Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thoughts for the Brain - bespoke reality


Every moral philosophy presupposes a sociology, so said Alasdair MacIntyre. I’ve never read him but there’s no doubt this is true. In order to appraise anything in our society you have to understand what this society is and what point you are appraising it from. Even if you don’t accept the results of Marx’s study of political economy you have to accept he was on the right track.

We are lucky in Britain. Even at this eleventh hour we still have politics and public life constructed around the class point of view. There has been some talk about whether the recent presidential elections signal a return to reality in American public life; this is an example. The American ruling class has successfully prevented public life so far from forming on a class basis. This has not just involved fraud but an awful lot of force. Pre-World War Two class struggle was exceptionally bloody.

No ruling class is ever able to completely insulate itself. Despite the fantasies encouraged by skyscrapers, gated communities and industrial peonage that survives even today, 40 years after the Civil Rights movement, the American ruling class continues to ideologically organise the classes below it. America is a country where the right-wing mobilises, over issues such as tax and land values, against desegregationreproductive rights, LGBT equality and immigration… and this is before we get into the true conspiracist fringe, and the pro-war rallies, yes, pro-war rallies, rallies for the powerful while they’re still in power, get a brain morans.

So often America has been described as undergoing a French Revolution in reverse, where the sans-culottes restore the ancient regime. The Republicans are like Jacobins in the negative sense, fanatics devoted to hammering reality into the shape of ideology. Remove any objective basis from politics and it will be dominated by lurid fantasies: Obama is a Muslim, general relativity is a liberal plot, gays caused Hurricane Sandy... one could go on. The sense of relief, not just with the presidential election, is understandable. Maybe the tide has turned. But we are dealing with the Democrats, who are perfectly happy not to capitalise on the current liberal shift in America.

We must beware of what the current Tory onslaught releases. We have no end of free-market fanatics, there are oil enriched climate change deniers in the cabinet, anti-abortionists on the benches, an ‘anti-wind farm agenda’ of all things in the Tory party and creationism in Gove’s ‘free’ schools. Part of the ruling class strategy of austerity is the struggle to remove class from the political equation. In this sense Blue Labour is prescient, though it shows the party admitting defeat before the battle has even really been engaged. The Labour party dare not appeal to its base to support the things it was founded to achieve.

We must head all this off before it comes to pass. Class must stay central to public life.

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