Follow the reluctant adventures in the life of a Welsh astrophysicist sent around the world for some reason, wherein I photograph potatoes and destroy galaxies in the name of science. And don't forget about my website, www.rhysy.net



Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Everything Is Awful


During most elections I like to stay up late into the small hours of the morning hoping to know the result as soon as possible. I rather enjoy watching all the various silly graphics, hyperbolic speeches (does anyone else remember Peter Mandelson's, when he threatened that his enemies would taste his "inner steel ?" that was amusing...) and trying to make mountains out of molehills as every new result comes in. It's fun because I have a stake in the result and a clear preference for the winner but, even in the worst case, I don't think things will get more than "quite a bit worse" whatever the result. Mostly.

I don't think I'll be watching the coverage this time, because there's no realistic possibility of getting a result which isn't utterly awful. In fact I've never been less eager to know the result of an election.

Not being a Tory voter and anticipating that my readership isn't either, I don't see much point in dwelling on just how awful I find the current crop of Tory leaders and their policies. In short :


But, if more is needed, austerity is stupid. I guess it's OK if there's a short-term budget shortfall that needs to be balanced quickly, but as a long term plan for economic growth it just plain sucks. Sure, let's cut all the services that are of most use to the poor, because that'll incentivise 'em to get off their lazy backsides. Let's force 'em back to work, because slavery's OK if it's done to poor people. Let's discriminate against immigrants from poorer European countries because wealth is how we measure virtue, and then, because this totally makes sense, let's also discriminate against skilled foreign workers just because they're earning less than £35,000 a year and then - and this is the really clever bit - let's claim we're not xenophobic idiots ! Spectacular. While we're at it, let's bring back fox hunting for a laugh, piss off the entire European political bloc, suck up to Donald Trump, ban encryption and make pornography illegal just because screw you, that's why.

Inspiring stuff.

Then we've got the Labour party. Never did I think there would come a day when I looked at Labour and thought, "yep, they're just as bad". Now, let me clear - most of their policies are a damn sight better than the Tories. I like their anti-austerity approach. I like their pledge to cut university tuition fees, introduce a corporation tax and re-nationalise the railways. I don't think all of these are entirely practical (in particular I think their economic approach consists largely of wishful thinking) or that they'd achieve all of their goals as well as stated, but if it was a case of voting purely on policies, Labour would win hands down. Unfortunately, it isn't.

The problem for Labour is trust and ability. I've said all this before several times. Since no-one is listening, let me just summarise because when the faeces hit the proverbial fan - and they will - I'll point to this post and say "I FRICKIN' TOLD YOU SO YOU DUNCE SEE THIS ANGRY RANT AND LINKS THEREIN FOR DETAILS YOU BLITHERING IDIOT !". So at least I'll have that moment of bitter pleasure as the country goes the way of Atlantis.


Corbyn's policies - leaving aside the (credible) prospect of returning too much power to the unions and threatening us with nationwide strikes every five minutes - are ideologically opposed to much of what we've seen in British politics for the last many elections. At last, those of us of the same leanings thought on his election victory, a chance for us to have a real voice, to start something really new. What did he do ? After the first leadership election, sod all. He continued doing sod all throughout the Brexit campaign. He had a fantastic, unprecedented opportunity to start building a real social movement for a new type and form of politics, and he completely and utterly wasted it. The current Tory crop were never popular, but instead of taking advantage he just sort of sat there, shuffling his feet and presumably growing amusing vegetables in his allotment.

In fact he did nothing much of anything except when his "power" was under threat. MPs were threatened with deselection, his own innumerable rebellions dismissed as matters of principle whilst insisting that the party follow his line, resorting to "I was elected with a mandate of blah blah blah" as though it were some kind of insanely powerful magical chant that could ward off evil spirits and awkward questions whenever the least bit threatened. That his own MPs were all democratically elected as well, and had principles of their own, he cared not a jot. Did he even challenge the naked xenophobic racism of UKIP during the Brexit campaign ? Not really. Even UKIP's own MP seemed to be more concerned than Corbyn did.

He won another election campaign but remained oblivious to his wider unpopularity. He ignored losing a vote of no confidence from his MPs as though somehow that would all just go away once he somehow won the election for them (which he later described as "rigged" but vowed to win anyway - oh, yay).

Well, it won't. You can't form a government from people who hate you. It doesn't matter how much you want to, or even why they hate you, you can't. What we'll get is a shambolic, impotent farce, and Corbyn won't care. What makes me think so ? Because he hasn't shown a glimmer of caring at all thus far in his leadership career. He didn't care about building up support in opposition - he cared only about his own position. If you think he's magically going to turn into some kind of Action Man as Prime Minister and start rallying the troops, you're going to be disappointed.

Except... maybe there are some troops he will rally : his own hardcore lunatic supporters. Corbyn is no socialist who cares about helping people, he's a Communist who cares about getting his own way. Every pattern of behaviour thus far indicates so. His similarities to Trump are, I believe, remarkable given his diametrically opposed style and policies.

Furthermore, Corbyn's initially novel approach of not always knowing what to say and being a bit socially awkward has long since given to way to, at best, just another form of classic political bullshit and often is just textbook-standard bullshit without anything the least bit interesting about it. He used to at least basically acknowledge that he couldn't answer questions; now he just answers different questions instead. Straight talking honest politics ?  It looks oh so much like standard spin doctoring to me I find it hard to tell the difference. It isn't even straightforward honest bullshit, because with most politicians at least everyone knows they're just spewing political crap that you're not supposed to take seriously.

Everything about this man and his cabinet, to me, screams, "DANGER ! DANGER !". There are two possibilities. Either he's chronically incompetent and apathetic, in which case Labour really will be annihilated at the election next time if not sooner, or he's actually villainous. The latter possibility is something I give serious credit to. There are just too many associations with terror groups, too many admissions and - ironically - denials which are quickly refuted and sheer bullshitting about alleged and documented meetings, too many times of giving terrorists organisations far more than grudging respect but an open hand of friendship. Corbyn wasn't involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland at all, so why are we now expected to believe that he was ? He never had any role in the Middle East peace process either, so what's he doing calling Hamas his friends ?

I'd love to believe this was all just Tory propaganda on a par with the time the Daily Mail called Ed Milliband's father "the man who hated Britain". That instance was ludicrous. It was so outrageous it even got Ed "hell yes I'm socially awkward !" Milliband fired up, for crying out loud. But Corbyn and the IRA ? The man doesn't bat an eyelid. Similar accusations toward Diane Abbott - a woman who continuously seems like a high school student giving her first presentation with zero rehearsals but who somehow thinks the oratory isn't important in politics - and John McDonnell are met with similar pathetic denials. Getting them to admit that terrorism is wrong is possible, but by God it's like pulling teeth from a donkey*. This pattern of behaviour is too consistent and too broad-ranging among Corbyn's cronies to dismiss as entirely fanciful. The absolute best-case scenario is a widespread track record of massive, massive incompetence and really utterly shite judgement. The worst case scenario doesn't bear thinking about. In either case, the idea of straight talking honest politics is just so ludicrous it's becoming frankly offensive to common sense.

*Likewise, you can read whatever Brexit policy you like best if you cherry-pick the right bits from Corbyn's occasional statements and don't care about statistics.

That's why, then, I don't think this election represents the clear choice it's being made out to be. Even between Milliband and Cameron, two relative centrists, the choice was far clearer. But now we've got the Nasty Party on the right and the impotent lunatic communist party of the left. Whoopdee-frickin'-doo-dah. 

This is far worse than the situation of voting for someone I just don't like very much. Sorry people, but I'm not that stupid - I do recognise the difference between things I dislike and things I'm morally opposed to. And the current leadership of Labour scare the bejesus out of me - yes, every bit as much as the Tories. It's not a case of choosing the lesser of two evils or of voting for the Labour party so that the Tories don't get in. I despise the Tory party, but Labour have gone and made themselves into something just as bad. That it's a different kind of bad does not remedy the level of badness : I'm not voting for them, and you shouldn't either.

Suppose the associations of terrorist sympathies are just overblown fanciful nonsense, touch wood. Then you still have a track record of chronic incompetence in the shadow cabinet led by a man who pretty much ignored the biggest political issue of this generation because he has the lunatic idea that the EU is all about crushing people beneath the mighty boot of capitalism. You have someone in charge who was not the slightest bit interested in holding the government to account in opposition, i.e. in doing his frickin' job. What in the blazes makes you think this is going to end well ? It won't. Hasn't got a hope in hell.

Best case for a Labour majority : an incompetent shambles of such a scale that it will be child's play for the press to turn against them, yes, even if the Tory party remain as bad as they are now. You might be voting for them purely on the basis that you prefer Labour's policies and genuinely don't care about the leaders, but if you do that you are handing the Labour party its own destruction on a silver platter.

Best case for a Labour-led coalition government ? Scarcely much better. Corbyn doesn't even listen to his own MPs so there's not much reason to think he'll listen other parties. And, much as I respect certain members of the SNP, I'm not entirely convinced that people who think Scottish independence is a good idea could act as any real kind of moderating force anyway.

Best case Labour loss with a Tory victory (or somehow another coalition) ? The best outcome, not improbable, would be that the Tories get a very small minority that could be challenged by backbench rebellions so that they won't keep molesting the populace on a daily basis without some restraint. Corbyn could finally see sense and leave and hand the torch of party reform on to someone who's not a communist. Unfortunately that latter prospect won't happen unless Labour's loss is devastating (thus giving us five years of unopposed rule by the Grand High Witch), because Corbyn takes the smallest signs of approval as absolute endorsements by the whole country and has a long track record of refusing to leave when it's patently obvious even to members of the Monster Raving Loony Party that he needs to go. So that isn't going to happen.

Best case long term realistic solution ? Labour have to split. Take a lesson from the Simpsons :


But most likely, for the next five years everything political is just going to suck. Sorry people, but it will. We're screwed.

Cheerio.


(Is there any ray of light at all ? Perhaps one. Now that he's got off his arse because his position is under threat, Corbyn has exposed the weakness and vulnerability of the Tory party. Austerity isn't popular and May doesn't look sensible. Left wing ideologies remain alive and well, but sadly, with tremendous irony, it looks very much as though Corbyn could inadvertently be the one to deal the death blow to left-wing politics.)

8 comments:

  1. A minority government can be a good thing in times of poor leadership. Any day a politician gets taken down a peg is a good day.

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    1. This was probably about the best result that could have happened. But a few more Tory losses would have made things a lot more interesting.

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  2. Couldn't disagree more with your stance on Corbyn,but your right, we are utterly screwed with whomever is leading the tory co-alition,( even the murdock papers have turned against her) and now we are in bed with the DUP? I don't think this is an outcome anyone would want,loOK at their stances of abortion, gay marriage ect, they are basically the republican party on steroids. So much for strong and stable, weak and wobbly more like,we'll get royaly screwed with any Brexit deals with this govt in charge.

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  3. the_last_name_left13 June 2017 at 07:22

    Your basic distinction seems to be between "socialism" and "communism".

    What do you mean by these terms that makes them so different?

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    1. I loosely define the difference to be one of choice. In a socialist society everyone gets the choice to use government-run services but can opt for others if they wish. In a communist system there isn't any choice; the state controls everything rather than providing alternatives.

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  4. the_last_name_left13 June 2017 at 19:49

    I'm sympathetic to your politics but on this I don't recognise what you say - it doesn't seem rooted in the history and discourse of socialism. And as a matter of fact, presently there aren't any non-state alternatives to the benefits system, for instance, or the Inland Revenue, or the Army, or whatever......and it's hard to see how there could be. Anarcho-capitalists would argue otherwise, but that distinguishes them, not socialists or communists.

    In Marxism, socialism is a precursor to communism, as feudalism was a precursor to capitalism. Marx said very little about what communism might be because he didn't know anything much about it. Communism was the supposed destination of socialism, not an alternative or variation. It was a supposed later (r)evolution of socialism.

    SFAIK there is nothing in Marxism that makes the distinction about "choice" over "government-run services".

    In 1918 the Labour Party adopted Clause 4, recognised at the time and since as the Party's declaration of socialism, based on a principle of **the common ownership of the means of production**.

    Clause IV:
    "To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."

    There is nothing about "choice" and non-state provision in there. Nor is there in the Communist Manifesto, or anything else in the Marxist lexicon.

    Your criticism of Corbyn might be legitimate, but not in the language of "socialism" versus "communism". It just doesn't tarry with socialist intellectual history. And if it isn't Marx's "communism" you are speaking of, then whose, and what is it?

    Arguably Corbyn falls short of offering socialism let alone communism. "The common ownership of the means of production" is socialism from a reformist Labour party. It certainly isn't communism (which presupposes socialism anyway).

    Yet Corbyn isn't even offering "common ownership of the means of production" let alone is he leading the dictatorship of the proletariat. He's a reformist social democrat, and that's his offer - he's not offering socialism let alone communism.

    In short, I don't think your distinction exists (re socialism and communism). But your criticism of Corbyn might be legitimate using different language and concepts.

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    1. You're correct in that my definitions lack theoretical rigour. As I said, they are only my own (i.e. opinion) personal loose definitions. Perhaps there are better words that mean what I want to say. However, I do think they agree with the widespread understanding of the terms, I don't think I'm using particularly unconventional or novel definitions - and there most certainly is a very clear distinction between socialist and communist societies in practise if not in strict theoretical terms. I rather agree with Jonathan Pie on this, even if I disagree about Corbyn.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-9DdzBwo_w

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    2. the_last_name_left20 June 2017 at 06:37

      Fair enough. Still, I seriously doubt "the widespread understanding of the terms" would be at all accurate (most nobody knows anything about 'historical materialism' for instance) and I don't think left criticism of Corbyn can seriously be couched in terms of communism vs socialism.

      I have to say I agree with Jonathan Pie on Corbyn. Absent Corbyn Labour would still be tarnished as the NuLabour of Iraq and Blair. That poison has been removed (without a schism) which should please the moderates too as it opens up space for a more centrist Labour leader. That would likely have been impossible without Corbyn imo.

      Anyway, cheers for replies. I originally came to read the Feynman/falsifiability article, thanks for that (and the rest). Take care, comrade. ;)

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