On the eve of the Cultural Revolution in China in 1965, Mao presented an epic “song and dance” number called The East Is Red, an over the top social realism extravaganza, the opening bell of what would become Mao’s final disastrous purge.
Watching the Labour Party after its 2015 defeat is like watching The East Is Red in ideological reverse. Bent over before capital in their summer long struggle session, Labour leadership candidates appear as Mitt Romney confessing his sins against Adam Smith Thought, bad mouthing unions, welfare mothers, immigrants. You know the drill, Fox News style. Like any good Maoist saying, one word will do for Labour this summer – “aspiration”. Let a hundred flowers aspire. The Great Leap of Aspiration.
The game is rigged. Voters know this to their bones, not just in the US, but all over the world. The term “the 1%” governs political debate, even in capital’s promised land, the US. Academics refer to this rigged game as the total triumph by neoliberal free market dogma over the New Deal compromise between labour and capital. Voters describe it with profanity. Collective bargaining has practically disappeared, states have lost the ability to tax their richest citizens, world GDP may now be dwarfed by a mountain of cash kicking its feet up in capital’s perfect nirvana, the untaxed, unseen, unregulated offshore centered in the City of London’s legal remnants of the British Empire. The world has never seen so much capital so free. The nation state is reduced to capital’s ATM.
How rigged? Two Americans responsible for Barack Obama’s presidency worked on opposite sides of the 2015 UK general election, David Axelrod for Labour, Jim Messina for the Tories. They will both cash in on Hillary Clinton. Emphasis on the word “cash”.
The Axlerod-Messina Labour-Tory Two-Step manifests in a growing body of literature proving that capital thus unleashed has eliminated the power of the state to regulate markets, ever further reducing citizen participation in democracy, based on voters’ reasonable conclusion that it does not matter who is elected, from any party, capital will get what it wants. Always.
Interestingly, while the west has shredded the compromise between labor and capital, China’s same compromise, while leaning a bit Stalinist, is taking us all to the cleaners. To western neoliberal high priests of capital, this does not compute. A Marxist state run economy appears immune to the “rules” of capitalism. How can this be? Leaving the market alone is supposed to be an unchallenged law of nature.
Capitalist ideology stands so totally victorious, a movement now exists among economics students to challenge their faculties’ blind, near religious exclusion of anything other than neoliberal free market dogma from their instruction. Perhaps the Chinese compromise between labor and capital works better than no compromise at all, but we can never be allowed to know.
Enter Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Knowing that Hillary Clinton has already benefitted from this rigged game to the point Wall Street has their arms wrapped around her, Democrats who refuse to give up on the New Deal compromise will spend the next year pushing, dragging, begging Hillary Clinton leftward. Sanders and Warren’s call to break up the banks, which even has Republican support, has an equivalent British position, which Labour once advocated as recently as Clement Attlee – abolish the Corporation of the City of London. Can anyone imagine any Labour leadership candidate uttering those words this summer? Not one leadership candidate utters a peep about the City, or Wall Street.
One cannot aspire to anything in a rigged game. Labour has been treating their membership, and through them the voters, like fools for far too long. No one believes a single thing Labour says anymore, on any matter, not in Scotland or the East Midlands. No voter joins a political party of the left to start wars based on lies, or help rig the game for capital. If a political party claiming to be socialist does both, it’s quite plainly nothing more than a vehicle for access to power.
At the grassroots, Labour isn’t fooled anymore. If Labour continues this total farce of a leadership process, the new leader at conference in Brighton in September will look upon an empty shell, precisely what the rigged rules of capital destine a political party conference to be. We Americans know this all too well. My hometown of Cleveland, Ohio will host the Republican Convention in 2016, which no one has mistaken for a political process in decades.
Labour once looked to Bill Clinton, which is how I ended up campaigning in pit villages for three general elections. We Democrats used to see working for Labour as an external validation of our leftiness. About face, comrades, and march back to your roots. Nothing is more aspirational than breaking this rigged game. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are onto something. Regain Labour’s authenticity. The voters, especially in Scotland, will notice. I bet Hillary Clinton notices, too.
Tim Russo is one of the first American Democratic Party consultants to work for New Labour in 1997. Now filled with the zeal of the recently converted, he is pursuing a masters in international relations at Cleveland State University, studying Labour’s approach to the City of London this spring.