Jeremy Corbyn & The Temple of Doom

Politics isn’t the realm of the people. Never has been.

Put three people in a room and give them even the vaguest sniff of power and within seconds they’ll have completely forgotten why the have it, who gave it to them and what it’s for. They’ll start to find ways to protect it, to wield it to further itself, to put bars on the windows and locks on the doors so no one can sneak in while they aren’t looking and have that power away from them.

Put a few hundred people in a building and you get a very big building, with very big bars and very heavy locks with a few hundred people wielding, furthering and protecting the power they’ve got. And this is… normal. Not acceptable, or democratic, or productive, but normal. For the most part the rest of us are too busy living life to think about it, even though we know they’re using something we gave them to serve interests that are a long, long way from our own. We assume there’s a balance, we assume, albeit unthinkingly, that what we gave them is tempered by some distant awareness of us potentially taking it back – which makes those who have it at least occasionally act on our behalves. We assume that, when it comes to something that matters, we can seek redress from them. Not in the great halls of government, not near their precious and jealously guarded power, but at least through cracks in the door, mumbling requests through and hoping for the best. That’s a realistic enough expectation, not one that makes the whole mess any better, but it’s something, right? Some minor compensation for finding out that what we gave has had the serial number scratched off and been painted a different colour.

Sometimes it works, for some people. If you can get to that crack in the door, if you can whisper clearly enough, if you can afford the time taken to sit there waiting for attention, there can be a payoff. For most though there isn’t, there’s just disappointment when you realise you’re just talking to yourself on the doorstep, looking a bit manic to passersby. But still, when you don’t need to ask for anything, or if you accept that there’s absolutely no point in doing so, the system works. They have our power, we have… well, we have our lives and good or bad that’s usually enough to be focusing on.

Very rarely though, once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky, that door to power opens up a little bit. No one’s kicking it in and if you’re on the outside and your name’s not on the list then you’re sure as hell not going to get a nice seat on the inside. But you can glance in and see a slither of what’s going on in there, maybe even shout a message that can’t be ignored. You won’t get back what’s yours at these times, that only happens when someone ram raids the place, but even the vague opportunity to reach towards that power – our power – is intoxicating enough and, perhaps, useful enough to be a wonder in itself.

Jeremy Corbyn has, in this over-extended metaphor, ignored the door and instead cracked open the toilet window. His politics, whether you view him as their embodiment or just a figurehead, are a throwback to a forgotten time. One where we still didn’t hold the weight of power, but one where we were at least aware that it was ours and in knowing that made sure we gave those doors a good kick every now and then to remind everyone of it. What he represents is a strength and awareness of what went on out of our line of sight that a lot of people had forgotten we could have. That’s not a revolutionary thing, or even a threatening thing, but it is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately the price he’s currently paying for that is getting a good kicking by the people who spent so long fitting locks, barring windows and doing their level best to ignore the whispers at the crack. And that’s not even to say that some of those people aren’t good, in their way, or kind, or caring, or considerate or humanitarian. It is to say, however, that they’re shut ins, hovering around that old power and fixated on it with a clear, myopic focus. Their better natures only ever directed through the prism of the privilege they’re guarding. Which, I’m sure, is very comforting for them, although it’s not much use to the rest of us.

The PLP  is currently in a state of self-destructive crisis. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, in the aftermath of Corbyn’s victory, they’re faced with a terrifying new reality – or an old one depending on your point of view. People of all political stripes are increasingly aware of the power they’ve given away to them and, what’s worse, they’re increasingly asking what those in established power have been doing with it all this time. Their gut reaction is to lash out. Corbyn can’t be trusted because, unlike them, he seems to have at least half an eye on the outside world, he does more than just covet what he has. He sees ways to do good which go beyond jealously guarding his position.

In the day to day grind of life I don’t know that Corbyn could do the good that will perhaps be demanded of him by those who’ve taken his side. Those defending their own interests are fierce as hell when it comes to a fight and, as the media and his own MPs have already shown, they have no scruples about what they’ll do in the process. Certainly a glorious new Socialist future is unlikely, but a resurgent awareness of our relation to the power that we lend to politicians? Now that is possible.

Those in the PLP who’re embarrassing and disgracing themselves with their attacks on the man are fighting their own existential battle. They’ve shown themselves willing to fight the people who select them, campaign for them, fund them, vote for them and generally elevate them to the point where they’re allowed their little slice of the power pie. I can’t understand why they’re doing this when, regardless of the outcome, they’ll end up paying their own price for it. If they win their little coup then the Labour Party will haemorrhage support, lose money, be disaffiliated by Unions and destroy trust in itself for a generation to come. If they lose then the membership will remember them as traitors, the electorate will know them as failures and if they’re not deselected in due course then they’ll certainly face an eternity of obscurity on the back benches. Which I suppose answers my question, having made the first insane mistake they’re tied to their own sinking ship, presumably spurred on by that same myopic fixation on their own positions which taints and distorts any and all perceptions of the world around them.

In all honestly though, I couldn’t care less about them. The fates of those in the PLP who’ve behaved so badly are of next to no interest to me, beyond a slightly morbid sense of enjoyment at watching them flounder. What I do care about is the potential damage their actions will have on the rest of us. If they win their war (and it has reached the point of true conflict) then an idea which means a huge amount will be lost. We will have been told, with iron certainty, that the doors are shut. Our power isn’t our own, our party isn’t our own, our politics isn’t our own and our country isn’t our own. A message which will drive a generation of people away from even bothering, or perhaps drive them to start thinking of ram raiding those doors as the only choice – a blessing perhaps, in a terrible way. And it won’t just be Labour members and voters who’ll pay that price, this is an assertion of control that’ll echo through all the parties and all the people. Mix it in with a heady brew of Brexit, Tory failures (as always), Boris-No-Mates’ collapse and near non-existent trust and respect for the media and there’s absolutely no knowing what the result will be. Although I’m willing to guess it won’t be the capitulation to the voices of power that the PLP might imagine it to be in their wildest fever dreams.

So… what? Well the battle goes on, day by day, laden with media hysteria and nonsense. Ignore that, if you can, focus on the one thing we can know – that’s our power they’re abusing and unless they learn to remember who owns it now then, before long, we’ll start forgetting ourselves. Support Corbyn, rattle the door.

EU Referendum – An Out from the Left

Well, either we’re getting ever closer to the EU referendum or we’re getting ever closer to the End of Days, it’s certainly one of the two. By the 23rd of June we’ll be going to the polls to vote in probably the most hysterical, xenophobic and dishonest survey of public consensus since that Boaty McBoatface thing. A harbinger, I’m reliably informed, of global economic collapse, the rise of a new German Reich, David Cameron’s self-immolation, Boris Johnson’s terror fueled dictatorship and World War 3, all in one. Or, y’know, just a vote on whether we stay in the EU or not. Could go either way.

It’s a disconcerting experience really. In my short and ill-planned lifetime this is almost certainly the most uncertain political vote I’ve experienced and arguably the largest in the potential effects it may have. It dwarfs the commuter-belt-gobshite election of Boris Johnson as London Mayor, pisses on the chips of David Cameron’s reign of smug greed and gives the Scottish Indie Referendum a good kicking down a long flight of stairs – at least it does if you’re not Scottish. And yet unlike all of those things I find myself, for once, a bit lost.

Unlike any other vote I’ve had to make, or abstain from, the Brexit one is being fought almost entirely on hypotheticals. Both sides have done so much to drown out reasonable argument that actual, current issues are a side-note to the wanderings of wild imaginations and idle daydreams. Fantasies of either united Utopias across the Old World or dark and sinister machinations to rule us all are being variously hyped up, damned, denied or asserted to the point where anything you can think to say seems almost valid in the wider conversation. For example ‘Jean-Claude Juncker is a genetically modified lizard sent from the past by Stalin to turn Europe into a vast greenhouse suitable only for a new master race of giant geckos’. Nonsense, right? Absolutely, probably, but compared to the real world propaganda generated by both sides in this debate it’s almost a moderate accusation to make. A sense of the absurd that I’d half respect if it weren’t centered around something that could actually matter. Against the current level of hysteria though the shine has been taken off of mad prophesies and declarations.

Against that backdrop of the surreal I’ve been doing my best to find some truth to back what decision I might make.

By nature, by tradition, or perhaps just by my own idle fantasies I’d assumed that I would easily fall into the Pro-EU camp. For all it’s faults the EU is, after all, a unifying force in a continent that is well aware of it’s own divided past. In fact as a diplomatic entity it could do almost anything and as long as it didn’t step over the threshold into all out internecine warfare it would still be a more noble establishment than what we’ve had for most of our history as a vaguely coherent continent. And through my own politics you can layer onto that an innate desire to endorse anything which hints at the sort of solidarity between people that could progress into a greater, more equal union. Those ideals, those dreams have a heavy allure for all on the Left and most others who think of Europe as a potential yet to be manifested, or even as a counter to the threats of our history.

Dreams, however, have the decided disadvantage of not really being real. Hyperbole about the potential for continent wide warfare in the advent of a Leave vote aside, the diminished threat of conflict is as much a product of the times as of any particular organisation or self-declared ideal. Trade, capital and a marginally more enlightened population are the real shields against death and destruction. The rich have little incentive to start rucks between developed countries, markets don’t thrive when they’re being bombed to fuck and those in the West generally are, for the most part, too lucrative to do without. And those deemed not worth the effort of maintaining peace in are in no way protected by the EU beyond the value of their economic contribution. The Ukraine and the EU’s alternating interference and indifference towards it’s division is a case in point. Whatever you make of that convoluted and confused situation it’s fairly clear that the ideal of European solidarity doesn’t extend to expensive and unrewarding efforts. At least not where they only threaten those whose financial clout isn’t up to the standards of the major players.

Solidarity too is a dreamlike ideal which has been shown to fade away in the cold light of day. In Greece the economic crisis became a robbery as any support offered came at crippling prices which are inflicted directly upon the Greek people themselves in the form of harsh austerity. Aid there was expressed in the way the EU as a body understands best – as a neo-liberal reformation/robbery of the state. The same sort of treatment that a lot of people came to hate in the Thatcher era and which still quietly defines the mentality of the European Union and it’s central actors. To hope for that to change is a step too far into optimism for me and to believe that that asset stripping habit can be challenged is, as the Greeks will tell you, a lost hope.

Beyond that there’s also the looming threat of TTIP, a potentially terrifying trade agreement which, at the moment, seems to be so nebulous as to cover almost anything with the one certainty being that its effects wouldn’t be good for the vast majority of us. Made worse by the secrecy surrounding the negotiations on it, details of which seem to seep out with all the disturbing covertness of a spy film. What is known though paints a picture of rampant profiteering as our ‘socialistic’ health services are opened up to US style competition, our food standards diminished to the point of increased profitability for major corporations and our jobs farmed away to those parts of the world where Labour laws and workers’ rights are less robust than they are here.

It’s another declaration of neo-liberal intent as the ‘free’ market is conceded to beneath the vague and flimsy disguise of ‘openness’. The language and ideas of what the EU could be at its best once again subverted by the far more grubby reality of what it’s actually turning out to be. Which isn’t to say that that particular assault on our services and expectations of the faded social contract wouldn’t still manifest outside of the EU. But for what minimal hope it offers there could at least be a more direct resistance to it aimed at our own parliament than at the vast array of states involved in EU discussions, who by sheer weight of will can happily ignore protests from their own populations. In a better world, in a better economic system that could be reversed – there could be real solidarity among European workers in resistance to backroom deals like this but unfortunately we don’t live in that better world at the moment. Capital, in all it’s forms, is on the attack and from Greece to the UK the battles we’re having to fight are ones of basic self-defence. And it’s very, very hard to look at, for example, the current struggle to protect Junior Doctor’s working conditions in the UK, or hold back the natural Tory inclination towards privatization and carpet bagging and believe that we can reverse that fight overnight and set up a real resistance Europe wide to a TTIP deal endorsed by the US and all the forces of wealth within the EU.

The next dream that seems to have faded to nothing is the idea of Humanitarianism. The recent refugee crisis has become proof positive of the EU’s attitudes. There have been marginal attempts by member states to live up to some higher ideal of concern and support for our fellow humans but more and more they seem to ring hollow. Angela Merkel’s generosity in welcoming refugees into Germany is, in a lot of ways, admirable. It doesn’t take a huge cynic to speculate that there were more than a few economic reasons behind it, bringing in an influx of fairly cheap labour to bolster yet another ageing European population. But for those who made it Germany is certainly a far preferable option to wherever they were escaping from. The right wing backlash in Germany and a lot of other places is self-evident though. Anti-refugee and, in some cases, near Fascist parties have been gaining ground all over the place and the EU and its member states have done little if anything to counter that. Whatever inherent morals the organisation may claim have had no effect in practice and as the far right marches on there’s even less hope that attitudes will change. Beyond, of course, the occasional concession where the demands of money and the needs of refugees converge and one branch of Capital asserts itself over it’s rivals.

The zenith of that anti-humanitarian effort to date has been the deal struck with Turkey and, more specifically, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a bastard of the highest order. A cop out response to hold refugees back from the European ‘mainland’ by farming out their care to the seldom loving hands of Istanbul’s thief in chief. Currently building himself up as Europe’s favourite autocrat Erdoğan has basically been thrown a massive boon to his own popularity in the form of free movement for Turkish people within the Schengen zone. A useful counter-balance to his suppression of opposition, personal corruption, screwing up of the economy and often shady and routinely brutal attitude towards the Kurds, not to mention the frequently rumoured and occasionally borne out manipulation of ISIS.

Being out of Schengen this obviously doesn’t apply to the UK and besides, I’m all for the free movement of people, but the underhand evasion of humanitarian responsibility by palming it off on one of the least suitable people you could find does reflect back on us. Morally we’re harmed by the deal, practically refugees are and in giving Erdoğan a prop to his precarious government the Turkish people may not come out of it too well either.

(Almost) finally on to the one driving factor which doesn’t find its source in the world of dreams and high ideals being corrupted – the economy. I can’t talk on this one with any real confidence, in fact it seems almost no one can. Both the Remain and Leave factions have strung together such ridiculous narratives about the potential effect of a Brexit on the UK that the actual truth is as elusive as a pig at a house party hosted by David Cameron. The prophets of doom say that international Capital, robbed of incentives by the UK not being in the EU will abandon ship like a legion of rats. The hysterics on the other side say that free from EU edicts Capital will come flooding in to revel in an independent and malleable economy. Neither or both could be true to varying degrees, given that money doesn’t act in unison – you can guarantee though that either way some interests will be well served whilst others are harmed and any price there is to be paid will be projected firmly downwards at the rest of us. A fact that those with vested interests are well aware of and more than happy to point out in their blunt threats about what will happen if their side loses the Brexit vote. That’s an old tactic though and one most recently used in relation to the Scottish Referendum but which bubbles up whenever there’s talk of taxes, Socialism or even the forces of high finance being obliged to pay their own way. Capital loves to remind us all how easily the rug could be pulled out from under us and there’s no doubt that it could be – tanking an economy is no great ask when you control the lion’s share of it. But, as I mentioned, there’s more than one strand to Capital and they’re seldom in accord with each other. What’s more there’s a definite tendency to cry wolf when it comes to public interaction with or control over the economy, one that’s reliant on us all forgetting just how much money is made out of the UK and, more importantly, how much would be lost if certain interests decided to withdraw from it. Remember, an industry like banking doesn’t exist in London solely out of the generosity of billionaires, it’s reliant on reputation, infrastructure, staff and relationships with power. And while I’m hardly a big fan of high finance or its effects I do know that to carry out any of the stated threats on a Leave vote would cost a huge, huge amount and you don’t need to know much to know that these groups really don’t like losing money.

What can be said with some degree of confidence is that, currently, we’ve got a Tory government who’ve shown themselves to be eager to push austerity, privatisation and US style open markets at every turn and who have in no way have been limited in that fixation by EU membership. If we did leave we’d still have that and it’s a matter of personal hope/hopelessness as to how much better off we’d be in our resistance. On the plus side though I would say that defending against TTIP would be a more viable struggle.

And that’s perhaps the hardest question to answer in reaching real conclusions on the Brexit vote – which path leads to a better end for the vast majority of us? That’s an issue which is couched in the mania we’re facing now from politicians and the media. We’re watching a battle play out between Cameron and Johnson, between Farage and everybody, between one branch of Capital and another. Looking at where we stand right now it’s hard not to conclude that we’ve got bastards on either side, each faction eagerly pursuing goals which we know will damage us all. Today isn’t tomorrow though. As simple as the media narrative seems determined to make it an out vote wouldn’t make Boris Johnson Prime Minister, an Out vote needn’t necessarily equate to a race to the bottom against US labour for the attentions of global Capital. Farage doesn’t get crowned at the end of all this and the French don’t start sending bombers over. What does happen – I have no idea – but right here, right now I’m inclined to put my faith in the people and believe that, if and when we leave the EU, we’ll be able to fight for a UK that’s different. A UK that doesn’t just play with words like Peace, Solidarity and Humanitarianism.

And failing that I look forward to living in the post-apocalyptic world.

Kuato Trump

Imagine, if your stomach can take it, being with Donald Trump on one of his wedding nights. Imagine standing there nervously as the big man strips down, discarding even his gold lame y-fronts and socks. Imagine that moment of self doubt as you wonder whether it was worth the gain to tie the knot with the millionaire Donald.

What lies beneath..?
What lies beneath..?

And then imagine that moment when the hair comes off and, beneath the synthetic weave, the darkest of rumours prove true. And there looking back/up at you from his baldy pate is a creature not entirely unlike Kuato from Total Recall. A groaning, wheezing homunculus, gasping for air once free of it’s stifling disguise. Eyeing you arrogantly and planning who knows what behind those beady, sinister eyes. Continue reading “Kuato Trump”

Beirut and Paris

It’s a couple of days after another mass murder in Paris. I wanted to write something about it, some prose or poetry to try and comprehend or frame the event with what I consider to be sanity, but then I realised I have nothing left to write. After Boko Haram undertook a slaughter in Nigeria I wrote something, after the attack on Charlie Hebdo I wrote something, after the Saudi bombing of Yemen and the numerous attacks in Afghanistan, I wrote something. This time though I’ve nothing new to add in abstracted attempts at communication. No new defence of humanity or appeal to our better natures. Because this feels more like a tired repeat than anything. And the same goes for the reaction to it. Continue reading “Beirut and Paris”

The Return of Our Lord and Saviour

As Tristram Hunt and Chukka Umunna rally the faithful to launch the Resistance to Jeremy Corbyn I figured I’d write this…

Tristram rested a hand on the pommel of his sword. He could afford the comfort of calmness now, he was home, at last, in sight of the great white cliffs of Dover. At the peak of which lay the crown of his expectations.

On the estates and farms, in shops and factories, branches of Waitrose and office blocks, his people awaited him. Desperate to break the shackles cast upon them by the Usurper, the thief, the rabble rouser who’d driven out their one true leader, him.

Yes, the time of his absence had been hard on them. Yoked to the plough of Corbyn, forced to dark Labours by his rabid followers who held no regard for the ancient rights of their betters. Bullied by uncouth barbarians in donkey jackets, flat caps and conspicuous by their refusal to wear a tie like they should. How could they not dream of his return? Singing the forbidden hymns in quiet moments, hidden from the heavy glare of thuggish union boot boys culled from the degenerate masses. Reciting tracts of virtue and Agas smuggled to them by the resolute exiles of Comment is Free as if the beacon of civility could keep them warm in their long, hard Autumn of discontent. Oh what triumphs would be declared! What exultations of joy would be heard when their rightful ruler delivered to them the treasures of sensible private sector involvement and true consensus government in the realm!

And to the traitors? The agitating barrow boys, reckless youths and belligerent peasantry? A swift death. For a true ruler could not be without mercy. And the ten thousand screaming Guardian readers at his back would see that their resistance would be but fleeting. Recruited from their poor exile in Provence with barely half a tonne of Quinoia and a copy of ‘Unspeakable Things’ to their name their blood-lust shocked even Tristram himself.  Especially that of the Lady of Kendall, who by her own hands had already shed the blood of many a Corbynite whilst he himself had sought refuge in exile, alongside the Lord Chukka and his strange coterie of tabloid intriguing adherents. But their loyalty was treasured and did they not have cause enough for revenge? Was it not their investment properties that had been rent controlled? Their free schools that had been handed back to the vile masses? Necessity demanded that they be offered flesh in payment for such slights. And, as ever, justice was a ruler’s duty. As was resistance.

Tristram smiled to himself. The end was nigh and things could only get better.