Triangulation

Let’s cover the intellectual roots of modern centrism, such as they are.

Say you have nothing in mind but to get elected for whatever reason and by any means because it’s your party’s “turn”. You have two potential constituencies that might vote for you but they want things that conflict, like for example wanting to carry on with market reform of everything (“reform” is another word these liars love) while keeping what little remains of the social safety net. So you triangulate, coming up with some policies that appear to be somewhere in the middle that each group can be happy with in theory. Making it harder and harder to get help when you fall on difficult times, but not removing the help completely. No votes lost, everybody wins, and you get the shiny reward. If your politics aren’t driven by any other principle than electability it works well, at least for a while, at least for you.

This is where you get the air head argument that you should compromise and talk to fascists. There is apparently discussion to be had between people who want to murder the people they don’t like and create a white ethnostate, and their potential victims who’d rather live their lives free without that murder, harassment or discrimination (you get the same problem with transphobes too). So where is the middle? Only do a little bit of ethnic cleansing on the weekends? Only kill people a little bit? But if you have no guiding principles, then you can justify anything, do deals with anyone who will further your short term goals. Since leaving political office Blair has advised some pretty disgusting regimes on how to appear less brutal than they are, one imagines he’s managed to triangulate his moral compass somewhere in a different galaxy if it wasn’t there already. This is where you get people who claim to be on the left spouting racist policies so they can triangulate between racists and people who find racism abhorrent. It’s the anti-racists, always, that are expected to capitulate and show unity, whatever that means.

It is an essentially empty politics, winning support with vague promises, claiming pragmatism to be electable, but actually posturing and spinning, managing perception and dodging criticism. It relies on the cognitive disconnect and the short attention span of the public, which is really that of the capitalist media’s inability or unwillingness to pay attention to anything for too long. Depending on the needs of their owners the media will change its mind about the enemy du jour and a lot of the time nobody appears to notice. The current Tory government have perfected continuously lying to keep people from being able to work out what is really happening to an art, but Blair, Regan, the Clintons, were masters too. Trump’s continuous lying is nothing new, he’s just more blatant about it because of his overweening narcissism. The best liar of all was Obama, still loved by many, despite dropping thousands of bombs on civilians and not closing Guantanamo Bay, or opening up Federal programmes, or protecting whistle blowers like he promised. In fact Obama didn’t achieve that much of anything in the end, and his administration’s treatment of whistle blowers was appalling.

Centrism says there is a difference between the rapacious reality of modern capitalism and the promises of the “social justice” career politicians who sit on its left hand. It says you can square the circle, that it will work for everyone, as long as they don’t ask for too much too quickly. It also has a mind set that doesn’t see the society-wide distortions and evils of the colonial past except as something long ago that no longer figures in day to day life. The militaristic present, in Iraq or wherever in the world, is never discussed at all, after all the jobs making the bombs must be protected. The careerists whose story was told above at no time could have said what they stood for, because they stood wherever their magic triangle told them to. For sure, they wanted a nicer world, where people were helped by things like Sure Start, but they were unafraid to pander to racism and the class-ridden reality of Britain and the USA in order to gain power. Once gained, once the chips were down in the crisis, they did what they were told by their true masters without hesitation or even any qualms. They will never admit to the damage and destruction they wrought, slandering and dissembling. Empire socialism, indeed white power in its many forms, only exists in an eternal present where all is forgiven and the powerful are forever blameless.

It’s Orwell’s double think on a grand scale, an unprincipled power grab for power’s sake, and serves only their masters. Ironically, in 1984 Orwell describes a vast state apparatus for rewriting history all the time to remove references to times when the Party had different enemies or goals. This has proven to be completely unnecessary in the end.