The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour


by Sunny Hundal    
10:30 am - October 19th 2011

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The flowering of #OccupyWallStreet, and its sister movement #occupyLSX, has brought back a familiar skirmish: the ‘activist left’ versus the Labour party.

Of course, I’m generalising here because I know the vast majority of people in either camps aren’t looking for this fight and many fall in both camps.

But there are very loud voices on both sides who think only they know how to push for change. And I find this wholly arrogant.

It isn’t just Anthony Painter’s recent article on LabourList – similar thoughts have been echoed in the past by Labourite bloggers such as Dan “Labour should not be a party of protest” Hodges, Hopi Sen and Rob Marchant.

Anthony said:

When people have the vote they have a tool at their disposal already to make their voice heard. It’s just that the 1% don’t want to hear it.

But the idea that voting once every five years alone is the sole measure of democracy is rubbish. No one voted to end racism or homophobia – they are being slowly brought to an end through active social campaigns – usually run by the very people Anthony ends up dismissing as being naive and unrepresentative.

Similarly – many of the Occupy folks are simply deluding themselves by assuming they can ignore Parliamentary democracy and make a list of demands that will magically be delivered. The working classes aren’t going to rise up to overthrow the system – they were too scared of the consequences of changing the voting system (and no, it wasn’t because AV wasn’t radical enough – most people simply prefer evolution to revolution).

People might think the economic system is broken and they want better jobs and more pay, but they’re not sitting around reading Marx and demanding a complete overhaul of the system. The radical left simply does not have the reach, infrastructure or resources to make it happen. They should focus on that first.

There is an enduring arrogance on both sides that only their way of politics will work, and it is intensely frustrating for most lefties (including myself) who would like to see a mixture of both approaches.

I’ve already said that the ‘Occupy’ crew need to start thinking seriously about political strategy. Just camping out in an area isn’t enough and unlikely to last long. I’ve also said that they need to invite a broader range of people to join them, and truly make it a 99% movement rather than just of the usual suspects.

Emma Burnell is spot on when she writes:

For the most part, I (and I think Anthony) want what they want – a fairer world with better systems to manage that fairness over the longer term. I am concerned that the vagueness of such demands may mean that protests like this are lead to eventual disappointment and disillusionment. But unlike Anthony, I hope that isn’t the case.

Nor do I. But even if the Occupy movement dissipates, the broader sentiment behind it – that our economic system is broken – is now felt across the political spectrum. Right-wingers from Charles Moore to Richard Littlejohn are united in agreeing the system is broken. And this issue is going to define the political terrain for the next decade as living standards stagnate and decline for the vast majority.

Emma also adds:

The civil left and the political left need to stop wasting their firepower on each other and concentrate on what unites rather than divides them.

I’m much more sceptical of this prospect. I’d hoped this would be the case during the anti-cuts campaigns, but even then the first direction of ire for many radical activists were Labour activists (who agreed with them far more than they disagreed). In the case of many of the usual suspects at #OccupyLSX – I don’t expect this to change.

Neither do I expect the likes of Dan Hodges, Rob Marchant, Hopi Sen and Anthony Painter to soften their stance towards protesters – I expect they’ve always been fairly sceptical of protesters or too badly burnt from previous bun-fights. The idea that Labour can win elections without tapping into populist economic concerns is pure fantasy.

But there is a question for most of us in the middle who want both to work together a bit more: what does an ideal relationship look like and what part exactly would each play in it? This is our challenge.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


“There is an enduring arrogance on both sides that only their way of politics will work…”

Says the man who’s quite literally claimed Tories are evil.

I went down there to find out what the fuss was all about. Couple of hundred of the usual suspects demanding more State benefits, more Diversity Coordinator Jobs from the Council and more free money as long as someone else is paying for it.

Shame really, because that was rejected by the UK population at the last election, if I remember correctly

http://www.bastardoldholborn.blogspot.com/

3. Chaise Guevara

“But the idea that voting once every five years alone is the sole measure of democracy is rubbish. No one voted to end racism or homophobia – they are being slowly brought to an end through active social campaigns – usually run by the very people Anthony ends up dismissing as being naive and unrepresentative”

Hmm. I think you’re confusing democracy with progress there. Just because something is positive doesn’t mean we need to find an excuse to label it “democratic.” Similarly, while social campaigns probably do a lot of good for the most part, I don’t think they can take full, or even most of, the credit for trends driven by multiple factors.

Addressing the article in general – you’re right, the left always spends too much time infighting, even in the face of a common enemy. The right seem to be better at providing a united front than us. I’m not sure what can be done about this, though. It’s almost a problem of definitions, in fact: “left” means various and sometimes contradictory things, so what looks like infighting might merely be a clash between two groups that at other times have been known to share the same goal.

Agree absolutely.

But I’d add something else- people shoudl be encouraged to learn how to engage with politicians and the Parliamentary process better. It really shouldn’t be simply a question of voting every five years.

Understanding how legislation is passed, and where the opportunities are to influence it, is a vital skill for those who want to see social change. Protest is actually an indivisible part of that, but I would like to see more of us take a strategic view – to plan a whole campaign instead of ad hoc demos and occupations.

It always saddens me when activists make it clear they’ve given up on representative politics without even trying. Is that arrogant? I just know I’ve never met a Labour or Lib Dem politician I didn’t think still had the right intentions, however deeply buried..

Sunny,

Cracking piece I wholly agree.

I’ll also say out loud what I suspect many are thinking. It is not only the fact that those neo-liberals who suffer from cognitive dissonance do not ‘think’ that popular protest can succeed. No. It is much more the case that their troubled egos do not ‘want’ popular protest to succeed.

On any matter of popular protest it is not a political debate but a moral one.

Can a body of people (be they the countryside alliance or dudes camped outside stock exchanges) protest peacefully? Yes, of course.

The rest is a matter of semantics. My guess is that many LSX protesters would be horrified if it ever transpired that neo-liberal has beens had flocked to their banner.

Sunny – it would have been good to have some concrete examples in this piece of prominent voices in the non-Labour left taking the sort of positions that you describe (expecting literally imminent revolution, for example – I’ve never heard this). Can you cite or quote something?

With the 90s tribute act of Painter, Sen, Hodges etc you’ve got some specific examples you can point to on the other side. And we can all recite the Labour right’s talking points in our sleep anyway. They haven’t changed in twenty years. So its easier to see what you mean on that side of your critique.

Either way, I’m not sure this triangulating between the two sides quite really works. As someone on the non-Labour left (who has friends in the party whose politics I respect and share), the reasons people like me are so disillusioned with and alienated by the party are pretty obvious.

The current protests are about the effects of the post-79 neoliberal settlement, of which New Labour was one of the two main political pillars. Ok, Miliband’s now hinting at inching a tad towards some form of mild European-style social democracy, but 12 months of that hardly erases the record of 12 years in government. His disgraceful stance on “benefit scrounging”, for example, will not endear him or the party leadership to anyone outside of the political right. A lot of us have disabled people amongst our friends and family, and we don’t take kindly to him smearing people we care about and pandering to the gutter press on this subject.

If people on the left (and that means social democrats as well as proper socialists) are sceptical about Labour and about Parliamentary politics at present, then there are plenty of very solid reasons for that. If anyone in Labour wants to reach out to those people, then they have a lot of work to do. I’m afraid it can’t be put down to obstinacy or naivety on our part. The reason for the estrangement frankly has to do with Labour’s sh1tty record, much of which is sadly ongoing.

For me the biggest issue with left protests is that you never seem to focus on one subject. You can go from activist to activist and get a different reason why they’re there.

Is it fight the cuts, save EMA, save NHS, destroy capitalism or bring in Marxism… You spread yourself thin across many fights.

I agree that the banking system needs an overhaul, but I disagree that capitalism is the dodo that the left seem to believe.

Chaise @ 3:

“It’s almost a problem of definitions, in fact: “left” means various and sometimes contradictory things, so what looks like infighting might merely be a clash between two groups that at other times have been known to share the same goal.”

That’s the case with the right at least as much as with the left. The Libertarian Party and the BNP are both usually considered “right-wing”, for example, even though their policies are almost polar opposites of each other.

David Wearing,

You said “If anyone in Labour wants to reach out to those people, then they have a lot of work to do.”

I say, “The early 90s Tribute Act do not want to reach out.. They rub their hands at the prospect of depressed voter turnout so the views of the people you describe don’t count.”

They yearn for the day we can say “We’re all American now”.

I think for the Labour party to be embraced by the OLSX folks and their many supporters I think it’d need to do a -lot- of work. As has been pointed out in the comments Labour had their chance, and blew it. We can say that the economic problems of the present were born out of the Thatcher and Reagan ideologies, it was they who set the wheels in motion. However that does not excuse Labour’s failure, with twelve years in government, to do anything to protect us from the current disaster. Twelve years to change our course, and it wasn’t done.

It’s important to differentiate the OLSX movement from the OWS one though, in the USA things are radically different and they have a more substantial beef, which is that they have a one party system controlled by corporate money (see the recent federal clamp downs on medical marijuana as a case in point, Big Pharma says jump, Obama asks, ‘On who?’). I think the OLSX movement is more about the kind of things folks usually want when the Tories are in. I mean regardless of what was happening in the USA and the rest of the world, if you get Tories in power you’re going to get civil disobedience and rioting. OLSX could be seen as par for the course.

Sunny, if I may be so bold, the greatest arrogance here is the assumption on the part of the left that they own this movement. The “Occupy” movement is not a leftist movement just because the Tories happen to be in power. In the United States the movement has the right message, which is that irresponsible and greedy behaviour will no longer be tolerated. There is a class of people in finance who are a sort of aristocracy. Companies like Goldman Sachs collude to create market bubbles only to cash in on their short positions when the markets collapse. Hedge fund managers design CDOs which are rated too bullishly by ratings agencies who are all in on it. They make a shed load of money and create nothing. Then we use public funds to bail banks out. Meanwhile people are suffering like never before since the Great Depression. This is what it’s all about, or should be about. It’s not a leftist movement but a populist one, hence the 99%.

As the great American entrepreneur Henry Ford once said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.” A business should make products or provide services that people need. It should also create jobs so people can work. A hedge fund does not create many jobs, certainly not enough to justify the drain it has on financial markets. So let’s please get the message right, m’kay?

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 8 XXX

“That’s the case with the right at least as much as with the left. The Libertarian Party and the BNP are both usually considered “right-wing”, for example, even though their policies are almost polar opposites of each other.”

Agreed – the same problem of vague labels applies. I would say, though, that I think the right are currently better at burying their differences to present a united front – although not to the extent that I’d expect to see Libertarian Party and BNP co-operation! It’s certainly true that the UK Tories and US Republicans both combine libertarians and social conservatives who may have very little common ground between them.

Maybe it’s simply that questions of taxation and state spending are bigger voting priorities than liberal or conservative social values, and the conservatives find more sympathy among anti-tax people while liberals get more support from pro-state-spending types?

13. Éoin Clarke

No. 11

You say “on the part of the left”.

Is there any other ‘part’ in the Labour Party?

“what does an ideal relationship look like and what part exactly would each play in it? ”

I think that generally a lot of activists feel unwanted and unappreciated by Painter et al and the blairite tendancy. Most of whom have gone so far to the right that they would reject the 97 manifesto – a document they would now regard as radically dangerous (windfall tax on utilities, free vote on fox hunting, devolution – none would be accepted by the blairites now).

It’s the nastyness and implicit demands of blairites to give them control that I think is the sole problem here. I usually don’t like attributing complete blame to one party in a conflict, but I honestly can’t see that the fault lies anywhere else here. Almost every non-trot activist accepts the idea of networks rather than centralised control, and welcome plurarilism, which are realistically the only way forward.

So what does the relationship look like? I think it has to start from a position of respect, whereby neither activists or the labour party attempt to dominate and control the other. Activists create the space that enables the labour party more freedom to pursue policies it wants, acting as critical friends. The labour party gains critical voices on the left that are distinct from it – enabling ideas like 60% top rate taxes to be advocated without Labour suffering electoral hits.

It’s a bit rich talking about political arrogance and then lecturing people on how to pursue their aims. When you use the glib phrase ‘usual suspects’, do you really know what the hell you’re talking about, or are you just making the usual assumptions? Have you tried talking to people at OccupyLSX? They represent a cross-section of society. Contrary to popular belief, many do have jobs and pay taxes.

There may be some truth in the charge of naivety on the part of some of the occupiers, but there’s no arrogance on that side as far as I can see. The arrogance is coming entirely from those who snipe and sneer from their comfy armchairs. Why should we even consider voting for any of them? They have shown no leadership or vision whatsoever.

@ Old Holborn / 2:

You say you’ve spoken to the protesters but I doubt you paid much attention to what they said. Most of them are not calling for Big State solutions to our problems – rather the exact opposite. For example, they are not calling for more tax but merely for the wealthy and multinational corporations to pay their fair share, which currently they do not. Collective provision of things like transport, education and health make perfect sense but they don’t have to be organised in a hierarchical way by some patriarchal, authoritarian government. We can have mutual societies, credit unions, co-operatives: people doing things for themselves, but collectively.

They are also calling for an end to corruption: in politics, the police and the boardroom. They see the state as being part of the problem, inasmuch as it supports only the interests of the powerful and wealthy. The state gives away billions to big business in the form of government contracts under the pretence of providing public services. This is also the rationale for dismembering the NHS: going from a (fairly efficient but imperfect) state monopoly to a cosy cartel of Tory party donors – profits provided courtesy of the taxpayer.

They do NOT want more handouts – like housing benefit they mostly end up going straight into the pockets of the idle rich, anyway. They want the freedom to pursue their own lives and provide for themselves, without being enslaved by both government and big business. That freedom is impossible whilst the monetary system is totally controlled by private banks and their bought political representatives.

We need to end the link between money and power, which is what capitalism (a modern form of feudalism) is all about. We may not be able to do away with money completely, but we need a system in which money actually represents what people really need and want:

http://sodiumchorus.blogspot.com/2011/07/capitalism-post-mortem.html

16. theophrastus

Capitalism is the only game in town: the only question is how and to what extent we manage and regulate it – ie how free, unmanaged and unregulated markets should and could be – to achieve the maximum benefit for all.

hat is the debate between the three main parties.

Anti-capitalist activists might rant; but the world will go on. Meanwhile, many on right and left are dismayed by Gordon ‘the moron’ Brown’s incompetent regulation of the banks, and the banks subsequent behaviour. But that does not mean 99% support the demands of a sub-literate, semi-educated minority of ‘anti-capitalists’.

And, on a minor point:

“No one voted to end racism or homophobia – they are being slowly brought to an end through active social campaigns”

Indeed, not. They were rightly ended by social stigmatisation. Not dissimilarly, smoking in public places. Next up, must be obesity. Why do those with the voluntary disability of eating too much of the wrong things receive mobility scooters? While, for example, taking up too much space on public transport…

17. Chaise Guevara

@ 15

“You say you’ve spoken to the protesters but I doubt you paid much attention to what they said.”

Oh no, Old Holborn actually went down to talk to the actual protesters and they actually said “We’re here because we want more Diversity Coordinator jobs! Now gimme free money!”

There’s no WAY he could be talking out of his arse on this one…

But there is a question for most of us in the middle who want both to work together a bit more: what does an ideal relationship look like and what part exactly would each play in it? This is our challenge.

Working together and working in a way that complements each other’s efforts are two separate things.

I think it was Clifford Singer who pointed out recently that if the non-Labour left is pushing for a 70p tax rate that can open up political space for Labour to introduce a 60p tax rate, for example. If that’s correct, then it makes little sense for those of us within Labour, taking the Parliamentary course, to criticise those of us outside of it for not making demands that can more easily be sold within the confines of electoral politics. Rather, genuinely progressive Labour people should welcome the grassroots, agenda-setting force that the non-party left brings to the equation, and make use of the pressure we place on the political class to maximise the possibilities within that system.

A brief note on the ” 1 vote every 5 years” comment. I get 6 votes every 5 years, rising to 7 votes if The HoL Reform goes through. I use all 6. If other voters choose to use only 1 of there opourtunities thats their Democratic choice.

We need to end the link between money and power, which is what capitalism (a modern form of feudalism) is all about.

Nice to see the teachings of Marx so horribly confused…

Capitalism is exploitive, but of capital, not of assets (which is how fedualism is classically meant to have been organised) or labour (slavery).

The problem with your statement is simply that you fail to say how to stop money equating power. Money is simply a way of transferring value, from what we produce/acquire to what we want. It is the ability to do something deferred until you have the opportunity if you will. And the ability to be able to do something is by definition power (pouvoir in French gives this away). So money will equate power, as it is purely and simply a way of allowing us to be able to do things.

I think what you mean requires a different concept (try German walt perhaps) whereby money equals dominance. This is the problem with capitalism – that the concentration of money in the hands of capitalists allows them to attempt to exclude others from acquiring money and gives them effective power as a result. It is exactly the thing that democracy and the free market stop, and that happens when government intervenes and produces (expensive to overcome) rules and where minority groups and protests (which can be funded) dictate policy. Which might explai where the protesters, and perhaps Labour, are going wrong…

David Wearing,

I think it was Clifford Singer who pointed out recently that if the non-Labour left is pushing for a 70p tax rate that can open up political space for Labour to introduce a 60p tax rate, for example.

Not really – because that assumes there is reasonable popular support for the non-Labour left position in the first place. Otherwise, you are just moving towards an untenable position.

In all honesty, any political movement has both nutters and good ideas on the extremes, and is therefore going to have difficult relationships with them. In Britain, the hegemonic claims of Labour to represent the left cause problems; in most other countries (not the US, but that is always the exception) the left looks like the British right – lots of minor parties with some support (BNP, UKIP etc) and one major party (Conservatives). Here, the one presence on the left that is not Labour or a total joke (sorry Socialist Workers – I’m very fond of you but you are not serious…) recently has been Respect, a party which is pretty-well based around a religious identity for much of its support. There has never been much of a Marxist or Communist party for example. So the dialouge is stilted by the presence of a hegemonic claim (and implicitly, by a recognition of this by many on the far left). This hegemony tends to marginalise those left-wing views that are not represented by it, which does produce short-lived parties (SDP, Respect) to represent them, but otherwise causes conflict between those ‘in power’ and those outside.

Not saying this is wrong incidentally – just that the British left-wing is unusual in this set up, and as such it will cause particular bad feeling between those in power and those outside.

Glad to read this article. It’s more balanced. Paul Mason summed up my feelings last night on Newsnight. He said that many people might agree with some of the ideas of the people at St Pauls, but they came across as ”too weird” for most.
For example (and he showed a clip of them doing this) the ”silent clapping” – where people waggle their hands above their heads if they agree with something being said.
It looks like a primary school game – and so middle class.

If I was in London next week I’d go along and listen to Paul Mason speaking at this event.

”The rise of the clicktivists: will the revolution be digitised?”
http://www.battleofideas.org.uk/index.php/2011/session_detail/5722/

Matt @ 11

The “Occupy” movement is not a leftist movement just because the Tories happen to be in power.

Sunny is sometimes a little blinkered in such matters.

Incidentally, some other libertarians went to St Pauls to see what common cause they could find with the protesters. Their conclusions on potential common policies

1) Remove setting of interest rates from central banks,
2) Sound, commodity-based money politicians can’t debase,
3) No more bailouts for the financial industry – firms must be allowed to fail,
4) Reform limited liability laws so financiers are personally responsible for their actions,
5) Reduce barriers to entry so new firms can enter the sector and increase competition.
6) Reform individual taxes so that the poor do not pay income tax.

I’m sure there are some around here that could get behind those

http://libertarianhome.co.uk/2011/10/an-open-letter-to-occupylsx/

24. theophrastus

pagar @ 23:

I can easily go with 3-6.

Though on 6, I assume benefits would be only reduced strictly commensurately. Let’s help the poorer, but let’s not needlessly recycle money by taxing them and then handing it back, as that means the state makes a ‘profit’ from non-claimants.

Not sure I – or even you – fully understand the implications of 1 and 2. Those are mega-measures. Do spell out the consequences as you see them…

22. damon

“but they came across as ”too weird” for most.
For example (and he showed a clip of them doing this) the ”silent clapping” – where people waggle their hands above their heads if they agree with something being said.
It looks like a primary school game – and so middle class.”

This is taken from the Deaf community; it’s how the Deaf ‘clap’. It works on a similar principle to ‘normal’ clapping (which is as “weird”, ridiculous and contrived as waggling your hands) in that you show the level of appreciation with the enthusiasm of your actions.

It makes sense for people with hearing too. People can show their appreciation for something that’s been said or done without the sound of traditional clapping interrupting.

To me, there’s nothing weird about it. It’s a fairly elegant solution to problems intrinsic to talking in the open air to large crowds.

How you make this a “middle-class” thing is beyond me.

yours,
a working-class BSL user who’d be happy to go 3 rounds with you in a “Four Yorkshiremen” contentst

26. Shatterface

But the idea that voting once every five years alone is the sole measure of democracy is rubbish. No one voted to end racism or homophobia – they are being slowly brought to an end through active social campaigns – usually run by the very people Anthony ends up dismissing as being naive and unrepresentative.

More to the point, nodody voted for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the erosion of civil liberties under Labour, or for the cut-happy Conservative/LibDem chimera we have now.

You have to choose between packages offered rather than individual policies. Parliamentary democracy isn’t truly democratic so the idea that people have actually expressed their will through the ballot box is horse shit.

“Not really – because that assumes there is reasonable popular support for the non-Labour left position in the first place. Otherwise, you are just moving towards an untenable position.”

Watchman, you’re getting this wrong. What the 60% demand does is drag the parameters of political debate to the left, meaning that the policy of 50% becomes the centre ground. To win elections you occupy the centre ground, the activist left doesn’t need to win elections so it is free to drag the centre ground towards it. It plays on the fact most people, when confronted with an issue they don’t know much about or have a strong view about, tend to look at both sides of a debate and conclude the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

@Pagar, I think there is actually a great deal of common ground between the activist left and the brand of libertarianism that isn’t related to the “me me me” rants of Paul Staines. One of the main challenges is how to turn that into practical action and influence on the government agenda.

28. Charles Wheeler

“Addressing the article in general – you’re right, the left always spends too much time infighting, even in the face of a common enemy.”

Isn’t this column an example of precisely that!

@David Wearing (post 6)
Pretty much this. Labour in government managed Iraq, dismantling of civil liberties at home and neoliberal economics leading to massive inequality and the introduction of tuition fees. They have a lot of work to do to appeal again to anything resembling the Left or to young people: if they even can anymore, maybe the trust is broken for a generation.
Milliband seems to take a step in this direction then half a step back. Maybe this is prudent political strategy but it’s unlikely to inspire OccupyLSX.
Also why does Mr. Hundal keep talking about Labour and Occupy LSX?
The occupy movements elsewhere are unaffiliated with any party and intend to stay that way. Occupy Wallstreet is not a tea party for the democrats so why should OccupyLSX become a tea party for the Labour party?

30. Shatterface

For example (and he showed a clip of them doing this) the ”silent clapping” – where people waggle their hands above their heads if they agree with something being said.
It looks like a primary school game – and so middle class.

Better than clicking their fingers like feckin’ beatniks, I suppose!

This is taken from the Deaf community; it’s how the Deaf ‘clap’. It works on a similar principle to ‘normal’ clapping (which is as “weird”, ridiculous and contrived as waggling your hands) in that you show the level of appreciation with the enthusiasm of your actions.

You can express the level of enthusiasm either in the level of the noise (which is how clapometers work) or the speed of the clapping (slow handclapping essentially means ‘Booh! Get off!’)

It makes sense for people with hearing too. People can show their appreciation for something that’s been said or done without the sound of traditional clapping interrupting.

Clapping isn’t an interruption; it’s feedback, and it’s something the speaker hopes to elicit: you might as well say laughing interrupts a comedy routine.

In any case, claiming it’s borrowed from the deaf community and that it allows the speaker to be heard without interruption is a bit of a contradiction.

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 Charles

“Isn’t this column an example of precisely that!”

Classic catch-22: if you say people are argumentative, and I feel otherwise, how can I express that sentiment without proving your point?

In practice, I think it comes down to whether you’re genuinely calling for unity or starting a fight about infighting. By calling other groups “arrogant”, I’d say this article does fall into the latter category.

32. theophrastus

@ 26:

“More to the point, nodody voted for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the erosion of civil liberties under Labour, or for the cut-happy Conservative/LibDem chimera we have now.
You have to choose between packages offered rather than individual policies. Parliamentary democracy isn’t truly democratic so the idea that people have actually expressed their will through the ballot box is horse shit.”

I’d far rather have our current representative democracy with delegated powers than a (more) direct democracy – which would only increase the influence of the tabloid press! (‘Invade Brussels now to recover our Billions’, says the Daily Hate!)

And we do not hold our rulers to account solely by the 5-yearly general election, but in local elections, referenda, opinion polls, campaigns, lobbying, a free press, etc, etc. And governments can and do listen…And then we vote again…

Imperfect, frustrating, tiresome, I know…but ours is an open society – and let’s be grateful for that.

Theo @ 24

Not sure I – or even you – fully understand the implications of 1 and 2.

I can do no better than quote the analysis of the writer.

“The key villains are not the big bankers but the central bankers, especially the Federal Reserve chairman and Governor of the Bank of England. They had the task of controlling interest rates, which for the last decade were held artificially low. This meant money was cheap and credit readily available, which fuelled the housing boom in both the USA and UK.

Banks like Northern Rock followed risky strategies based on the availability of cheap borrowing, and as soon as central banks started to raise interest rates they failed. Add in that since the 70?s money has been fiat money backed by nothing but the Government’s promise that it is worth something. That promise is paid for by the goods and services you have not yet produced, making you a slave”

Chaise @ 12:

“Maybe it’s simply that questions of taxation and state spending are bigger voting priorities than liberal or conservative social values,”

I suppose it might be that. It might also be that right-wing parties tend to be quite small-government (the only real exception I can think of are the BNP, but they’re a fringe party with no real influence), so there’s less for them to disagree about in the first place.

Theo @ 24

Not sure I – or even you – fully understand the implications of 1 and 2.

I can do no better than quote the analysis of the writer.

“The key villains are not the big bankers but the central bankers, especially the Federal Reserve chairman and Governor of the Bank of England. They had the task of controlling interest rates, which for the last decade were held artificially low. This meant money was cheap and credit readily available, which fuelled the housing boom in both the USA and UK.

Banks like Northern Rock followed risky strategies based on the availability of cheap borrowing, and as soon as central banks started to raise interest rates they failed. Add in that since the 70?s money has been fiat money backed by nothing but the Government’s promise that it is worth something. That promise is paid for by the goods and services you have not yet produced, making you a slave”

Theo @ 24

Not sure I – or even you – fully understand the implications of 1 and 2.

I can do no better than quote the analysis of the writer.

“The key villains are not the big bankers but the central bankers, especially the Federal Reserve chairman and Governor of the Bank of England. They had the task of controlling interest rates, which for the last decade were held artificially low. This meant money was cheap and credit readily available, which fuelled the housing boom in both the USA and UK.

Banks like Northern Rock followed risky strategies based on the availability of cheap borrowing, and as soon as central banks started to raise interest rates they failed. Add in that since the 70?s money has been fiat money backed by nothing but the Government’s promise that it is worth something. That promise is paid for by the goods and services you have not yet produced, making you a slave”

Hi Sunny,

I’m not sure who you’ve been speaking to, but I’ve not come across much internecine Lefty wranging at Occupy. This is a genuinely inclusive movement, albeit one that is not keen to be coopted by any political party. I’m sure you can see the difference.

All the best,

Naomi

16/theophrastus: “They were rightly ended by social stigmatisation. Not dissimilarly, smoking in public places. Next up, must be obesity.”

If social stigmatisation was a cure for obesity then it should have “worked” at some point in the last few decades. I’m not sure why you’re equating “being fat”, which harms no-one, with smoking in public or being an overt bigot (which definitely do harm a lot of people, especially the latter), but please reconsider it.

Why do those with the voluntary disability of eating too much of the wrong things

In so far as there is a link between food intake and weight (and the science on this basically does not say [1] what the government or the diet industry would have you believe), don’t forget that the foods currently considered “unhealthy” are generally also cheaper, more convenient, and eaten more by the working class than the middle class. There’s a lot of classism in the way this is being handled, as if everyone just has the choice to eat the “right” foods [2] regardless of personal circumstances.

As for “voluntary disability” do you question every disabled person you meet to ensure that their disability was acquired in circumstances that meet your personal moral approval as a condition of behaving decently towards them, or is it just people who are both fat and disabled who you make this sort of assumption about? (Not that it should make a difference for decent behaviour, but you do know that there are quite a lot of disabling health conditions for which weight gain is either a symptom or a side-effect of medications used for treatment, right?)

[1] Among other things that aren’t widely acknowledged: weight, like height, is mostly genetic; life expectancies at BMI 20-25 and BMI 30-35 are statistically identical in Western industrialised countries; no known safe way to cause long-term (i.e. still detectable on 5-year followup study) weight change in humans; rapidly changing weight is less healthy than just about any stable weight; BMI itself has so many flaws as a measure that it’s basically worthless.

[2] If you control for social class, the apparent health benefits of “eating 5 fruit and veg” basically vanish.

Planeshift,

Watchman, you’re getting this wrong. What the 60% demand does is drag the parameters of political debate to the left, meaning that the policy of 50% becomes the centre ground. To win elections you occupy the centre ground, the activist left doesn’t need to win elections so it is free to drag the centre ground towards it. It plays on the fact most people, when confronted with an issue they don’t know much about or have a strong view about, tend to look at both sides of a debate and conclude the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

You do realise the centre ground is not the same as the central point in political debate? You could have a variety of political opinions on sexual activity with animals for example, but the centre ground will remain firmly rooted in the ‘no! no! no!’ camp. It is possible to take the political debate away from the centre ground, and moving towards the activist left (a group who by definition are not relating to the centre ground) is a very good way to do this. Take the last election as an example – if someone came in and suggested spending even more money to reduce the deficit, would more people have voted Labour because they seemed more moderate? I doubt it, because those who voted against Labour due to the fact they opposed further spending (which was a centre-ground position) would not change their mind simply because there was someone even less to their taste wandering around.

On taxation, there is a ‘Laffer Curve’ effect (sorry) about maximum rates as well – beyond a certain point and more people will see you as taking too much money from people. Regardless of whether someone is suggesting 60% or 100%, moving towards them may move you over this edge and away from the centre ground. High-tax parties notably do not win elections in this country in the recent past (which hasn’t stopped high taxes, just not high income tax…).

In effect, claiming that holders of extreme views clear a space for adopting a stronger position is a silly position. All moving towards extremists does is make you relatively more extreme. You (or your party’s) position can move without the centre ground moving with it – and that is the risk that this idea forgets.

40. Chaise Guevara

@ 38 cim

Not that I’m saying we should shame obese people into losing weight or anything, but surely pretty much every adult in Britain has the opportunity to eat the “right” foods? I agree it’s harder for some, but the sort of diet traditionally seen as healthy (let’s say something balanced, with plenty of fibre, minerals and vitamins, not too much fat, and a total calorie count appropriate for your build and lifestyle) can be bought cheaply and prepared quickly and easily.

The issue isn’t that people are forced to overindulge, it’s that they choose to. As one of the best way to get fat is eating too much, I’ve never really bought this “people can’t afford to be healthy” line. If there is a group of people who need help, it’s those who are poor AND have no idea how to cook, leaving them dependent on fast food and ready meals.

@ 20 / Watchman:

Free market theory is entirely predicated on the notion that money represents utility (i.e. the sum of an individual’s needs and desires). In the real world, this is nonsense, since money is created by private banks and governments. This allows the latter two to rig the whole game. There is no such thing as a free market under capitalism and nor can there ever be. Capitalism is about the hierarchical exercise of power through capital and money, including power over markets.

In theory, democracy should allow people a degree of control over government, but in practice government is just another commodity in a capitalist system, since capitalism commodifies everything, including democracy, art, science, liberty and human life. So there can never ever be any democracy under capitalism, either.

In the Middle Ages, land and labour were the main resources. Most people were tied to the land so that their labour could be exploited by those who owned it. Industrialisation saw land largely displaced by capital as the main resource but people are still enslaved, since the owners of the land have now become the owners of capital and we have to work for them instead. The game is rigged so that very few can break free of this bondage: after all, the owners of land and capital aren’t about to give their inheritance away, are they?

People are not rewarded in proportion to their efforts and talents but much more for the amount of land and capital they happen to own – and the vast bulk of both is inherited. Therefore, capitalism is a largely hereditary, hierarchical power structure, a lot like feudalism.

To say ‘capitalism is the only game in town’ is like saying ‘football is the only game in town’. It simply isn’t. There are other games, with new rules and it’s about time we started playing them instead. I’m not talking about (state) communism, either. FYI, I am not a follower of Marx.

The protests are not really about left versus right, although they would attract more people more people from the left. They about the the banking system or scam and they are worldwide. Labour can be as arrogant as they like but they still need people to vote for them and they have not been that impressive in opposition.

“You could have a variety of political opinions on sexual activity with animals for example, but the centre ground will remain firmly rooted in the ‘no! no! no!’ camp”

Because on the issue of sex with anminalsthe distribution of opinion does not resemble a bell curve, except in Wales, whereas on tax rates it does, and the peak of that bell curve can be dragged around over the longer term. 3 examples:

1. advocating a 50% higher tax rate was a right wing position 25 years ago as it would have meant a tax cut of 10%. It is now a left wing position.

2. Maggie Thatcher was not a politician of the centre ground. She was merely clever at bringing the centre ground towards her position.

3. On the opposite side, opinions on homosexuality have moved along the left to such an extent the conservatives have effectively apologised for their 1980s policy.

With regards to point 3. Organisations and campaigners like Outrage! almost certainly created the space for Labour to advocate more ‘middle ground’ policies.

40/Chaise: I’ve never really bought this “people can’t afford to be healthy” line.

Certainly that line specifically is much more of a systematic problem in the USA, with its bizarre food production subsidies and rural food deserts. But I don’t think it’s entirely a matter of education even in the UK either, because the class correlations of food aren’t solely about the financial cost of the ingredients.

Cooking takes time which isn’t necessarily available (and a ready meal also generates far less washing up), and a lot of the recipes marketed as “easy” assume things about the cook that aren’t always true (you have two hands free, you can stir food or stand up to cook for 20 minutes without physical pain, you can devote 20-30 continuous minutes to cooking without interruption by small children, you have a decent-sized kitchen to store ingredients and equipment, etc.).

It’s not so much not being able to afford the “right” food – though, if money is tight, the 30 extra minutes to cook and wash up a meal from scratch could potentially instead be spent working extra hours, so count them at minimum wage and that’s £3 extra to the ingredients cost – but about circumstances that make ready meals a good option often being correlated with class/income – shortage of time, inadequate kitchens, disability, etc.

As one of the best way to get fat is eating too much

Maybe. There’s some correlation between amount eaten and weight, but it’s nowhere near as exact as the “X calories too many a day means 10 tons heavier by the age of 50″ pseudo-accuracy that generally gets pushed around. Human metabolism and energy absorption is fairly adjustable, and this causes “counter-intuitive” results. (One of the things that can definitely increase weight long-term is a restricted-calorie diet, for instance, because it risks triggering the famine reflexes).

Hmm. Probably getting a bit off topic for a left infighting thread here!

The demands of those at #occupyLSX http://bastardoldholborn.blogspot.com/2011/10/occupy-lsx-eye-witness-report.html

4 We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.

6 We support the strike on 30 November and the student action on 9 November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.

I’m sorry, that still means Politicians taking our money by force to pay for it all, or even worse, borrowing from banks on the Bond market and placing the debt on our children – not something that a Libertarian can happily agree to.

Oh, and please don’t ever, EVER associate us with the BNP. They are nationalists (we aren’t) and socialists (we aren’t generally). We favour capitalism, not corporatism. Let bad businesses go to the wall, and reduce the barriers to entry to stop corporate monopolies from simply acquiring all the competition, as we have seen the Banks do (whilst being supported by Politicians and the UK taxpayer)

46. Chaise Guevara

@ 44 cim

“Cooking takes time which isn’t necessarily available (and a ready meal also generates far less washing up), and a lot of the recipes marketed as “easy” assume things about the cook that aren’t always true (you have two hands free, you can stir food or stand up to cook for 20 minutes without physical pain, you can devote 20-30 continuous minutes to cooking without interruption by small children, you have a decent-sized kitchen to store ingredients and equipment, etc.). ”

Good point RE disability, I hadn’t accounted for that. I think it’s possible to spend 30 minutes cooking and looking after small children at the same time, though – neither simple meals and small children need watching literally 100% of the time, and, without getting too anecdotal, it never seemed to give my mum any trouble.

Looking after kids might change which meals you attempt, but it shouldn’t stop you cooking entirely.

“It’s not so much not being able to afford the “right” food – though, if money is tight, the 30 extra minutes to cook and wash up a meal from scratch could potentially instead be spent working extra hours, so count them at minimum wage and that’s £3 extra to the ingredients cost – but about circumstances that make ready meals a good option often being correlated with class/income – shortage of time, inadequate kitchens, disability, etc.”

I don’t see how 30 minutes cooking could actually translate into 30 minutes of lost wages, unless people are actually trying to work every waking hour, which I doubt (and if they are, they ain’t getting minimum wage). I think the time that people, even disadvantaged people, lose from cooking is primarily downtime. Which means that the time issue makes cooking offputting rather than expensive/impossible.

Maybe this is ignorance on my part, but I confess I’ve never seen a home that didn’t at least have two hobs, which is your minimum for being able to cook a small range of healthy meals. And you’ll make up the cost of two saucepans, a frying pan and a colandar quickly enough if you use them to cook cheap recipes.

“Maybe. There’s some correlation between amount eaten and weight, but it’s nowhere near as exact as the “X calories too many a day means 10 tons heavier by the age of 50? pseudo-accuracy that generally gets pushed around. Human metabolism and energy absorption is fairly adjustable, and this causes “counter-intuitive” results. (One of the things that can definitely increase weight long-term is a restricted-calorie diet, for instance, because it risks triggering the famine reflexes).”

Sure – but if you live an inactive lifestyle and have a vaguely normal medical profile, switching from a 2,000kcal diet to a 4,000kcal diet will make you fat, and doing the opposite will help you lose weight (or at least stabilise). There’s a lot of bullshit floating around this issue, I agree, but it doesn’t change the fact that eating less is generally a good way to lose weight – you don’t have to double your shopping budget buying special Healthy Choices products. I think downplaying the link between diet and weight is a bit of a dangerous game, btw. A lot of people would love to be able to think “Oh, my weight’s genetic and therefore inevitable, so I may as well get this pizza”, self included.

47. Flowerpower

Chaise

If there is a group of people who need help, it’s those who are poor AND have no idea how to cook, leaving them dependent on fast food and ready meals.

Mrs Flowerpower used to run a project for pregnant women in this position. They got nutritional advice, plus cookery lessons. But still their kids’ birth weight fell.

So one day Mrs F followed a group of them after they left their nutrition class. Straight to Macdonalds and KFC.

Why? she asked.

‘cos their partners would beat the shit out of them if they didn’t serve burgers/chicken and chips. That’s why, they said.

Domestic violence, if not confronted, leads to obesity. And to babies with developmental issues.

Mrs F used to think educating women was the answer.
Now she thinks locking up their deadbeat partners would work rather better.

She’s a liberal, mugged by reality, Mrs F.

Voice of Treason,

To say ‘capitalism is the only game in town’ is like saying ‘football is the only game in town’. It simply isn’t.

I’d agree – and I don’t think I said that (if only because I wouldn’t use such an American phrase, not having spent any time on that side of the Atlantic). I would prefer free markets without capitalism – so we are in agreement that the current system overvalues capital.

I would suggest that your point of view and mine both require money to have some real value (and probably therefore to be independent of government). I am not sure how this can be done very easily though. But removing the power from the corporations and government is clearly a good start.

In theory, democracy should allow people a degree of control over government, but in practice government is just another commodity in a capitalist system, since capitalism commodifies everything, including democracy, art, science, liberty and human life. So there can never ever be any democracy under capitalism, either.

Not sure that is true, since for a vote not to be a commodity you have to deny people make their votes on rational lines. I do think that corporations and their ability to get close to government pevert democracy though.

And art and science are commodities – they are not abstract truths, since they are only worth what we are prepared to pay for them. But commidification is not a problem, so long as we do not have people monopolising controls over comodities and dictating access – any system other than absolute communism (not practicable without infinite resources) will have to distribute access to everything through some system, which makes everything a commodity, regardless of whether it is brought by money or distributed by the state. Money is currently the best system we have, with the provisos agreed above, since it makes it difficult to control access to commodities if there are both sellers and buyers.

In the Middle Ages, land and labour were the main resources. Most people were tied to the land so that their labour could be exploited by those who owned it. Industrialisation saw land largely displaced by capital as the main resource but people are still enslaved, since the owners of the land have now become the owners of capital and we have to work for them instead. The game is rigged so that very few can break free of this bondage: after all, the owners of land and capital aren’t about to give their inheritance away, are they?

You might want to check the figures for how many people own land now as against 100 years ago, and the figures for capital as well. It may shock you that it is becoming more fairly distributed even under as poor a system as state-sponsored capitalism. Also, you seem to have the strange idea that owners of capital are rich individuals – whilst some are, you are missing out small shareholders, pension funds etc in this analysis. And the government is a major holder of capital and cause of employment as well.

People are not rewarded in proportion to their efforts and talents but much more for the amount of land and capital they happen to own – and the vast bulk of both is inherited. Therefore, capitalism is a largely hereditary, hierarchical power structure, a lot like feudalism.

Now feudalism is not actually hereditary you know. It is based upon the granting of fiefs, which only became hereditary if the granting authority lost out to those holding fiefs in politics (which was actually ‘progressive’ – it widened the class of owners of power). In several European areas the aristocracy was one of service, not blood, as a result of this. Capitalism is also variable on these sort of lines – note that most successful capitalists are not inheriting their positions.

FYI, I am not a follower of Marx.

Neither am I, but his historical analysis is a very useful broad brush with which to understand history (albeit it fails to adequately explain the transition from one mode to another). It is also very encouraging as it shows (a generally accurate) transition of power from the ruler through the elite to the bourgeouise and inevitably to the people. My major difference with Marx would be I would see the free market as the triumph of the people (a free market by definition has no overarching ideology, as people can select their own), and communism (as practiced – not as idealised) as the triumph of a bourgeouise elite (those who control the system).

“not something that a Libertarian can happily agree to”

But you’d presumably agree with legalisation of drugs, defence of civil liberties,and other parts of social libertarianism. these are areas where you will largely find agreement with the activist left.

After that I think there is an element of both sides changing priorities and emphasis and closer work could happen. For example, libertarians want tax cuts, but if you could agree that the priority for cutting taxes should be the elimination of taxes paid by poor people (i.e. raise the personal allowance) rather than abolishing taxes paid by wealth people (inheritance tax) then you will certainly have the support of the activist left. Similarly if you decide that military spending will be reduced before you make inroads into health spending then that’s also going to enhance your support.

On the activist left side there are also changes of emphasis and compromises that could occur to win the support of libertarians and enhance coalition building. You’d be in a better position than me to judge what you’d like, but something like “we’d like to bring in a new tax on the rich, but this won’t be through income tax – it will be through a land value tax” may be something you’d consider.

Obviously there are red lines on both sides, but there is enough to produce a workable manifesto of demands that both sides could agree to campaign on and both sides could go back and say was a step in the directions they wanted.

Chaise/46: Oh, I’m not saying it’s impossible to cook with small children, but it can make it more difficult or limit the recipes that are usable – and it’s something that “beginner’s” recipe books or education campaigns often ignore.

And student halls can be a good example of places where cooking equipment beyond a microwave is impractical or not in use. Similarly bedsit-type rented accommodation with a shared kitchen, where if everyone tried to spend 30+ minutes cooking every day there just wouldn’t be space.

(Actually, as regards cost… probably true for vegetables and carbohydrates, but for meat there’s a pretty good correlation between how fatty the meat is and how cheap it is, at least for any given animal)

I don’t see how 30 minutes cooking could actually translate into 30 minutes of lost wages

Directly translate? Probably not. But I think it’s also wrong to value people’s time at £0 when they’re doing housework, when considering relative pricing of options, because that downtime is also valuable for their health (especially mental health).

I think downplaying the link between diet and weight is a bit of a dangerous game, btw

I think the link itself is a bit like the Laffer curve. Sure, if you eat nothing you’ll starve to death, and if you eat everything you’ll put on a lot of weight. The whole area inbetween is so full of confounding factors – genetics, metabolism, what’s being eaten as opposed to raw calorie count, etc. – that it’s much more difficult to say what’s going on or what the effects are. (and that a correlation over a population level might be meaningless – or even reversed – at an individual level)

Even then, that’s still assuming that heavier weight is in itself dangerous [1]. It doesn’t – at least in Western industrialised nations where the population studies have been done – appear to have any statistically significant effect on life expectancy. A lot of the evidence linking weight to various non-fatal health conditions is only of the “correlation equals causation” form, too – often there’s no suggested mechanism, or the most plausible mechanism is “reversed”.

[1] Dangerous beyond “doctor assumes symptom caused by weight, ignores evidence of really dangerous health condition”, that is.

In all honesty, I don’t know how Libertarians can find much common ground with the Left OR the authoritarian Right as both have little if any regard for the individual.

I certainly believe a Land Tax to be the only fair tax (although consumption taxes are not far behind) and that the only reason for a military is to defend our borders, not those of far off lands but a multitude of faux Libertarians (who frankly are UKIP’ers or Moonbat Tories) but I can’t see much other common ground with the Left”. When I tried to explain corporatism to the activists waiving “stop the benefits cuts” and “Save our public Sector Jobs” banners at OccupyLSX, they failed to comprehend that a “right on” cooperative is just a group of businessmen who share the profit from their labours, exactly the same as a company listed on the building they were hoping to occupy, the Stock Exchange.

We need change, we need to take the power away from the Politicians who in turn give it to Banking Corperations who in turn gamble it all away lending it back to the Politicians to fulfill their endless “promises” that can never be paid for by a population with shiny new motorways and pristine hospitals but no way to pay for it all.

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, on the left has convinced me that they have any intention to stop spending money none of us have, and until the Left does, they may be able to count on the votes of those who receive the “free” money, but not those who have realised it’s THEIR kids who are going to have to pay it back.

When you see US at OccupyLSX, you’ll know progress is being made, until then, as I said, it’s just the usual suspects not annoyed that the State is handing out other peoples money to banks and corporations but furious that the State is handing out other peoples money to banks and corporations INSTEAD OF THEM.

52. Greg Chivers

My worry is that some people think the answer is to sink capitalism with all hands on board. It’s full of massive holes as a system but until there’s broad agreement on what replaces it we must get global agreement on some key reforms or we’ll get a financial catastrophe which is going to hammer Europe more than anywhere else.

If it’s the same old left v right thinking and a load of people demanding an end to capitalism then it won’t make the impact it has to in the conservative places we need to convert. Please, read Will Hutton’s ‘Them and Us’ to see where the compromises will have to be made.

Prosperity without growth has to be the long-term ideal but we need to turn capitalism round and make it massively fairer as a first step out of this. It can be done but it will need people to compromise for a while first.

Planeshift,

Because on the issue of sex with anminalsthe distribution of opinion does not resemble a bell curve, except in Wales, whereas on tax rates it does, and the peak of that bell curve can be dragged around over the longer term. 3 examples:

1. advocating a 50% higher tax rate was a right wing position 25 years ago as it would have meant a tax cut of 10%. It is now a left wing position.

Indeed – the centre ground moved. I am happy that it does so; my dispute is that it does so because of what political parties say – I think this is actually something of an irrelevance. In this case, the centre ground moved because people got used to a lower-tax (hah!) economy.

2. Maggie Thatcher was not a politician of the centre ground. She was merely clever at bringing the centre ground towards her position.

I think I would phrase that ‘clever at presenting her position as appealing to the centre ground’, but bear in mind that her electoral opponents were determined to be less central than she was. After all, in 1983 Labour went a very long way left, but the centre ground moved towards Mrs Thatcher if anything – the argument I am disagreeing with here would surely mean that Labour’s move left should have dragged the centre ground with it.

3. On the opposite side, opinions on homosexuality have moved along the left to such an extent the conservatives have effectively apologised for their 1980s policy.

With regards to point 3. Organisations and campaigners like Outrage! almost certainly created the space for Labour to advocate more ‘middle ground’ policies.

I am not comfortable with left/right on social issues such as homosexuality. My family are staunchly economically right wing (I am easily the renegrade liberal…) but I was brought up in the 70s and 80s to support people’s right to be gay or black (not sure that either was a choice…) or whatever. I am hardly unique in this – in the same way as many people from traditionally economically left-wing families grew up with homophobia and racism as normal. Ignorance and prejudice are not restrained to supporters of one view or the other.

I take your point about campaigns such as Outrage, but interestingly the National Front did not drag the Conservatives towards greater racism, so this is not a universal rule of pressure groups in the 1980s. I am happy to admit that campaigns may create a better public attitude, but I would suggest that the fact that all major parties have much better attitudes to homosexuality now is a direct result of those campaigns changing public opinion (which was anyway improving – compare the 80s with the 50s) – which all political parties lagged (and perhaps still do – sexuality seems to be an issue to politicians and their cotiere of journalists in the lobby, but not to anyone else much).

Overall, I think the problem is that whilst on most subjects public opinion is probably a bell curve creating a middle ground (and these middle grounds may not be compatible…), this bell curve is rarely directly influenced by political discource: the results of politics may influence things – the relative success of Thatcher’s governments changed the game for example, as people took advantage of privitisation and liberalisation of markets in a big way – but this is people adapting to conditions, not the discourse. What may change the curve is public campaigns – this is what the activist left seek to do – but unlike outrage or the like in the 80s the radical left-wing economic campaigns are unlikely to stretch the curve, as they are not really saying or doing anything new to people – they are effectively repeating familiar and oft-heard demands, on matters on which people’s opinions are fairly set. A campaign for legalisation of bestiality might shift the middle ground as people heard a new point of view – and it would then create a new space for a party to occupy (this would be worth seeing…). The familiar refrains of left-wing protestors will not do this, as people accept them as normal. Therein lies the key problem – if people are over-familiar with what the people you are moving towards say, you are not changing the debate, you’re moving towards the extremists. Only new voices or new conditions may change the middle ground (and if the new conditions are economic hardship, the middle ground normally moves right it appears).

@Old Holborn

You may decry UKIP (have you met any of their members, because I would be interested to know what they are like), but they are far and away better than the Liberal Tories who pretend to be ‘right wing’ but are really Notting Hill Liberals.

Of course, the left just use the ‘working class’ like a pimp uses a whore, feigning care, but in reality doing everything to harm them (no Grammar schools, free migration, welfarism and high taxes).

It is also a journey – I have heard Nigel Farage speak on certain radio programs where the audience is very libertarian and he can say more – but if you come out with I want to end the welfare state, that is all people will hear, assume you want to do this tomorrow and have no idea of the argument that welfare breeds welfare.

So far, UKIP still oppose the EU, want Grammar schools, want a flat tax, want out of the stupid wars we are in and they have not been changed significantly since they became the 2nd biggest UK party in the EU parliament.

p.s. I am not a member of UKIP

Flowerpower,

Mrs F used to think educating women was the answer.
Now she thinks locking up their deadbeat partners would work rather better.

Isn’t that the point of education – empowerment?

Planeshift,

In light of my last comment,s an alliance between the extreme left and libertarians on agreed issues (one of which would presumably have to be no violence towards others and their property – libertarians are rarely in the property is theft camp (although some are)) would perhaps be the sort of changed perspective to actually allow the centre ground to move on economic issues as something new was said.

Providing the mainstream media covered it in a fair way anyway.

I have greater respect for Sunny after reading this article which is considered and fair – I also feel his frustration.

“but interestingly the National Front did not drag the Conservatives towards greater racism”

The counter example of this is the way migration watch (amongst others)succesfully dragged both the main parties closer to their position on immigration.

“unlike outrage or the like in the 80s the radical left-wing economic campaigns are unlikely to stretch the curve,”

Isn’t this an issue of competence in campaigning though? Rather than an issue with the principle of taking a politically difficult position and – through campaigning- making it less difficult for a political party to adopt.

Planeshift,

The counter example of this is the way migration watch (amongst others)succesfully dragged both the main parties closer to their position on immigration.

Not sure if Migration Watch are not a symptom, rather than a cause – they seem to postdate the concern if you ask me. But if they did, it is still an equally valid example, just of a less liberal policy (albeit migration is not purely on the liberal scale, and could be expressed in terms of economic debate).

Isn’t this an issue of competence in campaigning though? Rather than an issue with the principle of taking a politically difficult position and – through campaigning- making it less difficult for a political party to adopt.

I shall refrain from commenting on the competence of the extreme left in campaigning here…

That is what can be done, but the campaigns against capitalism (or whatever the occupy movement is against…) are however well-run, fairly constant. If they haven’t moved public opinion now, it will take something else than the campaigning to manage it (well, they might persuade a few people at a time, but remember that others will be going the other way in normal conditions).

“In all honesty, I don’t know how Libertarians can find much common ground with the Left OR the authoritarian Right as both have little if any regard for the individual.”

I’ll be happy to exclude the authoritarian left (defined as the trot parties) from this analysis, but I think there are several major policies that you’d agree with as a starting point.

1, Land Value Tax
2. Major reductions in military spending (percentage we can debate)
3. legalisation of drugs
4. Restoration of civil liberties such as right to protests.
5. Libel law reform in favour of the media not celebs and politicians.
6. The 6 policies pagar outlines above for financial reform

@Watchman / 48:

Thanks for the civilised discussion. Sorry, I know you didn’t say capitalism was ‘the only game in town’; it was another poster, theophrastus, I think.

“.. art and science are commodities – they are not abstract truths, since they are only worth what we are prepared to pay for them.”

“What’s aught but as ’tis valued?” says Troilus to Hector, explaining why men are dying for the sake of Helen. Well, that’s one theory of value (notwithstanding Hector’s excellent riposte), but in reality things are only worth what the powerful (i.e. wealthy) are willing to pay for them – the capitalist (unfree) market cares more about a spoilt Texan teenager’s whim to drive a Humvee than it does about an Ethiopian child’s desperate need for a bowl of rice, or my love of Shakespeare. It doesn’t mean that the Humvee is a greater cultural artifact than Troilus and Cressida. It really doesn’t. If that’s the result of our economic system, then there’s an error in it – likely more than one. (I may be oversimplifying for rhetorical effect, but you see the general point, I hope).

“You might want to check the figures for how many people own land now as against 100 years ago, and the figures for capital as well. It may shock you that it is becoming more fairly distributed even under as poor a system as state-sponsored capitalism.”

That’s an interesting one. If we go back 100 years, you may be right, but I’d wager that the equalising trend has reversed sharply over the last 30-40 years and that the distribution of all kinds of wealth is becoming much less equitable now. This is no surprise, since capitalism was let off the leash in the 1970s when capital controls were abandoned and the Bretton Woods agreement (1944) was ditched. This process accelerated through the 80s. The kind of ‘liberalisation’ advocated by right-wing libertarian economists is exactly what has led to the current crisis of capitalism and market failure.

That’s because capitalism is not really about free markets. The only kind of liberty that right-wing libertarians seem to want is the liberty of the powerful to enslave the rest. I actually rather like free markets, when they are:

1) Genuinely free.

2) Comprised of equal actors with equal access to good information.

3) The participants reflect human values, not corporate ones. Ideally, the participants should be actual human beings – or egalitarian associations of humans. Corporations are tyrannies, co-operatives are democracies. This is a crucial difference.

“Also, you seem to have the strange idea that owners of capital are rich individuals – whilst some are, you are missing out small shareholders, pension funds etc in this analysis. And the government is a major holder of capital and cause of employment as well.”

Partly true. I own some capital too. Everyone does: a car or even a phone are capital, but unless you own at least a factory’s worth, then you’re small fry, to be patronised by the Directors at the AGM. It’s something of a paradox that shareholders do not really exert control over the companies which they nominally own. In part, this is to do with corporate law, which requires corporations to behave like rapacious Frankensteinian monsters seeking monopoly and externalising as much cost as possible.

Shareholders are analogous to voters in a sham democracy: they don’t have either enough information or a sufficient range of real choice to make any difference. Most people don’t even know where their money is invested. In addition, those with the greatest influence or the greatest number of shares are the wealthiest – the very few. The result is tyranny, of both governments and corporations.

As an anarcho-pragmatist, I don’t have any problem with people owning stuff, even quite a lot of stuff. It only becomes a problem when some people (more often corporations and governments) seek to use that stuff to enslave others, either directly (through war) or indirectly through control of markets and economic opportunities. Really gross inequality is what makes this possible and it also leads to market failure.

62. john P reid

8, i agree

10 do you really believe that, no one else does.

@ 30 Shatterface

“Clapping isn’t an interruption; it’s feedback, and it’s something the speaker hopes to elicit: you might as well say laughing interrupts a comedy routine.”

No, clapping can be an interruption – surely you’ve seen a public speaker have to calm an audience down so they can continue? – and laughing can be an interruption in a comedy routine. In fact, shows filmed in front of live audiences tend to have to write in audience’s responses because it’s assumed that laughter will create a break in the dialogue and they do their best to write/perform around it.

“In any case, claiming it’s borrowed from the deaf community and that it allows the speaker to be heard without interruption is a bit of a contradiction.”

Er, when it’s utilised by the hearing community. No contradiction at all.

Deja vu of the ‘I should have been consulted’ noises that came from the US left in the first fortnight of #OccupyWallStreet. But I never thought you’d do the same Sunny, giving the City everything they want to hear.

Am I nervous about #OccupyGlasgow being overtaken by violent agitators or anti-democratic revolutionaries? Of course. It goes without saying. But every day it seems less of a threat.

It’s in the branding – ‘the 99%’. That demands a solution that is democratic, popular and of mass-appeal. NYC are getting that now with 67% city support. It’s sad you don’t look for that democracy and inclusiveness in the UK and instead inflict blows on a movement in it’s infancy. Either that or OccupyLSX is in a far worse state than us up here (which you are yet to even refer to).

The ultimate question is – do you have a better plan that could mobilise global support, conversation & media coverage to deal with our socio-enviro-economic crisis in the next few months?

If not, yet you chose to divisively accentuate the negative for Tweetbait headlines, then I feel you’ve really sold us out.

65. Chaise Guevara

@ cim

” Oh, I’m not saying it’s impossible to cook with small children, but it can make it more difficult or limit the recipes that are usable – and it’s something that “beginner’s” recipe books or education campaigns often ignore.”

I agree that this is an unhelpful oversight. As far as education campaigns go, at least, it would be good for something to be done about this. The main hurdle that prevents people from taking up cooking, in my experience, is that they find it intimidating: anything that can be done to reassure people is a good thing.

“And student halls can be a good example of places where cooking equipment beyond a microwave is impractical or not in use.”

Again, I’ve never seen self-catered student halls without a cooker (mine had two for eight people, which is plenty, and I deliberately chose somewhere cheap).

“Similarly bedsit-type rented accommodation with a shared kitchen, where if everyone tried to spend 30+ minutes cooking every day there just wouldn’t be space.”

Fair enough – I’ve no experience of this.

“Actually, as regards cost… probably true for vegetables and carbohydrates, but for meat there’s a pretty good correlation between how fatty the meat is and how cheap it is, at least for any given animal”

True. The magic workaround here goes by the name of “fish”, but that’s not the most popular of meats, and I can see why someone would rather buy cheap, fatty beef mince.

The main trick isn’t buying lean cuts, though, it’s not eating meat every day.

“But I think it’s also wrong to value people’s time at £0 when they’re doing housework, when considering relative pricing of options, because that downtime is also valuable for their health (especially mental health).”

No, I agree, I just think using a cash value is misleading. I’m not saying “Why can’t these lazy bastards cook? They’ve got time for half an hour of TV a night!” But my point is that most people have time for several hours of TV (or whatever), and so it’s not cost or sheer lack of time stopping them from cooking. It’s more to do with being lazy and/or finding cooking scary. We could probably do with a reboot to Home Ec lessons in school – I never actually learned to cook anything in mine.

“Even then, that’s still assuming that heavier weight is in itself dangerous [1].”

To clarify here, does “heavier” mean “a stone or two over what the NHS claims is your ideal weight”, or does it mean “morbidly obese”? I wouldn’t be surprised to find people exaggerate the risks of minor overwieght, but I’d be stunned if, say, an inactive man standing at 6′ and weighing 20 stone was not at increased health risk due to respiratory issues, strain on blood vessels and so on. Extremes tend to be dangerous, and extreme weights (on either end) are fairly common.

Oliver @25 – I certainly didn’t mean to diss sign language. My point was that a lot of regular people turning up at OccupyLSX and seeing discussions conducted like that, wouldn’t really get it. People can be quite conservative about how they behave in public. You mentioned Monty Python’s ”Four Yorkshiremen” – and I thought of the Yorkshire miners in the 1980s – and how #OccupyLSX would appear to them …… and whether they could have gone in for silent clapping at their strike meeetings.

Chaise/65: I think we’re both more-or-less in agreement on the education side of things. Certainly an education campaign that wasn’t patronising and recognised the diversity of people’s circumstances wouldn’t be a bad thing. (Also, for me, it’s only going to work if the focus is on “let’s get people eating nice varied food that happens to be healthy” not “you must lose weight!”)

However, I think there are more factors than lack of knowledge or confidence at work, so the impact of even a good education campaign would be limited.

(And yes, I don’t remember how learning how to cook anything useful in Home Ec. Lots of recipes to follow, at the end of which one would have something edible … but nothing that might be cooked on a regular basis, and nothing about the principles needed to come up with your own recipes and cook confidently)

The main trick isn’t buying lean cuts, though, it’s not eating meat every day.

Sure, but then you get the conflict of bacon and public health. (99% of people can eat bacon without affecting their cancer risk, and bacon is tasty, but if everyone stopped it would cut the number of cancer cases by thousands every year)

To clarify here, does “heavier” mean “a stone or two over what the NHS claims is your ideal weight”, or does it mean “morbidly obese”?

Both, ish. NHS uses BMI – which is flawed enough to start with – and claims 18.5-25 as “ideal” [1]. The 25-30 and 30-35 both have similar life expectancies in population studies (identical within 95% confidence; hints that don’t quite meet that threshold that 25-30 might be slightly higher life expectancy).

For a 6″ person, 10 points of BMI is over 5 stones of weight.

Even BMI 35+ (aka “morbidly obese”) doesn’t always break into statistical significance in population studies. (BMI < 18.5 usually does, though)

And it's a small effect even at BMI 35 – relative risk of death of maybe 1.3 (compared with 1.0 at "ideal" weight) – which might mean a couple of years difference in life expectancy to any individual. Which doesn't seem a great deal.

I mean, really, if you say to a teenager "If you follow these guidelines for diet you will live to 79 instead of 77, but if you don't the first 77 years of your life will contain lots of tasty food; also, that's about 60 years away and medicine will probably have advanced [2] so much by then that you'll live to 90 anyway" what do you expect them to do? (And, yes, counter that with public pressure to look slim because it's fashionable and socially acceptable and it becomes a harder choice, but the public pressure is the problem there…)

Seriously, with the fuss being made over "obesity" by the government, you'd think it was comparable to smoking's relative risk which is about 20, rather than "barely statistically detectable".

[1] The evidence in fact is suggestive – though not within statistical certainty – that the lower end of "ideal" might be more dangerous too. Though, again, only risk factors of 1.2, 1.3.
[2] The NHANES data in the US suggests that this may have already happened, in fact. Death rates for BMI 35+ in NHANES I (1971-1975) were quite high compared with lower BMIs. The difference basically disappears entirely in the data from NHANES II (1976-1980) and NHANES III (1988-1994), which is put down to far better treatment of heart disease.

In case anyone’s interested, have responded over at my blog.

http://hopisen.com/2011/talking-about-irresolution/


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour http://t.co/Zk3pm14a

  2. Thom Townsend

    RT @libcon: The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour http://t.co/1xBYwNC8 <much sense in this.

  3. Lee Griffin

    The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour http://t.co/Zk3pm14a

  4. Nancy Kelley

    The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour http://t.co/Zk3pm14a

  5. Mark Carrigan

    The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/yOFH3Hjf via @libcon

  6. sunny hundal

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  7. Martin Shapland

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  8. James Doran

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  9. Old Holborn

    The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Qmr1AAYz via @libcon

  10. Cllr Timothy Godfrey

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  11. Jonathan Haynes

    .@sunny_hundal on #OccupyLSX "many…are simply deluding themselves by assuming they can ignore Parliamentary democracy" http://t.co/NKG4PO31

  12. Charlie Beckett

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  13. bitchasskiss

    .@sunny_hundal on #OccupyLSX "many…are simply deluding themselves by assuming they can ignore Parliamentary democracy" http://t.co/NKG4PO31

  14. Jonathan Haynes

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  15. Nicola Chan

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  16. Matt Flaherty

    .@sunny_hundal on #OccupyLSX "many…are simply deluding themselves by assuming they can ignore Parliamentary democracy" http://t.co/NKG4PO31

  17. HazeW

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  18. Jonathan Calder

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  19. David

    Here's a suggestion @OccupyLSX should work with Labour http://t.co/RMwKNIxH Who was in power prior to the economic crisis?

  20. Patrick Osgood

    .@sunny_hundal on #OccupyLSX "many…are simply deluding themselves by assuming they can ignore Parliamentary democracy" http://t.co/NKG4PO31

  21. Benjamin Horrix

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  22. Oliver Laughland

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  23. Ewan Roxburgh

    Great piece and sensible advice from @sunny_hundal: ‘The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour’ http://t.co/c543LjWa

  24. Janet Graham

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  25. Richard Murphy

    The idea Labour can win elections without tapping into populist economic concerns is pure fantasy | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/YwPilBTo

  26. Max

    The idea Labour can win elections without tapping into populist economic concerns is pure fantasy | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/YwPilBTo

  27. Seumas Milne

    The idea Labour can win elections without tapping into populist economic concerns is pure fantasy | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/YwPilBTo

  28. Saoirse O'Sullivan

    Interesting….mixture of tactics is a good point…but if only we could rise up!! http://t.co/DJeep8BY

  29. Gez Kirby

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  30. Roger Thornhill

    Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/oDZCrKck

  31. Martin O'Neill

    Good read and happily right in the money too RT @libcon The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour http://t.co/t0f1P5u2

  32. Ritual, spectacle, protest and the media | Charlie Beckett

    [...] with this issue in relation to the activists v Labour Party argument over tactics by Sunny Hundal here] Print / PDF / Email This entry was posted in Media, Politics and tagged dale farm, protest, [...]

  33. Josh Stuart

    Largest group of #OWS protesters are Democrats seeking to influence the party http://t.co/dISyW6DU Not the same in UK http://t.co/QGhOYpTM

  34. paulstpancras

    RT @sunny_hundal Sick of the arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour that only their way of politics works? I am http://t.co/lr8jIExN

  35. sunny hundal

    The arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour who think only their way of politics works – http://t.co/oDZCrKck (me, from the morning)

  36. AC

    The arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour who think only their way of politics works – http://t.co/oDZCrKck (me, from the morning)

  37. Jason Mcintyre

    The arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour who think only their way of politics works – http://t.co/oDZCrKck (me, from the morning)

  38. Janani Paramsothy

    "@sunny_hundal: The arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour – http://t.co/dOjF4RC4 " love it. Exactly what i've been thinking!

  39. David Cullen

    2 years ago, I might have agreed with @sunny_hundal on this, but there's no meaningful parliamentary startegy http://t.co/O7hGBDR0

  40. Edwin Chu

    The arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour who think only their way of politics works – http://t.co/oDZCrKck (me, from the morning)

  41. Hudson Romero

    The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour … http://t.co/EuCvGn8B$

  42. How does “The 99%” become The 99%? | Politics, Poetry and Equality

    [...] wonder where we go from here though? This interesting piece by Sunny Hundal draws attention to the conflict between elements of the “activist left” [...]

  43. Allan Siegel

    The political arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/oTNHKzM4 via @libcon

  44. Janet Graham

    The arrogance of many within #occupyLSX and Labour who think only their way of politics works – http://t.co/oDZCrKck (me, from the morning)

  45. Talking about irresolution | hopisen.com

    [...] Crowned “Blogger of The Year” Sunny Hundal*put an article up last night about the differing approaches on the left to the OccupyLSX movement.  Along with various hated relics of the Blairite right (Step forward Hodges, Painter and [...]

  46. Silva

    The idea Labour can win elections without tapping into populist economic concerns is pure fantasy | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/YwPilBTo

  47. Rob Marchant

    Flattered to feature in @libcon list http://t.co/8kgh7PO8 of "hated relics of the Blairite right", as told by @hopisen http://t.co/9LDqN5k7

  48. Britain’s misery at a 19 year high, St Paul’s under occupation and a familiar Tory squabble about Europe: round up of political blogs for 15 – 21 October | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    [...] a broad platform of support for their cause. Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy discusses the political arrogance of many within Occupy LSX and the Labour Party, prompting Hopi Sen to provide a [...]

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