“He who has hope, has everything.” – Thomas Carlyle
Corporate business has democracy in a chokehold and neither the Conservatives nor Labour have any intention of saving the system that they purport to serve; if anything, they would happily see it demolished in return for their respective self-contained well-to-do lifestyles. It comes as no surprise that the centre-right do not have the best interests of the less affluent (the majority) in mind, but Labour were meant to be the champions of the underdog. As the neoliberal model was put into practise by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, the old socialist values that were intrinsic to Labour have all but vanished and our two main “democratic” parties are almost ideologically aligned. During the Tony Blair years, Labour made the short sighted mistake, amongst many other uncharacteristically pro-neoliberal actions, of trying to appease undecided voters, in order to win a general election, by adopting policies that are untrue to the values of the political left. Since then, they have stuck and the carcinogenic effects of neoliberalism have infected the Labour party to its core. Often described as Blairites, those members whose indistinct ideologies overlap the centre-left and centre-right arcs of the political landscape, in a blurred and unapologetically compromising fashion, have shown the true colours of the party, no more so, than in the recent, blatantly divisive and all too transparent leadership coup.
Labour’s biggest failure has been the absence of idealistic, left-wing value-based alternatives; a manifesto that is unashamedly courageous and sincere in its convictions. The party has been reduced to ‘fire-fighting’ style rhetoric towards the morally and socially destructive energies of the Conservatives, which although important, on their own, deliver no more than a butterfly kiss to the heavy set jaw of the powerhouse which is right-wing and neo-liberal interdependence. As the manifestations of neo-liberalism show their ugly face in the form of unemployment, low wages, zero-hour contracts, poverty, etc. those most affected have been left out in the cold, metaphorically as well as literally. Who will represent the working class if not the Labour party?
The working class is broadly defined as:
“those who rely upon their earnings from wage labour, thereby, the category includes most of the working population of industrialized economies, of the urban areas (cities, towns, villages) of non-industrialized economies, and of the rural workforce.”
The vast majority of the population falls within this bracket, yet there seems to be an identity crisis brewing within this societal group and the term “working class” conjures up stereotypical images of 18th Century factory workers. Many today would probably consider themselves to be middle class. The term “middle class” was made popular by Karl Weber in his socio-economic framework yet it is left very much open to interpretation with no definitive definition. Hence, unless you inherit your wealth and never have to rely upon some form of paid work to survive, such as the Royal Family or an heir/heiress, then technically we are all working class, regardless of your working attire, location or salary. There is an attitude within the perceived middle class, particularly for those that own small businesses and work in “The City”, that the Conservatives are business friendly and “on their side”. I shall allude to this misconception shortly*, but first let us return to the question of who will represent the working class if not the Labour party?
Although unsure of why and how, the poorer working class feel as if they are being left to rot, and like hyenas, the far-right political parties are particularly adept at scavenging for remains. By manipulating the despondency within the working class and emulating a public image that they can relate to, far-right parties misdirect the working class’s anger by exploiting their lack of education (something that most cannot be blamed for). A combination of poor environmental and social conditions, relentless pro-neoliberal propaganda by the mainstream media that pedals scapegoating and divisive information and a lack of adequate education/exposure to the panorama of political, economic and ideological systems, creates the conditions for a propensity towards the neutering of one’s critical thinking on the matter.
So what can be done if a great many of the perceived “middle class” are indoctrinated into a system whereby the Conservatives, mainstream media and corporations are all in cahoots as they lead us towards a future as bleak as a British summer, the far-right, like the Emperor from Star Wars, is manipulating minds to the dark side, and Labour at the first whiff of actual left-wing attitudes are divide by mutinous abstention?
Four things: RECALIBRATE, ASSERT VALUES, MOBILISE, PERSEVERE
We need to recalibrate our sights and see past our own short-termism by relinquishing any desperate attempt at what are perceived as strategic gains, albeit minimal and fairly insignificant ones. In other words, we must stop voting Labour just because we cannot stomach the thought of the Conservatives being in government any longer. This behaviour, rather than hinder the neo-liberal agenda, will only perpetuate its efforts, as the political landscape further gives way to the domination of centre-right values harboured by both parties.
Voting Labour is not the value statement that someone with left-wing and socialist attitudes should be making. Instead we need to collectively make a value statement by voting for parties that do not sit in the centre but are recognisably left of the centre. Parties such as the Green Party that hold humanism, socialism and ecology in the highest regard. This would send out a statement that is not open to interpretation and it would be the first step towards the mobilization of a tangible and definable opposing movement.
There must be continued engagement in political discussion with those of all political stripes and it must not be perturbed by the attempted silencing by of the politically apathetic, the ignorance of the anti-intellectualists or the brow-beating of the “loony left” labelling right-wing commentators. Protests, strikes and rallies are a right of a democratic society that must be practised whenever necessary. However, the political left need to build concrete manifestos and workable plans to show a practicable ideology that marries morality and pragmatism, for such a thing would give untold validity to the cause.
There are four popular routes which the politically engaged can traverse; one is to soldier forth with the neoliberal efforts of the Conservatives, another is to succumb to the manipulation of the far right and blame the wrong people for your ills, another is to hang on to an idea of what you want the Labour party to be and so maintain a system that is not what you are voting for and another is to simply not care nor partake in the democratic process.
I believe that if our current system is to carry on as it is, eventually (I would not presume to know a timescale) the NHS will be fully privatised, so will all public services and once this happens costs cannot be regulated. The American Healthcare System is a prime example of a brutally immoral and regressive system that already occurs in a modern western democratic country. So there is absolutely no reason why it cannot and will not happen here. As deals such as TTIP, corporate tax breaks, loopholes and a corrupt corporate culture enable the transfer of power away from the general populous and into the hands of unethical, unassailable and fallaciously sacrosanct corporations, austerity will gradually effect more and more people (*including many of those that consider themselves to be middle class). Inevitably, the amount of disaffected citizens will rise as the cost of living begins to weigh more and more people down and as the welfare safety net gathers more holes, and so there needs to be a political ideology/party patiently waiting in the wings to catch them and ultimately care for them. Maybe it is only when people have confronted the fear of having very little that they will realise that human society is best for themselves when it looks after everybody. And this is why perseverance is as important as mobilisation. Rather than compromising values at the chance of being in power or winning over a few of the undecided voters, we have to first of all show them what we stand for, how we would make the world fairer and then let them come to us, as neo-liberalism gradually reveals to them that they are as disposable as the “welfare scroungers” and “immigrants” that were at its mercy, maybe only a decade before.
Above all else, people need hope, for hope is the antithesis of neo-liberal dogmatism. Fear of immigrants, fear of joblessness, fear of not having enough, fear of social rejection, fear of intellectualism, fear of ill health, fear of a wasted vote, fear of the unknown, are all cogs in the dehumanising, profit worshipping machine. There needs to be a party whose ideology not only challenges the socially destructive and morally regressive actions of neo-liberalism but also provides socially positive and morally honourable actions which will empower the powerless, redistribute wealth and rebuild our society and economy to serve us ALL.