Worrisome Centrist Clowns.

Written By: - Date published: 7:43 am, November 25th, 2018 - 84 comments
Categories: International, liberalism, Media, Politics, racism, useless - Tags: , ,

According to The Guardian, which is promising (if ‘promising’ is the right word) to run a six month “investigative series” on populism, Jeremy Corbyn and UK Labour aren’t a part of the picture.

Which is odd given that The Guardian is working from the definition that Populists tend to frame politics as a battle between the virtuous ‘ordinary’ masses and a nefarious or corrupt elite – and insist that the general will of the people must always triumph”.

See, I’d have thought the politics suggested by UK Labour’s slogan “For the many, not the few” would put Corbyn and UK Labour squarely within that definition.

But not according to The Guardian’s Diplomatic Editor Patrick Wintour. And far be it for me to suggest that excluding the leader of western Europes most popular party in terms of membership might mark a bit of an inauspicious start to a supposed six month investigation, apparently angling to unveil some mystery shrouding a thing that is sitting plain as day and right in front of their noses.

In part one they roll out the “senior centrist political figures”, (also referred to as “centrist heavyweights”) of Clinton, Blair and Renzi to expound on “why we lost and how to fight back”. The first thing that struck me was that I had no idea who Renzi was and had to look him up. The second was that seeking the wisdom and insight of incredibly unpopular political figures who represent a rejected politics, is an odd way to go about exploring the politics of populism. Why not talk to the politicians they think of as populist and explore their campaign platforms and (where relevant) stack that platform against policies they’ve enacted when in office? Or talk to people who voted for them and ask them why they voted for them, or why they voted against representatives of so-called centrism?

Not surprisingly, Clinton was yet again casting around for any reason that might explain her failed Presidential bid as long as it didn’t involve looking at the policies she promoted or her track record as a politician. (She’s still “absolutely dumbfounded” apparently). Which is fine. She’s deluded and is welcome to be deluded if that’s what gets her by.

What’s not fine is that she’s taking the racist and xenophobic bullshit that’s expressed by some populists and endorsing it. According to Clinton, a major reason the politics she represents was rejected was because it’s not racist enough. Her solution is to throw refugees under the bus. As she says in the Guardian interview, Europe’s leaders ought to

send out a stronger signal showing they are “not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support”.

Paint me cynical, but the woman who has agitated for war in various countries wants to wash her hands of the refugees that result from visiting military aggression on countries. And she’s happy to do that in order to secure power for herself and her political fellow travelers. If you read the linked pieces, you’ll see that Blair basically concurs.

But it gets better. According to Clinton – who of course would never condone fascism or authoritarianism given that she’s a child of “the centre” and so a champion of democracy and freedom to the extent of even delivering those things from bomb bays and missile launch sites if necessarywithin the populace at large there’s

a psychological as much as political yearning to be told what to do, and where to go, and how to live and have their press basically stifled and so be given one version of reality.

Is Clinton suggesting that she and her political cronies should be the ones issuing instructions? It reads to me like that. Essentially she’s adopting and promoting some of the more infantile notions of fascism and then offering herself up as a safe pair of hands.

Laughingly or sickenly depending on your perspective, the Guardian piece then goes on to inform its readers, all or most of whom are presumably suffering from psychological and political yearnings to be subservient, that

All three politicians are concerned about the implications for liberal democracy if debate is infantilised, opponents are delegitimised and opinion is Balkanised, all of which can be hallmarks of rightwing populism.

I could go on, but I won’t. Go and read the pieces for yourself. But be prepared to encounter amazing feats of mental gymnastics that would defy logic and conclusions that only offer up willful blindness by way of illuminating and explaining the blindingly obvious.

Liberalism is collapsing.

From my perspective that’s a very good thing. And whatever your thoughts on that may be, surely you’d agree it’s a bad thing that liberal politicians, the “heavyweights” as the Guardian terms them, are hyping shades of fascism and fear, that they then promise they’ll ride in and save us from – or is it that they’ll save us from ourselves, given our “psychological and political yearning”?

This next paragraph could save the Guardian’s Diplomatic Editor six months of investigative toil and trouble.

It’s the job of a politician to be popular. If they aren’t, they won’t garner votes. If they are merely less unpopular than those they are politically engaged against, then there’s room for genuine politicians to step in and promise to provide meaningful political representation. Some of those who step into that space will be genuine and some will be charlatans. And some of those charlatans will be dangerous.

There’s your populism right there. It’s no mystery.

There’s something extra to be said on the dangerous charlatan front. They are being enabled by idiotic “liberal centrists” who like two of the three monkeys of lore, will neither see nor hear any self-reflective “evil” and an edifice of established news outlets that more or less (and certainly editorially) speak no “evil” of centrist thought, opinion or analysis.

That leaves the whole caboodle blind to the obvious and desperate to simultaneously dismiss and suppress any resurgence of politics to their left while conjuring demons that they might slay to their rightso for example, people aren’t desperately voting against erstwhile powerful politicians who represent the status quo because of disillusion, no. But because racist (Brexit) and/or stupid (Trump) and/or manipulated (by Russia).

Is it perhaps worth reflecting that like voodoo, bad shit tends to happen when shadows and demons are pushed to the extent that they become ever more reified in a collective conscience? If you’re a liberal bent on securing political power, probably not.

Footnote – after scheduling this post I came across an opinion piece in The Guardian by Nesrine Malik that’s echoing some of the sentiments expressed here. It’s better writing than I can manage and worth the read.

84 comments on “Worrisome Centrist Clowns.”

  1. RedLogix 1

    The center is what works Bill. The history our parents lived through clearly demonstrates the evils of the extremes.

    But then again every radical likes to imagine that ‘their’ version of the one true faith will be the ‘real thing’.

    • Olwyn 1.1

      It seems likely that you and Bill are talking about different conceptions of “the centre”. In a social democracy, the centre presents a point of negotiation between claims springing from left and right. Post Thatcher/Reagan, the centre , as represented by Bill’s two examples, has served as a stand-in for what once was a clearly recognisable left. The role of the centre in the former case is to rein in extremes and come up with workable compromises, while its role in the latter is to ensure that the actual left, the one that would represent the working class, is rendered impotent. Thatcher appreciated this, which is why she regarded Blair as her greatest achievement.

      • RedLogix 1.1.1

        Olwyn,

        Thank you. Much better than I said.

      • Dennis Frank 1.1.2

        Generalising about centrists can be a waste of time, inasmuch as it’s a political space defined by rejection of the left & right, occupied by folks who are as likely to disagree with each other as not. Elitist politicians trying to claim that space will flounder accordingly.

        I took the Guardian test, and it located me close to the division between populist & non-populist (which is no surprise since I’ve been politically centrist for 47 years) – halfway from the vertical centre to the left side, and declared me closest to the president of Mexico. However visually I was actually closer to Obama & Macron on the graph. The analysis seemed designed to keep the Guardian’s definition of populism opaque, and Corbyn’s absence may reflect diagnostic failure. Contradictory signals: garbage in produces garbage out…

        Unlike Bill, I found the Malik piece typical leftist delusional thinking. At least HC is attempting to learn from her failure. Malik isn’t. Excessive immigration is producing an equal and opposite reaction. Populism and political extremism is an unsurprising result when public policy is moronic. I don’t see why that didn’t become obvious to all intelligent observers in 2016.

        • Gabby 1.1.2.1

          Th centre is a political space defined by embracing of the left & right franky.

          • Dennis Frank 1.1.2.1.1

            You mean that cosy feeling generated within when the left arm & right arm enclose simultaneously? Hmm. Okay, I guess neoliberalism delivered it for thirty years sufficiently for most voters, not just centrists…

    • Bill 1.2

      The ‘centre’ is a term that has been claimed by a liberal political establishment keen to promote itself as moderate. Liberalism is anything but moderate.

      My parents lived their initial years under liberalism. Their youth and adult years were lived under social democracy.

      If you think social democracy is “radical”, then by all means defend liberalism and its mouthpieces.

      • Ed 1.2.1

        The control of language has been a key to the neoliberal revolution.
        The extremists are the believers in the free market.
        They are happy to pillage and destroy the planet and dismantle society.

    • AB 1.3

      “The centre is what works”

      The centre is not perpetually fixed in the same place. Sometimes the centre will work, at other times it will be inadequate as a solution to anything important. The triumph of the neoliberal revolution post 1980 has been the skewing of the political spectrum (and its centre) way to the right.

      You could argue that habits of ‘centrism’ work, i.e. listening to others, avoiding overly-purist and absolutist ideas. That I would agree with – but these are the habits and attitudes of civilised people, not a pre-determined place on the political spectrum.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.4

      https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/fish-stocks-are-used-up-fisheries-subsidies-must-stop/
      http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/endangered_species/cetaceans/threats/fishstocks/

      Those are the result of centrism. We cannot go on this way as it is totally unsustainable. The centre is what’s wiping out life on Earth.

      So, no, the centre is not what works.

      Reality has a radical Left bias.

      • Dennis Frank 1.4.1

        “So, no, the centre is not what works.” It works for democracy, but I agree it doesn’t for sustainability. “Reality has a radical Left bias.” Now there’s a thought that could be expanded into an interesting essay! However it seems not to refer to the reality I’ve had to endure for 69 years in Aotearoa.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.4.1.1

          It works for democracy, but I agree it doesn’t for sustainability.

          If a society is not sustainable then it is, by definition, dysfunctional.

          Our society is not sustainable and that means that it also doesn’t work for democracy.

          Now there’s a thought that could be expanded into an interesting essay! However it seems not to refer to the reality I’ve had to endure for 69 years in Aotearoa.

          Have you noticed all of the people on the Right and Centre that say that we can’t conserve the environment because of economics, that say that its too radical?

          The reality is that our society has always been unsustainable and is therefore radical. It operates radically outside of the constraints that reality sets.

          It is only the ‘Radical Left’ that come even close to saying that we need to live sustainably. And yet living within the constraints that reality sets is seen as radical by the centrists and the right-wing.

          We could shut down all the fossil fuelled power stations. We’d have to change the way we do things and even stop doing some things but we would survive.
          We could put solar power on all the houses. It’d take time but we have the resources to do.

          The only reason why we’re not doing these things is because it would hurt a few peoples profits.

          And that is the most radical thing ever.

          We’re not doing what we need to do because a few people profits would be hurt.

          • Dennis Frank 1.4.1.1.1

            I’m not inclined to disagree with your stance, but framing it as radical left seems a stretch. Few leftists would fall into this category! Raises the question of how to define the left. Everyone avoids that due to tacit recognition that the category `left’ is self-selected and definitions are too prescriptive nowadays.

            “Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy. It typically involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others (prioritarianism) as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished (by advocating for social justice). The term left-wing can also refer to “the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system.” [Wikipedia]

            I agree with all that description, but have never self-identified as a left-winger or leftist, being repelled by the ideological baggage that the label carries that is not included in that definition, plus the historical and cultural consequences and effects. So we must differentiate between praxis and values & beliefs!

            • Draco T Bastard 1.4.1.1.1.1

              Perhaps we need a new scale:

              Reality ———————————– Completely fucken bonkers

              With capitalist society being well over on the right.

              Does have the advantage that we can apply such a measure to any suggestion no matter where it’s from.

              • Dennis Frank

                Yeah, good one. Reality defined as what’s really going on, rather than defined as the consensus reality that is the current social norm. A binary divide between mainstreamers & the cognoscenti.

                Back when everyone split between the straights & those who adopted a lifestyle of getting high, that was the differential too. The consciousness shift got us into the deep reality that all the brainwashed folk were psyched out of.

                But really, there’s more to it than just a shallow end & a deep end (like a swimming pool). In a multicultural society, with postmodernism, the social construction of reality proceeds on a group basis. So we get a multitude of group-defined realities, in which each group has its own belief system, simulating a model of reality. Typically, members even think their model is real, not merely an approximation. The true-believer syndrome.

      • RedLogix 1.4.2

        Mr Steel would suggest otherwise.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.4.2.1

          Mr Steel whomever he is, like the centrists and the right-wing, is obviously in denial of reality and is thus living radically.

  2. Ad 2

    Hilary Clinton’s quote:

    “I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” she said. “I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message – ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”

    I would have appreciated the sentiment more if the United States had spent the last three decades building nations in the middle east rather than attempting to bomb the middle east back to the stone age. Because in no small part that is the source of the mass migration. Not the only cause, but a big part.

    The United States should disavow its Monroe Doctrine for a start.
    That would be a major step towards global peace.

    If I was feeling particularly dark I would say that Clinton and Blair are seeking to save what remains of social democracy by curbing globalization’s direct impact within immigration.

    I would rather they argued that equation in the open, and properly, rather than in narrow asides to Europe.

    • Bill 2.1

      Clinton and Blair are seeking to save what remains of social democracy

      Save social democracy? Humbly – you need to rethink your approach if that’s what you think.

      Clinton, Blair et al are attempting to stymie social democracy at every turn and save whatever’s left of liberalism.

      One prong of their strategy is this constant push and promotion of fascistic monsters lurking in the shadows.

      • Ad 2.1.1

        30 years after our Structural Adjustment, I have really low expectations.

        It helps.

        • Molly 2.1.1.1

          It really doesn’t help to have low goals alongside that.

          (Would say aspirations – but that word has negative connotations for me).

  3. Siobhan 3

    Interesting piece from Jimmy Dore, around Hillary and her ‘centrist’ stance on immigration and love of wall building, as opposed to dealing with or even acknowledging the reasons for mass migration.

    Though of course, as we all know, Walls are only funny/bad when Trump talks about them. I’m sure Hillarys Wall would be a Progressive Wall, and given she’s a woman there will be some who claim it will be a ‘kinder’ wall……

    • Bill 3.1

      Sometimes (not always) Jimmy Dore just smacks that nail bang on the head.

      I’m thinking politicians must hate the internet’s ability to mine those memory holes 🙂

      Anyway. I laughed out loud at the “Ancient Centrist Proverb”

      If we give right wing racists what they want, they will vote for us instead of other right wing racists

      Thank you for the link.

  4. Pat 4

    Great…now we’ll have days of pointless debate about definitions of ‘left right and centre’ and who’s version is the real deal when the reality is the problem is across the political spectrum and has a single common factor….sadly I doubt even true social democracy will solve it even if we managed to reestablish democracy , for the last thing the establishment wishes is democracy in anything but name.

    What we are witnessing is the desperate attempt of the current hegemony’s to retain control of a rapidly dying environment in the forlorn hope of maintaining what resources that may remain….and to hell with everything else (whether they know it themselves or not)

    If anyone thinks social democracy would truely provide a different result then Id suggest a look at the ‘growth’ stats for the post war period until the advent of Thatcher and co.

    We need a new paradigm, one that is equitable and diminishing in our resource use to an ultimate steady state and we are incapable of such selflessness…..so it will be imposed on us by ‘events’….and maybe as a species we will remain….maybe.

    • Bill 4.1

      I absolutely agree when you point out that social democracy is no solution for environmental crises because still embedded within capitalism and so wedded to growth..

      But if that shift to social democracy can be transformed into a rush so that social democracy is a barely touched stepping stone as we hop, skip or jump to necessary ways of organising society…

      I disagree when you say we aren’t capable of given levels of selflessness. As individuals, we can be incredibly selfless – up to and including giving up our lives for others.

      Collective expressions of selfishness/selflessness (and much else) are determined by systemic factors or dynamics inherent to whatever organisational structures we develop and utilise as societies. And we have the ken and imagination (probably some historical precedents or examples too) to structure our societies in such a way that disincentives impact on selfishness, and incentives impact on cooperation and selflessness.

      • Pat 4.1.1

        Selflessnes at both an individual and community level is far too limited a virtue to overcome pervading human greed.

        Consider the knee jerk reactions of the majority to change and personal impact,…short-termism is not just a governance problem.

        Kalecki’s prediction of social democracy’s outcome was a masterstroke of human psychology.

        • Dennis Frank 4.1.1.1

          “Welfare capitalism thus reaches what we could call the “Kalecki point,” where its viability has been fatally undermined. In that situation, employers become willing to take drastic action to get workers back into line, even at the expense of short-term profitability. This takes many forms, including state-led attacks on unions and the refusal of capitalists to invest, a “capital strike” in which money is moved overseas or simply left in the bank, as a way of breaking the power of the working class.”

          “David Harvey, in his Brief History of Neoliberalism, essentially portrays the right-wing turn of the 1980s as a reactionary resolution of this crisis: a move away from the Kalecki point that entailed a restoration of capitalist class power rather than a leap into socialism.”

          “So the problem isn’t that we can’t win reformist victories for workers. History has shown that we can. The problem is what comes after victory, and we need a theory of socialism and social democracy that prepares our movements for that phase.”

          Leftist intellectual ventures through forest, hunting the unicorn: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/06/social-democracy-polanyi-great-transformation-welfare-state

          • Pat 4.1.1.1.1

            I suspect that some version of Keynes’ idea on international trade may have seen off (or at least considerably delayed) that ‘phase’….unfortunately the Yanks.

            https://theweek.com/articles/626620/how-john-maynard-keynes-most-radical-idea-could-save-world

            And crucially a truer and more equitable standard of living would have been achieved throughout the world….in other words the ‘real’ version of globalisation.

            There would remain however the problem of growth

            • Dennis Frank 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Yeah, I’d definitely favour any kind of equitable globalisation. Trumpism & xenophobia are an unfortunate consequence of the top-down globalisation that we’ve been force-fed due to the left buying into neoliberalism in the eighties. It didn’t have to happen like that. The TINA doctrine had me eye-rolling from the start – the alternatives had always been there in abundance. Yet the left rejected them in favour of collusion with the right.

              • Pat

                it started before neo-liberalism, it started with the Greenback being reserve currency….mind you its no coincidence that the US was the home of neoliberalism.

                Imagine the world without the USD being thus and things start to look very different…as the EU found when they challenged and China and Russia are now attempting.

          • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1.2

            “So the problem isn’t that we can’t win reformist victories for workers. History has shown that we can. The problem is what comes after victory, and we need a theory of socialism and social democracy that prepares our movements for that phase.”

            True.

            We can’t leave capitalism in place else we end up right back where we started. Present capitalism is no better than what it was in the 19th century and that resulted in WW1 followed by WW2.

            We now seem to be on track for WW3 as the US gets belligerent with pretty much anyone who doesn’t kowtow to them.

        • Bill 4.1.1.2

          Kalecki looked at the political aspects of full employment – ie, he looked at how vying for power within a capitalist framework was likely to play out. It can be said he was right enough.

          But he wasn’t offering a study in “human psychology” so much as a study in “capitalist psychology”.

          Somewhere above or below (depending where this comment lands in the sub-thread), you mention that despite whatever else in terms of the politics around capitalism, the problem of growth will remain. And that’s true, but only for as long as we have a market system determining questions of production and distribution

          But then, elsewhere you’ve written that we need a new paradigm.

          So isn’t market abolition a good starting point from the perspective of ecological crises? I mean, that’s where the imperative for growth resides – in the structure and incentives/disincentives of “the market”. And there is no logical argument I’m aware of that would stand against having highly inclusive democratic decision making processes determine questions of production and distribution.

          Meanwhile, we have a liberal lock-down, or a shift to social democracy (a soft statism) that could encourage us in new directions that take us beyond the limiting dichotomy of market and state.

          • Pat 4.1.1.2.1

            You will have to be more specific with your definition of the term “market” for me to respond to that question.

            The imperative for growth resides in interest.

            “And there is no logical argument I’m aware of that would stand against having highly inclusive democratic decision making processes determine questions of production and distribution.”

            I dont dispute the possibility I do however suggest that the end result will be little different, albeit more equitable on the way…..and the transformation would need to be exceedingly fast…that is only likely to occur by decree which is the antithesis of “highly inclusive democracy.”

            You may note Im not optimistic…..there arnt many Kevin Andersons in the world, maybe if there were.

            • Bill 4.1.1.2.1.1

              When I use the term “the market”, I’m referring to the rules and regulations built around production and distribution (trade) – ie, what we tend to call the “market economy”.

              Loosely and not exclusively then, we’re talking about an economy where the profit motive determines to a large degree what gets produced, how much gets produced, how things get produced (inbuilt obsolescence etc) and how or why things get distributed.

              I agree that “fast” is required in terms of transformation. I’d say that if the politics of the Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s of the world look old hat in about 20 years from now, then we might say that we got up to speed.

              Highly inclusive decision making processes get a bad rap for being cumbersome and what not. Often (I’ve found) that comes from a belief that democracy requires consensus. But consensus isn’t a necessary component of democracy – democratic decisions can be made very fast, and have the advantage of being entirely mutable or adaptable to better fit different scenarios.

              • Pat

                Ok, I wanted clarification because the myth of the market economy could disappear tomorrow and Id be happy, but not trade per se (markets).
                There needs to be a recognition that there is no such thing as a free market for all markets are fettered by differing human attributes/flaws and are therefore as irrational.

                As to a fast democratic transformation (consensual or not) the only method I can perceive of is revolution and history demonstrates that the resulting chaos would take too long to resolve and would likely be as least as damaging if not more so in the intervening period, perhaps a mass awakening that sweeps some radical action into the OECDs parliaments but that seems as likely as unicorns….as has been amply stated our carbon budget for 2 degrees average is all but gone, and even that isnt any guarantee of success.

                What we need is rationing…..how do you think that will go down with our consumer societies?

                • Bill

                  Ok, I wanted clarification because the myth of the market economy could disappear tomorrow and Id be happy, but not trade per se

                  We agree on that front.

                  The concept of the “free market” (as I understand it) is based on the idea that human interaction reduced to transactional “agreements” is neutral, self correcting and a route to human freedom – ie, a crock of shit. Politically, that translates as opposition to state interference in a “natural order” – hence the friction between liberal forms of governance and social democratic ones (the latter being far more weighted towards statism).

                  • Pat

                    and rationing?

                    What do you think would be the electoral response should some political candidate propose an equitable ration (with a sinking lid) of CC emissions , tradable or not?

                    • Bill

                      I think even the most deleterious and stupid ideas can be “sold” on the political stage. I mean, hell, just look at the past 30 or 40 years for any number of examples.

                      I can’t see another option besides a hard sinking cap on fossil. Assuming we’re going to stick with current structures of governance, it’s up to politicians to sell that policy.

                      I’d suggest our problem is that politicians are far from our brightest sparks, haven’t grasped the need for such measures, are beholden to vested interests and not the citizenry they claim to represent, and regardless and otherwise, are ‘permitted’ to skirt it by wanking on about ‘election prospects’ as though we, the electorate, are incapable of understanding stuff politicians might suggest with the full backing of the scientific community and scientific understanding.

                  • Pat

                    I too can see no other practicable option but my gut tells me that even in the most aware (and unequal) OECD countries it would struggle to attract perhaps 10% support…..but Id be overjoyed to be given the option.

          • Pat 4.1.1.2.2

            “But he wasn’t offering a study in “human psychology” so much as a study in “capitalist psychology”.

            This is the great misunderstanding of modern economics. It is a socail science (insomuch as it can be labelled science)…a study of how humans interact.

            As such I should probably elaborate on the imperative for growth…It has its origins in power, or the ability to gain and maintain resources….you tell me me, has anything changed?

            • Bill 4.1.1.2.2.1

              Yes. It was a study of how humans with different allegiances and interests might interact in a very specific context and under particular circumstances wholly contained within that context.

              I don’t ascribe to the notion that an imperative for (economic) growth is an off-shoot of a perceived need to maintain power in the broader sense.

              In a narrow economic sense (as the term is used these days), then yes, growth is the obvious way to protect profit and “market” advantage (or even simply survival), and profit easily and often translates to economic and political power.

              • Pat

                not just in the narrow economic sense…the basis of all power (and the ability to gain and maintain) lies in the strength of numbers….big is better, be it in modern economic terms or historical military terms (and modern military strength is dictated by economic strength)

                “Politics (economics, for they are two sides of the same coin) is war without bloodshed”….brackets mine

                Mao Tse Tung

                • Bill

                  (Disclaimer: my politics are anarchist and so of course I would say what follows.)

                  Illegitimate power is that which is exercised over another or others by force/coercion etc.

                  Separate that out from legitimate power (ie – power that can offer up a clear justification for its existence and exercise), and the argument you offer for all power starts to look shaky.

                  Maybe illegitimate power has traditionally bolstered and extended itself by and in the ways you say. But it’s illegitimate and (I’d say) ought to be subverted, resisted and rendered impotent.

                  Maybe that would be a necessary component of any successful and sorely needed new paradigm?

                  • Pat

                    I would suggest that all power has its origins in illegitimacy…the power of might.
                    Such is the history of empires and colonialism.

                    This is why I dont subscribe to anarchy, its relies on an innate goodwill in humans that is not dominant.

                    • Bill

                      My individual agency is power that is neither illegitimate or a striving for “might”.

                      Anarchy doesn’t rely on innate good will any more than it relies on denying those who would exercise bad will. What I mean by that is that it isn’t a “turn the other cheek” type of a thing.

                    • Dennis Frank

                      Science has been working on this: reciprocal altruism. Reciprocity occurs when expectations of future interaction modify behaviour in the present – thus providing a motive for political relations, via normalcy in cultural contexts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reciprocal_altruism

                      “Trivers (1971) developed the idea that animals might enter into contracts, so that aid given by one animal to another would be reciprocated later in time; this is called reciprocal altruism. Reciprocation could require cognitive awareness of the deal being made, which is probably a large leap for many animals and also difficult to measure. Alternatively, evolution could drive mechanisms by which reciprocation is built into social interactions. In order to be an effective social mechanism, reciprocation must involve some sort of enforcement or penalty, such as social ostracization or physical punishments for animals that fail to reciprocate. This paper is part of a flurry of interest sparked by Hamilton’s 1964 work on the evolution of altruism”. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/reciprocal-altruism

                      That original theoretical basis has been expanded via field observations since. As primates, we combine competition with collaboration. If you factor in intelligent design, the cultural context can be shifted according to plan, to tweak the balance, to optimise the chances of reciprocity governing expectations. Rather than exploitation, which is our default inherited from the patriarchy. Anarchy thus becomes a realistic prospect – via the shadow of the future…

                    • Pat

                      @ Dennis

                      I dont doubt that systems can enhance altruism in societies….what I think is overlooked is the default behaviours of humans under duress….or even at times without it

                    • Bill

                      @ Pat.

                      behaviour under duress..

                      Like the guys in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake who scaled a fence to throw cardboard to those gathered around (for shelter) while a US news anchor stood in the foreground breathlessly reporting about the looting that was taking place?

                      When the shit hits the fan, our better selves tend to come to the fore. And if in the general scheme of things we have “nothing”, we’re far more likely to give a stranger the shirt off our back than that they’d receive a penny from well heeled types.

                  • Pat

                    ” What I mean by that is that it isn’t a “turn the other cheek” type of a thing.”

                    I understand that, but would note that history is littered with communities that practised such….until they came in contact with the contrary view.

                    I suspect Churchill was considering such when he described democracy as the worst form of gov. etc….there is at least opportunity for reform in the tyranny of the masses.

                    None of which solves the problem

                    • Bill

                      I don’t have the time to search out the piece right now, but there was a longish anthropological piece on African societies (somewhere on this site) that suggested many African societies embraced what we, from our western perspective, might call anarchism.

                      Of course, they were largely obliterated when colonisation at the point of a gun infected the continent and spread.

                      But who were the foot-soldiers who carried the colonist’s guns? Unless the thought is that they just naturally assumed their position as enablers of colonialism, then there’s always the potential for a collective shift away from where we are now.

                      Maybe it begins with a growing sense of disdain for authority and for those who would prefer we remain shackled to the status quo? – Just a throw away thought on a dreich Sunday afternoon that’s in need of a ray of sun or somesuch.

                    • Dennis Frank

                      Re “default behaviours of humans under duress….or even at times without it”. Yeah, the dark side of the human coin. But predation or evil or whatever on that side is the motivation, can be displaced by cultural indoctrination. Which is presumably how civilisation developed (even if only skin-deep).

                      The gift economy has been explored in various books in recent times. More widespread than most would assume in various ethnicities. “A gift economy, gift culture, or gift exchange is a mode of exchange where valuables are not traded or sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards.” [Wikipedia]
                      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2012/jul/30/charles-eisenstein-gift-economy

                  • Pat

                    Not sure if this is the piece you mean .

                    https://thisisafrica.me/dont-need-world-jarawa-peoples-fight-self-determination/

                    “We don’t need your world,” one of the Jarawa boldly states.”

                    “It is a small group of politicians and locals, he says, who want to wipe them out. Why? Well, Jarawa territory includes beautiful beaches and reserves, and the government has economic plans to build the largest port on the Indian Ocean there.”

                    That same desire for resources….and the desires of the Jarawa??

                    Not only is the weather pattern stuck so is human action

                    • Dennis Frank

                      Excellent report! This paragraph conveys the moral of the story:

                      “In literally every debate about communism or anarchism in the Western world, we run into the same repeated sentiment: “It works only in theory or in small scale, but practically impossible for large societies, without becoming authoritarian nightmares”. But the existence of these indigenous egalitarian democratic syndicates with “citizens” numbering in the millions, and the fact that they have functioned very well for longer than anyone can remember, is clear evidence to the contrary.”

                      And though “we know nothing of their evolutionary history”, that will change, now that labs are sequencing ancient DNA rapidly. “Well-preserved ancient DNA has until recently been hard to find in most parts of Africa because of the hot climate, which accelerates chemical reactions that degrade DNA. But in 2015, the ancient DNA revolution finally arrived in Africa”, according to Professor of Genetics David Reich of Harvard.

                    • Pat

                      Yes an excellent report…sadly somewhat undermined by the example of the other article.

                      If only.

        • Nic the NZer 4.1.1.3

          Kalecki’s article was titled the political aspects of full employment, not the political aspects of social democracy (which he didn’t discuss). As Dennis Frank points out the counter to full employment happened in the eighties and we are living in an economy where the term (at least with the original meaning) no longer occurs.

          • Bill 4.1.1.3.1

            Oops. My bad. Deleted my comment when I realised yours wasn’t in response to anything I’d said.

          • Pat 4.1.1.3.2

            indeed it was titled thus…do you wish to claim that Keynes’ theory to which it was a response was not the economic model adopted and promoted by the social democrats of the day?…or even Corbyn today?

  5. Adrian Thornton 5

    Here is a good interview that does some neat unpacking around The Guardians role as faithful watchdog of the liberal centrist status quo…Corbyn/UK Labour not being included in their “investigative series” on populism, that is beautiful, it only shows how threatened by the Left The Guardian really are, and how irrelevant and undefendable their obsolete position is becoming for them daily.

    ‘Crashing The Guardian’s neoliberal party: Rise of new left media w/ The Canary’s Kerry-Anne Mendoza’

  6. OnceWasTim 6

    And yet, there seems to be only one place on Earth where a clown with fascist tendencies is promoting an entire population of centrist clowns.

    Please discuss avoiding the word ‘trivial’

  7. UncookedSelachimorpha 7

    “Centrism” these days seems to require blind adherence to free market and pro-privatisation philosophies. If H.Clinton and Blair’s behaviour – and the whole neoliberal nightmare we have had since the 1980s is centrism – then to hell with it. Being centrist sounds pleasantly moderate – but in fact it is a radical right-wing view that is these days sold as a reasonable, middle ground.

    The Canary has a good piece on Hilary’s recent comments:

    Hillary Clinton’s latest comments have to be the final nail in the ‘centrist’ coffin

  8. Ad 8

    A curious breaking agreement between Mexico and the United States on immigrants.

    The Trump administration has won the support of leftist president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador for a plan that could end a system — decried by President Trump as “catch and release” — that has generally allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer U.S. soil while their cases are processed. “No ‘Releasing’ into the U.S….All will stay in Mexico,” Trump tweeted Saturday evening.

    Obrador, having recently taken out a good section of the Mexican Carlos Slim cartel with the cancellation of a great half-constructed airport, is no centrist clown.

    López Obrador is a left-wing populist who has pledged to stand up to Trump and root out corruption in Mexico. He has recognized that dealing with the migrant crisis will require cooperation. Obrador saw it as an opportunity to negotiate with Trump from the outset.

    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/24/trump-mexico-migrants-asylum-border-shutdown-1012701

    Pretty easy to run a counterfactual and check the number of US states in the south that the Democrats would have won easily if they had taken the same path as Obrador. Texas would have been easy, as would Florida, as would a full Senate majority.

    Squeezing refugees down to a trickle has sure helped New Zealand keep a very stable political order – maybe the rest of the world is seeing it.

  9. Ad 9

    The other non-centrist-clown to worry about is Jeremy Corbyn.
    Brexit is the immigration issue par excellence.

    Roughly two thirds of constituencies represented by Labour MPs voted leave.
    But Labour Party members overwhelmingly support remain.

    Corbyn’s own speech and policy positions on Brexit according to the Wikipedia listings of the references are slipperier than a greased dog.

    And to a degree that’s fair enough in Opposition. Despite all appeals to have a second vote, Corbyn is staying well clear of such things.

    But staying still and watching the others shuffle it through is fine, so long as the current government doesn’t pull of the miracle and make it happen. Getting through transition without really clear policy and simply chipping in the House would make the 2022 election a long, long drag into the future for Labour.

    May appears to be miraculously implementing a plan, and the centre is holding, and the dogs of whatever have not been loosed upon the world.

    Brexit is a massive anti-immigration and anti-global-movement plan. And with today’s EU agreement to the plan, it is working. Fascism has not broken out. Chaos has not appeared. The only people rioting are the French, and its about good old fashioned tax.

    Corbyn that non-worrisome-clown has kept his policy wickets undisturbed for another day; simply lifted his bat and decided to just let that Brexit ball through.

    • Adrian Thornton 9.1

      @Ad, “Corbyn that non-worrisome-clown has kept his policy wickets undisturbed for another day; simply lifted his bat and decided to just let that Brexit ball through.”

      Yes it seems that Corbyn and co are turning out to be supremely good political tacticians, this obvious strength along with his incredible ability to not react in the negative to even the most outrageous provocation, and all the while according to Farage of all people “He looked comfortable in his skin, he seemed to be enjoying himself”must be causing some sleepless and worrisome nights to his many enemies…on the right and centre.

      • Ad 9.1.1

        Oh sure, potato potaeto.

        It just means Corbyn’s positioning on immigration has the same effect as that of Clinton, Blair, Clark, Ardern, Trudeau, Howard, Mulroney, Harper, et al that have been going for a fair old while.

  10. Ad 10

    The other non-worrisome-clowns on immigration is that triumvirate of the points-based immigration system, known as Canada-Australia-New Zealand.

    You get a quick summary here:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-29594642

    Canada was the first to make a points-based system way back in 1967. Remarkably integrated society, and has kept many of the social democrat features that the US failed in. You get a good sense of the comparison in the book Reflections of a Siamese Twin by John Ralston Saul.

    https://quillandquire.com/review/reflections-of-a-siamese-twin/

    But just to focus on us non-worrisome centrists down here in New Zealand, we lead the world in resisting the world’s all-comers.

    Until 1986, New Zealand operated a ‘Country-of-origin’ immigration system which gave preference to migrants from specific countries. The points system that replaced this in 1991 initially allowed all people who gained or exceeded the points target to gain residence status and there was no attempt to link labour market demand to the specific skills of the migrants. From 1995, changes were progressively made, which among other things increased the focus on labour demand. From 2001 there has been a Cabinet- approved target for the number of immigrants to be granted residence.

    New Zealand took on one of the lowest numbers and percentages of refugees in the modern world. But we also had massive info and outflow. Yet we remain a peaceful and integrated and exceedingly calm society. Abominably selfish for 30 years of pretty consistent policy, but it appears not to have turned us into a fascist state. Compared to the rest of the world’s conditions, we have nothing caused by immigration that is worrisome at all.

    • Bill 10.1

      Ad. Perhaps you’re missing the point? You seem to be saying that populism and immigration are related – they aren’t.

      The likes of Clinton et al (the “centrists”) won’t or can’t face up to their rejection by the electorate and cast around for factors that are external to the policies they’ve foisted on us to explain their rejection.

      The Brexit vote didn’t fall the way it did because “half” the people in the UK are racist or xenophobic. It was a vote against complacent political elites. Same goes for Trump’s election.

      But as I wrote at the end of the post, if Blair and Clinton and mainstream media outlets persist in their effort to give substance to shadows, we’ll all eventually reap from the shit they’re sowing.

      The politics of the left would kill that prospect stone dead.

      But guess what politics the centrists are most keen to quash and downplay as they puff up the spectre of fascistic tosh in the hope that electorates they hold in contempt will run back to them and their despised, failed and rejected politics for want of safety?

      If you are one of these people who would stomp on a fascist, then would it not be consistent for you to stomp on the handmaids of fascism rather than excuse and defend them?

      On the other hand, if it’s just that you want to run immigration lines, then fine. Though doing that on a more appropriate post would be nice.

      • Ad 10.1.1

        The left is dying in Europe because of immigration policies.
        These are not shadows. It would be great if Brexit was an anti-elite vote. Then the elites would be losing. The elites are entrenched and will be even more so, but there’s still so many that want to continue to plow ahead because they weight immigration higher than elitism in their weightings.

        Not because they are more or less centrist or radical.

        Immigration policies.

        It’s not me “running immigration lines”. Immigration policy is the very source and centre of your post.

        Go to any central or local election in Germany, Hungary, Poland, Britain, Netherlands, France, United States: immigration killed the left of all shades time and again. Only the centre survived in power.

        Whereas in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, we were picker than hell on immigration, and more of the bones of social democracy survived here than anywhere else other than Scandinavia – and even there it’s being eaten alive by immigration policies.

        And Dunedin – whitest city in New Zealand – has been the primary beneficiary of our own immigration policies, and it’s continued to also be the most left-voting city by a country mile. Bill, you’re soaking in it.

        We taught Clinton everything she knew and it’s worked.

        • Bill 10.1.1.1

          The left is dying in Europe because of immigration policies.

          Yeah Ad, it’s like you think Blair and Clinton and the parties they’re from and the policies they would pursue are left. That’s the only explanation I can figure for that piece of nonsense you wrote.

          Podemos, UK Labour, SNP, progressive inroads to “Clinton’s” Democratic Party etc….the left is very much in the ascendancy, but I know this will be a pointless exchange given your perception is all up the wop on this stuff. We’ve had this exchange before. We both know how it goes. Maybe someone else will attempt to engage with you on these political differences you refuse to acknowledge.

          Clinton encouraging and attempting to create an environment for xenophobia and fascistic tosh while offering succour to xenophobes and racists in the political arena into the bargain because she can’t/won’t accept that the dustbin of history is where her and her ilk are headed – that’s what the post is built around – not immigration.

    • Antoine 10.2

      > New Zealand took on one of the lowest numbers and percentages of refugees in the modern world. But we also had massive info and outflow. Yet we remain a peaceful and integrated and exceedingly calm society. Abominably selfish for 30 years of pretty consistent policy, but it appears not to have turned us into a fascist state. Compared to the rest of the world’s conditions, we have nothing caused by immigration that is worrisome at all.

      And yet, here we are with a pro-refugee Govt, threatening to raise refugee quotas and thereby kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

      A.

  11. Incognito 11

    Populism thrives on globalism and immigration or rather the emotions these trigger. People are fearful that their material possessions and assets will diminish or be taken away. They are fearful of losing their national, cultural, religious and, by logical extension, their personal/individual identity. The fear for their security, financial, emotional, psychological.

    Populism takes advantage of all these negative factors and promises increased security and preservation or restoration of lost ‘values’ through protectionism and focussing on a common ‘enemy’ often through racist propaganda.

    MSM and Social Media are perfect to stoke the fears and feelings of insecurity; Social Media were designed to ‘get up close’ and make emotional connections. Populists have cottoned on to that and are exploiting to its full potential.

    There is no moral or other justification for populism than the fact that it wins votes in the current environment. Ignore or resist this and find out at your own detriment (peril). The likes of Clinton are no fools but they don’t offer an alternative, just a ‘softer’ and ‘kinder’ form of populism.

    The political centre may be where elections are won or lost but true change and progress (or regress) come from the extreme and radical margins. But once populism takes hold radical voices will be silenced, one way or another, and we will worse off for it.

    • DJ Ward 11.1

      I like your last paragraph.

      To me it’s the flaw of democracy.
      The majority can oppress the minority.
      A person can have a radical idea that is absolutely correct, or wrong.
      The populace processes the radical idea with debate and these days science.
      Just like testing a medicine it takes time to accept it.
      The barrier becomes false beliefs, culture, greed, fears, propaganda.

      The populace protects itself from radicals by not giving them power. Which is a good idea 99% of the time. However if the idea works, and it is correct the populism adopts it. Legalising prostitution, allowing divorce, funding Plunket, making an area a protected reserve etc etc. The radical idea is normalised because it’s correct.

      Worse of for it.
      The radical try’s to change the status quo. So society has no change to its fate if the radicals idea is not accepted.

      It is up the the radical to have ideas that are benificial to the populace in some way, not one benificial just to the ideology of the radical.

      The evolution of ideas.

      So democracy has a fault in that the majority can oppress the minority, populism vs the radical.
      When the populace looses the voice of radicals it’s because idealism, or theology, etc acts like a dictator over ideas, a version of a Radical.

      Democracy is faulty but also petty good overall. It picks good radical ideas more than it picks bad radical ideas.

      Then you have individual politicians, the human factor that can ruin things for decades. Thank the sky fairies we didn’t get Clinton.

      • Dennis Frank 11.1.1

        Yes, I agree with Incognito in respect of the ideal situation, and with you in respect of reality. Public policy has to be based on what works in the real world. I’d prefer it if human nature were considerably better than it is, but have never gone along with the leftist notion that if you harangue people sufficiently they will morph into leftists.

        Well, left-wingers call it education, but we all know they really mean being politically correct like them. I’m not saying people can’t evolve into better people. They can and do. Otherwise prisoner rehabilitation would be a waste of time. But fewer people do so than we’d like, and much more slowly than we’d like.

        So our collective political praxis ought to be on methods of applying radical ideas in the political process, and learning from which methods get traction in which cultural contexts. Political scientists could help if their discipline were to incorporate methodology rather than just analysis & commentary.

  12. Sanctuary 12

    The problem with the “centrist” politics of the type represented by Clinton, Blair and the Guardian is the only people who are clamouring for it are the liberal political elites, for whom the Guardian acts as a house journal. The “centre” is constantly represented by a motley assembly of now largely reviled yesterday’s men and women who no longer have much of a constituency in the wider public. The “centre” says it is moderate, but what does that even stand for in terms of policy? Clintonian/Blairite “moderate centrism” is a type of politics that is 20 years out of date. If you ask me, a massive program of state house building is moderate. Free education is a moderate policy proposal. A fully funded health system is a moderate policy proposal. A proper, progressive income tax scheme is moderate politics. Those ideas though are NOT moderate to to “centrists” like our very own Grant Robertson, who claim the cloak of “centrism” whilst rejecting anything that is even mildly social democratic

    And there is the rub. The centrism of Clinton, Blair (and Robertson) is actually a RADICAL centrism, a political managerialism that involves defending the neoliberal consensus as the “political centre” in an increasingly untenable rearguard action on behalf of the liberal elites and the institutions that are largely run by and for those liberal elites.

    The clamour for political change is currently being satisfied by the popular right because the institutional political vehicles of the left are currently completely infested and colonised by this radical centrism of the the unsustainable status quo. The reality is “centrism” is another word for old style conservatism, radical centrism is an aggressive defence of that conservative privilege, conservatism is now reactionary populism, and only the far right is currently offering the desperate a truly revolutionary path out of their dire circumstances. Where the social democratic left’s political vehicles have failed to reject the radical centrism of Clintonian and Blarite politics they’ve been wiped out – the fate of the Western European and Scandinavian social democratic parties should be a waring to NZ Labour (although it won’t, such is the intellectual sterility of modern NZ politics).

    This is why Corbynism is important for the social democratic left. In it’s rejection of the radical centre in favour of an actual centrist position of moderate social democratic reform, it has revitalised the main political vehicle of the left for resisting neoliberalism and the far right.

    • Dennis Frank 12.1

      “Radical centrism (also called the radical center/centre or radical middle) is a political ideology that arose in the Western nations in the late 20th century. At first it was defined in a variety of ways, but at the beginning of the 21st century a number of political science texts gave it a more developed cast.”

      “The radical in the term refers to a willingness on the part of most radical centrists to call for fundamental reform of institutions. The centrism refers to a belief that genuine solutions require realism and pragmatism, not just idealism and emotion. One radical centrist text defines radical centrism as “idealism without illusions”, a phrase originally from John F. Kennedy. Radical centrists typically borrow ideas from the left, the right, and elsewhere, often melding them together.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_centrism

      • Sanctuary 12.1.1

        Great, you can use wikipedia.

        In this case, it’s entry is worse than useless so I guess you’ve run out of anything useful to add.

  13. CHCOff 13

    Is very difficult for the ‘powers that be’ to understand that centralisation and Laissez-faire financial classes are not very compatible when it comes to societal governance being imbued with competence.

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