Capitalist money making factories like Govanhill generating wealth at the cost of the health of tenants who have a single focus of paying rent to keep a roof over their head at the cost of disengagement from public life and sustainability of their own lives.
These are the abstractions people are living within. There can be no creativity, innovation, sense of agency nor vision of a happy future when being forced to live under the yoke of indentured neoliberal policy. These processes under the neoliberal project become international.
The combined legacy of Reagan and Thatcher has a counter weight in the struggle of those who have been fighting the effects of their “special relationship” for a long time. The same ‘special relationship” we see in Trump and May. Maybe time to renew our own special relationships with our brothers and sisters abroad in the Struggle for A Just Economy and in creating a wider solidarity.
Andrea Gibbons is a writer, academic and activist, Who has spent many years of activism in Los Angeles, London, Manchester and for a time in Glasgow, around housing campaigns and racism.
As well as her written work she is a full time activist, and has much to say about strategy and organising to win things. What has Glasgow to learn from L.A? Come along and find out. We will have the pleasure of her company and experience in a talk/workshop
‘I lived in Glasgow for a year. I was thinking a focus on the civil rights campaigns and housing struggle would be most useful, drawing out lessons for the UK.”
Kinning Park on Friday May the 3rd at 7:00 – 9:00 Free
If ever there was a figure dedicated to changing the world it is Michael Albert. And other folk on the left doing the same thing would need to wonder what they are doing if they have never heard of him. My own political development has been greatly influenced by Albert’s work. Along with people like Chomsky, Michael Albert has been a go-to when inspiration is low and are great connectors to others doing important and inspirational work. Albert lives for the movement and proves it not just by words but continually doing things. By trying things by developing ideas and if they don’t work trying something else.
His honesty through these endeavours, their effectiveness, trials, errors, successes, failures is the most important part of his contribution to the movement for change. You can almost think you know him because so much of what he speaks about resonates through the experiences that those engaged in grass roots struggle come up against constantly. He does not shy away from failure but uses it to drive coherent points that will strengthen the next part of the struggle. Continue reading
Failure is one of the most important parts of an activist life. We do not advance very far riding on highs, clutching to our successes. These things are important to have, but what gets us through failures and lifts us up when we are down is the knowledge that failure brings, knowledge that can be used and shaped into new and effective ideas. We do not do Michael Albert’s work a disservice to go on about failure because that is precisely where our strength lies. In learning what we need to do next.
So what do we do next. Do we continue along the same lines to see if something different happens? Continually protest till the government changes? Participatory Economics (Parecon) is part of Michael Albert’s lifework. A challenge to the present economic system. An attempt not to just alter it, to change it, but to replace it.
It would seem like an opportunity in the long term aims of the various struggles around the place to maybe look at some alternative economic ideas. At the end of the day what keeps many of us in constant defence mode no matter what we struggle against is constantly fighting the economic system we struggle under. Albert is one of the few working on economics within grass roots struggle that looks to making real economic change for ordinary people. Read the book, Check him on You tube, Z Mag. Some good listening explaining Parecon here: http://citystrolls.com/parecon-listen/
Another aspect of left activism which Albert speaks to which should interest us all is the lack of vision and hope in many of where we are going collectively.
“I happen to see as part of my daily activity a large proportion of what is written by social change seekers, at least in English. If I actually read it all, every day, I would wind up in an asylum or an early grave. Too much negativity to endure. Too little aspiration to bear. Too little agenda to adopt.”
So much of left energy is used up in mobilisation, speaking truth to power and describing how bad the war is, there is little left for organising, little left for vision. And particularly in taking these ideas into working class communities.
“So what is a society? In the view we are slowly elaborating, a society is the immensely rich and varied combination of a “human center,” which is us with our consciousnesses, capacities, and agendas, plus an “institutional boundary” in the form of the roles that we must fulfill or avoid as a means to gaining various ends in society. Taken this way society is like an incredible mosaic with each multifaceted part affecting and even defining all the other multifaceted parts. And how do we judge a society? We decide on the broad kinds of outcomes and relations that we desire and appreciate, and we then ask: Does society’s human base and institutional boundary, or the base and boundary in each of its social spheres, further those preferred values or violate them? Given these simple insights, a reasonable next step for becoming better able to understand societies is to refine our means for understanding each of the four social spheres as a basis for saying more about how their aspects interrelate and about change and history.” From Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desired Society.
So what are the social spheres, what are our desires for society. What ideas do we have to share with each other? Join the discussion.
This visit Michael will be talking about his new book Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desired Society (preface by Noam Chomsky and published by PM Press) and connecting it with what is going on in Scotland.
Tickets https://m.bpt.me/event/3620056 (It’s a pay what you want event or free)
The Billiard Room, Pearce Institute, 1st Floor Rear Staircase Wednesday 10 Oct 2018 6:30 PM 8:30
Michael Albert is an organiser, publisher, teacher, and author of over twenty books and hundreds of articles. He co-founded South End Press, Z Magazine, the Z Media Institute, ZNet, and various other projects, and works full time for Z Communications. He is the author, with Robin Hahnel, of the economic vision named Participatory Economics.
Event Hosted by Centre for Human Ecology
Listen To Albert on Parecon here
Thoughts on: The reinvigorating of the common dream and the struggle for a broader collective social conscience.
“Enough of the perfection of differences! We ought to be building bridges.” Todd Gitlin
In Gitlin’s book. The Twilight Of The Common Dream he explains this “obsession with group differences” as the (unintended) legacy of the progressive social movements of the 1960’s, which operated on the principle of separate organization on behalf of distinct interests, rather than a universal principle of equality.’ ENotes Continue reading
There can be no common ground, if nobody can hear.
While all around us we see the PR departments of both, political parties and corporations, the plausibility mechanisms that keep the citizen idle, or the deflection of their energies guided up blind alleys. Meanwhile at the opposite end others are shouting into an empty tube nobody can hear. Folk can’t hear, support, or oppose, the particular issue being projected into a vacuum. A vacuum of isolationist left wing media or the solitary confinement of single issue politics.
Part of the above mentioned unintended legacy, knowingly or unknowingly has developed the overarching idea of divide, sub divide and rule. Creating a movement that sometimes isn’t capable of moving past its own rhetoric, no matter how articulate the arguments or evidence presented to the contrary.
Each group or political persuasion has its own passages, catch words, phrases and style of delivery. When we hear these triggers we learn to process and categorise what we are hearing. A switch in the brain filters and channels information, or not, depending on if the style of delivery appeals to us, not thinking about what we actually hear.
We all do it to a greater or lesser extent. We don’t listen. We have a tendency to pick up or spot our differences, before, or sometimes completely ignore, what we could have in common with others. The reluctance to stand back and allow a uncontroversial good idea to go forward, until we know if we agree with the philosophy and ideological makeup of whoever suggests it.
This is not a great tactic for going forward. We can not all be right all of the time.
To take up a place in the left these days, or what you imagine to be the left, can be a lonely existence, unless one is connected to a club, topical group, or ideologically driven set of tactics and actions. The edges have become so defined and watertight around many groupings, that any idea of overarching principals that could strengthen the structure of a wider and more powerful movement that will be needed to challenge neoliberalism, seems impossible.
Yet the complete opposite is true. It is all possible. But it will take a rewinding of history to unravel the neoliberal project started in the 1960 to Balkanise the left into groups of single issue politics that Gitlin describes in his book. ‘The Twilight of the common dream’. A dream that the inhumanity in the world could be stopped and replace by less harmful human endeavours. As the 60s song goes.
‘C’mon people smile on your brother everybody get together try to love one another right now.’
Love for ones fellow human beings was a strong element of the movement back then. (although we still struggled with the patriarchy ). Love a much derided notion then by the establishment and even now as a flakey hippy thing. like “All you need is love”.
It is not all you need. But what is the point of anything without it?
Look what is happening to our world through the lack of it. That is really what the 60s revolution was founded on. Love for people. And that is what made it so dangerous. A common dream for humanity. A simple basic concept to understand that underpinned a movement and the purpose of its actions. As democracy can not exist under capitalism neither can some kinds of love. Sounds naive, maybe.
It is worth thinking about, that the neoliberal counter revolution, that set out to destroy the 60s outbreak of democracy, was mostly based on the encouragement of love; the love of oneself. The self development of me, upwardly mobil; the entrepreneurial spirit, positive thinking, my body is a temple. The hippies and their counter alternatives were vilified, as unclean, a danger to society, were related more in the corporate media to Charles Manson, weird sects, than the universal call for peace, love and freedom for all.
In the States our love was met by Cointelpro, set into action by the state, fire bombing and murdering, with the objective to destroy any trace of socialist organising across the US. Big money started to infiltrate the environmental movement. Saving the environment became more about greenwash and changing one set of consumables for a more eco friendly set. The movement was broken into more manageable assemblages. We learned or were enticed to become less independent. Corporate money started to drive the movement and guide it away from dangerous paths. Our movement became more about stopping and less about replacing. We became consumed in technology, rather than what it could do to take us forward. Our young activists starts to be consumed by funding managers and conforming to pleasing them. Our organisations became more about the organisation, rather than those they were set out to support. The coming together became the drifting apart, sectarianism, life style, self gratification, careers, individualism and all of the other isms consumed us.
We lost the common dream, the love for all, that kept us on our path. The propaganda that vilified that dream and that love, is because that is what the elites feared most. They worked to transfer our love for other human beings, to the love of things and personalities. And working class solidarity to inward working class competition. At this end of the pond we had Thatcher to thank for delivering the neoliberal project to these shores, which reinvigorated and exposed the latent hate the upper classes always had for ordinary people anyway and helped to spread that hate amongst them. A fact that is patently evident in the right wing policies that have unfolded since, to keep people apart and isolated.
People are sick to their back teeth with it. Sick with consumption; consuming fake news, fake politics, fake economics, terrible jobs, high rents, poison food, trash TV, the advertising industry, war and a planet that is exhausted from the demands we are putting on it. A world slipping away from its humanitarian roots. And we can’t buy our way back into it.
The next revolution as will be about giving up things not acquiring more. A bit in common like the last one. Only this time, even more, we will need to prove our love for human kind by action. But we also will need to listen more before we decide what form that action will take. The 60s revolution was being destroyed before it was fully born. We are in danger of repeating the same mistakes again if the positive energy that is building up around us is destroyed by in-fighting, ego, fake news and the inability to listen in order to find that which connects us.
Remember we were all born of a small group of primates in Africa, and we are all female until hormonal changes in the womb decide on the sex and sexuality to be born. Therefor we are all brothers and sisters, irrespective of faith or origin. As human beings we all have the same communal goals and this is what should connect us, not segregation into isms. Neither are we commodities to be described, ordered and categorised for the sake of political gains or profit margins. We are human beings and that should be our primary concern – Our humanity for each other should be the driver, our love for life and a rebuilding of a common dream, the vehicle to get us out of the madness and the left back on track.
The Radical Imagination Project.
Arms fair what next
Our city administration has just hosted it’s first arms fair. At the protest against it, we meet our comrades, stalwarts of the movement for change and various groups representing those at the sharp end of the conflicts that the arms on offer at this event, massacre and maim.
Protest almost seems the pursuit only for students pensioners and those with time on their hands to spend in the library engrossed in books and newspapers and who have the capacity of building a critical perspective on these things. That is not to decry people who can do this, but to emphasise the importance of extending their knowledge to others in creating engagement for building a broader movement for change. Continue reading
But what do these events mean to ordinary people, who are trying to survive on low incomes, extortionate rents, whose day to day is filled with worries about keeping or finding employment. Peoples lives are fraught and caught up with the immediacy of of their present financial situation. Where is the time in their day to be thinking about the arms industry, let alone protest about it or understand how it affects them.
But it is becoming an imperative that we do. We all do. We need to find ways of broadening activity and unity around our collective interests and taking responsibility, by digging a bit deeper into what we are being told, sold and what we chose to ignore, or is hidden from us.
One thing we are protected against is the is the graphic and utter horrific detail of what these weapons are capable of and are used for in a daily basis. You can not sleep easy with the image of a screaming mother clutching what remains of her child’s body in her arms. The bloated bodies of burned babies, lined up in rows, incinerated by inescapable fire storm bombs and chemical weapons. It becomes impossible not to compare these horrors if they were happening to our own children. The horror for us (and arms manufacturers) is that we should be exposed to these images, these videos, this testimony that lays bare of what is done in our name. That is why the war mongers and the war mongers apologists need to control the media to protect us from such comparisons. Because these bombs and this dirty trade kills many more innocent people including children than they do killing whoever the enemy happens to be.
The reason the elite and their apologists can stand up in parliament and lie to there back teeth of why we need to perpetuate carnage in countries all over the world. These obscenities are matched only by the obscene amounts of money that are made by the investment banks and the companies they own that profit from the death of innocents.
One of the main boasts of the arms industry is that it provides jobs. It seems that any abdominal activity can be justified if it “provides jobs”
So lets look at these jobs factual and imaginary:
For a start most of the high volume manufacturing of anything is done in the far east, China, Taiwan and Longwha, the largest manufacturing site in the world. Who will make anything from a pair of jeans to an ordinance delivery system.
Why would arms companies manufacture these things here with the comparative high wage costs, workers conditions, and lack of keeping secrecy, rather than Taiwan? Where the return on investment capital is greater to commercial interests and profiteering, which is the only thing the arms industry is interested in. So why would you think they would want to manufacture these things here? The only jobs that “would” be produced here are in design and contract management. Both highly specialised highly skilled for the very few. So where are the jobs that would effect the economy for ordinary workers in the arms industry? There would be few and dwindling.
Remember the Rees Mogg’s of this world and arms manufacturers can move their commercial interests to anywhere in the world and it will make not the slightest bit of difference to their profits. But workers and their jobs need to remain in the same place. Apologies for broken promises do not feed their kids. So workers should be more concerned with the protection of unions, rather than the promises of hedge funders, that they themselves know they can not keep, nor would if they could.
Take the job fallacy out of the road. (All ten or so of them). We could look at the inhuman impacts these kinds of developments produce. The arms industry do not specifically make arms to fight armies, but to kill people. Most of their business is with delivery systems, i.e. smart bombs and drones, designed to target populations, not only troops on the ground. There are more civilians killed by smart bomb technology than soldiers. Those who manufacture, control and sell these murder devices are giant international corporations who answer to no individual country, government or democracy, but to shareholders, dividends and paybacks. They have no obligation to any citizen in any country. Their deals are done through enticing political parties and through armies of lobbyists.
There are two things the UK arms industry serves. One is to serve the ego of the British parliament and elites who imagine they still have an empire and still want to feel dominant across the world. The other is profiting off the poor of the above mentioned countries including the desecration of UK workers, pay and conditions. Resulting in less tax revenue from the continuous mass deployment of jobs overseas coupled with the avoidance of corporate taxes. How is this producing jobs?
Our westminster government is made up of the same families who own the corporations, our countryside and the banks who facilitate the international arms trade. What obligates them to respect the values of their workforce or citizens in general? Most of them will be out of political office in four years. No worries and blameless. When was the last banker jailed? When was the last war criminal jailed?
But the poor, and the protesters are constantly vilified and criminalised by the same media that serves the same interests and are owned by the same corporations and families that invested heavily in the arms trade with our money, for their frofit. This is also why we can’t run our hospitals, keep our schools open, feed ourselves, create jobs, afford life, or houses, without mountains of debt.
The arms industry not only ruins the lives of the people in the countries their bombs devastate but also the countries they do business with. You need to ask. With the vast profits made from arms manufacture, where does it reflect on workers conditions or rights in the countries that manufacture their arms, home and abroad?
The reason we will not get jobs in this country in the arms trade or any other for that matter is, even with zero hour contracts and minimum pay, we are still to expensive for the corporate profiteers compared to other countries.
So here we are obliged to look at two things. We can either be enslaved in an abundance of zero hour contract jobs, without prospects or meaning, particularly when thinking about where the next generations prospective employment is coming from. Or we can start to make the connections between protest, progress and democracy. It is not one or the other. The people outside the SEC protesting the arms trade are fighting exactly the same battle as people in Maryhill seeking employment, protecting their community centre, stopping their school from closing, disappearing resources for their kids. The biggest problem is folk are dealing with these things in isolation and failing to understanding the connections between these different efforts in protecting community assets and services, or in building a sustainable economy designed for the welfare of its citizens. If that is what you want to do. Or in building any kind of humanitarian core values to replace the dysfunctional psychotic system we are living under now. A system that looks to rely on the death mongers of the arms trade that will give us nothing of human value but nightmares. Rather than working on the potential for beautiful things to happen with the resources we have at our fingertips.
As Noam Chomsky observes. ‘What is taking place today is reminiscent of Gramsci’s observations about an earlier period, when “the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”. But also, we may add, signs of hope.’ We need to decide what we wish to be remembered for as Glaswegian’s but more importantly as human beings.
What we are experiencing today is what happens when empires are dying. The morbid symptoms appearing all around us is capitalist imperialism, exposed in all of its raw un-glamorous detail. The veil has been dropped. What we chose to do in the near future will have a massive effect in bringing a new life out of this dark period. And normalising the arms trade as a development prospect, rather than seeing it as the grotesque murder machine that it is, is not forward thinking. And nothing our city council should be medaling with on our behalf.
To note. “Glasgow Life” who hosted the recent UDT arms fair are a registered Scottish charity, whose website states.
“Glasgow Life is a charity that delivers cultural, sporting and learning activities on behalf of Glasgow City Council. In doing so we aim to make a positive impact on individuals, the communities in which they live and the city as a whole.”
Where does the Arms Fair fit into delivering the above?
How much did the arms fair make for Glasgow Life?
Are arms fair’s a good use of the Common Good Fund of the city?
How much did the police operation cost to protect arms parasites from ridicule?
Where are the (manufacturing) jobs these events will create?
Do you wonder why “People make Glasgow” logo was missing from this Glasgow life hosted event?
The last one is probably because, people do make Glasgow, and tend to ere on the side of humanity. I think though we (ordinary citizens) may have forgotten that being on the side of humanity is an active role. We need to turn up, become informed and make a stance – in order to make Glasgow and elsewhere) what we want it to be.
The Radical Imagination Project.
Out in the Open
— Remarks on the Trump Election —
BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS
November 16, 2016
Powerful though they may be, irrational popular tendencies are not irresistible forces. They contain their own contradictions. Clinging to some absolute authority is not necessarily a sign of faith in authority; it may be a desperate attempt to overcome one’s increasing doubts (the convulsive tightening of a slipping grip). People who join gangs or reactionary groups, or who get caught up in religious cults or patriotic hysteria, are also seeking a sense of liberation, connection, purpose, participation, empowerment. As Wilhelm Reich showed, fascism gives a particularly vigorous and dramatic expression to these basic aspirations, which is why it often has a deeper appeal than the vacillations, compromises and hypocrisies of liberalism and leftism. In the long run the only way to defeat reaction is to present more forthright expressions of these aspirations, and more authentic opportunities to fulfill them. When basic issues are forced into the open, irrationalities that flourished under the cover of psychological repression tend to be weakened, like disease germs exposed to sunlight and fresh air.
—The Joy of Revolution
trigger more text
The Donald Trump campaign has exposed some very ugly aspects of American society. They’re not pretty to look at, but it’s probably better that they’re out there in the open where we can all see them and no one can deny them. It has also revealed some genuine grievances that had been ignored, and it’s good that those too are now out in the open.
The downsides of Trump’s victory are numerous and all too obvious. But I’d like to point out a few possible upsides.
In Beyond Voting I noted that the Trump campaign was accelerating the self-destruction of the Republican Party. I was assuming that he would probably lose and that there would then be a bitter civil war over who was to blame, making it difficult for them to regroup and write it off as a one-time fluke. But I think his victory will be even worse for the Republicans.
This may seem like an odd thing to say, considering that the Republicans now have the Presidency as well as both houses of Congress. But I think it’s going to be like the proverbial dog chasing a car: what happens if the dog actually catches the car?
As long as power was split between a Democratic Presidency and a Republican Congress, each side could blame the other for the lack of positive accomplishments. But now that the Republicans have got a monopoly, there will be no more excuses.
Imagine that you’re a Republican politician. You’ve been reelected — so far, so good. But the people who voted for you and your colleagues and your new Leader did so under the impression that you were going to bring about some dramatic improvements in their lives. What happens when you actually have to deliver some of the things you promised?
During the last six years you’ve staged dozens of meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare, saying that you wanted to replace it with some superior Republican plan. Now is the moment of truth. If you don’t repeal it, you’ll have millions of people screaming at your betrayal. If you do repeal it, where is that wonderful plan that you somehow were never able to come up with? That plan is of course nonexistent, nothing but the usual simple-minded rhetoric about free markets leading to lower prices. Do you think that the 22 million newly insured people, many of whom voted for you, will be pleased to be deprived of their Obamacare insurance and to find themselves back in their previous situation? It is very unpopular (as well as very complicated) to undo benefits that people are already used to possessing.
Moreover, note that Obamacare is essentially a Republican plan, slightly tweaked by Obama — a feeble patchwork attempt to respond to America’s severe healthcare crisis. Such a clumsy program is understandably not very popular. But Social Security and Medicare (which Paul Ryan now wants to dismantle) are by far the most popular social programs in America, and have been for decades. As Eisenhower famously noted, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.” Apparently their number is no longer negligible in your party. Are you ready to go over the cliff with them?
Some of your base are still vehemently anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage — but most of the country isn’t. Are you going to try to undo reproductive rights or marriage equality nationwide? If not, are you going to go back to the chaos of “leaving it to the states”?
Speaking of logistical nightmares, what about your famous Mexican wall? Are you really going to commit to such a silly project, which would accomplish nothing and cost hundreds of billions of dollars? And incidentally, after you’ve given the rich a lot more tax breaks and funneled much of the rest of the budget into the already bloated Pentagon, where is the funding for such projects going to come from?
The same goes for the major infrastructure improvements Trump has promised. This is one of his few sensible proposals – it would rev up the economy and create millions of jobs, which would in turn generate lots more tax revenue down the line. But getting it kickstarted will require deficit financing, which goes totally against the austerity policies that have been preached as gospel by your party for decades. Revived economy or party orthodoxy — which will it be?
Racism has been one of the key foundations of your party ever since Nixon inaugurated the “Southern strategy” fifty years ago, but it’s usually been discreet and deniable. Now that connection is out in the open. Many of Trump’s most fervent supporters are already celebrating his victory by harassing people of color in his name. How are you going to dissociate yourselves from that?
Your party was already heading toward a civil war between its mutually contradictory components (financial elite, tea party, neocons, libertarians, religious reactionaries, and the few remaining moderates). To those general divisions are now added the antagonisms between the new Leader and those who oppose him. Bush at least had sense enough to know that he was an incompetent figurehead, and gladly let Cheney and Rove run things. Trump thinks he’s a genius, and anyone who doesn’t agree will be added to his already very large enemies list.
He’s also a very loose cannon, which is why the Republican establishment feared him in the first place. He has proposed things like Congressional term limits which Republican politicians emphatically do not want, while on the other hand he is now reportedly considering not repealing Obamacare, perhaps because he has become aware of how complex and risky such as action might be. Who knows what other things he’ll come up with or backtrack on?
And this whole show is so public. Obama’s smooth, genial persona enabled him to get away with war crimes, massive deportations, and all sorts of corporate compromises (not a single criminal banker prosecuted) with few people paying attention and fewer still protesting. This will not be the case with President Ubu and his Clown Car administration. The whole world will be watching, and every detail will be scrutinized and debated. It’s going to look as ugly as it is in reality, and you’re going to be forever tarred by the association. You’re no longer in the Republican Party, you’re in the Trump Party. You bought it, you own it.
If I’m that imagined Republican politician, I don’t think I feel very confident about the future of my party.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is facing its own reckoning.
Democratic apologists are trying to focus the blame on one or another particular factor: the electoral college, voter suppression, third-party campaigns, the Comey announcement, etc. But this election shouldn’t have been close enough for any of those things to matter. The Democrats were running against the most glaringly unqualified candidate in American history. It should have been a landslide.
With Bernie Sanders it probably would have been. (A post-election national poll shows him beating Trump 56-44.) He was by far the most popular candidate in the country, while Hillary Clinton’s approval rating was almost as negative as Trump’s. Polls consistently showed Bernie beating Trump and all the other Republican candidates by wide margins, while Hillary was struggling against them all and even losing to some of them. Moreover, Bernie’s popularity cut across party lines, appealing not just to Democrats but to independents and even large numbers of Republicans. While Hillary was courting Wall Street and celebrity donors, he was attracting crowds that were ten times as large as any she ever managed, including thousands of the kind of enthusiastic young people who would have traveled across the country to work their hearts out for him (as they did to a lesser extent for Obama in 2008). While Hillary was constantly on the defensive, Bernie would have taken the offensive and turned the momentum in a progressive direction all over the country. He would easily have won the three Rust Belt states that cost Hillary the election, he probably would also have won some of the other swing states she lost, and his coattails would have flipped enough additional down-ballot races to regain the Senate and perhaps even put the House into play.
But the Democratic Party establishment preferred to risk losing with a loyal machine candidate rather than to risk winning with an independent radical whose movement might have challenged their cushy positions. Despite the fact that Hillary had a ton of baggage (some actually bad and much that could easily be made to look bad) and that she was a perfect embodiment of the glib, self-satisfied insider-elite and a longtime advocate of the neoliberal policies that had ravaged the country (especially in the Rust Belt), they pulled out all the stops to impose her as “inevitable,” while smugly dismissing Sanders as “unrealistic.”
In reality, the supposedly unrealistic solutions that Sanders called for were supported by large majorities of the population. Under pressure, Hillary belatedly adopted watered-down versions of some of those solutions, but few people believed she was sincere enough to really fight for them like Sanders would have. Her campaign mostly amounted to business as usual: “Defend the status quo! You have to vote for me because my opponent is even worse!”
It didn’t work. Interviews with Trump voters reveal that although many of them were indeed racist, many others were not (a large portion of them had previously voted for Obama). But they were enraged at the national political establishment that had abandoned them and they wanted somebody to “shake it up” and “clean it out.” Bernie spoke to those feelings, Hillary did not. Since Bernie wasn’t on the ballot, they decided to send a big “fuck you” message by voting for the other supposed “outsider,” who had at least claimed that he would do just that. Many others did not go that far, but they sent a similar message by staying home. Many others, of course, did vote for Hillary, including most of the Bernie supporters; but the enthusiasm was not there.
The Democratic Party establishment bears the ultimate blame for this miserable outcome. Millions of people know this and they are now trying to figure out what to do about it: how to break up the party machine, how to wean the party from its corporate dependence and transform it so that it can help address the challenges we face. I wish them well, but it won’t be easy to get rid of such an entrenched and corrupt bureaucracy — particularly since many elements of that bureaucracy will now be posing as heroes resisting the Trump administration. It will be difficult for this party to retain any credibility if it does not at least rally to a Sanders-type progressive program. That kind of program is far from a sufficient solution to the global crises we face, but it could at least claim to be a step in the right direction. Anything less will be a farce.
Meanwhile, with the Republicans’ monopoly control over the government, even those who normally focus on electoral politics must realize that for some time to come the main struggle will be outside the parties and outside the government. It will be grassroots participatory actions or nothing.
New movements of protest and resistance will develop during the coming weeks and months, responding to this bizarre and still very unpredictable new situation. At this point it’s hard to say what forms such movements will take, except to note that just about everyone seems to recognize that our number-one priority will be defending blacks, Latinos, Muslims, LGBTQs, and others most directly threatened by the new regime.
But we will also need to defend ourselves. The first step in resisting this regime is to avoid getting too caught up with it — obsessively following the latest news about it and impulsively reacting to each new outrage. That kind of compulsive media consumption was part of what led to this situation in the first place. Let’s treat this clown show with the contempt it deserves and not forget the fundamental things that still apply — picking our battles, but also continuing to nourish the personal relations and creative activities that make life worthwhile in the first place. Otherwise, what will we be defending?
Ultimately, as soon as we can recover our bearings, we’ll have to go back on the offensive. We were already going to have to face severe global crises during the coming decades. Maybe this disaster will shock us into coming together and addressing those crises sooner and more wholeheartedly than we would have otherwise, with fewer illusions about the capacity of the existing system to save us.
BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS
November 16, 2016
By Edward Said
In the decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the world is in the grip of an ideology whose most dramatic embodiment is currently to be found in the race between the two main candidates for the American presidency. Without wishing to list the various issues that divide them, I should like very quickly therefore to note what it is that unites them and in many ways makes them mirror images of each other. As I said in my last article (Al-Ahram Weekly, 24-30 August), both are passionate, indeed unquestioning believers in the corporate free market system. Both advocate what they call less government, oppose “big” government, and together continue the campaign against the welfare state that was inaugurated two decades ago by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. It is this 20-year continuity that I would like to describe in view of what has been the emergence and hegemony of neo-liberalism, a doctrine that has almost totally transformed the British Labour Party (now called New Labour) and the American Democratic Party under Clinton and Gore. The dilemma we all face as citizens is that, with few exceptions here and there (most of them desperately isolated economic disasters, like North Korea and Cuba, or alternatives that are useless as models for others to follow), neoliberalism has swallowed up the world in its clutches, with grave consequences for democracy and the physical environment that can be neither underestimated nor dismissed.
As practiced in Eastern Europe, China and a few other countries in Africa and Asia, state socialism was unable to compete with the energy and inventiveness of globalised finance capital, which captured more markets, promised rapid prosperity, and appealed to vast numbers of people for whom state control meant underdevelopment, bureaucracy and the repressive supervision of everyday life. Then the Soviet Union and East Europe switched to capitalism, and a new world was born. But when the doctrines of the free market were turned on social security systems like those that had sustained Britain in the post-war period, and the United States since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, a massive social transformation was to ensue. I will come to that in a moment. But one must make an effort to remember those genuinely progressive policies had once produced a relatively new condition of widespread democratic equality and social benefits, all of them administered and financed by the central state. They were what gave strength to post-war Britain and the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. Taxes were therefore quite high for the wealthy, although the middle and working classes also had to pay for the benefits that accrued to them (mainly education, health and social security). Many of these benefits were the result of an aggressive and well-organised labour union system, but there was also a prevailing idea that the large costs of health and education, for example, which the individual citizen could not afford to pay alone, should be subsidised by the corporate body of the welfare state. By the beginning of the ’90s all this was not only under attack but had started to disappear.
First the labour unions were dissolved or broken (the British miners, and the American air traffic controllers). Privatisation of major services like transportation, utilities, education and heavy industry followed, mainly in Europe. In the US (where except for utilities, most industries were already in private hands, but prices were controlled by the government in the basic services sector), deregulation was the order of the day. This meant that the government would no longer play a role in making sure that the price of travel, basic commodities, health, education, as well as utilities such as gas and electricity, should stay within certain bounds. The market was to be the new regulator, which meant that costs and profits of individual airlines, hospitals, telephone companies, and later gas, electricity, and water were left to the private companies to set, frequently at considerable financial pain to the individual consumer. Soon even the postal service and a major part of the prison system were also privatised and deregulated. In Britain, Thatcherism virtually destroyed the university system, since it viewed each institution university as a supplier of learning, and hence like a business that in terms of profit and loss tended to be a loser, rather than a maker, of money. Many teaching positions were slashed, with an extraordinary loss in morale and productivity, as thousands of professors and teachers looked for positions abroad.
With the collapse of socialism everywhere and the triumph of aggressive right-wing parties and policies such as those headed by Reagan and Thatcher, the old liberal left in British Labour and the US Democratic party had two alternatives. One was to move closer to the successful policies of the right. The other alternative was to choose an approach that would protect the old services but make them more efficient. Both the British New Labourites under Tony Blair and the American Democrats under Bill Clinton chose the former course (moving towards the right), but skilfully kept some of the rhetoric of the past, pretending that many of the welfare services the state used to provide were there, albeit packaged differently.
That was simply false. Deregulation and privatisation continued, with the result that the profit motive took over the public sector completely. Budgets for social welfare, health for the poor and aged, and schools were slashed; defence, law and order (i.e. police and prisons) were fed more state money and/or privatised. The major loss has been in democracy and social practices. For when the country is ruled by the market (in the US a period of great prosperity for the top half of the country, poverty for the bottom) and with the state in fact given over to the most powerful corporations and stock market businesses (symbolised by the tremendous growth in electronic business), there is less and less incentive for the individual citizen to participate in a system perceived as basically out of control so far as the ordinary population is concerned. The price of this neoliberal system has been paid by the individual citizen who feels left out, powerless, alienated from a market place ruled by greed, immense transnational corporations, and a government at the mercy of the highest bidder. Thus elections are controlled not by the individual voter but by the major contributors, the media (who have an interest in maintaining the system), and the corporate sector.
What is most discouraging is the sense most people have that not only is there no other alternative, but that this is the best system ever imagined, the triumph of the middle-class ideal, a liberal and humane democracy — or, as Francis Fukuyama called it, the end of history. Inequities are simply swept out of sight. The degradation of the environment and the pauperisation of huge patches of Asia, Africa and Latin America — the so-called South — are all secondary to corporate profits. Worst of all is the loss of initiative that could bring significant change. There is hardly anyone left to challenge the idea that schools, for instance, should be run as profit-making enterprises, and that hospitals should offer service only to those who can pay prices set by pharmaceutical companies and hospital accountants. The disappearance of the welfare state means that no public agency exists to safeguard personal well-being for the weak, the disadvantaged, impoverished families, children, the handicapped, and the aged. New liberalism speaks about opportunities as “free” and “equal” whereas if for some reason you are not capable of staying ahead, you will sink.What has disappeared is the sense citizens need to have of entitlement — the right, guaranteed by the state, to health, education, shelter, and democratic freedoms. If all those become the prey of the globalised market, the future is deeply insecure for the large majority of people, despite the reassuring (but profoundly misleading) rhetoric of care and kindness spun out by the media managers and public relations experts who rule over public discourse.
The question now is how long neo-liberalism will last. For if the global system starts to break down, if more and more people suffer the consequences of a dearth of social services, if more and more powerlessness characterises the political system, then crises will begin to emerge. At that point, alternatives will be a necessity, even if for the time being we are being told “you never had it so good!” How much social suffering is tolerable before the need for change actually causes change? This is the major political question of our time.