Labour won Stoke. Jamie Reed lost Copeland - Paul Mason

For socialists in the Labour Party it will be a relief that the Blairite plan to stage two electoral disasters on one night failed. Nobody can claim losing Copeland was Jeremy Corbyn’s “fault”: the fault lies with the careerist right-winger who abandoned the seat in mid-session to take a better job.

And the Blairite plan to abandon Stoke to UKIP, egged on by the media also failed, when the latter turned out to be led by a hapless fantasist.

However the two by-election results taken together do reveal a big and challenging fact for Labour: in these two very different working class English seats, there is a majority for Brexit, and for the right wing nationalist rationale behind it.


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Comment by Nick Beddow on March 3, 2017 at 16:41

I’m always glad to read or see Paul Mason – he’s becoming a rarity in British media, looking at the world from anti-capitalist values.  Owen Jones and Naomi Klein too.

They are struggling to articulate a new politics – the problem facing them and all of us is that we haven’t yet found our Big Idea to bind us together. It’s a messy time - the old is dying, the new cannot be born and inbetween all sorts of morbid symptoms appear – paraphrasing Gramsci.. (he won’t mind). The ‘Left’ has been at odds with itself from the git-go: you say Bolshevik, I’ll say Menshevik, Anarchist etc. An infantile disorder. Last century the reality of State Communism crushed belief in another world – the emergence of a Student Left in the 60s degenerated into sects and separated Left politics from the day-to-day struggles of most people. The capitalist politicos rallied around neo-liberalism and have won back some of the conceded ground while the Left founders

But it’s not the end of anything. A journalist asked Ho Chi Minh what he thought was the outcome of the French Revolution. His reply: “it’s too early to say”.   There are reasons to be cheerful – cultural and civil gains – more people are anti-racist, anti-sexist for example. Just not enough of us yet to tip the balance– Spiral dynamics helps us to understand the need for internal changes in people – it’s not just changes in policy/law/who governs.

So what’s the big idea? That we continue to build our new world day-by-day, working together. That we create a new Big Idea by bringing our parts of the jigsaw together, bit-by-bit. That we are patient and bloody-minded and humorous, knowing that all things pass. 

Comment by Jez Hall on March 3, 2017 at 13:53

I've been aware of (living under) the coming catastrophe ahead since the early 80's and before, as a student studying the macro models started by the Club of Rome, which pretty much predicted way back then a global collapse around now, or the next 20-30 years, based on resource depletion, population growth, climate change, pollution etc etc.
And that if the change doesn't happen by the 1990's its too late.

We all agree a growth based model is unsustainable, as this partly 'nasa' funded study predicts ...using ideas like the spirit level's (that social inequality is bad for everyone)...

I don't claim to follow an ideology or have answers to macro problems. But I am interested in how we respond. People don't change by being scared to death... they just ask for a bigger stronger person to take charge... but that is in itself a trap, because it tends to be hitler/stalin/putin or maybe Trump that they go for ... so, without offering solutions, I simply pose... what would it take?... and leave another link here to some people thinking about this from a different angle... one about soft (wicked) systems.

Which is maybe closer to Ostrom's work on principles for managing collective resources...

Socialism potentially... with its inevitable end of history by a Marxian 'communist' steady state being, maybe, another hard system approach? That leads too often to a hard leader to enforce it?

Comment by Steve Radford on March 3, 2017 at 13:17

Jeremy Mills thinks that I endorse Wilkinson and Pickett (The Spirit Level) but this is only partly true. I must admit that I haven't yet read the book but from the reviews I gather that it is an examination rather than an ideological analysis, and that it does not support any particular systematic restructuring of our society and economy along particular lines. Those who have read the book might correct me on this but anyone who has read my earlier writing will know that I do have an ideological analysis and that I do not believe our current economic system is capable of being rectified by tinkering about with new regulations on banks, or even by initiatives like "Positive Money". We do not really have a national economy because we are integrated into the globalised capitalist system and it is pretty much impossible for a country like ours to act unilaterally without extreme consequences (this apples to radical change from both Left and Right - as the Brexiteers will discover when their fantasies come crashing down over the next two years).

Our entire system is on the slide towards a catastrophic crash and I agree with Mr Buckley that the next dip in the downward slope will be worse than 2007/8 - but there will be worse to come after that unless we can get a grip on the whole thing. Globalisation has supposedly done wonders for many of the world's poor (especially in China and South Asia) but I see no evidence that these improvements are based on any sustainable economic model. Indeed the global growth of the last three decades has entrenched and reinforced inequality and destructive trends which make collapse of the entire edifice virtually inevitable - and because some people have climbed higher (the burgeoning middle classes and workers who have only recently become consumers of anything more than basic necessities) then they have further to fall.

Here in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn cannot be blamed for the fact that there are no easy answers to the dilemma we are in. He is a radical socialist but even if Labour were swept into office by a landslide at the next election he would be largely powerless to make the enormous changes needed. of course the changes that can be made at national level could ameliorate the situation for some people and we should not dismiss this as unimportant, but the big tasks required to prevent global collapse and restructure human society along sustainable and equitable lines cannot be limited to this relatively small and shrinking economy in an offshore European island. Such changes could however be started here.

Comment by Daniel Buckley on March 3, 2017 at 9:10

 John Maynard Keynes ,the eminent Economist stated 'take care of jobs and the Economy will take care of itself. A simplistic view , but with a lot of depth when dissected.

Unfortunately with the advent of Neo-Liberalism and Monetarism which first came to prominence during the Thatcher/Reagan years, Corporations have shed responsibility for workers and their communities and  sought higher profits by offshoring jobs and plant to low-wage/ low  regulation countries.

Monetarism could never work, as the Govt/Central Bank has little control over Credit creation, apart from setting interest rates, since the break-down of the Gold Standard in 1971.

Thus we had the beginning of rampant inflation ,noticeable in the escalating house prices from that period. The resultant Great Financial Crash of 2007/8 was the end product.

The inherent problems of uncontrolled credit creation by the private banking system has never been addressed and another more serious financial meltdown is on the horizon.

In the modern industrialised world ,jobs are required to enable people to live a useful life without the threat of poverty. Jobs contribute to a healthy society ,contribute to the tax base, reduce the incidences of social problems like crime, drugs,mental illness and family breakdown.

People with jobs ,obviously have more disposable money .They spend it as consumers and generate employment ,creating a virtuos cycle.

We are now approaching the choke point of Offshoring. High unemployment,means shortage of  disposable money by families, who are unable to buy the  products of manufacturing from Foreign based companies.This is evident in the number of shops boarded up on almost every High St.

The Govt/Central Banks answer to the Great Financial Crash and the bankruptcies of the private banks was to initiate QE.  This was the exchange of Central Bank money for banks securities.Many of these securities are without doubt worthless, so this exchange can be considered a hand -out or free dole money.

The idea behind this bail-out was that banks would again begin to lend to business and industry. This displayed a naivete about bank policy. Banks do not like risk and most of the bail-out money has not percolated to the Productive economy ,but has been diverted to the Financial and Property market.This is displayed by the rise in the Stockmarket and the proliferation of high rise apartment blocks in our inner cities. 

Until the Govt takes back control of credit creation from the private  banking system and invests in Productive Industry, using the natural resources of the country and ingenuity of its workers, we will not escape from recurring Financial crisis ,its associated problems of unemployment  social problems and  deprivation.

Comment by Jez Hall on March 2, 2017 at 16:41

As always this debate often returns to migration, and the fear of the outsider taking jobs, school places or using up the NHS.Its a really hard challenge to answer. If we start from that position. Somehow the progressive left/socialists/whoever have to become more savvy, and try to turn the debate away from solving intractable problems to celebrating people, and the opportunity migration brings... like this campaign tries to. Any other examples of positive approaches to talking about migrants that people know of?

Comment by David Maltby on March 2, 2017 at 15:51

Hi Joe-I have read Darrell Kavanagh's article 'A Post-Mortem on the Post-Mortem. Very little I didn't agree with. However, the last paragraph, 'Corbyn, McDonnell and the rest deserve our support etc.' left me scratching my head because such an exhortion is a bit hollow unless you spell out how to get from a level of support of !00,000s of Labour Party members to electoral support sufficient for winning a General Election.  As he praised John McDonnell's work in developing economic policy, I read McDonnell's speech to the British Chamber of Commerce, mentioned in the article.  I noted that Labour's policy on Brexit was to recognise the Referendum result, prioritise access to the EU Single Market (no prioritisation of restriction of freedom of movement then) and provide guarantees now for EU citizens working in the UK, all not surprisingly in keeping with the Amendment passed in the Lords yesterday with Opposition backing and reflecting the two-thirds of Labour Party members who voted 'Remain.' So, it seems that Labour's Brexit policy is not unlike that of Paul Mason, which was where I entered this blog. So any poor UK worker hoping that restriction of low wage EU immigration will lead to an improvement in pay and conditions of employment cannot rely upon Labour.  Of course, I could be wrong and no such negative impacts are taking place, but please read the work by the Oxford University Migration Observatory on this topic if you think that. The Lords' Amendment was supported on grounds of principle and morality but these grounds, perhaps surprisingly, were not extended to UK citizens living in elsewhere in Europe. The Lords' Amendment, the threatened second independence referendum in Scotland, and the elections in Northern Ireland, could all be seen essentially as actions by 'Remainers' to jeopardise Brexit negotiations by the UK government so that the UK ends up remaining in the EU.  So, Labour is running the risk of being accused of paying lip service to the Referendum result while hoping that the UK stays in the EU.  This is not going to win back to Labour the support of poor workers who have suffered from low wage EU immigration.  And a Corbyn-led Opposition seems little better than a Corbyn-enemy-led Opposition in this context.  On a recent radio programme, Margaret Beckett defined Socialism as 'achieving the maximum benefit for the most people.'  In that context, I suppose, the negative impacts of unrestricted EU immigration could be defined as acceptable.

Comment by Jeremy S Mills on March 2, 2017 at 13:37

Steve Radford's views reflect those of Wilkinson and Pickett in 'Spirit Level.'

The fact that the right have skilfully manipulated the situation and have successfully raise all the scapegoats, necessary to underpin their toxic message is the real crime.  Remember, Osborne's 'Skivers versus strivers.'  Not enough was done to counter those lies and we now have the next version of that venomous monologue, with the likes of Trump, Farage, Le Pen et al, not forgetting May, Johnson, Liam Fox and co.  We will not see a return to sane and beneficial politics (to the whole of man/woman kind) in our life time .  Shit, what a distressing thing to say!  But we have to continue to fight the right for the sake of our children and grandchildren.  We are in for a very long and arduous campaign

Comment by Steve Radford on March 2, 2017 at 1:06

   "For socialists in the Labour Party..."  Paul Mason's article starts with these words and I ask myself what kind of socialists would be left in the Labour Party after all those years of Blairite warmongering, Yankee arse-licking, extraordinary rendition and torture facilitating and thieving-banker bail-outs (with our money)? I don't deny that such socialists exist - I know a few of them - and I suppose there are some gullible souls that have joined (or rejoined) since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader eighteen months ago. However, there are times when a dead horse has to be sent off to the knacker's yard, however fond of it you once were, and continuing to flog it or coax it with carrots and sugar lumps is never going to get it back in the traces and hauling wagons again.

   Paul Mason is right in some senses (he is an intelligent and informed observer after all) but he and many others still don't fully grasp the fact that Social Democracy is finished. The old coalitions and class-collaborationist understandings that used to sustain modest progress in material conditions and combined welfare and decent public services, more or less full employment, livable pensions and workers' rights are no longer possible because the capitalist class are now not willing to make the compromises (or pay the taxes) that allowed these things to be so. We have felt this perhaps faster than most of Europe because of our slavish adherence to the so-called "Anglo-Saxon" model of capitalism (following the Yanks as usual) but even nice little Sweden is also feeling the cold winds of the globalised New World Order - and this trend will grow.

   Paul Mason is right that "Brexit" dominates the UK's political spectrum and political thinking but the rise of reactionary and xenophobic English Nationalism (aggravated in no small measure by its superficially more benign, but in reality equally toxic, Scottish counterpart) is a misdirected and largely incoherent reaction to the failure of capitalism to deliver its promises (all that "rising tide lifts all boats" crap...). Capitalism is in terminal decline - as it has been for some time - and the only question is whether or not it will drag all of us down to destruction with it. There are many candidates for the great turning point and each has its supporters. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system in the early seventies, the 1973 crisis (which, incidentally, brought us as close to the brink of nuclear annihiliation as we have ever been), the collapse of the post-war consensus combined with the Reagan-Thatcher-Kohl de-industrialisation and deregualtion splurge of the eighties, the rise of neoliberalism (and another round of financial de-regulation under Blair/Brown and Clinton) along with runaway globalisation bringing the migration of value-added processes to cheap labour economies in the nineties and noughties, the great financial services thievery and plundering of public treasuries during and after the 2008 crash and the growing realisation by the big corporations that they could use their influence and economic leverage to replace taxes with occasional (and meagre) voluntary philanthropic donations for PR purposes...  You can take your pick as to which of these marked the decisive moment but whichever one you choose they all point to a single direction of travel. And the greatest con of all was when our politicians and the Yellow Press succeeded in hiding the real driving forces from the public and instead connived to blame migrants, unions, Europe, welfare spending (which depends on corporations paying their taxes) and any other scapegoat that came to hand. 

   When all this is combined with the rise of willful ignorance and the popularisation of the idea (embodied by the Brexiteers here and Trumpites over the pond) that there is no such thing as an objective fact and that we are all entitled to believe whatever we want to be true, regardless of any evidence, we can see why politics as normal has had it and we are now in the age of relative and fantasy realities. Of course, fantasies can only last for so long before the harsher actual conditions make themselves known. The contraction of the UK economy will accelerate during and after Brexit but whether those who voted 'Leave' (against their own economic interests) will wake up or will simply rage even more incoherently and demand yet more scapegoats to blame is hard to say. There are gloomy historical precedents that show how deceived and deluded populaces can be manipulated into craving yet more delusions rather than facing up to difficult choices, especially when there are few audible voices raised to challenge the dominant narrative. Whatever the course of events, 'renewing' the Labour Party by swinging it back towards the "Centre ground" is utterly pointless and if the party has any future at all (or deserves one) then it has to decide whether sticking to principles or holding office (not the same thing as holding "power") is the priority. Personally i don't rate Jeremy Corbyn's chances of survival that highly as the conspiracy to oust him (accurately outlined by John McDonnell last week) is well advanced.

   The disparate wings of the Labour Party are incompatible and cannot be reconciled, not unlike the divides in Protestantism. The bigots and raving lunatics of the fundamentalist Religious Right in the USA theoretically follow the same religion as the likes of Desmond Tutu and Justin Welby - just as Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair do not believe in the same things or aspire to the same kind of future as Corbyn or McDonnell (or, it seems, the majority of Labout Party members - but what right do they have to determine the policies and ideology of their party...?). Jeremy Corbyn has made a tactical error by failing to challenge Brexit (which was sold to a narrow majority of voters by downright lies and deceit) and although it might have cost them the votes of those who have swallowed the xenophobic line that we can blame all our ills on foreigners, I still think he'd have more success by taking a consistent and principled line. A tactical mistake is not the same as selling out completly and I think Jeremy Corbyn is still a principled socialist (although being an anti-war activist does not make him a pacifist) but principles do not magically give him the ability to weld the incompatible wings of his party together. Probably half of the PLP would need to be chucked out before he could have a chance of getting unity there and when you add in the dog's breakfast that is the Trade Union Movement...

   We have to learn to live with less stuff... to consume less of almost everything. This cannot be done within a capitalist system except by inflicting gross hardship and poverty on large numbers of people (and a brutally violent and authoritarian governmental system to keep the lid on) so if we want avoid this unpleasant future scenario then the only option is to share what we have far more equitably. You can call this Co-operativism or Socialism (and I would) or you can simply call it the only way to maintain a reasonably livable and tolerable society. What you can't do is pretend that we don't need to change very much and we can just muddle on as before with not much difference - and if we do choose to do this then we are in for a very nasty and very painful come-uppance.

Comment by joe taylor on March 1, 2017 at 22:57

Here is what Ken Loach has to say about all this:

The spate of calls for Jeremy Corbyn to quit since last week’s byelections in Stoke and Copeland has been as predictable as it was premeditated. It says everything about the political agenda of the media, and nothing about people’s real needs and experiences. SEE MORE

Comment by Jez Hall on March 1, 2017 at 16:52

Right on Bren... will just leave this here:

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