Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Why I'm a "lefty" and proud of it


We've all seen how right-wing people often use words like "lefty" and "socialist" as if they're insults, and how they continually try to smear centre-left democratic socialists with claims that they're "hard-left", "trots", and "Stalinists". But being left-wing is actually something to be proud of.

Left vs right

I'm going to start out by explaining the difference between left-wing and right-wing.


Apologies if you're already familiar with the distinction between socialism and capitalism, but there are an awful lot of people out there who genuinely don't seem to understand the difference because the only definitions of words words like socialism they ever come across in the mainstream media are pejorative and deeply misleading.

The more left-wing a person is the more they believe in public ownership, and the more right-wing a person is the more they believe that private individuals and corporations should run everything for their own profit.

Thus someone on the hard-left would think that pretty much everything should be run by the state. A centre-left person would think that things like hospitals, schools, public transport, the police, energy infrastructure and core national industries should be run in a democratically accountable not-for-profit manner. A centre-right person would believe in a minimal state where only basic functions like the police, army, schools, and courts should be run by the state. And hard-right extremists would believe that literally everything (including schools, the police, the army, and the courts) should be run in order to generate private profits.



Despite their continual posturing as economic moderates the Tories are actually hard-right fanatics who have spent the last seven years pursuing policies that only a tiny percentage of the British public support. Policies like privatisation of the NHS (10%), state schools (6%) and police services (3%).

The overwhelming majority of British people fall somewhere between centre-left and centre-right on economic issues, and way to the left of Tory party politicians. 

Opinion polls have shown time and again that there is massive public support for running the National Health Service as a not-for-profit public service (84%), as well as widespread support for other centre-left policies such as nationalisation of the railways (60%), water companies (59%), and national energy infrastructure (53%), but only a minority of people are economically far-left enough to think that telecommunications companies (30%) and airlines (14%) should be government run.

Nationalism

One of the favourite tropes right-wingers love to rely on is the idea that they're proud patriots, and the left are a bunch of anti-British traitors.

Not only is wrapping yourself in the flag to score cheap political points an incredibly ugly thing in its own right, economically right-wing people don't have a leg to stand on either.

Just ask yourself why Britain's nuclear expertise now belongs to the French, meaning we need to bribe the French and Chinese into building Hinkley Point C instead of building our own energy infrastructure? (It was privatised in 1995 and bought out by the French government in 2008).

Ask yourself why 74% of UK rail franchises are operated by foreign governments? (Because the rail network was privatised in 1994 and has been gradually cannibalised by foreign state rail companies while the UK remains the only country that is blacklisted from bidding to run UK rail contracts!).

Ask yourself why the Chinese and Qatari governments own chunks of previously public assets like our water supply and National Grid? (Because they were privatised by the Tories and then sold on to foreign governments by corporate profiteers).

Ask yourself why the system of underground fuel supply pipelines that was built at the UK taxpayers' expense is now operated by the governments of Oman and the UAE? (Because in 2016 Theresa May decided to skip the corporate middleman and sell off these British public infrastructure direct to foreign governments).

Anyone who considers themselves a patriot and is moved by "let's take our country back" type rhetoric should be absolutely horrified that so much British public infrastructure is now being used as cash cow investments by foreign governments, and should be delighted with Jeremy Corbyn's plans to bring these chunks of vital public infrastructure back under British control.

But no. Somehow these self-styled patriots are willing to totally overlook the fact that the Tories have been systematically selling off our country just they've been bamboozled into mindlessly following the Brexit flag that Theresa May opportunistically nicked off the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson when it suited her career to do so.


The centre-left

Although many people try to dismiss my Another Angry Voice work as hard-left extremism, my views are very much in the centre-left economic territory.

Do I think that things like the National Health Service, schools, universities, national grid, and railways should be operated as democratically accountable not-for-profit public services for the national good?

Of course I do.

Do I think the government should operate factories making stuff like sunglasses, selfie-sticks, snack foods, children's toys, computer games, and Christmas cards?

Of course I don't.

The government obviously has a role to play in regulating these kinds of private industries: Making sure that consumers are protected from dangerous or defective products, ensuring that the companies pay their fair share of tax on their profits, and keeping markets competitive by working to avoid the development of monopolies, oligopolies and cartels. But the idea of government operated selfie-stick factories is just laughable isn't it?

I'm not ashamed to hold these left-wing opinions, I'm proud of it. And I'm also quite proud of the British public for holding broadly similar economic views despite having had a four decade long immersion in hard-right propaganda thanks to the noxious influence of propaganda barons like Rupert Murdoch, the Harmsworths, and the Barclay brothers, the hard-right ideological fanaticism of the Tories, and the craven subservience of the centre-right New Labour government between 1997 and 2010.


Workers' rights

One of the main achievements of the political left is the massive improvements in workers' rights.

The genuine political left gave us all modern workers' rights (the weekend, paid holidays, sick pay, parental leave, freedom from unfair dismissal and workplace discrimination ...) and sides with workers against unscrupulous and exploitative bosses.

The political right works to undermine and reverse these advancements. Consider the exponential growth in zero hours contracts and the gig economy since 2010, the fact that since then UK workers have suffered the longest period of falling real terms wages since records began, the systematic Tory attacks on workers' rights, and their unlawful policy of forcing people to pay £1,200 fees in order to seek compensation from bad bosses.

One of the most dispiriting things about British politics is the existence of millions of ordinary working people who actually allow billionaire-owned right-wing propaganda rags (The S*n, Daily Mail, Telegraph, Express ...) to manipulate them into voting for the billionaire-bankrolled Tory party that continually sides with exploitative and profiteering bosses against ordinary working people like them, and all of the working people in their communities.


Social liberalism

Aside from the fact that the traditionally left-wing Labour Party created confusion and widespread political apathy by adopting right-wing economic dogma between 1994 and 2015, one of of the other main reasons a lot of people get confused about the actual difference between left and right (socialism vs capitalism) is that the right-wing dominated media continually misrepresent the left as if it's some kind of identity politics driven campaign to police language and enforce political correctness, rather than an economic stance.

It's easy to see how this misrepresentation has taken hold, because economically left-wing people and social liberals are natural bedfellows.

Back in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher was sucking up to murderous tyrants like General Pinochet (the brutal Chilean dictator) and Suharto (a million people died during his rise to power in Indonesia), the Tory government were arming Saddam Hussain in Iraq, and the Tory youth were printing "hang Nelson Mandela" posters and T-shirts, Jeremy Corbyn was busy being on the right side of history by campaigning against right-wing dictatorships, apartheid, and arms sales to Iraq.

Just look at the current situation. The Tories have learned that the tide is changing and that the right-wing can't maintain their racist, sexist and homophobic policies of the past, but it's impossible for them to hide deeply illiberal stuff like the fact that their current leader Theresa May has a long parliamentary track record of voting against equal rights for gay people, that 86% of the economic burden of the socially and economically catastrophic Tory austerity dogma has been loaded onto the shoulders of women, and their discriminatory and dehumanising mistreatment of disabled people in corporate disability denial factories


Shifting demographics

The Tories and their right-wing attack dogs in the mainstream media have found themselves in a terrible pickle as bigoted right-wing attitudes are being rapidly consigned to the past as younger generations reject the racist, sexist and homophobic attitudes that were commonplace in previous generations.

The makeshift solution the Tories have come up with is to completely reverse reality and pretend that the left, which has traditionally championed equality and human rights, is somehow riven with bigotry, while turning a blind eye to the fact that Jeremy Corbyn was championing stuff like gay equality in the 1980s, back when the Tories were pushing their deeply homophobic Section 28 regulation against a backdrop of profoundly bigoted anti-gay rhetoric in right-wing propaganda rags like The S*n and the Daily Mail.

Thus the right-wing rhetoric against the left has grown increasingly confused. They know they can't attack Labour on their extremely popular manifesto commitments to renationalise public infrastructure and build more affordable housing (a policy the Tories have actually nicked for themselves as a desperate last ditch attempt to appeal to the youth vote with some Corbyn-lite investment economics!) because these policies are actually really popular with the majority of British people. So they're trying to attack Labour for being bigots, whilst simultaneously trying to appeal to their ageing blue-kip demographic who have spent decades rote learning bigoted tripe from the pages of the right-wing propaganda rags.

Condemning your political opponents as bigots in order to try to con the socially liberal younger generations into supporting your party, whilst simultaneously remaining fundamentally reliant on your core vote of profoundly illiberal blue-kippers who want nothing more than to bring back blue passports, corporal punishment and the routine beating of children in schools is quite a balancing act for the Tories to try, and it's one of the reasons the right-wing definition of what it is to be a lefty is getting ever more confused.

Apparently the centre-left are not only a bunch of politically correct, language-policing, snowflake millennials who insist on hiding in safe spaces, we're simultaneously a tyrannical bunch of bigoted, hard-left, brick-lobbing, Trotskyite extremists too!

In reality, aside from a few extreme outliers, the overwhelming majority of people on the left are social liberals who favour the public and democratic ownership of vital national infrastructure and services, and believe that there's nothing wrong with people getting rich through private enterprise as long as they play by the rules and pay their fair share of taxes.


Conclusion

So the next time you see someone using lefty as an insult, just remember that being a lefty is actually something to be proud of, and that the vast majority of people in Britain actually have centre-left economic views.

In fact, it's actually highly likely that the person trying to insult you for being a lefty has economically left-wing views too (like supporting the NHS, or believing the railways and energy companies would be better off under public ownership, or that workers should be entitled to stuff like holiday pay, sick pay, and compensation if they're unfairly sacked by their boss).

It's just that they've become so hopelessly confused by the bile and bias of the right-wing dominated media that they don't actually understand what it means to be left-wing at all, and use terms like lefty like insults, when they're actually compliments.



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