Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Why is Starmer so intent on reanimating the corpse of late-stage Blairism?

Keir Starmer’s inner circle is heavily dominated by Blairite loyalists. That’s a pretty indisputable assertion right?

Starmer’s Blair-hagiography of a Conference Speech made it absolutely clear that he’s worshipping at the altar of Blairism (to anyone who had the misfortune of actually listening to it at least).

And to match his words with actions, it’s also crystal clear from his strategy of removing and demoting the soft-left, which has followed his purge of all the genuine socialists and social liberals from his so called “unity cabinet” (via his depraved loyalty tests of whipping Labour MPs to abstain on vile Tory stuff like rape cops and war crime impunity, and booting them out of his cabinet if they refused).

One of the most interesting aspects of this Blairite involvement in Starmer’s vapid form of managerialist posture politics is the way they fail to even recognise the way Starmer has been imitating the failing late-stage Blairism that ended up driving millions of traditional Labour voters away, rather than the exciting early Blairism that promised to do away with a shambolic and sleaze ridden Tory government, that should surely have been removed from power at least half a decade previously.

In order to make the case that they’re imitating the wrong kind of Blairism, it’s necessary to admit that Blair and his government actually got some things right, which I’ve always been willing to do.

The increased investment in public services that began in 1997 was a damned-sight better than the privatisation-obsessed Tory shambles that preceded it, or the economically ruinous austerity extremism that succeeded it.

Other positives included The Good Friday Agreement and improved economic freedom for Scotland and Wales. But it’s the economic investment in infrastructure and services and the living standards increases that are most relevant here. We don’t need to talk about their lamentable policy failings here, because everyone who has even read this far should be well aware of where Blairism went badly wrong.

Blair did some things right to win power and then delivered some good policies in the early years in government ,and the parallels with now are pretty damned obvious. Yet for some absurd reason Starmer and his inner circle are intent on bringing back the hectoring and unpopular late-stage Blairism that drove people away instead.

In 1997 Blair absolutely trounced Major’s Tories by giving people a bit of hope, then he cemented his position in power by being seen to deliver: Rising wages, economic growth, resuscitating the UK’s vandalised social safety net, education, and NHS funding.

So if Starmer and the people who surround him idealise Blair so much, and have so much nostalgia for the Blair years, why aren’t they following Blair’s recipe for electoral success, rather than desperately trying to reanimate the risible and unpopular politics that Labour slumped into after they’d been in power for ages, run out of ideas, and complacently imagined themselves invincible after winning a third straight election, even after creating a disaster like the invasion of Iraq?

Why are they like this?

The answer seems to be that most of the architects and big players in the early Blair years are past it, retired, or deceased, leaving a pathetic residue of obsequious yes people, who were parachuted into positions of power and influence by Blair’s inner circle, without ever having learned where the power actually comes from.

The power comes from the people.

Even in a country like the UK that suffers a hopelessly rigged, archaic, unrepresentative, and decaying democratic institution like Westminster, you have to offer people what they want, rather than overtly mocking and ridiculing their desires for policies that would actually make life just a bit better and fairer for ordinary people.

But the Labour right Blair-loyalists who control the party now have no idea how to offer this, because they were raised in an environment in which it was their job to bend public will to fit the objectives of the Labour government, and to castigate anyone who argued that they should actually be doing things better.

How many of the big figures from Blair’s 1997 triumph are still kicking around? Blair retired to his riches a decade and a half ago. Brown only pops up occasionally. Prescott’s long-gone. Darling, Milburn, Straw, Hoon, and Blunkett are dinosaurs. Beckett and Harman are among the last in still serving in the Commons, and they’re both retiring next time around. Robin Cook, Frank Dobson, Tessa Jowell, Mo Mowlam, and Donald Dewar are all dead. And long-standing Labour Chief Whip Nick Brown has recently been kicked to the sidelines by Starmer.

What’s left of Blairism now is a profoundly unpleasant residue of arrogant and complacent career politicians who mainly got their positions through privilege and patronage, without ever having put in the the hard work of creating genuine public appeal.

Between 2015 and 2019 these second generation Blairites saw Corbyn trying to offer hope, But they clearly thought that he was ‘doing politics wrong’ by trying to appeal to the public, especially his efforts to woo young voters and new demographics who had rarely or never voted before.

As far as they were concerned he should have been offering uninspiring neoliberal gruel,  performing parlour tricks for the media, rehashing the arrogant “this is all you’re getting” stance they cut their political teeth on, and bitterly chastising any objectors for the impertinence of suggesting politicians could and should be doing better.

They were so convinced that Corbyn was wrong, that once they took control of the Labour Party again, they even made it an immediate party priority to  kill off public hopes and aspirations by systematically salting Corbyn’s allotment of policies, and deliberately driving away the hundreds of thousands of politically engaged and active supporters he’d attracted to the cause.

Rather than picking the best and most popular of Corbyn’s policy crop for their own use (investment economics, public ownership of essential infrastructure and services, workers’ rights, higher wages, better education, mass party membership rather than reliance on mega-rich donors ...) and discarding anything they really disliked, they decided to salt the lot, and revert to the only kind of politics they’re familiar with:

Telling people what to think, playing parlour tricks for the media, and chastising the public for daring to want any better from them.

So here’s the challenge for any Blairites who have managed to read this far without suffering fits of rage at the “thoughtcrime” of believing that Labour actually needs to be doing miles better at the moment:

Can you offer a better explanation than mine for why Starmer and his supporters have failed to adopt the positive, vibrant, hope-inspiring and ultimately winning version of Blairism, in favour of trying to reanimate the rotting corpse of late-stage Blairism that the electorate had already had more than enough of 12 years ago?

And more importantly, do you think it’s even possible to make them change course now, after watching them try to flog the same rotting corpse into action for two interminable years?

I mean these are people who steadfastly refused to learn or utilise the power-winning tactics of their own political figurehead before they resumed control over the Labour Party, so what would it actually take to make such a bunch of nitwits suddenly and dramatically improve their game now, after two years of this mind-numbing inertia?

Essays and video clips from from the likes of Another Angry Voice, Novara Media, and Owen Jones certainly aren’t going to wake them up to what they’re doing wrong.

So unless you’re going to sit there and actually try to convince people, including yourself, that these hopelessly inept people aren’t asleep at the wheel, what is it that you need to do to wake them up?

And I say “you do” because they’re only ever going to listen to it from their supporters, if they listen to it from anyone at all. Never from anyone like me.

Do you guys want to wake the sleeping driver? Or do you want to just sit tight, pretend they're doing an excellent job, and hope that everything’s somehow going to work out fine through pure luck?

It’s clearly up to you lot if you want to save your own project from itself, isn’t it?


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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you seriously believe that the people who benefit most from a system that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few, would allow a person to come to power that would change that system and threaten their position?
There are two choices in this country - Conservatism and Conservatism Lite. Fear remains the most powerful emotion and tool with which to control the masses, as it always has been. No amount of rational argument or reasoned response is going to change human nature.

Mr. Magoo said...

The Continuing Trade Cycle (taken from 'The Market System Must Go!'- February '97)
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlet/the-market-system-most-go/#8

Inflation - Another Product of Reformism (taken from the same booklet above)
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlet/the-market-system-most-go/#10

Mr. Magoo said...

Marx versus Keynes: The failure of government controlled capitalism (Socialist Education Bulletin, No. 1, July 1973)

Introduction

The material in this bulletin has been taken, with minor changes, from articles which originally appeared in the Socialist Standard during the past five years. They bring together in one document a criticism of Keynesian economics from a Marxian point of view.

As the first article says, Keynsism is now the dominant economic orthodoxy, taught in schools and universities as a supposedly accurate description of how capitalism works or can be made to work. It is also the implicit theory behind the reformist practice of both the Labour and Conservative parties. For Keynsism holds that capitalism can be controlled by governments so as to function in the interest of all.

A knowledge of Marxian economics shows this Keynesian – and indeed general reformist – claim to be false. For capitalism is a class system, based on the exploitation of the majority, which can only function by putting profits before human needs. Practice – the failure of all post-war governments to redeem their election promises about full employment, stable prices, steady and continuous growth – has also confirmed that capitalism is governed by economic laws which government intervention cannot overcome, despite what Keynes taught.

The Marxian criticism of Keynes must be distinguished from that of those who argue that what is wrong with Keynsism is that it advocates only government intervention in an essentially private-enterprise economy, not government ownership of industry. That a state capitalist [so-called communist] economy could function in the interest of all is equally illusory, but we cannot go into this here.

The Marxian alternative to both Keynsism and state capitalism is Socialism, a non-market, non-monetary society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by and in the interest of the whole community. Only on this basis can production be democratically planned to provide what human beings need, both as individuals and as a community.

Education Committee,
the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Read the rest here:
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/article/marx-versus-keynes/study-guides/marx-versus-keynes/