Selling by the left

I confess I am not usually a fan of Jacobin, which often seems to me, to overstate its case.

However there is an interesting article here where I have some considerable sympathy. The article points out the initial joy of the Barrack Obama election success.

The author starts:

I came to my politics the way most people do: by way of a confused and often contradictory jumble of ideas and idioms gradually clarified through learning and experience.

On a basic level, I am a socialist because I simply cannot fathom reconciling myself to a society where so many needlessly suffer because of circumstances beyond their control; where human dignity is distributed on the basis of luck and a social caste system is allowed to permeate every aspect of daily life; and where all of this is considered perfectly normal and acceptable in a civilization that has split the atom and sent people to the Moon.

I find this interesting because I certainly didn’t have this sort of journey  – far from it. I thought in terms of injustice: were things fair? If they were not why and how could they be made so? Naturally I was usually accused of impossible idealism.

The author considers that his trigger was:

…a searing dislike for liberalism as the hegemonic outlook in our culture and a deep, abiding disdain towards the political class that so self-righteously upholds it.

….No, that instinct owes much more to watching Barack Obama summon forth a tidal wave of popular goodwill, then proceed to invite the same old cadre of apparatchiks and financiers back into the White House to carry on business as usual despite the most punishing economic crisis since the Great Depression….

….to witnessing a potentially monumental hunger for change be sacrificed on the altar of managerialism and technocratic respectability. It comes from watching a smiling Nick Clegg stand next to David Cameron in the Rose Garden at Number 10 Downing Street before rubber-stamping a series of lacerating cuts to Britain’s welfare state and betraying a generation of students in the process….

….The problem, in other words, wasn’t that contemporary liberalism was failing to live up to its ideals, but that it was living up to them all too well.From an early age I had been trained by mainstream political culture to think of liberalism as an orientation synonymous with change, progress, even dissent. … The animating mission here is less to combat injustice than to efficiently manage discontent.

Now all this, I confess, resonates. When I was using most of my resources to run a small company I did not have the time to examine too closely the actual agenda of  Cameroon ‘liberalism’. Initially and to my shame, I even accepted the ‘necessity’ of raised student fees. But at least I never accepted reduced ‘welfare’. Yet this does show how busy people – and most of us are – are deceived into thinking they are open and liberal but that also these severe restrictions on many citizens’ resources are ‘essential’.

This is why marketing or selling your point of view is so important – most people have little time. So the press in the UK continually sells for the ‘liberals’ and the BBC feeds off them.

‘The Guardian’ – what a pity they dropped the Manchester – is pretty much all we have left – and that is very far from perfect.

The narrative outlook desperately needs changing and that is why promoting a general understanding of the real origins of money is so important.

The left seriously needs a marketing system. And marketing is giving the salesforce- effectively the MP’s – the ‘ammunition’ to convince. Whilst most of the press are there at the disposal of the right wing who have the ‘Telegraph’ and the ‘Mail’.

Meanwhile ‘The Guardian’ is (rightly) still, too thinking by half…. but ideas have to be sold somehow.

The technique of properly and realistically ‘selling’ radical and progressive ideas is, I think, the issue of our time.



  1. Paul Wright -

    I agree entirely that the left needs some marketing, but remember that Blair/Campbell spin was resented in the end as hollow and superficial.
    The Orange bookers did a splendid piece of marketing and projection to position themselves as rabid free market libertarian so that they were peas in a pod with Cameron and Osborne, indeed they have continuously backed austerity. Quite how the Lib Dems are regarded as moderate, I really don’t know.
    There is a lot of resentment against the so called Liberal establishment from people who have suffered with the effects of globalisation, I have often heard in my local pub that Blair, Brown, Cameron et al “don’t give a sh*t” about ordinary people. They definitely have a point.

    The best marketing Labour has managed was the 2017 manifesto which was very popular with the under 30’s. Also I would add that the closer you get to academia and education, the
    more left leaning, and imaginative people seem to become.

    The media is pretty grim and doesn’t encourage ideas or creative thought, so whatever the left says or does will be denigrated, and sometimes they choose to keep their powder dry. I do understand why the left is wary of endorsing MMT because they will be slaughtered by the MSM, but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t go full throttle if elected. Malcolm Tucker is still with us and joke thought it may be, the media barons run the agenda.

    I read the LRB rather than the Graun, which is a Lib Dem love in, maybe the LRB has the right format for the foment of left ideas and policy? It keeps under the radar rather well.

    Regards, and thanks for the blog.

  2. MigT -

    [Paul Wright writes]”I do understand why the left is wary of endorsing MMT because they will be slaughtered by the MSM”

    True, but then the MSM perennially slaughters the left over “how will you pay for it?” It’d be an uphill battle but what’s to lose? And MMT, if initially counterintuitive, does at least make sense. The current mishmash of household fallacy and neoclassicism does not.

    “Regards, and thanks for the blog.”


  3. Peter May -

    Many thanks, both, for the kind words
    You may be right that there is nothing to lose, but my fear is that because the media is so overwhelmingly hostile, the MMT narrative will be (purposely or not) misunderstood or misrepresented, so there may be bogus arguments about completely the wrong things on the way.
    On balance I think I’d prefer that they “go full throttle when elected” but will they really? Let’s hope Johnson’s and Javid’s spending puts them on the right track….

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