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February 2017

The fourth issue of Salvage. See more information about its contents here.

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    A Place to Call Home

    by Andrea Gibbons





    A place to call home. A simple thing. Labour once had a vision that there should be housing for everyone, though what makes a home is perhaps not so simple. As Kim Dovey writes, home is deeply intertwined with our identity. It centres the relationship between ourselves and the earth, centres our connection to community and culture and society, to our past with its memories, and to our ability to grow into our full potential with the power to define our future. A home should be a place of strength and safety.

    A home should not be what kills us.

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    Country for Old Men

    by David Broder

     

    Does Italy’s crisis owe to mummy’s boys too attached to the apron strings? Does it need a new Blair, a Macron, or just to ‘clear them all out’? Is Berlusconi going to make one last comeback? Are the Five Star Movement going to come to power? This and more.

     

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    Give Us Peace: On the Scottish Conservatives

    by Rory Scothorne

    They make a desert and call it peace
    —Calgacus

    In 1968, a few months after Winnie Ewing’s shock victory for the SNP in a by-election to the hitherto safe Labour seat of Hamilton, Tom Nairn sought to get to grips with Scottish nationalism in the pages of the New Left Review. The Scottish National Party did not come off well. They were, he wrote, ‘lumpen-provincials whose parochialism finds its adequate expression in the asinine idea that a bourgeois parliament and an army will rescue the country from provincialism; as if half of Europe did not testify to the contrary.’ Nairn’s main target was clearly Scotland as a whole: the SNP was just the latest sad fetish of a country hobbled by ‘a history without truth, a sterility where dream is unrelated to character, and both bear little relationship to what happens.’ As for the question of a devolved Assembly, soon to dominate not just Scottish but British politics, Nairn feared what it would become in the hands of a bleakly Calvinist Scottish bourgeoisie, whose ‘rough-hewn sadism – as foreign to the English as anything in New Guinea – will surely be present in whatever junta of corporal-punishers and Kirk-going cheese-parers Mrs. Ewing might preside over one day in Edinburgh.’

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    Absolute: On the British General Election

    by The Editors

    ‘Obedience to the force of gravity. The greatest sin.’
    — Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

    ‘Things can only get better. Can only get better, if we see it through.’
    — D:ream

    An uncharacteristically subdued President Trump described the result of Britain’s snap general election of 8 June as ‘surprising’. The Guardian went further, calling it a ‘shock result’. The redoubtable Jon Snow for Channel 4 News was closer to the mark, that this was ‘one of the most remarkable election results in modern British History’. This was astonishing, staggering, extraordinary.

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    Ragpicking Through History: Class Memory, Class Struggle and its Archivists

    by Tithi Bhattacharya

    In 1990, I watched the Polish film maker Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Blind Chance (1981/1987) without registering the paralyzing potential of a particular scene.

    The protagonist, Witek, meets an old Communist by chance on a train. As a result of that meeting Witek decides to join the Communist Party. Later, again by sheer chance, he runs into an ex-partner, also his first love. A beautiful, tender and fierce sex scene follows. In the calm of the after, Witek, almost absentmindedly, whistles the Internationale. His partner murmurs something approvingly. And then Witek says ‘How would you like it if I sang this everyday?’ The young woman recoils. She knows he has joined ‘The Party’. She leaves the room and his life.

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    Civilization vs Solidarity: Louise Michel and the Kanaks

    by Carolyn J. Eichner

    In 1871, the French military slaughtered approximately 25,000 people in the streets of Paris. Ferociously repressing the 72-day long revolutionary civil war known as the Paris Commune, the French government intended to obliterate and make examples of the socialist, anarchist, and feminist movements that sparked and sustained the insurrection. Of those escaping the massacre, over 35,000 were arrested, approximately one-third of whom were condemned by court martial. To ensure the eradication of the revolutionary stain, France deported nearly 4,500 of the insurgents to New Caledonia, its South Pacific penal colony one thousand miles off the Australian coast, confining the convicts to cages during the four-month sea voyage. Once in the archipelago, the Communards experienced harsh living conditions, pitiless guards, physical deprivation, psychological and emotional isolation, and intense boredom. Most lived in a “prison without walls” on the arid Ducos Peninsula, exiled by their government to an unforgiving carceral world more than 10,000 miles from their homes.

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    Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Centre

    by Richard Seymour

     

    I.

    Nothing is forever, except absence. And if the bromides of the British pundit class seem timeless, that is because the political centre registers as an absence.

    Credibility, they’re saying. What Corbyn needs now, and sorely lacks, is credibility. How does one get credibility? A sharp swerve to the centre. The capitals of the European centre are collapsing around their ears, from London to Madrid to Athens to Amsterdam. Only Paris has averted the complete collapse of the centre through, as Perry Anderson put, a yuppie simulacrum of populist breakthrough. And even there, it followed the implosion of the Socialist Party and survived only because its major opponent was fascism. Yet nothing can shake a belief that has never even been thought about as such. The answer – cleave centre – is given with the same confidence that spiritual adepts once prescribed trepanning for the sick. Corbyn needs centrist credibility, in other words, like he needs a hole in the head.

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    The Walls of the Tank: On Palestinian Resistance

    by Andreas Malm

    NAKBA

    How do you keep on fighting when everything is lost? Ask a Palestinian. A Palestinian is someone who is wading knee-deep in rubble. Palestinian politics is always already post-apocalyptic: it is about surviving after the end of the world and, in the best case, salvaging something out of all that has been lost.

    How do Palestinian writers describe the end of the world? In The Ship, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, who left Palestine for Iraq in 1948, looks back on a land overflowing with ‘rivers and waterfalls’ and laments the expulsion of his people into ‘flaming deserts and screaming oil-producing cities.’ iThe same trajectory is retraced in his poem ‘In the deserts of exile’:

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    Notes on Walls

    by China Miéville

    A wall is always going to be beautiful. In the future, it will be ‘impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful’, in the words of the President, however tawdry and inadequate to its own stated purpose it actually is when built, if ever built at all.

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    Feminist Organising and the Women's Strike: An Interview with Cinzia Arruzza

    Cinzia Arruzza interviewed by George Souvlis and Ankica Čakardić

    George Souvlis and Ankica Čakardić: What were the formative experiences for you politically and personally?

    Cinzia Arruzza: This is a difficult question to answer, as I became an activist at the age of thirteen, and since then my whole life has been shaped by this fact. If I had to identify the experiences that have most shaped my political commitments and way of thinking, I could come up with the following list. First, coming from a poor working-class family from Sicily, which exposed me to class injustice and inequalities, sexism, and Italy’s internal soft cultural racism against people from the south (especially in the Nineties, when the Northern League had a surge in the North on an anti-South agenda). When I was a teenager, the turning points in my politicisation were my conversations with a Marxist high school teacher of history and philosophy, who was a neighbour and a friend, reading the Communist Manifesto and Lenin’s State and Revolution, and participating as a high school student in the struggle of the workers of a Pirelli plant in my town, which was shutting down and laying off hundreds of workers who had no hope of finding another job, given the level of unemployment in Sicily. Then the years spent organising the students’ movement in Rome and subsequently the global justice movement. On an intellectual level, my encounter with Daniel Bensaïd, spending years reading Marx’s Capital and Plato, reading Marxist feminist texts and, later, my discovery of black Marxism once I moved to the United States. Also, I would say that moving to New York City has been a turning point on many levels, one of which was my exposure to the US brand of racism, which made me realise how many of my earlier assumptions about capitalism were either wrong or incomplete. But I would say that I’m still in the process of learning, provided this process will ever end…

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    Materialism and Feminism: An Interview with Johanna Brenner

    Johanna Brenner interviewed by George Souvlis

    George Souvlis: By way of introduction, could you explain what personal experiences strongly influenced you, both politically and academically?

    Johanna Brenner: I grew up in a staunchly liberal family and remained politically liberal until I joined the movement against the Vietnam war, where I was introduced to anti-imperialist politics and then Marxism and ‘third-camp’ socialism. In the late 60’s I was part of the student left that turned toward organising the working-class. I was a student at UCLA. We organised student support for a teamster wildcat strike and we had a group called the Student Worker Action Committee that published a newspaper, Picket Line, where we covered different worker and community struggles in Los Angeles. I was rather slow to embrace feminism, but in the 1970’s I got involved with a socialist-feminist group called Coalition for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilisation Abuse (CARASA) which began in New York City. Some friends and comrades formed a Los Angeles branch of CARASA and we were able to connect to radical women of colour doing community organising around sterilisation abuse in LA. From that point on, I have been deeply immersed in Marxist-feminist theory and politics.

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    The Time of Monsters: France's Presidential Election

    by Chris Armstrong

    ‘The age of party democracy has passed. Although the parties themselves remain, they have become so disconnected from the wider society, and pursue a form of competition that is so lacking in meaning, that they no longer seem capable of sustaining democracy in its present form.’ The campaign season for April and May’s French Presidential elections, now in full swing, requires some nuancing of, but does not fundamentally detract from, political scientist Peter Mair’s diagnosis.

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    Thirteen Reflections of Golden Don in the Hall of Mirrors

    by Jordy Cummings

     

    These with a thousand small deliberations

    Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,

    Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,

    With pungent sauces, multiply variety

    In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do

    Suspend its operations, will the weevil

    Delay?

    TS Eliot, Gerontion

     

    1.

    Roger Stone is a DC troublemaker of the old school. Stone was close to Lee ‘Willie Horton’ Atwater, supported the Contras and reaction more generally throughout the ‘New Cold War’ of the eighties. Stone and another backroom operator, Paul Manafort even lobbied for Marcos and for Mobutu, not to mention a Russian oligarch or two. Later on he worked with Al Sharpton, FBI informant. All of this is to say that, whatever is being said about his connections with everyone from the Russians to Julian Assange – though WikiLeaks denies a connection with Stone – there is no doubt that Stone has friends in high places. Indeed, he recently admitted a relationship with the hacker Guccifer 2.0, widely said to be a Russian asset, and many point out that Stone seems to have predicted the Podesta e-mails being leaked. He continues, in his media persona, to take on a believable attitude of, well, not giving a shit. At various points, he claims to have been poisoned by secret agents, likely British Intelligence. He has a tattoo of Richard Nixon’s face on his upper forearm. His credo and that of his comrades is ‘Admit nothing; deny everything; launch counterattack.’ That credo may well have a point of origin in a certain Roy Cohn.

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    Logistics, Counterinsurgency and the War on Terror: An Interview with Laleh Khalili

    Laleh Khalili interviewed by George Souvlis

    George Souvlis: By way of introduction, could you explain what personal experiences strongly influenced you, politically and academically?

    Laleh Khalili: I grew up in Iran in the 1970s and early 1980s and being the daughter of Iranian leftist revolutionaries – and later political prisoners and later still exiles – indelibly marked the way I look at the work. On the one hand, growing up in an intellectual leftist household meant introduction to a rich seam of literature and history – not only those of Europeans, but also of Russians and Latin Americans. It meant that names like Che Guevara and George Habash, Angela Davis and the Black Panthers, Ho Chi Minh and General Giap, Salvador Allende and Fidel Castro, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Genet, and Costa Gavras, Garcia Marquez and Cortazar and Neruda, Kazantzakis and Gorky and so many others were familiar and their politics considered familiar.

    On the other hand, my parents’ experiences of incarceration and exile and the resultant dislocation, decimation and devastation made me acutely alive to the workings of this form of violence and inevitably wove world-historic events into the fabric of my personal life.

    Without these two sets of influences –both intellectual and experiential– I don’t think I would have ever produced the kinds of academic works I eventually produced.

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    None Shall Pass: Trans and the Rewriting of the Body

    by Richard Seymour

    ‘Wanting’ has an obvious double meaning. To want something in the ordinary sense is to wish for it. But want is also lack. The two meanings are not necessarily separable. To want for nothing is not necessarily to have everything, but to be without nothing that one could wish for. Therefore if someone says, “I want a sex change,” they are both describing a wish and naming a lack. Paradoxically, naming is also a way of forgetting. As soon as we give a name to whatever it is that we are wanting, we can forget the questions that circled, shark-like, around that lack. As if the relief that we get from naming our desire is partly just that the questions finally fucking stop.

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    The Kurdish Struggle: An Interview with Dilar Dirik

    Dilar Dirik interviewed by George Souvlis

    George Souvlis: By way of introduction, could you explain what personal experiences strongly influenced you, politically and academically?

    Dilar Dirik: As a Kurd, you can never run from your identity, because your identity is essentially political and the level of your political consciousness acts as a self-defense as the only way to secure your survival and existence. That is why insistence on the free expression of your self-determined identity is portrayed as political controversy, nationalism, or terrorism by the capitalist-statist system.

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    Class and Brexit: Or, Why We Should Stop Worrying About the Working Class and Focus on Capitalism

    by Kyle Geraghty

    In the aftermath of the shock Brexit result, discussions on its causes and consequences have been frankly bizarre. So far, the have focused on bygone folk stories about sovereignty, migration, and globalisation, disconnected from any wider understanding of capitalism or history. There also seems to be no clear solution to the monumental fuck-up that has resulted from the absence of any clear plan for leaving the European Union which works, alongside our political system which is incapable of handling a depressingly English form of parliamentary populism. In this piece I want to try to untangle some of the causes and consequences of Brexit, and reflect on two key points; who actually voted for it and why; and what Europe actually is, and what its relationship to capitalism is.

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    The Specter of Information Technology: An Interview with Paul Mason

    Paul Mason interviewed by Malise Rosbech

    Capitalism is on its last legs. According to the British journalist, writer and activist, Paul Mason, capitalism develops in cycles of 50 years. For Mason, the 2008 financial crisis was the abrupt end to capitalism’s fourth wave and we are now in the fifth and final wave. Like Marx, Mason claims that capitalism will collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions - postcapitalism has already begun. But it is neither the left or the proletariat which is the engine of socio-economic transformation; rather, it is information technology and the networked individual. I met Mason at small cafe in South London to hear more about his book PostCapitalism.

    Malise Rosbech: In your book, one of your major claims is that we live in a historical anomaly. Could you explain more about why that is and how you got to that conclusion?

    Paul Mason: When I was covering the 2008 crisis, it became obvious to me that it was a major disruption. But the theories that emerged over and above the kind of denial theory, which is basically that it’s not a problem, tended to assume that the main problem was a debt overhang, so that we were just going to have long term indebtedness  - that we just needed to pay down the debt mountain. This didn’t satisfy me. To me depressions don’t just happen because you get big build-up of debt in the system. Rather, it’s when you have big build-up of debt in the system and the real economy is not functioning alongside that.

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    Labour and Resistance in Asia: An Interview with Kevin Gray

    Kevin Gray interviewed by George Souvlis.
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    George Souvlis: Would you like to present yourself by focusing on the formative experiences (academic and political) that strongly influenced you?

    Kevin Gray: My undergraduate degree was in Chinese Studies, although I quickly became aware of the limitations of Area Studies in terms of its methodological nationalism and its related tendency to try and explain all social, political and economic phenomena with reference to historical and cultural legacies internal to the country in question. While the thought of Mao Zedong, for example certainly contains within it influences of traditional Chinese literature and philosophy, this hardly seemed adequate to understand the broader phenomena of the Chinese revolution and modern state-building in the country and its broader international context. Yet, there seemed to me at least to be a recurrent tendency to try and explain such processes with relevance to particularist historical-cultural factors. Following graduation, I also spent four years living in South Korea, in Kimpo County to the west of Seoul to be precise, just a few short kilometres from the border with North Korea. Perhaps more than any intellectual influence, this experience of living in what was both an industrial and highly militarised environment led me to become acutely aware of the intersections between developmental and geopolitical trends in the region. According to the popular narrative, South Korea had at that time just graduated from developing to developed country status only to be hit by the Asian economic financial crisis. At the same time, the engagement strategy with the North pursued by the Kim Dae--Jung and then Roh Mu-Hyun coincided with a vigorous popular movement against the role of US militarism in the country, which led me to develop an interest in the role of social resistance to both neoliberalism and US imperialism. As a result of these intellectual and personal experiences, I opted to study International Relations at postgraduate level in order to develop my analysis of such trends. After a brief flirtation with World Systems Theory, I found that with Gramscian approaches to International Relations I was able to develop a framework that could incorporate quite complex interconnecting processes of the politics of capitalist industrialisation, geopolitics, and social resistance. These are still very much the issues that drive my research, both in relation to East Asia and more broadly.

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    Bannon in the High Castle

    by Amar Diwakar

    Image: AFP/Getty

    The great normalisation has commenced. The universal belief amongst the establishment that Trump would be catastrophic for the Republic has given way to sycophantic supplications that the grandiosity of the highest office in the land will eventually mollify much of his incendiary proposals. Whether it is Hillary Clinton declaring that Americans “owe Trump a chance” in her post-mortem concession speech, or Nancy Pelosi promising to engage with him on policy issues related to infrastructure, childcare, and early childhood education.

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    Disaster Islamism

    by Jamie Allinson

    image: Reuters

    Of what is Islamic State the name? Since September 2014, the self-styled caliphate and its adherents have captured and then lost thousands of square kilometres of territory in Syria and Iraq, killing – and in many cases enslaving and torturing – thousands of people in the process; faced aerial bombing campaigns by both the US and Russia; established affiliate groups in at least eight countries; and carried out (or won the allegiance of the perpetrators of) at least seventy attacks outside of Syria and Iraq. In the summer of 2016 alone, ISIS, or people claiming affiliation to them, launched seventeen separate attacks. ISIS is qualitatively different to any previous terrorist organisation. The forces of Islamophobic reaction, not least the new US president, have lost no time in occupying the hard-right space opened up by mainstream policymakers in response.

    ISIS’ attacks, and the now-clichéd slick production of their ghastly propaganda videos, induce a feeling of political vertigo – of living in collapsing times. That the creation of this effect is precisely the intention of ISIS does not make it any less appropriate.

    Amongst those who reject the securocratic response to ISIS, a sequence of displacement usually follows. No one seems able to argue the old saw that one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter: on behalf of whose freedom are ISIS fighting? Instead one finds the impulse to decolonise mourning: insistent reminders that for every Orlando there is a Beirut, for every Paris a Quetta, as if once grief is equitably distributed a solution will be reached. Or else a kind of security politics from below: the arguments that ISIS is not being bombed properly; the (false) claims that Western powers have somehow created ISIS by arming the Syrian opposition, or those (true but inadequate) that the organisation is a result of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Not all these responses are equally wrong: the gut reaction that something is falling apart is probably right. Where to begin with a materialist analysis of this horrifying mess?

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    Stormont’s House of Cards On the Edge of Collapse

    by Andrew Johnson

    image: Pacemaker Press

    The 2 March election for the Northern Ireland Assembly is, barring a huge upset, likely to see a rough continuity in the strength of the political forces. The real question is whether the DUP and Sinn Féin – who will almost certainly retain their dominance on both sides of the sectarian divide – will be able to revive their joint government, or whether a period of instability and direct rule from Westminster will follow.

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    Celebrity Apprentice: Notes on the US Election

    by Benjamin Kunkel

    The acute capitalist crisis of 2008 has in the years since developed into a chronic complaint, to be managed but not overcome. In wealthy countries, ultra-low interest rates prop up consumer spending and, for investors, inflate the value of stocks, bonds, and other paper or digital assets. Swollen private portfolios induce luxury spending, and the size of the resulting wealth effect, as Alan Greenspan liked to call it, does a lot to determine what volume of crumbs spills from the banquet table in the form of worker’s wages. Because the rich spend a smaller proportion of their income than others, asset-price Keynesianism, as it has been called, is an inefficient way to inject demand into an economy. But the method has its allure: what could suit the rich better than rapidly rising prices for what they have to sell – namely, financial assets – while prices of the ordinary goods and services that they buy fall short of even the 2 per cent annual increase sought by central bankers as a minimum rate of inflation? To purchase the results of toil with the weightless gyrations of fictitious capital is a good bargain.

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    Trump's Airport Kingdom

    by Sam Kriss

    Like everyone else, I went to America for Trump’s inauguration. The whole vast European media establishment has its quadrennial migratory stampede, rushing over to the marshy grazing-grounds between the Susquehanna and the Potomac, to watch the great empire pretend to be very proud of itself as it ceremoniously shits its pants. Colour: bright orange; a firm 6 on the Meyers Scale. But the ceremony alone is never enough. Something about America sets people digging underneath. You plunge speeding into the murky hinterland, planting the photogenically indigent in front of your GoPro to hear the land itself speak through their mouths, and say what it really thinks of Donald Trump. You find mysteries in the Masonic sigil of DC’s street plan. You find secrets chained up in the basement of Comet Ping-Pong Pizza. You try to unearth the outlines of the Indian burial ground, the one that’ll explain why walls of blood are always surging through the shining city on the hill. America keeps on doing unutterably awful things, so you go there, and try to find out why. But first you have to go there. When I flew in to JFK airport, the line for customs was packed with anxious British journalists, tapping their feet, scratching for a cigarette, desperate to get out there, past all this endless bureaucracy, and start their work of finding out what the age of Trump would really be about. And meanwhile, the answer surrounded them.

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    The Left, Corbyn and Labour's Future: An Interview with Alex Nunns

    Alex Nunns interviewed by Richard Seymour

    Richard Seymour: Reading your book on Corbyn [The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn’s Improbable Path to Power, O/R Books, 2016], one is immediately struck by the fact that you have opted for an incredibly detailed, textured history and analysis. There’s a sense in which a relatively minute but powerful historical moment, when you unpack it, seems to illuminate almost every dimension of British politics. It’s almost as if you’re painstakingly assembling the telling details, the moments, the testimonies, which otherwise might be lost. So the first question is what does this tell us about the kind of book you set out to write? 

    Alex Nunns: I set out with two objectives. The first was simple: to explain how Corbyn became the leader of the Labour Party. I didn’t know the full answer when I started, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. The mainstream media, of course, was resolutely determined not to understand what had happened, because to do so would have undermined their insistence that it was some kind of political nervous breakdown. I was disappointed—but not at all surprised—at the complete absence of intellectual curiosity on display. Here was a once in a generation, maybe even once in a century political upset. Journalists at the Guardian and the BBC, for example, might personally have opposed Corbyn, they might have thought his leadership was bound to fail, but at the very least they should have considered it interesting, worthy of explanation. Instead they acted in a way that laid bare how the media is an actor in the political drama, not a dispassionate observer of it—the priority from the beginning was to delegitimise Corbyn rather than to report on him. It was fascinating to watch it happen, to read comment pieces and watch news reports and think, ‘You’re behaving exactly as any crude Marxist analysis would predict, like an automaton, and you don’t even seem self-aware enough to realise.’ Actually the first chapter that I wrote was about the media, even though it appears quite late on in the book.

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