People in the UK are calling for a general election. Will it be tweedledum versus tweedledee? Again?
Somebody* said that history repeats itself: the first time as a tragedy, the second time as farce. What dramatic forms do further iterations take? I’m trying not to think about it but the nightmare and the nausea keep returning. Are we going to have to live through this again? The naval expression of this alternation of command is called Buggin’s Turn*. Are we going to have to watch as the deep feelings of solidarity, the aspiration to live better, to make a better society, created by a people on the move against the outlook and policies of the Conservative Party and the political elites who they represent, get sucked up into the rotting bilge of compromise, equivocation, co-option, excuses, bowing and scraping, obsequious mournful apologetics, so-called ‘realism’, submission to ‘finance’ and the laws of the market, horrendous ‘we’d like to but…’, being sensible about climate change and being moderate about inequality? No, it won’t be a relief to see the back of the Tories if it means that we have a Labour government like the ones we had in 1924, in 1964, 1974, 1997. Who wants to watch capitulation and slow crushing defeat? Again?
I hope I’m not relying too much on the reader’s knowledge of history.
The only reason the 1945 government was different was because of the massive popular movement holding it to account. However it too just prepared the way for the return of the Tories. It may have been similar if Corbyn’s Labour project had been successful. But now, there is a strong smell of putrefaction, of self-seeking, and pusillanimity. Perhaps I should just turn my face away, smell flowers and look at the ocean because there is only one word for it. It’s so boring.
I’m not a politician. I’m an intermittent activist. I am in no position to create an alternative political choice. But what about all the people who have been chucked out of the Labour Party for being on the left, all the de-selected candidates, all the activists who have been silenced? Can’t they give a us break? Can’t they give us something to fight for politically? Can’t the People’s Assembly, Enough is Enough, Stop the War, Just Stop Oil and all the other groups who collaborated to organise the march on Saturday 5th November form a united front, a broad political alliance and compose a Manifesto Charter with key policy demands that can make the population of this island look up from the dreadful decline perpetrated over centuries by our political elites?
Of course I’ve got my own wild ideas. I want to see the state democratised. I want more power given to local authorities. I want to see the monarchy and its court taken out of the political institutions. I want to see the House of Lords abolished. I want to see transparency and democracy at every level of public and political life. I think these democratic measures are absolutely essential to create the participatory resilience sufficient to disempower the financial institutions so that people, through democratic structures, can make decisions about the movement of wealth and investment, simply so that they can have control over their own lives and their environment. Break down the walls of the universities, make them into living centres of knowledge that can directly benefit local communities. Bring the media into public participatory ownership. Make the police a public service. The list goes on. Try not making corporate structures the model of how we organise everything!
I believe you cannot make economic changes separate from political ones*. I want to see a change that makes it impossible for the Conservative Party and the current political elites to ever return to power and play this stupid tennis match, this tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, ‘his majesty’s government’, ‘his majesty’s loyal opposition’. Pass the chunder bucket!
Are we serious? I don’t want to impose my ideas on anyone. I just want to have a real conversation about what is really going on. But where is this happening? I want to exercise the human joy of making the society I live in. The keynote is resounding. Look at what our production system has done to our earth. Look at global warming and climate change. The key inspiring movement here in the past period is the young people of the Friday For Future movement and this is because it came from the heart and they really cared and they weren’t seeking public office or advancement!! The model of humanity that our regime is based on, the rational self-interested utility-maximising individual is redundant. Dead. Deceased. Support from white supremacism and male chauvinism has clustered around this absurd creation. Let it fall away. Decay. It’s gross. It’s boring. Give us a break! No more bullies!
The connection between our production system and the ‘model of humanity’ described above is systemic. Another way of expressing all this is to say we need a paradigm shift*. If our social and political system is able to be analysed in the way that other complex systems are analysed then the basic assumptions we have about ourselves hold it together. We know the system has got inside us. We need a new model of our humanity. To change it we have to change. We can’t do this only by sitting and thinking things through. We have to share. We have to talk. We have to act. We have to start living the change.
But please let’s not have a tweedle-dum tweedle-dee general election. Surely we can do better. Let’s not be uptight about it. Of course if there is a new political movement that stands candidates the anti-tory vote may be divided but if we can break this cycle of either/or and continue to build a movement for social change then it will be worth it. But this movement has to be participatory. It has to activate people. Please no Buggin’s Turn!
*Karl Marx in the opening of ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon’
*Thanks for reminding me of this expression to Goran Therborn in his wonderful global survey essay ‘The World and the Left’ in the recent New Left Review
*The idea that a paradigm is the fundamental cohering element in the analysis of systems comes from the brilliant short essay, written in 2000 by one of the scientists who took part in the groundbreaking Limits to Growth report in 1972, Donella Meadows: Leverage Points: Places to intervene in a system.
*See my previous blog THINKING ABOUT THE STATE