Opinion

Centrism destroyed everything

by | 2 Jul 2024

Far from being a half-way house between left and right, centrism is the insidious political ideology that has taken the most hopeful moment in recent human history - and totally ruined it.

There is nothing like a little distance to help you gain clarity. After two weeks in and around the Mayan jungle without any way to find out any news at all (phone off, family warned to tell me nothing, internet avoided at all costs), I return to the world of anglosphere politics and the level of decline and decay is as clear as a bell.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a shock. I just watched bits of the Biden/Trump debate and looked over the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling. If there is a better advert for an apocalypse bunker I don’t know what it is. I’ve observed France melt down. I’ve seen Britain stumble into a situation where the major uniting factor among the people seems to be that politics has failed miserably on all fronts.

Meanwhile my my hope-against-hope that the West might get over its hypocrisy and find some kind of humanity in its soul over Gaza proved misplaced, and the full-on race to cross every red line in Ukraine in pursuit of a militarised Europe based on fear of a Red Menace only get worse.

Which would all be worrying enough even if just about every political party didn’t seem to be scaling back their already woeful climate change commitments as the evidence that we’re now past the point of being able to maintain the planet’s climate in any form that we recognise from our own lifetimes is pretty unmissable.

And Scotland? This is an election where when I asked the team ‘what did I miss in Scotland?’, no-one can really think of anything of any significance. So what I can actually see is some of the most horrendous policy-making seen in Scotland since the Poll Tax. In the next couple of years this government aims to have privatised almost everything it possibly can.

All of this – all of it – loops back to the same, overwhelming problem. The western world’s elites have been utterly out of control and until we finally accept this truth, what it means and how we might go about changing it, there isn’t a lot of available hope.

Centrism isn’t now and never was ‘a half-way house between the right and the left’. I’ve tried to explain this before but let me repeat it. ‘Left’, ‘right’ and ‘Centre’ are each separate ideologies, each operating in a different way and for a different purpose. Each is based on a different belief about how social progress is achieved.

On the left the belief is that a better future emerges from collaboration and cooperation, that people working together for the common good achieve more than individuals working for personal gain. The right believes in something like the opposite – that competition and conflict ‘weed out’ the weak and enable the strong to achieve more than if they had to carry the weak on their backs.

That is a rules-based order that only benefits those who set the rules and which is discarded when the rules challenge the interests of the rule-setters

Centrism is quite different. It believes in progress through order and hierarchy. It doesn’t really mind what justification is used for a hierarchy – One Nation Tories believed it was simply genetic inheritance while Blairites believed in ‘meritocracy’. The justification doesn’t matter, what matters is that centrists are at the top of it and that they are seen to deserve to be there.

After all, the true defining feature of centrism is that, whatever the belief about how you get into the elite, you must deserve it and so no-one should ever have to be relegated from the elite. Aristocrats believe that an under-performing sibling is simply a slip-up in the otherwise reliable gene pool and meritocrats never, ever talk about the possibility of their own relegation from the elite if it turns out they’re not all that…

And the other feature is ‘order’ – that everyone else must be controlled by the elite because of the elite’s ‘obvious’ right to govern for whatever reason they come up with. The shift from hanging by the neck until dead to rules-based order was seamless – it’s just that the rules set like concrete for everyone outside the elite but somehow manage to take a form that doesn’t constrain the elite at all.

So there is no such thing as how many times KPMG gets fined for corruption, or how many major constructions failures Keir Construction leaves behind, or how many Fujitsu IT systems fail, in every case those responsible are protected and their future prospects are never challenged.

Coming back to the specifics of the current situation, what we are seeing is a rogue elite drowning under the consequences of its own hypocrisy. You can pick your example; offshoring manufacturing to China was brilliant so long as only blue-collar workers paid the price – but must be halted in its tracks when Chinese corporations start to challenge Western corporations.

That is a rules-based order that only benefits those who set the rules and which is discarded when the rules challenge the interests of the rule-setters. That also explains Gaza, and Nato’s hypocrisy (remember, the US is almost certainly behind the biggest terrorist assault on European infrastructure in living memory with its almost certain collusion over the Nordstream bombing – but let’s never mention that again and focus on the terrorist threat of some kid on the internet).

It explains why the Democrat establishment has again and again prevented troubling outsiders from having influence over the party, an outcome which results in a political gene pool so narrow that Joe Biden is the best they can come up with. It explains how the elite managed to capture media ownership in a way that manages to turn Trump into a viable president and not the narcissistic failure he actually is.

It explains why no-one is acting seriously on climate change. Let’s just be clear on this – if you’re seriously talking about a meritocracy it is the climate scientists who should be shaping climate policy. It’s not; it’s the oil industry. That is nothing to do with merit and everything to do with power.

And in Scotland we have the certain belief that the SNP ‘owns’ independence because ‘it is the biggest’ and so its performance and its track record don’t matter because it ‘belongs’ atop the pile and must always be there no matter what.

You can keep doing this over and over; the elite have controlled and shaped the political, social, economic and civic environment almost purely for their own ends. Sometimes this requires a few concessions (that is a difference between the centre and the right), but that only means ‘what is the least we need to give them to keep the pitchforks and burning torches from our door’.

The centrists really, really thought we’d thank them for inventing Keir Starmer, for dusting off Joe Biden, for a brave change-maker like Emile Macron, for all of it

Centrism was always an ideology from the right wing of the political spectrum and any pretence to the contrary must surely no longer be plausible. Look at how many centrists in France are talking about working with the fascists to keep the socialists out of power. Look at how the centre went after Corbyn for perceived antisemitism but not Starmer for repeated instances of blatant racism.

The problem for centrism is that it worked. In fact it worked brilliantly. A tiny segment of society created a set of rules that granted them a greater and greater share of national wealth. They got everything they wanted. I mean seriously, from turning universities into fee-paying markets to the almost total erosion of anti-monopoly protection to increasing economic inequality to saturation ownership of the media to the rapid and total destruction of any kind of left-wing challenge, they won hands down.

Brilliant. Great success. Well, except for everyone else. And slowly everyone else has been getting quite uppity about it. The experience of capitalism has worsened and worsened (“Hi, I’m Nonthreatening Name, your AI-powered chatbot. How can I help you? Sorry I didn’t understand that. Please speak more slowly. I think you asked me to stuff walnuts into your orifices. Is that correct?”).

The experience of public services has worsened (tax is anathema to centrists, privatisation irresistible). The sense of the ordinary person being treated fairly is gone. The ratio of work to the gains from work have skewed against ordinary people.

And frankly they’ve reached their limit. The centrists really, really thought we’d thank them for inventing Keir Starmer, for dusting off Joe Biden, for a brave change-maker like Emmanuel Macron, for all of it. That’s because, like every all-powerful elite, they are so far up their own arse they no longer have any real connection to those outside the elite.

It’s not that we’ve reached breaking-point, its that things broke a while ago and no-one would admit it. Well, in a short period of time it looks like the far-right will be running France, Trump will be running America, climate change will be out of control and Labour and the SNP will be trusted by no-one, letting something worse in the back door.

The centrists have finally realised this and they’re shitting themselves. Well too late you selfish fools, too late. We are the children of your misrule and no-where will be beyond the consequence of your actions. Fucking well done.

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