Saturday 2 November 2019

On The Rebound.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, They're Yours: Is there any person more vulnerable than a jilted lover on the rebound? Or, anything more certain than that the charmer, the predator, the glib spinner of lies and promises will seek such broken people out? Yes, of course, he will love every one of them truly, madly, deeply and forever. If only they will give him their vote.

WHILE NEW ZEALANDERS were kicking-back over Labour Weekend, Germans and Argentinians were kicking out. In what is fast becoming a familiar story, “normal” politics has been suspended, incumbents unseated, and voter anger given free rein.

In German states dominated since re-unification by the centre-right Christian Democrats, the far-right AFD (Alternative for Germany) has surged ahead. In Argentina, the political descendants of quintessential populist, Juan Peron, have been returned to power by a vengeful electorate grown weary of neoliberal austerity. Everywhere the centre’s hold is tested – as things fall apart.

There was a time when growing inequality and entrenched poverty would have seen the Left swept into power. Why isn’t that happening? What has the Left done to put its traditional supporters in the electoral market for new friends and causes? The shortest and the most brutal explanation: the Left has abandoned them.

Not rhetorically, it must be said. When elections roll around, talk of solidarity and commitment is heard everywhere. The glorious past is invoked and the grimy glass behind which the old heroes still smile benignly is given its triennial clean. For many, the rhetoric is enough. That number, however, is dwindling. For more and more voters around the world the rhetoric of the traditional centre-left parties is not enough – nowhere near enough.

What they, quite rightly, suspect is that the leaders of the traditional working-class parties don’t really understand them anymore. This is hardly surprising. The incomes and lifestyles of legislators lifts them far above the stress-filled, cash-strapped lives of the people who are expected to vote for them. In Western countries particularly, it is now most unusual to find a member of the legislature without a university degree. Legislators who have risen to political office from anything other than a professional background are even rarer. The socio-economic gulf between the great mass of ordinary voters and their parliamentary representatives grows ever-wider.

What’s worse, many of these voters have begun to suspect that “their” party doesn’t even like them anymore. The worldview of the well-paid, highly-educated, professional politician is, they are pretty sure, radically different from their own. So different, in fact, that they have real difficulty in identifying anything about their electoral base that they could honestly say they admired. While the world of these “left-wing” legislators is chock-full of “tolerance” and “diversity”, their perception of the world inhabited by their party’s traditional supporters is of a place grunting obscenely with prejudice and hate. Hillary Clinton branded them “deplorables”. Less euphemistic centre-leftists call them sexists, homophobes and white supremacists.

That immigration policy has, in so many Western democracies, become the issue over which the traditional centre-left parties have finally parted company with their traditional supporters is not accidental. The emotions charging this issue are simple and raw: as raw and simple as the break-up of a love affair. Traditional voters for the centre-left parties feel abandoned and betrayed; their long-standing trust and affection cast aside in favour of a whole new slew of demographics: younger, smarter and allegedly free of prejudice and hate. Even worse, some of these new demographics are being invited to move in next door!

How else to explain the former Communist Party voters of France who now vote for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National? The former supporters of the German social-democratic party, the SPD, who now vote for the neo-fascist AFD? The former Great Society Democrats who now vote for Donald Trump?

When the party you love and trust: the party that made sure you had a good job and a decent place to live; the party that guaranteed your kids a better economic future than their parents’; turns suddenly into something else. When it tells you, sadly, like the guy in the Bruce Springsteen song: “Those jobs are going boys – and they ain’t coming back”? Well that’s when you and your workmates, your neighbours, your congregation, begin to ask: “How did it happen?” and “Why did it happen?” and “Who do we fight?”

Is there any person more vulnerable than a jilted lover on the rebound? Or, anything more certain than that the charmer, the predator, the glib spinner of lies and promises will seek such broken people out? Yes, of course, he will love every one of them truly, madly, deeply and forever.

If only they will give him their vote.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 1 November 2019.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

" Less euphemistic centre-leftists call them sexists, homophobes and white supremacists."

As many of them are. But I guarantee they would probably put up with a bit of equality for women, gay people and brown people if only the left would concentrate on economic policy that benefited them. But it has accepted that outmoded neoliberal philosophy that even economists now are coming to believe is bullshit and can't seem to shake it off. That's because it's too beholden to the deplorables of the Business Roundtable in its various iterations round the world.
Interesting new research around suggesting that in the US at least, even if ordinary people are a majority in favour of something, they won't get it because business interests have far more influence on governments than they do. Particularly as in the US, money is now regarded as freedom of speech. Thank God we haven't disappeared down that rabbit hole quite yet.

Shane McDowall said...

" What do we want?" "Land rights for transgender dolphins!" "When do we want it?" "Now!"

I did not leave the Labour Party, the Labour Party left me.

If they had a socialist, he/she would be lonely.

Jens Meder said...

Perhaps this "surge towards the extreme Right" is due to the tepidly vacillating leadership between the centrist Left and Right -
with no radically visionary leadership from the very Center of the traditional political spectrum between feudalistic or elite clique based capitalism of the extreme Right and totalitarianistic state monopoly capitalism of the extreme Left ?

The absolute, rock-solid Center between these wealth ownership and management based extremes is clearly defined by at least a minimally meaningful or higher level of personal capital (i.e. wealth) ownership by all citizens eventually.

Make that an election issue - and let us see whether it attracts votes increasingly or not.

Anonymous said...

Good article Chris. In terms that you have previously expressed, who does Waitakere (wo)man see as representing them? Look at those currently in the House. How many on Labour side have a genuine trades background? Even Gerry Brownlee was a chippie. Most Labour members there went from activists to soft subject degree (or union official) to politics. They have no idea of what the home owning folks in suburbia or provincial NZ think. No wonder people like John Key and Paula Bennett are so popular. They can be identified as more middle class than Labour's Cabinet ever do.
Chris Morris

John Hurley said...

They’re immigrants to Canada. So why are they supporting far-right parties that want to reduce immigration?

We want Canada to remain the country we immigrated to, not to become more like the countries we left. Cultures are not equal; some are better than others, at least from our perspective

So help newcomers to assimilate culturally; accept immigrants at a rate you can assimilate

greywarbler said...

Well put Chris I think that's it on the nail. And I am sure the upper middle class and higher don't like the lower class any more. And this might show itself in families riven by the extra education, aspirations and remuneration that the uppers are looking to receive. compared to the traditional side leaving school at 15 and taking factory, retail or what work is available.

They have parents unwilling to advise them on best ways to face their future. and they themselves are not motivated to achieve a tertiary skill. They many not feel poverty, but tend to suffer setbacks through having little spare money to achieve the ease of the wealthier side of the family, the more cerebral, ambitious ones.

Geoff Fischer said...

If women or gays had no representation in parliament it would be a public talking point, and something would be done about it.
But the working class being unrepresented in parliament goes unremarked and even unnoticed.
The reason is simple enough.
If you are elected to parliament as a woman, you do not cease to be a woman. If elected as a gay person, you do not stop being gay.
But if you are working class, you definitively cease to be working class the moment you arrive in the offices of parliament.
So by definition there can be no working class members of parliament. All the working class can hope for is a politician or a party which will take them seriously. Most often these days, they find such people on the far right.
In the end, though, the right will prove just as much of a disappointment to the working class as the left has been, and the working class is slowly but surely coming to realize that their problem does not lie in particular politicians or parties, but in the political system as a whole. The best that they can expect from a system of which they are not part is benign paternalism (or maternalism as the case may be).
The system has to come to an end, and it is coming to an end, despite the frantic efforts of left-wing pundits to sell the false notion that a left-wing government is, if not a positive good, at least the lesser of two evils.

Jens Meder said...

Haha Geoff Fisher.
Whatever governing system or ideology is coming to an end -

no new social system can do without the economic basics of capitalism, i.e. saving and investment for whatever is thought to be needed or desired beside the (hand-to-mouth) needs for daily survival -
unless the "new" system reverts to the pre-historic hunting, gathering and cave dwelling way of life of our distant ancestors, when there was still enough unoccupied space to keep it sustainable without the application of capitalism.

So, what kind of capitalism can you imagine - or propose - to supersede and improve on our current management of capitalism ?

Anonymous said...

GS comments encapsulate perfectly why the tradies have abandoned Labour. Nothing like insulting them to get them to return, is there? Almost as bad as calling them deplorables (which I note he also does).
Chris Morris

Olwyn said...

The core problem is this: the socially liberal middle class left has a place within the neoliberal order, and the working class do not. So middle class liberals are better off retaining their relationship with the status quo, while the working class's only chance of being better off lies in opposing it. The working class's power base has been systemically eroded - first, manufacturing jobs go overseas, leaving the less lucrative service jobs. Then it turns out to be cheaper to import people to do those jobs as well. At some point they have to stand up for themselves, but the socially liberal middle class cannot afford to support them without risking the patronage they currently enjoy.

It is all very well to use terms like vibrancy and diversity to describe warehousing low-paid immigrants in places like Grenfell Towers, and to insist that the equally displaced working class are racists for feeling threatened. However middle class liberals will squawk at least as loudly as anyone else if they get dropped by the current order, or are not seen as useful to any order that rises to replace it.

David George said...

There is a lot of dishonesty in some of these labels. "Far right" has become demonised but what does it really mean? Many of those tarred with that epithet are perfectly reasonable people that believe, for example, in the importance of personal responsibility, the value of the nation state, freedom of religion and speech and the primacy of the individual as sovereign. To lump them in with ethno nationalists is as grossly unfair as it is to include the traditional left with radical trans activists or the destructive (burn it all down and start again) or authoritarian left; folk the middle and working class or conservative immigrants see, not unreasonably, as completely insane.
Unfortunately for Labour (and other mainstream Western left parties) that is how they are increasingly perceived.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"GS comments encapsulate perfectly why the tradies have abandoned Labour. Nothing like insulting them to get them to return, is there? Almost as bad as calling them deplorables (which I note he also does)."
Oh dear. I said that many of them were racist, homophobic, and sexist. I didn't say all of them, but I meet racists, homophobes, and sexists every day. You must move on more exalted circles Chris/anonymous.
I also said the "deplorables of the Business Roundtable". I wouldn't for one second equate them with tradies – exactly the opposite in fact – they are the money men. Perhaps if you spent a little more time reading what I wrote, rather than getting angry about it?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Far right" has become demonised but what does it really mean?"

It means so-called ethno-nationalists, neo-Nazis, or as I prefer to call them – Nazis. In my lexicon it also covers libertarians but that's perhaps another matter. No one as far as I know is tarring your average National party voter with that label. And I think it's dishonest to accuse people of doing that without providing some sort of evidence.
On the other hand, with the Overton window where it is, even moderate lefties like me are characterised as "extreme left" and if you bother to go back and read some of Chris's earlier columns you would find people like Charles saying exactly that.

On the other hand:
"importance of personal responsibility, the value of the nation state, freedom of religion and speech and the primacy of the individual as sovereign."
The ordinary right values these things right up until it doesn't. The ordinary right is trying to crush free speech all over the world, as 30 seconds of googling would show you. The ordinary right is destroying the nation state by allowing large companies influence over governments, the ordinary right is all for personal responsibility, as long as it's poor people who have to take it not rich ones.
The extreme right is small but growing and outright dangerous, the ordinary right is larger and much more insidious.

David Stone said...

I would be pretty sure that Jacinda in particular, but all the labour politicians there now do genuinely want to make a fairer society,providing all the things they promise.
The problem is that they don't know how to bring it about. They don't have the confidence or the nous or the courage make the comprehensive changes that would be needed. And they would be taking on the power of the western world's established structure , and the world's financial and trading structure to do so.
It will all have to collapse under the weight of it's own fallacies before any country not forced into isolation and self sufficiency ; together with the military competence of a country like Russia or China to be allowed to be independent and self sufficient. Otherwise the fate of Syria , Iraq , Libya , Venezuela or Cuba awaits.
Multinational companies and banks are now much more wealthy than nations, and wield far more influence on world affairs.
That was the inevitable result of the neoliberal doctrine of small government and inviting commercial interests to run all the activities and control all the resources that the state once saw as appropriate for itself to run because they were essential to everyone's lives and natural monopolies.
The fox has been running the chicken coop for a long time now. The administration is not likely to change before tha last chicken is eaten.

David George said...

A recent essay looks at the divide between the people and the "Elite"
"I bet these people miss the days before political correctness when one word would have been enough to communicate their feelings about the poor, the uneducated and the old: scum. This classism and ageism is not restricted to out-of-touch columnists, of course. It now infuses many middle-class people’s thinking. The hatred for the old is especially visceral. Last week a poll found that 47 per cent of Brits aged between 16 and 34 believe that old people should be prevented from voting on big issues like Brexit or Scottish independence. There’s a website tracking how many old Brexit voters have died since 2016. Ian McEwan has joked about the death of the elderly idiots who voted Leave. This borderline eugenicist hatred for the elderly is one of the most poisonous sentiments in Brexit Britain.

There is class hatred, too. Attend a People’s Vote march and you will see the well-educated middle classes boasting about how the slogans on their placards are at least spelt correctly. ‘The masses didn’t know what they were voting for’ is the most common refrain of the reactionary Remainer lobby".

And a very good short documentary featuring interviews with working people; their hopes and fears. Deplorables: Trump, Brexit and the Demonised Masses.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The masses didn’t know what they were voting for"

Damn right they didn't. They were lied to from day one by brexit leaders who stand to make a huge amount of money betting against the British pound if and when it happens, and probably have made a huge amount of money given the pound's demise since it became a probability. And now of course they are lying about what they said. That arse Farage has several statements on record that he has directly contradicted today, particularly around how smoothly it's all going to go and how good it will be. Now he is claiming he never said them even though it's definitely on record. Unluckily for him and people like him, things don't get lost like they used to.

And they are still crapping on about "unelected European bureaucrats" which is bullshit. How many people elect their bureaucrats outside of the US? It's all smoke and bloody mirrors. There is a meme which of course you can't post on this archaic website that goes something like this.

"Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall and Nigel Farage both knew about the problems English fishermen were having, Hugh went and organised a petition with 800,000+ signatures which got the EU to change its wasteful fishing policy. Nigel Farage couldn't be arsed turning up to more than one of the 42 meetings about fishing policy held by the EU parliament, which could have done something about it."
Not to mention that Farage concocted a publicity stunt about it using a trawler owned by a company that's been had up for fraud and illegal catching of fish.

And they crap on about sovereignty. If Britain did have sovereignty, they couldn't leave – end of story.
It's interesting that brexit is anti-migrant, considering those who voted for it mostly come from places that haven't seen a migrant, so I'm tempted to think that yes it is racist.

People are simply being taken in by lying populists. And while one can sympathise with their hopes and fears, many of them have nothing to do with the EU except in their own minds. It's the lastgasp hopefully, of those people who hanker for the 1950s when everyone was white, and within living memory Britain used to rule the world. You can't go back.

David George said...

Thanks for your comments GS but these labels are used more commonly than you believe.
Chris in this column referred to the AFD as far right and neo fascists, I've even heard Don Brash called far right.
ADF are opposed to globalisation, multi national corporations and support the nation state, traditional values and the family. Though there may be some support for them from some extremists their policies are quite mainstream and certainly not fascist or any where near it. It would be just as misleading to call the NZ Labour party communists though there may be a few holding a torch for that old fool Marx in their ranks.

sumsuch said...

'Not presenting a target' is the real motto of modern Labour. Great, but the opposite to doing the task necessary. Beneath … the imminent end.

Geoff Fischer said...

Jens Meder
The context of my comment should have made it clear to you that I see the western political system - "representative democracy" - as being in a state of rapid decline and incipient or actual crisis, and my comment was directed towards the failure of the political system, not the economic system which is successfully hanging in there for the time being.
However the economic system (neo-liberal capitalism) also has its problems, and I would not be surprised if the final crisis of western society turns out to be a joint crisis of the political and economic systems which would necessitate a revolutionary transformation of society. I would not presume to speculate on exactly what form that revolutionary change would take. You obviously have your own ideas on how society could constructively respond to the collapse of the present order, and good luck to you on that, but many would be sceptical of your proposals.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"ADF are opposed to globalisation, multi national corporations and support the nation state, traditional values and the family"

So did Hitler and the Nazis. They are prime examples of Nazi policies. If you are going to pick out points of difference between the AFD and the Nazis you better come up with something actually different. Because it seems to me they are also racist, homophobic, and misogynists. Perhaps you could supply some evidence to the contrary?

David George said...

Dear O dear GS, when you have to resort to making up conspiracy theories you've well and truly lost it - the argument that is.
"Brexit is about independence from unelected power over our decisions. National independence is an essential condition for democracy and socialism. It is something which millions have sacrificed their lives for throughout the world. Yet any opposition to parliament’s attempts to act against the majority will of the people has been stereotyped as ‘right wing’.

In a painful twist, the Fixed Term Parliament Act, passed by the coalition government in 2011, in the hope that it would extend the Liberal Democrats’ moment of glory, did the very illiberal thing it was designed to do – it made it impossible for the people to hold their MPs to account by recalling them.

To the very last, the Remainers are undermining democracy and resisting accountability. Remainers made Theresa May’s deal. Remainers opposed the May deal. Remainers opposed No Deal. Remainers will continue to oppose Boris Johnson’s deal. Yet now they face an election, and the people can finally pass their judgement."

Doug Nicholls, chair of Trade Unionists Against the EUs

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Sorry Kiwi Dave, your last statement doesn't make any sense. Particularly the conspiracy theory thing, and I'm assuming it's the moneymaking aspect you're talking about here. Because people have already made money betting against the pound. It's all over the news sites, from the Guardian to sites that even you would approve of. 30 seconds googling will lead you to these.
As to the rest – it seems both inaccurate and irrelevant and is a cut-and-paste job. The EU was no more undemocratic than the British government.

David George said...

Yes GS, the body of my comment was a "cut and paste" and included a link to the full essay by a British trades unionist. Well worth a read in full as it makes the case for British independence from a left wing perspective. Some very good historical information right back to the earliest push for emancipation; the Agreement of the People in 1649 – the Levellers’ manifesto.
Most of it will resonate with you I'm sure:
"Our elected representatives in parliament duly began stripping parliament and the people of our sovereign powers. First, in October 1979 – another, more devastating anniversary this month – Margaret Thatcher did the quintessential EU thing and removed constraints on the movement of capital. The genie was out of the bottle and a new breed of financiers and globalisers ran rampant. ‘Hark what discord followed’ as the real economy was pulled apart, public assets were sold off, and public services were put into incompetent, private hands. Super-profits went untaxed in offshore havens and the happy billionaires emerged. Even the annual Sunday Times Rich List had to be expanded from 200 entries to 1,000 to account for the egregious wealth at the top.

In 1986, the Tories signed Britain up to the Single European Act, consigning public procurement to the lowest bidders overseas, making market customers of us all. Stunned by the ferocity of Thatcher’s attack on the unions, in 1988 the TUC thought Jacques Delors sounded nice. They then started the long process of deluding organised workers that our salvation lay with those we don’t elect in the European Commission. Twenty years later, the European Court of Justice made it clear that workers’ collective rights were inferior to the rights of businesses in a number of landmark rulings."

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well, indeed that does make more sense. But I suspect that by 1986 the damage had already been done by Thatcher and her neoliberal minions. Most countries in the EU are in fact less neoliberal than Britain. They haven't imposed austerity on their countries for years and years, although of course the Germans insist that others do it. Seems to me the main problem with the EU is the common currency. If Greece had been allowed to devalue for instance they'd been a lot better shape today. You see there you go Britain already had various exemptions from EU regulations including the single currency. I think you're blaming the EU for Thatcher's determination to privatise the economy and destroy the unions. Unions actually flourish in Germany and France comparatively speaking.