The Economist: Political Economy Failing

The Economist has this interesting snippet about the potential for unrest, with a common global backdrop of the financial crisis(which is as yet incomplete). When the centre position of the political economy fails, all that upholds it falls away, revealed layer by layer as illegitimate, until the centre position dying is addressed. Crisis will grow and spread to each part of that political economy, and repeat until we have addressed this. Crisis in media, in finance, in Westminter…crisis projected out to a Britain not broken, revealing the problems with our current political economy.

This takes a while.

This is why the left will see no rebirth. They are merely a wheel within our political economy who have been used to maintain the status quo. Their flaws have been revealed as  a hidden culture was exposed to the cold light of day. The political spectrum is redefining with or without a Westminster response, and the left as a layer of political inertia will continue to crumble into crisis, until that is done. This is now about the cumulative failures of left and right coming t fruit in the institutions that underpinned that post war settlement.

This snippet says Britain is at medium risk of social unrest, but we have a very specific pattern of social change in this country, and while we are in a much bigger crisis than austerity, we generally respond to these situations in very distinct ways.

We reach the limits of our political economy periodically. There is no revolution coming. We are in the middle of a renegotiation. The problem is that this is not just about us as lefty/righty tribes on a teeny weeny island, the global post war settlement is over. We cannot even begin understand the implications of that for our future until the conversation changes.  So we just have to wait as crisis upon crisis force that debate to move.

We need to be talking about our social policy, our economic system, it’s relationship with intersecting inequality and the flaws that are becoming apparent in a media democracy. Our changed position in a changed world.  Plan for a future in that world. Not made up lefty nonsense sitting as a scab over the wounds that would be healed by that discussion.

UNISON purging activists who disobeyed the Labour line, and the SWP

UNISON  took dues to represent millions of the lowest paid(mainly female) public sector workers in the country. When they did this they were representing the workers best able to have the conversation about the intersection of class, gender, social policy, our economic system. They represented social care workers, social workers, administrators and the services the most vulnerable people in our system relied on. They were the last line of defence for local democracy. Social work is the shadow neo liberalism casts, and those women were the women who had a substantive critique of what was happening. Austerity was not new for the members of this trade union.

UNISON members were targeted repeatedly, with benefit changes, job losses and service changes. They were often charged with delivering austerity and holding it together for the vulnerable people they served, while being disenfranchised and being hammered by austerity themselves. These were many of the women who saw equality rolled back.

As a union, UNISON spent austerity purging members who challenged the Labour line that ‘some cuts’ were ok, as long as it was their members and services hit. While Dave Prentis took a massive salary. They didn’t just kick them out of the union, they tried to make them unemployable forever.

They justified this purging of activists with the continued existence of obsolete lefty entryism tactics, which were still used by the SWP. The SWP gave them the reason they could sell out millions of low paid workers, and the service users who needed them, and they gave them the reason to attack anyone who challenged the consensus on local authority cuts.  Just as the labour orbiting press culture were willing to attack anyone who mentioned that consensus within earshot.

When I started writing about this I spent days on the phone to different trade unions. They all knew. They called UNISON ‘The Witchfinder Union’. I sat with a drunk union bureaucrat who joked about this being common knowledge, but it was just a women’s union. Apparently everyone knows UNISON don’t function as a union, they hide behind bureaucracy and poor record keeping. I wish I had known this when they were taking money from my salary to act as an ineffective part of the disciplinary procedures within local authorities. The SWP were the reason they got away with it. They were so obnoxious that this was justified.

The complex debate about public services role in our economy, inequality, how it manifests in the lives of the most vulnerable people in the country, the voices of millions of women, lost under Labour focused tribalism and stupid lefty factionalism.

A demonstration of how obsolete left wing cultures protect Labour priorities and disenfranchise millions. That the SWP were also a cult who exploited idealistic students and covered up rape of those young idealistic students, was not a surprise. Here is a blog written by Anna Chen(co-shortlistee for Orwell prize).  It is the only blog worth reading on the subject of how that particular culture operated.

The death rattle of the SWP is not unwelcome, it is accompanied by cheering. Like the cheering that accompanied the statement ‘women lie’ at their conference. The confusion the left have about the difference between being useless and having no effect is nearly over.

Beyonce Knowles and Lily Allen

Pop music is the part of popular culture that I have always consumed. The only part of popular culture that is spoken by women, to women, with everyone else sneering. A stick to beat us with, by those who just need an excuse to sneer. Lily Allen and Beyonce are just that part of popular culture reflecting a change which is evident everywhere but our political media. I don’t think either of them care if you think they are ‘good feminists’ meeting the requirements of an organochav media class.

A media revolution with a pop soundtrack is with us and it is miles better than anything the Labour left are currently offering.

Great Article by Dawn Foster- Working Class ‘feminism’. Alive and kicking hard.

Working class feminism is alive and well, and it doesn’t need ‘re-branding’

DAWN FOSTER 13 December 2013
 

The recession has caused a political resurgence amongst women in some of our poorest communities, but both their experiences and political activities have often been sidelined by the media’s vilification of working-class people and the individualistic preoccupations of ‘re-branded’ consumer-feminism.

People will always judge you when you’ve got two kids and no job,” Donna, a 21-year old single mother tells me in Brixton library one afternoon. “Especially because my eldest is mixed. You can see their faces making up ideas about you before you’ve barely said anything. And they’re like “Well why did you have kids then?” but they’re here now, so now what?” Donna’s point chimes with much of the discussion of the working class, and especially working class women, in the media.

Poverty, we’re told by our political betters, is a result of laziness and a lack of “aspiration”. The Daily Mail’s front page following the conviction of Mick Philpott, a photo of Philpott with some of his children, emblazoned with the headline “Vile Product of Welfare UK” provoked outrage for making a cheap political point from the death of six children. But this was merely the culmination of years of vilification and monstering of the British underclass, at the hands of politicians and the media, keen to use the welfare system as an easy target to score approval points amongst voters.

Much of the debate around reproductive rights centres around the right to abortion, and the affordability of childcare. Increasingly, media and political narratives have singled out women like Donna, and any families who choose to have children on low incomes. The language used to describe large working class families, especially those (read, all) who rely on benefits to make ends meet, is more akin to farming than discussing your fellow man. The middle class “have children”, whereas the working class “breed”. For many working class people, the poisonous invective against “dependency culture” leaves them fighting to justify their existence, and their right to start a family. Working class female sexuality is similarly depicted as bovine and boorish, the “wrong” kind of promiscuity, while a glitzier, posher sexuality, bound up in consumerism, is sold to us constantly through the media as liberation.

Earlier this year, the IPPR published research into feminism and class and how many working class women felt feminism has failed them. Dalia Ben-Galim, the IPPR’s associate director said “While feminism has delivered for some professional women, other women have been left behind. Many of the advances for women at the top have masked inequality at the bottom. The ‘break the glass ceiling’ approach that simply promotes women in the boardroom has not been as successful in changing family-friendly working culture or providing opportunities for other women to advance. Gender still has a strong independent impact on women’s earnings prospects – but class, education and occupational backgrounds are stronger determinants of a woman’s progression and earnings prospects.”  Higher education has a much higher impact on raising pay for women than men – as the IPPR report points out, and this is borne out in how pay, and quality of life has improved dramatically for middle class women, in a way that has been markedly slower for working class women.

And austerity is an intrinsically gendered issue. It hits women far harder than men, as research repeatedly confirms. Cuts to tax credits, caps on benefits, the introduction of the bedroom tax, the squeeze on jobs and wages, and pay cuts of 6% in real terms over the last five years hit women disproportionately, as the lowest earners and primary caregivers. The glass ceiling isn’t absolute: the poorest women find their earning potential stalls at a far lower level than their university educated and middle class counterparts. And while cultural feminism may up click-rates on a headline, it is economics that affects women’s lives day in, day out, stunting life chances and locking people into poverty.

The tendency to focus on vocal self-definition as a “feminist” has become a distraction, with campaigns to encourage those who don’t self-identify as feminists to do so, whilst simultaneously overlooking ordinary women’s concerns, and ignoring the work and campaigns these women are doing to fight back and improve their lot. The most publicised campaigns, as Lola Okolosiepoints out, “do not reflect the most pressing needs of the majority of women, black and minority-ethnic women included. The problem is not that these campaigns exist, but that they are given a focus and attention that overshadows other work feminists are engaged with”.  In the biannual lifestyle spreads on “the resurgence of feminism” media savvy campaigns, especially if they feature young, photogenic women in slogan t-shirts or costumes, are routinely name-checked in these stories, but grassroots campaigns on benefits, low pay, housing and childcare, campaigns that tend to attract working class, older women, find their activities confined to the back pages of their local papers, if they don’t upset the applecart too much.

An obsession with individualism and personal choice is costing the movement at large. The tired debate on “rebranding” feminism, personally identifying as a feminist, and pigeonholing different campaigns as “waves’ smacks of a movement that prizes “awareness” over action. Lucy Mangan argues “”Rebranding” – like all forms of marketing – is the ultimate in dickering about at the edges. It’s so much easier than actually creating something whose worth people will come to recognise”.  Much of the discourse around “rebranding” feminism focuses less on the universal problems that structural inequality causes, and more on, to borrow Rhian E Jones words, reaching out to “the thick and theoryless”: women who are mischaracterised as unenlightened and othered due to their class and socioeconomic position. The idea that there isn’t a working class feminist movement until it defines and speaks of itself in terms the middle class approves of is tiresome and reductive. The recession has caused a political resurgence amongst women in some of our poorest communities – people who for years were cowed by the media narrative that demonised them and bemoaned their very existence.

Many community campaigns against the cuts, or for better work and conditions are led by women – women who are vocal, politically savvy, and have an understanding of economics informed by the fact that every aspect of their life in underpinned by the smallest cuts to benefits and wages. Talk of how feminism can “reach out” to women who are often active, but who don’t consider their gender to be separate from their class, ethnicity or economic status misses the point and condescends. Working class feminism is alive and well, even if it doesn’t focus on “brands” and selling an idea.

Piece in the Telegraph

When austerity started, I was naiive. I stumbled across an elite left wing media entry ground. Instead of ‘fighting the cuts'(a facile term  for challenging an acceleration of an economic and social policy transformation, triggered by a financial crisis, which actually indicated the wisdom underpinning that particular type of political economy was over) I found myself in a situation where I had to rapidly learn about a bit of the system that exists for a reason. And has existed for a long time.

Like many others, my illusions about our democracy shattered and not only was there never a chance of ‘fighting the cuts’ but I got to find out why.

My blog, which has never been anything but my own personal perspective growing as I learn, ended up being a year of frustration.  I learned that a blockage in our democracy rooted in two elite universities, and a few media institutions, quite literally exists to prevent change.

To construct an identity they spend their days imagining versions of a working class they are entitled to treat as political capital, while the actual working class sit there and wonder where democracy went. Everyone I know, complex and different as they are, seen as nothing but the ‘base’ upon which a few privileged men and women can base their media and political ambitions.

A culture with no connection to anyone or anything I know, just assume they have the right to spend this political capital. On the basis of fairy stories about the history of everyone and everything around me. The more misery experienced by that political capital, the more fuel for their careers.

I learned there has always been political consensus on those austerity hit hardest and that consensus came not only from political parties, but from the political cultures that protected and underpinned them and claimed to speak for us. This has been the case since at least the end of World War 2.

Not only do they have the right to speak for anyone they choose, acting however they choose, but unlike other political forces, they do not need to earn that right. It is theirs for the taking and we should be grateful.

I watched as austerity unfolded, fairly straightforward to understand, and learned that our elite left wing media and the protective radical fringe around it, are the electric fence to change. The culture that disenfranchises the working class.

Working very hard at it and protecting  the status quo with dangerous and nasty behaviour, designed to put anyone off the idea that change is possible. Existing solely to prevent any discussion which might lead to change.

I had to drop every illusion I ever held about institutions I thought  I understood. Learn that ‘left’ is a culture and not the ideas and causes they claim as theirs. A class, who protect their self image viciously and cry victim should anyone threaten that.

Learn that The Guardian and The Telegraph sell  exactly the same product, with exactly the same effect, for political parties motivated by exactly the same thing. Only one of those newspapers,  and one of those parties, sell it with graphic depictions of the misery it causes, and demand the right to be seen as saving those people. The other is just fulfilling their natural role in our democracy. Representing who they say they represent.

I needed a way to demonstrate how this radical protective fringe and media culture protected and sold austerity, and I needed a way to send this culture a message that this had been noted and is unacceptable.

One of the benefits of writing in a digital age is that writing an article is not just about the words you use. You can reliably use the reaction to an article to demonstrate it’s premise, and you can use the left as they are used by the right. So I approached the Telegraph and asked if I could write an article for them. They said yes.

I wrote just over 700 words about this toxic culture that had been preserved at the expense of everyone I knew. Nurtured in elite university bedrooms, to  maintain a status quo that has to change.

The last paragraph of that article did not need writing, it was to be written by those it described.  I crossed my fingers and hoped I would get a demonstration of how the radical fringe of our left wing culture, protect the ability of one political party and one political paper to disenfranchise everyone I know, while they learn to live under this acceleration of a political economy that is nearly dead. I needed a demonstration of how the left wing of our political culture disenfranchise the working class now. To demonstrate how they always have.

Thankfully they obliged. In spades. The left are a bit predictable like that.

As the torrent of predictable responses demonstrated the premise of the article, and they fought for the only thing they have ever fought for, self image, the niche culture I wrote about finished my article for me.

As they demonstrated the accuracy of what I wrote, I was able to send a message directly into the political party and the publications who support them, that this was no longer acceptable. This is quite a new power dynamic available in our political economy. One brought about by the internet.

In a country where the left wing press dance entirely to the tune of the right, I was able to demonstrate that a revolution has already occurred. The days of faux tribalism being able to sell absolute political consensus, disenfranchising millions of people, are nearly over.  Along with the healthy livings the left make doing so.

When the only difference between the product sold by the Guardian and the Telegraph is the tone, it is liberating for those it is being sold at the expense of, to be able to do this. No-one is required to protect the self image of those who want to sell austerity by preventing us discussing it, even if they want to believe they are doing it for our benefit.

The only difference between what the Telegraph sell and what the Guardian sell, is the Guardian like the misery it causes to fill their pages. I was able to demonstrate that the faceless poor demonised Chavs, are not only the most educated working class in history, but new media dynamics mean we can walk freely through the walls of the press and will eventually break them down.

Readers of this blog will know that I don’t write regularly enough for it to be considered my profession, nor do I make any money from it. My butchery of the english language knows no bounds. I can’t have a job where I have to notify my daughters school and the local police station every time I work, so I don’t write for publication, or interact with the left at all.

I would like to thank Damian Thompson at Telegraph blogs, for giving me the opportunity to send that message to our left wing media culture, and I hope he didn’t get too much stick for allowing me to do so.

Here is my piece for Telegraph Blogs. The most effective piece of political writing ever to emerge from this battered old craptop.

The last article I wrote for the Guardian

This is the last article I wrote for the Guardian. I said we need a grown up debate about ‘welfare’. I meant it. The Guardian are currently unable to host such a debate, their priority is Labour’s austerity priorities and the perpetuation of an echochamber which supports many healthy careers and disenfranchises an awful lot of people to do so. The Guardian’s role in political debate is to keep parameters narrow and maintain the status quo.

When I said I would have the debate on my own if I had to, I meant it. When I encountered ‘the left’ as they exploited austerity as a career opportunity, I explained clearly that my purpose in meeting them was not to further their careers but to address something happening to me and millions of others. They educated me in how the issues I want to discuss had never been addressed, and in their behaviour showed exactly how an elite echochamber is maintained.

I am grateful for this education and wish to be clear. This debate will be had. One of the benefits of political consensus, is that the narcissism of small difference that defines our party and press system does not afflict those who bear the consequences. We can wander freely through walls that are defined only so a homogenous culture can differentiate themselves from each other and maintain their preferred status quo.

I will write for the Guardian again when they are able to clearly state in their political editorial that a mother should not be defined by her relationship status and her children be punished with poverty because of it. For a newspaper that sees itself as the home of feminism, it beggars belief they are unable to do so. Discussion about the extent to which women should be disenfranchised is not political discussion, I told them this during the selling of Blue Labour and I am using this post to tell them this again. If they cannot do this, their continued exploitation of the misery they perpetuate for poverty porn is unacceptable.

Mean old tories, save the starving children and Mothers.

There have been quite a few tweets recently, talking about austerity and how the mean old Tory austerity is resulting in starving children. This rhetoric is deeply dangerous, deeply insulting and misleading.

A child being diagnosed with malnutrition, is a child protection issue and it should be. Malnutrition develops over a long period of time and a child who has malnutrition for reasons that are not about other health problems, is a child who is being neglected. Seriously neglected.

We have an increase in malnutrition in the UK, a massive increase, it was understood within a year of the election that 1 in 5 mothers was missing meals. The use of food banks has risen and there is no doubt that parents are going without food so their children can eat. This is not the same as children not eating. The two are not linked and often the reason parents go without food, or develop malnutrition, or use foodbanks is because they go without so their children don’t. This is a very reliable assumption.

A parent in poverty is not the same as a neglectful parent and parents reliably will go to extreme lengths to protect their children from the consequences of poverty. When you are saying austerity is resulting in children going hungry, you are actually saying parents in poverty are neglecting their children whether you understand it or not.

The rhetoric about starving children is misleading and creates a dangerous and frightening climate for parents in poverty. Getting my daughter to eat breakfast is a monumental task, it can take up to two hours and involves me offering about 3 times the amount she will actually eat. Children often take a lot of encouragement to eat breakfast.

A child at school hungry is not a sign their parent is not feeding them, but the rhetoric about austerity Britain resulting in starving children, means that the parents in poverty whose children don’t breakfast for the same reason as middle class children, face assumptions and judgements that are generally without foundation. That their parents have not fed them cannot be assumed, but the rhetoric about austerity ensures that IS the first assumption that comes to mind.

Teachers in poor communities, assuming that a hungry child is the same as a neglected child are often making those assumptions in an environment fed by dangerous rhetoric about starving children.

It has always been understood that mothers will act as ‘shock absorbers’ of poverty and the hardship that parents will subject themselves to, to prevent their children feeling it is astounding. When people suggest that food bank use, or parents going without food is a sign that children are going hungry they are doing those parents a great disservice and creating a dangerous and frightening climate for those parents. One where parents are afraid to seek help fro fear of being seen as neglectful.

They are also creating a climate where REAL neglect can be hidden and where children can suffer as a result.

I developed malnutrition last year, as a consequence of pregnancy related problems exacerbated by poverty. I wrote this guide. Even with that, even at my income level, there is no reason for my child to ever go hungry. Neglect and  being poor are different and a child not being given enough to eat is neglect. To conflate the two in well meaning political rhetoric is dangerous and it is deeply damaging and creates a very frightening climate for parents already doing their best.

Partisan political points are outrageous because the stance that ensured the rise in malnutrition in parents, is shared by Labour. They are policies subject to political consensus. To imply that parents in poverty are neglecting their children, to make party political points is deeply exploitative, misleading and damaging.