I’m Voting For Trump Because…

I’m voting for Trump because over the last few decades I have seen my local community decimated. After the factory closed down there weren’t that many jobs going around and more and more folk got into money troubles. People got in debt, people got depressed and some people started taking drugs. I was told America was the land of the great but I ain’t seeing much greatness around. I voted for Obama because he promised change but there’s been jack all change over the past few years. If anything, things are getting worse and I don’t trust Hillary Clinton, she’s part of the elite just like all the others. America needs to sort things out again and I just want a decent job.

I’m voting for Trump because I’ve been a proud Republican my whole life and I believe in the free market. It worked for me. I set up my own business back in the 80s and now I’m a millionaire. Ronald Reagan was a godsend, freeing the market and letting business take the stage. I’ve put my kids through top college educations and now one is an actress, another is a banker and one’s run off to join a hippy circus (we tend not to invite her over for Christmas, she doesn’t eat Turkey). Trump’s controversial, of course, but he’s a Republican and that’s where my heart lies. God bless America. I’m voting for Trump because I don’t like blacks and Jews. I’ve never had much respect for women and I hate those Femi-nazis who get all angry and red in the face. Women need to know when to speak and when to shut up. I mean, a black president is bad enough but now they want a woman president. I do not condone this and nor does Trump, that’s why he’s my man and he’s got my vote. I’m voting for Trump because I was going to vote for Bernie and I do not trust Hillary Clinton. I’m voting for Trump because it’s high time America had a revolution. I’m voting for Trump because Muslims should be banned. I’m voting for Trump because I’m a passionate Muslim businessman and I quite like the guy.

These may or may not be some of the reasons why people are voting for Donald Trump but having watched this Jeremy Paxman film and read this article I know not all of the above sentiments are too far off the mark. And the point I’m trying to make is just as there’s no such thing as an ‘average Brexit voter’ so there is no such thing as an ‘average Trump voter’. There are so many different reasons for why people are voting Trump and whilst some may be contradictory, confused or misguided and others just are bigoted, racist and sexist there are many that are concerned, earnest and hopeful. However, one thing I thing I think might be true across the spectrum of Trump voters is that they don’t want to be patronised. It’s all well and good for Paxman to call Trump voters “mad” to their face and to emphasise just how much of a loon Trump is but for every cutting and sarky ‘Trump voters are morons’ type comment there is someone getting insulted on the receiving end. This sarcastic and condescending tone just adds fuel to an anti-establishment fire that is already burning strong. Of course, many would want to contest that Trump is actually a genuine leader of such an anti-establishment movement (just as Farage clearly wasn’t) but that requires a more nuanced conversation not just labelling someone moronic. It’s not that all Trump voters are deplorable it’s that the system that routinely ignores and scapegoats them is deplorable.

And, yes, I am well aware of the sort of person Trump is – he’s bigoted, he condones and trivialises sexual assault and he’s an arch hypocrite. And, of course, I am not voting for him because I’m not a US citizen but I did think that title was more attention grabbing than ‘The Bourgeoise Left-Wing Metropolitan Elite Need To Brush Up On Their Empathy Skills’. But there’s far more to the American election than a single vote happening tomorrow. The divisions we see boiling to the surface are symptomatic of a vicious and unfair class war that has been waging for decades, which many of us benefit from without thinking much of those who miss out. This will continue to be the case regardless of who becomes the next president. Until we get to the bottom of this mess and learn how to listen to each other we’re going to keep seeing the same feuds play themselves out over and over again.  To be continued…

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History Repeating

Shirley Bassey said it best, whatever innovations and revolutions are promised, it usually just turns out to be a little bit of history repeating. The same is true for British politics. David Cameron can walk triumphantly (and smugly) back into Number 10 whilst Ed Miliband hangs his head in shame and exits stage left but underneath the trials and tribulations of party politics history will just keep repeating. It is a history of capitalism in the UK and before we can change it we must have the courage to critique it.

What we have seen is a failure of politics, a failure of democracy at a cultural level, part of a larger story playing out across the struggling countries of the post-industrial west.” These words are taken from Dougald Hine’s exemplary blog, a philosopher who understands the underlying tectonics of politics and economics. Using some of his blog as inspiration I will analyse why contemporary politics are caught in the endless repetition of history.

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Tories: the Tories think they have won and, for now, they have. They quite marvellously (and maybe even unintentionally) weakened their political rival the Labour Party. The Tories successfully made people believe that Britain’s economic woes were the result of Labour’s over-spending and conveniently forgot to mention that the actual cause was the unregulated banking sector capitalising on the housing market and using too-good-to-be-true sub-prime mortgages to profit from toxic assets. The public bailout of the banks nationalised a private debt to the tune of billions that has still not been paid back. Yet the Tories have done next to nothing to try to re-regulate the banks thereby increasing the likelihood of another recession all too soon.

They tried to scare people into voting for them – it’s either our ‘sensible’ economic plan or ‘chaos’ – and it worked. Unfortunately, capitalism churns on unchallenged and booms and busts will continue to affect Britain. Yet, the Tories are unashamed in their imposition of austerity – a policy that will exacerbate inequality, weaken the working and middle classes and actually undermine Britain’s economic recovery. Even the IMF has advised against such a plan but George Osborne has ignored it. They got votes by promising people houses and security. But the middle classes will not be safe from the Tory cuts – austerity will undermine public services that middle class people rely on and increased inequality will cause greater social discord, discord that will reach the doorstep of middle class houses.

Meanwhile, with no serious redress of the housing crisis and no attempt to curb ruthless profiteering in the housing market, prices will continue to rise and people will find themselves trapped in unaffordable mortgages or conned into suspiciously affordable mortgages born on an ongoing housing bubble. The Tories are signing their own death warrant. They’ll take as much credit as possible for any minor growth in the economy and then squirm if/when the next bubble bursts and the economy dips. They told us that voting for Ed Miliband would result in ‘economic chaos’. That chaos is going to unravel anyway and this time it will be on the Tory watch and they won’t be able to scapegoat Labour anymore.

Labour: is trying to figure out how to rebrand themselves. Some think it best to become a New-New Labour type party, whilst others think they need to appeal more to the working classes. Going right for Labour means trying to play the Tories at their own game – using the defunct discourse of class politics to convince people that they can rise up through the social ranks and embed themselves comfortably in the land of the middle class. Heading this direction affirms the view that Labour have now shifted right of centre, a process initiated by Tony Blair as he embraced the precepts of neoliberalism (he was, after all, Margaret Thatcher’s self-professed “greatest legacy”).

Going left for Labour means trying to appeal more to the working classes but in a post-industrial society the working classes are not what they used to be. Firstly, Margaret Thatcher effectively won the class war when she crippled the mining communities and their means of representation in politics, i.e. the unions (it’s also worth bearing in mind that basing one’s community around the extraction of a finite resource, i.e. coal, is always going to ensure a limited shelf life). Secondly, in our post-industrial economy many of the industries we have now revolve around 0 hour contracts, call centres and other service sector jobs – it is very hard to imagine flourishing and cohesive communities forming around these sorts of work. We have also outsourced so much of our labour to countries like China that we have far less of a working class anyway. So if Labour do go left they won’t be able to rely on their old industrial working class style rhetoric.

Ukip: will do what they do best – completely ignore the larger macro-economic issues and scapegoat immigrants for the inevitable loss of jobs following a recession. A tried and tested approach, remember Enoch Powell.

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The Next Five Years: sadly things won’t magically get better. Unless the ruling government addresses the economic instabilities built into the British capitalist system then history will keep repeating – we’ll have more recessions which will result in people losing jobs, even more jobs will be lost as labour is taken on by machines and the sectors in which new jobs are created will only provide temporary redress (although maybe not for hairdressers and plumbers).

So in about five years time we’ll be fed up of the Tories who will have crippled the long-term chances of the British economy with over-zealous austerity. We will be desperate for change and will turn to the rebranded Labour Party, they’ll promise a land of milk and honey, and will blame the Tories for causing the latest recession. If they get into power, which isn’t guaranteed, they’ll try to ride the wave of what little economic growth follows the recession. Meanwhile, extreme right-wing parties will scapegoat immigrants for our economic woes and stir up xenophobia. It will be all too similar to the times that Thatcher beat Callaghan, Thatcher lost to Blair and Brown lost to Cameron/Clegg. Indeed, as Shirley Bassey astutely observed, it will all just be a little bit of history repeating.

More Than Hope

Following the election many are saying it is time Labour went back to the drawing board and engaged in some serious soul-searching. Two such pundits include Pat McFadden, shadow Europe minister, and Owen Jones, Guardian columnist. Below I analyse their views and argue that both do not go nearly far enough because they don’t address the underlying issue – an issue much bigger than a Labour party rebrand and petty party politics. In truth, it is an issue as big as capitalism itself.

McFadden was quoted in a Guardian article saying: “…if there was one thing Ed Miliband was clear about, he was turning the page on New Labour even more emphatically than Gordon Brown was, and we see the results even more emphatically last night. We don’t just need a new person at the top of the Labour party, we need a new argument, too. We will always be the people of the lower paid, but we need to be more than that and be the party of the aspirational family that wants to do well. We need to speak about wealth creation and not just wealth distribution.”

In his article Jones recounts the Conservatives’ masterful victory over their left-wing rivals: their successful scapegoating of the Labour Party for the 2008 recession, their forcing of Labour to turn their backs on immigrants and the right-wing media’s stirring of Scottish nationalism to ensure a mass shift to the SNP and their stirring/scaring of English nationalism to ensure more blue votes. The Tories severely weakened their opponent and are enjoying a majority for it. He concludes with his aspirations for a new Labour politics as so: “There will be a big debate now over the future of the Labour party, and what the left does next. This country desperately needs a politics of hope that answers people’s everyday problems on living standards, job security, housing, public services and the future of their children. That is needed more than ever, no matter what happens with the Labour leadership. What is needed is a movement rooted in the lives of working-class people and their communities. The future of millions of people depends on it.

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I do not think either of these views are good enough. McFadden argues that Miliband’s leftwards shift from New Labour policies was a mistake. Now, Margaret Thatcher herself said that her greatest legacy was Tony Blair – he adopted right-wing neoliberal policies that she had initiated. He turned his back on the working classes and encouraged a capitalist rhetoric of ‘get rich and get middle class’. But the constant surge of boom and bust in capitalist economics, increasing levels of inequality and the squeezing of the middle prove that when push comes to shove the middle classes will be ignored by the establishment. We know trickle down economics are a sham as we witness the elite 1% drain wealth from wider society (e.g. in the public bailout of the banks and in the privatisation of the public sector). Yet McFadden still suggests that a traditionally working class party try to out compete a party that represents the wealthy establishment on the grounds of ‘wealth creation’ – good luck to them.

Meanwhile, Jones calls for a politics of hope rooted in working-class communities. Yet his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Classes demonstrates how severely the working-class has been undermined since the class wars of Thatcher – working class industries obliterated, trade unions weakened and workers’ rights eroded. The working-class reality today is 0 hour contracts, abysmal working conditions (e.g. as in call centres), food banks and increasing poverty. Thatcher said there was no such thing as society and it seems her prophecy has proved self-fulfilling. So, whilst Jones’ critique is insightful his proposal is lacking. We need much more than a vague politics of hope: we need a pragmatic plan of action informed by an inspirational vision of what our society could be. We need a plan and vision that transcends petty party politics and, above all, transcends capitalism.

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The recession of 2008 was not the fault of Labour it was the inevitable result of a deregulated and globalised banking sector that was ‘too big to fail’ and working under the ‘maximise profit’ mantra of capitalism. This trend of deregulation dates back to Thatcher and was not stalled by Blair, Brown, or Cameron. The rise (and rise) of the banking sector was a cross party achievement. Of course, the 2008 recession was just one of many – recessions are endemic to capitalist economics as bubbles are continually over-speculated upon and then burst. So Gordon Brown promising a departure from boom and bust economics during New Labour’s years, the Tories blaming Labour for the 2008 recession and George Osborne taking credit for the apparent economic recovery, are all just examples of a severely limited understanding of economics.

Neither McFadden nor Jones attempt to analyse the system of capitalism itself ensuring their proposals are either ill-informed or too flimsy. Booms and busts occur in capitalist economies because they have to – we are locked into a system that demands continual growth so we innovate new products and industries to ensure more money can circulate, and as the innovations increase so people speculate on them to make a profit.  When one well of profit dries up the infrastructure built around it collapses and the speculators start mining elsewhere. Profit maximisation is even inscribed in law as companies are obligated to maximise shareholder return on investment. We are literally locked into a system that demands us to make money before anything else. Unfortunately, Jessie J got it very wrong, it is about the money.

Until we can effectively challenge the all-pervasive power of capital we will never be able to articulate a sustainable and humane alternative to the status quo. Labour will constantly find itself losing as it tries to play the Tory game and the Tories will easily be able to scaremonger and scapegoat to ensure the establishment stays put. But the Tories and Labour are engaged in the neoliberal game, a game of wealth accumulation, greed and class warfare. Fortunately, there are other much bigger games to play. A politics of more than just hope is possible. Indeed, a politics of pragmatism twinned with idealism founded on a sustainable and stable economic basis is already in the making. Our task must be to understand how it works, to champion it where it is working and, above all, to make it. We have at least to be able to imagine the blueprint so we can start building. All this in another blog post soon, in the meantime here’s a bit of Jessie J…

 

Before We Blame Democracy

Some of those disappointed with the election results have blamed the concept of democracy. Others blame the British public themselves, the Guardian even called the electorate ‘evil’. I disagree with both of these views and think it unwise to blame a loosely understood theoretical system of rule and the people engaged in it.

Democracy: is often understood to mean ‘by the people, for the people’. Now, an ideal democracy – that is truly representative of people – in an ideal society – where the electorate understand the long-term impacts of their vote and have an equal say in affairs – sounds wonderful. Of course, the UK has neither an ideal democracy nor is an ideal society. Yet I think the latter should be blamed for poor election results before the former.

We live in a neoliberal, capitalist state run by politicians that have outsourced political power to corporations. Corporations who are now so embedded in politics that they can sue countries if their profits are threatened. Meanwhile, much of the so-called free press is owned by right wing media moguls who dictate that a certain message is shared – just think of The Sun before the election supporting the Tories in England and the SNP in Scotland, its anti-Labour agenda all too clear. Then there’s the competitive nature of capitalism, encouraging us to be selfish consumers and feeding us the myth that we are ‘self-made’ – as if we can achieve greatness without the help of others. And let’s not forget mass advertising that addicts us to products we don’t need and makes us feel ashamed of most aspects of our lives – we’re not rich/pretty/social enough etc.

So somehow in and amongst all these selfish incentives and mixed messages democracy is supposed to thrive? Unlikely. We must remember the sheer power of the establishment, power that runs back for centuries, physicalised in the very stonework of the Houses of Parliament themselves. The elite have had years of getting what they want. It’s not that democracy has failed it’s that it was bought out by the establishment before it even had a chance to work.

Evil People: so, just as the tears start to fall and people get angry what do we do – we turn on each other. Conservative voters are suddenly ‘evil’ as if people who raise families, suffer depression and worry about their retirement are related to Satan. No, this is far too simple and is just reverse snobbery. Now is not the time to write people off, we must try and understand why people vote the way they do – if someone has lived in a predominantly white and middle class community and read right wing newspapers then its not surprising they won’t trust immigrants, won’t know the extent of the suffering that austerity causes and will vote in a way they think will protect their best interests and, probably, the best interests of their immediate family. But behind crass stereotypes are real people worthy of friendship who can be inspired to join the movement to affect positive change, remember the time the York Mosque invited the EDL in for tea?

So let’s stop dismissing the British people for one box they tick every five years and let’s remember they are people just like us. They don’t want to be patronised or villified. Grass roots movements that oppose austerity and corporatocracy and want real democracy and community have the opportunity to invite all people into their movements, however they vote. Most of us do care about the well-being of our family, friends and environments, there is so much common ground to be had despite the media’s brilliant ability to conjure polarity out of potential cohesion.

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Democracy does not work because the system does not work and that system is neoliberal capitalism. It facilitates psychopathy and rips apart community because everything is done for cash, not love. Even the Labour party are neoliberal. The Green party are the only one that discusses sustainable alternatives. Meanwhile, people are not evil they are just subject to the stresses and forces of large politico-economic systems that infiltrate so much of their lives – education, leisure, work, relationships etc. Now more than ever do we need to challenge the system. This is a cross party endeavour, something the Tory party will soon discover as the pillars of the economy carry on collapsing around them. Challening capitalism is often akin to farting in front of the Pope but we’ve got to do it. We cannot leave capitalism alone, for obvious reasons…

Unregulated Capitalism

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.