Sunday, 11 October 2015

Feeling the Bern?

With a 2:1 dislike to like ratio its clear the Real News audience doesn't like this video.Its not hard to see why, Social Democratic reformers seem to be in vogue again all over the world. Jeremy Corbyn has made waves with supporters and opponents falling over themselves to trot out absurd accusations and comments. And the reception SYRIZA in Greece received when it first formed a government in Leftist circles in Europe was so enthusiastic you'd think they'd formed the Athenian Soviet.

Hell I can remember people getting worked up over Francois Hollande's Presidential victory, (that seems so long ago now doesn't it.) The problem is that this all stems from a lack of understanding of how political systems work. Even in Presidential systems the individual personality isn't as important as its media coverage would suggest. The video makes some good points about the role of political party leaderships in determining the `candidate/leader`and I know from my own personal experience that much of what he says is accurate.

A few years ago I and some friends went to Liverpool for the Labour Party conference, it was a sham. If you've watched news coverage of a party conference (there really all the same once you look past the placards and colour schemes) you'll have seen enthusiastic applause, and a lot of people fighting over the chance to ask a question or make a suggestion to the leadership. I saw the delegates in the front rows jumping up and down, waving their arms and walking sticks, it was all very dramatic and it was all a farce. The conference staffers had already selected who would be picked and called out ahead of time. That was just a show to make it look open and fair. The side meetings as well weren't much better. They were generally interesting but nothing of importance went on, you just turned up to listen to a bunch of experts and media personalities give some speeches and lectures on a topic. They aren't even effective canvassers for support. All that decision making stuff was done behind closed doors and by networking.

There was an example of this in Britain not long ago. During the Labour party conference they were due to discuss Trident and Nuclear weapons in general, the party leader Jeremy Corbyn is against them but quite a few polls suggested a majority of the membership is for them. This meant that if there was a discussion then it was likely that the leader would be on the losing side, so the party heads panicked and killed the discussion.

But the real issue goes beyond parties, it involves the entire political and economic system. In Britain for the past few decades much of the discussion surrounding the Labour party has been about the infestation of the Blairites, a group of pro market, pro war, types who've helped shift Britain into a right wing political climate.

But here's the problem, even when we had left wing Labour governments they were also quite willing to chuck principal out the window in the name of the "national interest". Labour governments have actively opposed strikes (like the 1966 Seamen's strike), and gone to war (the war in Malaya in 1948 to keep control of a British colony. And of course the Korean War 1950, and Harold Wilson's government deployed the British Army in Northern Ireland in 1969), and generally did their utmost to maintain control of the Empire. Ramsay Macdonald's second Labour government 1929-35 once tried to get the Indian National Congress to accept limited autonomy in exchange for renouncing the desire for independence. In WWI Labour party politicians like their comrades in the German Social Democractic Party and the French Section of the Workers International (AKA The French Socialist Party) turned their collective backs on decades of hard work supporting each other and trying to prevent war, by joining National Unity Governments, taking positions in those governments and helping to slaughter millions of working men, all in the name of the national interest.

SYRIZA also went through this process, they were elected on an anti-austerity platform and opposition to the EU troika and ended up capitulating because it couldn't stomach any of the alternatives. Just like how European Social Democrats in the era of Empire had no alternative but to keep business as usual in the few times they rose to power and influence. They couldn't stop war and colonies because the system they lived and operated in depended upon them both. This is why the Imperial system had to wait until after WWII to collapse. Europe was devastated and exhausted and could no longer suppress the nationalist aspirations of its colonised peoples, and so had to make concessions and bit by bit let go, or risk losing everything. The European powers didn't like this which is why they tried to cling onto as much as they could salvage, hence Britain's conflict in Malaya, Frances war in Algeria, and Britain and Frances war on Egypt to maintain control of the Suez, or the Belgians intervention in the Congo. It didn't make much difference whether the party in control of Presidencies and parliaments were left wing or right wing.

Bernie even if he does get the nomination and does win the subsequent election(both big if's) will be no different, he'll talk a good game but will not alter the United States in any fundamental way. Maybe he'll expand welfare programs and strengthen environmental regulation, and maybe he'll resist the temptation to intervene in one regional conflict or another, but fundamentally it'll be the same.

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