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Hackney, Independent Hipster Republic: New Left Strategy.

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SmKNNke

Innovative Hipster Green Transport.

Faced with the meltdown of British politics the left needs new thinking.

As a service to the movement Tendance Coatesy presents extracts from this (leaked) document, which will be discussed as policy by the Left Unity Party and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) at their forthcoming conferences.

“The success of comrade Alex Salmond in Scotland and the rise of UKIP shows the need for radical changes in left policies.

Drawing on the best social democratic traditions of the SNP, Beppe Grillo (MoVimento Cinque Stelle), and Lyndon LaRouche Left Unity and the LRC must take steps to change, fo’ shizzel.”

“Our programme begins with the Hipster base of the new vanguard of leftward moving masses.”

“Hackney is Amazeballs, totes!”

But what do we have?

Shit, dude, my bad’

The Independent ‘ipster Republic of Hackney – confederated with the Scottish Radical Independence Campaign – aims to change this.

Our borough is a fest burg – free from the control of the Westminster Monarchy and her Labour, Tory and Liberal political elite.

Our policies include:

  • Promoting  reuse: recycled hamsters, lucozade and taurine drinks in gourds.
  • Niche products: bladderwrack steak and absinthe flavoured chips.
  • A new University of Gerry Healy Studies – with no student fees!
  • Free crystal therapy care.
  • Promoting Hipster Hygiene in a new public baths. Though hipsters participate in the no shampoo and no soap movement, most keep clean with olive oil scrapers.
  • Cuneiform – the original writing form destroyed by Orientalists – to be taught in all schools.
  • Promoting ‘ipster enterprise:

hfs6ytt

How we will we pay for this?

Taking a leaf out of the SNP’s book we plan to offer an attractive package to socially aware and smartly ironic City enterprises to relocate in Hackney with a 20% reduction in all taxes.

Negotiations are underway with Donald Trump to build hipster golf courses on Hackney marshes.

We plan to stand and support no candidates in any elections.

But we will issue the following mordant campaign song,

“Wiv a ladder and some glasses, you can see to ‘ackney marshes, if it wasn’t for the ‘ipsters in-between!”

New International Brigade Joins Kurds to Fight Isis Fascism.

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Western “comrades” join Kurds, Arabs, secularists, Yezidis, and Syriac Christians against Islamic State

This is incredibly moving (Hat-Tip Mal Function).

Rozh Ahmad @rozhahmadmedia

War in Syria The Kurdish fight in Syria slowly turns international on the ground as an unprecedented number of foreign volunteers join the pro-Kurdish militias to fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

The most widely reported cases include 43-year-old US air force veteran Brian Wilson and 28-year-old ex-US Marine Jordan Matson.

According to local sources inside Syria’s Kurdish “Rojava” region, however, 10 American citizens as well as hundreds of non-Kurdish volunteers comprising Syrian Arabs, Turkish citizens and Europeans have already joined the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighting against IS jihadists.

“I give no figures, but there is a considerable number of Westerners fighting in the ranks of the YPG as well as European women comrades who’ve joined the Women Protection Units (YPJ). There are many Turkish comrades too,” said 28-year-old Kristopher Nicholaidis, who left Greece and joined YPG in Syria five months ago.

NICHOLAIDIS WAS AN ACTIVE local artist back in Greece where he used his art and politics to defend migrants, including Muslims.

“There is a considerable number of Westerners fighting in the ranks of the YPG”

“I come from a political family and I am a democratic socialist. I used my art and politics to defend the Muslim community from attacks initiated by fascists of the Golden Dawn party, but I consider IS jihadists as 21st century fascists posing a greater global threat as they barbarically spread Islamofascism on an international level,” he said. “I believe that the YPG is therefore leading the greatest anti-fascist struggle of our time by fighting against IS jihadists. I joined this struggle to fight against global fascism in defence of democracy and peace in Kurdish Rojava.”

Arsalan Celik, 26, studied political science at one of the most prestigious Turkish universities but left and joined the YPG April this year.

“I am not Turkish-Kurdish, I am Turkish from the city of Mersin. I came here because the IS jihadists come from all over the world instigating a war against humanity and my government helps them. I wanted to make a practical stance against IS and YPG was the only democratic militia I found in the region fighting back against these jihadists,” he said.

“I have seen many Syrian Muslim Arabs as well as left-wing Turks fighting against IS in the ranks of the YPG and YPJ militias, but we have not made headlines as much as our American comrades,” he said light-heartedly, adding, “We fight against IS jihadists to defend the democratic values of this Kurdish-led revolution because only the Kurds are now able to bring peace to Kurdistan, Syria and Turkey.”

CELIK IS NO STRANGER for Syria’s Kurds as tens of Turkish men and women have joined YPG and YPJ since last year, and some of them have lost their lives.

Serkan Tosun was the first Turkish YPG fighter killed when he fought to repel jihadist attacks to defend the predominantly Kurdish city of Serekaniye (Ras Al-Ain) in September 2013.

30-year-old Nejat Ağırnaslı, a Turkish academic, was killed two weeks ago when he fought in the YPG ranks in defence of the city of Kobane.

This is  just so simply put and right.

Zuleikha Muhammad of Rojava Martyrs’ Mothers Committee, whose only son joined YPG and was killed last year, said: “The international volunteers are not ‘foreigners’ as some describe them because we do not consider them as ‘foreigners’, they are our children and Rojava is their homeland.”

She said: “We love international volunteers as our own children because they are fighting against IS gunmen to defend us and they are martyred like our sons and daughters to defend Rojava revolutionary cause for people’s fraternal relations.”

This is the conclusion,

Some left-wing writers in the West have begun to compare YPG and YPJ militias in Syria to the International Brigade and POUM militia that operated during the 1936 Spanish civil war, but this is not how the YPG perceives itself.

“We are not communists nor do we call for a separatist Kurdish nation-state. We are democrats advocating the third way in Syria based on the Democratic Con-federalism philosophy of Abdullah Ocalan. The YPG is a people’s militia and people are free to advocate any ideology,” said Bahoz Berxwedan, one of the YPG commanders who run political education lectures in the Al-Hasakah province.

“Any freedom-loving democrat in this world can join us regardless of their religion, ethnicity, and ideology, as long as they accept our main principles of gender equality, peaceful coexistence and self-rule autonomy for all communities,” he explained. “This is why YPG fighters include Kurds and Arab Muslims, secularists, Yezidis, Syriac Christians and some American and European comrades too.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 28, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Tunisian Islamists Conceed Defeat to Secular, Nidaa Tounes, Party,

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Tunisia: Nidaa Tounes Beats Islamists.

Tunisia’s Ennahda party, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolts, conceded defeat on Monday in elections that are set to make its main secular rival the strongest force in parliament.

Official results from Sunday’s elections – the second parliamentary vote since Tunisians set off uprisings across much of the Arab World by overthrowing autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali – were still to be announced.

But a senior official at Ennahda, which ruled in a coalition until it was forced to make way for a caretaker government during a political crisis at the start of this year, acknowledged defeat by the secular Nidaa Tounes party.

We have accepted this result, and congratulate the winner Nidaa Tounes,” the official, Lotfi Zitoun, told Reuters. However, he repeated the party’s call for a new coalition including Ennahda. “We are calling once again for the formation of a unity government in the interest of the country.”

Earlier, a party source said preliminary tallies showed the secular party had won 80 seats in the 217-member assembly, ahead of 67 secured by Ennahda.

Reuters.

These are some percentage figures.

Nidaa Tounes 38.24% = 83 seats Ennahdha: 31.33% = 68 seats Free Patriotic Union (run by rich businessman and Africa football club owner Slim Riahi), : 7.83% = 17 Seats Popular Front (the left bloc): 5.25% = 12 seats Afek Tounes: 2.3% = 5 seats Congress for the Republic: 1.84% = 4 seats The Initiative: 1.84% = 4 seats

Tunisia Live.

Le Monde reports,

The Islamist party knew he would see a decline in popularity but had not imagined such a setback. Triumphantly elected in 2011, when the first free elections were held after the fall of Ben Ali, the movement had two difficult years in government, marked by economic failure, political assassinations and a rise in terrorism.

On Sunday, voters did not hesitate to say they had voted Ennahda in 2011 and had been then disappointed. So that they had decided to turn to Nidaa Tounès. “We need people who can make the country move forward “, noted a resident of Rafraf, small coastal town in the north, attracted as were many voters by the figure of Beji Caid Essebsi, a former prime minister and leader of the transitional government after the revolution.

While British commentators  like the Guardian’s Seumas Milne had described Ennahda as “progressive” and “centre left” critics from Tunisia’s important secular left and labour movement had accused it of harbouring a hard-line Islamist wing, and practising neo-liberal economics.

The assassination of the left leader Chokri Belaïd (February 2013) indicated the existence of a far-right Islamist current prepared to use violence against the progressive movement. It as a key moment in defining the difference between Islamist reaction – including that of Ennahda – and the Tunisian left (seeTunisie : Le mouvement ouvrier à la croisée des chemins.). At one point it looked as if the fringes of the party would work with the religious hard-liners  and establish Islamic ‘mini-states’ based on the Sharia.

This did not happen.

The Parliamentary Islamists recoiled from the terrorism of the Salafist inspired street fighters.

All Tunisian elected parties have since accepted a new (2014) Constitution, unique in the Arab world, which establishes a framework for open decentralised government, promotes gender equality and accepts freedom of religion (that is the right not to be a Muslim), although restricts attacks on faith.

Nidaa Tounes (the حركة نداء تونسNidā’ Tūnis, French: Appel de la Tunisie, Call of Tunisia), is a secular party, or as Wikipedia calls it “secularist”. “founded by the former prime minister Beji Caid el Sebsi after the post-revolution 2011 elections. It describes itself as a “modernist” party.”

In this context modernist means that the party is dedicated to democracy, gender equality, social openness, and is not prepared to allow movements imposing Islamic rules on daily life. Economic development is seen as a condition of progress.

“The party has patched together former members of ousted president Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally, secular leftists, progressive liberals and Destourians (followers of Tunisia’s “founder” Habib Bourguiba). In addition, the party has the support of many members of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) and the national employers’ union, UTICA. They believe that Tunisia’s secular forces have to unite to counter the dominance of the Islamist Ennahda Movement.”

Nidaa Tounes’ promises increased growth and a reduction in unemployment (currently at 15,20%).

It is believed that the party’s criticisms of the “instrumentalisation” of Islam, experienced candidates (regardless of their Destourian past),  and its call for “sécurité et de la stabilité” accounts for its successes.

To their left with 17 seats the Popular Front has achieved Parliamentary representation. It suffered from leftist in-fighting, and the alliance of some trade unionists with Nidaa Tounes. Nevertheless it also remains linked to the left-wing of the powerful  Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT).

It is believed that the UGTT and Tunisia’s strong civil society have helped hinder the growth of an Islamist anti-democratic movement.

Nevertheless over  2,400 Tunisian citizens (out of a population of 10,89 million) have joined the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

It is expected that very different social conflicts will result from any attempt by the probable national unity government that the elections are likely to create (led by Nidaa Tounes) to tie a ‘modernising’ economic agenda to neo-liberal policies. Calling themselves “technocrats” is an obvious attempt by politicians to deflect opposition to unpopular measures which could include further austerity.

For the moment minds are concentrated on the defeat of Ennahda.

There are inevitable charges of – marginal – electoral malpractice.

But some things stand out: watching the images of voting in Tunis on the (UK) telly news stations today you could have been excused for simply thinking how ordinary the Tunisians looked – democratic, calm, modern people.

Russell Brand and Richard Seymour: a Cromulant Discursive Aporia.

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Richard Seymour : “When people say, ‘The system works,’ they mean ‘The system works for me.’ The slags. “

Russell Brand “Have you been out in society recently? ‘Cause it’s SHIT. But when I was asked to discourse with Richard Seymour  I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me. I chose the subject of revolution because comrade Seymour is a political genius and I am a genius,  and imagining the overthrow of the current political system is the only way I can be enthused about politics.

It’s difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe. Everything beautiful in the world is within you. No one really feels self-confident deep down because it’s an artificial idea. Really, people aren’t that worried about what you’re doing or what you’re saying, so you can drift around the world relatively anonymously: you must not feel persecuted and examined. Liberate yourself from that idea that people are watching you.

Richard Seymour. “To the switherers, who are thinking of throwing their energies into the the revolution what do you suggest?  I would simply suggest this – give it a week, go along to one of the Left Unity or other meetings about the way forward. You might find, or find yourself able to make, something better.”

Russell Brand. “I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a privileged bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.”

Richard Seymour, “I profoundly disagree with the language of “privilege”. The discourse seems inadequate to the complex realities of racial, gender, and national inequalities for example. It also tends, in concrete politics, toward an unhelpfully moralistic language – checking your privilege, and so on. Not to mention agonistic apathetic aporias.”

Russell Brand, “There’s little point bemoaning this apathy. Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve. To me a potent and triumphant leftist movement, aside from the glorious Occupy rumble, is a faint, idealistic whisper from sepia rebels.

If I my quote my own words, “Until today two things gave me great pleasure in life. Wanking into the breasts of a bisexual nymphomaniac as she recites Simone de Beauvoir, and sparking an anti-capitalist revolution by my own revolt against the prevailing oppressive system of oppression what that oppress people”

Richard Seymour, “So it might be with “male privilege” referred to in this sense. Adapting Hall, one might speak of “those apparently naturalised representations of events and situations relating to sex and gender, whether ‘factual’ or ‘fictional’, which have sexist premisses and propositions inscribed in them as a set of unquestioned assumptions” and which “enable sexist statements to be formulated without ever bringing into awareness the sexist predicates on which the statements are grounded.”

Russell Brand All penguins are the same below the surface, which I think is as perfect an analogy as we’re likely to get for the futility of sexism, racism and capitalism.”

Suffolk Libraries Face New Crisis as Disinvestment Fails to Deliver.

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Ideal Happy Suffolk Library User.

In 2012 Suffolk LIbraries were taken away from public ownership (‘divested’) and direct control by elected councillors under a hard-right leadership of Suffolk County Council. They were given to an Industrial and Provident Society

Or as they put it,

In the first arrangement of its type in the UK, and after extensive consultation with the people of Suffolk, on Wednesday 1 August 2012, all of Suffolk’s 44 libraries and the mobile, school and prison library services were put under the direct control of the Suffolk’s Libraries IPS Ltd, an independent company registered as a charity.

Suffolk’s Libraries has a long-term contract with Suffolk County Council to ensure the service is delivered to an agreed specification and to work with local community groups to develop locally-focused services at each library.

The county council remains the statutory library authority, and monitors the performance of the library service through a framework that forms part of the contract.

The board of the IPS is currently appointed (that is, nominated, not elected) but will be elected by members of the IPS in late 2013.

These are the members who elected the Board  (essentially Friends of local libraries) and here is the Board.

As a member of the Ipswich Friends, who are on the list, I would be interested to know how this election took place – certainly it would be hard to recall being consulted, let alone presented with a ballot paper.

It would be possible to go further into  this arrangement, whose transparency has been unfavourably compared to the Kremlin’s under Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.

Our concern is the future of the libraries.

It would seem that a number of problems have come to a head: Ipswich Library is opening late tomorrow, because a special ‘Staff Meeting’ is taking place.

It is known (I have seen a copy of the, non-public, minutes of the meeting) that part of the Library is to be transferred to a business ‘hub’ of some kind (as if Ipswich needs another one….).

Appropriately commerce will replace part of the Arts section.

In the meantime a large number of books from all over the Central Library are ‘disappearing’ and some books on the shelves are ‘not-recognised’ – about to be withdrawn for sale.

One loyal member of staff say that these volumes have gone to a better, happier, place.

Others, less favourable to management, suggest that the “disappeared” will never  be seen again.

The computer provision, which last year’s annual public report (a rare glimpse into the Provy’s workings) needs upgrading, is in a mess.

Some new terminals are available (though 2 have already broken down) with super, indeed excellent, service, exist (though their censorship filter blocks some left-wing sites).

Some of the old ones still function.

There is a shortage of free computers and great competition to use them – an essential activity for Jobseekers.

But near to them are the dead carcasses of extinct terminals, a sad reminder of former days.

We suspect a funding crisis is in the offing and “profit centres” are seen as the way out.

Note the word “suspect“, not “certain”.

It is said – from the Management – that “nothing has been decided yet” about the libraries’ future.

We have heard that one before: it is no doubt taught in many ‘dealing with a crisis’ master classes for managers.

As Greens Contemplate ‘Confidence and Supply’ Agreement with Conservatives Ipswich Green ‘Hasn’t the heart’ to Oppose Tory MP.

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Mark Ereira-Guyer

Suffolk Green Leader, Mark Ereira-Guyer ‘Hasn’t the heart’ to stand against Ipswich Tory MP.

Latest news on the Green Front,

The resurgent Green party is to target a dozen seats across England, which it believes it could either win or come close to seizing in next May’s general election, as membership rises and confidence grows that it could outpoll the Lib Dems.

……..

As the Greens have gained more media attention, Bennett has thought seriously about post-election possibilities, and what role her party might play in supporting a Tory- or Labour-led government. “I can’t imagine circumstances in which we would prop up a Tory government,” she says. “Our first inclination would be a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement, rather than a coalition, because it means you provide stable government – you don’t get the ministerial cars but you keep your conscience and you don’t have to vote for tuition fees, for example.”

Guardian site.

The Ipswich Star reported on October the 10th,

Ipswich: Green Party candidate “hasn’t the heart” to take on MP Ben Gummer at General Election

Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and independent group on Suffolk County Council and an experienced election campaigner, was chosen earlier this year to fight for the Ipswich seat, but has now dropped out.

In a letter to the Ipswich Green Party he said his business and council commitments meant he was not able to devote enough time to fighting the seat and he wanted the party to have time to find another candidate.

….

He added: “Although I find Conservative policies odious and overly focused on free market fundamentalism, crass cost-cutting measures and ecological destitution, I am of the view that the current MP Ben Gummer is dedicated and hardworking.

“I respect his honest endeavours for the town. And, therefore, I can’t drum up sufficient energies to really take him on. I like my politics to work on a human level, and not in a tribalist way.”

“Mr Gummer was flattered to hear Mr Ereira-Guyer’s comments. He said: “I’m sorry he won’t be standing because I have a lot of time for him and I think we would have some good debates on the hustings. I hope he remains on the political scene in Suffolk.”

The Greens are due to select another candidate.

Whether this endorsement of the Ipswich Conservative candidate, or at the very least, glowing tribute, is to be followed in the rest of the country is unclear.

It would certainly smooth the way for a “confidence and supply” agreement if the Greens helped other Tories in marginals.

There are suggestions from greens that Mr Ereira-Guyer’s decision is not unrelated to the failure of the national Green Party to give the sprightly Suffolk leader the recognition he feels is consummate with his talents.

He failed to become the Party’s deputy leader.

Sources close to the Suffolk Labour Party have commented that he certainly has a high opinion of himself.

This is from the Tories’ favourite Green’s own Blog site,

We must all move from being a reckless ego-centric society to an eco-centric one. We need to ensure everyone has enough for a decent life wherever they live in the world. We should perhaps recall the adage: there is no wealth but life. We need to find a way of living where we all find joy and fulfillment in ‘enough’.

As a Councillor I will continually work to encourage and explain the kind of changes required that can meet our – and the rest of biodiversity’s – needs in a way that our current ego-centric system isn’t and simply can’t.

Many will had enough of this after the first sentence!

Ereira-Guyer also cites this,

We need to appreciate that we can and should be winning votes from the right and the left, because we are NOT a party of the left.

Even if we think we are, we should not be using that term, because the Green Party’s prime USP is that we as a society will not approach equality until we recognise that there are limits to growth.

R Lindsay, Journalist & Green Party member

You can keep up to date with Ipswich Green Party on their site - which has yet to register this decision.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 21, 2014 at 10:34 am

The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. A Socialist Review.

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The Establishment. And how they get away with it. Owen Jones. Allen Lane 2014.

Last Tuesday supporters of the Suffolk People’s Assembly and the PCS trade union lobbied Ipswich Conservative MP, Ben Gummer. Part of the TUC campaign “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” we were there to raise concerns from the decline in the real value of public sector pay, the growing cost of living, declining working conditions, to the attacks on those receiving welfare benefits. Gummer, after admitting that he had the privileged background (Cabinet Minister dad, public school and Cambridge in case you ask) understood our worries. He knew “where we were coming from”. But tight budgets and a squeeze on spending had been needed to deal with the legacy of the last government. Now the country was on the mend.

The Honourable Member ended by evoking his recent visit to a local school Academy. Its intake includes many of the less than privileged. Yet these students were rearing to compete on the global market. Equipping them to stand up their counterparts on the East, to give them “opportunity”, was, Ben’s words suggested, a task his government had begun in earnest.

Right in the first chapter of Owen Jones’ The Establishment, one comes across Gummer’s other constituency: the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Jones meets it founder, Matthew Elliot, who founded this “unashamedly populist” campaign for lower taxation. Inspired by the American hard-right Tea Party, its influence began before the 2008 Bankers’ crash. The Alliance now boasts that it got the Tories from saying they wanted to “match Labour’s spending plans to talk about spending cuts”. The ‘shock’ of crashing banks gave them a golden opportunity to go further and further.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance awarded Ipswich MP Ben its monthly  ‘pin up’ status a couple of years ago for his attempt to rename National Insurance a Tax. (1) This is not the only link. Jones signals their campaign to end Trade Union facility time. Mr Gummer – the members of the PCS present at the lobby were well aware – has very publicly pursued this demand locally.

Needless to say the socially and (genuinely) caring liberal Ben, can quickly turn into a ferocious tigress protecting her young when the interests of one group of taxpayers, finance, are at stake. It was not so long ago that he floated the idea of reviving the ‘business vote’, an extra ballot paper for companies (no doubt with an eye on Labour controlled Ipswich Borough Council).

Dig a little and what is the core of the up and coming Conservative’s politics? For Ben Gummer the City of London, which Jones describes as marked by a “reluctance to pay taxes and an acute hostility to any form of government intervention” (Page 241) is the foundation of UK prosperity. Above all he ducks the banks’ responsibility for the economic crisis, and the government’s deficit (critics might begin with the bank bail-out….), and loads it onto the ‘tax and spend’ policies of Blair and Brown.

It is not a long journey from The Establishment to Ipswich. The previous story is an illustration of how the author succeeds in showing “how they get away with it”. Activists on the left will find many similar echoes from their own experiences of contact with professional politicians (not just Conservatives and Liberals), and “movers and shakers” in the country.

Outriders.

As most reviewers, even if they might disagree with many of Jones’ views,  have said, The Establishment is a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the world of “powerful”, who “manage democracy”. This “oligarchy”, a self-selecting elite, as Ferdinand Mount has described it, it is one profoundly changed since the 1980s (The New Few or a Very British Oligarchy. 2012) To Jones it’s “politicians who make laws, media barons who set the terms of debate; business and financiers who run the economy; police forces that enforce a law which is rigged in favour of the powerful.” What ties them together is a belief in their own rightness that they are “worth” their positions.

In their ‘heroic age’, Thatcherites could consider themselves as radicals sweeping away the old system. Now the free-market consensus has taken on a life of its own. It’s an apparatuses, helped by ‘hired hands’ and driven by the undoubted profits of financial institutions and, increasingly, a revenue flow from the state into private owners of public assets.

It is striking that “outriders”, from the Tax-Payers’ Alliance, ‘free-market’ think tanks, still consider themselves to be living in this time when they had to fight off the remnants of the post-War settlement, beat down trade unions, and remove left-wing politics from the national life. The Daily Mail, Jones observes, still thinks it is battling away at a ‘Liberal’ Establishment.  Paul Staines (aka “Guido Fawkes”)  also on the hard right says of the the political class: “I hate the fucking thieving cunts.”

The first chapter of Jones’ book underlines the contrary. The hard-right have succeeded in defining ‘common sense’, from the media, much of the public, to the highest reaches of power. They have “shifted the terms of debate and softened up public opinion” with the willing collaboration of media outlets, the BBC at the forefront, which never loses an opportunity to provide them with a platform. “They have helped shift the goalposts of debate in Britain, making ideas that were once ludicrous, absurd and wacky, become the new common sense. In the terminology of right-wing political thinker, they have shifted the ‘Overton Window’.”(Page 44)

Overton, we learn, was the vice-president of a US right-wing think tank, the grandly titled Mackinac Center for Public Policy. His concern was to ‘shift’ what is reasonable, opening a new Window of opportunity. But for policies to be Policy the outriders, scouting out the way, have to find collaborators willing to work with them.

If The Establishment covers the ideological and economic conditions for the rise of the free-market ‘counter-revolution’ in the 1970s and 1980s it does not stop there. Blair and Brown were happy to go along with what the Conservatives, starting with Thatcher, had created. “The government of both Blair and Brown were instrumental in transforming Thatcherism into a permanent settlement.”(P 61)

Owen Jones is not afraid to confront the Labour Ministers who profited handsomely from this agreement on free-market foundations. Tony Blair, and his immediate followers, are probably the most notorious. But it’s the special merit of Establishment to focus on less well-remembered instances.

Former Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt ended up as a lobbyist for private health companies. Perhaps even more startling in this particularly area is the case of Paul Corrigan a one-time activist in the Communist Party of Great Britain, and sociology lecturer, who is now deeply involved, a leading figure,  in the NHS privatisation process itself (see Wikipedia). Corrigan is married to Labour Peer,  Hilary Armstrong and is a  Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Pride of place must go to David Blunkett, former Home Secretary and subsequently in charge of the DWP. Jones meets the man himself. Blunkett can never resist the opportunity to re-enact the Monty Python Three Yorkshiremen sketch. After talking of a life existing on “bread and dripping” the former Minster bushes away how he personally profited from the largesse of the notoriously incompetent A4E (amongst his many other well-rewarded private posts, from News International onwards). There is no interrogation of how A4E’s exploitation of state revenue only happened because of his own legislation. The MP proffers only this, “I’m not living a flash lifestyle, but I’m very comfortable.”(Page 76) Though not quite as comfortable as David Miliband, reported by Jones to have made a million in two and a half years after his failed Labour leadership bid in 2010.

This ‘revolving door’, by which former Cabinet Ministers end up being rewarded by companies their legislation has helped, works for politicians of all parties. If the Tories do badly next year, and when the Liberals are drubbed, we will see another crop. Jones remind us that 46 of the top fifty publicly ranked traded firms in the UK had a British parliamentarian as either a director or a shareholder.

The problem is not that politicians are especially venal as such – a pretty hollow claim given the opportunities for far easier money-making in other walks of life. It is that, as Jones says, “Mainstream politicians had been transformed by policies that once belonged to the dreams of the outriders. A mentality of greed had been promoted amongst the business elite, now this mentality had infected the political elite too. Politicians became unapologetic lobbyists for private interests both inside and outside Westminster.”(Page 83)

When one reads this it’s hard not to think of this, possibility, cited in Tomas Picketty’s influential Capital in the Twenty First Century. That some would “privatise all pubic assets. According to the national accounts of various European countries, the proceeds from selling all public buildings, schools, universities, hospitals, police stations, infrastructures, and so will be roughly sufficient to pay off all outstanding public debt. Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541 –2 Capital in the Twenty-first Century. 2014).

In many respect we are paying rent to private owners for an ever-growing number of ‘public’ services. What this means is that wealth is transferred from the majority to this minority through the mechanism of taxation and charges for indispensable common goods (health onwards). If Picketty is right about the tendency of modern Capital to favour the transformation of entrepreneurs into the holders of such claims (‘rentiers’) the free-market system may be encouraging its own cannibalism. One could also investigate the way these profiteers are directly shaping a whole range of public social policies, for the institutions they themselves run.

Democratic Revolution.

There are many other themes brought up in The Establishment, covering the media, the increasing harshness of Law and  the Police, and their use to suppress protests, the demonisation of the poor, and an array of illuminating sections on the Oligarchy’s inner courts, the City, and the Tax-dodging Tycoons and corporation. I was impressed by the grasp – not common amongst political writers – of the last decade’s coercive and shambolic changes in the Benefit system and the obstacles and misery these have created for millions of people.

But it is the political alternative to the present system that should provoke the most attention. Is the ‘elite’ at fault for the way it’s recruited? There is one area where this appears blatant: professional politics. Jones, following many others, observes is that MPs are increasingly drawn from a narrow stratum of society, often with no experience of anything other than politics, and even fewer from working class backgrounds. That this is an international phenomenon can be seen in an article in Le Monde yesterday (16.10.14). It notes that only 2,6% of French MPs come from manual or ordinary clerical occupations. But can this be changed by the kind of “equality of opportunity” that the free-market’s supporters promote?

But, as he points out, we should start by considering the corporate influence on law, from the UK to the European Union. Jones is not clear on how the EU should be approached. If it inspires unbridled hatred form one section of the Establishment, in the area of Britain’s sovereignty, another endorses it, precisely because it is remote from any democratic control. He concludes, not very confidently, that, “It is the Establishment that really reigns supreme.”(Page 294).

This sounds as if he would, or is edging towards abstention on any conflict – that is the Referendum – on UK membership. The loudest yelps for liberty come from those who wish to follow the worst aspects of US policy and politics, including its boss class of slave-drivers.  What other vehicle for ‘internationalist ‘ ambitions could be offered, other that is than a refounded and transformed Social European Union, remains to be seen.

For a democratic revolution we need democrats. The grip of the free-market outriders has, Jones, considers, to be challenged by bringing the “fragments” of opposition together. One thing that implies is that more solidly organised left-wing think tanks should be formed, and backing existing ones such as the New Economic Foundation and Class. More fundamentally The Establishment advocates public ownership. But perhaps we need the kind of public owners who can run them democratically. That is, the creation of a counterpart to the ideal of dedicated public servants of the past, educated with a feeling for the common good – and kept under control by open public mechanisms. “service users and workers”.

There are plenty of other policies to develop. Probably equally ambitious is the demand that along with clamping down on tax Avoidance we should “drive the power of Big Money from politics” (Page 311).

Will these and other proposals shift the ‘Overton Window’ “away from the Establishment” and “open up been more radical possibilities”? Change Owen concludes is “not won through the goodwill and generosity of those above, but though the struggle and sacrifice of those below.” In Le Monde Diplomatique (October 2014) Jones has written of the weakness of Ed Miliband’s alternative to the Right, and even UKIP. The French Socialist government and President Hollande, for all their initial rhetoric about challenging ‘finance’ never tried these policies, and is now drifting  ever rightwards. Will those prepared to go out on the streets to act now help turn the tide to the left, or at least stem the headlong plunge to the right? Are the embers of socialism about to be relit? 

The struggle of those people in Ipswich who lobbied Ben Gummer and all those who will be at Saturday’s TUC demonstration indicates some who are doing their best to do so……

Photo: Ben Gummer was photographed outside his office last week, when supporters of Suffolk Peoples Assembly and the Trades Council lobbied for the "Britain needs a Pay Rise" demonstration.</p>
<p>Ben’s smile seemed a little forced, possibly because the latest polls show Labour’s David Ellesemere is 7% ahead in polls for the Ipswich seat, with around 38% to Gummer’s 31%.   </p>
<p>UKIP are currently on 19% and the Lib Dems 6%.</p>
<p>(photo by Tony Dooley)” /></p>
<p class=Lobby of Gummer.

(1) Wikipedia. “Gummer first proposed annual tax statements to UK taxpayers, due for introduction in 2014. These will show shares of government spending in proportion to the amount of tax the taxpayer paid in the year. it was opposed by the Labour Party. Gummer’s proposal was favorably received by the press. He became The Suns Westminster “hero of the week” It was included in the 2012 Budget with George Osborne calling it “an excellent idea”. The TaxPayers’ Alliance subsequently honoured Gummer as their ‘Pin-Up of the Month‘. It also got the support of the Prime Minister.