It’s all quite surreal at times. Orwellian. It may be best to avoid the papers.
In my previous post, I wrote about how much of the American working-class, in general, reject the ideas of both Clinton and Trump. Where, then, does Trump’s support come from? In an earlier post I also wrote about how the middle-class is generally more conservative when it comes to things like inequality and climate change, and so members of this class are therefore more likely to be Trump supporters. The following passage from a recent Guardian column by Sarah Smarsh confirms this:
Earlier this year, primary exit polls revealed that Trump voters were, in fact, more affluent than most Americans, with a median household income of $72,000 – higher than that of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters. Forty-four percent of them had college degrees, well above the national average of 33% among whites or 29% overall. In January, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams reported findings that a penchant for authoritarianism – not income, education, gender, age or race –predicted Trump support.
These facts haven’t stopped pundits and journalists from pushing story after story about the white working class’s giddy embrace of a bloviating demagogue.
Mainstream media is set up to fail the ordinary American
Based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric and available data, it appears that most of his voters this November will be people who are getting by well enough but who think of themselves as victims.
The column is well worth reading in full.
A thought terrifies me. There is a person standing in front of me, and I’m desperate to make him understand. I’m vulnerable, and I am dependent on his mercy. He doesn’t know me, and his attitude and actions towards me are compelled by a system, by society, by his own preconceptions, or a mixture of the above. I don’t want to cause harm, I just want to live quietly and get along like everybody else. Whether I can or not, is up to him.
It is awful to think that people can become so anonymous to each other. Ordinary individuals, with all of their aspirations, can care so little for other individuals in our everyday environment. Through various forces, otherwise decent, ordinary people have been led to believe that vulnerable people are the problem, and not the powerful few who egg us on.
It can happen to any of us, that we suddenly find ourselves at the mercy of others due to circumstances beyond our control.
Many of us experience relatively minor forms of bureaucracy which frustrate our everyday lives; the clerks at the banks, post office, welfare office, the hospitals, insurance company workers, solicitors, politicians, HR managers, and, perhaps most often, our bosses and colleagues at work.
But what about more extreme forms? Refugees fleeing war, innocent children whose homes are bombed, homeless people searching for shelter to sleep and money for food – what happens when these innocent people come up against the “rules” of an apathetic all-powerful system perpetrated and perpetuated by us on behalf of the powerful and privileged? For the victims, these “rules” take the human form of a customs official, an airforce pilot, a police officer. Pervading bigotry among other ordinary people, encouraged by the media and the economic-political system at large, exacerbates the whole mindless situation and intensifies the horrible downward spiral.
Leo Tolstoy wrote on this subject regarding a character who was faced with the prospect of execution before firing squad:
…obsessed with a single thought, a simple question: who had condemned him to death? Who was it?
It wasn’t the men who had interrogated him at the first session; clearly none of them had wanted to, or had the authority… who was it, then, who was punishing him, killing him, taking his life… with all his memories, yearnings, hopes and ideas? Who was doing this? And [he] felt he knew the answer: no one was.
…It was some kind of system that was killing him… taking his life, taking everything away, destroying him.
‘But who is doing it? [The soldiers of the firing squad are] all suffering like me! Who is it? Who?’
Just a thought on much of the so-called “liberal” view of the Brexit result recently. This group of generally liberal people who were genuinely horrified and shocked by the Brexit result and the racism and ignorance that they saw as being fundamental to it. The group is often represented by personalities such as Sir Bob Geldof, the singer and campaigner, who is paid a great deal of money to attend talks on poverty (reportedly $100,000), and who compared the 1916 Irish Revolution to ISIS terrorism.
There have been protests from liberals in support of overturning the result of the referendum decided by the British public. There has been a campaign to make those who voted to leave the EU (mostly working-class people) to look rather stupid; things such as the insinuation (and even direct assersions) that Leave voters didn’t know what the EU was because “what is the EU?” was reportedly top of a Google search in the days before the referendum. Nevermind that those internet searches could have been mostly Remain voters for all we know. I would argue that it was Leave voters who most clearly understood the EU as they weren’t caught up in the convoluted idea that the EU can be reformed, nor were Leave voters distracted by the far-right rhetoric. In a sense, it was much of the Remain campaigners and voters who became distracted by the far-right, as they chose to vote to Remain in the EU merely because it was the opposite to the stance of detestable UKIP and kin; the Blairites in Labour also took the view that, “anything the far-right does, we’ll do the opposite”, which turned out to be a disastrous stance for Jeremy Corbyn and others on the left-wing of the Labour party, (although, I will speculate, that Corbyn was privately in favour of leaving the EU). Labour’s failure to stand for a Leave vote, created confusion and disillusionment for working-class voters on the left. It was a massive own-goal at the time. But things have changed in the short time since then with the resignation or dismissal of many of those Blairites on the right-wing of the Labour party who, up until recently, have dominated the party’s policy. The liberal perspective was likewise reduced to “what is UKIP doing? – We’ll do the opposite”, rather than to ask what the situation at hand actually was. Of course, the Brexit referendum pitted elements of the British and European bourgeoisie against each other too, as some believed to Remain was beneficial for their profits, and others thought Leaving to be beneficial for theirs. There perhaps no better example of this than the conservative party, which was divided throughout the whole campaign. Working-class Leave voters at least understood that the EU is an anti-democratic, anti-worker and racist institution that cannot be reformed. Have a look at the excellent video below about why one working-class area of Britain chose to vote Leave.
I would argue that it was Leave voters who most clearly understood the EU as they weren’t caught up in the convoluted idea that the EU can be reformed, nor were Leave voters distracted by the far-right rhetoric – as many of the Remain voters were who chose to vote to Remain in the EU. Many argued to vote Remain merely because it was the opposite to the stance of detestable UKIP and other far-right and racist groups; the Blairites in Labour also took this view, which turned out to be a disastrous stance for Jeremy Corbyn and those on the left of the Labour party, (although, I will speculate, that Corbyn was privately in favour of leaving the EU, as he has always stated that the EU is anti-democratic). Labour’s failure to stand for a Leave vote, created confusion and disillusionment for working-class voters on the left. It was a massive own-goal at the time. But things have changed in the short time since then with the resignation or dismissal of many of those Blairites on the right-side of the Labour party who up until recently have dominated the party’s policy. The liberal perspective was likewise reduced to “what is UKIP doing? – We’ll do the opposite”, rather than to ask what the situation at hand actually was. Of course, the Brexit referendum pitted elements of the British and European bourgeoisie against each other too, as some believed to Remain was beneficial for their profits, and others thought Leaving to be beneficial for theirs. There perhaps no better example of this than the conservative party, which was divided throughout the whole campaign. Working-class Leave voters at least understood that the EU is an anti-democratic, anti-worker and racist institution that cannot be reformed. Have a look at the excellent video below about why one working-class area of Britain chose to vote Leave.
Labour’s failure to stand for a Leave vote, created confusion and disillusionment for working-class voters on the left. It was a massive own-goal at the time. But things have changed in the short time since then with the resignation or dismissal of many of those Blairites on the right-wing of the Labour party who up until recently have dominated the party’s policy. The liberal perspective was likewise reduced to the argument, “what is UKIP doing? – We’ll do the opposite”, rather than to ask what the situation at hand actually was. Of course, the Brexit referendum pitted elements of the British and European bourgeoisie against each other too, as some believed to Remain was beneficial for their profits, and others thought Leaving to be beneficial for theirs. There perhaps no better example of this than the conservative party, which was divided throughout the whole campaign. Working-class Leave voters at least understood that the EU is an anti-democratic, anti-worker and racist institution that cannot be reformed. Have a look at the excellent video below about why one working-class area of Britain chose to vote Leave.
Of course, the Brexit referendum pitted elements of the British and European bourgeoisie against each other too, as some believed to Remain was beneficial for their profits, and others thought Leaving to be beneficial for theirs. There is perhaps no better example of this than the Tory Party, which was divided throughout the whole campaign. Working-class Leave voters at least understood that the EU is an anti-democratic, anti-worker and racist institution that cannot be reformed. Have a look at the excellent video below about why one working-class area of Britain chose to vote Leave.
I’ve heard some well-educated open-minded liberals say that not enough people voted, and others say that too many people voted and a decision of such magnitude should not have been left to the public. The former ignores the fact that the gap would have been bigger on the side of Leave had more people exercised the vote, because more working-class people would have voted; the latter is simply undemocratic.
Another “liberal” minded person on facebook equated the decision of the majority of British people to “pissing in their pants to keep warm”, and his friends then went on to back him up, speaking of the “racism” of all of the leave voters. The hypocrisy and irony of their own bigotry was indeed lost on them in their self-righteous and confused comments. I suppose, to be fair, he did claim not to have understood the decision himself. An example of bigotry borne of ignorance surely.
To those “liberals” who championed the idea that the EU isn’t perfect, but argue that it can be reformed – that reformist experiment has already been tried. Greece attempted the experiment when they tried to implement anti-austerity measures while remaining inside the EU, believing a capitalistic Europe, through the EU could be reformed. And look at how the EU dealt with the Greek people who dared to stand up for themselves!
The Irish “liberal” (and liberals in general) like to see themselves as open-minded, high-minded, considered, righteous, progressive and agrees with aspects of both left and right. They consider themselves as having common sense and like to “get things done”. They see themselves as representing the reasonable, balanced view, that considers everyone’s interests in a practical way. In this way the liberal could be framed as representing the best of both worlds, the happy middle-ground, but in doing so, it is really nothing; they understand neither the forces driving capitalism, nor the experiences and interests of the working class; liberals are interested in improving conditions for others if possible, but not at the expense of their own privilege and position. Generally, the positions they do help to improve are those who are already privileged or wealthy. So they are tacitly in favour of privilege, class division, hierarchy and inequality. The liberal respects hierarchy and division as long as they are in on it, mingling amongst it. Look at the middle-class (generally liberal) professions in the legal and corporate areas for example. The liberal’s fair-mindedness is so fragile, that when their position or interests are challenged they denounce the majority of voters of an entire country as stupid and racist when the vote’s result is not to the liberal’s liking, whereas the Marxist actually analyses it.
What about this for back-handed racial and class-based condescension from actor Jeremy Irons:
We have a history of immigration. We are made up of Anglo Saxons, Normans, Celts, Vikings, West Indians, Pakistanis, you know, thank God for them – you can get a pint of milk at eleven o’clock at night most places
Yes, it’s fun to work until eleven o’clock at night. “We’re just glad you could get your pint of milk Mr. Irons, Sir.”
Liberals see socialism as misguided, unreasonable, unnecessary and dangerous. They bar the doorways to this progressive alternative for human-kind, and then they wonder why the far-right reactionaries are gaining followers and influence through the window. Liberals prop up institutions like the EU, which are antagonistic to the interests of the working class, they under-mine credible leaders on the left, such as Jeremy Corbyn who have always opposed the EU, and then they are astonished that the politicians taking the lead are opportunist, populist, nationalist and racist!
Now, liberals should ask themselves – is this the extent of liberalism?
I’ll leave it with Sir Bob Geldof, who, in many ways sums up the “principles” of the modern liberal.
‘I’ll shake hands with the devil on my left and the devil on my right to get where we need to be.’ (Irish Times)
And in regard to having principles, Geldof, referring to Jeremy Corbyn whom he said should step-down despite Corbyn having a massive democratic mandate from Labour members:
‘He’s a principled man but if you’re the leader of a party you have to… park your own principles’
The liberal view: park your principles. Analyse nothing. Stand for nothing. Evil motivations must be considered too.
Results of the Brexit Referendum has dominated the narrative over the past 24 hours, through mainstream media and social media. I thought it would be interesting to share some of the points, observations and opinions on it, from an Irish point-of-view, which were posted on facebook and appeared on my feed.
The Referendum results have created a full-blown crisis in the UK and total panic in Brussels. Denmark and Holland will go next. The French elite will be under huge pressure to concede a referendum. The German establishment will be meeting frequently and in secret to prepare a Plan B, which will mean a serious restructuring of the Eurozone.
It was a revolt against the political establishment (Ed Miliband acknowledged this fact) and had Corbyn come out for LEAVE his party would have been in a very strong position. The Tories are wounded. Labour and others should demand an early election. Impossible to wait till 2020. And the election campaign should be waged fiercely for an anti-capitalist programme and fighting the Right on racism/xenophobia, etc. Mass campaigning of the sort that won Corbyn the leadership is the way forward.
PS: After I debated Varoufakis he came and whispered in my ear: ‘Tariq, don’t doubt that if there is a Brexit, I won’t be shedding any tears.’ Time for him to say it in public…
Corbyn had an opportunity to stand up to the right-wing in his own party and put forward a principled Left and socialist position on the bosses’ club that is the EU. If he had, he would have been vindicated by the popular anger of the working class.
Instead, Corbyn and others on the Left capitulated. To quote Brendan O’Neill, the Left threw their “lot in with the very people it was founded a few hundred years ago to challenge: kings and tyrants and other benign guardians of the stupid people.”
Why? Because they were so frightened of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage that they sided with the Tories and EU to keep them in check? Cowards. Cowards who have abandoned the idea that working class have agency and can defend its own interests without having to rely on the benevolence of its enemies.
There’s a reckoning coming and it’s now time to rebuild a mass socialist alternative that stands in the legacy of Tony Benn and Bob Crow. It’s up to Corbyn et al now to decide which side they want to be on.
Via a Facebook user:
One thing is clear: The decision of Corbyn, the Labour left, and much of the wider left to support a Remain vote in the EU referendum was an incredible political own goal.
The referendum showed massive working class anger and disaffection. Had they argued for a leave vote, they could have dramatically changed the debate, and been well positioned to benefit from the enormous instability this will cause within the Tory government.
Instead, they sided with the establishment and the capitalist class. In doing so, they allowed UKIP and the populist right to be the main voice of people’s discontent and allowed the debate to be focused to a significant extent on immigration with no effective means of combatting anti-immigrant sentiments.
And of course, taking a remain position hasn’t stopped the Blairites and the media from blaming Corbyn for the result and looking for his head.
And what did they do it all for? To defend the anti-democratic, neo-liberal, racist EU austerity project.
There will now be a political crisis and a major discussion about what kind of exit should happen; it is still possible to cut across and challenge the anti-immigrant right and their narrative. But it would have been a lot easier if the left had held its nerve and stuck to its principles on the EU from the start.
Another Anonymous Facebook User:
In Barking and Dagenham, where less than half of the population now identify as white British, 62% of people voted to leave. In neighbouring Newham, one of the poorest and also the most ethnically diverse area of the country, 47% voted to leave.
Difficult decision to make I’ll admit. Big business, TTIP etc on one side, racist fuckers leading on the other. The left should have properly backed breaking from Europe to take the arguments away from the bigots.
One thing that is clear is this morning is hilarious, “the markets”, the banks, big business have gone demented because of a democratic decision made by an actual population of people, imagine that? Pity the head bangers are heading up the Leave side. And all racists across Europe are going to jump on the bandwagon and raise their profile through this decision. The Left across Europe needs to get its shit together to channel this decision in the correct direction and demonstrate the real reasons this decision is important to stop the neo-liberal agenda of the European project.
A social Europe based on solidarity YES
A Europe based on controlling populations and pushing an economic agenda NO
Ugh, Capitalists … :
Huey P. Ashmore:
People going on about how Brexit is a victory for backward racists like Farage should probably remember that the EU is paying the quasi-dictatorship of Turkey a 3 billion Euro bribe to block Syrian refugees coming into Europe with military force.
Ruth Coppinger TD:
Media and establishment shocked by Brexit. The left case against the undemocratic and neo liberal EU was not as widely publicised as it would have been had Corbyn and the left made it, but those are factors in the large working class turnout that delivered the result. We need a Europe for the millions, not the millionaires.
DEPRESSION, I have no doubt, is a mental illness. However, throughout the past few years of recession, and the stories of suicide that that brought, and still brings, I feel that people need to recognise the part society plays in contributing – in quite a significant way – to this mental illness we call depression. I often read in newspapers and on social media, and hear in advertisements by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and radio interviews of the need to talk about depression. Talking about it is very good advice indeed, if one can find someone to talk to, but this merely treats the symptoms and not the cause of the illness. Can talking or being positive give an unemployed person their job back or enough money to make ends meet? Something more fundamental is needed.
People who suffer from depression or suicidal tendencies do not have themselves to blame for the illness they suffer from. As with other illnesses, there are external factors which have brought about the illness in the individual, which are beyond their control. In the case of depression, one does not just suffer from it for some random reason. There are tangible material reasons and social factors which have brought it about. Often this mental illness – depression – is brought about by the actions of others and society in general towards the victim. Suicide, from the perspective of people who feel isolated, or suffer from bullying or depression, or from financial hardship, appears to be a completely logical solution; they are ending their own suffering, and, sometimes, by committing suicide, they may think that they are ending the inconveniencing of others, which the victim may think he is contributing to. This is especially true in instances of financial stress, usually among working class males, who may feel a loss of independence and confidence, and may feel like a burden on their family and friends. Suicide is not a selfish act.
Look at what Robert Tressell wrote about suicide through the character Frank Owen:
‘…tonight Owen was not to read of those things, for as soon as he opened the paper his attention was riveted by the staring headline of one of the principal columns:
“TERRIBLE DOMESTIC TRAGEDY
Wife And Two Children Killed
Suicide of the Murderer”
It was one of the ordinary poverty crimes. The man had been without employment for many weeks and they had been living by pawning or selling their furniture and other possessions. But even this resource must have failed at last, and when one day the neighbours noticed that the blinds remained down and that there was a strange silence about the house, no one coming out or going in, suspicions that something was wrong were quickly aroused. When the police entered the house, they found, in one of the upper rooms, the dead bodies of the woman and the two children, with their throats severed, laid out side by side upon the bed, which was saturated with their blood.
There was no bedstead and no furniture in the room except the straw mattress and the ragged clothes and blankets which formed the bed upon the floor.
The man’s body was found in the kitchen, lying with outstretched arms face downwards on the floor, surrounded by the blood that had poured from the wound in his throat which had evidently been inflicted by the razor that was grasped in his right hand.
No particle of food was found in the house, and on a nail in the wall in the kitchen was hung a piece of blood-smeared paper on which was written in pencil:
‘This is not my crime, but society’s.’
The report went on to explain that the deed must have been perpetrated during a fit of temporary insanity brought on by the sufferings the man had endured.
‘Insanity!’ muttered Owen, as he read this glib theory. ‘Insanity! It seems to me that he would have been insane if he had NOT killed them.’
Surely it was wiser and better and kinder to send them all to sleep, than to let them continue to suffer…’
By the way, Tressell was not justifying familial murder, as readers of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists will know. Neither am I justifying it, and I don’t wish to be seen to here. I am merely trying to point out the pure logic behind suicide which may exist in the minds of people who are suicidal, and that that logic is created by events and circumstances in one’s life outside of their control. Those negative events and circumstances are created by society through how it is organised and operates.
Overcoming depression is not merely an existential excercise, as it is often portrayed (“You must be more positive”… “be optimistic”… talk to people”… “get a hobby”… etc.) but, like everything, it is a social issue. For example, look at the positive influence that kind, thoughtful, educated, passionate people can have on your personality and outlook if you are immersed with such persons for a period. Having such connections can be healthy. But such association cannot be taken for granted. It is not easy to develop if you come from a background of poverty, ignorance, and hardship which can perpetuate negativity and feelings of inferiority. On the contrary, such positive influences are more or less inherited if you come from a privileged background. Anecdotally, I have experienced this. I have had the good fortune to have been inspired and motivated by meeting such inspirational people and reap the confidence that comes from them and the knowledge they impart. Conversely, I have had the misfortune of being surrounded throughout much of my life by people of the opposite kind. Hence, for most of my life, I suffered from a lack of confidence, shyness and sadness, which led to feelings of inferiority and worthlessness.
I suffered from bullying as a young person, mostly at home, at the hands of my mother’s partner – my brother’s father – and, my mother, who would sadly and inevitably take his side in belittling me. Favouritism was used as a weapon by him too. He would praise my sister and give her preferential treatment in a way to isolate me from the rest of my family. They would claim I was “imagining things” if I said anything about how I was being treated. Years later, gaining my independence with a job and by getting away from him, I found that all of this bullying was based on his jealousy of me. Much of it was based on his sadness and dissatisfaction with life, and taking it out on me was his reaction to that. Was I suffering? Yes. Was I ill? Perhaps. But it was caused by these factors beyond my control. As soon as I gained financial and social independence from these conditions, I became a happier more confident, educated and motivated person. But the societal conditions which allowed me to get a job and go to college had to exist in order for me to do that. It was 2005 and Ireland had reached the peak of the so-called Celtic Tiger. The conditions created by the Celtic Tiger – high employment, lots of job opportunities etc. – were beyond my control. Age may have been a factor too. But consider this; since I had become unemployed and lost much of my independence and positive social connections that come with it, I have found that I have stumbled into the old dark places again.
One might argue that “you were pubescent; those hormones may have contributed to negative and confused feelings”. Indeed, age may have been a factor, it is true. I had turned 19 in 2005, I had developed as an adult and exited the tumultuous period of teenage years. This brought confidence and clarity of thought. I was in my first “proper” job. But consider this; since I had become unemployed and lost much of my independence and positive social connections that come with it around 2012, at 26, I have found that I have stumbled into the old dark places again familiar to me from the past.
I’m okay now. I am in an okay position and I have the education and experience which allows me to understand the world and myself a little better now. This might save me from falling utterly into depression, and get me through bouts of low-confidence and anxiety. But if I were in a worse job, or still unemployed, perhaps even my understanding of the world and things might not save me – it might even contribute to worsening feelings and thoughts. Who knows? But fighting spirit is always good, so is learning.
Although Irish society may not blame the victim as it used to, it now blames the disease, which is essentially blaming the victim in a less direct way. In a sense, “it is not your fault you’re depressed, but you are mentally ill”. We now simply blame the illness which has attached itself to the person and seem to suggest that it can be worked off as extra weight can be worked off through excercise, as if external factors are not an issue. The victim should “be positive”, “talk about it” etc. The one thing we certainly do not blame for others’ mental illness is ourselves. I have never read in a newspaper, or heard on the radio, or watched on television that a system, which prioritises profit and competition over people’s well-being, might contribute to suicide. According to the establishment, mental illness causes suicide, not capitalism. It’s akin to saying the bullet murdered the victim, not the person.
In Ireland, the main national newspapers will list the results of virtually every football match in Irish, English and Scottish football leagues – great! But, I have often found it strange, even ironic, that results of polls published in the same newspapers will list only the top four or so mainstream parties in the country.
This has always seemed undemocratic to me. Generally speaking, it is the left-wing parties who go unlisted. Only this week, for example, the AAA-PBP bloc was listed among “others” despite out-performing the Labour Party in the poll results, 9% to 7% respectively.
This is just one issue which emphasises both the contempt the left is held in by the media, and how seriously the media takes the political and democratic process. You may find the letter from Paul Murphy to the polling companies regarding this issue interesting.
A link to the original Facebook post from Paul Murphy, with an image of the letter can be found here.