Identity and Justice-two competing visions of the future (1) the destruction of Labour

The report on the recent defeat of the Labour Party in the recent general election makes melancholy reading for “progressives” in this country.* A whole tradition, centuries old, of people who who have called themselves variously Whigs, Liberals, Socialists, Social Democrats, Methodists, and Trades Unionists has been effectively closed off, perhaps for ever, as the report makes clear. The reasons for the defeat are twofold. Firstly the inept leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and his clique. About whom we find the report’s language to be surprisingly mild and forgiving. It is hard to confine our opinion of this man within the bounds of decent language, so we will conclude by saying that personal feelings of moral righteousness are a poor substitute for thought and reason, and leave it at that.

The truly worrying trend is the way that Labour has ceased to speak to, and for, the mass of older, less educated but essentially decent people who were once its bedrock. It is now a party of the young, the educated and the city dweller. Admirable as they are, they are never going to be enough to win any election, or provide the long support for a government, as for example the Trades Unions did for Clement Attlee.

The Left and progressives have always held that economic causes, and their class concomitants, were the organising principles of society. The Right has always had a different view; that beyond the immediate overwhelming drives of food and sex, it is ethnic tribalism that is the real organising principle of human groups. This view is rigorously explored by Amy Chua in works such as Political Tribes, *and Eric Kaufman in Whiteshift.* If that alone does not make it worthy of serious examination, then its current success in country after country (USA, UK, Hungary, Poland, Russia, India) should at least tell objective thinkers that something is happening that resonates with people.

Societies based on ethnic tribalism are a response to feelings of profound insecurities about fast economic and social change.* The feelings behind them are found in all ethnic groups and races around the world. Societies which take this course can be stable for decades (Northern Ireland, Nationalist South Africa). Often they can only be overthrown by powerful enemies or sustained insurrections (Nazi Germany, Rhodesia). Internally they can provide a fair level of emotional order and even some limited freedoms for the in-group. Northern Ireland and South Africa always had Parliaments and elections, as did the southern states of the USA. It is arguable that the formation of strong stable in groups may have had powerful evolutionary advantages for their members, as a defence against enemies and the spread of contagious disease. Above all it provided a sense of identity. To dismiss any of the above, with a condescending Marxist smear of “false consciousness” would be folly indeed.

And that is essentially what Labour has done. In its rush to accommodate every possible notion of identity in a shifting. cosmopolitan urban population, it disastrously neglected the same feelings among those who lived slower lives in town and field. Immigration is a purely capitalist phenomenon, brokering the supply of labour to demand. For a party that has always been suspicious of unregulated markets, it was an obvious target to call out for strong regulation and control. The principle of universalist solidarity is very admirable. It is also hard to communicate. And the other side controlled the media.

In any cultural war the Right will have many advantages. The Left can only say “vote for us, give up your current privilege, and things should get much, much better for everyone(but we can’t guarantee it)* To which the right can point to symbols of order, continuity and identity which are dear to many hearts. And so it has always been, because groups that do it this way thrive and prosper.

Then would it be better to surrender to the inevitable, to accept that ethnic groups are our destiny, and retreat into flag waving and parades, while awaiting the inevitable, probably final, war? Is there any alternative? In the next piece we hope to show that there may be.

Ami Chua Political Tribes Bloomsbury

Eric Kaufman Whiteshift Penguin Books

#ethnictribalism #labour #amichua #erickaufman #Left #Right

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