‘Centrist’ politics, what is it really?

This video from Britain says about itself:

Young Tories calling for ‘chavs’ to be ‘gassed‘: where’s the outrage? | Owen Jones talks…

1 September 2017

When the Conservatives attempted to mimic the success of Momentum by launching a group called Activate, they were widely ridiculed for their attempt to appear to be down with the kids.

Just days later though, there was a dark twist to the story when WhatsApp messages between some of the group’s members revealed them joking about “gassing chavs”

‘Chavs’ is a British upper class term of abuse for working class people.

and carrying out experiments on why “they are so good at [re]producing despite living rough”. It was a disgusting display of arrogance and class hatred for which the group has issued an apology.

But where was the outrage in the media? If this had been Momentum members using such despicable language there would have been weaponised by the rightwing press to attack Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership for failure to act on the matter.

This double standard in reporting is typical of of a media that treats the left and the working class with intolerance and hatred. It’s time to recognise that online abuse is a problem across the political spectrum and it needs stamping out.

By Ben Cowles in Britain:

Who gets to decide where the political centre is?

Tuesday 5th September 2015

We mustn’t be constrained or defined by the powerful’s narrow political perspectives, writes BEN COWLES

ACTIVATE, the Tories’ attempt to ape Momentum and attract the youth to “centre-right” politics, launched last week only to explode in a cloud of ignominy after churning out a couple of crap, outdated memes and jokes about “gassing chavs.”

Along with “Moggmentum” (the movement to portray uber-toff and Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg as some kind of debonair man of the people rather than a palaeo-conservative with a heinous voting record) and the Ibiza tax, the Tories’ attempts to attract the youth have been a total farce so far.

And long may this calamity continue, though you’d think the Tories would have a better understanding of young people after all the years they’ve shafted them.

Clearly, it is ludicrous for Activate (or any other Tory-front) to claim to stand for the political “centre” of anything. But the continued calls for and claims to represent a party of either a centre-left or centre-right are rather irritating and, should people begin to buy into such an idea, quite concerning.

The whole idea of a political “centre” is a deliberately fallacious term the powerful bandy about to demonise anything that is even slightly to the left of neoliberal dogma — the privatisation of everything, the inane sadism of austerity, dangerous deregulation and the replacement of democracy with corporate rulers.

But of course, the rich and the powerful have long used their institutions to shape people’s perceptions, rewarding those who adhere to their cultural hegemony — the accepted societal norms which serve the elite and maintain their worldview, structures of power and dominance.

Religion was one of the most powerful tools the ruling class manipulated to mould public perception to justify its wars, appropriate wealth and convince people they deserved their place in society.

The mass media has pretty much taken over that role now, along with the false assertion that we live in a meritocratic society. It’s hard to argue that things are equal when, according to Global Justice Now, just 10 corporations “have a combined revenue of more than the 180 ‘poorest’ countries combined.”

The US philosophers Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky explain how systematic biases and propaganda function in mass media to manufacture people’s consent through five filters. These are: 1) the owners, 2) the funders, 3) the sources, 4) flack and 5) fear.

The first two filters are rather self-explanatory. Owning a mass media organisation costs billions and vast advertisement revenue is essential in order to sell it as cheaply as possible to consumers.

In the end, the consumers of media are products to be sold to advertisers. And therefore journalistic integrity comes after the interests of their customers (the advertisers, not consumers) — remember when the Telegraph refused to cover an HSBC tax-dodging scandal back in 2015?

The other three filters are where the mass media has real power to influence people’s perceptions of what is sensible or what is radical.

The mass media usually gives more weight to the opinions of Establishment figures and corporations rather than grassroots organisations, trade unions, charities, activists, cultural “others” (women, children, migrants, black people, Muslims, prisoners, socialists, pacifists), the victims of neoliberalism, climate change or Western foreign policy.

The mass media will often give the appearance of including the latter by quoting public relations companies, “think tanks” and pressure groups friendly to their interests or even straight up astroturf groups — politicians, lobbyists or corporations masquerading as grassroots campaigns, like Activate.

The online investigative project Spinwatch UK says that Britain’s “PR and lobbying industry is the second biggest in the world” and estimates its worth at £7.5 billion. An industry with cash like that is certainly distorting the public’s perception on a whole host of issues in a seriously detrimental and utterly undemocratic way: talk about fake news.

The next filter, flack, can be seen in action whenever a journalist or organisation deviates too far from the Establishment consensus. For example, when the Morning Star used a quote to describe the Bearded Broz — a group of Birmingham men who undermined strike action — as a “scab army,” much of the media banded together to attack, ridicule and demonise the paper.

The last filter is also rather obvious: fear. There’s nothing like a bogeyman to rally public opinion, especially when the enemy stands opposed to “our” very way of life and only a crackdown on civil rights will save us.

These days we’ve always been at war with Muslims (though rarely the human-rights-abusing, absolute monarchies and tourist playgrounds of the 1 per cent Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates or Oman), China, Iran, Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum, migrants from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia (never Canadians, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders or white South Africans) and benefits claimants.

How anyone with the powers to think critically can believe that our billionaire-owned media corporations or their Tory, Lib Dem and Blairite pals represent the “centre” is bewildering.

How is invading resource-rich and economically-poor countries, obtaining their natural resources on the cheap and selling weapons to their tyrannical governments the “centre” ground? How does everyone benefit from the concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people while eroding workers’ rights?

What’s moderate about causing global climate change and leaving poor countries to deal with the consequence? What’s so great about leaving people to drown in the Mediterranean or freeze and starve in Calais?

Surely, free education, free healthcare, adequate housing, actual equal opportunities, human rights, environmental protections and a foreign policy based on equality are not wildly radical ideas. And if they are, isn’t that a sign our society is broken?

Journalism is sometimes called the first draft of history and, as it is often said, history is written by the winners — though this is not really true; there are plenty of popular lost causes out there.

As the US historian Howard Zinn says about the way history is taught: “We must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country … conceals fierce conflicts of interest … between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex.”

The same is true with the mass media and the ruling class, which ignore, admonish, deride or simply aren’t aware of a vast multitude of perspectives and attempt to convince society that their interests, norms, worldview and values are its own.

Whether this is deliberate or systematic doesn’t matter. The point is that we must not be constrained by the narrow political definitions set by the powerful nor abide by what they construe to be moderate or the so-called “centre” ground, by which they mean the continuation of the status quo from which a smaller and smaller percentage of billionaires benefit.

As if being found out they would like to gas peasants and being so incompetent they had accidentally made membership of their own organisation impossible for anyone to join wasn’t ridiculous enough, new Tory youth movement Activate’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are now at war squabbling with each other over whether to back Theresa May or Jacob Rees-Mogg as Tory leader: here.

THE announcement that a possible new “centrist” political party is about to be formed, backed by multimillionaire LoveFilm founder Simon Franks and bankrolled by other wealthy donors, is raising eyebrows in the right-wing media but not fooling any working class people at all. “SDP2” has long been on the drawing board since Tony Blair departed and once Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in 2015, there were reports of certain MPs needing a “spiritual home” for their views: here.

No return to the failed ‘centrist’ policies of warmed-over neoliberalism: here.

The politicians of the liberal centre paved the way for the far right surge by resorting to racism and ultranationalism to deflect mass anger from the neoliberal order that has savaged working class living standards over the last three decades and transferred massive wealth into the hands of a tiny cohort of billionaires: here.

23 thoughts on “‘Centrist’ politics, what is it really?

  1. Friday 8th September 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    SOLOMON HUGHES asks who the real political grown-ups are: the straight-talking Laura Pidcock or the neoliberal ‘moderates’?

    THERE is a regular, plaintiff cry from the “moderate” centre of politics that goes like this: “Can we have the grown-ups back?”

    It’s a cri de coeur from those who believe in their hearts that centrist politics comes from sensible, grown-up heads. Their ideas are adult, thought-through, sensible. The left’s ideas are naive, silly, childish and unachievable.

    But drawing the left as the Kevin and Perry of politics and the “moderates” as their long-suffering parents is itself based on a deep strain of naivety among the supposedly “sophisticated” technocrats. A naivety that has been on display for decades.

    In August Labour’s new MP for North West Durham, Laura Pidcock, said she disagreed firmly with Tory MPs and had “absolutely no intention of being friends with any of them.

    “I have friends I choose to spend time with. I go to Parliament to be a mouthpiece for my constituents and class; I’m not interested in chatting on.”

    Her comments are much milder than those of Anuerin Bevan, who spoke of a “a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party” because the pain they inflicted on the nation in the 1930s made him feel they were “lower than vermin.”

    Pidcock’s views are well within the Labour tradition. But her straightforward answer to a question from the “Skwawkbox” website inspired a wave of criticism from “moderate” Labour and Tory commentators.

    Pidcock’s insistence that she goes to Parliament to work for her constituents, not make friends with Tory MPs was called “childish” and the politics of the “student union” by Conservative and “moderate” Labour commentators.

    They think being angry at Tories isn’t “grown up” and that it won’t “get things done” — which is odd, because Pidcock saying she wants to go to work to get change for her constituents, rather than treating the House of Commons as a social event, sounds pretty businesslike.

    And the much angrier Anuerin Bevan was able to “get things done” — chiefly founding the NHS — precisely because he was driven by strong feelings.

    The Pidcock-patronisers are part of a broad trend. One that says any attempt to change things on the scale of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour manifesto is naive, that his wing of Labour is made up of childish, unrealistic dreamers, and that they are not “professional” politicians.

    In February the Guardian spurted out this nostalgia for their “moderate” daddy in an editorial on Tony Blair’s latest pronouncement: “Mr Blair reminds us what it was like to have grown-ups in charge.”

    This “let’s have the grown-ups back” call is repeated by a lot of sad moderate dads. It makes me wonder where they have been for the past 17 years. Because the “centre” has been anything but mature. Instead, it has been the place of the most naive and embarrassing wishful thinking.

    We saw a very embarrassing recent demonstration of this naivety when James Chapman, an ex-Daily Mail political editor, former adviser to George Osborne, and current adviser to lobbyists Bell Pottinger, declared he was setting up a new “centrist” party called the “Democrats” to “stop Brexit.”

    Many “sensible,” “moderate” Labour commentators enthusiastically took Chapman’s amateurish plan seriously.

    Everybody one-click further to the left could see some Tory lobbyist was not the answer to anything, that this would not work as a grassroots project and that it was just wistful dreaming.

    So it proved. The credulity of the New Labour and David Cameron Tory supporters of this half-baked scheme was embarrassing. But in truth it was not new.

    Being credulous and not understanding the “real world” are the hallmarks of many claiming to be “realists.” Like the naivety of Brown and Blair in backing the Private Finance Initiative.

    Only the truly innocent would believe handing control of school, hospital and other public buildings to bankers and contractors would be “efficient.” The left warned it would be a rip-off. And it was.

    Or the foolish belief that handing sensitive public service contracts to a mix of caterers, security firms, and totally dubious outfits like Sodexol, Serco, G4S or A4e would bring new, exciting methods to the welfare state — rather than the old fashioned scams and rip-offs that the left warned about.

    Or the pre-crash naivety of believing unregulated banks would deliver prosperity for all, for ever.

    This wide-eyed view of corporations was ingrained into New Labour at the start and happily picked up by the Cameron crew.

    From the very beginning New Labour people fell in love with all corporations, including the obviously crooked. Peter Mandelson spent much effort trying to get Labour to love the US energy firm Enron.

    People on the left looked closely at Enron’s record of safety breaches, economic and environmental crime, and warned they were bad news.

    But New Labour’s leaders insisted on taking cash from Enron (as did the “sensible” Fabians) before the firm collapsed under the weight of its own criminal behaviour.

    New Labour’s leaders also decided the best way to celebrate the Millennium was not to — say — build new hospitals.

    Instead they thought a corporate sponsored entertainment palace celebrating all that big business could offer was a wise plan. Only a true sucker could buy the Dome, but that’s what they did.

    With criminal credulousness the same “moderates” believed a US Republican government stuffed with oil men would lead a “liberation” of Iraq, rather than the badly run corporate-led occupation that we got.

    With the eternal sunshine of the centrist mind, many saw the Iraq project go bad, but then expected the re-run in Libya in 2011 to be ok. Cameron and “New Labour” types queued up, wide eyed, to walk into that trap.

    In truth, it is really naive to believe there is a technocratic policy in the “centre” that can solve big problems. It is childish to believe that big corporations don’t try and break rules to squeeze out profits, that rich people don’t avoid tax, that US governments want to go to war to “liberate” anyone.

    The past 200 years have shown us that “grown-ups” can change society by using popular pressure to redistribute money, to regulate big business and to reform the state in favour of the majority.

    Socialists pushed for big reforms that began as ideals, but became practical realities, where centrists averted their eyes from the failures in the existing system.



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  6. The Tories’ analysis is all wrong. It’s not just the young they’ve screwed

    WILL Philip Hammond launch a “big, bold Budget” with a major offer to the young? Or will it feature continued cuts, with a half-arsed attempt to cover them with a small squeak of giveaways and gimmicks?

    The pressure is on, because the Conservatives are having a collective nervous breakdown about their continuing loss of popularity to Corbyn.

    My guess is Hammond will fail to turn the Tories around. Not least because they’ve got the wrong analysis.

    They think that “the young” — by which they mean young professionals — are losing faith with capitalism because they don’t have the chance to get the houses and security of their parents. So they will try and juggle resources between the young and old.

    But what is really happening is that, as the 2008 financial crisis showed, capitalism has become more exploitative and less productive.

    By bailing out the banks without reforming the financial system, we’ve allowed a deeply extractive capitalism to limp on. It’s chasing us all and biting who it can.

    This means it catches the weakest members of the herd first, including the young.

    But the lack of social housing, rent rises, the bedroom tax, wage stagnation, job casualisation, welfare cuts are painful for everyone who is not cushioned by owning property or other capital.

    Capitalism hasn’t just turned on the young, it has turned on all the vulnerable groups, including the low-paid, middle-aged, the poorer pensioner, etc.

    A “big, bold Budget” would transfer wealth and power from the rich to the rest, not the old to the young. But it isn’t something Phil Hammond can see on his spreadsheet.



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