Vijay Prashad: “How was it ever possible that we were colonized by the British?”

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British PM Boris Johnson-Image by Donkey Hotey/CC BY 2.0

If you haven’t heard, England is screwed!

Here’s some pretty great media from the Brits that offers a good post-electoral diagnosis.

British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn-Image by Donkey Hotey/CC BY 2.0

We start with Jonathan Pie, a spoof reality web series a la The Office. Pie is a caustic, viciously frank news correspondent whose fake off-screen rants before his segment cues up on his network are unrepentant. I don’t necessarily agree with his political orientation per se, he quite obviously is a reformist, but he offers a pretty good critique (though it is strange that he somehow forgets to mention the vile smear campaign against Corbyn calling him an antisemite over his Palestine solidarity activism over the years).

(For a good grounding, here is his postmortem on the Clinton 2016 campaign.)

And now here is a great Twitter thread from a Corbyn/Labour canvasser named Luke Pagarani who clearly has a great sense of how to account for this mess.

I did around 120 hours of canvassing in London, Bedford and Milton Keynes. I didn’t expect this result but here’s how I can make sense of it from what I encountered on the doorstep. 1/

The age differential was stark. Of course many of the older people I spoke to were polite and pleasant but 100% of the people who were rude and hostile were 50-80 years old. All of the oldest (>80) and younger (<40) voters were polite, whomever they were voting for. 2/

There was a visceral hatred of Corbyn (sometimes combined with Diane Abbott) from a section of voters outside inner London, primarily older white voters, both middle and working class. So far, so obvious. 3/

How did the demonization of Corbyn have such a strong effect in 2019 but not in 2017? Although on the face of it that demonization has been raw and relentless, actually it has only circled around the key charge, never making it explicit,… 4/

… so it has taken four years for low engagement voters to absorb it fully. The real charge against Corbyn is that he fundamentally believes that British/white lives are of equal value with the lives of others. 5/

Our opponents wouldn’t put it so bluntly but that is what it has always been about. That prioritisation of British lives must always be assumed, never justified, taken for granted as the ground the state is built on, never officially avowed except through ritual. 6/

The cenotaph. Gerry Adams. Prosecutions of historic crimes in N.I. Laying wreaths in foreign cemeteries. Poppies. Diane Abbott. Pushing the button. Watching the Queen at Christmas. 7/

It is impossible to defend Corbyn against this unspoken charge because it is clearly true. 8/

When these voters talk about having paid into the system all their lives, they’re not just talking about literal national insurance payments and the financial benefits they’re entitled to in recompense. 9/

They’re talking about a life of loyalty and deference to the state they expected to be their exclusive patron; and now they see a Labour leader who seems to invite the whole world to his allotment, to offer his homemade jam to anyone who needs it,… 10/

… no matter which flags their ancestors have spilt their blood for. 11/

I think this is also how the anti-semitism scandal had such a big effect on people who don’t really care about anti-semitism itself. Leaving aside all the people who do care about anti-semitism for its own sake,… 12/

… for a lot of people Corbyn’s association with anti-semitism seems to represent his association with Islam, where Islam in turn comes to stand for the undifferentiated mass of humanity making a claim for equal eminence. 13/

What is particularly strange about all this is how it has moved away from primarily a concern about immigration itself, to a broader set of questions of patriotism, fiscal constraint, Brexit for its own sake rather than to end free movement, and deference to authority. 14/

With such voters, already retired or coming towards the end of their careers, talk of what we can build together leaves them sceptical and uncomprehending. It seems more zero sum to them. 15/

We have salvaged a small horde from the imperial wreck and only those whose fealty is proven can claim their share. I have absolutely no idea how we can appeal to such people. The idea of taxing the rich didn’t seem persuasive as these people just think it is impossible. 16/

They want the patronage of the powerful, not to challenge their power. 17/

I also canvassed a lot of young (18-35) working class people who had very little engagement with politics. Many had voted in the referendum (leave or remain but with much less conviction than the older voters) but only occasionally vote otherwise. 18/

Many had never heard about class politics at all. The idea of working class people voting for a party to tax the rich to pay for redistribution and public services was completely novel, and generally immediately attractive. 19/

It was amazing to see how quickly and instinctively they grasped a left-wing agenda while saying they had never thought about it before. 20/

There seems like a huge opportunity there for the left to make inroads with younger non-graduates in towns but how do we reach them? Organising and social media I guess? 21/21


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