Obligatory Scottish Referendum One

scotland-independence-refer

The nice old social democratic Lib Dem who lives opposite Fort Bemalot was flying both a saltire and the union flag in his front garden this morning. In Scotland, the Nos had won. For left-wingers, hardly in a position to pick and choose opportunities to try and escape neoliberalism, that’s probably a bad thing.

We’ve purposely avoided sticking our oar in on the Scottish issue. England, particularly the sector-straddling Westminster elite, predictably managed to make it all about itself – what would an independent Scotland mean for England? What would be the economic repercussions for England? What would the military impact be on England? What would the constitutional implications be for England? Suffice to say, there were more than enough English navel-gazers pontificating all over Scotland’s referendum, which was probably very annoying. Continue reading “Obligatory Scottish Referendum One”

Generic Left: And Now For More Of That Scintillating Political Positioning Stuff (Part 2)

Ken
Ken

Spank your mouse here for part one.

Back when it was a short-trousered blog-based non-phenomenon, the Bemolution was also influenced by the anthropologically-tinged historical perspective of Ken Livingstone, Labour left-winger and ex-Mayor of London. From his 1989 manifesto for the ‘90s, Livingstone’s Labour:

“We evolved over 5 million years as a cooperative animal. Throughout that time the norm was for ten to thirty early humans to live together in extended groups, in much the same way as a the great apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees do today … The whole evolution of our species over 5 million years is thus linked to cooperative groups and values. When Mrs Thatcher argues that there is no such thing as society but only the individual, she is denying the very essence of our humanity”.

Ken’s fairly devastating conclusion: “Almost all that has happened to us in these few thousand years has gone against the grain of our evolved, cooperative humanity”. There’s no point trying to pretend human pre-history was all bounteous and lovely – it was undoubtedly grim.

But it’s also very clear that, out of blunt necessity, for the vast majority of their existence human beings have lived far more equal, social, cooperative lives than the ones we lead today. The unnaturally atomised, individualistic way of life we’ve been forced into, particularly over the last few decades, looks a very likely root cause for increasing levels of unhappiness and depression amongst relatively very affluent Westerners. Continue reading “Generic Left: And Now For More Of That Scintillating Political Positioning Stuff (Part 2)”

A) for the planet’s sake, and B) just to survive, the Left needs to get ‘generic’

The status quo risks the destruction of our species and the ecosystem all life relies on
The status quo risks the destruction of our species and the ecosystem all life relies on

The blogosphere reverberates with people self-importantly telling each other what ‘the Left’ should be doing. What the world and her springer spaniel are clearly crying out for, then, is another deeply unpopular, laughably unlikely ramshackle leftist strategy, hastily rammed in the virtual left-wing suggestion box and probably never seen again. The Bemolution lives to serve.

The Left should radically and unsentimentally revamp itself, turning what is all too often a fossilised remnant of the early twentieth century into something specifically addressing the social, political and ecological here and now. It should drop the blinkered obsession with past ideological battles. Instead, it needs to hammer itself back into contemporary relevance, going back to first principles and relating them afresh to the way the world is today.

Ecological crisis looms, providing humanity with the biggest threat to its continued existence in thousands of years. Faced with probable environmental disaster, caused for the most part by the growth-obsession and chronic waste of a culture skewed in the interests of the scandalously wealthy, we need to radically reshape civilisation and make our species live within its means. A system that has already used and abused millions of individual homo sapiens as disposable tools for enriching tiny minorities, along with squandering the potential of millions more by dismissing them as stupid and/or leaving them to flounder in poverty, is now well on the way to ravaging the planet beyond the point of no return. Continue reading “A) for the planet’s sake, and B) just to survive, the Left needs to get ‘generic’”

Left-Wing Least-Worstism: Unite Or Die

The reason this blog’s cod-philosophical standpoint is called ‘Left-Wing Least-Worstism’ is because of a very un-leftish pessimism. The situation we’re in is abjectly bad.

That might sound extreme – the consensus seems to be that things might be tentatively improving on the political front. Certainly, Occupy and the boisterous anti-cuts movement have provided some much-needed reasons to be almost cheerful. But we need to be brutally realistic – they come after a quarter-century of decline. More tellingly, they had little to do with the ‘established’ Left, instead riding on the free-thinking and initiative of passionate individuals largely operating outside official groups. Continue reading “Left-Wing Least-Worstism: Unite Or Die”

Left Wing Least Worstism II: Pressing Eco-Matters

93083320CF015_CLIMATE_CHANGWho/what/where/why is the Left circa 2013? Unwisely, the Bemolution is going to have a go at answering that. But before we start banging on about fairly insular aspects of present-day left-wing politics, it’s worth meditating on the big issue underlying all of what will follow – namely the environmental bottom line. Are you sitting uncomfortably? Then we’ll begin.

The world we live in is often crushingly, self-parodyingly bleak. It’s ridden with preventable misery and wobbles on the brink of ecological catastrophe. The minority most capable of doing anything about it – the section of affluent Western societies who aren’t forced to spend all their time and energy just trying to scrape by – has sunk itself in a mire of ignorance, short-sightedness, and unquestioning, mindless excess. And, as a result, addressing either the misery or the catastrophe couldn’t be further from the mainstream political agenda. Hurriedly nut-shelled, that’s the problem we’re faced with. Like a newly-qualified boy-racer who crashes the family Ford Escort on his first run out of town, humanity has squandered its planetary inheritance, doing more damage to the ecosystem in a few hundred years than trillions of previous careful owner-organisms had done in over a billion. Continue reading “Left Wing Least Worstism II: Pressing Eco-Matters”

Hairy Christmess

Not the Bem grotto
Not the Bem grotto

The Bemolution dislikes mostly everything about the modern world, but surprisingly for a trenchantly miserablist, atheist, socialist blog-based phenomenon, quite likes this time of year for the mince pies and the twinkly ambience. Crumb-flecked and tastelessly smothered in fairy-lights, huddled by a fan heater and listening to ‘Last Christmas’ on repeat, it wiles December away with nary a ‘Bah, humbug’.

But, to a shrinking but transcendentally passionate slice of society, Christmas isn’t about pies and turkey dinners, it’s about Jesus. And as Christians across the land gear up for JC’s two-thousand and thirteenth birthday bash, while millions and millions of others prepare for a day where they won’t think about him once, the glaring void at the centre of Christmas becomes increasingly unavoidable.

Of course, neoliberal consumer-capitalism has purged Christmas of anything remotely meaningful, let alone subversive. It has turned it into an excuse for billions to wastefully blow trillions on things they don’t really need, because that’s what it does to practically everything. In doing so, it’s only continuing a process of wilful distortion that predates hedge funds and the Republican Party by centuries.

Historical evidence strongly points towards the existence of a human being called Jesus. Whether he did all the lovely things the Bible claims or not doesn’t really matter. The example set by the religious account of him is very clear – our hirsute superhero attended to the sick and the needy, befriended lepers, prostitutes and assorted ne’er do wells, shunned the nuclear family in favour of altruistic devotion and preached social justice, pacifism and the redistribution of wealth.

In short, Jesus stood for the polar opposite of the prim and proper Jam-and-Jerusalem authoritarian chauvinism that the C-word has become indelibly linked with today. But early on in Christian history, a venal clerical elite seized control of that legacy. Tragically, the resulting religion quickly hardened into a crusty vested interest and spent the next thousand-odd years striving to subvert its founder’s core messages.

Given that huge numbers of Christians cheerily ignore the radical implications of what their messiah supposedly said and stood for, it’s dizzyingly unlikely that the millions who blankly chew their way through the hollow consumption end of Christmas might bear Jesus’s egalitarian and anti-establishment messages in mind while sitting down to the Strictly Festive Special.

Bearded lefty Rowan Williams
Bearded lefty Rowan Williams

The Great Creator probably doesn’t exist, and the Jesus his devotees idolise is probably fictional. But that shouldn’t stop non-god-bothering leftists from remembering that some of Christ’s core messages are virtually identical to their own. Dawkins-mould evangelical atheism, that casts all religious belief as evil and fights an unwinnable Canute-like battle to completely rid the world of it, just alienates the progressive open-minded Christians that do hold true to those core beliefs.

This Christmas, in the UK, 300,000 more people are in fuel poverty than this time last year. 400,000 are going into their second consecutive festive season out of work, and being subjected to ever more humiliating tests and invasions of privacy to get jobseeker’s allowance. Millions will have struggled and scrimped and saved to afford Christmas, as the cost of living rises and wages don’t, and thousands will have accrued shattering levels of debt trying to make ends meet.

And then there are the millions more in forgotten parts of the world who are starving and dying and living in despair, for whom not even never having had to endure Do They Know It’s Christmas provides any consolation from their daily suffering. Whether you think Jesus was the blazingly virtuous son of God or a rabble-rousing carpenter whose divine characteristics were made up by later generations of believers, the values that are traditionally attributed to him – generosity, selflessness, compassion, equity and others – are exactly those desperately in need of a resurgence if we’re ever going to grope our way towards a more just, humane, equitable world.

Least-Worst One Wins

Officially less worse than Mitt Romney
Officially less worse than Mitt Romney

Barack Obama has been re-elected after one of the tightest Presidential polls in recent decades. More importantly, the highest, most devastatingly powerful office in the land has been defended from a blank, asset-stripping plutocrat who dismisses 47% of the American population as feckless welfare-scroungers.

The 44th President of the United States has essentially governed like an old-school moderate Republican. His agenda might’ve been blasphemous to the foaming loons of the American Right, but, in reality, Obamacare is watery, limited and corporate-friendly, his tax rises have just corrected the libertarian madness of the Bush years, and he’s continued to bunker-bust, extraordinarily render and predator drone like the best of them.

And yet, for millions on both sides of the pond, this was an election all about keeping out Mitt Romney. When old-school moderate Republicanism has all but dried up, and America remains the glowering capital of neoliberal dystopias, Obama is not only infinitely preferable to the rabid Tea Partying alternative, but, short of reanimating Mother Jones and convincing her to run for office, the least-worst Commander In Chief the US is likely to produce in decades. Continue reading “Least-Worst One Wins”

Czech It Out: Politics and Post-Communist Silly Dancing, part 1

Prague Castle seen above the Charles Bridge
Prague Castle seen above the Charles Bridge

The Bemolution briefly gave up snuffling for rotten vegetables in the Somersetian wilds and got on a plane to the Czech Republic. Obscurely, we were joined by a cabin-ful of Labour Party activists, and spent the resulting trip ignoring the architectural loveliness and brooding politically while dribbling goulash down ourself.

There’s something quite deflating about present day Prague. In one sense, the gothic-spired Bohemian rhapsody is very much intact – the Charles Bridge still sturdily but gracefully spans the Vltava, Prague Castle still bathes the city in stately restraint from its hill-top roost, and thousands upon thousands still waste precious minutes of their mortal existences waiting for the Astrological Clock in the Old Town Square to do something remotely interesting.

If you believe the standard jolly ‘End of History’ interpretation, benighted Central-Eastern Europe has been gloriously born-again since Communism fell. In many ways, it’s hard to disagree – the former Eastern Bloc is now studded with vibrant, prosperous culture-capitals drawing edgy city-breakers and stag-doers to soak up the ambience, see the sights, and/or drink Pilsner til they burst. That said, providing pleasurable holiday destinations to foreign tourists is very different from guaranteeing the happiness and wellbeing of the people that live there. Continue reading “Czech It Out: Politics and Post-Communist Silly Dancing, part 1”

Foreahead!: Hot To Trot

swpThe Bemolution missed the Malteaser’s Easter egg by a whisker at the Forehead! AGM raffle, and walked away with an Ordnance Survey map of Britain before the Norman Conquest instead. 

A period of mourning was cut short by the neighbouring rock-and-roll guitarist turned hard-left Labour councillor, who leant in conspiratorially to tell me he thinks we’re being infiltrated.

A middle-aged couple have started turning up to Forehead! meetings, and the word on the street is that they’re members of the Socialist Workers Party.

For the uninitiated, the SWP is a revolutionary anti-capitalist organisation, the largest far-left group in the country, with a reputation for being domineering, ultra-sectarian and very, very awkward. Several initiatives that have attempted to bring together Britain’s fractious left-wingers have ended shambolically in recent years, with various parties claiming they fell apart because the SWP were trying to take over. Forehead!’s veteran politicos warily bristled at the sudden appearance of our two new comrades. Aware of the baffling array of long-standing left-wing prejudices that have prevented people from getting things done for decades, the Bemolution was less concerned. Continue reading “Foreahead!: Hot To Trot”

Republicans

Nerve-jangling political battles with massive global significance happen horribly frequently in America, and as 2012 begins, one of the scariest is showily grinding into action. The Republican Party has begun the process to select who will oppose Barack Obama in next winter’s presidential election.

From a leftist perspective, American politics is grim not just in being hawkish, dominated by money, and pathologically hostile to anything remotely socialistic, but also in the way successive governments have used their huge influence to spread this consensus around the world. And at its worst, American politics is Republican.

Effectively, the Democrats represent the equivalent of what most Europeans would see as mainstream politics, with a mildly social democratic left-wing and a socially and economically conservative Right – in American terms, the Democrats might be classed on the Left, but if all Tories were deported to America tomorrow we’d wager a large proportion would settle down as right-wing Dems rather than throw their lots in with the Sarah Palins of the world. Continue reading “Republicans”