We Lost Because We Weren’t Big Enough…

Here’s the latest long, long analytical essay for open Democracy. It’s basically trying to look at the whole conjunctural situation of the left in the UK and the US, after the defeats of Corbyn and Sanders and under the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The title might seem like a tautology, but my editor Adam, who’s a very good judge of these things, liked the phrase and pulled it out from the main text to use, and it certainly captures something at the heart of what this is about.

You should definitely read it all or else you’re lazy and a bad comrade. But if you must have a very short summary…

•The left in the US and the UK has been through a very similar process over the past yew years. We built a significant democratic movement for the first time in decades, we tried to take control of the main party of the ‘left’, we had limited success and eventually were denied any chance to form a government.

•We got beaten by two forces….

•On the one hand, the centrist neoliberal technocrats who have run the Democratic and Labour parties for decades ultimately succeeded in blocking us, because the threat posed to their own jobs and status by the rising Left was of more immediate concern to them than, for example, the threat of planetary destruction if the Left’s programme is not implemented soon.

• This opened the door to the electoral success of a right-wing nationalist project (and kept it open), in each case headed by a figure who is popular basically because they used to be on TV a lot and precisely because they present themselves as fundamentally unserious politicians.

•This leaves two major tasks ahead of us: building class consciousness amongst workers to challenge conservative nativism; disaggregating the social bloc that is led by the (neo)liberal technocratic political class. It’s a serious mistake to see these tasks as mutually exclusive or to prioritise either at the expense of the other.

•The big challenge that we’re likely to face in the coming years will be the attempt by the Right to de-legitimate demands for a Green New Deal (or comparable programme),with working-class citizens (especially white working-class citizens). They’re likely to do this both by pursuing culture-war tactics which will seek to associate any Green project with metropolitan ‘elite’ culture and with liberal cosmopolitanism, and by offering some material concessions (safe jobs, relatively affordable homes etc.) to key constituencies of workers.

There’s also stuff about, like, how to theorise racism. But that’s mostly in passing.

In terms of what all this means pragmatically…err….well, one thing is I think people who make viral videos and those kinds of media should really be thinking about how to persuade financially comfortable gen-x voters that the kind of politicians that they habitually like to vote for (eg. Keir Starmer, Kamala Harris) are NOT going to do anything to fix climate change, pointing out again and again that their predecessors (Blair, Clinton, Obama) had every opportunity to do so and failed, because they were ultimately in hock to capitalist interests. Of course we also need to revive the labour movements and organise workers in the rust belts. But that’s not really my area of expertise.

One thing I will say is that I think a particular problem right at this moment is that to some extent, in both the UK and the US, we’re in a holding pattern, waiting to see if Biden can win and if Starmer can ever actually build up a significant poll leads (as Blair already was doing by this point in his leadership). The resolution of either of these issues doesn’t have any overriding effects on our strategies, but it will make a difference to where some people focus their energies and attention. If these figures can consolidate their positions, then we’ll have to do almost all of work outside the party structures, trying to shift actual public opinion among key constituencies. If they don’t, well, we will still have to do that; but the opportunity to once more make a play for power inside the party structures will be too significant – and the temptation too great – for this not to become a preoccupation for at least large numbers of us, once again.

FWIW, while we will know whether Biden has won or not on one day in November (presumably…maybe not though…), the question of when we will ‘know’ if Starmer has managed to stabilise his position or not is more open. But, all other things being equal, I would expect the Labour membership to start getting very restless if he is still pursuing a totally uninspiring strategy of trying to win back centrist and socially-conservative voters, but hasn’t secured Blair-style massive poll leads, by some time next year.

Anyway, that’s enough…I got really useful feedback on this essay from Alex Williams, Anthony Barnett, Adam Ramsay, Neal Lawson and Clive Lewis. Thanks for that!

Some other recent contributions on left strategy, in the UK at at least, that are definitely worth checking out:

https://medium.com/@paulmasonnews/the-left-the-party-and-the-class-1ca7b6a959e6

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/09/labour-starmerism-movement

https://newsocialist.org.uk/guilty-men-thesis-and-labours-route-power/

Remarks on Brexit

My old friend and comrade from Signs of the Times day, Stefan Howald, asked me to answer some general questions about Brexit for his political blog. The blog is in German and my complete set of answers was translated into German here.

I posted the English version here, but then the excellent George Eaton asked for it to be posted on the New Statesman website.
I elaborated a bit more on the original comments, and George gave it an edit, and here it is.

Notes Towards a Theory of Solidarity (talk from the Goldsmiths teach-out)

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A few weeks ago, when many UK university staff were on strike against a major attack on their pension rights, I was invited to speak at the teach-out organised by the   UCU (University and Colleges Union) branch at Goldsmiths, University of London.

I gave a 20-minute talk from notes that I’d made the previous day. The talk provoked a really interesting discussion, and I promised a couple of people that I would make the notes available once I had had time to write them up. Well, I’ve written them up and they’ve become quite long, but that’s not all that surprising. This is still just notes – it’s not supposed to be a worked-out argument. But here it is in case anyone finds it useful.

Acid Corbynism: The Story so Far

(Latest update: September 17th 2019)

This page is about the ‘Acid Corbynism’ project.

(For general  updates, here’s our Facebook Page . At some point we’ll get a proper website)

What is ‘Acid Corbynism’?

If you don’t know what that means then read this short article (then later look at the quite extensive further reading list below).

Podcast!

The ‘ACFM’ podcast, hosted by Novara Media, seems to be the main focal activity of the ‘Acid Corbynism’ project for the moment (it’s the 21st century left, so… when in doubt, podcast).

Does ‘AC’ stand for ‘Acid Communism’ or ‘Acid Corbynism?’. The answer, my friends, is: Yes.

We had a whole issue with the podcast, around being able to use licensed music and still have the podcast appear in the Novara Feed.  The situation has finally been resolved, and we’ve recruited a great editorial team of Olivia Humphreys and Matt Huxley, so future episodes should appear regularly, once a month, from this week. They will appear in the Novara main feed with truncated music clips and the full-length cuts of the episodes will be hosted by them on Soundcloud.

So here’s the full length episode one of the ACFM podcast!

And here’s the link to episode two

Actually I’m going to stop uploading links to every episode as there are too many. Just look HERE for more.

You can subscribe to the Novara feed in iTunes by clicking here: Subscribe in iTunes

(or you can just search for Novara from inside your podcast client)

Also if you want Audio to listen to, then here’s the AUDIO RECORDING of the big Acid Corbynism seminar in February 2018

Writings on Acid Corbynism

Below is all the Acid Corbynist written material I’m aware of, and links to stuff on Mark’s Acid Communism work, and some material of mine that anticipates some of the Acid Corbynism arguments. Yes it’s all men I’m afraid. When we get the book together (yes, there will be a book eventually), it won’t be.

Why the time has come for “Acid Corbynism”

The article already linked to at the top of the page. The shortest and pithiest from me.No really it is. From the New Statesman.

Here is an interview that Casper Hughes did with me about Acid Corbynism for the Independent

 

What is Acid Corbynism?

The first article on the subject, for Red Pepper.

The same article in Italian

Psychedelic Socialism

This is the big one. 7,000 words with lots of philosophical reflection and some discussion of actual psychedelic culture.  By me. For open Democracy of course. If that’s too much for you then look at some of these…

Acid Corbynism: an experimental politics for testing times

By me, for the Conversation. One for the academic audience.

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture

Matt Phull & Will Stronge on revolutionary rave. Well, left-reformist rave.

Acid Corbynism is a gateway drug   

Keir Milburn on consciousness-raising and that. 

How Memes Are Spreading ‘Acid Corbynism’ 

by John Sheil

Acid Corbynism and the Importance of the Psychedelic Counterculture

by Giulio Sica, who  thinks we’re all being too coy about the psychedelics

 

Acid Communism

Here’s some of Mark’s Acid Communism and post-capitalist desire material collated on a website  

It’s a great collection and also includes most of what Mark and I did together. (There’s some thoughts on counterculture in the dialogue between us and ‘Reclaim Modernity has a whole spiel about the legacy of the New Left).

The actual unfinished introduction to Mark’s never-finished Acid Communism book is here: Acid-Communism-Final-MS

And here is Plan C’s collection of Acid Communism material

Also a really good collection. Not sure if there’s anything here that isn’t on the above-mentioned website.

Here’a big feature from the US about Acid Communism from summer 2019

Here’s a very short article where I went into one about how it’s important not to see the counterculture as simply anticipating or leading inevitability to neoliberalism

From 2016

Here’s another place I laid out that argument a bit

From 2012

Here’s a thing I did about Music, dance, affect, and ‘possible worlds’

Originally published in ‘Art Press 2’ in 2010

 

Here are some links to relevant stuff not by white men

It’s a token gesture but until someone who isn’t writes something about Acid Corbynism then it’ll have to do:

Psychedelic Feminism

Decolonizing Yoga

An Ellen Willis Tumblr

Psychedelic Socialism: Acid Communism, Acid Corbynism, the Politics of Consciousness, the Future of the Left

acid-corbynism.jpg

Here is the short article I wrote for Red Pepper about ‘Acid Corbynism’ 

Here is the much longer essay I wrote about the same subject, about Mark Fisher’s idea of ‘Acid Communism’, and the general idea of a utopian psychedelic socialism (pdf), which will soon be published on open Democracy (so if you prefer to read it online you can wait for it to be posted there).

This is all inspired by the Acid Corbynism session at this year’s The World Transformed, organised by Charlie Clarke, Matt Phull, Elliot Dugdale and Will Stronge.

Welcome to the age of Platform Politics- explaining the election result and its implications

So just after the election Alex and I did a talk at the Anti-University of East London event on this subject, which will be central to our forthcoming book (among many other things). The video is HERE

A week or two after that I wrote a long essay on the subject and the implications of the election, but I had already promised to write on this subject for Fabian Review, so I produced a short edited version for them which was published here last week. I did an even shorter version for IPPR but I don’t think that’s been posted yet.

The full length version is on open Democracy HERE.