Miliband doesn’t pander to populism, and upholds the inclusion, equality and diversity principles that are embedded in policies which Labour pioneered. He aims to address and curtail exploitative employers, which of course is a real problem, rather than migrants, who are being exploited in the same way that “nationals” are. We have workfare, analogous to slavery and counterproductive in decreasing unemployment, which is universally exploitative, and absolutely nothing to do with the poor migrants, and everything to do with profit-driven greed, and a government that has encouraged that greed to thrive and flourish at such catastrophic expense to others.
Miliband knows that Britain is not divided by race and culture, it’s divided by wealth inequalities fuelled by the Tory-led Coalition’s austerity policies. Blaming the unemployed, the sick and disabled and immigrants for the failings of the government has fuelled misperceptions that drive support for the far-right. People complain they can’t get council houses, and the only really honest question an honest politician ought to ask is: “Why aren’t there more council houses?”
And when there are large numbers of people receiving unemployment benefit or tax credits, then the only honest question to ask is: “Why is the economy failing to provide enough jobs, or pay adequate wages?”
Miliband’s emphasis on equality is bothering the Tories, because their entire ideology is founded on Social Darwinism: to the Tories, inequalities are an inevitability, because of their emphasis on competition between individuals for resources in the “free market.” Miliband’s social democracy program provides an alternative that challenges the established right-wing neoliberal consensus.
The media and the government have stigmatised vulnerable social groups as a justification of cruel and punitive policies aimed at those least able to fight back, as an explanation of the failings of this government to be fair and honour a degree of legislation to reflect public needs – the public they are meant to serve.
As a society that once promised equality and democracy, we now preside over massive inequalities of wealth: that’s a breeding ground for racism and other vicious resentments.
It’s awoken the disgruntled beast within people, the one that feeds on anger, demoralisation, fear, resentment and uncertainty.
And wherever antipathy and a degree of enmity exist, the far-right have always tried to perpetuate, exploit and increase rancour. The fascism of the 20s and 30s gained prominence because it played on wider public fears, manipulating them, and deflecting attention, as ever, from those who are truly to blame for dire social conditions: the ever-greedy elite. There’s a well-established link between political extremism, economic hardship and recession and social cleavages, with the far-right “anti-system” parties deceitfully winning the support of those who would never previously have thought of themselves as extremists.
Such extremism and rancour feeds the disgruntled beast. The political right have always sought to divide sections of the poor and middle class and set them to fight one against the other; to have us see enemies in our midst which do not exist, so that we see economic policies – the Tory-rigged “free market” competition – as the solution rather than the cause of our problems.
And here we are again. A Tory government, another rigged recession, and the politics of fear, despair and micro-managed discontent.
Fascism plays a specific role for the ruling class: it is a weapon against civil unrest during social crises caused by recession. It redirects public anger from the government to scapegoats. To build such a movement, fascists have to delve into the “lower classes” using a mixture of crude economic radicalism and racism. Oswald Mosley also started out as a Tory and he was a rich aristocrat. His tactic was “street politics”, rather like Farage’s appeal to woo “ordinary people.” Mosley cut himself adrift from the mainstream ruling class when in early 1934, he launched a campaign for street supremacy in key working class areas.
Farage is comparable with Mosely: he also tried to entice the working class, and those blue collar defectors who don’t feel solidarity with anyone except their “own kind” need to ask themselves how a fascist party would better reflect their interests, because fascists aren’t just fascists when it comes to your preferred target group – in this case migrants – fascists are fascists, full stop. And most migrants are working class, too.
Fascists are not known for being big on unions and worker’s rights either, Hitler smashed the unions, Mosely fought them too. But fascists do like to use the oppressed to oppress others.
Mosely was defeated by working class solidarity – Jews, communists, socialists, the labour movement, and the middle classes, who all stood side by side in Scotland, Newcastle, in the Valleys, Yorkshire, at Olympia and on Cable Street. Unity and regard for the rights and well-being of others was their greatest strength.
That community spirit and solidarity is precisely what we need to find again. The disgruntled beast is divisive, and it feeds on demoralisation, alienation, feelings of isolation and a lack of regard for others.
Identity politics and the faultlines of division
Lynton Crosby, who has declared that his role is to destroy the Labour Party, rather than promote the Conservatives, based on any notion of merit, is all about such a targeted “divide and rule” strategy. This is a right wing tactic of cultivating and manipulating apostasy amongst support for the opposition. It’s a very evident ploy in the media, too, with articles about Labour screaming headlines that don’t match content, and the Sun and Telegraph blatantly lying about Labour’s policy intentions regularly.
One major ploy has been to attempt to rally the disgruntled working classes behind the flag of identity politics – aimed exclusively at the most disgruntled, very purposefully excluding other social groups. It also sets them against each other, for example, the working class unemployed attacking migrants – it really is divisive, anti-democratic, and flies in the face of labour’s equality and diversity principles. It also enhances the political myth of convenience – the “out of touch/allthesame MPs”, some of those stoked-up disgruntled blue collar workers have defected to UKIP.
There’s an immediate danger that if the far-right succeed in colonising the anti-mainstream vote, as they are aiming to, and developing party loyalty, it will block the development of an independent working class politics capable of defending our conditions and challenging the status quo.
UKIP (and the Tories) first and foremost are traditionalists and defenders of property, with the socially paranoid ideology of the hard right. A dominant theme is a conspiratorial view of the EU as a sort of “socialist plot”, with the Eurocrats encouraging mass immigration, stifling small businesses with legislation and fuelling the welfare state. And working class cultural imperialism – some blue collar workers and working class supporters have disgruntled beasts that respond to the populist, “anti-establishment”, Islamophobic agenda. The wealthier middle class supporters who were traditionally Conservative want to force the Tories further to the right.
Thanks to the persistent propaganda work of the government and the media, the tendency is to see the far-right’s behaviour as merely the justified reaction to the provocation of socially stigmatised groups – the sick and disabled, the unemployed, Muslims and immigrants. This is the climate in which UKIP and its allies thrive. As a result, there is an urgent need to shift toward a wider cultural and political offensive against prejudice more generally. Again. The only party concerning itself with that, as ever, is Labour.
UKIP supporters manifestly don’t care about prejudice directed at others. At the very least they are not repelled by racism, sexism, disablism and homophobia, they seem unsentimental about the types of alliances they find themselves in. Yet working class UKIP supporters are cutting off their own noses to spite their faces, as UKIP are Thatcherites: neoliberal white trash. Fascists don’t support the working class – they never have and never will. No matter how much they say otherwise.
I’ve talked about UKIP, here, but they are not the only party drawing on the propaganda of the right. I have seen Left Unity, the Greens, the SNP, and a range of so-called socialist groups utilise right-wing myths about the Labour Party, too. This means we end up repeatedly fighting to clarify truths amongst ourselves instead of simply fighting the injustices and lies of the Tories.
It also struck me that we have a raft of writers loosely writing about the Labour Party that don’t seem to promote achievements and positive policies, which is at the very least as important as the negatively weighted “critical” analyses of the last Labour government, for balance and for providing a framework for those perpetually disconsolate readers that tend to feed their pet disgruntled beasts from buzz phrases and glittering generalities for the perpetually unhappy orthodoxy obsessed narxists – like “working class disenfranchisement”, “New Labour”, “Progress”, “Blairite”, “weakened unions”, “blue labour” and so forth. Many narxists have a peculiar elitist and very non-inclusive obsession with what socialism ought to be.
Ticked boxes and pressed disgruntle buttons.
It was mostly the disgruntled blue collar workers that found UKIP’s inverted elitism – anti-intellectualism, anti-middle-classism and a few other prejudices more appealing, and defected, in a false conscious moment of supreme nose-cutting and spited faces. I don’t see anything to be gained in fueling their discontent, propping up populism, and its irrational response – a nod in the direction of fascism from people claiming they are excluded from mainstream politics – so they defected to a party that is founded on the rhetoric of exclusion.
There are contradictions between UKIP’s ultra-Tory policies and the instincts and interests of its working class supporters. So, not quite “breaking the mould of British politics” then. UKIP demagogically and disingenuously attack Labour for abandoning white workers, but they also focus on attacking David Cameron for not being Conservative enough.
Farage implies he has some sort of superior social knowledge and wisdom compared with the rest of the mainstream political class, and that he understands “ordinary people”, but he speaks fluently in the language of anti-progression, the fact that anyone at all is listening is indicative of an internalisation of the national right wing prejudice toward a profound anti-intellectualism.
And of course anti-intellectualism is to be expected from the Conservatives, who have historically used the repression of critical thinking as a way of deflecting scrutiny, and as a means of ensuring a compliant, non-questioning workforce to exploit. From the working class, however, it’s just the politics of resentment, and another disgruntled face of bigotry. So much for class consciousness. And solidarity.
It’s worth remembering that Marx and Engels were hardly working class, and they most certainly were intellectuals. Left wing UKIP supporters have no fig leaf to hide behind.
It’s one thing to be opposed to traditional elites, but to show support for a party so vehement in its hostility to democracy, trade unionism, socialism, human rights, our NHS and the welfare state because someone speaks with a pint and a ciggie in their hands, indicates the need for some responsible critical thinking, paying attention to details, less resentment, superficiality and disgruntled grunting.
Fascism always presents itself as your friend, it extends a cozening arm of camaraderie around your shoulder with a sly smile, a malicious grin with far too many teeth.
It’s a disgruntled beast that loves disgruntled beasts, but this public school boy and ex-Tory with offshore tax havens isn’t one of the lads from the shop floor. Farage didn’t take any lessons from the school of hard knocks, that’s for sure.
But many of us have membership in more than one oppressed group, surely its possible at least to recognise in principle the validity of other struggles against oppression, it’s important to recognise that these struggles are not in a zero-sum relationship with one another. They are complementary and cumulative. I believe the collectively oppressed are natural allies in a larger fight for justice, and create a whole greater than the sum of its parts, and this kind of intersectionality and solidarity undermines the ruling-class’s “divide and conquer.”
I think the divisions are what happens when you just feed the disgruntled beast.
That’s the problem with identity politics: it tends to enhance a further sense of social segregation, and it isn’t remotely inclusive. Of course it also enhances the myth of “out of touch/ allthesame” politics. It’s a clever strategy, because it attacks Labour’s equality and inclusive principles – the very reason why the Labour movement happened in the first place – and places restriction on who ought to be “included”. Think of that divisive strategy 1) in terms of equality. 2) in terms of appealing to the electorate 3) in terms of policy. Note how it imposes limits and is reductive.
The Tories set this strategy up in the media, UKIP have extended it further and the minority rival parties, including the Green Party have also utilised the same rhetoric tool. Yet we KNOW right wing parties have NO interest in the working class. And those amongst the working class that have.
The Tories do not offer up public critical analysis of themselves. Indeed the anti-Labour bias on display by the Murdoch-owned news empire has never been more apparent. That’s not just because of ideology, it’s because Miliband stood up to Murdoch. But Tories don’t collectively and painfully self-scrutinise or soul search, and certainly not in public sight: they self promote. They speak with unfaltering conviction, and from that platform they control public debate and that’s despite their continuing assault on public interests.
So, where is our fully informed pro-labour spokesperson in the media? Where are the articles that inform people – the ones about what Labour do, rather than what they ought to do? Because the implicit message over and over from undoubtedly well-meaning left-leaning writers is that Labour constantly get it wrong and need advice on how to get it right, whilst their policies are not being publicly promoted, analysed, and their progress and achievements remain hidden from view. What gets attention is myth reduced to populist pseudo-critical soundbites.
The media and the message
That means, potentially, many people don’t know enough on balance to make informed choices. Disgruntled defectors often take the medium to be the message, unfortunately, and with no balance, no genuine pros and cons, just a perpetual party wish list, that reads as a list of deficits, many are fueling an often misinformed, unreasonable, hungry disgruntled beast. You present the policies from source that fill the cited alleged deficits, and dear lord, people actually get angry and abusive.
A few months ago, a well-known left wing commentator wrote a “critical” article about Labour that was based on inferences drawn from a very suspiciously muffled recording of Jon Crudass, which was a couple of minutes long, and which ended, somewhat dubiously, in mid-sentence. The recording was very well-utilised by the right wing, too.
At the time, having heard it, I challenged the writer concerned regarding the references to that very dodgy recording, and the inferences he had drawn from it, which echoed those of the Tories. I was ludicrously and condescendingly told I was being “anti-democratic”, in my “blind and uncritical” support for the Labour Party. From where I’m stood, it certainly isn’t me that is being anti-democratic, here.
It seems to be almost trendy to try and undermine Labour’s credibility and completely regardless of the accuracy of any “criticism” used. Since when was it anti-democratic to want to tell the truth, supported with facts? Why is it that people have such objections to a person being supportive of the Labour Party, anyway? That doesn’t make me undemocratic, “blind” or “uncritical” at all. I’m discerning, and the truth actually matters to me, in all of its detail. I put a lot of work in researching to ensure that I’m well-informed. And why is any of this a reason for people to direct condescending and disgusting abuse and nastiness? Yet somehow, this behaviour has become normalised and acceptable.
One response I’ve seen frequently is: “oh, but people are disillusioned with Labour”. Yeah? Well stop writing inaccurate commentaries that create disillusionment and alienation, then. Perhaps it’s time people learned to research facts for themselves, anyway, rather than allowing their apathy and disgruntledment to be fed by willing, earning authors or propaganda merchants and Tory/SNP/UKIP/Green shills and trolls on Facebook.
The Tory press operation had handed the Daily Telegraph and the BBC the transcript of that same recording of Jon Cruddas, who was approached in the foyer at the Fabian summer conference at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
A note from the Conservatives accompanying the transcript made clear that the recording had been made by researchers posing as students, according to the account on the BBC website.
The Labour Party is considering referring the transcript of the remarks to the Press Complaints Commission, and the former standards watchdog Sir Alistair Graham has accused the Tories of entrapment. It was a dirty trick. Why on earth would someone on the left take advantage of such chicanery pulled by the Tories?
No party is above criticism, and quite rightly so. But the criticism needs to be balanced, fair, accurate and based on informed analysis and fact. And not on any old bullshit that’s masqueraded as “criticism.” Or on secretly recorded partial conversations. If debates are not open and honest, and if criticism of parties and their policies are not based on facts, that isn’t actually debate you’re engaged in: it’s a propaganda campaign.
Surely by now we all know the media lies and excludes anything important; that it’s under authoritarian Tory control? That Iain Duncan Smith “monitors” the BBC for “left wing bias”, that the Guardian’s occasional forays into truth are stifled by jackbooted officials marching into their office and smashing hard drives? Does anyone REALLY imagine that such a government spokesmedia will do any justice to reporting about the positive intentions and actions of its opposition? It won’t. Not one bit.
Yet I see people running around hysterically clutching at cherry-picked, distorted media spun soundbites, as if the media is somehow suddenly credible when it talks of the opposition, and when you actually read what was said and proposed at the unspun initial source, it bears no resemblance at all to the media tale of the unexpected. If you trouble yourself to investigate these things, the crap being published and broadcast doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But it does feed the disgruntled beast.
And when the media resort to personal smears – like they did last year about Ralph Miliband – you KNOW they are worried about being defeated. And behold their disgruntled beast.
It’s a crucial time when we need to make sure we know the difference between truth and propaganda, fact from fiction. It’s up to us to discern – please. We are each responsible for what happens next. It mustn’t be 5 more years of the same neo-feudalist rulers.
The nitty gritty
The Right are engaged in an all out war. The disgruntled Right know that Miliband has edited their script, abandoning the free-market fundamentalist consensus established by Thatcherism in favour of social democracy.
The right-wing media barons who set the terms of what is deemed politically palatable in Britain have never forgiven Ed Miliband for his endorsement of Leveson, which they believe is an unacceptable threat to their power.
And they know Labour under Ed Miliband will probably win the 2015 election.
This is a war, and the Tories think that chucking an avalanche of lies at the opposition is enough. It isn’t. Where are their positive, supportive, life-enhancing policies for the citizens of the UK? The Tories have NOTHING but increasing poverty and pain to offer most of us, and no amount of smearing Labour and telling lies will hide that fact. And they will do all they can to make sure Labour don’t get space in the media to tell you about their own positive social democracy program, based on tackling the inequality and poverty that Tories always create.
We simply can’t tolerate another 5 years of the terrible consequences of New Right Conservatism.
Some on the left also need reminding that there is far more at stake than tiresome debating about what “real” socialism entails. I can tell you categorically that socialism isn’t about feeding your own pet disgruntled beast at the expense of concern and care for comrades who are suffering, living in absolute poverty and dying, because of the policies of this authoritarian regime. We need to address the current crisis, the sociopolitical dysfunction, and escape Cameron’s vision of a feudal dytopia before we can even begin to design our utopia, based on orthodoxy or otherwise.
The outcome of the general election, and the future of this country, and the well-being of is our citizens is what is important, please let’s not lose sight of that.
Because when you feed only the disgruntled beasts, you just end up with beasts.
Thanks to Robert Livingtone for the excellent memes