How Can We Help Jeremy?

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader as of yesterday, has a big task ahead of him – to challenge and change the economic and political status quo, to unite the Labour party, to endure the slings and arrows of an often outrageous press and to somehow continue to get away with wearing pulled up socks and sandals. So, sartorial advice aside, what can we do to help?

Fortunately, the answer is simple – we can do exactly what Corbyn is doing – utilising the power that he’s got to make a difference. Most of us aren’t leading a political party but I’m sure we’re all doing things – we might write blogs, we might volunteer in our local community, we might have drinks with mates down the pub, we might watch Bake Off, we might tweet. Fortunately, all of these provide opportunities to exert the power that we do have to engage with the shift in politics and economics that Corbyn is calling for.

For example, we can write blogs on issues that we’re passionate about; we can chat to the people in our community about the things they care about and how we can support each other; we can offer inspiring visions of a better future to our mates over a pint (and if they challenge us we can calmly remind them that this change is for the best, what’s not to like about greater equality and prosperity!?); we can get inspired to bake cakes for our friends (and decorate them with the Labour flag); and we can tweet stuff too.

This may all be incredibly obvious but I really think it can be that simple – for too long a narrative of individualism, self-interest and cynicism has told us we’re worthless and trying to make a difference is pointless. But it’s just not true, we all have power and we can all use it for good. It might be something incredibly small – a tweet – or something bigger – a cake – but all these things add up. We need community again, we need to start working together, whoever we are and however small the action. And even if it’s just a drop in the ocean what is an ocean other than multitude of drops.

Thanks to Corbynmania politics is finally getting political again – we’re not just being forced to believe some monomythic, dubious status quo there’s actually room for debate. We can get political too by getting clued up on the issues and chatting about them. We don’t have to get it right but starting to investigate the issues is better than not starting at all. We’ll find that beyond the narrative of individualism and self-interest there are many other ways of doing politics and economics, ways that can be inclusive, inspiring, empowering and, most importantly, fun. Understanding the details of the bigger picture can inform the stuff we do at a local level, gradually (or perhaps surprisingly quickly) shifting our politics in a new direction. So many factors and contexts affect the societies we live in and it’s vital we begin exploring them. And that’s how I hope this blog can help. Time for an uplifting video about positive change…

Corbyn: In The Box To The Left

Corbynmania is exciting stuff. It seems there’s actually debate to be had when it comes to politics. People are discussing things rather than just accepting the Tories’ line of austerity, tax breaks for the rich and cuts, as if these are immutable truths. Jeremy Corbyn, front-runner for the leadership of the Labour Party, is leading the debate and offering an alternative politics – one of hope. But it was Beyoncé who told her ex to put everything he owns in the box to the left and my concern is that Jeremy Corbyn is being resigned to that very same box.

One thing Corbynmania proves is that the Conservative victory at the last general election does not spell the end of politics. We are not consigned to a future of corporate giants crushing communities, endlessly bailing out big banks and the poor getting poorer until climate change melts us all, no, it seems politics could still shift leftwards – back to a bigger state that dares to close tax loopholes, challenge corporatocracy and reduce inequality.

But this isn’t enough (even if it happens). If we really want to change society for the best then we must recognise that some of the big issues we face are so much bigger than left and right-wing politics. For example, to address climate change we cannot just cut carbon emissions and green consumer capitalism because woven into the fabric of our political-economic system is an inherent flaw: it depends on endless economic growth on a planet that offers finite resources. As the name suggests a growth based economy has to keep growing to function but, as we saw with the banks, when things do get too big they can fail, except rather than just a financial system collapsing, rampant globalised capitalism threatens the very earth itself (imagine an impossible hamster getting bigger and bigger until it eats the whole world).

Whether you go rightwards to a smaller state and bigger corporations, or leftwards to a bigger state and smaller corporations, neither approach will tackle this underlying threat because both take capitalism at face value – they just have different ways of dealing with its problems (Labour tend to be nicer to the poor whilst the Tories like to ignore them). Corbyn hints at transcending party politics when he talks of distributing power beyond the state to include communities as well and certainly a push towards peace over arms proliferation could recognise that one of the many reasons we go to war is to ensure our economies can keep growing (the arms industry being a great example of the illogics of growth based economics because so much of the stuff it makes gets destroyed but this is a good thing for the economy because it means more stuff can be built to replace the old).

Corbynmania is exciting stuff. He’s diversifying and opening the debate, putting the demos back in democracy, but that doesn’t mean he’s answering all the questions which is why we’ve still got to keep asking them. We can’t let him get trapped in the box to the left because questioning our tired, destructive political-economic system in its entirety means transcending the left and right debate. Having enjoyed Beyoncé I’ll now leave you with a nice video of that impossible hamster I mentioned earlier…

50 Shades of Neoliberalism

The Green Party’s 2015 Election Broadcast is spot on – David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband all singing to the same tune. And that tune is neoliberalism. Whilst having many definitions neoliberalism is a form of capitalism typified by a laissez faire approach to economics that prioritises privatisation, free trade and austerity. Neoliberalism is also underpinned by an adversity to state intervention, unless that state intervention is designed to facilitate privatisation, free trade and austerity.

The Green Party’s music video shows Ed Miliband being tempted to join the other ‘old boys’ reminding us that once upon a time Labour stood for a neoclassical  approach to capitalism – one that encouraged state intervention in economics and championed workers rather than bosses. Unfortunately for neoclassicalism New Labour happened and as Margaret Thatcher – arch neoliberal – once said, her greatest achievement was Tony Blair. He set the ball rolling for Labour’s adoption of neoliberalism.

So it seems that when we’re asked to vote on politics come May what we are inevitably voting on is economics. Be it Tory, Lib Dem, Ukip or Labour, all are just different shades of neoliberalism, with some making tokenistic gestures towards alleviating poverty whilst others roll back the state faster and harder. But the Greens aren’t grey and are questioning these economic paradigms. Paradigms that have been so embedded in our culture over the past few decades that they seem like immutable truths.

But just as one globally popular boyband will inevitably be  replaced by another so too can the economic status quo shift. It’s just that we’re the ones that are going to have to vote on it.