Monday, September 24, 2007

Punk politics

Chris Dillow says that:

party politics is just like prog rock.
Both are pompous self-referential masturbatory activities undertaken by mostly middle-class white boys, which are meaningless and irrelevant to most people.
And concludes:
although prog rock was (partly) swept away by the DIY music of punk and post-punk, it's hard to see a similar process happening in politics. In music, barriers to entry were low. In politics they are not.
Barriers to entry to the music market didn't feel as low in 1976 as they do today. In the couple of years before punk exploded onto the front pages there had been pub rock revivals (The Pirates, Dr Feelgood), Chiswick artists including what would later become The Clash, a mod revival, a rockabilly revival... all fuelled by disatisfaction with prog rock, but none made the news, none were able to get proper distribution for their records. Punk was seriously outrageous, enough so to break onto the news agenda. That's why they succeeded. Today, of course, music can just be distributed on the internet.

So can political ideas, so the barriers have lowered. Chris seems to think insufficiently so for a difference to be made to the political landscape.

At Harry's Place a fringe speech by Alan Johnson at the Labour conference has been posted:
But do we really understand what a ‘hearts and minds’ struggle in the early 21st century involves? Do we understand we are involved in a ‘framing war’ against extremism? Do we understand that we need a social movement to win that framing war? Have we grasped that we have not got one yet and they – the Islamists - have?
Johnson might be too deeply embedded into the existing political structures to see this, but a social movement of the type he is describing would really be more like punk than the top-down conventional approach.

Because a social movement would have to encompass real change, and the development of a political, even constitutional, landscape that individual people felt a part of. That's why countries like America and France that had popular revolutions have much stronger senses of individual stakes in the social and constitutional frameworks.

If we're going to win Johnson's "framing war", and see the widespread apathy and disillusionment Dillow highlights swept away, we need political change that's driven from below.

The Labour movement has become corporatist and conservative, divorced from the concerns of ordinary people. Trades Unions are an anachronism. The only type of movement capable of succeeding is a republican, libertarian one - a movement that consists of ordinary people wresting back power over their own persons and their own lives from the elites that have usurped it.

For this to succeed, we'd need to see a recognition from right libertarians that ties to conservatism and monarchy are incompatible with libertarianism. We'd need to see a recognition from left libertarians that the old left has failed, and so have its ideological underpinnings like Marxism.

And we'd need a Libertarian Party with the energy and iconoclasm to become the punk rock of politics, and generate a swell that ordinary individuals feel part of, attached to, proud of, and willing to defend.

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