Monday, September 14, 2015

All Politics Is Global

The destructive politics and policies of global turbo-capitalism are coming home to roost.

The spirit of Tahrir Square and the worldwide Occupy movement has been captured in the rise of the Syriza and Podemos parties, and most lately made manifest in the Labour Party victory of the socialist Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain and the rise in the polls of liberal independent Bernie Sanders in the United States.

And don't forget the global moral and political influence of Pope Francis, soon to set foot on our shores to deliver a powerful and well-deserved kick to the Neoliberal Project's well-padded ass.

The old saw that all politics is local still holds true, of course, as long as you define "local" in the grotesque, flat-earthish Thomas Friedman way. People the wide world over are delivering stinging rebukes, with varying success, to the scourge of globalization.

By a nearly half million vote margin, the members of the Labour Party handed a huge victory to Jeremy Corbyn, who the socialist writer Tariq Ali has described as his party's "most left-wing leader ever." He explains,
The Thatcherite Blair/Brown twins agreed to share power thus creating two power-hungry factions with no political differences except that Tony Blair hungered for both power and money. He gave us the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq, while Gordon Brown was oblivious to the vulnerabilities of financialised capitalism and spent billions of taxpayers’ money bailing out banks that might have (after paying the depositors) been best left to croak. Both bureaucratised the Labour Party by neutering the party conference, reducing it to a tacky version of the US Democrats. All show, no substance. They denuded constituency Labour parties of the right to select their own prospective parliamentary candidates. This was the only way they could transform a large chunk of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) into a collection of over-promoted office boys and girls together with bandwagon careerists.
It's only a short hop, in this age of globalization, from the canyons of Wall Street to the City of London. Obama political operative Jim Messina, who currently helps run the Hillary Clinton campaign, was also instrumental in the re-election of austerian British P.M. David Cameron. Neoliberalism, just like the money it worships, knows no national boundaries, either geographically or politically.

The people of Great Britain are rejecting what is known as Blairism, the ideological twin of "New Democrat" Clintonism. This direct offshoot of Reaganism/Thatcherism purported to soften the right-wing nihilism of the Neocons and Randians by adding a thin patina of "social responsibility" to the global greed agenda. 

As Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy lay out in Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction, Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and Democratic President Bill Clinton closely collaborated on a kinder, gentler version of supply side, trickle-down economics: what the authors call the "second wave" of neoliberalism, which still continues under the plutocrat-friendly regimes of Cameron and Obama. This is Reaganism/Thatcherism rendered palatable for public relations purposes through a more socially progressive agenda. It is still rule by the Market, but rule by the Market with government programs to boost "individual entrepreneurship." It still promotes selfishness, but with the higher purpose of selling selfishness as a universal right. (What Obama and other New Dems tackily call aspirational "ladders of opportunity" and "a level playing field.")

Steger and Roy write,
(Blair and Clinton) hoped that their "purified" product - a socially conscious market globalism - would propel the entire world toward a new golden age of technological progress and prosperity. Such "modernized" second-wave neoliberalism had a tremendous impact on the political landscape of the post-communist 1990s.... United in their approach to liberalize trade relations and integrate national economies into a single global market, Clinton and Blair would eventually take credit for the "Roaring Nineties" - a decade of economic boom.
Thanks to the deregulation of global finance and the job-destroying, wage-suppressing corporate coups disguised as free trade deals, the bubble burst all over the world. Only the oligarchs recovered. Of the trillions of dollars in household wealth lost in the Great Collapse of 2008, the top One Percent glommed up more than 90 percent of the recovery.

 Cornyn's victory is a resounding popular rejection of Third Way neoliberalism, or Blairism, possibly to be paralleled here in the US by a Democratic primary rejection of Clintonite Hillary.

It's a rejection of the pernicious globalization that won't rest until it destroys the planet and all the living things that dwell on it. The voters have repudiated the flim-flam notion that the endless growth of capitalism, even growth tempered by what centrists call "social responsibility," is just what the doctor ordered. They have just said nada to the record wealth inequality engendered by the cancer of neoliberalism. They have said No Mas to too big to fail and jail banks getting bailed out, and regular people getting screwed.

Since Blairism and Clintonism are veritable ideological twins, I think it's safe to say that the Corbyn victory is also coming soon to an American theater near you. It's called Feeling the Bern. (It has been delayed by about seven years, due to the mass hypnosis inflicted upon voters by Barack Obama, who ran on a brilliantly phony populist platform and then governed like a neoliberal on steroids. To paraphrase Tariq Ali, he is the very essence of All Show, No Substance.)

Of course, given the entrenched deep state comprising the Pentagon and the CIA and the NSA and all the other shadow agencies we know little to nothing about, a total rejection of corporatism will be much harder to accomplish here in the One Exceptional Nation. It is Jeremy Corbyn, with his anti-war, anti-imperialism stance, who puts the real social back into socialism.

The plutocracy and the mass media owned by it are trying to discredit Corbyn just as they are trying to discredit Bernie Sanders here. But there is no turning back the global populist rejection of neoliberalism.

People are too sick and tired to just lay down and take it anymore.

Whether politicians like Corbyn and Sanders bear out the "pendulum theory" of self-correcting politics, and pull their respective nations back from the abyss, remains to be seen. The power of the national security state and the war machine and the oligarchy and the media stenographers may make a true reversal next to impossible.

 Sanders, who recently acknowledged that he would continue Obama's drone assassination policy and war on terror, is a hawk in comparison to the pacifistic Corbyn.

 And then, there's always the distinct possibility that American voters will reject the ill-effects of neoliberalism by voting for Donald Trump over Sanders, should he become the nominee.

As Morris Berman pessimistically wrote in Dark Ages America,
Given the emptiness, alienation, violence and ignorance that are now pervasive in this country, it is hard to imagine where a recovery would come from. The self-correction theory is at least partly based on the popular reaction of an informed citizenry. In this regard, the nature of the American populace today is not a source of inspiration or hope." 
(Needless to say, the New York Times trashed Berman's book for its "grumpy-lefty" Bernie-esque exposure of American dysfunction. This was in 2006, back when the Times was still championing the Iraq War and all things exceptionally American. This was back when torture was still "enhanced interrogation". Reviewer Mitoko Rich thought it terribly unpatriotic of Berman to not only question George Bush's motives, but to postulate that 9/11 constituted blowback against American imperialism. Fast forward to Perpetual Presidential Campaign substituting for substance, and I think we can agree that nothing has changed at the Grey Lady, or even worse, at the anti-Corbyn empire known as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.)

I'll say this, though. Can you imagine anything more pessimistic and depressing than Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush leading in the polls right now? Can you imagine if the last Pope hadn't resigned and we didn't have Francis around to condemn unbridled capitalism as "the dung of the devil?"

 I will take my crumbs of Enlightenment optimism wherever I can find them. 


Ste-vo said...

Morris Berman, I had forgotten about him. I think it was his overuse of "Wafers and Waferettes" which I found belittling and for that reason alone, stopped reading his blogging. I read the trilogy and completely believe in his premise. And then you throw in Jane Jacobs' "Dark Age Ahead" and you realize we are all cooked - and not the word I would generally use. And thinking about words/phrases, what is the word, or phrase, that I know I read somewhere, implying that the more the data proves that neoliberal policies don't work and there is more and more of that data, the more the policies and practices and implementation of those policies become accepted as orthodoxy? Anyone?

Karen Garcia said...


I downloaded Berman's book from the New York Public Library and just finished reading it over the weekend. It was an entertaining rant. He really, really hates it when people talking on their cell phones do not answer his friendly greetings! I had not been familiar with his blog until I found the link to it in the course of writing my post.

He apparently now lives in Mexico, and he obviously has not mellowed at all with age. He does not suffer fools gladly, that's for sure.

I was curious about your allusion to his Wafers and Waferettes, so here is a copy and paste from his blog:

1.Wafers recognize that 99% of those around them, if they are living in the United States, are basically stupid and nasty. This is not said so much as a judgment as a description: it's simply the way things are, and these things are not going to change any time soon. Wafers know this, and they accept it.

2. The lives of Wafers are driven by knowledge, not fear or fantasy. They are living in reality, in short, not drowning in the mass illusions of contemporary America.

3. Wafers are serious about their lives. They are not here on this earth to waste time, to piss their lives away on other people's agendas, as are most Americans--right up to and including the president. Their goals are truth, love, and joy, and they are dedicated to pursuing them.

4. Finally, Wafers feel sorry for non-Wafers, and if they can, try to help them. They recognize, of course (see #1), that most cannot be helped; but if they come across someone who shows signs of potential Waferdom, of awakening to the the three points mentioned above, they try to fish them out of the drink, so to speak, and set them on the path of dignity, intelligence, integrity, and self-respect. Noblesse oblige, that sort of thing.

Anyway, there you have it: The Wafer Code. As the saying goes, although many may be called, few are chosen. Let us, then, continue on the Sacred Path of Waferdom. Life offers no greater achievement.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, your post vividly ties the threads together. “Patina of social responsibility” --yes a thin one, that says it. The arc of the pendulum is long, so while it’s slowly swinging back, if it even is, generations of people can be sacrificed to Repub/Tory politics.

Maybe reform will take a series of little steps. Sanders’ program is too left wing sounding for America and the NYT right now—after years being conditioned by rw politics.

Corbyn is way ahead in the UK of Sanders in the US. Corbyn is now elected the actual leader of the Labour party, to resounding cheers and international comment—even by our Nobel Krugman.

On cspan TV the Labour party’s enthusiasm was impressive. Compare that to Sanders position here! Lucky if he gets a news article, and his name is unmentionable by our liberal Krugman. And seems the Dem party limited their debates to 4 mainly to limit Sanders challenge to Clinton.

Canada also has an anti conservative Harper trend.
Of course UK and Canada still are ahead of the US in health care access, which is a good measure of at least some respect for their citizens. I’m still waiting for comparisons of their austerity with ours, in effects on lives. Their conservatives aren't quite as ruthless and vicious as our Gop radicals.

And Murdoch is big media in both US and UK.

Perhaps the Brits have mechanisms to change their politics more easily than the US. This will be interesting to watch.

First, they have a party actually named Labour, which would be impossible here. Our Democratic party means what exactly?

They have a generations of tradition of universal single payer health care to use in the fight against privatization. We lack that, and ACA exalts private profit in h/c more than any other country. Thatcher supported the NHS, single payer. She wasn’t Reagan’s counterpart in everything.

They have 3 month campaigns and more public funding—not sure how much vs private—but their elections aren’t turned over to billionaires, pushing lawmakers to be constantly fundraising with every statement and action.

They have a long tradition of well funded public media---the BBC—not sure how much funding has been cut, vs our cuts to NPR/PBS.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, I am reading some of the 'Very Short Introduction To..." series. Very useful, on every topic imaginable. Didn't know they had one on neo liberalism. Thanks.

Charles Blow has written a column on Sanders. Haven't read it closely yet. Will Bruni be next to jump on the bandwagon and give us a break from Trump, his once companion for dinner?

Meredith NYC said...

Karen I see the Times picked you....long overdue....'feel the bern, coming to a theater near you'. And today, millions can also get it on their smart phones and home computers, right? How much this will make a difference is yet to be seen.

Pearl said...

One of the issues that Bernie Sanders will have to clarify eventually, is his connection politically and personally to Israel. There was an article about his history I read regarding this area of conflict where he replied that he has worked for 50 years on how to try and resolve the existing problems.
Many comments pointed out varying interpretations past and present indicating that Bernie is finding it a complicated problem which means he may or may not consider clarifying his thoughts. He did say that he wanted both Israelis and Palestinians to lead peaceful lives but did not offer any concrete methods to do so.
This is something that troubles me and many other progressive Jews as well as Palestinians and other interested observers.
I would like someone at one of his speechmaking events, to bring this topic up when meeting him or reporters bringing it up in an interview which he would allow.
He should offer a concrete agenda for the future should he become president and although many commenters said that we should concentrate on his plans for the United States, it cannot remain separate from the financial and political aspects of the American nation.
What he will say will lose or gain votes depending on who the listeners are. Nothing is perfect it seems.

Karen Garcia said...

Hi Meredith,

True confession, I only read the first couple of paragraphs of Krugman's column before I wrote a hasty comment (by the time I woke up around 6:30 a.m. there were already something like 80 comments published, so mine was bound to get lost in the shuffle). I read Blow's column on Sanders late as well. It was better than nothing, but I have to say that I thought that his "guilt by association" jab at Cornel West was uncalled for. With Blow, I think it's that he hates Clinton more than he's not all that impressed by Bernie. I forecast that all the Times pseudo-liberal pundits will jump on the Biden bandwagon the minute he announces (for Beau and the Party, of course.) He will run on the Genuine platform as opposed to the socialist-lite platform.

The Oxford short introductions may be short, but they are very dense. Nothing at all like a Readers' Digest condensed book-type mentality.

The best thing about British politics is the way they are allowed, even encouraged, to scream and swear at other during sessions of Parliament. Nothing like our boring fake Congress where they always refer to people they hate as "my friend across the aisle" and "I surrender my remaining time to the gentle-lady from_________ (insert racist red state here.")

Meredith NYC said...

Karen....So I read Blow’s column and now must say:
Charles Blow finds Sanders’ aura earnest, snappy and refreshing? Faint praise. Does he find Clinton’s aura calculating and unrefreshing? At least a NYT op ed columnist has actually phoned Sanders and written about it. That’s progress.

Why hasn’t Sanders’ challenge to billionaire influence “struck a nerve” with more than a ‘fervid’ following—say with Charles Blow? I see my Ms Word synonyms doesn’t include fervid!
Does he mean only fanatics will grasp our unjust , abnormal wealth inequality and corporate dominance?

Charles Blow should have all along been discussing Sanders’ constant mentions of the black unemployment rate and his solutions. Free education—once a US norm—and natl infrastructure projects to start with. Plus overhaul of criminal justice and mass incarceration. It’s all laid out. Where are the columns, Charles?

Of course if Cornell West really does alienate blacks due to super harsh criticism of Obama, maybe Sanders could find some different black allies to appear with.

But why was Bill Clinton ‘the 1st black president’, just b/c Toni Morrison called him that? It’s all PR. What did Bill do for blacks?

Blow says ‘Part of his problem is that he hasn’t been able to properly promote his message of helping minorities.’ Yea, it’s a problem when black columnists ignore his message, and instead emphasize his public relations problems.

Mr. Blow might devote a column to Bernie’s “civil rights record as well as included economic remedies like raising the minimum wage and providing tuition-free college.” God what a padded sentence. Duh.

But Blow actually gave all that the attention it deserves, he’d be sticking his neck out, in non conformity to the Times ethos. And can the 1 black columnist on the op ed page of the NYT risk doing that? So his reference to West’s blistering criticism of Obama may be just a cover for Blow’s short shrift to Sanders. At least it’s not as insulting as the other Times people!

The change Sanders calls for is not revolutionary---it’s a return to our policies accepted generations ago. And bringing h/c up to parity with dozens of other nations. Thus it’s conservative.

Meredith NYC said...

The Oxford Very Short Intros are dense, you’re right, written by experts. I started one on Food, on Peace, and on The Russian Revolution—which is complex and does need some background. I may not finish them. There’s one on Work, and another on Aristocracy, that I’d like to try.

The UK Prime Minister’s Question Times on cspan weekly can be quite fierce and rowdy. Condensed sentences, not long droning speeches. Sometimes the opposition noise is so great, the Speaker has to yell order, order and tell them that the person will be heard! But it is hard for us to translate without knowing the details of their politics.

Pearl said...

'Sanders, who recently acknowledged that he would continue Obama's drone assassination policy and war on terror, is a hawk in comparison to the pacifistic Corbyn.'

By pressing the words "who recently acknowledged" in your column,Karen, Truthdig had a report on his drone policy as well as mentioning that he was formulating his foreign policy agenda.

Bernie is fortunately listening to people who are supporting him as evidenced by his increasing focus on black issues. As a result I feel we have to support him but let him know when we disagree with some of his plans regarding foreign policy especially. You can bring up the form for sending e-mails and just write Bernie in the address space and up will come his e-mail address and you can then send him your concerns.
There is usually no convenient place to send him your opinions but I found this way by trying it out. We cannot afford to discard him and many commenters in Truthdig and other articles have refused to have anything to do with him as a result.
If enough supporters send in their concerns, especially along with criticism appearing in the news, it might have the desired effect. Same with his views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. I plan to tackle these two concerns via his e-mail and see if I get a response.

Kat said...

Morris Berman- I was decidedly underwhelmed by the one book of his that I read (but did not finish). It seemed incredibly shallow to me. It did not rise above the "Americans are fat and lazy and addicted to their screens" level. There was a dash of "kids today!" also. I had to check out his blog because I just could not understand the love. The first thing I read was someone complimenting him on his book. His reply? Could you post a review at Amazon? A nation of hustlers indeed.
The Wafer code? I think it entirely exists of making fun of US citizens. I say make fun of ideas, not people. No need to be so incredibly mean spirited. And, there is a diffference between being pessimistic and joyfully awaiting the collapse. Easy to do when you are comfortably insulated from the ravages of capitalism.
I find the guy revolting. I don't want his pity.
Here is some truth and beauty from him:

Not clear to me why everyone is excited abt an election that is 14 mos. away. Am I missing something? Or does the US consist of 321 million douche bags? (Talk abt no-brainers, eh?) I am personally hoping for a Trump landslide, tho I'd much prefer 2c Tracey McCloud in the W.H., myself.

Meanwhile, recent Pew Charitable Trust poll of millennials (ages 18-34) reveals that 49% regard their generation as "self-absorbed," and 43% say they are "greedy." Why this shd be restricted to this particular age group is not clear, however. Also, what % regard their generation as a collection of pathetic douche bags?

Quote from MLK I like: "A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan." Again, this doesn't go far enuf. What abt a civ that produces violent, hostile douche bags? What kind of future does *that* civ have?