On the question: Is Janan Ganesh Our Cicero or Our Catiline? Classical Historian comments

Is he Our Cicero or more likely Our Catiline that addresses the vexing question of the Left and its tribalism, in his usual eloquent, coruscating polemic? The Left, as Our Catiline views it, is ‘tribalist’ because it is by definition backward looking, as opposed to an Enlightened Neo-Liberal view, that The Market is the only viable form of ‘knowledge’ and a measure of all things that matter? This being is a sycophant to the faltering Pax Americana of NATO, and the EU as Neo-Liberalism avant la lettre, as it crumbles before our fixed gaze.

Our Catiline has a penchant for invective that serves him well, yet for the reader who looks for something more, like some telling insights to the various quandaries of the political present, like Populism and its American issue Trump, or the rise of Jeremy Corbyn the reader is shortchanged. On Corbyn the curious reader can consult the March 17, 2017 issue of the TLS in a review of three books on the Labour leader by Robert Potts, who offers some insight Our Catiline is incapable of imagining, much less formulating:

Does anyone know now what the Labour Party is for? Corbyn’s clarity on this in the leadership contests shone through, which is why he won. (He opposes inequality, which has risen in the UK since 1979 under both the Conservatives and New Labour, and seems to be the topic that, for whatever reason, Corbyn’s detractors will do anything not to talk about.) His opponents’ position is less clear; triangulation by platitude. There is strong recent evidence that people will not be fooled by that stance forever. If there is now any ideological difference between the Labour Right and the Liberal Democrats, it is far from obvious; talk of needing a new party between Corbyn and the Conservatives overlooks the fact we already have one.

Perhaps the only positive for the Left is that their arguments can now be made at all. A large number of voters, clearly committed and passionate, are hungry for a change. They cannot be simply taken for granted (as they were before Corbyn’s nomination – “where else do they have to go?” was the response from Andy Burnham’s camp), nor written off as a handful of naives and Trotskyites. They are unlikely to go away. James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party were merely the punchline to a joke in 1997, when they stood in every seat and lost every deposit; but only twenty years later, they have achieved their objective despite not even existing anymore. Given recent history, no one can confidently predict what Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy might eventually be.


Would that Our Catiline could offer up something comparable!

Classical Historian


Added Tuesday March 28,2017 2:12 PDT. I taking the liberty to add a long quotation from an earlier part of Mr. Robert Potts’ essay, that seems absolutely essential in coming to an understanding of the Labour Party and Corbyn’s place in it. And the myth of the primacy of Tony Blair in the Party’s history:

The story of how such an other-worldly figure became leader of the party simply by being himself is an oddly electrifying one, nicely told by Prince and better still by Nunns, and worth attending to if only to see how some widespread narratives suppress certain truths. The Blairite faction in the Parliamentary Party was never as large as people thought. Nonetheless, its members had disproportionate influence with the media, and it is largely their lines that are taken as gospel. So the decline of Labour’s fortunes is seen as a result of the departure of Tony Blair; had he not won three elections? And the 2015 general election result was because Ed Miliband was too left-wing. And the election of Jeremy Corbyn was because Miliband had introduced a new way of electing the leader. Following this narrative, all that is required for Labour to win again is the rectification of this error, by hook or by crook, and the subsequent leadership of a Blairite.

All three books, with different degrees of zest, show this narrative to be a fantasy. Blair (and Gordon Brown) managed to lose 5 million votes between 1997 and 2010, many of them from their working-class base; Scotland was lost because the Scottish chose a left-wing party over a Labour Party that had taken them for granted; and the electoral system that in March 2014 handed power to the party’s members, rather than a block vote by MPs, was hailed at the time by Tony Blair himself (“a long overdue reform . . . that [I] should have done myself”) and nearly all of his supporters – Nunns cheekily offers a standalone page of quotations to make that point. (It might be added that whenever Blair or his close ally Peter Mandelson pop up to offer helpful advice these days, the general public ungratefully ignore them. According to a recent YouGov poll, Blair is currently more unpopular across all demographics than Corbyn, which is quite an achievement.)


@BetaByNature @StephenKMackSD

(Note: I was only able to post the link to the ten point Crobyn program. March 28, 2017 6:55 AM PDT)

Thank you for your comment. ‘Hard Left’ is the Party Line of the Neo-Liberals/Thatcherites of the present, in their many iterations. The fact is that Corbyn is a Left wing Social Democrat: he only appears to be ‘Hard Left’ because he inhabits a political culture dominated by the ‘The Road to Serfdom’ political pathology,  and its political enactor Mrs. Thatcher, not to speak of her myriad epigones.

Here is Mr. Corbyn’s ten point program offered in 2016, where were you?

Corbyn’s 10 pledges

  1. Full employment and an economy that works for all: based around a £500bn public investment via the planned national investment bank.
  2. A secure homes guarantee: building 1m new homes in five years, at least half of them council homes. Also rent controls and secure tenancies.
  3. Security at work: includes stronger employment rights, an end to zero hours contracts and mandatory collective bargaining for companies with 250 or more employees.
  4. Secure our NHS and social care: end health service privatisation and bring services into a “secure, publicly-provided NHS”.
  5. A national education service: includes universal public childcare, the “progressive restoration” of free education, and quality apprenticeships.
  6. Action to secure our environment: includes keeping to Paris climate agreement, and moving to a “low-carbon economy” and green industries, in part via national investment bank.
  7. Put the public back into our economy and services: includes renationalising railways and bringing private bus, leisure and sports facilities back into local government control.
  8. Cut income and wealth inequality: make a progressive tax system so highest earners are “fairly taxed”, shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid.
  9. Action to secure an equal society: includes action to combat violence against women, as well as discrimination based on race, sexuality or disability, and defend the Human Rights Act.
  10. Peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy: aims to put conflict resolution and human rights “at the heart of foreign policy”.


It took me all of a minute to find this on the internet! Should I take your comment as the chatter of a Neo-Liberal ideologue, or would that be considered a redundancy?



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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