Three Elections; or, A Look ‘Round
Posted by Kyle Sarrasin
Three Elections; or, A Look ‘Round
It’s been a while since I posted anything topical (middle of April? Really?). There are three elections looming large on my personal horizon, so, it seems like a good enough time to take a look around and see what’s up.
The first, in time as well as personal proximity, is the Labour leadership election. It’s a relatively exciting time to be a socialist in England, with Jeremy Corbyn riding high in weekly polls, dashing around the country speaking to massive audiences every few days. More importantly, he’s also a politician that has a long record of fighting for workers’ rights, entirely anti-austerity, and anti-imperialist – the only leadership candidate to unilaterally oppose Trident, to have voted against the illegal Iraq war at the time and to have pushed for an inquiry since, to have fought against the metastasising surveillance state, to have voted against the tuition hike…you get the idea.
It’s important to keep in mind the practical limits of an increasingly probable Corbyn victory. Reformism is always, inherently, limited, and this is a pointed case of that. Corbyn is but one man, and, though we’ve seen the ranks of the Labour party swell these last few months (yours truly a new-minted member), the architecture of both it and the government of the nation at large are going to put a hard cap on whatever he might wish to achieve.
That is not to say that it hasn’t been particularly delicious to watch the in-fighting of the careerist Labour rump as they collectively crap their pants. With the grandees of the party shooting off ever more dire warnings about the “annihilation of Labour” (Blair), the new party members as “infiltrators” (Campbell), the party being “unelectable” under Corbyn (Cooper), Corbyn moves from strength to strength. I called it about a week ago, saying that it would be little time before we saw the careerists banding together, with two of the three other candidates (Liz Kendel, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham) sacrificing themselves to combine the anti-Corbyn vote under one banner. In fact, I was giving them too much credit – coverage in the Guardian today about the row between Burnham and Cooper, each of whom thinks they ought to be the chosen one, neither backing down. How petty these Tartuffes are – unable to release their porcine grasp on an ever-shrinking slice of the party electorate, even for the supposed “good” of Labour. It is clear indication as to their real desire.
Not that they’re alone in their contemptibility – from the start of the swing towards Corbyn, we’ve been hearing calls to arrest the race; MP’s who, initially backing Corbyn out of interest in “broadening the conversation,” now look on in horror, never anticipating the Left winning; and all the blather about the failure of the one member – one vote policy. The Anti-Democratic spirit of some in the Party has been in well-showcased. Most recently, it has been revealed that Lord Mandelson has conspired with other apparatchiks and the three “main-stream” candidates to force a mass-resignation, which would shut down the leadership race. This comes on top of the active witch-hunt against the “entryist scourge,” all those who joined the Party while also being possessed of broad Leftist-affiliations. While I suspect that my low-reader-traffic (hoorah for that!) will protect me, it’s entirely plausible this piece should get me kicked. Pro democracy, right up until the vox populi starts saying the wrong thing.
With four weeks to go, the main-stream may yet find a wrench with which to foul Corbyn’s machine. Ultimately, I suspect we’ll see some splintering – either the rump feeling out of place in a Labour awash with (Old) Labour-sentiments, or a frustrated Labour Left leaving to form a proper Social Democrat party. Either way, exciting times.
Which is more than can be said of back home. Though the actual date of the Federal election doesn’t fall until October 19, our Dear Leader kicked things off at the start of August – one can only assume that extended campaigning is necessary to patch over nearly a decade of draconian, illegal and ineffectual policies. A record as long and varied as Harper’s would try the hand of any politician – if only their competition actually held them to task.
With the Conservatives losing Fortress Alberta to the NDP in an upset general election back in May, this may, finally, be the year they’re ousted from their program of generalised havoc. That being said, it’s not as if the alternatives are that much better.
Trudeau, as has been articulated better elsewhere, is little more than a walking haircut. His vision has been vacuous from the start, chock full of the weasel words that allow for retroactive defence of neo-liberal policies that have guided the Liberal Party since, well, since ever I’ve been around. It’s true that the Grits, contrary to their name, are better on the soft issues than the Conservatives – but then, this is the party that wants to “grow the economy ‘from the heart outwards.’”
We’ve seen the souring of the NDP since Mulcair bludgeoned his way to the helm. This is no longer the party of the Conscience of Canada, the party of Tommy Douglas and Universal Healthcare – hell, this isn’t even the NDP of Jack Layton. The Austerity-Lite policies of recent years display the Rightward march of this fresh Neo-Liberal Orange. The constant kowtowing to the petro companies, at both the Federal and now the Albertan Provincial levels, put lie to any environmental policies the Party might softball.
Most troubling of all, however, is the growing opacity of the NDP. Harper’s abuses of the democratic practice, his strident whipping of the party faithful, the thumbing of noses at the electorate and the press, have been some of the most odious and rightly derided elements of his regime. And yet, we see the NDP on the same path – whether it be the questionable way Olivia Chow was parachuted into candidacy, or, more saddening yet, the ejection of (as of this writing) three candidates for refusing to toe the line on Israel/Palestine relations. One of the most egregious, galling insults of the Conservative Government has been the subservience to and unconditional support of the Apartheid State of Israel. To see the NDP doing the same – it’s more than disheartening.
Back during the days immediately following the Charlie Hebdo shooting, I wrote a piece on the concerns of a re-emergence, or perhaps a solidification, of tribalist rhetoric and politics. Nothing I’ve seen since has dissuaded me that this is the path we are on. If anything, we’re further down the road than we were at the start of the year.
Which brings me to the third election. I’d be surprised if you weren’t aware that the Americans have once again entered a Federal election cycle, wherever you might live. The Republican primary this spin has been particularly salacious, due in large part to one man. I recently read a piece hosted on the Crooked Timber blog, written by Corey Robin, on the “family values” of Donald Trump’s fascism – in these latter days of call-out culture and shoot-from-the-hip Social Justice, the term fascist is bandied about more often than I’d like. Here, as Robin shows, it is manifestly appropriate.
Vichy France soft-pedalled its deportation of Jews by keeping the families together. “A human solution to the Jewish Problem,” it was called. This is the same rhetoric used to oppose the emancipation of Black slaves in America eighty years before that. And it is the same rhetoric we are hearing today from Donald Trump in reference to Mexicans.
As the Young Turks were just reporting, the rest of the Republican hopefuls, seeing how popular this has been with the base, have parroted this line, driving the political conversation ever more reactionary. These, the best and brightest of the Party of the Constitution, seek to abrogate it fundamentally. There is nothing further from the true, founding ideals of America than what they are proposing here.
In the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway’s American protagonist converses with a Spanish guerrilla. Wondering about America, the Spaniard asks Jordan if they have Fascists there, too. “There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes,” Jordan responds.
Keep on guard, comrades, lest the hour of that rough beast has come round at last.
Posted on August 18, 2015, in Maunderings and tagged American Politics, British Politics, Canadian Federal Election 2015, Canadian Politics, Conservative Party, Hemingway, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Leadership Election, Labour Party, Liberal Party, NDP, Republican Leadership Race, Socialism, the Left. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.