Sunday 22 August 2021

What About the Workers? - weekend reading

An interesting development in leftie thinking about the Labour Party is that it has moved on from the Corbynite framing "we are the 99%, against the 1%",  to a new formulation:  "we are the progressive, 'values-based' urban coalition and we rather hope we might muster 50.1%".

Who gets sidelined in this switcheroo?  Why, the white working class, that's who.  There's many an old-school workerist-marxist who doesn't like the sound of that, and here's a good essay along those lines.  Exerpt (my emphasis): 

... any political platform based on a shared set of “values” rather than a shared economic interest risks turning the actually existing working class into a problematic minority partner in a coalition of do-gooders.  We have already seen the dangers of this kind of liberal condescension, handing the Conservatives endless opportunities to ideologically consolidate their grip on previously Labour voting strongholds with a heady brew of right-wing culture war and strategically targeted public spending.


Footnote[1]:  BTL, decnine & Elby mused on the new 'values' orientation.  On that theme, there's another good article here:

"Labour’s preoccupation with ‘values’ is a basic political error ..."

[2]  Rulings on the bot-naming compo appear at the foot of the previous post.


decnine said...

I think that a Party which shapes its 'Offer' around a set of 'Values' will fail. In plenty of news clips, Starmer claims that people will vote Labour because the Party's values are the voters' values. Frankly, the only set of Values that I value are my own. I would support a Party which promises (credibly) to let me assert my own Values while keeping the lights on; the GPs consultable; the borders secure; etc etc. That is, a government that sticks narrowly to what the government has to do and leaves the rest of us free to make ourselves individually and communally more and more prosperous. You know, all the stuff that politicans can't do for toffee. I don't give a bugger what 'Values' the Labour Party is puffing this week.

Elby the Beserk said...

We used to look for virtue. Now we look for values. Which can be pretty much virtue free. Sad.

Elby the Beserk said...

And frankly. after Blair's assault on the constitution and civil liberty, I'd rather Labour had nothing to do with such matters. After all, we've got the government fouling both at the same time as it is.

Nick Drew said...

On the subject of chasing "values", there's another good article recent I shall add a link to at the foot of the post

Don Cox said...

Do-gooders are by nature tyrants.

As long ago as the 1840s, the pioneer Russian socialist (and anti-Marxist) Alexander Herzen was writing about the liberals:

"The liberals have always been the denizens of big cities and small circles. They are the people who live in literary magazines, books and clubs. Knowing nothing about the people, they have been studying them with a profound air in historical sources and excavations, but never at the village fair."

(In "From the Other Shore", 1848.)

Don Cox

djm said...

Useful idiots like Maisey still don't get it

"Winston Churchill did not invite Ernest Bevin, the general secretary of the mighty Transport and General Workers Union, into his wartime cabinet out of respect for the lower orders, but in acknowledgement that he could not prosecute the war without the full support of the working class. Men like Bevin, a former docker himself, understood that his place in the corridors of power was underwritten by the millions of dockers who could bring Britain to a standstill on his word. A loyal servant of the establishment, maybe, but not one that could be safely dismissed or defied."

Bollox on stilts.

Unlike the "upper classes" of the 1930s, the "working class" were almost 100%
in favour of prosecuting the war against Germany, & accordingly Bevin could not have been leftout of any wartime coalition cabinet.

jim said...

Interesting articles. Well I suppose anything would be an improvement. Labour as a branch of the TUC with added schmaltz from every idealistic pamphlet going and the Libdems as a sub-microscopic parish council without the excitement.

Neither is a political party, just a branch of something else. Blair (of despicable name) did at least have the brains to lie to the TUC and put up a votable party (Tory MkII). And got in because Tory MkI screwed up. Then Blair fell apart for his own defects. But not obvious how Starmer can metamorphose into a slimy charmer even though Tory MkI is headed for the buffers.

Indeed playing the slimy charmer is not likely to work, won't fall for that schtick again. Something a bit more professional and Mail/DT friendly. Which won't happen until Boris et al have nothing left to feed the Mail/DT axis.

Sit back and enjoy the popcorn, the train wreck will be interesting. Exactly when the wreck happens is still unclear, post 2024 probably. Which is a pity.

Elby the Beserk said...

On the matter of "values" replacing "virtue" as the cardinal indicator of moral worth, may I point you to Alasdair MacIntyre's "After Virtue" in which he examines this matter close up.

"Highly controversial when it was first published in 1981, Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue has since established itself as a landmark work in contemporary moral philosophy. In this book, MacIntyre sought to address a crisis in moral language that he traced back to a European Enlightenment that had made the formulation of moral principles increasingly difficult. In the search for a way out of this impasse, MacIntyre returns to an earlier strand of ethical thinking, that of Aristotle, who emphasised the importance of 'virtue' to the ethical life.More than thirty years after its original publication, After Virtue remains a work that is impossible to ignore for anyone interested in our understanding of ethics and morality today."

ISBN : 9781780936253

dearieme said...

The dockers went on strike quite often in the war. Astonishingly, in addition to the usual simple self-interest, they struck when it suited Stalin.

Did the wartime miners' strikes show the same pattern? I think we should be told.

andrew said...

They offer values because that is all they are able to offer.

Values are evidenced by what you do.
Values proclaimed but not acted on are make up on a corpse.

I have often asked what the labour party is for and still have no idea.

At the bottom of it all a vote is a transaction. You give it to the party that says it will do things you want.

Cancel HS2 or build the northern bit first
Increase universal credit by 20 or dont.

I would not state what my values are.

Doing things that conflict with your values leads you towards the political future of clegg - a cushy job in a values conflicted multinational being the public face of some rather indefensible actions.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Nick, I assume that you had a good chuckle at this one

Nick Drew said...

Not just Germany, though their exposure to gas imports is just about the worst in Europe - and growing greater as they belatedly phase out lignite (& coal next)

there is no scenario where gas can be dispensed with in Europe until a hitherto unknown technology comes along: not only for reason of the flexibility it provides in a world of uncertain winds, but simply for the pure qunatities of energy needed

Don Cox said...

Fusion power is I think roughly where heavier-than-air powered flying machines were in the 1890s. Everyone knows it can be done, various people have various prototypes that almost work, but as yet there are no Wright Brothers.

But consider the astonishing speed at which aircraft developed once the Wrights had their device working.

I suppose there will be political opposition to fusion power from the usual demonstrators.

Don Cox

Nick Drew said...

@ the astonishing speed at which aircraft developed

Yes, the 1st 50 years of powered flight achieved 98% of what can be done, excepting avionics. Concorde is a 1950's design!

I'm sure a lot of technologists continually mull over how the Wright Bros managed the required comprehensive synthesis of lots of bits from elsewhere. (If not, they should.)

Anonymous said...

Good article by Maisey a Cavalier fighting a world not as he would wish it to be.

"We all know that 71% of the world’s emissions are produced by just 100 firms, and we all agree that something must be done about it, but there can be no legal appeal, because they are the law. Until we have the collective strength to take that power away from them, then we are doomed, and we are very far from having that strength."

I wonder if any of these firms are based in Britain which the newly invigorated Labour Party could control.

Elby the Beserk said...

Anonymous said...
Good article by Maisey a Cavalier fighting a world not as he would wish it to be.

"We all know that 71% of the world’s emissions are produced by just 100 firms, and we all agree that something must be done about it, but there can be no legal appeal, because they are the law. Until we have the collective strength to take that power away from them, then we are doomed, and we are very far from having that strength."

I wonder if any of these firms are based in Britain which the newly invigorated Labour Party could control.

No. Our whole thrust has been to "export" these emissions to the Third World and China, thereby making us greener than green and making no difference to emissions whatsoever. NOTHING we do will make a blind bit of difference whilst China, India and Africa build coal power stations. And Germany, world leader (ROTFL) in renewables, now relies on lignite coal to make sure they have enough lecky. Heil Energiewende! (If you want a local commentator, Paul Gosselin's yer man -

Don Cox said...

What we can do is research on cleaner methods of producing energy, and using some of that energy to capture CO2 from the atmosphere.

Don Cox

Graeme said...

I believe Corelli Barnett looked at this in "The Audit of War" but I don't have a copy at hand. Besides, the academic historians did their best to discredit this book, for reasons untold but capable of being guessed

Elby the Beserk said...

There! What did I say?

Again, apart from wrecking the economy and impoverishing most of us (not the Debens of this world of course, NOTHING we do will make a blind bit of difference.

"China is planning to build 43 new coal-fired power plants and 18 new blast furnaces — equivalent to adding about 1.5% to its current annual emissions — according to a new report. The new projects were announced in the first half of this year despite the world’s largest polluter pledging to bring its emissions to a peak before 2030, and to make the country carbon neutral by 2060."

jim said...

Sure, fusion power is simple - let off an H bomb or build a star. Holding it all in and extracting power at a sane rate is the problem. Maybe next week some new fundamental physics will reveal itself - or not. Remember Zeta?

For the Wright brothers, they did a good job building a wind tunnel to check out their ideas first. That was their breakthrough. The petrol engine helped by having no relevant barriers built into its fundamental physics. After that the utility was obvious.

Today we can do almost anything but we are constrained by what we don't know. Maybe we will have to get used to real constraints - our most discomforting discovery ever.

Don Cox said...

The Chinese are building nuclear fission power stations as well as coal fired ones.

Don Cox