It is no secret that this blog and my twitter feed has largely been used to deconstruct the culture who define themselves with the word left. First of all we need to define our terms. Left in this instance does not relate to an ideological perspective. It relates to a culture. A very very small culture I came into contact with when I was asked to speak at Oxford University. This cohort at Oxford produced Laurie Penny, Owen Jones, james Butler, and their wider social network is a very small social network who have developed hierarchies that can only exist because democracy has been absorbed by media. We are discussing the glass floor for posh kids. What the ones who are unqualified to do anything else do to get into media and politics. The Guardian, the New Statesman. A protective seal around the media and politics establishment.
Mostly these kids, and we are talking about young post adolescents in a period of identity formation, while they try to climb onto establishment hierarchies, live in a fantasy world. We are talking about the student societies, who in most universties are populated by people who can’t be arsed going to lectures and grow out of it. In these universities at the apex of class reproduction, structures have emerged in the pointless fringes of student politics, which allow them entry to the media and political system that has absorbed our democracy. So they don’t. See Seamus Milne. That small social network, no bigger than the group of friends you knew at university, expect to inherit the power of media and by virtue of Oxbridge and London University cushions they usually would. I know this because I now attend LSE and can see the structures that underpin this glass floor for posh kids. They are objects of ridicule in their world. The wolfie smith phase.
I was invited to Oxford to discuss austerity and the way it would target institutions concerned with social reproduction, the way it would target women. Mothers. Institutins like child protection, our benefits system, the NHS.This is the economy concerned with social reproduction. Raising kids, caring for old people, health, education. Mainly women working in it by the way.
I met these people and observed how our ‘new’ and old media and politics cultures are underpinned by social network firmly rooted in elite institutions that most people are barred from by cost or circumstance. I am very grateful to them for demonstrating this. Had I not met these people, and had the extraordinary experience of witnessing their culture prevent challenge to austerity while building careers off it, while watching my trade union demonstrate the cost of the preservation of left wing culture, at the expense of the most vulnerable people in the country, I would probably be calling myself a lefty still. Had I not witnessed them demand that their small social network be considered half the political spectrum in a country of 64 million people, I probably wouldnt have believed it. Poshest people I have ever met and mindbogglingly stupid, utterly deranged. Debate just infantile enough to fulfil the mainstream media’s requirement and to discredit challenge to the status quo.
What is important about this culture is the structure of the debate they sell. Because it is largely the preservation of fictions about what happened during deindustrialisation, the preservation of a distinct culture, they provide a barrier. They have preserved the memory of the old left to give them a political identity. A barrier that ensures the institutions hammered by austerity had no connection to media, to politics, and increasingly to activism. They live on fairy stories about old left exploits, they recite them in university bedrooms and unlike most student’radicals’ who grow out of it, they expect their delusions to be shared. The have retained the toxic masculinity of the old left, and combined it with an elitism uphed by a tiny social network, and are dangerous. James Butler, Adam Ramsay and their friends led sustained harassment of me because I discussed what happens in child protection teams during strikes. If the needs of child come first, then you pay into the strike fund and you put that child first, perhaps nominating someone to come out for you. This is the difference between institutions concerned with social reproduction, and industry affected by the long gone battles with Thatcher. The care labour that is involved in healthcare, social care, childrens services, cant ever cease, because vulnerable people get hurt. Your duty is to them, not to your employer, not to anyone else. Your colleagues know this and solidarity means supporting each other while putting those people first.
The elite Oxbridge left took their offline social network, online, and truly expected their infantile not very radical politics, to supercede discussion of austerity. As we see with novara media, and the careers of Owen Jones, Laurie Penny, and Aaron and James, they saw austerity as their opportunity and twitter as the digital environment where they would inherit media power over 64 million people. They truly believed the delusions that bind their culture, and having rarely mixed in a world where the idea of defining yourself with the word left is absurd, assumed they had the right to behave as they chose. Which I found out to my cost as I was targeted for weeks by elite students shouting scab, in an effort to teach me about a class solidarity that requires them inheriting media power by virtue of attendance at an elite institution. They truly believe you can inherit media power over 64million people via chatroom and you dont have to win an election to do so.
The reason I critiqued the role of the left in preventing discussion of austerity was this. We are at the end of an inequality cycle. Our economy is cyclical. The reason the climate we are in is reminiscent of the 30s is because our economy is cyclical and history doesnt repeat but it rhymes. I know my history and knew that one of the processes taht would have to happen was that the protective seal around a dead centre position would have to break. I knew this was the last days of the left.
I knew that recording how the left prevented challenge to austerity, how they operated as a protective seal around the media establishment, was important. Is important. Its going to be very important in future, once a new centre position is found. There is no danger, ever, of the left taking power. That is not their function. They are the electric fence to change, as they so kindly demonstrate. They confuse their identity and their function, because they need to carry out their function sincerely.
In addition to this critique of the way in which left wing cultures situated entirely in elite institutions prevented discussion of austerity, and exploited it to create new pathways to media, I developed a critique of the relationship between our social policy, inequality, and our economy. I was able to do this because they showed they were frightened of someone who didnt view their culture as a valid seal around democracy. I was able to do this because I have spent my life in the institutions targeted by austerity and I understand their history. I understand why toxic masculine leftism is not appropriate union leadership for institutions staffed by millions of women, who by definition are politically neutral. I know why inequality can’t be addressed on a left right axes. At LSE I have learned this is deep rooted and wound into conceptulisations of equality in legislation, in disciplines concerned with social policy and economics.
As a result of doing this my daughter was put at risk. Not once. Not twice. But repeatedly. Largely because people like Laurie Penny, James Butler, and the elite brats around them,dont know how to behave with accountability. Because they have never had to. Or expected to. Its a fun day out to put a mask on and beat up a policeman at a protest. They think its their right. Its the same entitlement that afflicts the Bullingdon club. The same use of social network to form identities which entitle you to something. Its not that they wont accept that a country of 64 million people, a modern democratic and developed state, don’t have to get into line behind them because they chose the word left at university, they can’t. And because largely they don’t have any connection with austerity beyond the belief that its their opportunity, and they perform the function of a seal around the establishment, its not possible for them to know the impact of what they do. A single mother with a five year old is ‘the poor’ in their world, and can be targeted in that way for falling outside what an object in their political identity should do. Its a class thing. An entitlement thing. Its acceptable to tafrget a mother and child because she behaved in a way that transgressed their social norms. The fringes of the establishment.
The reason I kept this record is not obsession, it has been useful that left wing elite cultures moved into a chatroom and declared it their future. The reason I did it and continue to do so, is that in about five, maybe ten years, I will need that record. Because we are in the middle of a very important period in history. And the record of the left seal breaking around the neo liberal centre position is important. My aim is the same as it was when I started. To find out why equality could just be rolled back for working class women. It turned out that understanding the left was important in undefrstanding how that could happen. That all the democratic mechanisms that are supposed to represent the millions of women fucked over austerity, are occupied by a tiny weeny weeny elite left culture. Its why Owen Jones can go to the top of PCS direct from Oxford and then claim to be the voice of Chavs. Its why we didnt discuss political consensus on the financialisation of institutions concerned with social reproduction. Its why the fake anti-cuts movement didnt understand the connection between our benefits system and equality. The left can’t address an inequality and instability crisis because they see themselves as mediators for the oppressed. And will bite the oppressed if challenged. They dont understand market forces. They dont understand the institutions targeted by austerity. They only know the fairy stories that preserve them and dont know why they are electorally toxic.
Its not their fault. They are merely a reflection of a problem rooted deep in elite institutions.
Today Aaron was kind enough to demonstrate something for me. The cultural norm of pathologising dissent, of wanting power but not wishing to be accountable, and of defamation and resorting to behaving like a silly little boy, is just the social norm of a media class that are dying. Because Aaron doesn’t understand the economy, society, the institutions and lives impacted by austerity and because he desperately wants to be the new generation of commentariat, he was kind enough to demonstrate. So thanks Aaron. Keep practicing the pout and the bicep curls and am sure you’ll get invited to more media events. Only Aaron you need to read your history. There was never a chance of the left taking over. The left are just the protective seal around the establishment. The record of your culture disappearing and being ridiculous is important. Nothing you broadcast on Novara is.
I will continue to critique the breakdown of this small elite social network of friends, and you need to get over it. Noone is interested in being a lefty or being part of a dying media culture. Sorry. You want to be play at being media, you need to learn the word accountability. And tell your friends that targeting single mothers is not wise. The poor are educated these days.