Friday 8 May 2015

Austerity as the contested ground of future politics

More and more I feel that austerity is going to form the principal political space of conflict not just for the coming years but for the coming decades. Its neoliberal version is only getting stronger. As ecological crises bite more and more, another version will cross-cut the first (with the same distribution of suffering in both cases).

Econo-austerity and eco-austerity will work together and operate through the same spaces of exception and immunity (i.e. spaces outside protection and spaces outside obligation, respectively).

What we see now is the thin (but rapidly thickening) end of a wedge that prises apart the haves and the have-nots, not by way of systemic dynamics (or not by these alone) but by deliberate, concerted efforts. We are facing an era of fortifications -- steel to keep the poor out, concrete to keep the rich dry (all secured by finance and law).

More pragmatically and immediately: How did anti-austerity become a 'radical' cause? Criticism of austerity is mainstream economics (albeit not neoliberal economics).

Labour, among other such parties around the world, accepted the austerity narrative and it's getting harder and harder to go back on that with every passing day -- days like these in particular.

The quiet death of the Labour Party?

Amidst the utterly crushing, dispiriting disappointment of this election result, I think we have to remember that this was a colossal missed opportunity. The soul searching and self-flagellation is already underway, and rightly so. The Tories are presenting this as a glorious victory but in truth they've barely scraped a majority. Relative to expectations that's huge -- far beyond the wildest hopes/nightmares of supporters/opponents, respectively. But the discontent with the way this country has been run is still there, still simmering -- perhaps even more so now.

Our progressive political parties south of Scotland, with a handful of exceptions (including in my own home constituency of Bristol West), have manifestly failed to tap that. They've managed to take a simmering discontent and thrown a damp blanket over it.

What the Tories will now knock down may never be rebuilt. That is a weight that will rest on us for generations to come.

It feels like a death in the family, this morning.

And it really makes me question whether the Labour Party has a future (not questioning the future of the Party, whether it has one). The pattern now will be precisely the same as five years ago. The in-fighting of leadership contests will paralyse any possibility of opposition for weeks if not months. Meanwhile, the Tories are already consolidating their narratives, burying the abovementioned fact that this is an extremely narrow victory, and presenting themselves as having a formidable mandate. They're aided in this by the larger part of the media, the offshore, oligarchic ownership of which is only going to get stronger. Add to this further gerrymandering and the effective loss of Scotland (whether through SNP dominance or outright independence)...

I know everyone always thinks that they're at a turning point of history but it's difficult to get around the sense that this was the last chance for the Labour Party in its present form.

It died not with a bang but with a whimper. What comes next?

Monday 4 May 2015

Russell Brand, Ed Miliband and the irritating necessity/necessary irritation of populist politics

Interesting character, that Russell. Quite the conundrum.

He seems to have figured out that politics isn't about a lot of self-righteous, beautiful-souled loudhailery in the blind hope of an unfathomable miracle. That's welcome (oh so many persons of more incisive, sophisticated and unhyperventilated thought-rhythms could take note).

Will Miliband 'listen'? In the sense of doing everything you'd like? Of course not. I think he'll be less congenitally disinclined to anything approximating a progressive policy than his blue equivalent. I think he'll be able to actually comprehend what the difference between changing the status quo and crumpling in the face of it is. Not inspiring words but still.

I think the difference is that Ed will ultimately face whichever the way the wind is blowing and won't be able to do much about that direction but he will probably wish it was blowing towards a more progressive compass point (westerly?)

Everything Brand says is correct. If you want to have progressive politics in a representative system, you've got to put the politicians under more pressure than the forces of regression, stasis and downtroddening are capable of. The question is whether that's at all possible.

For all Brand's incomparable zest and zeal, we seem under-equipped... Then again, a few more like him and that might really mean something.

Of course, whether his, *ahem*, brand survives his giving up selling beautiful souls is yet to be determined. People do so love the nobility of a perfectly pure defeat.