Wednesday 16 January 2019

What is ... "centrism"?

One of the huge mistakes people make with the term "centrism" is imagining that it's actually a moderate central position between capitalism and socialism like the name implies, when it's nothing of the sort.

In reality modern "centrism" is an orthodox neoliberal strategy of shifting ever further rightwards in order to position yourself ever so slightly to the left of whatever ideological insanity the political right are up to.

Historical context

For proof that there's been a decades long rightwards shift of the "centrists" just consider what was the central political ground from the 1940s through to the 1970s.

Conservative governments all through the era ran vital public infrastructure, services, and industries as state enterprises, built and maintained social housing, and regulated the financial sector in order to prevent devastating crises like those of the 1920s and 1930s.

The position of the Tory party in the 1950s and '60s is clearly significantly to the left of the "centrist" Labour government between 1997 and 2010,which introduced privatisation in our schools and hospitals, refused to build more social housing (or even reverse the disastrous Tory policy of selling off social housing without replacing it), and catastrophically deregulated the financial sector to enable the reckless sub-prime gambling that triggered the run on Northern Rock and eventually the 2008 bankers' insolvency crisis ("centrist" Democrats did the same kinds of regulation in the US leading to the same insolvency crisis and bailouts situation over there). 

Anyone back in the '50s or '60s talking about privatising schools, hospitals, the Royal Mail, and even police services would have been considered a raving ideological extremist, but these days it's the political norm, and actual government policy.

And just imagine what would have happened to someone in the '50s or '60s if they'd proposed selling off our entire nuclear industry and letting it fall into the hands of the French government, then bribing the French and Chinese governments with public cash into building our new nuclear plants for us!

They'd have strayed so far from the political centre ground that the vast majority of people would condemn this kind of ideological lunacy as "treason".

But since the advent of the neoliberal era in 1979 this kind of absurd ideological extremist is absolutely commonplace, and the nuclear sell-off and bribery of the French and Chinese has actually happened under Tory rule.

In fact someone like Jeremy Corbyn who proposes a mix between socialist policies and regulated, properly taxed capitalism would obviously have been a political centrist in this pre-neoliberal era, but in modern Britain, as we know, he's routinely portrayed as a terrifying political extremist with radical and unpopular economic policies.

He's portrayed this way by the self-declared "centrists" because he's refused to jump on board the radical hard-right neoliberal bandwagon like they all have.

He's stayed on the traditional centre ground as the "centrists" rapidly steam towards the radical hard-right and yell "extremism" at him out of the window as they fade into the distance!

Modern context

Now think about the political position of the self-declared Labour "centrists".

Remember Labour losing the 2015 general election by pathetically imitating Tory austerity dogma rather than opposing it. That's "centrism".

Remember the Labour right-wingers and mainstream media hacks parroting the ludicrous myth that Labour lost because they were too left-wing under Miliband in order to justify their absurd theory that Labour should imitate Tory economic radicalism even more closely? That's "centrism".

Remember all 3 of the Labour "centrist" candidates cementing Corbyn's win by actually abstaining on the vote on £12 billion worth of Tory social security cuts for the poorest people in society during the Labour leadership election? That's "centrism".

The Labour "centrists" lost the party the 2015 General Election with their policy of pathetically imitating Tory policy, and then their immediate response was to claim that the solution to this self-inflicted defeat was yet another huge rightwards lurch towards the policies of the the most radically right-wing Tory government since universal suffrage!

In the minds of modern self-appointed "centrists" moderation and pragmatism clearly involves continually imitating the Tories, even when they're busy outright defying the public will by privatising schools, hospitals, and police services, trashing the economy with hard-right austerity dogma, destroying local government with unprecedented funding cuts, overseeing the longest period of collapsing wages and living standards in living memory, and using public cash to bribe foreign governments into building national infrastructure for us!

A basic grounding in political reality reveals that modern day "centrists" are not people who actually take a central position between capitalism and socialism, they're right-wing people with an interest in misleading the public into believing that the radical hard-right economic dogma of neoliberalism is somehow a moderate and pragmatic approach that exists in on the political centre ground!


It should be pretty obvious that "centrism" is a misleading political label that bears absolutely no relation to the hard-right neoliberal policies that modern "centrists" tend to support and imitate.

Another example of this kind of increasingly misleading political label is "Conservatism".

These days there are very few actual (small c) conservatives left in the Conservative Party. There's absolutely nothing "conservative" about the radical hard-right, pro-privatisation, anti-worker, cult of the individual bollocks they've been pushing for the last 4 decades.

And this is before we even bother to mention the Liberal Democrats and their numerous votes in support of grotesquely illiberal Tory party policies between 2010 & 2015 (secret courts, dripa, the gagging law, bedroom tax, sanctions and disability assessment regimes ...)

All three are examples of desperately misleading political labels.

At least Jeremy Corbyn is more or less exactly what he says he is on his label: a democratic socialist.

And at least the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru (Welsh Party), and the Green Party tend to offer more or less what their labels imply too.

But conservatives, "centrists", and liberals have shifted position so dramatically over recent decades that the policies they promote bear almost no resemblance to the political labels they self-apply.

Criticising centrism

One of the most difficult things about criticising the kind of self-appointed "centrists" who push radically right-wing neoliberalism is that an awful lot of people are so politically naive that they take the "centrists" at face value.

Politically naive people think that just because "centrists" self-declare as "centrists" that their political position is actually in the moderate centre, rather than lying ever so slightly to the left of the most radically right-wing Tory government in living memory.

So if you criticise "centrism" this complacent James O'Brien-listening, BBC-watching, Guardian-reading demographic is liable to think that you're only criticising the moderate political centre ground because you've been brainwashed into supporting the radically left-wing "cult of Corbyn"!

What they're completely and utterly unprepared to accept is the idea that hard-right neoliberal dogma is actually the ideological cult which has completely infested the Westminster political establishment and the mainstream media, and that the few who haven't got on board with this hard-right, pro-privatisation, pro-austerity, anti-worker, deregulation frenzy are the last remaining "centrists" from the pre-neoliberal era!

So be careful when you end up criticising "centrism". If your audience doesn't understand that you're criticising neoliberals trying to give themselves a veneer of legitimacy by self-applying the label "centrist" then they're liable to imagine that you're actually attacking the old conception of a "centrism" that offers a compromise between socialism and capitalism.

They're liable to take your criticisms as confirmation of their absurdly warped view that people like you are the radical ideological extremist and continue believing that neoliberal self-labelling "centrists" and Tory ideological extremism represent the moderate centre ground!

  If you found this article interesting or informative,      
  here's another article about the "centrist" delusion that 
  their ideology is flawless and everything bad is always    somebody else's fault.

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