Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A few words for anyone thinking about the possibility of the Left taking back the Democrats: Lessons from complexity theory and the UK Labour party.

This election was close enough for any one of a dozen or more mistakes or actions from either party to have been a determining factor. All those who are pushing one reason over all the others are merely exposing their own ideological biases, and that's understandable. Lot of people hurting. But, the only way to tackle a problem with so many aspects is a solution that tackles all of them simultaneously.

This is hard. Real hard. That's why we simplify it. We find a meta-narrative that implicitly encompasses as many of the problems as possible, so that everyone can be on the same page as they go about their own way in doing things.

IMO, the most meta-narrative, and the most useful narrative given it's existing, increasing, and global reach, is that of Neoliberalism. Neoliberalism encompasses a vast multitude of issues that both Left and Right each face, and want rid off. It's also a fight currently being fought on every continent, and believe me, they see the US and UK as the epicenter of it. It is synonymous with neocolonialism for a reason.

So, in that context - The Democrats. Brief history: With the arrival of Reagan and Thatcher, the conservatives either side of the Atlantic borrowed and brutalised Hayeks ideals, ushering in the start of the Neoliberal hegemony in the West and Commonwealth. This hegemony was only cemented however when Clinton, then Blair, brought the major "Left-wing" parties in the US and UK into the neoliberal fold. Sure, when it comes to the "liberal" part, Democrats and Labour include social policy where conservatives do not; the Neo-part however, the economic side of things, was a bi-partisan agreement that gave the banking and finance sectors freedom to become integral players in politics, to the point that politics has become subservient to markets, and beholden to discredited economic dogma.

So Neoliberalism had an uncontested hegemony for two generations, in which time the neoliberal corporate media normalised it to such an extent that it managed to frame itself as the political centre, as a benevolent, technocratic, even un-ideological alternative to the much maligned Left and Right. This is a lie. Neoliberalism is none-of-this. It is has ideological as any political ideology before it, though there is one key difference.

Neoliberalism is not merely another political economic ideology, let alone a mere economic theory as some still manage to maintain. I recently came across a description of multi-national corporations as "meta-nationals", and this is *far* more appropriate. Neoliberalism is not bound by geographic borders, as other political ideologies most often find themselves. In fact, what neoliberalism represents is nothing short of an attempt to syncretise the scale of the nation-state, meaning to create an umbrella-like complex-system that incorporates nation states under it.

I'm not saying this is by design, though many no doubt recognised the significance. This did not need to be planned; complexity always finds new scales of complexity to grow into, and just as the nation state once syncretised religions, so too will nation states be syncretised into something new. But neoliberalism is not it. It has inherent flaws, like maximising efficiency, that make it increasingly more fragile and prone to collapse, and the climate change narrative will ensure that the arguments that worked in the 1970s and 80s will not cut it any more.

Ideologies emerge and spread if and when they are adaptive. Then, through dogma and institutionalisation, ideologies plateau and then start to fall behind the more rapidly evolving society outside of its bubble. That is where neoliberalism is now. There is no going back. There is no establishment rehabilitation. We are talking about a party for whom many have spent their entire political careers under a neoliberal, cross-party hegemony. Their contacts are neoliberals. Their thinking is neoliberal. Their donors are neoliberal. Their offices and colleagues and "enemies" are neoliberal. A shock event doesn't erase that memory, not at the individual scale, or the institutional scale. They will rationalise away blame. They will think they have to tack right just a tad more to capture Trump voters. They will maintain the same contacts and lobbyists, and friends that all stand to potentially lose in the event of any genuine change coming from the Left. They will fight.

The old order must come down before the Dems will be effective in opposing Trump. In the UK, Corbyn, with politics like Sanders but minus the imperialism, won the leadership contest against three cookie-cutter establishment neoliberals. From day one, the neoliberal right of the Labour party, Blairites, connived and opposed Corbyn, briefing the press against him, putting far more energy into rebellion than opposing vicious Tory policy. Smear after smear from the press, from his own party, led eventually to most of the party resigning their Westminster posts and holding a vote of no confidence, which they comfortably won.

So, another leadership contest, this time with purged members galore, 800% rise in party membership fee, and one opponent. Owen Smith. Former lobbyist for Pfizer (Incidentally, today a lobbyist for the Podesta Group announced his candidacy for Democrats Chair - took me back to the spring for a moment, before 2016 had done most of its damage), and on record as saying he thought himself and Blair as "socialist" (this is what I mean by the insidious way neoliberalism has effectively utilised the left to obscure right-wing structural ideology with social ideology and language.). Cobyn won. Again. With an improved mandate.

So, we won? Nope. Not really. Neoliberals in Labour are still there. They are still agitating. Who knows how many awkward conversations they have had with the likes of Richard Branson, private health-care and rail owner who surprisingly doesn't like Corbyn, and the prospect of nationalised rail and a protected NHS.

These kinds of conflicts are going to occur in the US. The establishment Democrats - by the way, "establishment" literally means neoliberal by 2016 - will fight anything that resembles actual change. As will the Hillary supporting neoliberal twitterati, comedians, and celebrities. That's why I was suspicious of Harry Reid and others endorsing Ellison. Everyone needs to make sure that they do not escape accountability, not for punishment's sake, but in terms of actually learning something.

In some ways, I envy you; we didn't have the kind of shock doctrine moment to make use of. Maybe that can make a difference? Maybe Trump is so bad, the shock so deep, that they can reassess in ways Labour MP's could not? It's not impossible; one impassioned appeal by one to a group at the right time could unwind a number of ways. *But it is very unlikely*. In fact, I think doing so smoothly would be historically unprecedented.

So, go forward expecting a fight. Establishment Democrats will not take kindly to the Left (who many still blame for Trump winning) demanding that the party get tough on the TPP, Fossil fuels, banking, finance, wealth redistribution or any of the many other things that desperately need addressing. That would lead to some many awkward conversations with peers and contacts over issues they essentially agree on, and guess what? They won't do shit, and like Labour in the UK, they will likely put far more effort resisting such changes.

They will say it's "far-left", that Hillary got more votes than Sanders, that you can't win an election by being "soft" on immigration and crime, that whoever emerges is "unelectable", that finance is too important to risk it moving abroad, and many other things besides. Do not listen. They have proven how good they are at political analysis plenty enough already.

So. Expect a fight. If it doesn't come, ask why not. Don't get caught up with what to promote; that is varied and messy and potentially divisive. Join people from Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, the UK, Germany, Spain, Greece, India, South Africa, Nigeria, and wherever neocolonial neoliberalism has spread, and focus on opposing Neoliberalism. In the Democratic party, in meta-national organisations, and in your families and bars. If that is done, you may find that left and right have more in common than you think, given neoliberalism is neither, and fucks both.

Countries most searching google for Neoliberalism (Blue) and Neoliberalismo (Red). 

Also, even if the Democratic party were to pull a Corbyn, intra-party sniping and rebellion aside, it would still only be one step. The problem, at heart is meta-national. The risk is meta-national, and for that matter, existential to many. We must become meta-national in our response, and, if possible, make that a central pillar of whatever comes next. For now, it looks like Neoliberalism is about to take a step back from the globalising trend many foolishly took for granted, but that needn't be bad. I mean fuck, the planet could do with a break from the needless stream of novelty trash being transported around the globe so we can spend more on things we know we will probably throw away. It doesn't mean that culture and communication will stop; we just need some time to get our fucking shit together regionally.

TL:DR Rather than focus on what to promote, focus on what to oppose, something that encompasses as many of the individual problems as possible: Neoliberalism. But Neoliberals in Democrats will fight. Hard. Expect it, and use the unifying banner of anti-neoliberalism to win back the US system, and use it as a springboard to join the rest of the world in tackling the meta-national problem that is Neoliberalism.

EDIT:  By now, February 13th, it's pretty clear that a significant fascist element is challenging Neoliberalism. Resistance to this is paramount, but it is also vital that it not stop there, that we not allow Neoliberalism to try to take us back to an unsustainable "normal". That's done, it's broken, it's over. If they try, we will just suffer more and more until power is finally held accountable, and the US can rejoin the modern world in a new, more sustainable, and more time-appropriate, form..