I noticed after rereading my last post that there were still things I felt were needed to be said. I’ve mentioned previously that one of the clear benefits of the growing recognition of socialism within the mainstream political discourse is that it forces peoples true intentions out into the open. For instance, there are those who like pretending to care about other people, but when faced with the possibility of a progressive taxation system in which their children will be educated and their sick and infirm cared for alongside the bottom 90% of society, suddenly find that their human compassion and social responsibility comes with limits.
Similarly, when also faced with the growing recognition of socialism across society, the undercover agents and assets who have infiltrated the groups, organisations and the wider dialogues leading the movement are also forced to show their hands. The more likely socialism becomes, the quicker their role shifts from simply being one of infiltrating, collecting information and reporting, to one of undermining, fragmenting and isolating the constituent members and the groups. Or in the case of those embedded within the far-right groups, shepherding them towards direct and often violent confrontation with those same left-wing groups. Which in a round about sort of way brings me back to the last post.
Eighty years ago, a short time after the international ruling elite had aided and abetted in the military coup and subsequent establishment of a fascist dictatorship under General Franco in Spain, a progressive radical was asked why the collective will of the Spanish people had failed to stop it. Their answer has stayed with me for decades. They said that by allowing their focus to be misdirected, they had lost sight of what they were fighting for. Urgency and common sense demanded that they focus on the individual battles with the fascists. However in doing that, the very thing that was winning them the country, the revolution, was irretrievably put on hold. That revolution had started in Spain, as it had across the world, with the growing recognition of socialism as a valid ideological framework, and more specifically, its potential as a jumping off point for creating a more compassionate, sustainable and fairer society. Something that the ruling class could simply not allow to grow.
It is in this very subtle shifting of our focus, disguised as the only logical response to an urgent and desperate situation, that if we are not careful we will once again become the victims of. By focussing our energies towards the battles that the oppressor knows that they can fix the outcome of, as opposed to the one in which they are hopelessly outnumbered, each of us become the architects of our own downfall, by allowing ourselves to be coerced into compromising our solidarity with one another, and in doing so, derailing our own revolution.
Arguably, the establishments shift to the neo-liberal far-right in the 1970s played a large part in the growing recognition of socialism, and its potential as a catalyst among the bottom 90%. Which entirely predictably, prompted the establishment to pursue the strategy of promoting ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ compromises. The ‘liberal’ arm of the establishment argued the case for putting the revolution to one side while we focus on the compromises that the ‘conservative’ arm of the establishment are willing to negotiate on. Compromises that under the shallowest of scrutiny were then, and still are now, clearly ‘heads they win, tails we lose’ compromises.
For instance, rather than address the threat to life on earth from fossil-fuel-obsessed capitalism, we are told that we will now be allowed to buy water in glass rather than plastic bottles. A compromise that does little more than wipe the saliva from the jowls of the rabid dog that already has our ankle between its teeth. Time and again, whenever the demand for equality and justice becomes overwhelming, if allowed to, the privileged will release just enough pressure by opening the valve briefly. The only thing that escapes is a little steam, before we once again find ourselves locked inside the machine.
One of the most revealing examples of this process recently is in the discussions around Brexit, and the advocates of ignoring the referendum. Apparently, we are allowed to give our opinion on whether certain laws are written by an elite in Brussels or an elite in Westminster, but we have no say in terms of which laws that applies to, who writes them, how they are written, how they are enforced, or even to whom they apply. And of course, even within those narrow terms of the referendum framework, if the people still chose to vote the “wrong” way, then we should keep having votes until they chose to vote the “right” way. And not for the first time, either.
It is an understanding of “democracy” that many of its current advocates in terms of the “people’s vote”, were unable to apply when large sections of the population were calling for a vote on sending our sons and daughters to kill and be killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is, almost every political debate in recent years has been a master class in the distance between the common-held understanding of “democracy” and the reality of authoritarian government.
And it is in this space that a very important argument takes shape. Focussing on the Labour party alone is a huge risk to our chances of creating the society and civilisation that we have all been fighting for. Gaining enough support to win a fair and free election is quite feasible. But historically it has never been anywhere near enough. Those who hold power over large sections of the planet have demonstrated year after year, that they are more than willing to infiltrate and co-opt progressive groups and organisations, and when that fails to give the order to assassinate individuals, fire live ammunition at protestors, use economic tools to kill the most vulnerable, amass massive stockpiles weapons of mass destruction, ignore domestic and international laws, and bomb civilian populations with conventional weapons. Don’t think for one minute that they aren’t willing to fix an election or simply ignore the actual outcome of one.
If socialism is going to be successful, it can only be done by building up from and through society. If the current political processes are part of the mechanism we choose to maintain socialism once we are successful then that must be based on a democratic and informed discussion had by everyone. And that’s not to say that many socialists within the current Labour party aren’t in some way fighting for exactly this to occur. But once again, confusing the objectives and actions of individual members with the institution, has been proven time and again to be our undoing.
And it is not just the institutionalised political processes. The same can occur in campaigning groups and activist networks alike. The reality is that it is incumbent on each of us to actively scrutinise and manage any and all institutions that we give our support to, or claim solidarity with. It really isn’t too much to ask to be accurately represented from those that claim to represent us. And equally, it should not be unexpected when support is withdrawn if they cease to represent us. Lest we forget, history shows us that an establishment-controlled State will infiltrate our local groups and nudge us in one of two directions, either towards political irrelevance or to punishable criminality.
In defence of the socialists leading the Labour party currently, there is a clear process for developing policy and focus from the membership upwards. But this shouldn’t be some sort of anecdotal party conference aberration. In truth, it is the least we can expect from a democratic process and a democratic society. If we are going to build a world where privilege and entitlement allocated according to class, race and gender are nothing more than a shameful anachronism from a more brutal and cruel past, then we must demand exactly that from the organisational structures within our movement as well.
To do this, we need to keep taking to the streets under different and countless banners, with or without the support of political parties. We need to create shared and safe spaces in our communities where we can collaborate, and support, and learn from one another, with or without local grandees and officials. We need to organise in our workplaces and campaign against our exploitation and the destruction of our world, with or without our Unions and bosses. We need to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, regardless of the international borders projected down on to us. We need to stop fuelling the international plutocracy and climate catastrophe through the obsessive consumerism plaguing the G8 nations.
To put it simply, if we expect someone else to bring about sustainable socialism for us, we have fallen foul of the fundamental lie that only benefits the top 0.1%. We have bought into the first compromise, that of thinking that someone else knows what is best for us and our loved ones. From there it is not a million miles to the second compromise, that they can be trusted to put our needs before theirs. Socialism isn’t about a change in management. Fundamental to the growing recognition of socialism, is the growing recognition that another world is possible. A better world.