Wednesday 9 November 2016

Where are you, President Sanders?

The US Democratic Party establishment has now paid the highest of all electoral prices for previously sabotaging the candidacy of veteran socialist Bernie Sanders in favour of such a deeply compromised neo-liberal insider as Hillary Clinton.   At moments of deep national crisis and self-division, if you do not offer working-class voters a leftwing populism, you will tend to get a populism of the right –  and sometimes the far right – instead, as we ourselves recently saw with the Brexit vote.  Donald Trump appealed to an American working class which has lost out so deeply to globalisation, with many of its traditional manufacturing jobs exported overseas, and waves of mass immigration undercutting its grasp on the remaining low-wage service jobs at home. 

Can left-liberalism, or even the metropolitan Left itself, simply not see the truth in such arguments, or how deeply they accord with the experience of the US “rustbelt” or of our own working-class neighbourhoods?  Good as he is on many other policies, Jeremy Corbyn clearly doesn’t have a clue on this, as when he announced recently, of EU immigration to London, “I don’t think too many have come”.  Until we have a Left politics that can actually tap into contemporary working-class anxieties, as Sanders in his campaign to be Democratic presidential nominee did indeed seem to be doing, it will be the Right – Trump in the US, the Tory hard-Brexiteers or UKIP over here – that capitalises on the very profound disaffection with the current world economic system that so clearly exists.  

No William Morris link worked in here, I admit; but today's political events are so momentous I feel I can justifiably do without one for once.

Saturday 5 November 2016

In Defence of Libraries

In her epic biography of Morris, Fiona MacCarthy calls him ‘one of nature’s library users, perhaps because he came to behave as if he owned them’; and she tells H.M. Hyndman’s story of Morris effortlessly dating illuminated missals in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.  In News from Nowhere Henry Morsom travels to Oxford to ‘get a book or two’ out of the Bodleian, so it is good to know that in utopia that prestigious institution will be democratised, and become a lending rather than purely reference library.  I think we can safely assume, then, that Morris would support today’s demonstration in London in defence of public libraries, particularly since it involves a march between those eminently Morrisian locations, the British Library and Trafalgar Square.

As an excellent article in today’s Guardian informs us: 1/ spending by councils on library services fell by 20% between 2010 and 2015; 2/ 25% of all jobs in libraries – some 8000 in total – have been lost since May 2010; and 3/ one in eight council-run libraries has been closed or transferred out of the public sector in the past six years.  We might have thought the Tory austerity project had been thoroughly overtaken by the complications of Brexit, but no, it is alive and viciously kicking, just as much as it ever was in the Cameron-Osborne years.  Our public libraries, which are such crucial cultural resources for disadvantaged families (as I know from my own childhood), are being butchered by the Conservatives, so more power to the elbows of our admirable London protestors!