In support of Jeremy Corbyn

“Of course you know that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed they are, a disgrace? … [T]he forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment [punishment being the third of three inducements to rule, the first two being money and honour] is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself.” Socrates said that, in Plato’s ‘The Republic’, but in Greek originally, obviously. Stupid, innit, bringing ancient Greek political philosophy into a debate about Corbyn. But it isn’t, really. I mean, our entire democratic system is borne of ancient Greek politicial philosophy. The word itself is Greek. So it’s weird, then, that our political thinking and analysis and punditry has become so detached from ancient political wisdom. There is no reason that a vast majority of the truisms of old can’t hold true now. I mean, now we wear lenseless, thick-rimmed glasses and beanies that look like deflated ball-sacks instead of togas, and we carry iPads with Pokemons on them rather than tablets with inscriptions, but really nothing’s changed – not to us, not to our humanity. And it is our humanity, after all, with which politics should concern itself.

 

That quote of Plato’s was what came into my mind when I saw Angela Eagle’s desperate, cynical, grasping, fickle, stupid attempt to become head of the coup currently floundering in the Labour party. That eighties gay-club pink Union Jack scrawled over by the lady’s pretty signature recalls Ed’s Labour’s cynical and mis-judged pink battle bus – a futile attempt to court the female vote. You’ll remember, of course, that Corbyn was a dark horse when he was first nominated to stand in the Labour leadership election of 2015 after Ed’s resignation. He came out of nowhere, he didn’t really put forward a campaign to stand, and he had expressed no desire previously to stand (and not in a Govian the-lady-doth-protest-too-much way – he just had expressed no desire). But he was nominated and then he was elected by the party members. More members elected Corbs than Tories and the Liberal Democrats have combined members in total. Truly, he was an unwilling leader chosen by the people.

 

“And the fear of [punishment], as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help – not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to anyone who is better than themselves, or indeed as good.” (That’s Plato again, by the way.)

 

And ever since taking the podium, Jez has faced slander and malice at the hands of the right-wing press, the Blair-leaning Labour MP’s, the Tories and basically anyone who fears the rhetoric of egalitarianism and change that comes out of the mouth of this scruffy, beige-jacketed socialist. Cameron famously shouted in his plum-mouthed tones that Jeremy should “put on a proper suit [and] do up [his] tie”. I get it, I do. I love nothing better than a good suit, and I think the British should keep up their image abroad as suited, top-hatted gentlemen swinging umbrellas and controlling the world’s finances – always silently superior. But I see something in that uneven face, that silver shock of hair, that train conductor’s hat, that sports jacket and that starkly tieless un-ironed shirt. I see something I didn’t see in Cameron’s middle-management cufflinks and his lighthouse forehead. I see something I do not see in Angela’s identikit campaign. I see truth. I see someone who’s too bothered with principles and ideology and with believing the words he says, with wanting to effect something progressive for this country, to bother with his public image. I see someone unwilling to engage in PR and spin, unwilling to play the shallow, nonsensical, irrelevant, bullshit games of Westminster – who actually gives a shit about people with Northern accents or black skin or vaginas that used to be dicks, or wheels where legs used to be.

 

You know that feeling after you eat a Maccy D’s? You know the one. When you’ve gorged yourself on a Big Mac and you’re full for ten minutes, tops, but when the initial sensation of an object having descended your trachea fades, you’re left with the feeling that you haven’t really consumed anything. Your organs don’t feel rejuvenated like after food with any actual nutritional value, you don’t feel warmed or fed; you just feel like you inhaled some synthetic food-like product; some plastic-based, cardboard-flavoured trash that really is nothing – it looks colourful and like food should look, but inside it’s hollow ash and empty calories. Well that’s the feeling I had looking at Eagle’s campaign when she unveiled it. She wrote an article for the Guardian to coincide with it and oh-my-fucking-God it was a whole mess of nothing. It contained such insightful, sparkling, intelligent, ideological, meaningful tidbits as these:

 

“It is our duty to ensure that the new prime minister, Theresa May, faces a credible and forensic opposition, and to offer a bright future for our damaged economy and fractured society.”

 

“I’m no Blairite, Brownite or Corbynista. What I am is my own woman”.

 

“But if we are to succeed, we need to concentrate on the politics of hope, not on grievance and blame. That’s the only way we can deliver on our principles of equality, social justice and social mobility.”

 

She’s said… nothing, really, has she? Nothing that hasn’t already been spouted by others of her ilk, anyway. Corbyn is unelectable. That’s basically what she said. Oh and remember – she’s her own woman. Phew. I was worried she wasn’t. She did make the recycled point that MPs who were elected by 8,000,000 constituents are trying to get rid of Corbyn, and therefore, arguably, they have more of a democratic mandate than Corbyn does, elected as he was by a paltry couple hundred-thousand members. But this point is rather easily quashed. You know how much it cost to be a Labour party member? Three quid. All 8,000,000 of those constituents, if they agreed with the MPs to whom they have given a mandate, can register as members and get rid of the old man before you can say “worker’s revolution”. Now they can register as members of the Unite union for 50p a week. They can become members for £25. But they didn’t, and they don’t. Which suggests one of two things. Either they are ambivalent towards Corbyn or they actively like him. And if they just don’t have 25 quid going spare… Well, then, we need Corbyn now more than ever.

 

To be honest, I am not even sure, personally, that I want Corbyn in power. I have no horse in the race, truly. I’m a white, middle-class, straight, mentally balanced male from the south of England with two law degrees. The dude isn’t looking after me. I don’t need looking after. Whatever system we have ever had so far has done that pretty well for people like me. But I am damn sure I want him in opposition, because I care about Britain and its people. I want him, shadowed by his massive grass roots support and Momentum – a united political movement the likes of which people of my generation have never seen – across the dispatch box from the Tories, bearing down upon them, snarling at them that we will not take neoliberalism and globalisation if it means our infrastructure, our rights, our livelihoods get destroyed.

 

Perhaps he may be misguided. I wasn’t alive during the seventies. I didn’t see the mining unions hold the country to ransom; I didn’t see bin bags piled high in the street; I didn’t see ‘Communist’ Russia, so I don’t have any of that to refer to. But I tell you what I have seen: I have seen a Department of Work and Pensions responsible for indirect manslaughter because the private profiteers to whom it contracts out care more about cutting costs that ensuring Johnny Disabled can eat. I have seen food banks proliferate in my great country – a country I deem to be the best in the world, which should be able to engineer a state that ensures the poorest in society are looked after if the private sector fails them. I saw banks get bailed out by the government while the people get poorer on zero-hour contracts. I saw financial criminals given a slap on the wrist in the papers and a bonus by their bosses for ruining this country and bringing its main industry – the City – to the precipice. I’ve seen the systematic selling off of our industries and our infrastructure and the gradual privatisation of public services we rely on. I see an electoral system plagued by billionaire donor money and corrupt media moguls. And I do not want to see it any longer. Those policies are not sound economics, they are not long-term ideas to generate sustainable growth and prosperity – they are the last belches of a country sick of itself, that has run out of steam like a bankrupt Aristocrat selling all the old paintings of his descendants. It can’t last. I want to see some nationalisation, some investment in the public sector and some regulation of the private sector, an end to the illusory, fallacious rhetoric of defecit economics.

 

I would like to see the private train system, an effective monopoly, taken back in to public hands so it can no longer raise ticket prices year on year beyond inflation while gutting the service it offers with no accountability besides a complaints procedure. I would like to see our head of state at least lead the world in a conversation about nuclear disarmament. I know, you may think his view on Trident is wildly dangerous, but remember it is still Labour policy to renew it. At least we would have a leader willing to discuss the issue. And when it comes to Trident, I always like to think of something Carl Sagan said – the concept of nuclear deterrents and mutually assured destruction is like having two people standing waist deep in petrol, one holding three matches, the other five. I would like to see our NHS not only protected, but improved, built upon and thriving. And I would like to see an end to the rape of our lands through fracking, and a new dawn for renewable energy. All this is to say nothing of the valuing of the poor and the workers and their rights.

 

And you know what? Maybe it won’t work as well as idealists and socialists hope. But that doesn’t matter. Not in the long run. It seems our politics is always preoccupied with the idea of the “final solution” when it comes to progress. That we need policies in place and a governing ideology that can stand forever, always working. There isn’t one. There are merely solutions to situations that present themselves. I applaud Thatcher for breaking the grip of the Unions in the eighties and taking our country into an era of economic prosperity. The only problem was that she did it not only for the purpose of ending the union tyranny, but because she was clinging vehemently to the ideology of neoliberalism. The neoliberal philosophy that informed her actions became scripture, and still is – unable to be altered or argued against. There is no flexibility and it has meant that we are where we are now – stuck with an economic policy that seeks to whore our country out to the highest bidder and which fetishises and idolises individualism to the point of isolation and which is, when you get down to it, nothing but numbers circulating on trading-floor screens, and waiters and waitresses. Really, we should place flexibility and freedom upon the pedestals of our regard. Remember what Churchill said of democracy after all: that it is the worst system we currently have, apart from all the others. Flexibility informed always by overarching goals: those of progress, of satisfaction and high living standards, of cohesion and competition, of liberty and work and intellectual evolution.

 

The fear mongering is unwarranted. I voted ‘in’ in the referendum, but I buy in to no fear mongering. The FTSE 100 – arguably as good a gauge of how things are going as a Twitter poll, being as it is an externalisation of the fears and prejudices of detached, money-hungry investors rather than a measure of the actual productivity of the companies themselves – is doing okay. As is the pound. We will be fine. Likewise, we will be fine if Corbyn gets elected. And, on top of that, perhaps we’ll have a country informed more by ideas of egalitarianism, a country less divisive and divided and more prosperous, run for its citizens rather than CEO coffers, and a society more collusive in its capitalism. I support Corbyn, because he is the solution to the issues that blight us right now.

 

 

 

Shrinking the Cancer

What would happen if global corporations were banned? By that I mean what would happen if we, say, limited the amount of outlets that each company was allowed to have to, say, 10? What would happen if companies were disallowed from becoming incorporated? What would happen if companies were only allowed to carry on in the countries in which they started? What would happen if their CEO’s were not allowed to invest abroad, bank their company’s money abroad or outsource?

Well, firstly, with the prospective size of companies significantly diminished, they would no longer be the swaggering, monstrous giants they currently are. The directors of companies would no longer be able to hold the sway over Government policy they currently do. Take Philip Morris, for instance – the hulking purveyor of all that is cancerous. If they were not allowed to expand beyond US borders, or if they had not have been in their toddler years when they were still growing, and if the amount of factories and warehouses they owned was limited, they would not be able to afford to ejaculate millions of dollars into the pockets of US politicians in order to slow or stop the rate of regulation on tobacco. They wouldn’t, for instance, have been able to sue the Government of Australia in investor-state arbitration dispute because said Government wanted to make cigarette packets plain – an entirely good-willed policy to protect the citizens of Australia (and thats an endorsement coming from a smoker).

If companies were not allowed to extend beyond the borders of the country in which they’re founded then no longer would amoral behemoths like Nike and Topman be able to reach their long, spindly fingers into less-developed countries and dig all out until their blackened nails were scraping the bottom of the decimated and scorched pit they created. These companies would be forced to pluck employees from the populace of the country in which they carry on. This means those employees would be paid the minimum wage as is the norm among the majority of developed countries.

And do not think the above paragraph is an argument along the profound and articulate lines of “British jobs for British workers”. It most certainly is not. With these trundling, all-encompassing tanks of business no longer allowed to steamroll into whatever country they so please, under-developed countries would be spared the one-sided ‘investment’ that further debilitates their development. They would no longer be subject to this post-imperial colonialism. They would be free to develop their own companies, their own businesses, their own economies and ways of doing things.

The most cursory glance at the relevant economic model, perhaps one of Posner’s, will lead you to the conclusion that competition of the sort that Western capitalism has germinated leads, inexorably and inevitably, to oligopoly or monopoly. We live in a global economy atop which sit a few vast and edificial corporations that reign supreme as Kings of the world. With the ability of companies to expand having been limited, competition will once again be restored. No longer would the massive hairy feet of monetary giants be able to squash the sprouting stalks of other start-ups and companies. Companies would be afforded the opportunity to expand but this expansion would not be unlimited. There would be greater equality and, as a result, greater competition.

Speaking of equality, with the size of companies vastly diminished, fat cats would be a little leaner. Massive pay inequality within companies from CEO to floor worker would be fundamentally reduced. For one, these companies, although able to make profit and do business, wouldn’t be able to command the huge sums they do now and their CEO’s wouldn’t be able to bank big bonuses and sizeable salaries. And, with incorporation no longer an option, they wouldn’t be able to fly home with golden parachutes because the companies’ liabilities wouldn’t end with the company. Without the oligopolistic influence they now command, companies would also no longer be able to underpay and rip-off their employees. With their accountability increased because they’re smaller and Governments, no longer restrained by the wallets of these companies, able to act as they should – as regulators – and with a prevalence of different and competing companies so meaning more employment opportunities, companies would be forced to pay their employees fairly.

I am not calling for a reversion from the increasing inter-connectedness of the world, I fully support the fundamental tenets of the EU, including the free movement of people. I am, however, calling for some kind of reversion from the increasing globalisation of corporations, and the vice-grip they hold over the planet and it’s resources. With companies limited in the amount they can grow – like tumours being scalpelled down – competition between countries and collaboration between Governments would be stimulated. Policy would be uninhibited by corporate pressure. Companies like GM, for instance, would be forced to invest in sustainable, eco-friendly cars both because the effective competition between companies and the democratic policy of Government would bear down upon them. People would have more of a say in what they will and will not tolerate.

Obviously this huge upheaval of the present system would cause some kind of seismic shift in national and global politics as well as the major markets. Shares would do things – bump erratically up and down like heart monitors or glowing roller coasters. But I’m not interested in what would happen to the FOREX; its not real. The arguments I propound for the dismantling of corporations are to do with real things, things that actually exist. They are not premised on the illusory concept of the false global economy, in confidence and shares and stocks and futures and all other bloated and twisted growths that extend from the base idea of an economy.

Companies have a purpose. The purpose of a company is to be a vehicle for delivering, on a wider scale or more efficiently or with more quality than an individual could, goods and services that people require, while bringing gains for the people running them because of competition and the profit motive. That is the fundamental idea of the free-market economy. With companies shrunk, their accountability increased and their influence diminished, we would once again return to the base principle of free-market capitalism and we would return to achieving the purposes behind it.

I am not propagating for the things said in here to be taken verbatim as solutions for a new utopia or some other such nonsense. I am merely expounding an idea that reaches beyond the boundaries of our collective mindset and beyond the solutions we are so often spoon-fed. Tweaks to the life support won’t save this flailing, frothing, obese, rotting, dying system. The whole hospital needs a complete overhaul. More regulation here, cutting some tax there, proposing a voluntary living-wage over there – these things do nothing  to stop the tides. Our way of life, everything we know, will come to an end. Its inevitable. It will take a tug of biblical force to pull on this out-of-control horse’s bit so hard its jaw falls off.