I’ve been a bit sous le temps today having collided with a bug of some kind. But I wanted to post this before going to bed with Man Dysentery, because while the piece is sort of ATEOTDish, I like to think I might also be At the Start of Something Better. Who knows.
People who do know me, or have followed The Slog for yonks, know that I can be a crabby old bugger, tissue-sensitive at times, gobby, radical and – for over two decades now – apolitical. Some of that is wiring, some of it childhood trauma, and some of it having become (shall we say) a little cynical over the years about the phrases, “I’m far too busy to think about things like that”, “It won’t make any difference”, and “I’m only human”.
People claiming to be busy are, on the whole, not above sitting in front of the telly and watching programming clearly designed for psychotic llamas. While they sit there on the sofa doing nothing about the end of civilised society, it rarely seems to occur to them that this is why civilisation is crumbling, and they’re watching Britain’s Got Chlamydia. And once this is pointed out, they say it’s part of being “only human”…as opposed to a psychotic llama. It’s been my experience since the mid 1970s that saying “I’m only human” is usually the overture to doing something utterly inhuman…half-apologies for which are then grudgingly given in the excusatory context of being only human.
History, a man called Djugashvilli once said, is made by those who turn up. But when the only ones who turn up are grubby greedy Grant Shapps on the one hand or racey ripping Russell Brand on the other, then history gets terribly messed up.
I note more and more lately – particularly since the General Election – that Labour’s Left-lurchers are in full Leninist syntax mode, and desperate to persuade us that the Proletariat will spontaneously storm the walls of the Boss Class gated communities – if the Party takes over the somewhat ragged mantle of the SWP. Well, it pains me to tell them this, but the election results of 1955, 1959, 1970, 1979, 1983 and 1987 would suggest that’s bollocks. I’m happy for these chaps if they think that apeing Russell Brand in his current role as Young Stalin might give them a better chance of a shag, but politically it would simply give the forces of neoliberalism bigger and bigger majorities via which to do increasingly unspeakable things.
After losing to Major, and then suffering the death of recently-elected John Smith (only Labour would elect a leader called John Smith) what the Party did was elect Tony Blair and morph into Tory Lite. They promptly won three elections in a row. The unelected Gordon Brown then lost the next election, and the unelectable Ed Miliband lost the one after that. I know that the past is not necessarily a guide to the future, but trust me – I’m reasonably numerate, and there is a clear correlation on this graph paper. It says, “Whenever Labour dons the cloth cap and caring metro-intellectual salon teeshirt, the voters run a mile”.
They run a mile because what the vast majority of the bourgeois smug and the proletarian sofa-llamas want is safe. I remember being that wooden twit struck by lightning when the toy-boy husband of a lady I use to know said one Sunday afternoon, “I like Tony Blair cos ‘e’s a safe pair of ‘ands”. In a vague way, Blair went on to prove this young bloke half-right by spending the next ten years with his hands in the safe.
They ran away from Labour last time out because the ‘sell’ simply didn’t ring true. The Eds Miliband and Balls were about as radical as the idea of a vegan deli in Stoke Newington. It simply is not credible to present a combo based on Harvard Business School and north London Jewish Socialist intellectualism as streetwise radicalism, but with a commercial perspective on how a real alternative to Friedmanite claptrap can build a better Britain. The risibly bland “A Better Way” had all the cutting edge of a chainsaw fashioned from lumpy custard. Everything beneath the slogan was too dense and tentative: it failed, and failure has rarely been more richly deserved by those in charge of it…or more disappointing for the genuinely desperate people in our midst.
Things weren’t helped by the rigidity of Party activists unselectively rejecting every offer of advice and help from those who didn’t want Camerlot II. But Camerlot II is what we got.
So do I want it both ways – no loopy Red Flag Russell and no Teflon Tony either? No: what I hope for is a recognition of the genuine alternative we have to class warfare.
Class warfare – the desire to trash the opposition by using ideas as dated as theirs to make them look dated – is being used in 2015 by a minute elite class to corral all opposition into a pen, variously marked ‘tree hugger’, ‘Leftie’, ‘hairy demonstrator’, ‘non-violent extremist’, ‘Little Englander’ and so forth.
In the past, it was used by Harold Wilson (in 1964) to trap Alec Hume in a corner called ‘the fifteenth Earl of Hume’. In 1979, it was used by Margaret Thatcher to condemn Trade Unionism as ‘bully-boy flying pickets killing entrepreneurial Britain’. In 1997, it was used by New Labour to dismiss Old Labour and Nasty Tory. And it 2010, it was used by Cameron and Clegg to condemn Labour’s unholy marriage with greed…a marriage typified by the attitudes of Peter Mandelson – a former Young Communist.
All of this was false. And the falsehood derived from one very simple fact: neither of the two major UK political Parties is any longer fit for purpose. Indeed, they haven’t been for half a century or more.
Both the Labour and Conservative Parties have tried to adapt to external changes. From 1945 until roughly 1974, they made a decent fist of it. Since then, they have looked increasingly out of kilter with real life…and utterly incapable of objective analysis about why real life is, for many of us, too unfair and uncertain to be borne in silence. If you cleave to ideologies like Zero-State Friedmanism and State Socialism (both of which have been discredited in practice across the globe), then you become a fanatic. That is, a believer in that which is unbelievable. This makes you no different to the Flat Earthers, the Jihadists, the Hassidics, the Manson Clan, and the Holocaust deniers.
What is the point of a Conservative Party that doesn’t conserve, and a Labour Party that no longer represents a mass labour force that no longer exists?
Labour’s mistake in the mid to late 1990s was to allow the Blairites and their ‘guru’ Philip Gould to put ‘New’ in front of the brand name. This was entirely cosmetic; it was like selling a product called Caring Capital Punishment – at one and the same time an oxymoronic description of something that no longer exists. Equally, Cameron’s blunder in 2010 was to make the PR man’s classic mistake of changing the Tory logo and saying “CHANGE” – as if this might mean a gentler Conservatism conserving everything not worth conserving….while changing all the best values of Britain.
The reality is that the two big UK Parties represent such a force-fit alliance today, only risible arguments in favour of retaining an eighteenth century voting model can keep them in alternating impressions of a power they no longer possess. For harder evidence of this, you need look no further than the seismic splits within each Party.
The Conservatives contain several powerful sects. These include the No Turning Back Thatcher priests, virulent anti-Brussels purists, Corporacratic neofascists, unapologetic Newscorpers, and the larger than often imagined rump of inclusive “one Nation” Tories.
To regard that mix as a broad church is ridiculous. It represents the oil-and-water suspension of disbelief – that SupraState Conservatives can ever be reconciled with Britain First Tories.
The Labour Party in turn remains tectonically divided between Old and New Labour…with additional undercurrents of feminism, robotic pc, and a largely secret (but growing) number of MPs unable to reconcile their historic support of the underdog with the obviously bully-banker run European Union…an EU busily engaged in both demonising and pulverising Free Greece.
At the risk of endlessly repeating myself, the West’s problems today are about socio-cultural dumbing down and the undermining of Constitutional citizen rights. If the politicians refuse to recognise that reality, then by definition the problem isn’t political.
I think what we need to do here is stop easy, divisive blaming; and instead take on the more onerous task of personal ownership.
I don’t mean home ownership, mill ownership, car ownership, gizmo ownership and all the other materialist drivel we’ve been fed for thirty years as the price of our acquiescence in divisive economics. I mean ownership of our careers, our workplace, our interests, our communities….above all, of our personal destinies and duties.
The 35-45% of electors who don’t vote at General Elections represent the best reflection of a widespread recognition that we no longer own our political process or our sovereignty. And as long as enough well-meaning people feel left out of a real choice, there will always be class warfare.
In the 1960s, the middle-aged were at war with hippies and students. In the 1970s, the aspirant were at war with the TUC. Since 1997, the tolerant commonsense majority have been at war with the demanding minority classes. Today, the increasingly desperate and dispossessed are at war with elite economics. And those of us suspicious of EU supranational ambitions are at war with a political Establishment which seems curiously keen to support the bullies and condemn the innocents.
But if we all own the system, the community, the club, the company and the problem there is no running away. It’s our responsibility.
Such things become no longer suitable for sofa judgements: things to blame on ‘Them’, or ‘the politicians’, or ‘Whitehall’.
Ownership doesn’t sit easily with Socialism. Equally, mass ownership is diametrically opposed to what neoliberalism and multinationalism are all about. We can only get and feel positive ownership through community mutualism. That idea requires a movement, not a political Party. Politics in the West has become a divisive system of protectionist power wherein dinosaurs are given the undeserved privilege of survival.
There are already numerous examples of such essentially constitutional movements that give the lie to neoliberal and socialist ‘solutions’. They include the John Lewis Partnership, the Nationwide Building Society, Iceland, and Football Club United of Manchester. Such mutualist models are now the fastest-growing company form on the planet.
This is my closing thought for tonight:
When everyone’s an owner, it is the end of class warfare and the start of something better.