The Flea on the Elephant
My son and his wife have just paid £25 to become members of the Labour Party. They, like me, are ardent Corbynistas, but although I have much respect for the man I feel both he and his supporters are living in cloud cuckoo land. Of course, I have an axe to grind: when I applied for temporary membership a year ago for the same purpose - that being to vote Corbyn, I was, in true Stalinist style, ‘purged’. I was not admitted to the Metro-centric ‘club’ and neither did I get my £3 back. That’s because I’m a socialist, and that’s the worst thing the Blairites need in their ranks, even though Cherie, high on breathing in the corporate atmosphere, still clutches her Louis Vuitton handbag and claims to be a “S*******t”. And now you can’t even call anyone a ‘Blairite’ - it’s forbidden.
So why am I so overcome with a sense of doom over the state of the Labour Party? Where to begin? Perhaps even their title needs changing. Apart from the odd exception in the PLP, very few of the smart-suited ardent global corporatist MPs have ever experienced ‘labour’ as many of us know it. They may have pruned a few red roses or turned over their compost heap with a fork, but that’s about it. The fact that a few thousand members have recognised that Jeremy Corybyn’s politics are much closer to the ideals of their founder, Keir Hardie, (who he?) means little to the Westminster gang. They see the party as ‘their’ Labour Party, not the members, because they occupy those green benches, and that position is a meal ticket for all manner of fiscal possibilities. Consultancies, travel, TV appearances. Being an MP of any political hue is a terrific opportunity for self-aggrandisement. Does every Labour MP truly care about austerity? Do they really want to preserve and improve the NHS? Would they stand shoulder to shoulder to take back the railways into public ownership, sort out the Mickey Mouse utility companies, return the Royal Mail to its rightful owners, us, the people? Perhaps they might have believed in such programmes when they were campaigning for election. But the evidence is now that they don’t. And let’s face it, if you toe the line, don’t ruffle any feathers, even if you’re vaguely ‘working class’ like John Prescott, you could end up taking the ermine, joining the Lords and get your £300 per day attendance allowance, a sum many workers won’t earn in a week. And with ‘Lord’ in front of your name, the cash and the privileges just roll in.
In the immediate aftermath of Brexit when the Tory Party was in virtual meltdown, did Labour act as an opposition and go for the jugular? No. They concentrated on trashing their leader, with the ranks behind him at Prime Minister’s Question Time sniggering at Corbyn’s every word, joining in with their Public School snotty-nosed counterparts across the floor, all yah-boos, baying Hooray Henrys to a man (and woman). So instead of chanting ‘Tories out! They decided on a kamikaze attack on their own leader. They are a disgrace and whatever happens to them will be long overdue.
Now the election for that leadership looms, and chances are Corbyn might well win. What then? Will there be a new ‘Gang of 4’ style ‘Social/Democratic’ offshoot as there was in 1981 with people like Shirley Williams, William Rodgers, Roy Jenkins and David Owen? More than likely. Which will leave the Corbyn rump of the party out of the periphery of politics alongside the Socialist Workers, the SPGB and, (if it still exists) the Communist Party. We can all hold meetings in a telephone kiosk at the end of the street and give clenched-fist salutes to passers-by.
|the roots of New Labour - the 'Gang of Four' in 1981. Ready to enjoy their Lords status for good behaviour..|
Yet the basic fact in all of this is that what was once known as ‘the proletariat’ as seen by Marx and Lenin no longer exists. We no longer hardly manufacture anything much; we’ve fulfilled Thatcher’s dream of becoming a ‘service economy’ Britain’s tattooed, I-phone-clutching constantly texting, selfie-taking masses don’t want socialism for a very good reason. They don’t know what it is, and neither do they care. They have chosen unchecked, unremitting capitalism and they love every Big Mac, Starbucks KFC Virgin Railways bit of it. Corbyn’s admirable faithful are about as effective against the tumour of capitalism as a cat flea on the arse of an elephant. Half an hour studying real political theory is meaningless when you could be watching Britain’s Benefits Tenants on Channel 5, or Gogglebox. Who wants to hear about community, inequality, bankers, Philip Green or social problems and the NHS, when Celebrity Bake-Off is on?
Britain’s Brexit champions, and that’s over half the electorate, remain happy for the country to be run by a cabal of financial buccaneers and press barons. They have succumbed to Goebbels and Hitler’s diktat, so ably utilised by Farage, Johnson and Gove, that if the lies are big enough, they’ll believe them. Their Bibles are The Sun, the Daily Mail, The Express and Fox News. As Donald Trump is amply proving, people don’t mind voting for lies as long as they are colourful, entertaining mistruths, something you can ‘whoop’ for as if you’re attending a rock concert, a kind of illuminated disingenuous wallpaper to decorate the enforced drabness of their living rooms.
So old, worn out dreamers like yours truly need to bite this acrid bullet and accept the stark fact that social progress, Corbyn style or otherwise, is more of a dream now than it was in my youth. This, to me, is the real truth about politics: hopelessness. I may have a decade left, two if I’m lucky, but I’ll just turn off the news, stop reading the Guardian (another middle class rag) get through each day and fade away into the widening shadows of ignorance. And of course, in those shadows, there’ll be plenty of noisy company. Tell me lies: they’re much better than reality.