I meant to post something about this a couple of months ago. Better late than never. I’m not dead yet.
The other Miliband would have us know he’s not dead yet, just the “Big State.” He appears to be putting together the rudiments of a political vision and manifesto since Ed is too busy at the moment to be bothered with such things. Perhaps, now… well … wouldn’t that be an exquisite form of entertainment down the road. A little political fratricide drama. Marvellous.
This blog was never intended for political asides. Then again, its only intention being to not be a theo-blog, I don’t see the problem in making some simple political remarks. Here are my knee-jerk reactions to DM’s “Seven Steps to Heaven Strategy for the Left”:
Firstly, it should be obvious to everyone that the purpose of the state is not to exist per se. The state serves the needs of the society. Therefore, reform of the state is in some ways always the overarching political mandate as those needs change or become either clarified or compromised. A point to DM for stating what should be the obvious.
Secondly, local political change means first and foremost actual flesh-and-blood political engagement. Complete disenfranchisement is the character of the age. Technological tyranny in service of power can only be resisted through such engagement. A point to DM.
Thirdly, I think it is good, right and salutary that the rubric of “social justice” is that which “provides a good guide to the competing demands of liberty, justice and equality.” However, the fourfold “scaffold” which DM presents is to me evidence of a deep bankruptcy of the actual level of commitment to the cause of social justice on the Left. Particularly, to state a need merely for a “thorough assault on inequality of opportunity” is completely insufficient. Of course everyone wants to live in a meritocracy. That is the Gospel of the modern world. Of course, everyone believes, as an article of their modern faith, that we must be about the business of providing a “level playing field” (not my metaphor – I abhor it, the very antithesis of solidarity this “life is a combat sport of all versus all” Weltanshauung). It is time to gore this sacred cow. This false Gospel of “equality of opportunity” is a mask (as is the façade of “meritocracy”) which hides the legitimation of institutionalised social injustice. In the words of Zygmunt Bauman:
“Equality of opportunity” means, in fact, equal chances to make the best of inequality; indeed, equality of opportunity is an empty notion unless the social setting to which it refers is structured on a basis of inequality. Thus the very use of the term, in a sense, sanctifies and accepts as a constant predicament what socialism is bent on annihilating.* (quoted in Michael Newman’s Socialism, 2005)
No points to DM. In fact, I deduct a point on account of this demagoguery.
Fourthly, we “need a politics of economic growth, not just redistribution and regulation” claims DM. Why? Because “the battle … is about responsible capitalism. It is also about productive capitalism.” Now this is about as Left as my right shoe. No points to DM. But it is worse than simply being as Right as my right shoe. It is a complete betrayal of some of the most viable alternatives to come out of social democratic thinking and capitalist critique in the 20th century. Are we simply to believe that growth as a given necessity while responsible discussion needs to address matters of catastrophic importance like sustainability, the finitude of natural resources, the subordination of life, liberty and humanity to the pursuit of profit? Sorry, I must deduct one point.
Fifthly, I have no idea what DM is trying to say here. The text is opaque to me. I’m not sure, but suspect, that buried within all the blah-dee-blah about “the international context” and “problems confronting all advanced western countries” and “profound shifts in the global power balance” and “the greatest strategic judgements” is some neo-con obscurantism, a feeble, war-mongering soul-cry: “I was right about Iraq, dammit!” No DM. You weren’t. And since I don’t understand at all what you’re trying to say here I’m giving you no points. And deducting one. On account of Iraq.
Sixthly, “we continue to need to modernise the party itself.” Splendid. Marshall the troops. Brother vs. brother. A coup! For the sheer entertainment value that this would bring I give you a point.
Seventhly: Hey Labour! We need to tell everybody about how great we once were. Yes, DM I can see how that might console you. Half a point to you. A pity point.
So the final tally. 3 points. Minus 3 points. Plus one-half a point. A pity point. DM gets one half of a point from me. Over to you Greens.