Wednesday, 5 March 2014

the political super-elite: "universal suffrage gave the wrong people the vote"

Between 1945 and 1956, Austria saw four general elections produce parliaments in which the opposition’s tussles with government were choreographed, for which Austrians coined the term Bereichsopposition. This might translate as opposition arranged within a set area; Marxist social scientist Otto Kirchheimer, writing in 1957, translates it as "opposition of principle," which he defined later as "'the desire for a degree of goal displacement incompatible with the constitutional requirements of a given system".

Kirchheimer’s 1957 paper The Waning of Opposition in Parliamentary Regimes rails at the birth of the cartel arrangement of politics, whereby a group of parties with little to differentiate them dominate parliamentary politics. He notes this was an "extreme procedure" in Austria, but that the same arrangements were emerging in (West) Germany, France and Italy.

These three were the main signatories to the Treaty of Rome the next year. This transformed the European Coal and Steel Community, intended to prevent another war between France and Germany, into the EEC, the proto-EU.

Peter mair - click for obituary

Left-leaning political scientists like Kirchheimer and Peter Mair (right - whose Ruling the Void references the former’s essay) are pessimistic about the outcome of cartel politics. This seems to stem from a middle-class phobia of the revivifying power of the popular vote: a primal suspicion that universal suffrage gave the wrong people the vote. Walter Bagehot’s fear that "ultra-democratic" politics (universal suffrage – "the rich and wise are not to have, by explicit law, more votes than the poor and stupid") will lead to "violent laws" leads straight to Mair’s phobia of populist politics.

Think of this when you hear Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem politicians slate UKIP: you are hearing the self-serving super-elite of the anti-democratic political cartel, perpetually mired in oppositionalism to the mechanisms of government in Brussels, inform you that universal suffrage gave the wrong people the vote.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Resources

The Waning of Opposition in Parliamentary Regimes - Otto Kirchheimer, Social Research, Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 1957. Link takes you to the essay on JSTOR, where permissions may be required. You can click here to try to access the pdf

Political Perfectionism and the 'Anti-System' Party - Michael keren, Party Politics 6, January 2000: a summary of the article giving Kirchheimer's definition of "opposition of principle"

Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (Treaty of Rome)

The English Constitution - Walter Bagehot, second edition, 1873. The quote about giving the vote to the "poor and stupid" is on p127 of the pdf

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Ukip "racism" row: is the Daily Telegraph buying into the political cartel?

Comedy’s funny. Peculiar, I mean: for example, I remember an American friend looking nonplussed at Father Ted, while I was splitting my sides.

Paul Eastwood's page at Jo Martin Management

Less amusing is the alacrity with which some on the Left will jump on certain types of comedy but not others. Dan Hodges, for example, has published a blog entitled Ukip is now a racist party, in which he seizes on comments made by comic Paul Eastwood (right), which retain their humour even within Hodges’ tirade.

It’s all what you’d expect from a Labour and union aficionado. What is unusual is that it was published on the blogs site of the centre-right Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph has become obsessed with Ukip recently, the party being mentioned in the analysis section at least once daily.

This, I believe, is the political cartel in action. We have a Tory-aligned publication running standard left-wing dog-whistle fare because both Conservatives and Labour are terrified of the long-term consequences of Ukip breaking up the current three-way football match where the parties kick the ball to each other to try and con the masses that the result is democracy.

And as for the charge of racism, I think questions like, for example, "what race is Islam?", although valid enough, risk heading down the wrong road. The whole vocabulary of race relates to the sinister concept that differences between groups of people are inherited and not culturally instilled. This vocabulary first served the slave trade (and indeed still does) before being conscripted to justify eugenics. It’s easy to forget, though, because "you are racist/fascist/insert your own meaningless-through-overuse adjective" is increasingly used merely as a synonym for "I disagree with you". We risk sliding back to the horrors of the 20th century through forgetting that words, contrary to what post-modernists believe, have meanings.

And that wouldn’t be funny.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Resources

Ukip is now a racist party - Dan Hodges, Telegraph blogs, 3 March 2014

Neo-fascism and neo-corporatism: The Emergence of the Cartel Party - 300 words

Click to go to Paul Eastwood's page at Jo Martin management

Monday, 24 February 2014

Establishment and Outsiders: patriots live on Winston Parva's Estate

go to Established and Outsiders on Amazon

I’m sure Norbert Elias and John Scotson never intended "Winston Parva" to represent the relationship between patriots and super-elites, but as an analysis of power relationships their sociological classic The Established and The Outsiders holds strong in this context.

Winston Parva is the fictionalised village in which the authors identified two classes of people: the Established in the old village, and Outsiders who inhabit the "Estate".

The power differential between Insiders at the centre and Outsiders on the Estate is what they wanted to examine. Power centres, once established, proceed mindlessly upon the Nietzschean task of acquiring more power: witness the neo-imperialistic chequebook held out by George Osbourne to Ukraine while flood victims here, on the UK Establishment’s home ground, appear to occupy at most afterthought status.

Lars B Ohlsson describes in his summary of Insiders and Outsiders the mechanism by which we Outsiders on the Estate – patriots – are kept in our place:

gossip centres and cliché-based judgements, condemnation and discrimination of 'them' while praising and promoting 'us', continually [feeds] the existing order.

Thus we have patriots condemned in general as "racists", "swivel-eyed loons" etc, for no good reason other than these are the present Establishmentarian buzzwords describing political Outsiders – witness Nigel Farage’s treatment in Edinburgh. The most extreme example so far is the removal of foster-children from their guardians on the grounds that "Ukip members might not be suitable foster parents for non-British children".

That UKIP is poised for major gains is due in no small part to the revulsion felt by people of all political persuasions that the Establishment feels parents’ political persuasion is sufficient reason for interventions in family life of the most extreme kind. Come the elections we need to remember that as far as the Establishment is concerned, we’re all outsiders living on the estate.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Resources

The Established and The Outsiders - click to read reviews on Amazon

Insiders and Outsiders - aspects of inclusion and exclusion - a summary by Lars B Ohlsson

We should open chequebook to rebuild Ukraine, says Osborne: Chancellor offers millions to new government - Tim Shipman, Daily Mail, 23 February 2014

EU wonders why Britain hasn't tapped fund for flood relief - Reuters, 12 February 2014

Nigel Farage Edinburgh Protest Turns Ugly As Ukip Leader Locked In Pub 'For Own Safety' - Huffington Post, May 2013

Ukip row: multiple reasons children taken from Rotherham foster parents - Helen Pidd, The Guardian, November 2012 - "Ukip members might not be suitable foster parents for non-British children"

Council admits mistakes over Ukip foster parents storm - Ben Quinn, The Guardian, May 2013 - "The removal of the children caused outrage across the political divide"

Barnet Alliance [for Public Services] denies responsibility for leaflets branding UKIP 'racist' - Chris Hewett, This is Local London, January 2014

How to Spot a Swivel-Eyed Loon - The Guardian, undated

Sunday, 23 February 2014

the dead of Independence Square: does Ukraine have lessons for both patriots and security forces?

Ukraine, for the present at least, seems to be a free country. The security forces have evaporated from Kiev and protesters can finally mourn the dead of Independence Square, killed – we must assume – by aforesaid security forces.

Is there a degree to which the security forces were doing their job? That job was to protect their country, and their superior officers told them it was under attack; by people who are now being hailed internationally as freedom-fighters.

I ask this because patriots throughout the world look with increasing discomfort at their countries’ security services. In Great Britain peers have just blocked the police from being given powers to prevent "conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person". Note the phrase "capable of" – thought crime, anybody? In the US, a big story is the huge amount of ammunition bought by security forces that is banned from being used in theatres of war, firing concerns that it’s intended for use against perceived internal enemies.

So again I return to the Ukranian services – why did they stop? The full story might not come out for some time, but it looks as though a lot of them have decided – individually or en masse, or a combination thereof – that killing patriots, which is how many might see themselves, wasn’t their job.

Will US security forces personnel come to such a decision-point if they are called upon to shoot at their countryfolk? Will there come a point at which their British counterparts decide it’s not their job to suffocate social and cultural concerns which they share?

As the dead of Independence Square are mourned, perhaps it’s time for reflection on the price of freedom, on the part of both those who might be called to pay that price and those who might be called to exact it.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

In Ukraine, Mourning Amid Political Drama - Al Pessin, Voice of America

Friday, 14 February 2014

what the flooding crisis says about our fading citizenship

click for O'Donnell's page on the Kellogg institute

The thoughts of an Argentinian political scientist about newly-democratised nations might not appear to have much in common with the present flooding crisis, but perhaps we should look closer.

The late Guillermo O’Donnell wrote On the State, Democratization and some Conceptual Problems about the travails of Peru, Argentina, Brazil and other countries, but as comparative politics his insights are valid further afield – for example, you could say that the "profound crisis" of the "big state" becoming democratic mirrors that of the hypertrophied state in danger of losing its grip on democracy.

For O’Donnell, the state is more than the sum of its bureaucratic parts: it is "a set of social relations that establishes a social order" bound together by laws applicable "over a given territory", ie that country’s. He adds that the without these laws and the lawful agencies they underpin "the national state and the order it supports vanish”, leading to "a democracy of low-intensity citizenship".

With the Somerset floods we’ve seen a population which was left in chaos and crisis since the end of last year, with forces personnel only being sent in when the Establishment was embarrassed. Compare this with the near-immediate response to Thames Valley flooding, although even there it seems "some people are getting help and others aren’t": we see "a state whose...publicness and citizenship fade away at the frontiers of various regions and class and ethnic relations". In both areas every adult has one vote each, but each areas’s value to the regime (which O’Donnell stresses can be authoritarian even within a democratic state) seems the variable determining speed and credibility of response.

The Governmental and Environment Agency’s responses to the floods are not what one would expect from democratically-accountable institutions. They evince a vassal state in a neofeudal relationship to the EU overlord.

The question is: will votes challenging the democratic legitimacy of that relationship be respected as having equal value with those cast for parties that accept it?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Resources

On the State, Democratization and some Conceptual Problems - Guillermo O'Donnell, Kellogg Institute, 1993

Chertsey residents claim 'homes sacrificed to save others' - bbc.cocuk - "some are getting help and others aren't"

(neo)feudalism and the EU - 300 words

Thursday, 13 February 2014

all issues should be up for debate: letter to Cambridge News

Letter to Cambridge News, published on Friday 13 2014. The names of the people I'm responding to have been changed.

I AM writing in regard of the letter from Jane Smith, Jean Smith and Joan Smith ('Negative power of persuasion', News, February 1, 2014). The education and health sectors are major topics of interest in any election, and should neither be demonised nor protected by taboo that prevents discussion of faults.

What I am most anxious to say, however, is that it is not 'racist' to voice concerns about mass immigration or violent religious extremism. The very vocabulary of race is sinister and outdated, and harks back to a time when differences between groups of people were attributed not to culture but to inherited factors. I believe this vocabulary, designed to turn off the critical faculties and elicit a more primal, uglier response from the target audience, will be employed more and more as the European and general elections draw closer.

People who use words like 'racist' and the like reveal more about themselves than they realise: when they think democracy might return a result they don't approve of, they're just not that into it.

Gerry Dorrian

Thursday, 6 February 2014

neocorporatism on the march: the Tube strike is a punishment for democracy

The picture is eloquent:

click for live-blog of the strike

This is what happens when you elect a clown as mayor. Not so funny now, is it?

The seventeen-word manifesto delineates the purpose of the Tube strikes of 5-6 February: punishing citizens of London for using their democratic birthright to elect a Mayor whom TUC high command disapproves of.

Peter Mair and Richard Katz referred to a situation where bodies such as trade unions developing relationships with the state mirrors the relations between the state and political parties. In other words, these bodies – such as unions – determine the direction of the state, supplanting democratically-elected representatives.

Mair and Katz call this situation “neocorporatism”. Given Mussolini identified corporatism as fascism’s political synonym, it’s surely fair to surmise that neo-fascism and neocorporatism can be similarly identified. The unions – in this particular case the RMT and TSSA – are using a 48-hour strike to inform London voters that their democratic choice of mayor is unacceptable to them.

Neocorporatism is the logical next step on from the political cartel formed by our three main parties, who kick the ball to each other every so often to give us plebs an illusion of democracy. The fightback starts when we use our birthright to elect representatives from outwith the cartel.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Changing Models of Party Organization and Party Democracy: The Emergence of the Cartel Party - Richard S. Katz and Peter Mair

Mussolini on the Corporate state - Political Research Associates

Live blog of the Tube strikes - Claire Carter, The Telegraph, 6 February 2014