Why Trump won (and why Farage won, and why people like them will keep winning)

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A million hacks are taking to a million laptops to write about Trump – but the take-away message is simple.

Trump won by tapping into the broiling, misguided but ultimately understandable anger felt by poor white America. In a sense, it’s the same story that brought about Brexit.

Neoliberalism rigs society in favour of the wealthiest. Inequality balloons. Industry dies, and life gets hard for working-class people.

They get angry. They look for someone or something to blame. Poorly educated, and with worldviews shaped by the scandalously impartial corporate press, they don’t blame those most responsible: the banks, the media, the Right, and the captains of corporate capitalism.

Instead, they blame the most vulnerable people in society – women, black people, Muslims, gay and transgender people, disabled people, all of whom have suffered under centuries of structural injustice – and the liberal end of a managerial, stage-managed political elite. Continue reading “Why Trump won (and why Farage won, and why people like them will keep winning)”

Let’s not repair parliament

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The Palace of Westminster needs £4bn in repairs, and will probably get them. It’s another reminder of the thoroughgoing rubbishness of the case for austerity.

For years, the message beamed down from Whitehall has been that past governments spent too much. The country was in too much debt, and, as a result, there had to be massive cuts in public spending.

In fact, austerity has always been about the neoliberal power elite restructuring society in its own interest. The cuts overwhelmingly fell on services ordinary people depended on – and that rich people could make a lot of money out of if they were privatised.

The much-banged-on-about ‘deficit’, the gap between what government spends and what it brings in in taxes, is about £69bn. That sounds like a lot of money. But between 2009 and 2015, the wealth of the richest thousand families in Britain rose by 112% to £547bn. ONS figures from 2014 put the UK’s total private wealth at £11.1trn – and estimated the richest 10% of households owned about half of that. The same year, Bank of England economists estimated UK corporations were sitting on £500bn that they were refusing to invest. Continue reading “Let’s not repair parliament”

Radical Atheism and Human Suffering

kevin-carter-vulture Further to last month’s introductory bit on Radical Atheism, the rubbish new secular belief system we recently made up – a post on Radical Atheism and human suffering.

There’s probably not a god. Life has no big, grand, capitalise-able ‘Meaning’. It’s just physics and biology. Humans are just sacks of chemical reactions. But there’s still right and wrong. And it’s intimately linked to our millennia-spanning pedigree as social animals.

It’s bad to hurt others. It’s good to help others. And it’s bad not to help others when you can help others. Without those basic moral precepts, humanity wouldn’t have survived anywhere near this long. For prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, hyper-individualism wasn’t an option. You helped each other out, played fairly, shared the spoils equally. Or you died. For 90% of human history, nearly two hundred thousand years, that’s how we lived – millions of years if you count the earlier hominids we evolved from. And it was that social, co-operative lifestyle that the species uniquely adapted to suit. It fundamentally shaped what we are, and what humans need to life emotionally healthy, fulfilling lives.

Radical Atheism is about taking that basic morality – and the implications of atheism more generally – to radical conclusions. If it’s got a central, overriding belief, it’s this: that in an incalculably vast, godless, meaningless universe, the only thing left that really matters is human suffering. Continue reading “Radical Atheism and Human Suffering”

You Can’t Win: Charlotte Church and The Logical Gymnastics of the Sociopath Right

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Russell Brand at Saturday’s demo

Those text-on-picture memes that clog up the internet and mean nobody has to think of anything themselves any more are generally very annoying, but a few manage to be quite good. One currently doing the rounds quotes dead Canadian economist J.K. Galbraith: “the modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy – the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness”.

After last Saturday’s End Austerity Now demo in London, the Right did an excellent job of proving Galbraith’s observation still applies. Taking to their computers in droves, irate right-wingers condemned any and everyone who took part in the event – but saved particular disdain for Charlotte Church and other celebrity leftists who turned up.

In doing so, they demonstrated their usual logical flexibility when it comes to attacking egalitarians. If you’re poor and you complain about a politics scandalously tilted in favour of the richest, you’re jealous – engaging in divisive class warfare, being anti-enterprise, threatening Britain’s future prosperity. If you’re rich, and you do the same, you’re a hypocritical champagne socialist – the implication being that you can only complain about capitalism if you’re poor. Except you can’t, because then you’re engaging in divisive class warfare, being anti-enterprise, and threatening Britain’s future prosperity. Continue reading “You Can’t Win: Charlotte Church and The Logical Gymnastics of the Sociopath Right”

GE2015 and Beyond: Anarch-ish

Super Mario's sister joins anti-government protests outside Downing Street
Super Mario’s sister joins anti-government protests outside Downing Street

This week, the liberal papers are full of chipper editorials all called something like ‘reasons to be cheerful’ that try and pick some positives out of Thursday’s electoral cataclysm. But there aren’t any.

Yes, Nick Clegg’s gone. Nigel Farage didn’t get in. Esther McVey, Danny Alexander, Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Mark Reckless all lost. Caroline Lucas kept her seat. Aside from Katy Clark, the one really regrettable casualty of the SNP surge, Labour’s few remaining left-wingers were re-elected, often with increased support.

And the Tories might have a parliamentary majority, but it’s one of the smallest in history. Bigger leads have dwindled to nothing in the past, as MPs died or stood down. Rebellious Tory backbenchers could make Cameron’s life a misery, as they did to John Major in the early ‘90s.

But that’s all pitiful up against the tsunami of human misery a Tory majority government will go on to unleash – “five more years of pure evil”, as Ken Livingstone aptly put it.

Continue reading “GE2015 and Beyond: Anarch-ish”

A Short History of British Non-Democracy

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The Diggers

Plato to Mrs Thatcher In About Five Minutes

It’s a fairly established position of this irrelevant internet blog to argue that the UK isn’t a democracy. It’s not a fascist dictatorship by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s probably one of the least worst countries to find yourself living in. But it’s not democratic at all in the proper, original sense of the word. It’s this analysis that underpins our whole outlook on British electoral politics – including our view of what principled, pragmatic left-wingers should do in next month’s general election (short version – acknowledge it’s all an anti-democratic sham, but vote anyway).

Wikipedia/the infantilisation of everything means you don’t even have to bother getting a book out to look up democracy and its origins anymore. A fraction of a second on Google will tell you that D-word stems from the Ancient Greek term demokratia, itself a combination of ‘demos’, Greek for people, and ‘kratia’, Greek for power or rule. Democracy is ‘people power’, or ‘rule by the people’.

Nowadays we tend to divide democracy into direct and representative democracy – the former being a situation in which the general public make the political decisions themselves, the latter being the one that exists in practically every self-hailed democracy in the world, where the public vote in representatives who make the decisions for them. But the Greeks wouldn’t have seen Type 2 as democracy at all. Continue reading “A Short History of British Non-Democracy”

London Isn’t Very Equal (Part Three) – Canary Wharf

The oligarch's den
The oligarch’s den

Click here for Part One.

… and here for Part Two.

Our unexpectedly politicised amble around the capital had been equal parts fascinating and grim, but it was time to go. The rubbery sandwiches on the coach back to Somerset weren’t going to eat themselves.

Despite our rampaging cynicism, The Bemolution is a sucker for a poetic conclusion. And of all the places we could’ve ended our London adventure, a climactically big square surrounded by international banks seemed especially apt considering everything we’d seen, thought and talked about along the way.

It was completely by accident. We thought we’d try and squeeze in a last rendezvous with a third friend – sassy and savage-witted writer type from home, spent two maddening years bombarding the capital with fruitless job applications, finally got hired and is now doing quite well – before making a mad dash across London to catch the last escape pod out of Hammersmith Bus Station. Travelling to meet her in Greenwich, our witless provincial brain almost overloaded trying to work out where the Jubilee Line met the DLR – you have to physically leave one station at Canary Wharf and walk to another, it took us an embarrassingly long time to realise. And as we glided ethereally up the escalator and emerged from the glass Teletubby dome of the station entrance, it suddenly hit us that Canary Wharf was that Canary Wharf. Continue reading “London Isn’t Very Equal (Part Three) – Canary Wharf”

Elitist UK: banning private education would be a start

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Last month, a report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission railed against what it saw as the UK’s ingrained elitism. Its knock-me-down-with-a-feather conclusion was that the upper echelons of Westminster politics, law, the media and other senior professions continue to be dominated by – or at least disproportionately filled with – people who were privately educated, people who went to Oxbridge, or, in many cases, both.

For anyone who’s been paying attention for the last forty years, this isn’t in the least bit surprising. The modicum of social mobility enabled by post-war social democracy was dramatically thrown into reverse after 1979, and in the neoliberal era that has followed, the wealth of the family you were born in determines your life prospects more now than it has done in half a century. Continue reading “Elitist UK: banning private education would be a start”

London Isn’t Very Equal (Part Two) – To Tower Hamlets

London remains scandalously unequal
London remains scandalously unequal

Click here for Part One

From London and its most gentrified and fake, we go the city at its poorest and most raw.

Leaving gentrified Bermondsey, we went to visit another friend. We knew Compadre #2 from school days in Somerset, when she was a warm, caring, alternative type who wrote and sang her own songs. She still is warm, caring and alternative, thankfully, but has chucked in the guitar and the lashings of emo-standard black eyeliner for a job in a small music promotions company.

It’s laughable to look back on now – especially given where we’d just come from – but at school we called her ‘posh’. She lived in a slightly nicer part of town and her dad had a reasonably well-paid job. In truth, they were just about middle class, and probably didn’t bring in a whole lot more than the average household income.

Now she lives in Tower Hamlets, one of the most glaringly unequal parts of the country, let alone London. It’s hugely deprived – 42% of its children are impoverished, the highest proportion anywhere in Britain, and its richest inhabitants live about 11 years longer than its poorest ones. But it’s just a few minutes east of the oligarch’s den itself, the City, and the gleaming phalluses of the bank buildings dominate the horizon. A relatively small number of super-rich residents pull the borough’s average income up to £58,000 a year – the second-highest in the country – and its proximity to the biggest financial hub outside Wall Street gives it an economy worth £68bn. Its house prices have gone up a mind-bending 43% since last year. Continue reading “London Isn’t Very Equal (Part Two) – To Tower Hamlets”

Oh dear: Growth, Mr Osborne and the ‘UK economy’s’ lovely recovery (Part Two)

Spot the 'recovery'
Spot the ‘recovery’

Read Part One here.

The strange thing about neoliberalism – privatisations, deregulation, ‘the market always knows best’, tax cuts for the riches, implacable hostility to government intervention in the economy and the redistribution of wealth – is that despite the general, all-consuming obsession with economic growth, it’s not the best way of bringing it about.

Its fervid disciples will claim it is until the cows come home to find the dairy’s been closed and they’ve all been made redundant. It’s a way of growing the economy, certainly – very far from the best. But it’s definitely the most reliable way of growing the economy in a manner that benefits the richest people the most – in the same way that austerity isn’t the best and only way out of the financial crisis, just the one that inconveniences the rich and powerful the least, leaving them very well placed to consolidate their hold over politics and economics in the ensuing chaos. Continue reading “Oh dear: Growth, Mr Osborne and the ‘UK economy’s’ lovely recovery (Part Two)”