Trump, Poppy Day – and the dark side of the social enterprise boom...

I asked recently why politicians aren’t clamouring to use social enterprise as a template for a new economy – especially in the light of the shortcomings of planned economy models exposed by the soviet collapse in the 90s, and those of contemporary capitalism exposed by the world financial crisis from 2008 to date.

Part of the answer, I’m now persuaded, is that the very same social forces driving the growth of social enterprise are also driving many people the other way, and most politicians are paralysed by the divide. 

Oddly, it was the controversy over the wearing of poppies by footballers that really convinced me of this.  As many have pointed out, before the 2008 world financial system collapse there was no such controversy.  It is only over the very recent years of economic uncertainty that red poppies have become virtually obligatory for anyone in the public eye.  Before 2008 nobody worried about footballers wearing poppies; the reason FIFA – or for that matter wikipedia – see the red poppy as a political symbol is of course that it has always unfortunately been associated not just with remembrance, but with militarism and nationalism.  That is precisely why the alternative white poppy was adopted as a symbol of remembrance explicitly linked with ideals of peace and internationalism.  The red poppy controversy, like 'brexit', is an aspect of a coercive nationalism that is ultimately driven by economic insecurity.

We are living, now, the social breakdown that follows economic collapse.  The circumstances are alarmingly similar to those that led to fascism in the 1930s.  Even new factors like ‘globalisation’ - destroying working-class communities around traditional industries in developed countries – have their parallels in the way the First World War undermined the old continental empires that, for all their horrors, had maintained some level of social cohesion and stability, especially for minorities like the Jews in central Europe.  I have heard people in May’s Tory Party start to conflate ‘community’ with ‘nation’, quite unconscious that they are within a hair’s breadth of an idea at the heart of fascism.

Even without the 2008 collapse, environmental crisis would have precipitated the same social breakdown - and will still probably lead to mass migrations even more challenging than those coming out of the instability and war in the Middle East and Africa.  Politicians of the ‘centre’ - whether conservative or social-democrat – do not have any answers in this situation because they were, and still are, wedded to the idea that ‘capitalism’ produces wealth, and their job is to enable it to do that – albeit with a little less or a little more mitigation of its worst abuses.  So the vacuum is filled by more radical alternatives – by Podemos and Syriza in southern Europe, the Pirate Party in Iceland, the incredible spectacle of an avowed socialist almost winning the American Democrat presidential nomination – and of course, on the other side, Trump in the actual election, and UKIP, et le Front National...

One aspect of this new world of extremes is seen in the way young people especially are working for social enterprise, the sharing economy, the environmental movement, and so on - building a new society in the shell of the old.  But the same realisation that the status quo - ‘the establishment’ - has failed, and moreover the economic insecurity this brings, also leads many towards intolerance and hate.  Oddly, the impulses behind these very different paths are not always so different: to dream of a way of organising human affairs that instead of extracting private wealth and power really serves your community – a community that is open and inclusive and welcoming to all kinds of different people – is not so very far away from wanting to protect a community conceived as people just like you - your nation, your race, your religion, your sexuality.

Of course, most people are not on the extremes – yet; but the lesson of history is clearly that they could be.  What has to be understood – and this is precisely the failure of ‘the establishment’ that is being rejected by voters across the developed world - is that capitalism and liberalism ended in 2008, and that ‘the political centre ground’ actually went with them.  There are only 2 paths to the future now – hope or fear.  We have to find a politics to back the social innovators - the young people full of hope working for social enterprise, the sharing economy, the environmental movement, and so on.  The alternative? – well, Europe tried that once before...

Record sales of white poppies

Positives for #jeremycorbyn

There are poitives here for #jeremycorbyn though.  The Democrats now realise they chose the wrong candidate - and that Bernie Sanders would almost certainly have won by carrying both the 'rust belt' white working class and the melting-pot east and west coast urbanites  The key to the US election was the thirst for radical change versus the status quo. Trump offered both radical change and (perceived) authenticity.  The Democrats went for the establishment candidate just when most people were sick and tired of indentikit politicians offering the same-old.

In Jeremy Corbyn Labour has its own  Bernie Sanders figure - genuine authenticity and a radical offer.  What a shame some of his MPs are still lost in the Clinton era.

Interesting article in The

And despite the headline,

And despite the headline, this analysis also indicates that Sanders would have won,,,