Politics does not equal policy

Some Corbyn backers on the left of the Labour Party are losing optimism fast. Hope is of course necessary, but I’d argue that a bit of intellectual pessimism is always healthy anyway, myself.

Some of those I’ve witnessed on social media are manning the defences, making the perhaps valid argument that “it’s not the policies” which are costing Labour support. I’ve found that a predictable but still ‘difficult to understand’ reaction, because most people outside party politics wouldn’t even think that’s an argument worth considering either way. I’m not saying policies don’t matter, but people don’t literally sit down and read manifestos, do they?

Politics is about all sorts of emotional stuff. Whether people feel you are on their side. Whether they feel that you could stick up for them competently. Whether they feel you could make deal, and then whether you could negotiate well. Whether they feel you can get others behind you, or manage well. That’s just the personal stuff, before you even get onto what people think of political parties.

Example: if you mess up how you pay for a policy, to many people that says a lot more about you and whether you deserve support than the actual policy itself.

Then you have how these things come through our own personal histories, ways of explaining things, media and leisure choices, our local areas, and experience of the world – what we might politically call ‘culture’. In addition to our emotions, which are important and powerful, there is plenty of intellectual stuff which isn’t conscious or examined – a normal part of life. Like, for example, which assumptions affect our judgement of the facts we are given when we think about something political. “It says here someone was claiming benefits – what do I already think of that?”.

The fact that anyone would ever simply assumes that the debate about Labour and its leadership is a debate solely or mostly about policy only shows how unusual – well, weird – people active in politics tend to be.

Policies matter, but they don’t stand alone, and are only part of the picture.

Tony Benn famously said that politics is about policies, not personalities. It would be a lot more fair to say that it should be. But of course, really it’s about both, and plenty more.

Update: what could really say it better?

Understanding the ‘ethical split’

I am increasingly captivated by accessible bits of writing about social psychology, perhaps because I think it is key to rebooting the political strategy Labour has really lacked since 2010. It can be the bridge between pretentious articles such as this one, and the pub-type situation that I always end up on relying on to symbolise non-metropolitan England. It’s about what people care about and how we talk to them. Forget about policies for a minute – I think these are actually the big things that Labour is missing.

At present the left arrives in ever more consensus based positions on areas of economic policy and the like, but I think that we are living with the legacy of a very big gap where political strategy is supposed to go. Successive Labour leaders since Tony Blair have engaged with the concept of political strategy less and less, despite knowing that most of the people in the country are actually quite different to us and don’t support us. It seems moves to the left for some reason come with more emphasis on policy rights and wrongs and less on politically getting there. I’m increasingly persuaded by the view that this is to do with what people from the top to the bottom of the Labour Party, ‘pioneers’, value.

valueshere

I have some sympathy with Charlie Mansell’s argument that this is basically where the new split in politics resides – between people who value ethical certainty and people who value ethical complexity. I certainly think this is true within the organised left, which is dominated by ‘pioneer’ personality types – people who are concerned with change and ethics.

There seem to be two types of ethically driven people:

The ethically certain tend to be looking for ways that they can express themselves and act in accordance with ethical values that they are sure of. This ‘sureness’ is something they actively seek, defining against threats and risks they also see as clear, and since they have often achieved the sureness, what is left is to express. Certainty and expression are valued as part of defining the self and one’s place in the world, and as a clear defence against the ethical challenges it presents. This is perceived by some as a pessimistic emotional approach. People with this disposition are often at a loss as to why others don’t take positions which are clear, stand up for themselves, or ‘say what they mean’. They can seem overly sure of themselves, dismissive, or overbearing.

The ethically complex tend to lean more towards how ethics are used, what they are applied to, what results. They are invested in the power of ethics to change and improve situations. They feel that to be used to full effect, ethical frameworks must be designed with the full complexity of their environment to mind, firstly because this makes best use of opportunities, secondly because if ethics are well designed then they cope better with risks. It’s optimistic and about getting the most out of one’s ethics. Complexity and producing better results are valued, and being able to admit that you don’t know everything or are unsure is simply seen as more honest and useful – optimism is found amidst relative chaos. People with this disposition are often at a loss to understand why complexity, nuance or qualification in ideas often meets such strong rejection from many others. They can seem detached, aloof, and sometimes indecisive.

This is not to say that:
1) one of these positions is more ‘right’ than the other
2) the two cannot be allies of each other or complementary.

However it is a clear divergence of outlook – and in my view one which increasingly characterises the rift in the left. And in the internet age, both types seem to have decreasing tolerance for one another.

The basis for all of this is in Maslow’s categorisation of social-psychological needs, by the way, potentially with some borrowing from Carl Jung I think.

 

Tackling a shift

CSR2

This graphic is from the Government’s newly announced CSR paper for this November.

We are now at a 2004 level of spending but with slightly lower income. We should be concentrating on raising that income, but the basic point is that our deficit has gone from being at ‘crash’ levels to ‘New Labour’ levels. We are unarguably now at a stage where the social sphere’s share of economic activity is below that of 2004 – indeed, in real terms we crossed that line some time ago – our population is growing.

Objectively speaking, the argument that we now can’t sustain policies like tax credits is of equal value to what the argument that we should abolish them made in 2004. The rest is public opinion. Depending on who you ask.

If public opinion is not prepared to defend those things now but was in 2004, yes we can adapt to that, or challenge it. But first we should be asking if such a political shift has occurred, why, and what we would want to come out of it.

I am disappointed that there is no Labour leadership candidate from the left flank of the party (or even its centre) who is interest in cutting edge analysis and in particular the science of public discourse and opinion.

In my view a materialist left needs to be real enough to engage in questions like this bravely. If we are witnessing this kind of shift, we are certainly seeing one wing of the Labour Party arguing to adapt to that trend and concede to what is essentially a second wave of rightward shifting after the neoliberal revolution of the 1980s. The argument is that we may be defeated forever, but we should see any small adaptations we can make as validating that defeat to the point where we can tell ourselves it is victory. In short, a Dunkirk strategy. But one in which you keep on making the retreat whilst the enemy keeps chasing.

In Blairism, there is no looking beyond a permanent rightward shift. And in jettisoning all concern for the most basic amelioration (i.e. countering child poverty), they can no longer even argue that the most moderate sweetener is there to help the ‘deal’ go down.

In contrast, the left alternately argues that such a rightward shift does not exist, or that it should be countered. It cannot keep its line straight between these two antagonistic arguments, because it is not interested in doing the groundwork to actually find out in the first place. In this sense, there is little reason it should be taken credibly.

The third approach, and what is not being argued, is that the shift exists, should be acknowledged, and that we need to think of imaginative strategies and indeed tactics explicitly to halt or reverse it.

It is increasingly unclear if the ‘hard’ flanks of the party feel they have anything at all in common with each other. Both seem to take this as a badge of pride, which I feel is immature and makes us phenomenally weak against a party which represents all wings of the establishment and shares a common outlook and basis of consent at a very basic level.

Indeed, many on the left fear that such a shared ultimate objective as halting a rightward shift does not exist across the Labour Party (in the way that commitments to things like low taxes for well off people appeal across the whole spectrum of the Conservative Party).

Which is an obstacle for us all. In any event, I would argue that the challenge for the right of the Labour party is to commit to this objective, and to be trusted to do so. Fundamentally this is why Blairites are currently unable to appeal beyond their core. They need to revise.

The challenge for the party left is to commit to being honest with itself, doing some actual original and non-repetitive things in pursuance of changing public opinion, and working with others to make it happen. It needs a good revising too.

Innovation and radicalism in defence of core values (rather than led by George Osborne) is ground that everyone in Labour can stretch to stand on, and it is ground which can win support from both our left and right flanks – the only way to win any future election. It is probably also the only way to hold Labour together and secure any common currency as a movement, even if winning proves to be totally impossible.

Rather than seeing this happen, I suspect I’ll just sit and get pissed off with the TV instead. La lotta continua, and all that.

America’s insurgent ‘centre-left’?

Among some centrist Democrats, the response to the rise of the insurgent centre-left has been sputtering rage. In a widely-discussed op-ed published in the conservative Wall Street Journal, the leaders of the neoliberal think tank Third Way (whose very name is a reference to the “Third Way” movement of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair) denounced de Blasio and Warren and warned that “populism” would lead the Democratic party back into the electoral wilderness. But while these sentiments find strong support among Democratic donors in the financial industry and the think tanks they fund, Democratic activists and voters are shifting to the relative left. Like the neoconservatives on the right, the neoliberals on the left may end up as an elite sect, a group that has funding and spokespeople but little or no voter support.

Well, Amen to that.

Why not be a capitalist?

Sensible socialists often have to compromise with or even harness capitalism. Yet unlike Chuka Umunna, I am not happy to call myself a capitalist.

I neither believe in nor benefit from supporting the class system. Which however much we bang on about ‘mobility’, remains what capitalism is. Some people can only aspire to become wealth creators. A smaller number of other people get to be their bosses. And so are born Two Nations.

I’m not even sure that’s what Chuka Umunna was agreeing with when he said we are all capitalists, which is part of what makes his throwaway comments highly questionable if you remove the context. So I think that’s what I’ll do. After all, it is funny how in British politics the slightly left-of-centre are often so happy to use ‘capitalism’ to mean ‘everything I like about capitalism’. But what does it really mean?

Capitalism is now an international system based on centralised control of wealth (capital) and political power by an economic class. Ugly stuff.

To sustain itself, it normally has some element of democratic management or involvement built into it as a pressure valve. If that hadn’t evolved, it would have been history by 1860.

In states where elite tolerance with a well supported and confident left has worn thin (think South America, civil war Spain, the Weimar Republic or South Africa) events have shown that this doesn’t always ring true. Capitalism and democracy are far from the same thing.

At a more fundamental level, the whole thing is built on the idea of people signing away or being forced out of the right to make their own decisions for 8-12 hours a day, and feeling vulnerable enough to do it.

And most people in the world don’t get much back for that. Capitalism is, like all social systems before it, an unjust system. It’s also not very stable or efficient. Again, like all social systems before it, no matter how permanent things seem or how little you see your own life changing, capitalism is also quite possibly a temporary system.

Things in our world change fast, and it often doesn’t take much time for what seems normal to seem weird – “all that is solid melts into air”.

It comes with convulsions, booms, busts, threats, wars and a tide of other horrors. Consider how people must have felt during feudalism, or mass slavery, and how ridiculous it would have been to them to imagine the world we live in now.

I would not argue that profit or competition are always wrong. What they are used for is important. But who is in charge of the economy and how it is influenced both control that.

The idea of a softly steered capitalism that is relatively democratic and delivers for those who work within it belongs in the Crosland era – the late 1950s and the 60s – a period which followed capitalism destroying all the wealth it had built up, along with millions of people, and a social revolution which followed. It was also exclusively western, and doesn’t reflect the experience of those in Africa, Asia and South America, for whom capitalism has actually usually meant war or long standing police states.

Liberal capitalism itself has a list of atrocities at least as long as its far more forthright Stalinist and Fascist cousins. Liberals and conservatives in Europe and the US love to pretend that Pinochet, who they politically and economically supported, is completely distant from them. But even as we speak, those people have plans to cream off money from thousands of Chinese sweatshop workers, and will defend this on the basis that we get the vote and the right to strike in MEDCs.

Workers in the west have also taken a beating to keep the white goods cheap. For a start the jobs they had are now in China. But that’s to do with the political defeat of their own parties and movements.

Yet I am an optimist. Even after globalisation, in my own view there is hope to be found of reforming capitalism back, and re-extending social power over greed and irresponsibility. It won’t be done by Parliaments acting without pressure from outside, and unlike the last time social democracy advanced, this time it won’t be done by single states acting on their own. But most people on the left understand this.

So if we would like capitalism to be more restricted by the public interest, I question how the left can reform back something that is regressive by declaring faith in it.

Whether your system is a ‘workers capitalism’ like Venezuela, welfarism like the 50s (or Sweden), or outright fascism, the same themes of concentrated wealth and power with those who own stakes in companies continues to perpetuate. And that part of any political settlement is never about working for the wider social good.

Yes, in the immediate term we need to make capitalism work better – to tame it, stabilise it, diffuse its proceeds, and diffuse power over it. In this sense, Stewart Wood, Ed Miliband et al are dead on. What is even more rare is that what they want is both better for short-term competition, and for people who have to work for a living. A win-win.

But it’s not so much that everyone is a capitalist now.

It’s more that we need to be honest about how much of a hold it has on our culture and our economy, how poorly organised the left is, and how difficult this can make it to flog people anything that looks marginal, impossible, or completely alien to their existing belief system.

Slamming capitalism is politically irrelevant at best. But pledging allegiance to it is self-defeating and naive about what the class power of the well monied actually means.

What we need to do is concentrate on is resisting the worst of it, on changing wider political culture, and organising the insecure majority of people against all that is wrong with capitalism – whatever they want to call themselves.

The economic crisis from 2008-2012 having become a crisis of both finance and working class living standards, we continue to be in a ‘war of position‘, as has been true in developed economies since the late 1970s.

I have developed a political tolerance for capitalism, because it’s better to build ourselves something constructive rather than getting pasted in newspapers every day without changing anyone’s minds. I feel OK about that.

All of this said, I’d rather just be honest. It’s ridiculous to have a moral belief in capitalism – not least as a self-described socialist.

Capitalism has no moral desires of its own to believe in.

When we support the morality of capitalism, there are only those fleeting ethics of the social group who organise its diary. In other words, those in charge of the businesses, and the political structures beneath them.

To believe in capitalism is to believe that a small number of highly advantaged people should be left alone to make the bulk of the decisions.

The labour movement might have to tolerate or employ this economic system to its own ends, but why should it actively promote it in its own ranks?

In the immediate future it’s good for Labour to concentrate on building a private sector which is more sustainable and enduring, and democratic enough to give away more of its proceeds. Nobody is opposing that.

But what about the principle? The big question?

It will almost certainly never happen in our lifetimes, but wouldn’t it be great to see capitalism superseded by a stage of history which is more democratic, international, and more focused on serving the bulk of people who aren’t already sorted?

We could call that democratic socialism, and we could call the bits on the way social democracy. We could even put it on the back of Labour membership cards.

“Islam is not a race” – a complete waste of everyone’s time.

I have already written one post clarifying what is meant by Islamophobia. Now it looks like I’ll have to write one saying why I think it has racist content.

Obviously on the surface it claims to be criticism of a religion – but this itself isn’t anything anyone has a problem with, if done with human decency at least. It’s more the whole burning down mosques and stabbing elderly men. Or even just the spitting.

To reiterate – nobody objects to you criticising a religion. We object to you abusing people or behaving in a bigoted or prejudiced way towards them, in this case people who are Muslims.

Clever voices are often deliberately stupid

A big part of the problem with the rising levels of fear Muslims now have to undergo as they go about their day to day lives is that discourse from the liberal press and intelligentsia helps to solidify hard nationalist and/or Islamophobic opinion by agreeing with the notion that political crimes by Muslims are not about individual agency, but a ‘faith problem’. ‘We are only criticising their faith’ is a cry that come from liberals almost as often as the apologists for far-right organisations and discourse that smatter the toilet walls of twitter.

That’s all very well to say from a newspaper building or a Reuters platform, but is ignorant of the effect it has in the real world where Muslims are being attacked. This is a material fact, normally the first category of information the liberally inclined parts of the left of centre chooses to ignore.

As well as such concrete facts, there are also facts that are political.

Race politics in British capitalism – a political fact

Islam is not a ‘race’. It’s a proxy for many races in Islamophobic discourse. Lumping these cultures together is part of what is offensive. Meanwhile, there are many organised people out there who are not happy with ‘outside’ culture or races, and will happily raise points about both, as part of a deeper divisive agenda. How to respond? Well, who knows?

But here’s another question – do they influence those of us who think themselves far more reasonable?

The idea that the cultures (and worse, individuals) are all defined purely by faith is racist, and the idea that the faith is monolithic is itself built on a refusal to accept the diversity between various predominantly Muslim cultures.

Somehow then we have generated at least one seldom discussed example of a religion specific bigotry built on generalisations about race.

Further to that, Islam is then used to target people at least in some measure because they do not look white. Firstly is is used to that end by groups such as the BNP. Does anyone really believe that they didn’t make a tactical turn toward talking about culture and identity rather than straight up eugenics? Or that this thinking isn’t also inherent to the base of the EDL, and its leadership? Liberal press, please stop ignoring this. It’s real.

Many impressions about Islam and what it means for Muslims are prejudiced, often because those making the judgements are from a different ethno-linguistic and cultural background. This is racist.

Secondly, Islam is used as a general targeting mechanism for a range of primarily Muslim groups by racists. This is also both real and racist.

Thirdly, taken together, this means prejudice and difficult living for people who are Muslims, regardless of what their idea of Islam or their wider personhood is like – something that white Britons are not willing to endure. This is racist.

Fourth, the attacks which result as this culture change embeds itself are concentrated on those who appear look ‘visibly Muslim’, not close-shaven white Bosniaks or white converts. This is heavily racist.

There are four connected and well joined-up arguments as to why Islamophobia is inextricably linked to racism in the real world – whatever your own views happen to be on Islam as a theology or cultural influence.

And of course if religious critique is your aim, you are of course free to avoid stoking all of these things up and to simply do something like, I don’t know, not becoming a Muslim.

So if your only response is to say ‘Islam is not a race’, congratulations on showing yourself capable of deliberately missing the point. I’m proud of you.

However, I might think slightly more of you if you condemn people burning down mosques or stabbing Muslims before you set the world to rights on others’ choice of private faith. These things are pretty bad.

What is Islamophobia, and why should it be taken seriously?

This was a question I felt was raised by a post from a respected Facebook friend ( know, get new subjects…) who seemed to be in agreement with the attitude taken by some liberals that ‘Islamophobia’ is a term used unfairly for those with a problem with Islamic religious beliefs.

It isn’t, and that’s why it’s controversial. My friend used the argument that:

‘Islamphobia’ is a dangerous concept – not a valid one.

So I asked him:

1) How can a concept possibly be dangerous? 2) What do you even understand the concept to be? I understand it to be discrimination against people who are Muslims, rather than criticism of Islam.

He responded:

“The idea that criticising or challenging a belief – or even the possibility of circumscribing the activities of people who believe something for perfectly sensible reasons – is an ‘ophobia – that is a very illiberal position.”

A lot of liberals would disagree with that statement on the basis that it ignores discriminatory prejudice. Most socialists would too, because it ignores the concrete scenario, which includes physical attacks against Muslims and the like, as part of the main ‘prejudice narrative’ of the modern right.

He continues:

I detest the idea that women are urged to dress in all-covering tarpaulins. I think that people who urge women to dress in this way are stupid vicious thugs. I think people who make the argument that its a cultural choice need to go away and consider just how wrong they are. Does that make me an ‘Islamophobe’?

I don’t understand it to be discrimination against people who are Muslims any more,than I’d claim to be a victim of Socialistophobia (even though It explains very clearly why I’m not in charge of the CBI). What you’re referring to, I understand as ‘discrimination’. This is a summary of what the article says.

So I thought it was right to challenge my friend.

“It’s not the challenging of belief that’s Islamophobic though, you’re ignoring my point. It’s discrimination against those who hold it, in both hard and soft forms.

Hard example, ‘fuck off Muslims, go back home‘, or using it as a proxy for brown-ness (since when was ‘brown’ a ‘race’ anyway, it’s simply a common appearance aspect between a number of minorities – not unlike faith). Would you honestly not have a problem with the statement above?

In softer forms, disproportionately targeting Muslims but not other faiths, generalising with the intent of demonising a group of people ‘they’re all terrorists‘, or even more common, ‘Islam is a backward faith‘ (as if faith doesn’t include individuals with different viewpoints).

What about deliberate offence? Is it anti-Semitic to deliberately feed a Muslim (or a Jew) bacon, or is it ‘legitimate criticism’?

It’s evident to anyone that the attitudes above are prejudiced ones, and ones that either deliberately attack or discriminate either because of faith, or using faith as a proxy for race or barbarism.

“I don’t understand it to be discrimination against people who are Muslims any more,than I’d claim to be a victim of Socialistophobia”

Get a lot of people spitting at you or ripping your clothes off in the street do you?

This is a serious problem which in my view therefore merits being taken seriously. The narrative that ‘Islamaphobia=simply criticising religion‘ is a massive red herring thrown by bigots to get liberals running the other way – away from confronting said bigots.”

That’s all I really have to say about that.

I won’t bother with the tarpaulins point.

People get to decide what to wear in this society, and they also get the legal right to speak about it one way or the other, including their view on the appearance of others. Whilst we’re defending liberalism, let’s remember these things, eh…

Labour’s relationship with Thatcherism

I thought Stephen Bush’s piece in Progress was provocative and well argued, so I also thought it warranted a quick reply.

His basic claim is that ‘Labour ended Thatcherism’.

This is patently not true – the Progress deity Tony Blair himself disagrees with it in numerous bits of writing and his own tributes. And he led the bloody thing, after all.

But neither is the idea that New Labour was exclusively Thatcherite, because although Stephen’s article goes too far in declaiming and end to Thatcherism, it does make some good points.

Much of what New Labour achieved was at odds with Thatcherism, if we take that to mean an unrelenting class struggle, where the cost of everything to the wealthy is the supreme decider. Blair spent a fair bit of money on schools and hospitals (though he does seem rather keen to blame all this ‘excess spending’ on ‘Old Labour’ Gordon Brown – a hilarious label – now that it’s after 2008 and Blair still has John Rentoul to please). Nevertheless, the value of this spending cannot be denied, nor the fact that the most obvious inheritors of Thatcher wanted to cut it. Blair also introduced limited trade union recognition rights and some basic employee protections, it should be remembered.

On the other hand, when you evaluate the whole strategic effect, the objective results of New Labour, the point remains – firstly it failed to reverse the tide when that was the real challenge. Secondly, it failed to build a sustainable project, i.e. one supported by movement as well as country. What has not yet been repealed or overcome is simply because of the lack of legislative time more than anything else.

Opinion in the population is soft against what Thatcher represented, because unlike the right, the left had few powerful advocates – most Labour politicians of the era spent their time arguing against the left instead of the right, because that’s where they saw the short term career gains. The long term and solid progress of Labour’s cultural values was not given strategic priority.

The root of Labour’s failure to ‘end’ Thatcherism does not lie in an enthusiastic embrace, but in a much more tacit acceptance – the refusal to discuss anything concerned with reversing it.

The validity of this, however partial you may consider it, can’t be denied.

Secondly, there certainly was some limited actual buy-in to proper Thatcherite modes of thinking. As one example, the mode of public service ‘reform’ was based on part-privatisation and consumer accountability, rather than democracy, localism or mutuality. This was prefigured upon the dual ideas firstly that the state has reached the limit of its efficiency and social contribution, and that the market was generally a preferable method of accountability and delivery to democratic structures. This assumes of course that this was all put together on the basis of accepting the policy premise rather than an opportunistic political one – not that this would detract from my point at all.

These notions satisfy two tests. Firstly, they are proactively Thatcherite. Secondly, they were pervasive under Labour in government, and general trends of direction – towards conservatism.

Together with the more pervasive tacit acceptance, this is Labour’s part in the continuing hegemony of Thatcherism, which endures despite Ed Miliband’s occasional attempts to edge the frame leftwards.

So I think it’s right to say that Thatcherism survived, albeit in a more humane form, for a very temporary period.

We still might not be in a position to roll the whole lot back. But given that in large part the industrial imbalances it created left us vulnerable to downturns, both the left and right of Labour can now find some unity over this key strategic plank, the rebalancing of industry.

How far Labour can go in rolling back the rest will depend if it can win an election, and what pressures are acting on its leadership if it does. Perhaps it’s time to critically engage, and set about creating a left conception of what ideas like a ‘One Nation’ society or ‘predistribution’ might look like in practice. God forbid that this is left to the party’s short-sighted and sectarian hard right.

Beyond that, we still have a philosophy to reverse, and need a viable and rooted one to replace it with.

Political bullying in Labour’s youth movement

Those who know me know that I’ve been on an 8 to 9 year quest with various others to democratise a lot of the youth movement of the Labour Party bit by bit. I’m a boring man.

I believe in this in principle, but for the most part it has been to guarantee that leaders are a bit more careful to build a culture both of respect and of open political debate.

There have been successes and failures, but I’ve never really explained to anyone the history of it, or my own emotional motivations.

I guess that’s a really long story and should probably be spread over a couple of other posts some time in the future. I’m now 27, out of the youth movement, though I am still to my own knowledge one of the oldest people from the party left with a day to day interest in it. I’ll write some longer nonsense about it when I can be bothered.

I think there are remaining structural problems, and really deep, difficult issues of rotten political culture in the youth movement – which is sad, because we’re meant to be forward thinking people who believe in open and fair politics. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work that way (so neither does the fight for it). It was experiencing these initial problems which started me off.

There is a politics of exclusion against those orientated left of Blairism – this even effects many young people who are broadly from the centre of Labour politics. I’m not saying that Blairites are all like this, please note. But, I guess when a given ideology has a serious intellectual side and an insubstantial side which simply smiles and denigrates, followers are left with big choices as to how they behave towards others.

This culture still often manifests itself directly as a bullying culture, and worryingly is often even tolerated by young politicos who make their own names representing people from ‘liberation caucuses’, i.e. under-represented or traditionally marginalised groups. That kind of experience with inclusion and empathy issues sadly doesn’t usually seem to make all that much difference.

Worst of all, this bullying political culture has often been “endorsed n’ enforced” from the top of youth movement organisations as a kind of cultural political tactic, especially in Labour Students, which I was a campaigning member of myself for some years. To be fair to Labour Students, this can vary widely with who occupies the sabbatical positions, and it has pluralised a bit since I first came into contact with it.

Young Labour seems a good deal more internally healthy. This is partly due to our own determination on the centre and left to seriously contest elections against establishment candidates, and maintain multiple poles of influence, which helps maintain independence and plurality in YL – but it’s also subject to periodic raids from the largely top-down student organisation.

It’s easy and correct to say that it’s different to bully someone because they are disabled than to do so because they hold certain views.

But does it mean bullying culture (and in particular its promotion) is ever acceptable? And even if it is acceptable – which it is not – is it politically desirable for a social democratic and youth focused organisation? Would this be accepted in a workplace, or a local council group?

Not really – sorry.

At best, it makes the experience of many young people in politics like a shit episode of The Office. At worst, it can be pretty detrimental in ways which are too obvious to explain. In short though, what I’m saying is that it’s sometimes difficult to understand whether we’re talking about a culture of mob stupidity, or one of outright nastiness. That sucks, because actually this should be a place that makes people feel inspired and encouraged.

Basically it’s this simple – go out of your way people feel like crap, and they will probably end up having a problem with you.

Kind of makes me wonder why people like this bother in the first place, got to say.

Anyway, on explaining though, I ramble a bit.

I met someone called Daniel Warham at an Ecosy festival, and he’s written something on facebook which pretty much encapsulated how I have often felt about stuff. It’s better than what I could write, and taps into the natural emotional reaction in a better way than I am any good at articulating – so I hope he doesn’t mind me ripping him off… read on.

– – –

To all the people who want to slag off other people in the Labour Party for being ‘left wing’ – this is an open rant!

FIRSTLY – Stop using the word ‘trot’. Those in the party who are supporters of Trotsky aren’t offended by it (although admittedly, where even are these people), those who hold the same view and are outside of the party don’t give two shits what you say – they have their own beliefs. For all the rest of the people in the party it is terribly annoying and offensive when you mis-represent the views of them and Trotsky in this way. AND YOU JUST LOOK LIKE A FUCKING UNINFORMED IDIOT !!!

Secondly, you talk about uniting the party. About solidarity. About accepting we are a broad church. And that the left just want a factional fight. Well maybe it’s time to take your own fucking advice and stop alienating people.

Thirdly, remember that you have jumped on a band wagon that has been going for less time than you have been alive. You can’t brush 82 years of party history under the carpet because it doesn’t fit your agenda. Like it or not the ideas still held by most of those on the left of the party are fairly close to those the party was founded on. You might not like that. You might not think that is best for our future, but it is our past, stop trying to deny it.

Fourthly, stop trying to suggest anyone in the party who has a traditional left wing view is in a minority. Stop saying we are behind the time, or regressive. Above all stop assuming that your position is the only one supported by logic and reason. Without what you brand broadly as ‘the left wing’ there would never have been a Labour Party !!!!

Fifthly , get your fucking membership card out and let DEMOCRATIC !SOCIALISM! slap you round the face a few times. This is the bedrock of our party. It is what makes me proud to be a Labour Party member. Get rid if that over my dead fucking body.

Pragmatism is not a belief. It is not a plan. It is not a direction. You might want a Labour Party that does things. But so do I. Please stop trying to say you don’t want us to have ideology – of course you do, you just want it to be yours! Stop hiding this fact under the guise of ‘pragmatism’.

Your opinion is not the be all and end all of the party. It’s not your way or the high way. And stop fucking looking down on people if they disagree. It’s rude and obnoxious.

99% of the people who have joined the party on the left are not fucking entryists. Stop saying they are. You look like a paranoid idiot.

Stop being so dogmatic. The strand of political thought you subscribe to is just that, your own subscription. I don’t agree. I don’t want to be told why I should agree. Or that I am an idiot for not agreeing. Stop forcing your politics on me. I don’t want your shit rammed down my neck at every meeting.

I appreciate the left are also guilty of a fair few of these, and no doubt some people will say this post is hypocritical to the point I am trying to make. But there is an unchallenged assumption currently that you can be rude and offensive and exclusionary if your ideas are the ones in favour. It’s wrong. It needs to stop. Only then can we move forward as a united party, working towards our common goal of equality.