the labourite belief in false inevitability

There’s a similarity between the Corbynite Left and Right of the Labour party; both have a tendency to utter the words “they’ll come around in the end.” For the left, they refer to the general electorate; to the Right, the Labour selectorate.

“You’ll come around eventually.”

Those words sum up the arrogance of past hegemons or current hegemons. When an audience is not receptive to an argument you consider, it’s tempting to consider your audience stupid.

[Note: this blog for the very nature of pointing out trends I have noticed, is rather strawman: not everyone on either side is guilty of this, but enough are to validate this blog entry]

The Left

On the face of it, and from a rational perspective of policy appeal, poor poll ratings make no sense. Labour’s new social and economic programme is popular: cracking down on the excesses of the City, public ownership of the railways, an alternative to austerity, backing junior doctors and defending the NHS – all are vote winners. The problem is that popular policies are barely visible in the public eye, amidst a maelstrom of relentless press hostility, calculated backbench (and frontbench) indiscipline, and –worse than any tabloid red baiting – the manufacturing of a perception of shambles in the leadership. (x)

If you don’t think that passage is problematic as heck, you’re a massive part of the problem. Accusing dissenters of irrationality, blaming the usual culprits -the press, the PLP- for brainwashing the voters, the implication no less being working class voters, it’s all very tedious, isn’t it? It’s elitist, it’s classist, and we’ll never win with such an awful and undignified outlook.

But it will continue: if we just get these damn manufacturers of consent out the way, the public will inevitably come to see Labour as saviours.

I’ve written enough about this, as have others, but I doubt much it will change. As our poll ratings drop to lower and lower depths, anxious voices continue to be shut out. As so, anxious voices become even more anxious; powerless and homeless in their own party that, by and large, seems not to care about working class people at all, not really. Anxious voices will have to mobilize themselves, find platforms, ask for decency and kindness, and exhaustively repeat “I’m not a Blairite, but…I do happen to believe in empirical evidence.”

The Right

The end of history. The idea that there is an end to everything, and that all that comes or came before is just a process to that end. For Blairism, insistent it is the end of a process, it is the product of a cycle. As with the 80s, we go from hard left to soft left to, finally, the winning combination that is Blairism. For anti-statists, it has ironically became statist; a fixed point in time, a dogma; the latter of which it shares with the very people on the left . We are currently at the start of a cycle, a Kinnock will prevail, before the final victor succeeds. The Kinnockites will become Blairites, the idealistic will have the wind knocked out of them and cynicism will turn to ‘pragmatism’.

The insistence that there is a diversity of thought within Labour, and that one other strand may eventually win the change to put Labour on the path to governance, is often met with cackling from moderates. The soft left is a pesky annoyance that must be tolerated to secure victory in the end. The hard left is the enemy to overcome, but one that will eventually see the light.

As my mate said, “Golden rule: whenever anyone announces the end of history, they’re wrong.” The Right believing it is the inevitable end and that all others will come to realise this is every bit as bad as Corbynites assuming the same of voters.

The Enlightenment…

Both sides insist upon an impending enlightenment. Some Corbynites believe that the general public, working class voters, will become enlightened once they just see what is good for them. It is, as always, a devotion to the Ragged Trousered Philanphropist.

Some Blairites insist that the rest of the Party, those foolish enough to believe in anything but orthodox Blairism, will eventually be enlightened. We are part of a process, and there is an ironic determinism there.

…that will never come

Both sides have to realise that they will not win over their supposed opponents by calling them stupid, by assuming an inevitability, that they will come around eventually because we are right and they are wrong. How could they be so stupid, so irrational? They are to blame for our failings.

We will never win an election with this attitude but vis a vis the moderates -the true ‘believers in winning’- will never win round the membership. It goes without saying that I have my frustrations with the membership, too -read above- but convincing people around to a cause requires nuance. I can write and moan and blog and moan and blog about the diagnosis, but until we have an imaginative narrative to present to others, nothing will happen. The Right are currently devoid of that imaginative narrative.

Undoubtedly, there is a sizable rump of members who don’t really want to win, and are devoted to Corbyn come what may. But there are also members who want to win, but see no alternatives. The ‘I voted Corbyn because none of the others would win either’. If moderates care about winning so much, they’ll have to present their case to these members. And if not them, then they will have to stop patronizing the soft left and learn to realise they are as legitimate as anyone else.

As for Corbynites? I can only advise they talk to working class voters and to stop refusing the existence of their own agency.

Hit by both sides, I am stupid to the Right for being soft left and stupid to the Corbynite Left for being working class and/or not having unquestionable devotion to our Leader. The party is inhospitable on both accounts.


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