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Tribune, “The Centre Cannot Save Democracy” But Moderate Constitutional Reform Can.

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Democratic Left: Whippet Party Demands Northern Independence.

The American, left populist review Jacobin, owned ‘Tribune’ is a curious animal. Since the collapse of left populism, the Bernie Sander’s campaign that had got nowhere fast, the Spanish Podemos’ welcome of political reality and government alliance with the Partido Socialista Obrero Españo (PSOE), Corbyn’s defeat, and the realisation that in France Jean-Luc Mélenchon is going to be stumped in the charismatic Leader’s third attempt at running for President in 2020 they have lost direction. For its critics the principal target of the self-identifying left magazine seems to be Keir Starmer and the Labour Party.

Into this political void had stepped a new voice. New being a relative term. Revived might be a better one. The old tunes are the best ones. Tribune has now turned to the themes of the past, hollowed out democracy, ‘post-democracy’, the ‘political centre’ or, what political confusionniste Tariq Ali has called the ‘extreme centre’. (The Extreme Centre: A Warning. 2015)

These were themes popular in the late 1990s, with the writings of Jacques Rancière“Post-democracy is the government practice and conceptual legitimisation of a democracy after the demos, a democracy that has eliminated the appearance, miscount, and dispute of the people and is thereby reducible to the sole interplay of state mechanisms and combinations of social energies and interests.” (La Mésentente: Politique et philosophie, 1995) And Colin Crouch, “A post-democratic society is one that continues to have and to use all the institutions of democracy, but in which they increasingly become a formal shell. The energy and innovative drive pass away from the democratic arena and into small circles of a politico-economic elite.”( Coping with Post-Democracy. 2000)

Students of politics always had a hard time getting to grips with the idea that societies where elections take place, different political parties run for office, there were hard battles over voting, getting people elected as representatives to national bodies right down to local, even parish councils, were ‘post’ democratic. Many were struck by the way that ‘alternatives’ to this state of affairs appeared to centre on forms of ‘populism’ that mobilised the ‘people’ against the ‘elite’. The best known case of populism that had got elected, national populism, was Trump and MAGA. That did not look very democratic at all…

Most people had forgotten about the original debates from another era.

Enter Tribune,

The Centre Can’t Save Democracy. Grace Blakely.

Blakeley argues that ‘post democracy’, that is liberal led government stopped political decision making influencing the way the economy is run – a curious claim one would think in the light of how governments have responded to the Coronavirus pandemic. Almost entirely limiting her international scope to the country of the owners of Tribune and the UK, she declares, “The neoliberals achieved with technocracy what classical liberals had achieved with limited suffrage: insulating management of the economy from popular pressure.” After a bit Carl Schmitt and the ominously titled Globalists by Quinn Slobodian she declares,

when it came to the realm of dominium — that is, the realm of the economy, conceived as entirely separate from that of politics — the influence of the masses had to be limited. Democratic governance of the economy always generated the danger of ‘economic nationalism’, in which the narrow, short-term class interests of the masses would be placed above the general interest, which entailed constructing and maintaining an efficient and stable market system.

The Tribune article continues,

The justification for the hollowing-out of democracy that has taken place in recent years was always that technocratic governance would support the efficient operation of the market. Central bank independence, for instance, would prevent the ‘politicisation’ of monetary policy by placing these decisions in the hands of independent economists. But this change has simply placed far more power in the hands of the ruling class — central bankers now heed the whims of financial lobbyists as much as politicians in their decision making.

The message of this squib is that real democracy cannot be furthered by the post-populist revival of the centre.

The political centre has seen its fortunes revive both in Britain, with Keir Starmer, and more particularly in America, with Joe Biden, not because it has any particular answer to this dynamic — but because it persuades people that it can be ignored. Faced with the disaster of Boris Johnson and Trumpism, it does not promise to make things better, only to prevent them from getting worse. And this, for many people, is enough. But it cannot last in the long term.

Instead we need a socialist take on democracy. Like the enthusiasts for Charter 88 several decades ago, and indeed the very liberal-minded Will Hutton, The State We’re in: Why Britain Is in Crisis and How to Overcome It (1995), Blakeley declares that,

“In the UK, constitutional reform — from removing the House of Lords, to dissolving the City of London Corporation, to a substantive local and national devolution agenda — would amplify the voices of working people within the British state. Deepening economic democracy — by reviving the trade union movement, expanding democratic public ownership, and building new democratic, publicly-owned financial institutions — would assist organised labour in its struggle with capital and help us to mitigate the effects of climate breakdown.”

It is hard to disagree with this programme. If we cannot revive the trade union movement by good intentions other reforms are welcome. Will Hutton and others around Charter 88 have argued for this democratic platform aligned to financial reforms for many years. Perhaps Tribune could add “stakeholding” (codetermination of companies) to the list. Hutton still promotes the cause.

Nevertheless this approach has got off on a wrong foot from he start. It ignores two important aspects of how politics and economics have developed in the new millenium.

The first is that Blakeley is fighting yesterday’s wars against ‘globalists’. What is the dominant feature of politics at present is the rise of national neo-liberalism. This is not just in its populist form, now apparently out of the way with Trump’s defeat, but in the shape practised by the Johnson government. Used by Paul Mason in Clear Bright Future (2019) the term is fleshed out by French economist Jean-François Bayart (Sur le national-libéralisme, une conversation avec Jean-François Bayart 2017). In the UK the present government practices a mixture of economic liberalism, that is the marketisation of state functions, private sector dominance, free trade, with the promotion of national identity and nationalist ideology.

The second issue is summed up by Jon Bloomfield and David Edgar

“In responding to the nationalist populist challenge there should be no triangulation. Blue Labour is a dangerous dead end that will only split progressive alliances. At the same time, absolutist positions must be avoided. Too often within contemporary social movements a narrow kind of identity politics is promoted, where solidarity is impossible because only personal experience is said to count. Similarly, there are still Remainers so incensed by the EU referendum result that they insist only a reversal of the decision will suffice. No element—liberal, progressive, socialist—can afford these indulgences. In opposing the illiberal, nationalist right the crucial lesson from the 1930s is crystal clear: unite against the main enemy.” (The populist delusion. The right has won the early battles, but the left can still win the war. Prospect. March 2021.)

In other words, identity politics, of the right (Blue Labour, Spiked, and the Tory ‘Common Sense’ faction) the identity politics of the actually existing liberal meritocratic US inspired left, are real political problems. Political liberalism which defends liberty can be an ally of the left. A central unifying issue is the defence of pluralism, and we need the centre to defend that, democratic diversity, and what Claude Lefort called the development of rights promoting movements. The right against national neo-liberalism, and national populism, means that without formal alliances we still need to recognise that on the issues these create there is a wider opposition within which the left, the internationalist left, needs to work.

Blakeley misses these issues altogether, clutching at straws she concludes,

Party reform is, of course, the sine qua non of this entire agenda. As long as social democratic parties continue to act as the voice of the liberal portion of the ruling class, and not of the working class, they will remain unable and unwilling to fix the deep divides that plague their societies. One of the biggest missed opportunities of Corbynism was the failure to democratise the Labour Party: that goal might be off the cards for now, but the Left needs to be fighting to defend the gains that were made and to prevent a further slide towards cartelisation.

And they wonder why the influence of magazines like Tribune is negligible.

Prince Phillip: Mixed Responses to 8 Days of National Mourning.

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Prince Philip wears full collection of SEVENTEEN medals | Daily Mail Online

Not a Real, but an Ersatz Patriot says Morning Star.

Partisans de la ligne de la Tendance! Respond to the passing of Prince Phillip with dignity.

Quiet Mourning, and Condolences to the Family should be the hallmark.

Alas, this well meaning advice does not seem to have been universally followed.

This is what is happening (Telegraph).

“Britain has entered eight days of mourning for the Duke of Edinburgh during which flags will be flown at half mast, TV presenters will wear black and Parliament will pass no new laws.”

“MPs are expected to wear black armbands while they are at work, and armbands are likely to be worn at sporting events this weekend. A-two minute silence will be observed at the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.”

Parliament will scale back its work in a similar way to periods of “purdah” before elections. No new laws will be passed, no Government announcements will be made and no ministers will give interviews or tweet about policy unless it is specifically to give public health guidance.”

“Major TV channels responded to the Duke’s death by cancelling planned programmes and showing tributes instead. Presenters and newsreaders were told to wear black or dark clothes and black ties. The official Royal family website was replaced with a single memorial page to the Duke, while the Prince of Wales’s website was suspended.”

This is excessive, as Cde Osler has remarked, Christians only have four days to mourn the death of Christ – a somewhat more important passing for millions of people.

No wonder that this was a reaction.

Within six hours of Prince Philip’s death being announced the BBC had received so many complaints about its wall-to-wall coverage of the news that it opened a dedicated complaints form on its website.

The BBC curtailed dozens of broadcasts on Friday, taking the nation’s most popular television and radio channels off air and reduced dozens of other broadcasts on stations across the country, in order to provide uninterrupted coverage of tributes to the Queen’s husband.

This lot have no idea of how to react either:

Socialist Worker: Queen mourns as another racist bites the dust.

Prince Philip looked like the living dead whenever he left hospital during recent health scares. On Friday, he was just dead.

The racist royal finally snuffed it after 99 years of privilege, triggering “Operation Forth Bridge”, the British government’s plans for the funeral. In line with his wishes for “minimal fuss”, there will only be eight days of official mourning for the queen’s husband.

The anti-Labour and national Sovereigntist Morning Star attacked the Duke of Edinburgh for being a real patriot.

They began by making a side-swipe at the Labour Party.

“The diktat from the Labour leadership that the party’s election campaign be immediately suspended until further notice will doubtless be obeyed.”

The paper, independent of the Communist Party of Britain and owned by the Co-op will no doubt carry reports of Communist Campaigning in local elections in the coming days.

To the Daily the Royal Family are not genuine patriots.

“Philip himself — second cousin to his betrothed and the princely son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg — personified the nonsensical conceits of an ersatz patriotism in which the closely related royal families of European nation states and Russia shared class interests and family links while the peoples over whom they ruled were dragooned into war and inter-imperialist conflict.”

From the Red-Brown Front there’s more appreciation:

Frank Ferudi writes in Spiked,

Even though I am not a royalist, I always admired Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. He was often criticised in the media for his many so-called gaffes. However, his formidable track record of saying unfashionable things in public can be taken as a positive testimony to his refusal to follow the rules of media training.

It’s all about me:

I first encountered Prince Philip accidently in Nakuru, Kenya in 1972. I was travelling around doing interviews for my PhD thesis on the Mau Mau revolt. He was running so fast on the street that his posse of bodyguards could barely keep up. Occasionally he would stop to exchange a few words with some locals and then move on. at struck me was the effortless way he conducted himself and the affectionate reaction he got from the people he talked with

Even though I am not a royalist, I always admired Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. He was often criticised in the media for his many so-called gaffes. However, his formidable track record of saying unfashionable things in public can be taken as a positive testimony to his refusal to follow the rules of media training.

Unlike most of the other royals, Philip was often ‘off-message’. In a world in which royalty comes wrapped in the accoutrements of celebrity culture, Philip stood out as a genuine individual who was reluctant to express himself through a script written by public-relations advisers.

I first encountered Prince Philip accidently in Nakuru, Kenya in 1972. I was travelling around doing interviews for my PhD thesis on the Mau Mau revolt. He was running so fast on the street that his posse of bodyguards could barely keep up. Occasionally he would stop to exchange a few words with some locals and then move on. What struck me was the effortless way he conducted himself and the affectionate reaction he got from the people he talked with.

The next time I met Prince Philip was three decades later at the Royal Geographical Society in London

The former leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party concludes, “Yet despite all the small-minded and sneering criticism he faced from the new cultural establishment, Philip had a good run. In decades to come, he will be remembered as someone who turned out to be a very human prince.”

We await the response of Baroness Claire Fox, if her ladyship can surmount her grief and write a tribute.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 10, 2021 at 11:27 am

“Our condolences to the Queen and her family.” – Republic.

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Children add to the floral tributes for Prince Philip outside the Henry VIII Gate of Windsor Castle.

 Children add to the floral tributes for Prince Philip outside the Henry VIII Gate of Windsor Castle

Buckingham Palace has announced the passing of Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the age of 99.

Campaign to replace the monarchy with an elected head of state:

Republic

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Britain, British Govern

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