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How UK Labour turned Tory

by Helen Mon May 5th, 2008 at 05:21:20 AM EST

PiGL asked the following question in Jerome's diary Grangemouth Strike - Anglo-disease in action ?

What happened to the Labour Party, anyway? When did it get taken over my Maggie Thatchers more clubbable nephews? I think we should all rue the day that Tony Blair was born. But that of course is a cheap shot at any single poltician, no matter how loathsome. What broader forces acted to bring these men to power?

So what did happen ? I guess the whole story starts with the Winter of Discontent in 1978/9

Diary rescue by afew


The strikes were a result of the attempted enforcement of the Labour government's rule that pay rises be kept below 5%, and began in private industry before spreading to the public sector; many of them seriously disrupted everyday life, causing problems including various food shortages and widespread and frequent power cuts

Whilst the strikes were largely over by February 1979, the government's inability to contain the strikes earlier helped lead to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative victory in the 1979 general election and legislation to restrict unions.

With unions under legislative attack and unemployment rising as Thatcherite policies began to wreck jobs in the old Labour industrial heartlands the party found itself reacting by moving increasingly leftward. This led to a breakaway by a more economically "moderate" group of MPs who went to form the Social Democratic Party.

The 1983 election was less a defeat than a rout. Although Thatcher's economic policies were disliked, her resolute determination during the Falkland's Conflict led to a jingoistic burst of popularity. This coupled with the splitting of the opposition vote with the Liberal/SDP party led to a nadir in Labour's fortunes.

The new leader, Neil Kinnock, knew that Labour were unelectable in their current guise. The policy manifesto of 1983 was widely derided as the "longest suicide note in history" whilst the party were openly penetrated by a shadowy leftist authoritarian group called Militant Tendency who were seeking confrontation with anyone and anything. Their tactics seem to have provided a blueprint for the Islamist group Hisb Ut Tahrir.

Kinnock had to change the rules, effectively introducing show trials, to give the local constituencies the ability to rid itself of these people. But this then led to an examination of policies that shunned anything that smacked of anything remotely leftish. It was an instinctive revulsion of Militant that led to the beginnings of the rightward drift.

Despite all this Kinnock lost the 1992 election and decided that he himself was the final problem to be dealt with and fell on his sword. He was replaced by John Smith, a man of considerable gravitas who rapidly established himself as a PrimeMinister in waiting. The Labour party knew it, the Conservative Pary knew it and the country ached for it. Sadly he died of a heart attack and the country felt a sense of loss.

He was replaced by Tony Blair who completed the purge of leftism and was elected on a platform of Thatcherite excess. Nobody believed it, thinking it was just positioning for the hostile press but, for once, a Labour party actually stuck to their committments and we have the current situation.

---------------------------------

This is just my view. I'd appreciate it if others would give their views and corrections.

Display:
Two things, one of which I only learnt recently:

  1. The unions had previously kept to the 5% pay rise cap, introduced in order to bring down inflation. Their break with it was part of the deal, and nothing to do with union excesses, despite what revisionists later made it out to be.

  2. You didn't mention Clause IV, which I always thought was of incredible importance. I remember it was always mentioned on the radio, for months and months on end, though I had no idea what it meant. I now know what it was, but a full explanation of how it fits at the end of the story would be nice.

(I actually remember John Smith dying, but mainly because I have an uncle of the same name. How things would be different now, had he lived.)

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.
by Ephemera on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 04:17:14 PM EST
I didn't mention it because it was more an excuse for the right-wing to hammer labour than any big deal in terms of policy formulation.

It was kept for totemic value, but getting rid of it was emblemetic of shedding the militant past which ws far more important. As a formulation of words it was not only meaningless in the 90s, it was meaningless when it had been incorporated. It was only done to throw a thank-you bone for the Webbs who were saddo Marxists but who had been instrumental in getting the party started.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 04:29:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Didn't the Fabian tendency and those who left to form the Social Democrats following the "Gang of four" also want to get rid of Clause IV?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 04:55:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Fabians weren't a tendency afaik, but they were fairly moderate.

By the time Clause 4 was eliminated, most members of the party knew it was meaningless except for people who actually thought Britain still had a Marxist future. It was like throwing away a piece of clothing we never wore and didn't need.

Disclaimer : I was a member of the party during the 80s and had my share of shouting matches and genuine physical intimidation from Militant. They were scum who deserved to be removed. I left the party because I realised Blairism was coming and didn't like it. And a few other more personal reasons.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 05:01:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Much of this is entirely new to me, Helen. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain this history. All I had were romantic memories of the miners strikes. Like this one, from So Good It Hurts, 1986, which I transcribe from memory, from me, to you.

Johnny Miner, you were born
Never to see the rising dawn
No it's time that you were gone
Goodbye Johnny Miner.

And goodbye Durham, Yorkshire too
Nottingham the same to you
Scotland, South Whales buried, too
Goodbye Johnny Miner

...

Goodbye John, don't take it hard
Unemployment isn't bad(?)
They'll treat you well in the knackers yard
Goodbye Johnny Miner.

Mekons.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 05:28:15 PM EST
... went dry and before Labor went Tory?



I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 12:34:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
UK Labour was not allowed to take over the government until they agreed to the demands of the 'power structure' which continues to dominate the UK. First demand was to make the Bank of England 'independent' meaning it would still be controlled by the mandarins of the UK banking sector without the interference of the Labour Party in the event the 'Cargills' took over the party structure and actually demanded reforms which helped most of the country as opposed to the 5% which runs the country.

Second was the agreement with 'New Labour' to have ppp partnerships etc. which would give confidence to the City that indeed this was 'New Labour'. 'New Labour' was very agreeable to this as they couldnt ask the Bank of England to issue a great amount of bonds to finance their hoped for reforms and increase in financing the NHS etc. so the next best thing was to finance their increased spending through public/private partnerships which guaranteed profits would be equal or more important than services delivered to the electorate but meant billions in fees to their brethren in the City.

Labour's motto should have been 'Gee Mom-its fun being in power because I can finally be respectable just like the Tories even if the money being raised will be wasted for the most part and the only improvements will be compared to Thatcher's government but will never approach the Scandinavian Healthcare systems we constantly tell the electorate we want to be like"

Finally, 'New Labour' realized they could guarantee their financial security for themselves after they have left government by satisfying the financial elites through PPP, consultants etc. in exchange for
positions on boards , quangos etc.

The Tessa Jowells of the London Olympics Committee working in partnership with the Sebastian Coes are able to guarantee billions of dollars of contracts to the finance sector at the expense of the British people who in exchange will get an Olympics Games for two weeks. The regeneration of the East End was a nice touch for the developers and construction companies but what sustainability will it have after the two weeks of the Games are over. Especially when you compare it with what you could have developed in the area with the budget for the fuinal bill to put on the Olympics (now 9 billion, soon to be 15 billion plus).

Can you imagine what that money would have done if it financed a world class university combined with world class reserach, teaching hospital combined with world class environmental incubation think tank and research facility. How much more sustainable would the East End area be having tens of thousands of people working and living in support of the aforementioned as opposed to what will be the Olympic Park employing a few hundred minimum wage workers after the Games are over.

The irony is Labour could have won the election without making these agreements ahead of time as the country was sick and tired of the Tories and would have ignored the Murdochs of the media, had they endorsed the Tories.

The Labour and Conservative parties are now both the corporate parties and have very little in common with the electorate. Perhaps the coming recession/depression will finally wake up the voter to this reality. Lets hope there is still a molecule of integrity left in Labour in order to take back the Party from the Tory lites.

by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 06:38:12 AM EST
UK Labour was not allowed to take over the government until they agreed to the demands of the 'power structure' which continues to dominate the UK.

That implies a coercion that never needed to take place. You underestimate the extent to which Brown, particularly, is a freely-convinced Friedman-ite with very strong Atlanticist leanings, which means that he will slavishly do whatever the economic neo-liberals suggest because he is convinced they are correct.

The irony is Labour could have won the election without making these agreements ahead of time as the country was sick and tired of the Tories and would have ignored the Murdochs of the media, had they endorsed the Tories.

Blair is, like the Clintons, somebody who naturally triangulates with and ppease the right in order to appear "sensible". Keeping Murdoch onside was as much to massage his own ego as well as to hide his political cowardice.

The Labour and Conservative parties are now both the corporate parties and have very little in common with the electorate.

Absolutely. There is no chance of a retreat from Tory-lite cos the party doesn't know what it exists for anymore.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 06:49:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Blair is, like the Clintons, somebody who naturally triangulates with and ppease the right in order to appear "sensible". Keeping Murdoch onside was as much to massage his own ego as well as to hide his political cowardice.'

The shame of Blair is he had a huge majority; most of whom believed in old Labour principles where Clinton never had a majority in Congress. Of course the reason Blair was leader of the party is because he was electable and was originally a conservative in his developing years which meant he was easily maleable to the elites of which he considered himself a member. Even when Clinton had a majority in his first two years in the Presidency; it wasn't an ideological majority meaning there were the Southern Democrats who would always side with the Republicans.

No doubt Clinton will triangulate but had he had the permanent majority Blair had; he would have been a very progressive President instead of one whose first priority was reelection.

by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 07:03:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The shame of Blair is he had a huge majority; most of whom believed in old Labour principles where Clinton never had a majority in Congress.

This is simply false and nothing but a convenient excuse.  Clinton entered office with increased majorities in both houses.  He then failed (thanks, in part, to his wife's incompetence) miserably to pass anything but NAFTA, and then had to bend over for Gingrich for the rest of his presidency, essentially becoming a somewhat responsible Republican.

That's to say nothing of Clinton throwing the state parties to the wolves, and then raping the DNC and our congressional and senatorial committees, essentially turning them into wholly-owned subsidiaries of Dow Chemical and Goldman Sachs.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:27:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agree with you about how the Clintons ended up being subsidiaries of Citibank, Goldman etc. but the majorities he had in the Senate in his first term were slim and ideologically never a majority. After that he never had a working majority. No excuse for his rollover but he would have been a much more effective President had he had the permanent huge majorities that Blair had.
by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:38:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... health care first on his agenda, where success would have yielded political dividends, he put budget balancing and NAFTA first, where success came at a steep political cost.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:00:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that he didn't really put anything on his agenda.  They were all over the place.  NAFTA, the budget, health care, Bosnia -- everywhere.  And, anyway, the health care bill the Clinton administration wanted was not going to pass.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:07:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... all over the map, but they fought and won tough fights on balancing the budget and on NAFTA.

They had included vague promises of universal health care in their campaign, but had no plan, so their failure was over-determined ... it needed to be presenting in the first six months to have a chance of passage, the bill they presented was compromised up front so that the elements of the for profit health care industry that the Clintons considered to be "on board" could just sit back, with a worst case scenario something they could live with, and if they were lucky the whole thing would fall apart, while the elements opposed to it could go after it full throttle ...

... it had too many fatal flaws for any one to be pinpointed as "the" fatal flaw.

That wasn't the question I was addressing, but rather the point that a successful health care plan would have been a creator of political capital, while the two big political battles that they did take seriously and fight to win, balancing the budget and NAFTA, where successes that consumed political capital.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:32:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a critical distinction between leadership and policy. Policy means making laws and balancing the economy to emphasise different demographics. Leadership means changing the public narrative and public values.

Clinton did some policy, but he wasn't much of a leader. There was a token pro-Democrat thing happening, but the big moral (in the widest sense) issues happened around him.

Bush has been tremendously successful as a leader. We've had endless waves of crap from him about Iraq, terrrism, patriotism, America, Bin Laden, 9/11, and Christianity, all of which have persuaded people - at least for a while - that he's talking about issues that really matter.

Blair was trying hard to be a leader, but because he was such a lying git he didn't really have an honest narrative to push. His leadership appeared to be all over the place, but if he hadn't been Tony Blair, and if he'd concentrated on rebuilding the progressive consensus - as voters expected him to and wanted him to - he could have done great things.

As it turned out he was really more interested in Catholicism than progressive values, and so here we are.

Brown is a bank manager, not a leader. Even when he occasionally does the right thing he has no idea how to craft a narrative, or any understanding why a narrative might be necessary. He's about 50:50 on policy - some good, some bad. But he's so lamentably unaware politically that he'll be forgotten soon after he's out.

Hillary has tried to do leadership and failed. 'Gimme the Presidency because I deserve it' isn't a narrative anyone can lead with. It makes her look ridiculous - real leaders don't need to persuade, they just need to lead.

Obama and McCain are currently the only headline Anglo politicians who are showing signs of leadership. Obama is looking good - he has a story, and it seems to be coherent. I'm not sure it's the right story, but it's something voters can understand.

McCain is promising Bush 2.0, so voters know where they are with that - temper tantrums, flag waving and bombs. Some people get off on that, so he'll have solid support.

Obama has certainly started to make people talk about - something. It's not quite clear what it is yet, but he does seem to be tacking to the left. And he's proven that he can spin a good yarn and get people to sit up and notice.

The right wins so often because it's so much better at this kind of simple-minded participatory story telling, and it has so many more ways to get the story out. But Obama has shown he can at least put up a fight. I'm not clear what that's going to mean for policy, but I think at worst we can expect Obama to be a Clinton 2.0 - much more so than Hillary would be. At best - we'll see.

As for the UK - Brown is out. No question.

The LibDems are kinda sorta beginning to have a narrative, but they're still too diverse internally and too focussed on specific issues, so there isn't anything coherent there to excite anyone who isn't already interested. Also, they remain too prissy and middle class to get their hands dirty with an appeal to the proles on Old Labour issues. So they'll continue along in their rather marginal ghetto - unless perhaps there happens to be a hung parliament with the LibDems as deciderers.

Cameron is doing his populist schtick, which is fake but fun to watch, and that's likely to win him the next round, if only because a big part of his story is that he's Not Labour. Of all of the prospects, he probably has the strongest story at the moment - not that that's saying much, because the competition isn't impressive. But I think it's going to be enough for him to win.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 12:43:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
David Cameron: Marlboro-smoking, populist roughneck.  I can't see it.  Brown at least has the rough voice and the large build.  Cameron looks like just another pretty little rich boy from some generic high-end English prep school...which, if I remember correctly, is exactly what he is.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 01:27:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, David Cameron is Dan Quayle with charisma.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 01:52:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't find him terribly charismatic, personally.  I thought he was a doofus, and, while he may have improved since I last watched, he really got torn to pieces by Blair and Brown at PMQs.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 02:03:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, compared with many people, he isn't charismatic, but compared to DQ...he's JFK.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 02:13:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, okay, compared with Dan Quayle, just about anybody is Kennedy.  It's like winning the Special Olympics without being disabled.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 02:20:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 02:24:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What does smoking Marlboro's have to do with fighting fat cats?


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 03:51:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Winter of Discontent was a final lurching hang-over from the (original) Oil Crisis, which saw a three day working week and aggressive confrontations between hard right and hard left. Governments from the mid-50s to the early 70s tended to be bumbling and centrist, and although there was a to-and-fro over nationalisation and privatisation there was a progressive consensus - i.e. you spent money and invested in basics like education and health care.

Aside from Marxist nastiness, Labour was killed by the same influences that stifled progressive narratives in the US and tried to stifle them elsewhere:

  1. Disaster capitalism - after industrial unrest and the oil crisis, it was easy to put up a poster saying 'Labour isn't working' and make it look believable.

  2. The start of a media and narrative push-through from the nastier elements of the Establishment press. Eventually this led to Murdoch, who is possibly the one man most responsible for killing progressive narratives in the West. Media deregulation was a reward for him, but as soon as he bought The Sun and The Times he had a lockdown on narrative influence.

  3. The takeover of economic teaching by the Chicago Crazies. The LSE used to be radical - now it's a hotbed of fervent conservatism.

  4. The rise of MBA academia, which was the Jesuit missionary wing of the Chicago Crazies and has trained a generation in the delights of screwing the little guy for profit to the maximum possible extent.

So what was happening in parliament was a sideshow to what was happening elsewhere. To some extent Blair has always been a puppet on a string.

The next stage of the process will be to try to turn the UK back into a god-fearin' Christian country. That's now Blair's most significant interest.

The shift to the Right couldn't have happened without the Oil Crisis. Nothing concentrates the mind quite as much as insane inflation, power cuts and fuel rationing. It was a neat narrative trick to blame Labour and the Unions for this. In reality Labour and the Unions had nothing to do with it, but in the public memory the unrest of that period is associated with Old Socialism, which is why it's so easy to say that Old Labour has been discredited.

As Naomi Klein has realised, points of narrative change are most easily managed during periods of social stress. That's why we're now in danger of a shift to the far right in the UK, once food and oil prices start to have a direct and noticeable effect.

Ironically Cameron is staking out a claim as a popular champion. He cannot possibly be serious, but now that New Labour has become Corporate LabourTM - champagne socialism without the socialism - there's going to be a lot of popular appeal for a change.

That aside - there's a clear counter-reformation pushback from the end of the 60s, which includes the assassination of MLK and RFK (and possibly JFK), the active promotion of exploitative MBA culture, and a marginalisation of progressive ideas in the mainstream media. What's interesting is that the main players - the oil people, the media people, the milind people - keep re-appearing throughout the story.

It's only really with the Internet that progressives are starting to regroup. (And more about that soon.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 07:04:59 AM EST
Absolutely right about the internet although the potential for dangerous propaganda through the internet is also great.

But what the Obama campaign has done through the internet is to be able to counterbalance the elites in the financing of political campaigns in the US. This is why you see the establishment being desperate to discredit Obama as he becomes the Democratic nominee because his campaign has been the first effective counterbalance to how modern Presidential campaigns get funded in the US. He has over 1,500,000 contributors donating an average of under $100 per person to his campaign.

This is the only way you can run for President without having to totally accept the elites' dictating policy. Obama's campaign is vital to the future of American politics. Once he is nominated; you will see the mosrt vicious campaign in the history of politics against him because the establishment knows his election will mean the beginning of people backed candidates.

Insurgent politicians with equal or more funding than the elites' favorites is the only way to hopefully change the political system in the US. It would be great if a progressive Labour MP could run a campaign financed by the people and also guarantee the other Labour MPs their own campaign financing in order to take back the Labour Party from the 'Blair/Brown/Mandelson/Lord Levy Tories'. Maybe wishful thinking but the economy is working in favor of such a scenario and if Obama can win the election; it would give impetus to such a movement within Labour. Otherwise we are all screwed.

by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 07:23:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You write with the normal over-simplification of there being a unique, unified elite or establishment. Not all of the elite are stupid and wholly self-serving, no more than all of the non-elite.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 07:30:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that's harsh. While you are undeniably correct in saying that any disparate group of people hold an aggregate of conflicting viewpoints, it is also undenaible that they also share certain commonalities of interest that include the perpetuation of their privileged position.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:03:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If we are talking about the families that own half the world, we are also talking about a much smaller group of people then those outside it. From that alone they can be expected to have less variation in opinions.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:28:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are we talking about a few families, now? How many?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:06:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Somewhere I picked up that 500 families owns half the assets of world. Now it appears I have absolutely no idea where this somewhere is.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 06:07:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
one percent of the US population own 40% of the wealth in the US. 10% of the shareholders of all publicly traded US corporations own 85% of all the stock in said corporations. What are you talking about!!!

The elites have ruined the world and you want to take exception to this!!!

by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:45:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I do: I think that it's an oversimplification of the system that hides essential complexity. Every bit as misguided as the over-simplifying assumptions of economics that lead to unrealistic conclusions that are good for justifying selfishness.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:51:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, while your articulating a philosophy, the few who have the means are guaranteeing themselves more means by rigging the system through the buying of our politicians and civil servants through bribes, campaign contributions, influence and pressure. Of course there are people who are wealthy who aren't doing these things but there certainly arent any middle class or poor people who have the means to do these things.

Make the system more honest, transparent and regulated--then we can have a philosophical conversation but to not recognize the problem now will never lead to any solutions.

by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you misunderstand the system you have precisely no chance of influencing it effectively.

Is Obama part of the evil elites? If not, why not?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:59:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And how would you like to influence the system? By not recognizing people with power and means can do damage to the vast majority of peoples' lives or do you have some other more fundamental solutions to the problems we are discussing.
by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:03:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, but not by pretending that there is some huge conspiracy against "us" by the elites. Rephrase your quotes on a global scale and you'll find yourself in the global elite with all the power and wealth.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:07:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is Obama part of the wealthiest 1%?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:05:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He probably is now with he and Michelle's 2007 income.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:09:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So therefore he believes the same things as Dick Cheney.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:12:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, of course not.  I wholly agree with your point about "the elite".  It's not one fixed group marching behind some kind of Ideas-as-Fuhrer thing.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:20:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That really is a sophmoric way to classify the 'elites' to which I alluded to in my comments. I didn't say all 'elites' but those groups of people whose influence has done much harm to the vast majority of others. If you would liek me to clarify for your sake and classify these people as the 'corrupt elites' I will if it will allow you to comprehend what has been and continues to be the influence of a small group of people tio do harm to many.

The decline of the quality of life to the vast majority of people in the US and the UK can be directly linked to the decline of collective bargaining and unions in both countries. This was caused by the 'owners-corrupt elites' undue influence on the laws and lawmakers of the governments.

by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:28:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So "the elites have ruined the world" becomes "some groups of people with power have ruined the world", which is rather nearer being a true statement.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:33:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure you've understood yet how incredibly influential lunatics like Mellon-Scaife have been.

On his own he has single-handedly funded some of the most obnoxious and destructive think-tanks and influential organisations. Reagan and Bush, not to mention the Republican Revival, couldn't have happened without his money.

There's also Murdoch, who's cut from the same cloth. Or do you think Fox News had nothing to do with either of Bush's wins?

The Coors family is also notorious for spending money funding insane right wing causes.

Does the left have anything equivalent? George Soros might count, if he weren't so ambivalent.

For some reason it's really quite hard to find progressive think tanks and media-saturation organisations funded by left wing billionaires.

These people may not sit down together in smoke-filled rooms, but I don't see how anyone can deny the effect they've had - and continue to have - on real democracy.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 12:54:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1% of the US population is, what, 3 million people? That's one heckuva huge room to fill with smoke.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:03:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... to smoke anyway. A latte filled stadium, perhaps?


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:34:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... as if the impact of elites is independent of the establishment system within which they hold their status.

Indeed, its eerily similar to the Chicago School fantasies of every consumer being a free agent that determines but is never determined by the society that they inhabit.

An establishment system is self-perpetuating not because there are a lot of elites standing around saying, "I wish the system to be thus" and no elites standing around disagreeing, but because the systems of social institutions that do not perpetuate themselves do not survive long enough to become part of the establishment system.

Individuals see opportunities if institutional rules can be modified, or if disputes over which set of institutional rules ought to apply to a particular question are decided in a particular way, so they press for rules to be changed, and therefore the establishment system is not a static system. And people holding an elite position in the current establishment system are normally in the best position to press for those changes ... but social systems are too complex for individuals to foresee all of the consequences of the rules changes they are struggling to achieve.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:12:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Guaridan - Gary Younge - Hillary has cynically turned to the one argument she has left: race

"Of course the fact that a person believes in racial equality doesn't prove that he's a communist," said the chairman of a loyalty review board, one of the McCarthyite kangaroo courts that sat in judgment of possible communists, in the 50s. "But it certainly makes you look twice, doesn't it? You can't get away from the fact that racial equality is part of the communist line."....................

It took the best part of 200 years for the law to catch up. In Barack Obama's candidacy we are now learning how far America's political culture has come in this regard and how far it still has to go. Because, for all the misty-eyed liberal talk of him ushering in a post-racial era, the past few weeks have seen Obama fighting not just for the nomination but for his patriotic legitimacy. Constantly questioning his national loyalty and obfuscating his religious affiliation, both the media and his opponents have sought to cast him not only as anti-American but un-American and at times even non-American. His bid to transcend race appears to be crashing on the rocks of racism.



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:01:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But what the Obama campaign has done through the internet is to be able to counterbalance the elites in the financing of political campaigns in the US. This is why you see the establishment being desperate to discredit Obama as he becomes the Democratic nominee because his campaign has been the first effective counterbalance to how modern Presidential campaigns get funded in the US. He has over 1,500,000 contributors donating an average of under $100 per person to his campaign.

This is the only way you can run for President without having to totally accept the elites' dictating policy. Obama's campaign is vital to the future of American politics. Once he is nominated; you will see the mosrt vicious campaign in the history of politics against him because the establishment knows his election will mean the beginning of people backed candidates.

The funding model seems inherited from Howard Dean's abortive 2004 campaign, and his "50-state strategy". What does Obama have that Dean didn't have? Was Obama skillful or just lucky to avoid a "Dean's Scream"?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:16:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good question.

IIRC, the Dean Scream was constructed through editing out sound that was there. More importantly it fit the narrative after Dean had started loosing. Luck had little to do with it.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:25:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The microphone's feed didn't have much sound from the audience, even when he was giving the speech live.  We didn't know how loud the crowd was until we got video footage from someone's camera that captured the audience.  It wasn't a deliberate editing-out of the crowd noise.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:32:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What Obama has that Dean didnt was another 4 years of the US under Bush/Cheney and a more effective fundraising internet organization in addition to Obama being black and one of the greatest campaign stump speakers of our time.
by An American in London on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:42:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama has a few things.  Better staff, for one.  Dean's staff was always mired in fights between two competing groups -- the Trippians (netroots) and the Vermonters (Dean's staffers from Montpelier).  Obama has Axelrod and Plouffe, who are friends and see eye-to-eye with Obama, and Axelrod and Obama have a history in Chicago.  That all helps to build trust and cohesion, which is important when you're trying to control the message.

Comparing Clinton with Obama, it's sort of like the difference between an all-star team and a regular team.  (All-star games -- basketball, especially -- are fun, but I'd never bet on an all-star team to beat a regular team, because they lack cohesion.)  Clinton has the people who are thought to be the best individual advisors money can buy.  Each is good at something.  But Obama has an actual team.

It helped, too, that Axelrod tends to be pretty low-key, while Penn is a spacecase.

Obama's a much better politician than Dean.  Better voice, better with words, not as stiff, better with people, etc.  More than any of those, he's calmer than Dean when the pressure is on.  (Obama's very good with pressure.  Dean had a tendency to get angry when the pressure was on.)  I love Dean, but I'm mindful of the fact that he's kind of a prick.  It's a New England thing, I think, and people either love it or hate it (I happen to appreciate New Englanders for it).

Obama's coalition is essentially Dean's coalition, plus most of Kerry's, which is about what I'd expect.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:49:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What does Obama have that Dean didn't have?

Timing. Dean was primarily sabotaged by the DLC who were then the dominant Democratic organisation. Also, the netroots strategy was too small to be significant back then.

Now the DLC is fading away into irrelevance and no Beltway institution has, as yet, replaced it. Meanwhile, the last few election cycles have shown a growing sophistication in the approaches of the Democratic netroots. They are now not just raising colossal sums of money; they are rendering entire sections of the Beltway elites redundant in terms of Democratic messaging.

Remember the Gandhi saying that was a dKos favourite 2 years ago

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."

I'd say they were were past the fighting stage now. You still hear Beltway blowhards pretending there are angry bloggers who are out to wreck the Democratic party, but they're Blue Dog dinosaurs. That's what changed. That's what Obama has got that Dean hadn't. A grown-up netroots with real power and clout that can deliver money, support, feet on pavements, organisation and new agenda.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 08:52:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The funding model is inherited from Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, but, for one thing, the scale of the audience to be tapped via the Internet grew substantially between 2004 and 2006, and for another, Obama's campaign combined that funding model with far more effective organizing efforts.

Also, in Iowa, which is critical to the slingshot strategy, Obama tended to avoid harsh attacks on his opponents in the media, restricting the harsh attacks to the grass roots level where they had a much lower profile, where Dean and Gephart ended up squandering their earlier advantage in Iowa by getting into a paid media shouting match, which have historically turned off Iowa caucus goers.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:20:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I submit that Gephardt engaged in a murder-suicide in Iowa.  First rule of attacking in politics is to attack everyone, so that no one stays above the fray.  Gephardt was loyal to people like Kerry.  Dean had no choice but to respond, because the press was in a feeding frenzy with some of his gaffes.  Gephardt's strategy was doomed from the start, basically amounting to winning in Iowa on union support and hoping for a miracle to be competitive in the rest of the contest.  Edwards's problem this year was not unlike Gephardt's '04 problem, although he obviously did better in the caucuses.

Obama was able to build a broader coalition in the Iowa cities and suburbs, and, unlike Dean, he was able to get the young people to show up (and extra 20,000 votes to his total, or roughly his margin of victory).

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:51:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... I was overseas at the time, except for a couple of weeks early in 2004 when I saw some campaign events on C-SPAN, so I did not have a front row seat to the ins and outs. I certainly am not in a position to say "who started it", but the two front runners putting all their resources into attacking each other in Iowa, of all places, is as close to a lead pipe cinch for both front runners going down as you are going to get in primary politics.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 10:14:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To some degree, that's just the nature of periods of unrest, though.  It's always associated with those in power or those who can be associated with it visually.  Daddy Bush paid for it in 1992.  Carter did in 1979.  It also just happens to be the case that the right is a lot better at marketing than the left.

We're still in the first or second chapter of progressives regrouping.  That's going to take a while.  On the money side, I think the left in America has arrived (and I wish Obama would cut this "I'll sit down and have an agreement with McCain on money" bullshit).  If we were in the general election, Obama would be burying McCain in ads.  I'm a bit surprised we haven't seen something similar in European politics.  The netroots has made a good bit of progress getting candidates it likes elected.  I suspect we'll see more of that this year.

Cameron is a media creation -- a mixture of his youth and Labour having been in power for eleven years ("Blair Fatigue").  If Labour weren't made up of a bunch of corporate hacks, it could obliterate him.  If Dan Quayle had John Kerry's charisma, he'd be David Cameron.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 09:36:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm a bit surprised we haven't seen something similar in European politics.

European politics is far less money-centered and more centered on organisational power. Less important to buy ads, more important to dominate the editorial pages. And far less political television ads. In the past it has looked like a blessing, but with the internet providing for ways to pool lots and lots of small contributions things might be changing.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 06:00:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The tragedy of Labour history is that its two most impressive leaders, Hugh Gaitskell and John Smith, died a year or two before they would have become potentially great Prime Ministers.

I think Gaitskell would have put a higher priority on doing the right thing, rather than preserving party unity at all costs as Harold Wilson did. He might also have had the courage and forethought to devalue the pound immediately Labour came to power in 1964 and not subordinate everything to a futile attempt to delay the inevitable.

John Smith would have used a majority to do things, rather than appeasing the right in the way Blair did. It was John Smith's agenda of constitutional change, implemented despite Blair's reluctance, which was the most important part of the post 1997 agenda. Blair never took much pride in it, preferring to glorify never being outflanked to the right on reactionary immigration and criminal law measures and making trivial managerial changes to the welfare state.

Gaitskell and Smith might well not have remained in office as long as Wilson and Blair did, but my suspicion is that they would have achieved more of lasting importance.

by Gary J on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 11:32:43 AM EST
you're quite the historian, helen!

where did tony benn fit into all this?

(i know i could wiki it, but i think your version(s) will be more entertaining)...i saw him interviewed, and found in him all that i wanted to find in a labour politician, but what do i know?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 05:39:24 PM EST
Tony Benn was merely a distraction in this. He was a bit like Clause 4 in that he provided an excuse for the media to attack Labour, but he himself was never particularly influential. Rather like Rev Wright and Obama.

He resisted the necessary removal of the Militant Tendency and rendered himself irrelevant by picking the wrong side.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 05:57:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Benn's are a second tier political dynasty, represented in Parliament for the last five generations (from memory). Unusually they have been on the left of politics, whereas most political dynasties have been on the right (or moved that way over time).

Tony Benn (who for a time was the unwilling 2nd Viscount Stansgate - his campaign to permit peerages to be disclaimed was one of the most significant things he achieved in politics), is probably the most famous of the Benn's and rose highest in political prominence (so far).

In the 1950s Benn seemed to be a technocratic figure on the right of Labour politics. In the 1959 election he was used as a mock newscaster (US=news anchor I believe) in Labour Party election broadcasts. He was obviously more comfortable in the television age than most politicians of the era.

In the Wilson government Benn ran the Orwellian MinTech (Ministry of Technology). Naturally it proved to be the department to stifle innovation, in the interests of preserving decaying old industries. Benn gradually moved left. By the 1970s he had become the human face of old fashioned Laborism and Militant dupe, who saw just about no enemies to the left. This approach almost carried him to the leadership, but he was out of Parliament at the time of the crucial leadership election so he never quite made it.

by Gary J on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 08:10:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know Benn is understood to be a leftie over there, but what made him a distraction?  I don't know his personal history well enough to get it.

On a side note: Speaking of Wright, am I the only one on the planet who, having listened to what he said, believes that a lot of what he said was absolutely true?  Heaven forbid the more sheltered portions of White America turn off Dancing with the Stars for a while and be forced to think.  I'm a little miffed at the dKos crowd jumping on the "Throw him under the bus" bandwagon as I see the chickenhawks in the press questioning the patriotism of someone with Wright's background of service.  

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 08:14:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh good. Wright was saying a lot things I agreed with, but I'm aware that some Americans can be very sensitive about such things. As you say, even the supposedly "progressive" dKos crowd reveal their American-Exceptionalist side over this.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 09:01:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Swiftboating is fine so long as it's not done to a candidate, apparently.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 09:09:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As Gary J said, Benn became a distraction because, although popular with the more reality-challenged amongst the membership, he was really just a maverick voice-in-the-wilderness within the party. A man to be listened to with repsect and then ignored.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 09:33:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks, pity, i reckon, he had a good combo of brains, humour, and vision.

sounds like his timing was off.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 08:23:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another part of the story is the rise of the Murdoch press. The media discourse in the UK is all about the failures of government. And you can date the strength of that discourse to the rise of Murdoch, the coercion of The Times to voodoo economics and of course the destruction of the Daily Star and Daily Mirror (and even the Express.)

There's a strong sense in threads over at The Guardian where people like Seamus Milne write about the need for Labour to become less Tory (to regain heartland votes) others point out that these elections cannot be won without those "swing voters" in the middle who are now slanting Tory again.

Now it's quite clear that if you stop and think about it, only the ultra-rich have anything to gain from a Tory government, but the media discourse in the UK does not allow that fact to become apparent. Indeed, there's a strong sense in which the media deny that "UK Labour turned Tory" at all.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 05:34:18 AM EST
I'm not a big believer in the median-voter theorem, which is what Labour, along with the DLC in America, is thinking.  Swing voters go with the strongest candidate they see.  They don't have any great ideological leanings (more apolitical than liberal or conservative), so running to the middle isn't going to get you much.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 07:57:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder though if this sort of history is inevitable. When the economic or social conditions are really bad, like in the 1930s, the public drifts towards the left. When the economy gets better, forgetfulness sets in and there's less enthusiasm for "high taxes." And politicians can always drape themselves in the flag.

If it were just America and Britain that had this problem, maybe it could be categorized as Anglo Disease, but there are comparable situtations practically everywhere.

The pendulum swings back and forth, and right now it seems to be swinging towards the left in the U.S. and towards the right in Europe...

by asdf on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 09:36:13 AM EST
I'm not convinced the drift in europe is quite what it seems. I'd say the public in the UK are to the liberal left of all 3 main political parties, but have no place to go with their disdain. To protest against labour implies a vote to the right of them, but I think the significant part of the vote is, like TBG says, a protest against the incombent.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 5th, 2008 at 11:46:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why is there no place to go to to get to the left of the Labour party in Britain? Here in the U.S. the leftist protest vote (against Democratic conservativism) finds a home in the Green party or Ralph Nader or one of the various socialist parties.

I guess I don't see how a vote in favor of the Conservative party can be counted as a leftist protest against Labour's drift to the right.

by asdf on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 08:33:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One reason may be the lack of any sort of national election. To make any  impact at all, a protest party has to get candidates to stand (and pay deposits) in a lot of constituencies.  They have a Green party (I think they came 4th in the London elections), as well as a number of Socialist and Communist ones, but the impact of any candidates that stands will be very local.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 03:29:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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