Nothing to lose but our chains: Marx on cycling

by Mark Perryman

As the annual cycling spectacle of the Tour De France begins Mark Perryman argues the case for two wheels good

Who would have guessed it. Karl Marx was clearly a bike mechanic when he wasn’t plotting the downfall of capitalism. “Nothing to lose but your chains” is handy advice when the derailleur slips and furious pedalling propels bike and rider precisely nowhere. Ok, Marx was more interested in liberating the workers of the world than the freedom of the road though with committed cycle-commuter Jeremy Corbyn quite possibly in need of a Downing Street bike rack soon there doesn’t seem a better time to make the case for cycling as the people’s sport. Continue reading →

Anatomy of a Campaign: Interview with Alex Nunns, author of The Candidate

by Alex Nunns

The Candidate, available at OR Books

It has been an incredible few weeks for Jeremy Corbyn. Widely written-off by the political commentariat as a no-hoper when Theresa May called the snap election, he is now a prime minister in waiting, leader of the most popular party in Britain facing a weak and unstable government.

The pace of political events make September 2015, when Corbyn first won leadership of the Labour Party, seem like an age ago. But the foundation of his recent success was laid then — with a political vision that he deviated little from in the intervening two years.

Alex Nunns, the author of The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn’s Improbable Path to Power, was one of those who saw the project develop from its earliest stages. Here he talks to James Elliott, editor of Left Futures, about the extraordinary general election campaign, the future of Corbyn’s Labour Party, and the path to left government in Britain.

This interview originally appeared in Jacobin Magazine. Continue reading →

Economic dogma, George Osborne and Grenfell Tower

by Ann Pettifor

What has the horror at Grenfell Tower to do with economists? And what have the lives lost at Grenfell Tower to do with the government’s budget deficit?  A great deal, I will argue here. When on Twitter a few days ago I raised the issue of the shared responsibility that economists have for this ghastly tragedy, I was attacked. So let me explain.

In the days before the Grenfell Tower inferno, mainstream economists complained that the economy was not at the heart of the general election campaign. What they meant was something quite different: that Treasury economic dogma about the need to cut the deficit was not at the heart of the election campaign.  Continue reading →

The alt-left: A critical appreciation

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Among the big winners of the general election are the wave of new blogs collectively dubbed the “alt-left”. You know who I’m talking about. The Canary, Skwawkbox, Novara, Evolve Politics and Another Angry Voice have been singled out by the mainstream as the authentic voices of the new socialism that has seized hold of the Labour Party and powered it to its highest number of votes for 20 years. Despite these blogs being around for some time (AAV since 2010, Skwawkbox 2012) they constitute part of the third age of blogging, which saw outsiders seemingly appear from nowhere to muscle in on online comment. In a short period of time, they have all carved out serious audiences, according to Buzzfeed’s in-depth feature (itself a product of the third wave). How, and why is it – Novara’s Aaron Bastani aside – they are all outsiders? Why didn’t established radical journalists, other socialist blogs, or the regular output of the far left become key artefacts of the Corbynist zeitgeist? It’s because of how this ‘outsiderness’ relates to their content which, in turn, has found substantial audiences. Continue reading →

Disband Momentum? Alan Johnson is as forgetful as he is hypocritical

by James Elliott

The self-described “militant moderate”

Despite now being out of Parliament, Alan Johnson doesn’t seem to want to stay out of politics. This weekend he made a typically unastute intervention into Labour’s post-election debate, saying, “Momentum, by now, should have disbanded. Jeremy Corbyn by now is very safe”, and that, “I don’t see the point of a separate organisation which is just a fan club for the leader.”

Not only has Johnson completely overlooked the tremendous role that Momentum played in the General Election – but he speaks as a supporter of Progress, an internal party organisation that, like Momentum, was founded immediately following a leadership election. Yet in the case of Progress, the organisation has outlasted the leader who founded it – Tony Blair – by ten years. Why then is Johnson calling for Momentum to go?  Continue reading →

Corbynism and the middle class

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

You have your hot takes, and you have your duff takes. There’s little doubt which category Daniel Allington’s latest lazy missive on Corbynism and the Labour Party falls into. His piece looks at the some features of Labour’s electoral performance that should be a cause of concern: that ethnically homogeneous (white) working class voters with few formal qualifications are less likely to vote Labour than was previously the case, and that this has accelerated between 2015 and 2017. He also notes that if a Labour-held constituency voted leave in the EU referendum, there was a swing toward the Conservatives and vice versa if it voted Remain. To use the old management speak cliche, it’s one thing to bring me problems but I want to hear solutions. Otherwise, what is the point? Continue reading →

How the gods destroy Tory governments

by David Osland

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. And when the fancy takes them, they sadistically subject Tory governments visibly on the skids to cunningly-designed symbolic torment, calibrated perfectly to maximise exposure of the unwilling victims’ manifold ethical shortcomings.

In their ways, the Profumo scandal, cash for questions and Grenfell Tower are all modern-day miniature morality tales, there for the political edification of the many as well as the few. The first two presaged the downfall of the Macmillan and Major premierships respectively; the latter will surely bookend May’s days in Number Ten.

Grenfell Tower – its burned-out skeleton rising above Britain’s richest borough, in a seat that had just one week earlier fallen to Labour – is effectively a parable on the theme of private affluence and public squalor. After what has happened, it is not obvious that there is now any way back for the Tories; what is clear is that there does not deserve to be.

All of these episodes somehow encapsulate a Zeitgeist. Spotlighting in turn the hollow hypocrisy of bourgeois sexual morality, the bog standard venality of backbenchers on the take, and now the impact of austerity on the lives of the working poor, each graphically indicted a complacent rightwing administration that could serve further gainful purpose.

Perhaps it is worth recapping the earlier incidents, starting with the first. We as witnesses to love in the time of Simon Danczuk naturally experience difficulty in visualising a nation more shocked than titillated by tawdry revelations from the boudoir.

Today a male politician – even a cabinet minister – caught between the sheets with a sex worker would likely not lose his job, with any admonishment more likely to come from feminist quarters than from upholders of marital fidelity. Christine Keeler would perhaps be posting cleavage-revealing selfies on Twitter and seeking selection as a Labour PPC.

Yet even from this distance, that her other clients included an intelligence operative of a country deemed to incarnate the very ideology most frequently counterposed to British democracy retains some power to shock.

Perhaps a contemporary analogy would be the news that one of Boris Johnson’s partners in amorous dalliance was simultaneously sharing a bed with a senior figure in so-called Islamic State.

Profumo, of course, compounded matters by his dishonesty, dissembling before the House of Commons in much the manner of Bill Clinton at the height of the Lewinsky imbroglio.

But Profumo did have sexual relations with that woman, and it was never glad confident morning again; shortly thereafter, Macmillan stepped down, and Alec Douglas-Home – the last Eton-educated prime minister prior to Cameron – survived a fag-end year before being replaced by Wilson.

Thereafter, the Conservatives wisely eschewed the promulgation of family values, until the 1990s, when John Major chose to resurrect the right’s association with them under the slogan of ‘back to basics’.

Almost predictably, this newly-erected roof caved in shortly thereafter, with ministerial indiscretions ranging from adulterous hotel room legovers allegedly undertaken in Chelsea football strip to a death brought on by over-enthusiastic indulgence in the solitary vice while practising erotic auto-asphyxiation.

In 1994, the Guardian published a story contending that lobbyists shoved brown paper envelopes stuffed with cash into the clammy hands of Conservative MPs ready to table questions on behalf of the owner of an upmarket department store in Knightsbridge. This time it was the political process itself that was prostituted, with furore dragging on for years.

Major stepped down as Tory leader in 1995, only be chosen again in a gesture that backfired every bit as self-defeatingly as May’s recent bumbled effort to win a stronger Brexit mandate.

Meanwhile, the drip-drip nature of the unfavourable reportage led to the coining of the expression ‘Tory sleaze’, setting the scene for Labour’s landslide triumph of 1997. Blair’s protestation that his new government would be ‘purer than pure’ never found definitive fruition, to put it charitably. But that is the subject of another polemic.

The Grenfell Tower tragedy was – at the time of writing – known to have claimed the lives of 79 men, women and children, with the death toll likely to rise further still.

And for what? For want of fireproof cladding would have cost an additional £5,000, after a Tory council under a Tory government opted for regeneration on the cheap, and that largely motivated by the aesthetic pleasure of the area’s wealthier residents.

Meanwhile – as Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out – seven years of austerity have seen many local authorities cut back on fire testing and inspections, simply because they have insufficient staff to undertake such vital tasks.

For decades, the small state butted out of social housing, and privatised and deregulated such social housing as it was obliged to provide because minimum-wage immigrant cleaners have to live somewhere. The denouement of right-to-buy is horribly upon us.

British politics now finds itself characterised by a government bereft of any sense of direction beyond platitudinous appeals to Brexit patriotism, blithely compounding unforced error upon further unforced error, and an opposition has reinvigorated by its two-year embrace of democratic socialism.

Much like Wilson after Profumo and Blair after cash for questions, Corbyn after Grenfell Tower finds himself gifted with a trashed Tory party that has dug its own grave, and an electorate now ready for the Labour alternative.

Theresa May will, of course, try to hang on in there in the wake of her Pyrrhic victory. Let her reverie last as long as it does; whether her assassins be internal or external, the reprieve can only be temporary.

But it is already clear that the next general election will set the direction the country will take in the most decisive period of its postwar history. For the Labour left, the next general election cannot come soon enough.

General Election 2017: For the many, not the few

by Bryan Gould

The British general election has produced an impressive list of casualties.  Theresa May may survive for the time being but her gamble on a snap election so as to increase her majority – and her authority, especially in the forthcoming Brexit talks – has spectacularly misfired.  Even with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, it seems unlikely that she or her government will survive a full further term.

Other casualties were even less expected.  The Scottish National Party’s losses seem to have put paid to any talk of a second referendum on Scottish independence. And the loss by Nick Clegg of his seat in the House of Commons demonstrates the price that has been paid by the Liberal Democrats for the coalition arrangement Clegg took them into with the Tories. Continue reading →

Two key reasons for Corbyn’s stunning advance

by Tom O Leary

This post first appeared on Socialist Economic Bulletin.

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership the Labour Party has staged a stunning revival, prevented Theresa May achieving a landslide which she would have claimed as a mandate for ‘Hard Brexit’ and has caused a crisis of Tory government which will make it harder to make new cuts in public spending, apart from rising inflation. None of Corbyn’s opponents could have possibly achieved that outcome.

This point can be factually established in two ways. First, there is the record of the election campaign itself. None of Jeremy Corbyn’s internal or external opponents would have conducted anything like the same campaign or written anything similar to the manifesto that was produced. On the contrary, the tactic of Corbyn’s opponents was to ‘give him enough rope to hang himself’, believing that his programme would prove massively unpopular. Continue reading →

Why far-right terrorism is on the rise

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

And here we are again. Another day, another terror attack with one dead and eight others injured. Though, on this occasion it’s definitely not Islamist-inspired. According to witnessesthe man who rammed worshippers leaving Finsbury Park Mosque screamed “Kill me, kill me, I want to kill all Muslims”. It’s to the credit of the traumatised crowd that the suspect wasn’t granted his wish and got carted off into police custody. As the legal process is now in train there is little that can be reported about him or his intentions, but there are points we can make about hate crime and political violence motivated by far right politics.

While incidences of Islamist terror are shocking, in another sense they aren’t. For the last 16 years the press and politicians have talked up the possibility of attacks from this quarter to justify military action overseas and authoritarian legislation at home. It’s part and parcel of measures that have the consequence of scaring, cowing, atomising large numbers of people. It is an approach utterly disinterested in dealing meaningfully with the roots of terror as it raises uncomfortable questions. And so we have a sensibility, a notion that as awful Islamist atrocities are they are also banal, or something to be expected. The state is prepped for it. Culture is prepped for it. Continue reading →

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