the event of Brexit, and why the hypothetical benefits of railway nationalization are eclipsed by the capitulations that were always going to ensue, insofar as modern Britain is too far from industrial self-sufficiency.

    Brexit instead much more easily functions as a repeal of the “soft target” social and cultural gains of the era of neoliberal economics. That is why the constantly telegraphed ambivalence about Remain from the Corbyn camp didn’t work, and why all attempts at taking Brexit off the table as a campaign issue, up to and including a full endorsement of the Leave position, could never have worked. Because the only credible “repeal” of the last 40 years represented by Brexit is the social and cultural one, not the economic one. What a way to back yourself into a corner.

    I have repeatedly given my formula for a successful post-neoliberal left in the developed world throughout my oeuvre on this blog on matters of the EU, borders, and so on. It is an agenda that takes institution-building beyond the nation-state, both through alternatives and through reforms of existing institutions, seriously. It means abandoning a defeatistic idea that a global left is impossible, further compounded by the idea that there is a direct political path to single-nation anti-neoliberal policy. It means re-learning how to understand and administer mechanisms of large scale claims settlement. It means accepting that the cultural politics that is the only way to put a dent in neoliberal globalization cannot be used to serve the aims of a better economic deal “for the many.”

    You are all neoliberals now, yes you are, whether you like it or not, and the only way out is through.

  9. bob mcmanus

    So much smarter than me, I’m hesitant, but Mandos’ last two paragraphs touch on what I’m seeing.

    Glanced back at my Routledge handbook of Neoliberalism cause there is a succinct summary at the beginning. Neoliberalism is a liberalism, and we are all liberals (yes, John C Calhoun was a liberal). Then we accessorize.

    1) Individualism (vs collectivism) Big unions ain’t comin back
    2) Universalism (think LGBTQ movements in Brazil, Nigeria, Thailand vs Free Press or other “human rights” codified in Bill of Rights and France. Look into how these identity groups interact across borders)
    3) Meliorism vs revolution (local, gradual, partial, unequal; study Barcelona or Assam now or Youtube)

    Where I might quibble, besides never predicting, is that he underestimates the devolution into anarchy and relative independence. Sweden and Denmark are still “state capitalism” and the future ain’t gonna look like that. Not that Mandos thinks it will. Neither did Marx.

    Future may look like Portland or Edinburgh, hell I don’t know. Classic Fascism is as impossible as Communism, Trump can’t herd his cats.

    Puerto Rico after the hurricane has both the rapacious vultures AND a sharing cooperative culture working around each other. Climate change will probably just intensify the devolution and fragmentation. Trump and San Francisco can’t rule each other, if they even want to. Understand the marijuana states and the impossibility or unwillingness of the Feds to control them. There is a lot of de facto secession goin on.

    Do not underestimate how good life is for so very many, maybe up to 40%. Another 40% will find basic sustenance and relative independence.

    I feel for the last 20% and can’t write them off. I am so tempted sincerely by fullbore Stalinism if that is what it takes. I belong to the last century.

  10. bob mcmanus

    Heck checking out Grauniad after writing the above, a headline “Record number of female MP’s elected.” 25% Tory, 50%+ of Labour. I can’t even…

    Mark Pontin:”I suspect the Democratic party as it’s currently constituted may be much nearer going the way of the American Whig party than people realize.”

    I suspect Deval Patrick (Bloomburg is just weakening the opposition) jumped into the race at this late date on Obama’s request. Sanders or Warren will not get the nomination. Ain’t happening. Be a brokered convention and on the 15th ballot Obama asks to speak…

    …after 45 years of voting straight D I am proud to stay at home in 2016 and til I die. I’ll vote DSA if Sanders walks out with his delegates. He won’t.

  11. V

    Do not underestimate how good life is for so very many, maybe up to 40%. Another 40% will find basic sustenance and relative independence.

    I feel for the last 20% and can’t write them off. I am so tempted sincerely by fullbore Stalinism if that is what it takes. I belong to the last century.

    I was trying to find a way to comment on Mandos’ post: Yours fit perfectly for my intent…
    Me too; last century….

  12. Hugh

    Vintage Mandos neoliberal bafflegab. He’s like the Borg: “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” No, wait, you have already been assimilated. In Mandos-land, if you squint the right way looking into the sun, it becomes clear as day that EU neoliberalism which sparked Brexit is inherently better (because Mandos says it is) than UK neoliberalism because social democracy (which must come as quite a surprise to those living in right wing EU authoritarian states like Hungary and Poland or to the gilets jaunes in France). But hey, if something doesn’t fit a Mandos argument, not to worry he’ll just ignore it or tell you to squint harder.

    Mandos talks about the EU has if it were some amorphous blob, but it isn’t. It is largely dominated by Germany and its current problems which are likely existential are the result not of German misleadership but anti-leadership. And that the EU’s second largest economy wants to leave, that, as I mentioned in a previous post, its Southern Tier (containing Italy the EU’s third biggest economy) has been beset by financial problems, that its Eastern Tier has gone authoritarian, that even France the EU’s third economy is currently hit by strikes and the ongoing protests of the gilets jaunes, and that Germany the EU’s first economy is near recession and definitely looking tarnished if not shabby, you might think that this would inspire a certain amount of introspection and questioning about how the European project has gone off the tracks in so many ways, but nooo! In Mandos-land, as in Trump-land, it’s conclusions first, the EU good, everything else bad or failing that no matter how bad the EU is any alternative to it must, by definition, be worse. If this seems intellectually bankrupt, that’s because it is.

  13. Hugh

    Sorry, should say Italy is the EU’s 4th economy.

  14. Stirling S Newberry

    Yes Mandos, we are all Neo-liberals now. Well some of us longer than others, but that is neither here no there. Sweden in Neo-liberal and socialist. Several other countries enjoy a more socially democratic lifestyle – for example, Germany and Switzerland.


    Are you all listening to yourselves? Radical change is needed NOW. Hell, it was needed YESTERDAY. Instead, it’s electoral business as usual. That means, necessarily, we’re fucked. Done. Game over. As Ian says about climate change in accepting it and doing what little you can in your own sphere of influence to ameliorate your suffering and the suffering of those you know and love, the same holds true for electoral politics or politics in general and any notion of change period let alone climate change. You keep analyzing the hell out of this shit when it is in fact shit. We know it’s shit. There is no disputing it and it’s ludicrous and foolhardy to parse it any further to see if some of the shit contains corn kernels and some doesn’t.

    There will be blood. There’s been blood and there will be blood again and this time the tragedy will be an intergenerational one versus one based on class or race. The young are going to decimate the elderly and well they should. I implore the Greta Thunbergs of the world, have no mercy on them. On us. Tear them, tear us, to shreds. Punish them, us, for our sins. They, we, deserve it.

    This latest defeat of Corbyn and Labour is the nail in the coffin just as the defeat of Bernie by the Establishment to include the Dems will be the final nail in the coffin. The Boomers have spoken. Now dispense with them. No mercy for them. They do not love you. They do not care about you. That much is plainly clear. Let them die in the streets as they grow old and frail. Do not change their diapers. Do not heal their wounds. Do not offer them empathy and succor for they have betrayed you and written you off. They kept the baton and now it’s time to take it from them and shove it up their gnarly asses. Make them reap what they have sown.


    …after 45 years of voting straight D I am proud to stay at home in 2016 and til I die. I’ll vote DSA if Sanders walks out with his delegates. He won’t.

    Same here. In the meantime, every day, I pray for revenge to the true God who resides beyond the false one who controls this reality. Young people everywhere, harken to the words and example of Great Thunberg. Lay them asunder.

    “Dear Lord, the real God beyond the false deity who currently controls this reality, grant them the perseverance and resolve to do what must be done. What should have been done long ago but MUST be done now.”


    I mean same here in that I would vote for Bernie Sanders but I know he won’t get the nomination and instead will capitulate and tell his supporters “next time” even though I know there will be no next time because there wasn’t even a time before. I have not voted for Dems for the past 45 years and in fact have only voted once in the last 37 years because the choices have been shit and shit. Hell, I’m even ready, willing and more than able to work for Bernie’s campaign as his Treasury Director if he’s amenable but I know he and his handlers would never consider it.

  18. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you TINA Trauma exhibit #1: Hugh

  19. Amazing how Petra’s writing improves, in just hours…

    Love it when you post, mandos, wouldn’t miss it for anything!

    Rolling on the floor laughing my rosy red ass off.

  20. Hugh

    Always good to be lectured to by one of the knee-jerk neoliberals who not only have been fucking us over for the last 40 years but berate us for not thanking them for the experience, whose imaginations do not extend a millimeter beyond their own class interests and whose Trumpian egos are incapable of entertaining even for an instant any alternative to their exalted selves, their looting, or their threadbare flim-flammery.

  21. Time to move on, dude. The politics of directly trying to repeal Margaret Thatcher from history, awful as she was, aren’t working.

  22. russell1200

    If the EU has become part of the global labor arbitrage racket than Labour should be the one wanting brexit.

    In the United States, open borders is also part of the global labor arbitrage racket, so the Democrats should want closed borders.

    Cynically, I understand why in the United States the Democrats don’t want closed borders; they believe immigrants will become forever the party of the “left”.

    But what is the mechanism in the UK? Are the Poles going to become British citizens and vote Labour? Or is it not so much the Poles, but the broader expanse of economic refuges?

  23. realitychecker

    Query: Where is the common denominator in all this enlightened discussion over-laden with fancy but indefinite, amorphous terminology, variously and subjectively defined by each participant in their own unique way, so that no specificity or clarity of common understanding can ever be expected or relied upon? (Corollary–where ambiguity reigns, effective communication leading to a consensus dies; and that means the overall population remains passive–a feature, not a bug!)

    IMO, the answer lies in, ta da, the “ideology vs. pragmatism” dimension of thought.

    Let’s face it, no known ideology can ever honestly claim to be a perfect model for what actually happens in real life. None of them.

    The logical glitches that therefore exist in each of the common ideologies must therefore be covered over with ‘patches’ of some kind or other (akin to how we used to deal with holes in the wall in the fraternity house, i.e., “Let’s just put a poster over it!”—and just as juvenile and unsatisfactory lol).

    So ideologues wind up scorning “pragmatism” whilst happily indulging in it themselves whenever one of those unfortunate ‘glitches’ raises its ugly, inconvenient head.

    Suddenly, the end justifies the means.

    As in, we’ll have to lie to our people in order to save them from the liars on the other side.

    As in, we’ll have very civilized blog discussions, but when it comes to tactics, let’s “go street.”

    As in, we’ll have to burn the village in order to save it.

    IOW, the nobility of the principles which define the pure ideology is surrendered, but the reality of the surrender is never acknowledged, so the compromised ideologue-cum-situational-pragmatist gets to preserve his undeserved superior moral posture, which posture is the essential stock-in-trade of every political organizer/activist.

    AT THIS POINT, let me refer all to Peter’s excellent comment above, which is worth diamonds, if one will only see them. Peter’s excellent analytical mind (which sometimes gets to conclusions I don’t fully agree with, mostly due to differences in degree) is on full display at its best, and I really urge dispensing with ad hominems re Peter and grokking what he says here.

    He is right. The regular folks deal with pragmatism, NOT IDEOLOGY.

    They don’t know, or want to know, what your fancy terminology variously means to each of you. In their imperfect little lives, they only care to know WHAT WORKS, and they will cleave to that rather than wallow in your vain egocentric ambiguities.

    More pragmatism, less ideology is the answer.

    But, can any of the self-revering political geniuses ever stand the surrender of their automatic assumptions of superior moral position that must accompany a general re-orientation toward pragmatism?

    That is the true challenge of our times, IMO, and Peter shows above that he gets that.

    Definitely worth thinking about.

  24. Labour arbitrage happens without open borders (through capital movement).

  25. Mallam

    No one with any power is even advocating for open borders (yet), yet here you are projecting onto why we might support the policy. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans were winning Asian-American votes and making headway into Hispanic vote.

    But yes, if the white resentment caucus wants to double down on white resentment, they’re not going to be able to win these voters who might agree with them on taxes and government. And in this context, with actual open borders that actually allowed immigrants to have a vote, maybe we wouldn’t have white nationalist president. Something to think about when you read how immigrants are revitalizing dead areas in the Midwest, or Somalis are the leading organizing force of unionizing Amazon in Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

  26. Ché Pasa

    Re: Punishment

    I was watching parts of the impeachment hearing rather than fretting over the Great British Shit-Show, and it dawned on me how emotionally/psychologically deep rooted the “sides” in this “debate” have become. (Scare quotes because there really aren’t sides here, and there really is no debate. It’s a show.)

    The Rs (and you can substitute power players or bullies or jerks or whatever you want to call them) were displaying two related behaviours: schoolyard bullies and domestic abusers. And when they were feeling particularly abusive, they’d commence to clowning. They weren’t just being jackasses for effect. This is who they are, and with their president, they represent a segment of the population (not solely in the US) that behaves likewise — or wishes they could. It’s not a small segment, either.

    On the other hand, the Ds were practically classic enablers. Oh yes, obsessing on truth and procedure and practicality, on “what we know” and how we know it, the facts, the facts, and the necessities. But none of that mattered to their opposite side, not at all. What mattered to them was bulling their way through, dominance. And the Ds, consciously or maybe not, enabled them every step of the way. Told them they were wrong, but did not put a stop to them.

    This is the pattern of domestic abuse and violence situations growing out of playground bullying.

    This is what our politics has descended to — not that it ever got much above it.

    The only way the Rs know to solve it is to force the submission of the Ds. The only way the Ds can work through it is to somehow make the Rs come to their senses. Submission of the Ds is the more likely outcome barring the appearance of the deus ex machina. That’s still possible, but it’s looking less and less likely.

    You can apply the same observations to the Great British Shit-Show, to Canada, to Australia, in other words, throughout much of the English-speaking polity. But it goes farther. Much farther.

    Don’t think it will cause the end of the neo-liberal paradigm. More honestly, it’s the apotheosis.

  27. neoliberalismisdyingdealwithit

    This is quite possibly the dumbest take I\’ve ever read about an election. Corbyn didn\’t want to win. Why would he? Being PM of a country that produces little other than financial schemes is a thankless task. He wants to permanently destroy the Tories, which is what is going to happen as the Brits head towards Brexit.

  28. I identified it in the past as Sesame Street Morality. Hundreds of treacly songs about co-operation and not a single song about resisting a wrong.

  29. Willy

    So much opinion, so little detailed polling. I’m wondering what voting Brits were actually thinking. And non-voting as well.

  30. hvd

    It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood….


    Donald Trump, under the auspices of his latest EO, has sent Eddie Gallagher to arrest the anti-semites who set this nativity scene up. Eddie has orders to shoot to kill if they resist. How dare these people disparage the Jews like this.

  32. Peter


    Many thanks for your kind words. I have always been struck by the fact that today’s left seems to have forgotten that, during the heyday of it’s ascendancy from the 20’s to the early 60’s, its electoral successes were based, not on the endless turgid tomes of academics, philosophers and wonks about the decline of capitalism (innumerable as those were), but on concrete popular causes like the 8-hour day, pensions, medicare, family allowances, unemployment insurance, union legal protections, etc. –things that ordinary people could see as improving their lives in immediate, concrete terms. With the exception of medical coverage in the States, much of what is being promoted today seems much more remote and ethereal—redressing 19th century wrongs, carping about Israel, worrying about what the world will look like in 2100 and generally accusing people who don’t feel the slightest bit privileged of being privileged. It’s not really a working class movement anymore, is it? More a movement that speaks to urban lower-order professionals, minority activists and cultural beautiful people.

  33. Peter

    Oh, and let’s not forget to add Big Global Finance to that list, especially the ones who wear sandals and t-shirts and change their bathroom policies on a whim, but who practice predatory capitalism and tax evasion to a degree that would make the Robber Barons blush.

  34. Captain Bloody Obvious

    “If UK Labour and indeed the global left as a whole is to recover from the UK Tory victory, it needs to accept that the only way out is “through”, or not at all. It needs to get over its TINA trauma.”

    In other words, double down on the far-left crazy. Perhaps sometime into the 8th or 9th Trump family term of office, the progressives just might start seeing that this may not have been such a brilliant plan after all.

  35. Jeff Martin

    I’m more or less in alignment with Hugh on this analysis, whatever Mandos might say about that. No need to belabour the point, but the standpoint of “no way out of neoliberalism but through it”, “we’re all neoliberals now”, and a doubling down on all of the identitarian issues *from the liberal side of that equation*, with a hope for an ‘internatinalism-underpants gnomes-victory!’, is radically unlikely to end as any of us would hope, not least because it will – whatever the theory – in practice rely upon the distinction between worthy and unworthy recipients of solidarity, especially within nation-states.

    And it’s not just that the Right have relied on that distinction, and that now liberals are adopting it – and yes, they are, there’s plenty of that on social media now, in a tripling-down on the whole ‘deplorables’ line from 2016 – but that, in doing that on *this* basis, liberals will be ratifying the worst right-wing narratives, meaning that the “only path through” is via a spiraling escalation of scapegoating and cultural-political warfare. As this unfolds over the coming generation or two, it is much more likely that the liberal order will buckle, collapse, shatter, and fail utterly than it is that some hypothetical free-movement-of-everything-and-everyone-but-just-nice world will come into being.

    Mandos believes that he’s more of a realist, and I can see why he takes that position. Neoliberalism is hegemonic. Switch an assumption or two, though, and the calculus changes. Precisely because of the power of identity issues, and their intertwining with economic ones, neoliberal hegemony can easily crack, albeit that, were it to crack, it would *not* be in the direction of something closer to a Universal and Homogenous State. Quite the reverse. The neoliberal gambit will be to delimit those who are entitled to solidarity, in any given territory, in order to preserve the dream of maximal openness across territories/states. I don’t believe that the present degree of openness, primarily on economics, is sustainable, on multiple dimensions, regardless of whether it seems desirable or just at the right level of abstraction. “Because it would be awesome” doesn’t mean that it can ever be real. Rather, maximal solidarity seems only to be possible insofar as its geographic scope is delimited; that doesn’t have to mean the nation-state, but in some cases, it will mean that.

    As I said, that’s my assumption. At bottom, no different than the assumptions of neoliberalism and openness, it’s probably an intuition of probabilities mixed with value judgments, though we can always flesh these matters out, whether with theory or political economy. But the neoliberal gambit, of going for identity and transnationalist institutions, or whatever, is likely to bifurcate national populations into cohorts of the worthy and unworthy, and thereby undermine both citizenship and democracy. And that’s more likely to break democracy and state altogether than it is to get us “through’ neoliberalism to some neoliberal-ish internationalism.

  36. Herman


    Neoliberalism, at least as conceptualized in the aftermath of the Cold War, is not doing so well these days either, though. Yes, it still has a lot of strength among elites and the affluent and there is major institutional lag, but many of the core ideas of the neoliberal era are dead. One of the big ones is that economic liberalization would produce democracy. This is clearly not working in places like China, Russia and Eastern Europe just to give some examples.

    Neoliberalism was a universal ideology in that it argued that pro-market reforms would encourage democracy and liberal norms and bring peace to the world as we all became rational wealth maximizers but clearly this is not happening as authoritarianism, ethnic nationalism and religious zealotry are still around and becoming even more powerful.

    Furthermore, the neoliberal world system relied on American hegemony which is now declining. We are seeing the development of a multipolar world and renewed great power competition instead of America as the world’s cop which is what America’s role was supposed to be in the TINA world of neoliberalism triumphant. Our current era is reminiscent of the era before World War I. Recall that prior to World War I the world was already globalized and people expected the European imperial system to last forever until that system collapsed and the first globalization was reversed.

    We cannot go back to the pre-neoliberal world but the neoliberal world order is in serious decline. I am not even getting into other issues like climate change and mass migration but it seems to me that the neoliberal world order is running on fumes. What is sad is that it has been the political right that has taken advantage of this crisis in the neoliberal order and not the left, for reasons I mentioned in my first comment to this post.


    Every election is a climate election. Vote for your children. Vote for the planet. Vote for future generations. Vote for humanity. ~ Greta Thunberg

    They continue to vote for death, Greta. I say we give it to them (death) so we can spare the few of us and nature any further suffering.

    Google and most of the media is/are blacking out coverage of the latest climate change implications in Australia. I truly believe as things get worse and more dire, the media will be complicit in hiding it. There could be million and tens of millions of deaths and the media won’t report on any of it. It’s time to take control of the media from the oligarchs. It’s a large part of the problem.


    Greta and her “fresh mouth.”


    Silicon Valley are Trumpists. This is why Trump defended them against France’s imposition and crack down. Google Birth of a Nation. Hardly a scathing review is returned for this racist tripe of a movie yet we know countless scathing articles have been written about it in mentionable publications. Instead, Google, which is a media organization as much as it anything else and it is many other things, places Rotten Tomatoes at the top of the list and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 98% rating. This is Google people. Silicon Valley is Trumpian through and through. Racist and sexist and they’re the progenitors of AI. What could go wrong?

  40. Jeff Martin

    Neoliberals are increasingly open in signaling that they are more than willing to be quit of democracy, if that is what is required to preserve their class prerogatives. That’s what all of the caterwauling about populism has been about, not to mention the spate of books denigrating the average member of the electorate, open arguing that such irrational brutes cannot be expected to engage in the deliberation required in a democracy. No, their credentialed betters must decide for them.

    That’s also the upshot of what is likely to be the neoliberal gambit going forward: the combination of identity and the whole package of neoliberal globalization – the free movement of capital, goods, services, and labour – will devalue citizenship, and divide the populations of nations into the deserving and undeserving (the most blatant statement of this came from NR’s Kevin Williamson, when he stated that deindustrialized towns deserved to die, and that those within them who didn’t bootstrap themselves into the brave new world deserved their misery, but legions of liberals are not far from this). That, too, will destroy democracy.

    To continue with neoliberalism in any form, an increasingly open embrace of technocracy will be required. Oh, sure, there will be plenty of pseudo-bottom-up community organizing NGO stuff, funded by squillionaires and neatly confined within the parameters set by the technocrats. But the PMCs and above will be running things, and that, too, will kill democracy.

    Leaving democracy to the Right – even if it’s only a rhetorical appeal on their part – isn’t going to end well.

  41. GlassHammer


    How can there be a global left when there isn’t a local one?

    Heck how can there be a national left when there isn’t a local one?

    I just don’t see a transmission mechanism in many states across the U.S.


    This Tina video is more appropriate.

  43. Hugh

    I agree with Herman only my image of Mandos and neoliberalism is 1789 where Mandos is some low level aristo or one of their ministers telling the French proles to suck it up because there is no alternative to the monarchy (L’état, c’est Louis.). He then grandly proclaims with no more evidence than the sound of his own words that we are all monarchists now and that we can not get past monarchy, we can only go through it.

    Mandos is completely vested in neoliberalism and a neoliberal Europe. Neither are working. Both are intellectually bankrupt, and, as others have noted, Mandos’ response to this inconvenient reality is to double, triple, and quadruple down on them.

  44. Anthony K Wikrent

    Actually, I think we are already “through” neoliberalism. Global climate change and the the horrors it is about to unleash is going to force all but the richest people to focus on one thing – survival.

    Now the thing about survival is that unless you have some sort of intense military special forces training, it is NOT something you can do on your own. Survival requires an rather intense social level of cooperation, and it becomes more intense the more you scale up the number of people you are cooperating with and the size of the society. And, the degree to which you try to cling to our high level of technology.

    And the thing about our high level of technology is – that’s where the answers and solutions to GCC are. So, the instinct for survival – which I submit is the strongest instinct of all – is going to relentlessly drive us toward restoring levels of social cooperation that Thatcher blithely dismissed when that sick bitch declared “There is no society.”

    In my view, the problem with the left is that it has dismissed the creation of the American experiment in republican self-government as merely the continuation and perpetuation of hierarchical power structures ruled by white men. However much truth there is in the charge – and there’s no sense denying that there is some – the problem is that this dismissal of what the USA is supposed to be is also a rejection of the Enlightenment ideals that humanity can use its brain power to figure out how to make the future better.

    Now here is the foundation on which all human existence depends. We all have to apply some level of brain power to figure out the basics of survival. How many centuries did it take for us to figure out that foul water gives us foul diseases that often kill us? A few dozen? A score dozen? How many centuries did it take for us to figure out what the actual vectors of disease are, develop instruments by which we could actually see the little buggers, and come up with means to remove them and keep them out of the water we drink? Actually, that’s happened in less than three centuries – a relative flash of cosmic time, and still rather abbreviated in the scale of known human history.

    I’m talking about, of course, science and technology, the definition of which should not be more complicated than: the human stock of knowledge and capabilities we develop to understand the universe we live in, and bend it to our purpose of reproducing and sustaining human life. It is no accident that placing the American Revolution and the adoption of the US Constitution on a historical timeline also demarcates the historical point at which the industrial revolution “takes off.”

    So, as some of you may have seem in the past, I argue that the most important economic activity any society undertakes, is the creation of scientific knowledge and the expansion and extension of technology.

    Thus, another crippling flaw of the left is that many on the left have become almost as ideologically opposed to technology, as many on the right are ideologically opposed to government as a collective tool and agent to solve problems.

    But again, if we don’t promote science and technology, and if we don’t use government to collectively solve the problem of GCC, we die. Survival instinct, again. We’re going to be forced to.

    What freaks me out is the opposition to the Green New Deal within the USA Democratic Party. Now there is where Mandos is quite right – they’re all mother-effing neoliberals. But the GND is the obvious way forward: it is the solution. The thing is, to implement the GND and save ourselves from GCC, much if not all of what neoliberalism has accomplished will be jettisoned, abandoned, and replaced. How do you finance it? You can’t do it with present financial and monetary arrangements. So, they will be forced to change. How do you build the stuff you actually need to do it? You can’t do with present trade arrangements. Those will all be changed. You can’t do it without highly skilled labor. The present capitalist class war on labor will have to end. There is very little of the currently existing political and economic systems that will not be changed by the sheer necessity of what needs to be done to ensure human survival.

    I’m going to write, some day soon, a post I will title “Charles Beard did not write what you think he wrote.” I’ve actually read his Economic Interpretation of the Constitution. I’ve also read his The Economic Basis of Politics which he wrote about a decade later to explain that, no, he actually wasn’t a Marxist, and, in fact, the Marxist analysis of history is grossly inferior to Madison’s and Hamilton’s. I’m now reading Beard’s Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy, and it’s very clear that Jefferson’s agrarian ideas may have won the contest of the popular imagination, but it’s Hamilton’s hard-nosed industrialization that won the contest of reality. People on the left ignore this history to their great disadvantage. They allow the right to claim – falsely – that the right follows the founders. And they, the left, flounder in a miasma of ignorance of actual history of how the world was built, which creates the truly terrifying possibility that they won’t know what to do when the time comes to do it.

  45. metamars “I implore the Greta Thunbergs of the world, have no mercy on them. ”

    You may have surpassed even yourself, on this chilly day!

    Greta Thunberg wants us to “listen to the scientists”.

    Ah, but what about scientists who don’t agree with her?

    E.g., scientists who say the the climate sensitivity to CO2 is modest to low to very low to negligible? Or even negative?

    E.g., see “The List Grows – Now 100+ Scientific Papers Assert CO2 Has A Minuscule Effect On The Climate” @

    The first paper referenced gives you the flavor:

    Krainov and Smirnov, 2019 (2X CO2 = 0.4°C, 2X anthroCO2 = 0.02°C)

    In English: double CO2, get a 0.4 deg C temperature rise. Double anthropogenic CO2, get a 0.02 deg C temperature rise.

    So, I implore Greta Thunberg to listen to the CAGW skeptics, as well. I believe in having mercy on the lives of the CO2 catastrophists, but not so their peculiar religion.

    I mean, I don’t quite take you seriously, but if you sincerely mean

    ” Let them die in the streets as they grow old and frail. Do not change their diapers. Do not heal their wounds. Do not offer them empathy and succor for they have betrayed you and written you off. They kept the baton and now it’s time to take it from them and shove it up their gnarly asses. “,

    then I’m all for having no mercy on your delusions. And Greta’s. I don’t want to maliciously hurt the girl’s feelings, but enabling her ideas about how to deal with a theoretical climate emergency will hurt a lot of people, to whatever degree it’s successful.

    I wonder what Greta’s (or should I say, her handlers??) position is wrt nuclear energy?

    For that matter, I wonder what’s your explanation for the (mostly) relentless sea level rise since the mid 1800’s, even during periods of global cooling? Or Greta’s? Or, for that matter, CAGW skeptics, including the “I don’t believe CO2 is a greenhouse gas of any measurable significance” subset, meager though their numbers may be.

    This article, which I discovered, tonight, poo-poos the idea of subsurface heating from ocean floor volcanoes (which I seriously entertain/ed): . The author produces no calculation, and makes note of this fact. I also wonder why the author pretends heat originating in the bottom of it must heat all the ocean uniformly, in some sense. This is not at all what I would expect.

    Some other things to look at are heating from deeper strata at subduction zones. Also, the heat of friction from tectonic plates slowly ‘crashing’ together in subduction zones.

    The settled science crowd should have answers to all of these questions. Maybe Greta can tease it out of them.

  46. Mark P.

    Anthony W. wrote: \’And the thing about our high level of technology is – that’s where the answers and solutions to GCC are.\’

    But you didn\’t dare use the \’g word\’, did you? I will. Geoengineering. Geoengineering, local over the regions where ice packs are melting first, and globally if that\’s needed.

    Because we\’re already doing geoengineering now. That\’s what the release of hydrocarbons that has created global climate change is — inadvertent, badly done geoengineering. We\’re going to have to learn — and cooperate, God help us — to do it properly. However ….

    \”….another crippling flaw of the left is that many on the left have become almost as ideologically opposed to technology … they, the left, flounder in a miasma of ignorance of actual history of how the world was built, which creates the truly terrifying possibility that they won’t know what to do when the time comes to do it.\”

    Quite. We have to understand there are two kinds of anthropogenic climate change denialism.

    The first kind outright denies it\’s happening or waves a hand dismissively and says, \’well, maybe it\’s happening but it\’s always happened and has nothing to do with humankind.\’

    This is the climate change denialism of the right.

    The second kind of climate change denialism maintains that if by 2030 we don\’t turn off the all the transport infrastructure, power generators, factories, and chemical inputs to industrial farming, then we\’ll pass an irreversible tipping point and we\’ll all be doomed. Conversely, if we switch over to some magical mix of renewable energy and sustainable farming — and the people who believe this are generally physics-illiterate and have no idea of the limitations of these technologies — we\’ll be saved.

    This is the climate change denialism of the left.

    It\’s bullshit. As far as I can figure, we passed the seriously irreversible tipping point somewhere between 2002- early 2007, in the period when Andy Marshall and the Pentagon (of all people and institutions!) hired Stewart Brand\’s Global Business Network to try and get the message through to Washington that climate change was and is real.

    \’An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security October 2003\’

    Whether or not we draw down carbon in the Earth\’s atmosphere is irrelevant now on one level, because the Earth\’s oceans have had seventy years of heat injected into them. Thus, even if in eleven years we did the impossible and switched over to these \’green\’ technologies and they did all that their advocates claim — and we can\’t and they won\’t — too much energy has been injected into the Earth\’s system, and particularly the oceans. Even if we magically switched to a de-growth society globally — and we can\’t because hundreds millions would die without the industrial farming, the transport infrastructure, and the rest, and places like China and India simply aren\’t going to lie down and die at our behest — global climate change is still going to roar ahead. It\’s simple brute physics now.

    There were choices and different trade-offs we could have made thirty or forty years ago that would have brought us to somewhere different than where we\’re at today. We could have taken the French route, for instance, and built up nuclear power globally — but that was a scary choice, because it would have meant embracing reprocessing, and the proliferation of enrichment technologies and fissile materials globally.

    Now we\’re where we are. Now it\’s too late. Even if we did, say, a mass nuclear build-out it would take too long. Even if we get a Green New Deal, if it doesn\’t have a geoengineering component, it isn\’t going to save us.

    And if to those who think differently, you\’re the second kind of climate change denialist.

    Because eventually, when the shit hits the fan and some country gets desperate, they — we — are going to geoengineer — and it may be a disaster.

    Alternatively, we can start planning now so as now to do it surgically, minimally, and effectively.

  47. Ben

    Mandos continues to make his usual useless, semi-coherent posts. I assume that Welsh keeps you around because the contrast makes him appear that much better.

    Some actually useful comments though.

  48. It should be re well-taken comments from Herman, Jeff, and others above, that I am not arguing that neoliberalism is ontologically “good” somehow or that it is “sustainable” or that it deserves to be “supported”. It may very well be in decline — hegemonic ideologies all have a decline phase, like anything else bound by time. The morality of its underlying claims and “meta-narrative” is another issue — minimizing human decision-making, including democratic decision-making, in an attempt to supplant them with “neutral” automatic/technocratic processes is deeply questionable at best. I don’t think that there is much disagreement here.

    My point is much narrower. A good chunk of the economic left has embarked on a campaign of a Sisyphean nature, which is attempting, basically, to “repeal” the legacy of Thatcher and Reagan, to “repeal” the unification processes of Cold War Europe, to “repeal” the fall of the Soviet Union (in terms of its effects on Western politics, at least), and so on. This can only be done before the ideology has become truly hegemonic. Neoliberalism has reached the point that, no matter that it may be declining, attempting to “disconnect” from it still involves hardship no population will be willing to risk, even if they see their fortunes wither in favour of bloated CEO salaries. Every institution that mediates human affairs has been designed or adapted around its assumptions.

    Corbyn is the most recent iteration of rolling the boulder uphill, and it failed predictably. I stated the flaws and predicted the problems repeatedly, while trying to keep as optimistic a face as possible, but it has now collapsed beyond even what I expected.

    When I say “the only way out is through”, I really do mean “out”—as in, rather than attempt to repeal neoliberalism, rather chart a path to the post-neoliberal. Unfortunately, as neoliberalism is hegemonic, even in decline, all paths involve unavoidable engagement with its institutions—that’s the “through” part.

    A lot of people around here may dismiss an internationalist approach as “pie-in-the-sky”. Yes, it is very difficult, but from my perspective, much more realistic and feasible than an attempt to repeal a hegemonic ideology, undoing or disrupting its institutions piecemeal.

  49. Hugh: like I said, you are a case in point. Forever self-condemned to reject any attempt at constructive evaluation of the repeated abject failure of futile attempts to prove TINA wrong. The ship has sailed, dude.

  50. Ben: A lot of people who come here see themselves as the one-eyed men in the land of the blind, but denied the kingship that is due their self-perceived insight. They come here for a hit of validation and see in Ian’s writings not what he actually wrote, but what confirms and fits their preconceptions. Maybe Ian knows this and keeps me around to make y’all a little annoyed from time to time, because you are not owed validation.

  51. Ché Pasa

    I agree, the climate change tipping point has passed, and we’re not going to stall or reverse it now. When we could have done something about climate change thirty to forty years ago– stalling if not reversing it — by controlling carbon emissions into the atmosphere was precisely the time when the neo-liberal paradigm was becoming preeminent among the elites. I doubt that’s a coincidence. Many of our rulers saw and knew what the future held if the unsustainable path we were on continued. What did they choose to do? Accelerate it. So here we are.

    It’s too late to stop the consequences of the choices made then. I’m all for tumbrils and guillotines for the aristos, but that’s not going to make those consequences go away. Nor will the Green New Deal. Nations just met in Madrid and decided among themselves to do little or nothing. The US led the preventional coalition.

    That means there will be no mass international mobilization to address climate change, nor will there be one to address the consequences. There may be mass demonstrations — as there have been over and over again for years now — but that’s not mobilization. That’s a form of petitioning our rulers to “do something!” And guess what? They say “No!” No matter who you vote into office. They say “No.” Or at best, “Not much.” Not enough. Nope.

    So, what do you do? The message we’ve been hearing, if we’ve been paying attention, is we’re on our own. Governments on the whole refuse to deal with what they and their owners have wrought. From their point of view, why should they? The consequences of climate change only affect the Little People (for now) and everyone knows there are too many of them anyway. Right?

    Yes, it will get uglier. Even the denialists won’t escape the ugliness. But no, it doesn’t have to be this way. Technology is not the sole answer, far from it. Society is a much larger element. Reconstituting that from the wreckage our rulers have made of it takes perhaps more time than we have, but efforts are underway. The answer doesn’t lie in the neo-Fascist populism infecting the globe, but it is one of the ways societies are responding. It’s the wrong path, but it might catalyze recognition of the right one.

    Time has run out, though.


    Great comment, CP. I agree completely.

  53. Will

    I’m the last person who you’d expect to defend Mandos….. so I won’t surprise any of you by doing so. :p

    However, I would like to toss out the well known, but still accurate, truism that we ALL see the world through a prism. Me, you, Mandos, Chris Hedges, Howard Kunstler, hell everyone does. I think we forget this when we see someone struggling with a world view that has been proven beyond a doubt to be faulty. It is nigh impossible to grow beyond it. It can be done, but it seems to me that at some level of emotional investment we just become blinded and defensive and…. well you get things like this post. And the reaction to it.

    Hell, Krugman, toting his make believe Nobel prize in one hand and the Economic Globalism regimental banner in the other, had to grit his teeth and admit that from a certain perspective, with eyes squinted to a certain degree, that one could, possibly, from a particular point of view, come to the conclusion that he might have been just a bit outside the 10 ring in his insistence that free trade and capital mobility were the keys to long term prosperity…. but only temporarily. And only to a miniscule subset of a small portion of the populace.

    Think on that.

    At this point we have a huge slice of the nation who simply aren’t equipped to see ANYTHING without looking at it through the identity politics/globalist economic prism. They cannot and will not change their world view without an immense amount of pain. And they have their counterparts in the Republican Party who jumped into the NeverTrumper boat the second the globalist economic portion of their world view was brought into question.

    I’m not defending Mandos, I am merely saying he has a lot of company.


  54. Peter

    I understand the commenters here will dismiss any non-left opinion ab initio. But surely nobody can dismiss the inestimable John Gray. Who do all you people floating in these ethereal airs think you are speaking for?

  55. Jeff Martin

    A year ago, a post like this from Mandos would have left me in a state of incandescent fury, and instead of banging out something intemperate in the combox I would just walk away, listen to some music while walking my dog, and allow the anger to subside.

    Now, I just sigh and think that we’re fucked. There’s going to be pain and disruption either way – whether we attempt (futilely, in my estimation) to press forward into some sort of post-national/internationalist/global governance regime, or to dismantle as much as we can of the neoliberal architecture. And that would be the case even if climate change were not a thing, which, alas, it is.

    The worst thing, though, is that while climate change could be the golden opportunity to accomplish much of the necessary societal reconstruction, the neoliberal architecture – I mean, look at all of the plutocrats and corporations lining up behind green efforts, the GND, Greta, etc – means that the most probable, path-dependent implementation of the GND will be something like the monetization of every human interaction with nature, the financialization of these interactions, from derivatives to offsets (indulgences, basically), with the result that the costs of living will go up dramatically for everyone south of the 1%, with the 1% being able to buy their indulgences to continue living as though nothing has changed, while selling indulgences piecemeal to the rest of us (when/if we can afford them). This, after 45 years of the economic repression of everyone below the top 10-15%. I cannot imagine this flying absent a combination of mass surveillance, policing, propaganda, and so forth. People will have to be tricked and coerced into accepting Elysium.

    To avoid this scenario, we’d need not only the degree of central planning that will be necessary anyway, but massive financial repression of Capital: not only high taxes, but strict capital controls, so that there cannot occur any capital flight, nor a capital strike. And that will basically be the IED that blows the legs off of neoliberalism, even if it doesn’t put the stake through its heart, to mix metaphors. However, this is orders of magnitude less likely than the Elysium scenario, which I can envision masses of people resisting, on the grounds that it would be better for the world to burn than for them to be forced to live in Hong Kong cage apartments eating bugs. But absent the free flows of Capital, whither global integration?

    As I said, there will be pain either way. I don’t see further global integration as desirable, or even possible beyond a certain point. But even if I’m wrong about that, I cannot imagine the politics, which will involve telling vast electorates across the de-developing West that this thing that has ruined their lives, and the lives of the children, and sometimes grandchildren, must be deepened and accelerated – and that perhaps by the time of their great-great-great-great grandchildren, things will be kinda sorta okay. I simply cannot see it. If I were to try to sell people on this, they wouldn’t be wrong to reject it. It’s a sort of secular version of Heaven as the inversion of this Vale of Tears, where all anyone can expect in this life is shit and more shit, but there’s a Big Rock Candy Mountain in the Beyond waiting for them, when they die.

    Yes, I grasp that there would be pain and disruption if globalization were to be broken up. I’m not clear on where the distributions of pains and benefits would converge and diverge, as between the two scenarios – beyond the obvious, that is. It was all such a mistake, IMO, born of hubris and greed.

    Yeah, we’re fucked.

  56. Willy

    Maybe Mandos is one of those “people always gotta hit bottom first” kinda guys. …in a bafflegab sorta way of course.

  57. Hugh

    Mandos keeps trying to sell the same old schlock. The whole neoliberal European project is failing. So what does Mandos harp on? The failure of the left to sufficiently embrace neoliberalism. Oh, maybe not in its entirety, just 90% or so.

    Labour lost because it waffled on Brexit. Otherwise, Corbyn’s economic message was infinitely better than Johnson’s to the great majority of Brits who would like to see their lives improved. But Brexit was the issue, and Labour got killed on it.

  58. bruce wilder

    I am afraid repeated injections have increased my immunity to Mandos to the point where I cannot even bother commenting, but I did enjoy reading many of the comments. Not-even-wrong can still have the beneficial effect of provoking thoughtful people to insightful reflections.

  59. Hugh

    I agree climate change will kill neoliberalism, but that’s because it will kill most of the rest of us as well. The likely outcome is some combination of chaos, authoritarianism, fascism, and responsible communitarianism.

    With regard to the powers that be, a point I made back during the 2008 financial meltdown was that they are profoundly different from you and me. Our idea of looting and being financially criminal is to steal the goose that lays the golden eggs along with its eggs. Theirs is to steal the golden eggs, eat the goose for lunch, and go looking for another goose. Or put another way, they are a parasite that kills its host even though doing so means their end as well. I have seen nothing to suggest that our kleptocratic overclass has changed a whit since 2008.

  60. bob mcmanus

    Fine all you critics of Mandos and resisters of neoliberalism. I put my definition and chosen solution on the table, now how bout y’all

    Neoliberalism like liberalism emphasizes individual rights, expression, autonomy…this is central to the project and neoliberalism is pretty near inviolable and unassailable unless individualism is attacked. If you oppose neoliberalism you must oppose individualism. That means abortion “rights” for instance.

    I have come out saying that 50s Stalinism or Cultural Revolution Maoism is acceptable, though unlikely. I really think the rest of you wisemen are just posers. You will critique neoliberalism in theory and rants, but buy into it 75-90% in practice.

    If you aren’t ready to support totalitarian/authoritarian collectivism* you are neoliberal. And you are, whicvh is why Mandos and I say working through neoliberalism is the only reasonable path. Cause y’all.

    *Unions, for instance, however democratically decisions are made, will enforce/implement those decisions like any dictator.

  61. bob mcmanus

    To be clear, I am an extremist for choice in our neoliberal society.

    But in my better world, the collective or community will decide, by democratic means, whether or not a woman can have an abortion. Early USSR was radically pro-choice, as were many/most? of real socialist systems. Many, but far from all, of the early feminist advances were reversed by the mid 20s. China at one point determined how many children people could have.

    Can the collective decide and enforce such measures?

  62. Willy

    To be honest I’ve never read an entire Mandos post. About half way through I start wondering what a guy who writes like that might speak like in person. Maybe a 1960’s computer, all machine-monotone with a few clicks and buzzing noises and then a loud “Ding!” at the end of every sentence. I dunno.

    They’ve been talking about anacyclosis for years. It seems that neoliberalism brings about they dysfunction of the oligarchy stage at least as quickly as any other system.

  63. nihil obstet

    Neoliberalism like liberalism emphasizes individual rights, expression, autonomy.

    No. Neoliberalism not only emphasizes but imposes property rights. Freedom of speech? Yes, the Koch brothers and I have that same freedom, right? The whole health care debate is about the fact that we hold property rights sacred and human rights dependent on property rights. As Matt Stoller has stated, neoliberalism means organizing state policies by making them appear as depoliticized results of financial markets. It moves power from public institutions to private institutions and allows governance to happen through concentrated financial power.

    Contrasting the rights in total subservience of an employee to her bosses with the lack of freedom in a democratically run union does demonstrate the power of neoliberal propaganda.

  64. bob mcmanus

    organizing state policies by making them appear as depoliticized results of financial markets.

    Or just markets. Enforced property rights, and their extension to human rights (selfs and citizen communities as property) have been at the core of liberalism since Locke, and you can’t have liberalism without them. Financialization is just an intensification. Neither can you have collective freedom as long as you allow any property.

    There are good reason why the 20th century alternatives to liberal capitalism looked the way they did. Dictatorship of the proletariat was a necessity, if always partially failed in practice.

    And we have seen what happened when the illiberal collectives were dissolved or vitiated. Oligarchy.

    I was expecting such responses, picking out what parts of liberalism and capitalism were sustainable, like menu items at a deli.

    Property is theft, and Jesus, not just Koch’s property.

    The collective decides, (including who can have or not have children…cf “one child policy”) after property is eliminated.

  65. Hugh

    Neoliberalism gives ordinary people the freedom to lead immiserated lives and die in a ditch.

    And right, seeing as money is speech, both the Kochs and I have free speech. They just have billions and billions more of it than me.

    I have written many times that we are each of us two people, a social person and a private person. Our social person or life trumps our private life because it is what makes that private life, indeed our life at all, possible. There is a relationship between the social and the private, but it is not an either or. Where there is some important societal interest that interest predominates (so for example in abusive relationships regardless of private or religious claims) and backs off in the absence of such an interest (as in choice again regardless of countervailing private and religious claims).

  66. Herman


    That is a good point. Even if we concede that neoliberalism is still the hegemonic ideology in the West it is not working for everyone. You can make an argument that it only really works for maybe the top 10% of the population. For many others, conditions have deteriorated dramatically.

    This is made obvious by looking at statistics on rising rates of suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism and other social maladies. So whatever freedom we have under neoliberalism (and I would argue that this freedom is increasingly a meaningless form of consumer freedom, not a real, active freedom) many people cannot really enjoy it.

  67. Ben

    Literally laughing out loud. Ahhhhhh Mandos, now you’re attempting to tell people why they read Ian Welsh. Brilliant.

    Welsh is characterized by both a succinctness and a refreshing bluntness. What he thinks is completely unambiguous. You’ve chosen a really terrible person to claim ‘readers just see what they want to see’ about.

  68. Ben

    I will say that Mandos is correct, in one sense, that we can’t fight neoliberalism.

    Not because the ship has sailed, it’s the norm now and we’ve already lost the war, or whatever the hell he’s babbling about. The simple reality, that he is only willing to very tentatively entertain, is that neoliberalism is 100% bullshit, that doesn’t work, that has completely and totally failed to meet any of its promises for the vast majority of the population who actually work for a living (it’s made people at the top very rich, and so they continue to push it). The Left has made plenty of tactical and strategic errors fighting it, but in the end the fact that it is utter nonsense that ruins every society it touches means that sooner or later there will be rebellion against it. In any scenario other than the climate change one we currently exist in the tide would turn against the bullshit. It might take a hundred years, but the change would come (and I don’t mean this in the way Democrats blather on about ‘demographic change’ as an excuse to never do anything).

    But we don’t exist in any other scenario. The simple fact is that industrialism, especially (but not remotely solely) under capitalism, and now supercharged by neoliberalism, has killed us. We aren’t going to be having any debates about any of this in fifty years. Humanity probably won’t go extinct, but industrial civilization will. We arent going to be debating domestic labor and industry vs foreign free trade, because there isn’t going to be any of either.

    Any discussion that doesn’t revolve around adaptation and survival is completely academic (and by the way, academia won’t exist in fifty years either). And if I could snap my fingers and magically replace every government on earth with progressives earnestly implementing the most ideal and extreme Green New Deal, that wouldn’t change the catastrophe approaching. It might lessen it, maybe by a lot. But it’s too late to halt it.

    You can’t fight neoliberalism because there’s no time left to be fighting any political battles, or talking about transforming societies and social institutions. There won’t be any of these elaborate, complex institutions once the migrations in the tens, and then the hundreds, of millions come, the oil supply chain breaks down, and the drinkable water dries up.

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