Saturday, 30 July 2016

On the Supernatural

I want to dispute the value of the term 'supernatural' - the perceived non-natural that is not 'at hand', immediately and potentially useful or easily explicable, and not that material universe that is based on what we can reasonably know or trust to be so from those who do claim to know on the basis of science. The term, which seems not to have been used before the 1520s, has shunted a number of categories into one basket - a problem of accounting for aspects of the world if you insist on creating a meaning outside of it, some things that happen to people for which there is no immediate accounting and the various imaginative creations that have been projected onto the world or exist in that liminal zone where imagination creates functionally useful assets in society for profit, pleasure or social control.

The creation of the idea of the 'supernatural' has separated out a whole set of mind events from other mind events but also other events in the world from the world and packaged them as something 'other' yet culturally identifiable. It is part of the process by which we have failed to critique religion, human perceptual frailties and the imaginative economy alike but also failed to appreciate the complexity of humanity and so the value to it of absurd beliefs and sometimes radical imaginative creativity. Worst of all, the concept includes real events for which there is no current explanation and associates them negatively with absurd belief and the products of human imagination without anything other than a reliance on an equally dubious radical rationalism. It then puts all these in one box where everything in it can be safely dismissed as 'non-scientific', constructions of the human mind, of the hysterical or weak-minded in some quarters and so of little interest or value.

Far better, surely, to separate the three categories of the supernatural - faith, psi and creativity - and reintegrate them back into one world view that is fully 'natural' (that is, ultimately part of the same universe) and so part of the human condition. In other words, treat them critically but with some respect as all human-related. It may complicate matters to do so but would it not offer us the chance to be more true to human reality and help us walk away from attempts to manage what has been called supernatural through denial and alienatory strategies. We should adopt a radical naturalism that includes these phenomena. By restoring the 'supernatural' fully to the natural, bringing it back down to earth so to speak, the opportunity is created not only for a more open analysis of the function of religion, experience and creativity but this change also enables a more profound critique of the thinking systems that try to take the supernatural and create a system out of it that then seeks to command nature without cause or justice.

We think here of non-dualist philosophies and pan-psychism in particular, neither of which explain the world better than a naturalist materialism that takes into account the material basis of the human mind's possible abilities, not only to create a world for itself as observer but also to respond (possibly) to forces that, while mysterious in effects, still have a material basis even if we do not yet have the tools to understand how they operate. What for example may a demon be? A real entity created by God and now rejected? A psychological projection of inner turmoil? An imaginative creation functionally useful in controlling an ignorant person? Or a material external effect on vulnerable minds? At least one reputable psychiatrist seems to think there are really existing evil spirits out there and is about to release a book on it, already touted by the Washington Post.

Personally I tend to the second and third in this particular case but things get more complicated when we speak of ESP (extra-sensory perception) and PK (psychokinesis). These are experiences that sometimes have explanations that show fraud or delusion or coincidence effects but sometimes show patterns in some people at some times that are quite simply not so easily explicable. The demonic possession outlined by Gallagher might easily be transferred to this category of events. Shunting all these into the category of the supernatural, exiling them from the natural, is intellectual cowardice. However, equally, simply saying that they do not exist (scepticism) is no more valid than asserting that they definitely do exist (faith). They may exist but, in possibly existing, they should be seen as natural phenomena with no requirement for alien beings or gods or demons outside nature or materiality and every requirement for understanding better the way the human mind works in its relationship with its own material and social environment (which latter is ultimately just an emanation from the material world).

Mind arises from matter and creates (as information and through communication) a world of intangibles that would cease to exist if the material substrate was destroyed and yet this fluid world is different from inert matter. It could be argued that a more effective model than the split betwen the natural and the supernatural would be between inert and manipulative matter (which might include many of us humans most of the time) and consider something we might have called supermatter within the natural if we were lazy. This element within the material universe but 'super' the expression of the material world in terms of an inert substrate is represented by the mind of individual when it constructs the intangible and cross-communicates with other individuals to create social mind-stuff. Social mind-stuff (culture) is used to create not only the conditions for the manipulation of inert matter but also the conditions for the manipulation of itself, a situation complicated by the self-evidently material base for a new category of inert matter that mimics the mind-stuff of humanity, artificial intelligence, and which, in turn, is capable of entering intangibles into human minds and culture and eventually to manipulate matter just as humans can and do.

With artificial intelligence, it is as if inert matter is catching up with us as matter manipulators, thanks to our own mind manipulation of matter in creating matter that can manipulate matter (the binary code that is the basis for machine computation). Yet all of this is fundamentally materially based. Everything 'mind' is lodged in matter and cannot survive without the survival of the substrate of matter, no matter how manipulated by mind. And so, putting the invented God-things and the products of the imagination aside, we can return to 'unexplained phenomena' and reasonably assume that these two aspects of the case are products of matter directly (the mystery of things not explained which may simply mean that we do not yet understand matter fully) or indirectly as the product of mind in its relationship to matter (as in perceptual delusion) or, finally, as mind working on itself within its material substrate (as in the belief in the God-origin of miracles or the Hollywoodisation of the vampire or werewolf).

So, what I propose is that we abandon the separation of the natural and supernatural as an early modern invention (certainly not something the Ojibwa, say, would understand as a correct interpretation of the world) and re-think the world as one material world:-
  • which we do not entirely understand (leaving room for scepticism about scepticism when effects are unexplained) but which we know reasonably to have a material (natural) base so that all things are ultimately natural and 
  • where the material substrate permits the construction of mind that in turn invents itself, including the conceits of the 'supernatural' (now just a cultural phenomenon whether of God-things or werewolves) based on the frailties of perception and the genius of the imagined.

It is certainly plausible that dream states can create gods and demons. On the other hand, the emergent social mind now also creates tools that mimic the naturally emergent mind (artificial intelligence) and which are apparently immune from individual or social bias (assuming the inputs are logical) and of anything inexplicable. Once we have disposed of god-things and cultural artefacts, we are still left with a residue of the inexplicable whether related to our human minds or to events in the world. There is no mind event that is not emergent from our own minds. The conceptualisation by a mind of a mind event outside itself represents no more that this created mind is a real mind than the mind of an artificial intelligence (as one currently stands) represents a real mind. A material substrate, of which we may not yet know everything and may never know all we need to know to understand it, is still required for all human and silicon and even alien mind events. Even demons are likely to have a material substrate somewhere to justify their existence.

Psi (ESP and PK) and unusual mind events that may or may not exist but they do not need to scare us if they do exist. They are clearly relatively rare and arise from peculiar circumstances. As natural phenomena, they are worthy of study with an open mind even if the final conclusions are either that they are all delusions of emergent human minds or explicable in terms of micro-effects in nature that we had not previously understood - or are simply things in the world that cannot be explained. We have to accept that it is not the lot of humanity (even aided by machine intelligence) to know everything. Absolute knowledge of a system by something within that system is not attainable unless one falls back on the insane belief that Man can become God.

To reverse the formulation of Gyrus in his 'North', it is not 'the preciptation of the gross earthly realm out of the aetheric infinity embracing it' that we are dealing with but 'the precipitation of an aetheric breadth of possibility out of the inert material realm embracing it'. This allows us to position the natural and the supernatural in a different conceptual context - that of immanence and transcendence. The standard model for the supernatural it is to see nature as immanent (which parallels the idea that God is immanent in nature, in all that can be seen and experienced and measured) and the supernatural as transcendent (insofar as the mental model is of God being outside nature, transcending it, as well as immanent).

With God and all forms of prime mover and all forces external to nature removed from the equation, nature can remain immanent but as total materiality - that is, all that is in the universe and all that is in the universe is matter or energy in some form. Transcendence can be re-cast as what emerges out of nature that has to be within nature by the nature of things but which is different in quality - that is, it is self-reflexive consciousness or mind and its associated tools such as reasoning. This raises interesting questions because there is no easy binary here between matter and mind. Self-reflexive consciousness and reasoning as a tool arise not in some sudden spark of creation and binary difference but evolve very slowly over vast tracts of time. The difference between the thing that is self-reflexive and aware and the thing that is not is not 'created' in an instant by some external touch but evolves. Self-reflexiveness and ability to think also varies even within a community of individuals in society in real time and within one individual, often from second to second.

Nor should we fall into the trap of valorising the self-reflexive consciousness so that a mythic narrative emerges that automatically assumes that the more conscious the entity then the higher the value - this is the error of cod-existentialism that valorises untestable claims to 'authenticity'. No attribute is of intrinsic value except situationally - from the stance of the individual or 'society'. No external force ensures a positive valuation, certainly no force outside nature (the world and all that is the case within it). Neither consciousness not authenticity are things-in-themselves but are rather states of being that shift in time in a Heraclitean flux much as 'mind' emerges transcendentally over long periods of time and in fits and starts.

The point here is not to create another binary (always the instinct of the simple analyst of the universe, the raw and the cooked, the hot and the cold, the good and the bad) but to have a concept to hand - the transcendental - that can shift its meaning from something external and unknowable and outside reality (when the supernatural is actually just a sub-set of human imaginative invention) to something that transcends inert matter existentially, that is, that emerges from out of matter (transcends its substrate) to become something that forms and creates itself, not only as the individual mind and personality with its reasoning, conceptualisation, creative imaginings, inventions, discoveries and meanings but as the transcendent creation of cultures of all levels, societies of all types, collaborative artistic creation and scientific discovery, the academic project to increase the bounds of knowledge, the prosecution of projects (not excluding business and war) and so forth.

Thus, it is mind, culture and society that are at least potentially 'supernatural' (on a trajectory that seems to be increasingly disconnected from its material substrate over time) in this different interpretation of the terms although I would dispute that anything can ever be disconnected from materiality. What we traditionally think of as supernatural in two of its key categories (the invention of meaning and imaginative creation) is simply a sub-set of something that is not so much 'above nature' as the highest part of nature (summa autem natura?), at least as seen from the point of view of those who have the ability (the self-reflexive conscious mind) to observe 'nature'. 'Nature' itself does not observe itself but is a thing in which we are embedded and which we have reconstructed from our observations into an abstract.

Matter in itself is inert but there is a distinctly different quality in that which can observe itself and its own substrate and environment. Either there is nothing supernatural here or we might deal with the problem by recasting 'nature' to mean not all that there is in the universe but all that there is that is not self-consciously reflexive and aware of itself, I think this is intellectually lazy - an essentialism after instead of before the fact designed to over-privilege the human (and indeed the thinking machine, alien and demon by pushing them into the place where once we positioned God and a conscious Nature. It might be better here to speak of a radicalisation of a part of nature itself and so stay 'grounded' (literally). This conceit also forces us to consider at what point artificial intelligence elides from being part of the inert material substrate and joins us humans as 'summa autem natura'. It also begs the question of the possibility of independent self-reflexive entities emerging out of the material in the past, existent now or in the future from the material substrate - which opens the door to evidence-based acceptance of aliens, emergent god-things, spirits, angels and demons (to speak in human terms).

The actual evidence for these latter is flaky to say the least but it would be intellectually dangerous to assume that, if the material substrate had permitted 'summa autem natura' in relation to ourselves as human beings, that it might not permit the emergence of similar minds and entities or other minds and entities elsewhere in the universe and/or in time and that they might have a character and experience very different from ours. After all, we are on the path ourselves to creating potentially transcendent artificial intelligences that might well fit the bill for a form of independent self-reflexive and creative consciousness.

This leaves us with the last category of popular ideas of the supernatural, outside religion and popular and folk culture, the paranormal. Psi (ESP and PK and other events) are claimed to happen to people by people themselves (though not easily observable by third parties as true and reliable) and may or may not be entirely delusory events whether as a not understood coincidence or as misperception or as fraud by third parties (and so forth). The immanence-transcendence model here inverts itself because a deluded mind might be seen as a warped transcendence but, if there is anything in these events (and we have an open mind here), then they are still events within nature and not supernatural. They are part of the material substrate and so part of the natural. They are simply natural events that we either cannot or do not understand.

Psychological effects that are interpreted as 'paranormal' (a better term than cloaking these events with the term supernatural) and physical events involving a warping of our understanding of causation, time and space may not be automatically considered to be absolutely impossible so much as probably impossible with the information and reasoning at our disposal as transcendent minds at this time and in this space.

If the concept of the supernatural is something we have inherited from our own earlier stages of development, it works functionally as part of our cultural tool kit insofar as we value religion or create imaginatively for our own psychological needs. It is equally a rather sloppy way of moving forward as self-reflexive consciousnesses in our own right. It would be better to make a functional assumption of absolute materialism and then enclose all current definitions of the supernatural as properties of 'summa autem natura' (the highest form of nature from our own perspective), excepting the 'paranormal'. This latter should be separated out as either a delusion or, on further investigation, an unknown element of the totality of materiality.

The 'paranormal' becomes a potentiality for knowing rather than something known, mirroring our creation of artificial intelligence as a potentiality for consciousness rather than as something conscious in itself now. The first offers the potential for changing our perception of material reality without any necessity for 'spiritual' inventions while the latter offers the potential for changing our assumptions about the uniqueness of our own transcendence (whether later to be challenged further by the discovery of aliens or demons is probably something not within the capability of current science). Our working assumption can be that we do not have to worry over much about aliens and demons (except as cultural artefacts) but that we should be concerned about understanding artificial intelligence and we should continue to be sceptically interested in the paranormal without throwing too much resource at it.

Beyond this, we continue to transcend as much as we can because that is what we do subject to our all-too-obvious dependence on immanent matter (after all, we die!). We continue, driven by our own 'nature' at least amongst those so inclined, to employ our transcending minds in the manipulation and exploitation of the material universe, of 'nature', in order to assist our continuing process of transcendence - regardless of conservative attempts to try to give immanence/matter priority over our own transcendence. We think here of those retrograde elements in the green movement that go beyond sustainability in our own interest as transcendent-within-immanence beings into a preference for the invented rights of 'nature' over humanity or those 'spiritual' elements who insist on inverting the situation and trying to give an untenable transcendent quality to nature itself whether overtly as God or as some form of pantheism or pan-psychism.

The supernatural thus can quietly disappear from view except as cultural artefact (meeting psychological needs) or as an incorrect descriptive term for that which is not known or cannot be known. It is a term we no longer need philosophically if we have the concept of emergent consciousness as 'summa autem natura' (this is the best term I have to hand and welcome others' thoughts) from its own perspective as observer of its own condition when even Psi (ESP and PK), aliens, gods, angels and demons can only either be inventions of ourselves or a knowable (but not necessarily by us) part of nature.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Exaro - The End Game

At a Board Meeting yesterday morning, the Directors of Exaro Holdings Ltd. voted to wind up Exaro, the online investigative news channel. This is now public knowledge as a result of a Tweet from the former Editor so there is no need to abstain from comment. At the meeting (which I attended through a dial-in call), I abstained on the vote not because I thought that the winding up was unreasonable given the commercial situation but because I had not been consulted on the matter beforehand and because I had concerns about a number of internal issues which I am confident would be resolved once I had drawn them to the Board's attention. Immediately after the Board Meeting, I resigned as a Director of Exaro Holdings Limited and write now only as a minority shareholder and private individual.

In two weeks (date as yet undetermined), there will be a shareholders meeting. Since I speak for only 18.2% of the shares (20% if proxied by others), the outcome is a foregone conclusion but I think it important, because Exaro has a public interest aspect, to lay out such facts as will set the record straight for the future and to raise one issue of public interest.

First, let me make it clear that the decision by the majority shareholder to withdraw support is a commercially sound and reasonable one. I will have more to note on the commercial aspects below but I have no reason to believe that the decision had anything to do with editorial content.

At the prior Board Meeting, a number of decisions were taken - that the Company was not commercially viable under current arrangements and that, while the Company was acknowledged to have public interest value, a time frame should be set for ensuring that the Company became viable. Support was committed to the end of 2016 on strict condition that the Company had a business plan and business model which would demonstrate incontrovertibly long term commercial viability. The task of creating such a re-orientation of the business was given to the Managing Director and a Sub-Committee of the Board was set up (including myself) to work on such a plan once immediate issues related to editorial staffing were resolved (expected to be around this time).

The commercial viability of an investigative journalist unit was always going to be a issue of concern. Some errors were made at the beginning which may be useful to any who follow in our footsteps. There is no point in going over old history but the bottom line is that the original plan that my team formulated was put on ice because a judgement was made (a reasonable one which I fully accepted at the time) that the first year should place all resources into the hands of the Editor in order to establish the brand and the positioning. My short period in management thus coincided with a period in which there was no management other than to support editorial. By prior agreement, I ceased to take a managing role after six months and became a Non-Executive Director based on my minority shareholding. I attended Board Meetings but had little role other than to assist in defence of reputation, more as an associated individual than as an official spokesperson.

During this lengthy period, I repeatedly noted that the Editor had accrued too much power under the guise of 'editorial independence'. This meant that the first stage strategy of creating the brand through content had morphed into a commitment to the expense of content without adequate commercial revenue to support it. The primary lesson for those who follow us is to institute strong management and commercial control of editorial from the very beginning in every area except direct content and to ensure an editor is in place who has a strong understanding of market realities. No private sector entity can be a bottomless pit into which money must be poured.

From this perspective, I wholly accept that the senior shareholder and creditor, evaluating the matter with his own team, came to the conclusion that Exaro had become such a bottomless pit even if I am disappointed that the reversal of policy at the preceding Board Meeting was not undertaken with some prior consultation with the Director representing the minority shareholders. My abstention was a function of being surprised by the policy but should not be construed as disagreement with it. The lack of consultation simply meant that there was no time for this Director to consider carefully the 'interests of the Company' beforehand. However, the decision is now accepted as in the best interests of the company as commercial entity. Clearly, the Managing Director recommended that there was no viable commercial rescue plan and that we would be wasting more funds and time to create one. I am afraid that I have no magic bullet to hand that says otherwise. I would only have been able to say otherwise if I had been directly engaged in the evaluation and around six months' further of risk money had been made available. It would have been too much to expect the majority shareholder to risk more at this stage.

Under these circumstances, I respect the decision of the primary funder and go further in thanking him for his exceptional public interest support for Exaro to date (far beyond the point that I might have done in his situation) and for his personal commitment to editorial independence throughout. I have no reason to believe that editorial content played any role in the decision. It was never an issue at any Board Meeting throughout the history of Exaro although of course I cannot speak for the final decision because I was out of the loop on that one. My judgement is that it did not.

If anything, the funder's faith in editorial was not reciprocated by editorial which proved somewhat unco-operative in considering the commercial base for the operation at every stage but this is not a time to cast stones. Yet, whatever the decision is, it is not the 'act of vandalism' claimed by one outgoing figure. It was a probably necessary final act after a long period of being tolerant of an over-emphasis on the public interest mission of Exaro without understanding commercial realities. Exaro never was intended to be a charity. It was designed to be a new business model for investigative journalism. In that, it has failed.

The question is now - what next?  Formally, the Company will be wound up (whatever my minority vote says) in about two weeks' time. Because it does not have a business model to hand, it is not salvageable unless a third party magically appears and makes an offer for the Company or the assets to the majority investor to which I must agree (and to which, unless obviously destuctive, I would agree). Such a purchaser would either have to understand the need to invest in the business planning agreed one month ago with or without me or find some synergy with existing operations. I will assume that it is not salvageable and will be wound up in two weeks.

However, I have one last public interest concern. The historic work and data of Exaro provides an important contemporary historical archive of some four years of investigation and it should be preserved. If it has no commercial value to New Sparta and is not of interest to a third party, then the Board (of which I am no longer a member) should consider this public interest aspect of the case and either preserve it as an archive asset within New Sparta available to the public (which would be of minimal cost) or transfer its brand and content to either an individual or public interest institution who can at the least maintain it for scholars and at the best maintain it for public access. I am raising this concern with the Company and hope that the archive can be maintained by transferring it by agreement to a third party before the winding up - if no third party appears to acquire the assets for commercial purposes by the due date. I shall keep readers informed of my progress.

Finally, for all the failures, it was a noble experiment and, although controversial (which is no bad thing), for some four years it did hold power to account on many fronts. The dominance of the child abuse story has been much exaggerated as even a cursory review of the UK archive Page of the online journal would demonstrate. Even the child abuse narrative (about which, in retrospect, it became a little over-concerned) undoubtedly helped to raise awareness of the necessity for the State to stop pretending that institutionalised sexual abuse was something to be ignored and so tolerated. The modernising elements of the State have picked up on this, helped also by awareness that, as in the case of Rotherham, tolerance of sexual abuse was not a matter of Right or Left but of flaccid elites turning their gaze away from the vulnerable and the difficult in society. The engine of reform has now started and we will see a very different cultural framework for the protection of the vulnerable in this area within three to five years - Exaro contributed to that greatly. I am honoured to have initiated the Exaro project and only regret the necessity of having to become little more than a supportive bystander for so many years

I want to give express my personal appreciation to Jerome Booth, whose patient funding over many years cannot be dismissed by those whose own money is not at stake, to my former colleagues on the Exaro Holdings Board and the Company's advisers, to the former Editor Mark Watts (who may have broken with Exaro in recent months but who was instrumental to the development of its original mission) and to all the editorial and staff of Exaro who showed unstinting commitment and who it would be invidious to name individually lest someone be forgot. And a word for the original team at one of our companies PendryWhite who set up the design and branding and the online platform on a shoestring budget under the direction of Jenina Bas.

And so the wheel of fortune turns ... any serious interest in either the archive idea or some 'deus ex machina' to save the business should go to either the Chairman of Exaro Holdings, Jerome Booth, at New Sparta or you can connect with me on LinkedIn for a chat. The silence may, of course, be deafening ...

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Exploring Political Options for Left Leavers - A Discussion Paper

What options are available for a Left Leaver under current political conditions? The vote was for Leave. It is now fairly certain that, without a significant revolt within the Parliamentary Conservative Party (which looks increasingly unlikely), Article 50 will be triggered by the end of the year. Fast-track negotiations will (with bumps along the way) result in a Brexit by the end of 2018 to be followed by a General Election in which calls for a Second Referendum would be distracting, futile and (unless there is a serious economic melt-down) probably electorally counter-productive for whoever took that position. This is the best working model for the near future.

On the other hand, the Left Leaver finds that his or her impulse for democratic socialism is directly challenged by the the Remain or Second Referendum positions of nearly all the official Left political organisations in the country - the Labour Party, the Greens, the SNP, Sinn Fein and the Liberal Democrats. In other words, although large numbers of working people voted to Leave, those parties that appear to represent the progressive impulse have effectively imposed their pro-EU position on their constituencies and now expect anyone of the Left to be automatically pro-EU and for re-entry. This redefinition of the Left as by its nature 'for the European Union' is assumed despite the facts of the existence of Left dissidents at every level, from MPs through activists in the trades unions and constituencies through members and on to the voters, increasing in proportion the further you go down the scale away from closeness to power. So, to quote Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov - 'what is to be done?'

Let us start with some basic definitional ground rules. The first is that a Leaver is someone who places absolute personal political priority on national Parliamentary sovereignty and maximal economic sovereignty but is here unconcerned with cultural issues. If you do not accept this position as a reader, this note is not for you and your comments will simply be deleted because this is a discussion for and between only those people who accept those two political principles absolutely and without equivocation. This is not a debate for emotional Remainers - they have chosen already.

Superimposed on this absolute set of political principles (including the negative one that cultural nationalism is of no interest here) are divisions between people who are more or less revolutionist and reformist and more or less Left or Right in social and economic policy. So, a further refinement of the position is to say that a Left Leaver is one who is a democratic socialist, that is, they seek the decentralisation of power, the redistribution of power and resources within a national commonwealth, inter-nationalism based on purely defensive military arrangements, anti-imperialism and the promotion of peace, secularism and individual freedom subject to the elimination of social harms and so forth. The only difference from a Left Remainer who is also a democratic socialist is that the Left Leaver sees these positive outcomes as best achieved between co-operating nation states rather than through supra-nationalist arrangements and, further, that positive harms will arise from acceding to supra-nationalist economic arrangements. 

However, the national question is an existential one. In a conflict between Leaver values and Left values, the position here is that Leaver values always trump Left values so that there is no question of a 'true' Left Leaver compromising to preserve the Left by accepting supra-nationalism or imperialism of any sort no matter how superficially benign. In strategising about futures, this means that such a Left Leaver cannot reasonably support a Labour Party that is controlled and led by either Angela Eagle or Owen Smith, both of whom are so committed to the European Union that they would also commit to a Second Referendum in a Party Manifesto under conditions where the Party apparat which they will lead has a track record of suppressing dissent on the European issue. If the so-called rebels in the PLP win the current struggle in the Labour Party, there is no future within that Party for sincere Left Leavers with any integrity. They may dream of transforming the Labour Party to a Leave position but the dream would be self-deluding and futile, certainly within the time frame that encompasses the 2020 Election and probably the 2025 Election. By remaining within such a Party, they would have stated clearly that being Left was more important than the National Question and so would cease to be Leavers except as a posture and in terms of a futile hope or unwarranted belief. So where does this leave us? What decision-making algorithm takes us from our situation today through to a fixed political position by the end of the year which is the probable timing of the triggering of Article 50?

There are a series of decisions that drive the Left Leaver logically in a series of stages from Far Left to Centre-Right, at each of which he may stop and say that, in fact, being Left is more important than being a Leaver. Many will make that decision now and simply give up on the issue of Leave, accept the Second Referendum idea (in the hope of winning a second vote), keep their heads down until it is all over and then resurface if and when we are back in the European Union (a Third Referendum is simply absurd from any perspective) or when the Left has finally accepted that the British people have definitively chosen the Leave option once and for all. This strikes me as a possible strategy but also a cowardly, unprincipled and uncertain one. Either one believes in something or one does not and if the belief in the Left (as currently constituted) is greater than the belief in the Nation, then one should stop posturing and switch sides to Remain under conditions where the Left has become absolutely associated with Remain: a point we have not reached but may have reached as early as September. That would be the brave and honourable think to do. 

So, the first choice, before we look at our decision-making tree, is the simple one whether one is truly Left or Leaver first and foremost. If the former, then the rest of this note is not for you. I have thus whittled us down, as discussants, to Left Leavers who place Brexit as a precondition for democratic socialism as a matter of both analysis and core values. What are our options? What do we do? The trajectory that I wish to explore in this context is expressed in a series of fundamental questions:-

1. Given the impossibility of the Left Leave position being adequately expressed in a Labour Party led from the curent PLP, would it be reasonable to believe it could be expressed in a Party led by Jeremy Corbyn (or John McDonnell)

2. Given the assumption in 1. above and the possible construction of an alternative Party of Democratic Socialism on the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn, could the Left Leave position be adequately expressed within such a Party?

3. If the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn does not result in a new Party of the Left, can Left Leavers safely cross over to become the Left of UKIP if a new Leader of UKIP recognises the importance of changing the culturally right-wing assumptions of that Party's hitherto dominant Right?

4. If there is no place for Left Leavers on the Left (and there is no Left Leave Party) or as equal partners in a National Populist operation that is viable and non-fascist, then is all that is left is a transfer of allegiance to the Conservative party as its advocate for a fairer society, redistribution and peace within the only Party committed to national Parliamentary sovereignty and maximal economic sovereignty - at least until the Left accepts reality and no longer struggles to reverse the decision on June 23rd.

I have made the assumption throughout that total withdrawal from politics is not an option and that it is a matter of personality and duty for a Left Leaver to be engaged in the national political process and to avoid strategies of complete marginalisation in working with fringe parties or engaging in marginal futile blogging and policy wonking that is unconnected to one of the three central political networks available to the English and Welsh - the various forms of centre-left, the national populists and the Conservative Party. Let us look at the options.

A Corbynista Official Left

A decision on commitment cannot be made until the Labour Party Conference in the early Autumn because we do not know who will command the Party until then. This has the advantage of allowing Left Leavers plenty of time to consider their position. In this particular case, the decision tree is fairly simple - if Corbyn loses, then Labour wishes to become a European Socialist Party, a potential subsidiary of a European Socialist Party putting up pan-European Presidential candidates in due course in mimicry of the American Democrats, a party of triangulation and power over principle. The chances of this being reversed at any level of the Party would be minimal. Our decision is made for us. We have to move on immediately to the next possible option.

If Corbyn wins then the decision that arises for Left Leavers is not based on absolutist principles. It has to be recognised that a formal majority of the Labour Party will be pro-European in the political sense (and this will have increased since the Referendum Campaign) and that struggle on this issue will continue. All that can be laid down at this point are some reasonable red lines that enable participation in the Labour Party by Left Leavers and these have to be clear by the time of the Re-Election of the Leader. These are:-
  • That the right to dissent on the European Union is recognised as legitimate as an issue of principle and that bullying by Party officials of dissenters (on the basis that X is party policy) comes to an immediate end
  • That the Party does not commit to a Second Referendum but accepts the result of June 23rd insofar as it is the will of the people and legitimately seeks to critique the withdrawal negotiations from the perspective of democratic socialism.
In principle, this would not be difficult in theory for Jeremy Corbyn, for John McDonnell and for Momentum (which is relevant for the next option) but political pressures during the campaigning period for the leadership and pressure from the liberal-left media may result in the Corbyn element back-tracking on McDonnell's immediate post-vote position which is aligned with the second point above (the first point may be assumed from the second).
If this back-tracking takes place or, equally possible, the Corbyn leadership is ambiguous about the Second Referendum in a Labour Party context and/or actively proposes to put in the Manifesto a negotiation for re-entry into the European Union (and we cannot flaff around waiting to be politically raped with a fait accompli in the run-up to 2020) then even a Corbyn-led Labour Party becomes an utter waste of space for a Left Leaver. Left Leavers face their key existential decision once again - whether to be more of the democratic socialist Left or more of a national political and economic sovereignty advocate. I am of the latter persuasion so I would move on to the next option or jump to the third option (see below) while you may now be leaving the discussion at this point.
An Alternative (Democratic Socialist) Left Party
One scenario is that Corbyn loses the Leadership election fairly or unfairly and that, instead of accepting the result, he becomes the centre with McDonnell and others of a new Party based on the resources of Momentum or the failure triggers an alternative Party of the Left in which the Campaign Group has no role but which still sees a flow of disappointed Party members and others move sideways into a British version of Die Linke.
There are two separate questions to answer here: would such a Party be a natural home for Left Leavers? and  would such a Party be viable electorally and organisationally? Engagement by Left Leavers would be dependent on positive answers to both questions.

In the case of it being a home for Left Leavers, we should not be naive - many of the liberal, young socialist and green supporters of Corbyn are also idealistic if naive Remainers. Practical politics suggests that such a Party unless constituted specifically along McDonnell lines (acceptance of the result and a move towards 'democratic socialism in one country in practice, European socialism in theory') will gravitate towards pro-Europeanism along 'Varoufakis lines' which is not acceptable in itself to intelligent Left Leavers (stupid Left Leavers may leave the discussion now). 'Trimming' in this area is tantamount to opening the door to later support for any Official Labour Party unification strategy for a Second Referendum and re-negotiation.

However, if the Left Party (which we assume to be a democratic socialist party in all essentials) adopts the two principles laid out above in the event of a Corbyn Labour Party, then the balance of organisational power shifts to Left Leavers if existing Left Leaver organisations join it as activists and organisers simply because they might be a larger proportion of the Party activists than they would be in the Labour Party. There is a chicken and egg situation here - the new Left Party will be interesting if it can be restrained through activism and organisation from crossing 'red lines' but the new Party will have to have a Constitution that gives an equal voice to Leaver members over and against Remainer members at the individual level with appropriate guarantees embedded for free discussion and political education. After all, theoretically, all Left Leavers might suddenly become Europeanists if the structure of a new democratic socialist European Union met their otherwise absolute political and economic sovereignty requirements - a Union of Free European States may not be the same thing as the currently structured European Union.

This is all somewhat academic unless and until Corbyn loses the Leadership, then chooses to encourage a new formation or a new formation is created regardless of the Campaign Group where the Constitution of the new Party is fair-minded and constitutionally robust, with the Left Leaver 'red lines' clear and intact within the Party programme.

The second issue - viability - is far more problematic. The further Left you go in the Labour Movement, the greater the degree of activist neurosis and sectarianism. The inability of leaders to let go of sufficient power to permit open debate and political education is as prevalent on the Left as on the Right. There are the issues of the 'social forces' behind the Party, its funding and organisation. There is also the problem that many of the people most inclined to such a party are also those who are most inexperienced in policy, most idealist (which is a disadvantage when you realise that ideals are dysfunctional and it is values that drive effective politics) and least experienced in practical organisation or willing to give their time to the drudgery of organisation and any campaigning that does not involve clicking on something online. The only social force with the muscle to fund and create such a Party is the Labour Movement which will be reluctant to split under any circumstances. It will work hard to sustain the Labour Party and create some sort of practical reconciliation between factions - in which case, one of the first casualties will be the Left Leave position since the Left Remainers are more numerous and aggressive (as well as dirty players when necessary) than the Left Leavers.

To summarise, a theoretical alternative option for Left Leavers if Corbyn does not win the Leadership and accept the 'McDonnell position' as a red line, is a new Party of the Left but if and only if the new Party is non-sectarian, accepts the 'red lines', has a Constitution superior to that of the Labour Party in terms of transparency, accountability and fairness and has the basic infrastructure to make a significant mark in British politics (which we would consider to be no less than 50 seats in Parliament by 2025) and pull votes from Labour to limit the appeal of the Second Referendum and renegotiation.


Let us now assume that the entire Official Left (including a new Democratic Socialist Party) is fully committed to a Second Referendum and re-negotiation of re-entry back into the European Union and that it is probable that the latter will be Manifesto commitments designed to create a Remain coalition in Parliament prepared to abandon the Brexit model after 2020. At this point, we have now completely parted from those who place being Left ahead of being a Leaver. Those who are Left first will now be a part of the inexorable drive to negotiate a centre-left re-entry into the European Union and other conditions (economic probably) may yet make this feasible. Yet the Left Leaver of integrity is absolutely (not relatively) committed to this not happening. Where do committed Left-Leavers go next if there is no realistic likelood of a viable independent Left-Leave Party for all those reasons implied as problems for a new Party of the Left and given the lack of support from the official trades union movement and no viable source of funding from elsewhere?
The one Party that exists and is apparently viable (though unstable) and which unequivocally meets the red line conditions outlined in the previous two sections is UKIP but, to a Left Leaver, it creates new red lines to consider. UKIP is certainly not going to do anything other than fight for national political and economic sovereignty and it is (despite the slanders of its opponents) absolutely democratic, excessively so in the eyes of radical centrists, but it is not of the Left - the formally socialist part of the equation is definitely missing. 

And yet UKIP potentially meets one Left requirement - it is interested in representing the interests of the English and Welsh working class (but so are the Tories and at least some elements of the Labour Party) at a time when most of the intellectual Left is dismissive of and patronising about that class. In addition, its right-wing populist Leader is standing down and a leadership election has to take account of working class UKIP members who are committed to welfarist and redistributive strategies as well as respect for their particular culture. If the Left completely fails the Left Leaver, there is a brief window of opportunity, in parallel with the struggles within the Labour Movement, for UKIP to adjust to the fact that Left Leavers exist and are increasingly being cut out of any influence or respect on the official Left (the Labour Party). They may have no place to go by the end of the Autumn of 2016. A new UKIP leadership sensitive to this new potential vote could theoretically create the conditions for a transfer of votes and activism from the Labour Party to itself if the Corbyn Leadership falls or stumbles and if there is no viable Left Party standing by the time UKIP has presented itself as the 'one nation' defender of the Leave 'street'. 

But we cannot be naive here any more than we could be naive about the Labour Party. The dominant strand in UKIP is culturally conservative and economically libertarian and both these positions are problematic for those who consider themselves of the Left. In addition, even if a new Leader was able to establish a sufficient bridge from UKIP to the working class Left, that Leader would be placed under constant pressure to row back from his position by cultural conservatives and economic libertarians alike. The shift of a Left Leaver to UKIP would be a very cautious matter with a great deal of room for distrust on both sides. The 'red lines' for the 'national' democratic socialist that may be too much for UKIP to bear:-
  • The Constitution of UKIP must enable fair and open debate between equals
  • Taking UKIP's commitment to democracy as read, a UKIP that tolerated racism, white nationalism or Islamophobia would not be tolerable to a Left Leaver so the first red line would be a Leader who drew his or her own red line between the Party and radical nationalists.
  • The Party's economic programme would include defence of the welfare state, redistributive strategies, commitment to education and training and poverty alleviation within the context of restraints on free movement of labour.
If these three conditions are met, especially if the cultural war on migrants as opposed to the political war on migration policy failures is ended, then it is possible that Left Leavers might reasonably consider participation in UKIP against both a Labour Party that has become embedded in the European Project and a Tory Party which may not be trusted and which has adopted a class-based approach to policy, at least until the arrival of Theresa May (see below). The problem is that UKIP itself, even if it did accept these red lines, would not be easy to trust (especially in relation to economic and welfare policy) given the inordinate internal power of its right wing funders and the tight clique around former Leader Nigel Farage who may never actually let go of influence even if he lets go of formal power. For Left Leavers to join UKIP would be an act of faith but also an act of partial despair since the Left Leaver is likely to feel pushed out by the Left rather than attracted by UKIP as it currently stands. Nevertheless, if UKIP can move itself to the centre in cultural terms and share economic policy-making equitably between the Left and Right, it might be possible to see the emergence of a viable Red UKIP capable of defeating Euro-socialism in Labour areas and offering a viable alternate opposition within the Brexit framework to the Tory Party. Reports from those who have dabbled in this area prior to the Referendum are not encouraging.

Becoming a Radical Left Tory

The options are reducing section by section so we come to the point where the Left Leaver has made his or her decision that Leave represents absolute prior values, has no place in the Official left in any of its forms and either distrusts UKIP or finds that its cultural conservatism is impossible to square with a self-identity as part of the Enlightenment Left. It is at this point that the Left Leaver finds themselves with the final choice - whether to withdraw from political life entirely (the 'quietism of the Jacobite') or to follow the logic of an absolute commitmitment to national political and economic sovereignty to its bitter end. That bitter end has to be (if there is to be no quietism) a more or less passive or active engagement with the Tory Party that has emerged after June 23rd on the following grounds:-
  • The commitment to Brexit is now as absolute as it is ever likely to be in any major political party that is not UKIP - there will be no Second Referendum under the Tories and no renegotiation unless Tory Remainers force a General Election and commit political hari-kiri for a principle. This leads one to suppose that for dedicated Left Leavers the mission of ensuring that a Tory Government remains in office for at least as long as it is necessary to secure Brexit logically becomes a political necessity. This may not apply once Brexit is secured and there is no reasonable prospect of a Left coalition coming to power on a commitment to renegotiation but the committed Left Leaver, left with no alternatives, is at the least committed to supporting the Tory Party in Parliament until the Brexit result is secured.
  • The May Government has shifted direction towards working class concerns because it understands that its primary threat to the Right (UKIP) can outflank it by attracting the working class Leave vote that is becoming disenchanted with metropolitan and cosmopolitan Labour. This means that, although it is still the Party of the propertied and the State, the Conservative Party may paradoxically be in a position to do more for the English and Welsh working class than a Labour Party that is rapidly travelling up its own nether orifice. It could reform welfare in order to preserve it in the long term, maintain the NHS (after all NHS pre-privatisation strategies emeged under New Labour), investing in infrastructure (signally neglected under New Labour), taking some account of working class concerns over the free movement of labour (ignored by Labour) and (post-Brexit) being more open to an industrial strategy (abandoned by New Labour) and to housing (ignored by New Labour): there has already been a turn away from a radical approach to austerity.
  •  The Conservative party is undoubtedly democratic but it is also anti-racist, now committed to respect for the gay community and has adopted a broadly social libertarian stance (with caveats). It seems to have more talented women in high office than the second rate make-weights of the Labour Party. It is also internationalist in its commitment to global trading and cultural exchange and it would seem that its new Foreign Secretary appears to have a pragmatic and sensible view of the Syrian and Ukrainian flashpoints.
Of course, none of the shifts of the May Government towards the needs of the working class in a fairer (rather than rhetorical) 'one nation' strategy changes two truths. The first is that the Tory Party is the Party of the propertied and the State and, second, that the most working class-sensitive Tory Party possible would never be a patch on a true democratic socialist Party. It used to be reliably said that the worst possible Labour Party (we think of Labour under Blair) would always be more progressive than the most progressive Tory Party and so anyone who cared for the working class position in society would accept even the most liberal middle class Labour Leadership in preference to the hooray henries and jumped up car salesmen of Middle English Torydom. But, considering the matter coldly, will that honestly be the case in the next decade if a) the Labour Party persists in either being unelectable or being little more than the Party of choice for the urban middle classes or both together and b) the Conservative Party starts to take seriously its rhetoric of 'one nation' operating in and against an unstable world. 
Moreover, if the Labour Party adopts a position that is tantamount to that of the US Democrat Party under Clinton - the party of the liberal middle classes and identity groups - and presents those interests trans-nationally to the utter neglect of the English and Welsh working and lower middle classes, then surely there is nothing in that party for the sincere democratic socialist. If the 'national' democratic socialist finds that all parties of the Left are intent on selling out the nation to supranationalism, undertakes a cold analysis that the Varoufakis option (that the European Union can be turned into a democratic socialist state through democratic means and persuasion) is a pipe dream and that UKIP represents an unacceptable commitment to cultural conservatism, then the last man standing over the next decade is the Tory Party. Left Leavers, beaten from pillar to post by their own side's bullying and disrespect, may at least represent a voice for working class self-determination and the preservation of the welfare state amongst relatively competent administrators who appear to have captured a hegemonic position for at least the next three years and probably (given the piss-poor quality of the Labour Party's leading figures) for the next decade. The role (to put it in the words of a Labour economist friend) of being the radical left-wing of a modernising national Tory Party suddenly appears not merely to be least worst option but filled with theoretical possibility.

The Numbers Racket

We have undertaken a logical review of possibilities for Left Leavers that has taken us in stages through the Labour Party and the Left, through national populism and on to the old enemy, the Tory Party, but the main message is that nothing need be decided for some months. A series of high level operators will create the conditions for Left-Leaver decision-making - first a decision whether Leave is as existential a commitment as the Left Leaver thinks it is and, second, if it is, whether he or she is forced into a trajectory that will reposition him or her in ways not seen since the creation of the Labour Party or the shifts of commitment during the eras of Peel, Disraeli and Chamberlain. Let us run through these decisions and put possible numbers of votes at stake under a series of conservative assumptions. 
We broadly know that 30% of Labour voters de minimis (probably higher as working class Labour voters in Northern England, the Midlands and Wales) voted Leave. 2015 (a not notably good year) saw 9.3m people vote Labour. Let us postulate that one third of 30% of these feel strongly enough about Leave not to vote Labour automatically in 2020 - let's call it conservatively 900,000 voters. Failure to meet the red lines (and we are not counting on those fed up with the weak leadership of the party or its internecine warfare or the fear of further uncertainty) might mean a loss of these votes and let's assume that half of those are initially available for a new Left Party that takes a strong anti-Second Referendum line (450,000 - although such a Left Party would also get an accretion of Corbyn radicals so we might imagine an initial vote of 900,000). Let us imagine that 450,000 (not necessarily the same people) might move to UKIP if it got itself sorted and it was the only non-Tory force committed to Brexit: this would push UKIP well over the 4 million mark if the 2015 vote held and reduce the Labour vote to something closer to the 2010 result. Let us imagine that all this happens but that 30% of the Left Leavers find UKIP's cultural politics unacceptable driving around 130,000-140,000 Labour people who consider themselves Left into the Tory Party in a more decisive way - not significant in terms of total election results but significant in terms of new blood and ideas and representing a bloc bigger than the SDLP or the Ulster Unionists. More to the point, such a conservatively assessed bloc would help pull the May Government sufficiently to the Left on some issues that it could create a credible base for attracting further formerly Labour voters if the Official Left persists in its Euro-Socialist pretensions after 2020 despite polling failure or UKIP fails to correct its trajectory towards a harsher European-style national populism. There is thus something at stake in the following:-
  • The Labour Party fails to resist becoming an overtly European Socialist Party and threatens to make a 'Second Referendum' and re-negotiation manifesto commitment
  • A successor Party fails to create clear red water between it and the Labour Party on Second Referendum and automatic re-negotiation
  • UKIP fails to shift itself to away from radical extremist rhetoric and fails to embrace sufficient welfarism and corporatism to attract Left Leavers alienated by the Official Left.
So there we have it - a set of decisions for Left Leavers that do not need to be made today but will need to be made at some stage between the resolution of the Labour Leadership struggle (September) and the formal triggering of Article 50 (December). By January 2016 Left Leavers will have had to have made some existential choices that will dictate their political trajectories for the next decade.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Crisis Around Corbyn

On the surface, Jeremy Corbyn's aides appear to be mishandling the current crisis in the Labour Party - there is a lack of dynamism in responding to critics and an unnecessary defensiveness. The attack dogs of the PLP smell fear and it only encourages them.

Corbyn may now be wilting under pressure but there is undoubted bullying going on here. The alleged deletion of the hard drive on the finance bill (reported in the Guardian today) is a very serious matter that can only be interpreted (if not a genuine error) as political sabotage, one that could affect the lives of vulnerable working people negatively.

However, the more serious issue is the underlying political situation in the country which is more complex than it first appears. The recent increase in party membership seems to be in non-marginal non-Labour territory while the Party is weakening or shrinking in traditional Labour areas placing the marginal seats (the key ones in an FPTP system) at serious risk.

MPs fear for their jobs because Corbyn is allegedly not reaching out to working class constituencies but how can he reach out in this way if he is hobbled by the PLP itself? It is these MPs who have been disabling the Corbyn-McDonnell team from developing a message more in tune with the vote that took place on June 23rd.

The hollowing out of the Party in its traditional areas certainly has nothing to do with Corbyn and everything to do with Blair and Brown's era of control (and that of Milliband). Meanwhile, the coup leaders are radical middle class Remainers who may be incapable of communicating with the discontents that UKIP is now targeting.

It is arguable that Corbyn could have reached out to the working class long before this if he had not been hobbled by the Party's pro-EU position. Corbyn is a weak Leader thrown into an intolerable situation because of the refusal of the PLP to face reality on the ground.

His office know what is at stake - throwing the Party back into the hands of a professional political class which has failed to engage with the electorate in stages since the landslide of 1997 and has no coherent plan of its own for electoral recovery. A weak Leader of the Left cannot resign because its strong Leader (McDonnell) would not get on the ballot under current rules - the Left and the new membership would be erased from history and the Party handed over to make-weights.

The rebels huff and puff but cannot come up with their own alternative who could beat Corbyn in a straight democratic fight. They are also made up of multiple competing factions - the old Labour Right (represented now by Watson who seems to be playing as straight a bat as he can under the circumstances), the soft Left (represented by the younger Benn and Kinnock), the Brownites and the hard-line Blairites, allegedly manipulated from behind by PR advisers.

The PR Campaign which appears to have had months of preparation has framed the media and so much of the general public against Corbyn, thereby adding another weapon ('public opinion') to the rebel armoury but it is one which the Left knows is based on the same sort of false framing that we saw in the Remain campaign. Part of the crisis of our times is public resistance to manipulative political framing of the debate - the spinners are crumbling before the stubbornness of the people and are forced into increasingly hysterical and bullying positions as a result.

The unions are aghast and divided - some have thrown themselves in with the rebels because of potential Left rebellions in their own ranks, others are fully committed to the Left. The stakes are immensely high and the 'schwerpunkt' of the battle is the mind of Corbyn himself - hence the Left (which acts as a collective here) shores up and shields him in a ring of steel while the rebels apply extreme, often bullying, pressure directly and through the media on the man and only the man.

If he snaps they win. If he holds, they have to find a candidate-challenger and lose everything. This is, in short, one of the most brutal and ruthless engagements ever seen in British politics in which morality has no meaning.

There is one other factor which is driving the Blairites and, to a lesser extent, the Soft Left - Chilcot. There is no conspiracy theory needed here but Chilcot, pushed continuously into the long grass until now, will be a decisive judgment on a former Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary. Normally, it would be a simple partisan matter and the effect would be neutered since a war crimes case is unlikely to be demonstrated under Nuremburg principles (or will it?).

If there is any ambiguity in this, however, Corbyn would be expected to turn on his former Leader and may even prosecute the case for war crimes. There is a back story here of conflict over Middle Eastern policies that pulls in criticism of NATO, of Atlanticism and of Israel - and the antisemitism narrative (also carefully framed to promote hysteria rather than thought) is part of the mix.

Corbyn is only dangerous if he is in office on Wednesday - once out of office, he is just a discredited Leftie. So, the mission from the old Atlantic Right is to get him out of office before Wednesday or destroy his authority.

Corbyn's alleged weak leadership of the Remain campaign was merely an excuse to drive this war forward and quickly and pull in an angry mass base behind it. The timing is carefully designed to split the Corbynistas over Europe itself.

The Left is actually highly critical of the EU. It only chose to campaign for Remain on a rather spurious makeshift policy of internal reform that had more holes in it than a Swiss cheese.

The reasoning (proven flawed) was based on a belief that by conceding on the European Union, the inevitable coup attempt could be deferred. The June 23rd vote now frees the Left to accept Brexit and then campaign for a Socialist Britain.

The Right not only do not want acceptance of Brexit, they don't want a Socialist Britain and they know that many young Party activists were as committed to Remain as they were to Corbyn. June 23rd thus offered an opportunity for the Right to mobilise the Remain vote alongside Liberal Democrat and dissident Socialist and anti-racist networks to create a 'popular' movement to contain and then defeat Corbyn.

However it seems as if the Neo-Remain movement is not all that it appears to be. 30,00-50,000 on the streets is not actually a lot, Corbynistas appear to be mobilising for their man in preference to Europe, there have been dodgy practices exposed in the petition and the involvement of big business and PR people is being exposed on social media.

It gets worse. Geldof and Izzard are now figures of fun, radical Remainers are not necessarily the majority in many CLPs and it is clear that no PLP member seems ready to rely fully on the Neo-Remain movement to launch them into office by mounting a challenge.

The public has moved on and it seems that only bankers and big business are continuing to moan about the result in public (alongside some petit-bourgeois students) - not exactly the natural friends of the working class. So, with four days to go to Chilcot, the choices are simple - will Corbyn accept some untrustworthy deal and go before the release of the Report, will he hang on to force a challenge or will he leave only on condition of a change to party rules that allows McDonnell to stand in his place?

The collective leadership of the Left and four decades of tough survival in the wilderness suggests that Corbyn will go to ground and hang on until he is challenged or the Left can be promised a viable alternative candidate. What we can rely on is that the operation to oust Corbyn will now increase in intensity until it reaches levels of unparalleled viciousness aided and abetted by the trained ferrets in the mainstream media.

At a certain point, though, the bullying may result in blow-back within the softer unaligned elements in the PLP who may begin to waver at the aggression of their allies. Bullying in itself may mobilise members and some of the public and union activists in particular (often hyper-sensitive to bullying in workplace situations) for Corbyn.

All in all, despite all the pressures on him, Corbyn appears to be down rather than out and there is still room for a fight-back although how this cannot end in some split in the Labour Party beats this observer. Eventually there will be a stabilisation based on compromise but surely either the Hard Left or the Blairite Right will be exuded from the Party within months.