On Being Far Left 219


I have found myself described as far left, quite often recently. I find this rather puzzling. I would not even describe myself as a socialist. Economically, I wish to see much greater worker share ownership, limitations on extreme pay differentials between management and staff, and strong regulation of casino banking with a far smaller, taxed and regulated derivatives market. I support state ownership of natural monopolies, such as rail, roads, and public utilities. I support state welfare provision and excellent state health and education services. But that is as far as it goes. I do not advocate central planning and in general prefer to keep the state out of commercial activity – which is why I support the EU so strongly in removing barriers to the mobility of all factors of production. I am not a socialist.

This blog is read by many people who have known me since university, some even earlier. I think I am right in saying that my beliefs have not changed in any fundamental way over 40 years. What I outline above was what I believed in 1976. I stand open to confirmation or correction.

Yet in 1976 I was a Liberal, and politically centre or only slightly left of centre. My views were absolutely mainstream and were voiced in mainstream media every day.

While standing still, I now find myself far left as the mainstream political spectrum rushed rightwards past me.

Is this because the Thatcherite revolution, carried on so enthusiastically by Blair and New Labour, proved wildly successful? Is it because deregulation and privatisation has brought prosperity, harmony and an inarguably better society?

No, not at all. The new right wing consensus has been a disaster. It led directly to the great crash of 2008 and the resulting austerity, which will dog us for another two decades at this rate. It led to massive, astonishing inequality of wealth and a society in which it is considered normal for top executives of an organisation to be paid 100 times more than the lowest employee. It led to hedge fund managers owning our politicians, and to Russian mafia owning our football clubs. It led to a world where Save the Children can pay its chief executive £375,000 a year of donation money yet nobody pukes. It led to collapse in manufacturing and to vast areas of blight and hopelessness, to a generation who will never afford a house while buy to let multi millionaires abound, to QE transferring yet more money straight to financial institutions.

The great right wing experiment has been a disaster for the country. Outwith the economic field, we have seen a massive attack on civil liberties, the growth of the 100% surveillance state, and end of respect for international law including the invasion of Iraq and the programme of torture and extraordinary rendition.

Yet although the disastrous failure of Britain’s forty year far right experiment is evident all around us, public opinion continued to move inexorably ever more to the right. It did so because the sheer propaganda power of the corporate media, led by the BBC, pushed it in that direction and had the power to do so. Dissident voices were excluded from the airwaves. The positions I agree with and which I heard regularly on the airwaves forty years ago no longer get airtime, even where they retain majority public support, such as nationalisation of the railways.

Some of my views have become more radical, and they relate to the need to break up the institutions of the right wing state. I believed in Scottish independence forty years ago, but it is much more central to my thinking now. Forty years ago I would have been shocked by the idea that the BBC should be utterly destroyed, but now that seems to me the only sensible approach.

I am not without hope. There is no doubt that the Sanders/SNP/Corbyn phenomenon represents a reaction to the dreadful inequality of society and all the evils which I have described. But I would also argue that this reaction has only been practical because of the new maturity of social media, weakening the grip of corporate media on the popular field of debate and the popular imagination.

Perhaps then, without moving, I became revolutionary just in time.


219 thoughts on “On Being Far Left

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  • MerkinScot

    “While standing still, I now find myself far left as the mainstream political spectrum rushed rightwards past me.”
    .
    You can just about see their collective tail-lights.

  • Beeston Regis

    Unless you are a rabid advocate of unfettered corporate capitalism you are a ‘lefty’ these days. Any modest proposal counter to accepted dogma is going to get you pilloried and marked as an unhinged Marxist\Trotskyist loon.

  • Mark Golding

    Thankfully Craig you are not dressed in Michael Foot’s attire, sport a beard (sorry) and tread warily in a pair of worn-out sandals…

  • Habbabkuk (for fact-based, polite, rational and obsession-free posting)

    Craig

    “What I outline above was what I believed in 1976. I stand open to confirmation or correction.

    Yet in 1976 I was a Liberal, and politically centre or only slightly left of centre. My views were absolutely mainstream and were voiced in mainstream media every day.”
    _____________________

    That’s a very interesting statement.

    Several months ago I asked you what you had thought about something which happened in the mid-1970s – I think it might have been about the 1975 E3EC referendum.

    Your reply – or rather your evasion- was along the lines of “I was too young/politically unaware to have had an opinion at the time”.

    So……. 🙂

  • Habbabkuk (for fact-based, polite, rational and obsession-free posting)

    “Unless you are a rabid advocate of unfettered corporate capitalism you are a ‘lefty’ these days. Any modest proposal counter to accepted dogma is going to get you pilloried and marked as an unhinged Marxist\Trotskyist loon.”
    ______________________

    Rational people are perfectly capable of distinguishing between a sensible left-winger and an anti-capitalist raving nutter.

  • fedup

    A true and accurate reflection of the zeitgeist. The constant push to the right has resulted in an almost one party state of yea Notional Socialist ilk with a slight readjustment of no longer any hints of socialism and with the addition of a pre “inter” of the national it has become a International doctrine of theft, vice, excess, murder and lawlessness.

    Whilst the International laws have been swiped aside wholesale fashion, national laws have been arbitrarily applied and the rich and powerful exempted from the application of such laws, or adherence to the same laws. The latest “inquires” attest that greville janner was busy abusing children for at least 33 years!!! Not forgetting savile and his extensive record of abuse, along with a plethora of other prominent people whom all have been above the laws of the land.

    The reverse of the lawlessness for the rich has been true for we the people that are subject to a growing number of laws that are pushing the state power to beyond the stasi realms.

    These days even mentioning the truth is an act of revolution, let alone thinking about other quaint concepts such as equality and freedom. whence a four year old, you read it a four year old pupil triggers a terror alert in the school by mispronouncing a word is the measure of the levels of insanity that has been promoted as “main stream” wisdom.

    At the rate of descent into madness it won’t be long before Hitler would be considered a lefty too, because of his choice of socialist tag in his party’s name!

  • Velofello

    I fully agree with your article. I’m comfortable;y off, financially, but far from comfortable with the political and financial policies of the UK. Policies heartlessly imposed upon the weakest in society.

  • Mark Golding

    Clearly I am mindful of the technique to embrace the far left(Louise Mensch) as a means to denigrate the profound as kooky, impossible, eccentric and ultimately schizoid.

  • Loony

    Habbakuk – Who are the “anti capitalist raving nutters” you have in mind? Could they perchance be people like Janet Yellen, Mark Carney, Mario Draghi, Shinzo Abe and their oh so educated academic cheerleaders.

    I ask this because nowhere in capitalist thinking can I find the bit where money is supposed to have a negative value and central banks are supposed to form committees and teams whose sole job is to manipulate markets in order to prevent price discovery.

    Would it be correct to assume that all main western banks fall under the umbrella of anti capitalist raving nutters? I am similarly unable to find the section that suggests that a main tenant of capitalism is propping up systemically insolvent institutions by a variety of legal and illegal means.

  • Tom Welsh

    The terminology of the “left-right spectrum” is wholly outdated, and doesn’t mean much at all in today’s world. As you know, it came into being to describe the political views of delegates in the French Etats Generaux in the 1780s. At that time, the important questions involved support (or otherwise) for the monarchy, the bureaucracy, the Catholic Church, the tax structure, and the class structure of society.

    Very little of that matters at all today. The things that do matter are orthogonal to the left-right spectrum, which is why so many of us cannot fit ourselves into it. No matter – the political parties don’t fit into it either.

  • Habbabkuk (for fact-based, polite, rational and obsession-free posting)

    Loony

    “Habbakuk – Who are the “anti capitalist raving nutters” you have in mind? Could they perchance be people like Janet Yellen, Mark Carney, Mario Draghi, Shinzo Abe and their oh so educated academic cheerleaders.”
    _____________________

    No one quite as eminent I’m afraid, Loony. 🙂

    I was keeping to people who take part in this blog.

  • Resident Dissident

    Don’t worry Craig I have never considered you to be left wing or socialist – until recently I would have been happy to place you as a liberal politically, although the diversions into nationalism and a number of other things have led me to question even that. Similarly I have never considered those who support jihadists (when they attack the West), Assad, Ghadaffi, Putin, Saddam, the former Soviet Union and its satellites to be left wing or socialists either. The ersatz left have always seen social democrats such as myself as their main enemy since at least the days of the Bolsheviks – so I’m afraid their insults and jibes are just like the proverbial

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Tom Welsh
    12/03/16 11:40am

    I think libertarian/authoritarian is a far more important spectrum than the traditional left/right spectrum. And I include private authoritarianism, such as a state-corporate nexus, within that spectrum.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • Resident Dissident

    JSD

    Where would you place those who support jihadists (when they attack the West), Assad, Ghadaffi, Putin, Saddam, the former Soviet Union and its satellites on the libertarian/authoritarian spectrum?

  • fred

    “Don’t worry Craig I have never considered you to be left wing or socialist”

    No not the left wing or the right wing.

    More like the parson’s nose.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Resident Dissident
    12/03/16 12:05pm

    Generally speaking, those you have cited are, in my opinion, highly authoritarian figures, and I would be opposed to them politically as a consequence. It’s my belief that the more democratic and less centralised a society is, the better. Reliance on state repression, as, I believe, was particularly common in Saddam’s Iraq, for example, is totally abhorrent to me. Writing the word “repression” removes one rather from the blood and the broken limbs and teeth and screams and bereaved grief and abject fear of torture and death that it actually means.

    Having said that, it depends what you mean by “support”, and it depends, inevitably, on whether one is supporting the bad against the worse. Sandinista Nicaragua was hardly a free society, but it was a paradise compared to what came before it and compared to its immediate neighbours. I am not opposed in practice to every single authoritarian measure everywhere (although I am implacably opposed to states which maintain their rule by the fear of abduction and torture). I believe such measures have to have a very high bar set for justification, and should be maintained for no longer than is absolutely essential.

    I’m being rather vague, I know, and I’m sorry. Ideological support for authoritarian regimes would obviously place someone at the authoritarian end of such a spectrum. Support for jihadists would even more obviously do so, since my understanding of jihadist ideology generally is that it seeks to impose Islamic rule on everyone under its dominion, which is self-evidently fascistic.

    None of that means that people are not free to argue each strategic position of support on its merits, which is what I surmise people disagreeing with you would claim to be doing.

    I hope that assists – it’s the best I can do.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • Rhisiart Gwilym

    Resident – er – Dissident: I don’t think you mentioned from which planet you’re posting. In orbit round Alpha Centauri, is it? Weird you have public figures there with the same names as people well-known here. No other similarities though, evidently.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Resident Dissident
    12/03/16 12:05pm

    I forgot to ask. Where would you place, say, Tony Blair, who was a great enthusiast for Ghadaffi, or Donald Rumsfeld, who was a great enthusiast for Saddam until he started getting uppity? And what does that say about our societies exactly?

    Kind regards,

    John

  • Rhisiart Gwilym

    Or is it just the unclarity of your grammar that’s foxing me? Could be.

  • Chris Jones

    Perhaps you’re stuck in 1976 if you’re still analyzing politics by looking through a left right dialectic prism? What we have in power is a corporate elite who are both fascist and communist (communism will be for us of course) Yes,it is also called….drum roll….’the illuminati’

    Anyone who genuinely claims that ‘Immigration concern is racist’ is either extremely naive, an extreme liberal bigot who has been severly brainwashed by extreme liberalism/progressiveness or just generally confused. I’m sure that whatever the case, it is well intentioned but then the road to hell is littered with good intentions.

    As another commenteator has asked ‘Is Tibet racist for being concerned about Chinese enforced immigration’ What about Palestine? What about many African countries? Were the Iraqi people racist for opposing the mass military invasion of their country? Are the German people racist for opposing a million new immigrants in to their country?-many of whom nobody knows where they’ve come from. Etc etc.

    In short – a genuine liberal would not make believe such a statement as ‘Immigration concern is racist’ . However, someone conditioned and brainwashed by political correctness and liberal bigotry, however well intentioned, would. Maybe intelligent people like Mr Murray are able to recognise these flaws and learn from them??

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Calling people far left is just a convenient putdown, as it has lost any real political significance since the communists, practicing state capitalism, ruined the possibility of radical change.

    Now it is reserved for those who want political independence, some apparent improvement, or just some semblance of truth about the shit going on.

    It all started with me during the 1970s when my Catholic employer considered me an extremist for wanting to know who killed its only President and why.

  • Chris Jones

    @Trowbridge H. Ford “Calling people far left is just a convenient putdown”

    And would you say the same about calling people far right as well? Or does your indignancy and sense of justice only extend one way?

    Again, what we have in place now is the worst from the far left and the far right-both fascism and communism. In short totalitariansim by any means necessary

  • Resident Dissident

    “Yes,it is also called….drum roll….’the illuminati’”

    Oh dear another one. The Rothschilds and the Khazars are bound to follow in due course.

    “Where would you place, say, Tony Blair, who was a great enthusiast for Ghadaffi, or Donald Rumsfeld, who was a great enthusiast for Saddam until he started getting uppity?”

    As mistaken – but at least they realised the error of their ways unlike many here who still worship them as “great socialists” and heroes.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Don’t recall calling anyone far right, even Dick Cheney, though he clearly is.

    Only defended him when some loony conspiracy theorist claimed that he was behind the assassination of poor John P. Wheeler, III, when it was apparently done by the Bidens.

    I don’t look for persons political aims and associations, only if they are involved in foul deeds,

    For example, I never objected to Nixon being a Republican, only his being deeply involved of the state assassinations during the 1960s and early ‘seventies.

  • Chris Jones

    @Resident Dissident – “Oh dear, another one. The Rothschilds and the Khazars are bound to follow in due course”

    Great bit of conceited smugness there-good job. Now put down your Guardian and Frappuccion and do some research in to luciferiansim, the illuminati, freemasonry, the work of Albert Pike, John Robinson, Carrol Quigley, Brzezinsky, Eustace Mullins for starters. Then look at the blood soaked history of the Rothchilds, the Rockafellas, the Hapsburgs,Warburgs, the Morgans, the Schiff family, the Dupont’s, Hanovers. the Krupps. Then come back and refute any claims of luciferianism illuminati. By all means remain smug and dismissive yourself but, incase I’m right, you might want to secretly let friends and loved ones know of these dark revolutionaries and what they are trying to do

  • Loony

    Resident Dissident – The examples you reference are not nearly as interesting as the examples you do not reference (Morsi, the House of Saud, Kim Il Jong etc).

    Excluding the non state actors, it may be instructive to understand what your examples have in common. Thus Syria, Iraq, Libya and much of the FSU all contain populations potentially divided by religious or tribal differences. Differences that could see (and has seen in Syria, Libya and Iraq) a descent into sectarian violence. Similar, but more widespread and damaging, than the sectarian violence that has afflicted Northern Ireland.

    It would appear that these problems can often be contained temporarily by the presence of “strong man” leaders. Leaders, which your post insinuates, you do not approve of. You have previously expressed the view that immigration to the EU is only opposed by racists. Therefore non racists must want to import the seeds of sectarian violence into the EU. They must then either want widespread civil disorder or a set of leaders bearing resemblance to Assad, Ghaddafi and Saddam.

    Another commonality to your examples is that your referenced states are all resource rich. This is not strictly true in the case of Syria – but access to Syrian territory is deemed necessary in order to provide an overland export route for Qatari gas reserves.

    None of your examples showed much interest in dealing with the west on their terms (i.e. they did not want to exchange their natural resources for freshly printed US$). Therefore they had to go – and by and large they have been removed by overwhelming violence masked by a policy of sophistry and dissembling.

    The crucial exception is the most important exception. Russia is the depositary of last great reserves of natural resources. Resources which naturally belong to the west and not to the Russians. Hence the prize of Russia is the ultimate end game. Russians may be many things but they are not stupid and they are well able to defend themselves. So the west and its bought and paid for intellectual class can fulminate all it likes but it matters nothing. If you really get on Russian nerves they will kick your head in.

    The only real question of interest is whether the west is now so stupid and so delusional that they launch a nuclear war merely because Russia will not hand over its national treasure and worship at the feet of the false idol of diversity.

  • Resident Dissident

    “You have previously expressed the view that immigration to the EU is only opposed by racists.”

    No I haven’t.

    And I’m quite happy to add others to the list such as the House of Saud, the Chinese Communist Party, KIm Il Jong – it has nothing to do with being anti racist or about oil – its to do with basic human rights.

    Since I am married to a Russian and have worked there I suspect that I know rather more about Russians than you do.

  • Herbie

    Res Diss

    You’re so laughably superficial.

    Looney and others have pointed to economic and financial issues as having no small part in the world’s problems.

    All you can do is list the names of those you consider baddies, as if that’s some sort of analysis, and even worse that it’s some way of sorting things out.

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