Originally published May 2nd 2020
Given I’m working from home for the foreseeable future, and feeling very lucky in that regard, especially in relation to my friends, family and flatmates on zero hours contract left at the mercy of their employers to decide on the status of employment and pay during the looming Covid19 lockdown, I’ve decided to reactivate this site for the purposes of blogging.
It will remain a repository for my music and sound work, but this is an effort to pull something productive out of this period of self-isolation. I’m partly inspired by my recent discovery of Xenogothic’s blog, as well of my reading of his recent book on Mark Fisher. Further to this, Sydney Review of Book’s excellentmultipart group conversation on the influence of the early to mid 2000’s blog network, of which Fisher was the most well known (and in many ways, most imposing) figure, and which I contributed to myself on a much less heralded scale, has me submitting to the precise kind of retrograde, nostalgic flourish Fisher would no doubt have disdained without reservation.
To begin, I want to expand on a post I made yesterday on Facebook.
The announcement of the 330bn package of loans and “guarantees” by the chancellor yesterday, which will take the shape of government backed loans and credits to businesses, has been greeted breathlessly and with a staggering lack of basic interrogation by establishment media institutions, as well as the perennial useful idiots of the liberal commentariat. The latter remain perversely committed to a bizzaro cupcake fascism of endless Blitz spirit bullshit, in which the sinister incantation to “pull together” holds sway. It is apparently deemed in the poorest of tastes to not couch their meek crticisisms with an acknowledgement that these measures are “impressive, regardless of your politics”, or some similar platitude.
This is most apparent in the broad regurgitation of the keyword that Tory advisers and strategists had clearly instructed Johnson and Sunak to hammer home at every opportunity. Anyone doubtful of the structural inability of establishment media to hold power to account in this country should look no further than the rapid turnover between the “unprecedented” descriptor transforming from pre-meditated framing device into accepted reality, a linguistic reification taken root with apparently little to no attempt made to highlight or foreground aspects of this package that fall short or leave the most vulnerable workers still unsure about their employment status or rights to pay over the coming months.
Further to this, there was the deeply dispiriting undertone of admiration and deference in the questions asked of the government yesterday, with an inexplicable sense of detachment on display from so many reporters in the room after the announcement. If questions were asked at all about the status of tenants or those on zero hours they were presented in such a way so as to never probe too deeply into the gaping inadequacies at the heart of these proposals, and were specifically shorn of anything approaching a level of moral indignation on behalf of the vulnerable that any journalist worthy of the name might deem at least occasionally appropriate. The cowardly appeal to professionalism, the quietist diversionary tactic of not wishing to “score political points” for fear of upsetting the playbook of bourgeois morality that governs these palpably chummy affairs is never far away here, and is the kneejerk defence mechanism of that most political of voices, the one that raises itself to assert that it is apolitical. Partisanship and emotion, in these circumstances, are cast as inherently foreign to the rules that govern the parlour game of the media class.
Blitz Spirit (430,000 dead civilians by the way).
Stiff upper prick.
Fucking Bake Off.
Cliff fucking Richard at Wimbledon.
I actually have little interest in arguing about how precedented or otherwise the package offered is. It’s a fools errand that plays into the deliberate use of the term and one straight out of the grotty little Poujadist playbook of a Toryism, that remains dedicated above all to the preservation of finance capital and the social elite but will seek to sell this intervention as an incomparable contribution. It will be presented as a buttressing of many of their newly acquired, post industrial constituencies that make up the much trumpeted former Red Wall, against the coming economic uncertainty hitting areas already battered by years of the poverty endemic to neoliberalism. I remain convinced that while it is indisputable that the Tories will remain, structurally, for as long as they exist and are imbricated into every facet of a capitalist political economy built on the ill gotten gains of imperialism, one built off the backs of a ruthlessly exploited proletariat, the natural party of the elite and of finance institutions in this country. They will remain so in a way so inextricable as to be in some senses without comparison in many other countries.
But I do think it a theoretical and tactical error for those of us on the radical left to conclude that this current iteration of the Conservative party will act and present itself in the same way in terms of how it engages with the presentation of its own narratives, myths and self and projected images as it has done previously. The system it upholds is the same, but in the post-post-Fordist immaterial economy of call centres and warehouses, the stories it will tell about itself and it’s relationship to the working class communities it now tragically, infuriatingly represents in parliament will change. They will present all interventions and packages not for what they are: as measures avoided for as long as possible and that will prove fatal for some should the predictions of us being just a few weeks behind Italy in terms of the pressures our NHS and care systems are about to face be proven correct. They will present them as the epitome of the vulgar self image that animates so much of the most reactionary forces in everyday and public life in the UK, one of a lumpen, grotty little island of reactionary beligerents pissed up on xenophobia to a degree only the most pathetic of former empires can be.
It will be a cynical mainlining of ahistorical sentiments that erase the contributions of working class movements of solidarity and socialism of which immigrants, non white people, women, queers and the disabled have wrenched from the hand of capital and the state every benefit and right we have today to arrive at the illusion of a cross class hegemony that the John Harris’s and Lisa Nandy’s of this world, with their interminable homogenisation of The Left Behind and Towns will be every bit as responsible for having incubated as the continuity Thatcherism of Blair and Cameron.
It will be a melange of base nationalistic sentiment, crossbred with appeals to the most inherently reactionary sections of working class communities. It will be one made deliberately to play into the now decades long drip effect of vicious media coverage and government policies that have fostered class on class ostracization and meanness, egging on the venom directed at the“non working poor” by the working poor, coaxed as it already has been so adeptly into outright red baiting and a casting of radical socialist politics as the preserve of a liberal, effete section of hypocrites, instead of something people arrive at directly through, to invoke Bill Haywood, the marks of capital on their backs.
It will maintain the power of political and financial elites entirely, but it will not be a rehash in execution or narrative of Thatcherism, and our responses to it and framing of our collective resistance to it must therefore not be rehashes also. But that’s for another blog post…
To round this post off I’d like to make it clear that I think one particularly fruitless avenue of framing, and one I’m seeing posted and tweeted fairly consistently, if admittedly often by well meaning people with sound politics and good intentions, is that what the Tories announced yesterday is them doing socialism, or acknowledging that a socialist response is necessary and that this is somehow a gotcha moment for the free marketeeers. Leaving aside the necessary but often torturous intra-left discussions about how we define socialism –a vital debate, which I will return to, but is beyond the purview of this post – I think this response is self defeating in two ways.
Firstly, it plays directly into the artificial cross class narrative that I’ve outlined above, giving the governments plans far too much credit and association with any cache attached to socialism, a cache I suspect the Tory party would perhaps counterintuitively be very pleased to be associated with given the numerous surveys that trumpet millennials favourable associations with the ideology over that of capitalism.
Secondly, when looked at in any detail, there’s nothing here to give much succour to small businesses let alone the zero hours workers many of those businesses are no doubt about to shaft as their pay and conditions are the first things to be discarded as the bosses that never gave a shit enough to even class their employees as workers and provide them with decent salaries and statutory pay in the first place tighten their belts amidst the uncertainty. The 330 billion on offer is made up of loans, offered “on a competitive rate of interest” so that the bank of England will still be making money off an economy that urgently needs investment and grants. Loans simply ensure so many workers in non unionised workplaces, working under an appalling lack of contract rights are now relying on the charity of their employers, who may well make the decision that it’s cheaper for them to close or dismiss staff until the crisis is over as opposed to taking out loans they aren’t sure will ever be paid back. There is nothing to guarantee these loans, if taken out by employers, will be used to cover the pay of workers on the kind of contracts the vast majority of our heavily service and platform based model of capitalism is built on. For these workers, they are at their bosses mercy.
Nothing announced yesterday addresses the fundamental crisis of manufacturing in a globalised neoliberal economy as supply and demand is disrupted so that even in industries based heavily around manufacturing, i.e any of the remaining industries we have left that aren’t the gig economy, aren’t call centre or warehouse or service based, are likely to see temporary short time lay offs for workers. I’d note here that the historic inadequacy and weakness of the mainstream trade union movement post the defeat of the miners, with some heroic exceptions, needs to be held responsible for it’s role in all this too, but again, I’ll save my anarcho-syndicalist critique of those institutions for another post in the interests of brevity.
This isn’t “the tories doing socialism”. It’s proof that every single universal credit related death that happened on their watch and every homeless person you see on the street could have been prevented, but those ongoing and intrinsic aspects of neoliberalism, things they could have prevented at a stroke, never mattered to them or any other government who presided over it. And make no mistake: be especially suspicious and full of scorn, as you always should be, for those who attempt to shut you down with talk of pulling together, of their distaste at your “political point scoring” at this time.
People like them inhabit the most political role of all here.