Monday, 14 May 2012

The Political Spectrum Shift fallacy



The Political Spectrum Shift fallacy is one of the most commonly used right wing fallacies. It is regularly found underpinning other absurd right wing fallacies such as the "loony left" fallacy (in which the proponent disparages anything to the left of their favoured ideology/party as the lunatic fringe, no matter how right wing it actually is), in the Great Neoliberal Lie and in the "only extremists oppose austerity" fallacy.

One of the most blatant examples of the political spectrum shift fallacy is the right wing apologist strategy of disparaging the UK Neo-Labour party as "loony leftists" often alongside the transparent lie that their "left-wing" tendencies caused the economic crisis. The oft touted idea that Neo-Labour are still a left-wing party is so transparently wrong it hardly needs analysis, but just in case you are still under the impression that Labour haven't completely ditched their founding principles in order to serve the interests of the corporatists and landed gentry they were originally established to protect ordinary working people from, consider their track record during their 13 wasted years (1997-2010). Before they were even elected in 1997 Labour had torn up their ideological commitment to socialism by abandoning Clause 4 of the Labour Party Constitution under the guise of "modernisation". Once Neo-Labour got into power they set about cosying up to the bankers and corporate fatcats and implementing right wing neoliberal economic reforms, deregulating the financial sector, refusing to re-nationalise even the most egregiously inefficient Tory privatisations, wasting hundreds of billions in "extremely inefficient" PFI privatisation scams, turning a blind eye to tax dodging, signing up to countless wasteful outsourcing deals, encouraging the inflation of a huge unsustainable property speculation bubble through Prescott's barmy pathfinder schemes, refusing to properly regulate the parasitic buy-to-let sector, enthusiastically supporting imperialistic neoconservative "oil wars", introducing student loans, starting off the privatisation of the NHS and even arranging an astoundingly ill-conceived sale and leaseback deal on HMRC properties with a company based in a tax haven.

Given this track record of implementing extremely right-wing policies and reforms, it would be fair to say that Neo-Labour would actually have been way to the right of every Conservative government between 1951 and 1974 all of which were signed up to the Post War Consensus. Every one of these Conservative governments that held power between the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the neoliberal revolution which ruined the amazing growth and productivity of the mixed economy years, would today be characterised by the mainstream political establishment as "radical leftists"

Another example of the political spectrum shift can be seen in the establishment reaction to the 2012 Greek elections, where a number of anti-austerity parties made large gains. The political establishment and UK media immediately started disparaging the democratically elected anti-austerity parties as "radical leftists".


Using the political spectrum shift, even centre-right political parties like
the Independent Greeks can be dismissed as loony-left opportunists.
The problem with this strategy is that it relies on the ignore the facts tactic because the party that made the most impressive gains was the brand new centre-right Independent Greeks party that was founded by Panos Kammenos, a guy who was thrown out of the mainstream centre-right party simply for the crime of opposing "austerity". It is fairly easy to see that labeling a bunch of centre-right politicians as "radical leftists" is utterly misleading, however even the left-wing Syriza party that also made impressive gains would have been considered to be a mainstream centre-left party until the rise of the neoliberal economic orthodoxy over the last three decades destroyed political plurality.


It is quite clear from their panicked reaction to the Greek parliamentary and French presidential election results that the establishment politicians and media are extremely worried about "outsiders" breaking into the political system on a wave of anti-austerity sentiment. Mainstream political commentators such as Andrew Rawnsley in the Guardian are so worried that they resort to smearing any party that dares criticise their favoured orthodox neoliberal response to the economic crisis as opportunists from the "radical left", no matter what their actual political orientation. Using the political spectrum shift, the establishment apologist can easily dismiss any individual or political party that openly criticises the othodox neoliberal consensus that even more ideologically driven neoliberalism dressed up as "austerity" is the only cure for a crisis that was caused by ideologically driven neoliberalism in the first place.


Even the popular Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan would be have
been dismissed as a radical leftist by the modern day right-wing apologist.
Next time you hear some right wing apologist mouthing off about Neo-Labour being "loony leftists", you should remind them about Harold Macmillan (Tory Prime Minister of the UK between 1957 and 1963). Macmillan was one of the most popular Conservative Prime Ministers of the Twentieth Century, a One Nation Tory and a supporter of the Keynesian inspired Post War Consensus who famously told the British people that they had "never had it so good" as Britain was booming under an economic system based on a mixture of regulated capitalism, state ownership of vital infrastructure and an equitable distribution of the nation's new found prosperity. If the orthodox defenders of the neoliberal status quo insist on characterising Neo-Labour as "loony leftists" then their own SuperMac must have been some kind of "deranged trotskyite ultra-leftist yahoo".

As the political spectrum has shifted to the right, the volume of political territory disparaged
 as "loony left" has grown enormously and even stretched into the territory of the centre-right.

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