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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Challenging TINA and the "Comfort Zone"

This blog has a policy of not commenting on current affairs but, given what I have written about political systems, it would be strange indeed if I didn't look at the leadership contest which currently has the British public on the edge of their seats......   
The British Labour Party lost lost May’s General Election (particularly badly in Scotland where a wipe-out left it with a sole seat) and was immediately plunged into yet another leadership contest (its last was in 2010). Three of the candidates are “look-alikes” of the sort which have led most European social democratic parties to recent defeat….
The fourth candidate is a contrarian MP (of 32 years' parliamentary experience) - Jeremy Corbyn - who only entered the contest because it was his turn to be the left’s “sacrificial lamb”. Astonishingly he has taken the contest and indeed the country by storm – giving voice to a frustration felt not only within the Labour Party but in Europe as a whole with what has passed for politics in the past couple of decades. 

Here is a column about his reception this weekend in Scotland and here a more predictable paean from The New Statesman – the standard bearer of the British soft left.

Jeremy Corbyn has been under most people’s radar for most of the time – Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill, George Galloway, Michael Meacher, Ken Livingstone, Dianne Abbott and Derek Hatton were the leftist figures the British media (and right-wing people) loved to hate and demonise….. so it’s been a brilliant tactic for this guy to outsmart the pack and pop up from nowhere……They just can’t get a handle on him…..and he exudes such calm....shows that our concepts of leadership need revision (again)........

Given what I’ve been writing about the failure of the left in the past decade, it’s fairly obvious I would now salute Corbyn’s victory – even granted the reaction it would cause in the British and global power systems. My little book The Global Crisis – Telling it as it is tries to map the key elements in the collapse of the political and economic systems we used to know as the "mixed economy" and "liberal democracy"
We are sick to the back teeth with “New Labour's” endless focus grouping and “triangulations”…..we just want to get back to good old principle and the honourable negotiating which is part of the give and take of any sensible politics. 

But three-time election winner Tony Bliar popped up last week to tell people like me that we needed to move out of or "comfort zone" . What he means is that the decisions of thousands of bond-holders trump electoral power - and derisively so; and that the scale of sell-offs of public assets to the "private sector" is impossible to reverse...

And this is something I just don't see the left dealing with.....Jeremy Corbyn has set out a good agenda - not least taking rail back into public ownership. But people don't have to go back 30 years to the Mitterand experience to be reminded of of the power of global capital. It was in front of our eyes just a few weeks ago in the immediate aftermath of the July Greek referendum - and the ignominious acceptance by the Greek government of the punishing policies to stay in the euro.....

I would respect Jeremy even more if, in addition to his programme, he had the courage to deal with this publicly and say something about how to deal with such an obvious scenario. In the absence of this, the accusation about comfort zones rings true......on the other side of the coin those who know their history understand that, every generation or so, the conventional wisdom does tend to be turned on its head - or has noone read Taleb's The Black Swan....?????  

One of the purposes of my book (and website - Mapping the Common Ground) is to try to identify ways of extracting ourselves from what one writer called The Global Minotaur. With the exception of one school of thinking, virtually all writers spend their time, space and energy on description and analysis - and have nothing serious to say about "solutions". 

In that sense they confirm the fatalism of Margaret Thatcher's famous TINA assertion - "there is no alternative!........
I said there was one exception to this fatalism - it is those who base their thinking on the "end of growth" premise...........

update - George Monbiot presents here a good analysis of why Corbyn is having such an impact - the discussion thread is also worthwhile - and this Guardian podcast contains an excellent discussion of the Corbyn phenomenon – although my non-British readers may have difficulties with the (speed of the) regional accents. Positive reaction also from an unlikely source to his economic pitch.

update; Corbyn was elected with a huge majority - although that did not stop many senior of his parliamentary colleagues from quickly declaring war on his policy of getting rid of the Trident nuclear weapon system. Here is a rare voice of british journalistic common sense on the matter

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