Difficult to know what’s more absurd, Theresa May’s claim that the Conservatives are for everyone, or that she thinks we’ll fall for it.So the party conference season is over, and the country could not have a starker choice in terms of the two political paths on offer. On the one hand there is the vision set out by Labour, offering a future built on collective effort securing gains for the individual, the other suggests a continuation of the blitzkrieg on the poor and the vulnerable.
The Tories’ talk of opportunity is simply cover for a programme of enrichment for those already sitting bloated at the top, with the vague promise that some of the fat will trickle down to the rest of us. It’s a lie, has always been a lie, and always will be.
What opportunities are there, if you’re born into a deprived area, save for the chance to leave this world several years earlier than someone born in a more affluent region? Children born in Britain today face a postcode lottery of life expectancy. But, it gets worse. For the first time since the war, average life expectancy has stalled in England and in Scotland and Wales, it has actually fallen.
Experts are agreed that this is a consequence of the grim barbarism of austerity and a sanctions culture that devalues life and people. However, it’s not the well-off being robbed of their retirement years. It’s not their children having precious memories with parents and grandparents snatched from their grasp; it’s the poorest and weakest among us.
Meanwhile, Theresa May dances.
But, what opportunity does she offer the children living in temporary accommodation or working parents who depend on foodbanks to feed their families. The Tories are for everyone, the many and the few, she claims. It’s difficult to know what’s more absurd, the claim or that she thinks we will fall for it. There is nothing in her speech that will reverse the effects of austerity and create opportunity.
There’s no end to tuition fees, no end to rip off landlords and squalid homes, no way out for the homeless. The privatisation by stealth and outsourcing of the NHS will go on and working people will continue to toil for hours on our decrepit rail networks, before they even get to work. Then they will toil some more as they head home, robbed of precious time with their families, and all for less as wages continue to fall. Meanwhile May’s government prepares to sacrifice all of our rights on the altar of a no-deal Brexit.
The media lap up the show because that’s all it is; a sad, sorry, show. There’s no substance or solutions on offer, just a con trick, a distraction from the fact that there are no ideas to be found. There’s nothing at all, just a decaying, bankrupt cancerous government that’s sucking the life out of most of the population. This is a vampire state led by the Nosferatu of Prime Ministers.
Nothing is sacred, at home or abroad. When it comes to clinging to power, no tyrant, despot or demagogue is too far beyond the pale as far as the Tories are concerned. Whether it’s Donald Trump or Viktor Orban, they’re there to lend a hand. If Saudi Arabia wants bombs to murder children in Yemen, say no more. If Netanyahu’s army wants to murder unarmed protestors in Gaza, say nothing.
Meanwhile Theresa May dances.
She dances while the far-right grows stronger and the media normalise the hate spewed by Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson. All the while they attack those who would stand in the way of hate.
All around us we see the demons of the thirties open their eyes and breathe again. Maybe that’s our problem though; we’ve seen them as demons, when really they are just flesh and blood. They are always among us, they are the very worst of us.
As a child I was taught to see nazis as monsters, almost mythical creatures. I wasn’t encouraged to see them for what they are—a terrible consequence of the contradictions and inequalities of capitalism and imperialism. They were real people doing terrible things in the name of power and privilege.
No fear, I was told, we defeated them, and they’re gone. Society has moved beyond all that. Never again would we allow their poison to take hold. That too was a lie, or at least a terrible misunderstanding of history. While the individuals now belong to history, the disease of fascism has continued to lurk in the shadows. The symptoms were bound to recur.
When it comes to the dangers posed by the far-right, there is no ultimate conquest. Instead there’s just the same cyclical battle. For as long as there is boom and bust, haves and have nots and injustice, there will always be someone to scapegoat and no shortage of people willing to point the finger of blame. Only by ending the system that perpetuates the cycle can we be free from its consequences.
Meanwhile, Theresa May dances.
She does so while attempting to undermine Labour, with accusations of racism. This is patently absurd, but the purpose is as clear as it is sickening. The establishment are more afraid of socialism, than they are of fascism. Accusing your enemy of the very crimes you are committing is an old trick. We mustn’t fall for it.
We know that the Conservatives and their allies would rather pander to actual racists and fascists than see a government that rips apart their status-quo. Fascists hate the vision put forward by Labour. They would seek to smash workers organisations like Trade Unions. They look to divide where we seek to unite. In fermenting divisions in society with their ‘hostile environment’ approach to immigration and the scandal of Windrush, the Tories and their fellow travellers are fuelling the rise of these very dark forces.
In seeking to undermine the left they risk removing one of the greatest impediments to fascism, organised labour. Or, is it that they see the enemy of their enemy, as their friends.
The Tories offer nothing to meet these or any of the challenges we face as a society. They offer opportunity to a few and more of the same to the rest. Their no-deal Brexit would hand Britain over to speculators and spivs who would gamble away our hard won rights and leave us to the barbarism of petty nationalism and isolation.
There is an alternative though. Labour’s socialism for the 21st century offers a real opportunity to break free from the horrendous cycle of capitalism. There is much to build on in their programme, but this is a genuine chance to restructure wealth and power in society.
John McDonnell’s vision for industrial democracy should be only the beginning, but if delivered what a start that would be. Labour, gathering on the banks of the Mersey, offered common ownership of wealth and power. He spoke of collective effort for individual gain, with everyone sharing in the rewards at the end of the day.
That may have been an ideal stoked up by a craggy Scotsman from Glenbuck, who held court just a few miles from the conference centre, at Anfield. However, it owes its heritage to a much older and more international movement. It is the legacy of great socialist thinkers, whose vision led to the formation of the Labour movement itself.
Just imagine what we could achieve as a society, if we applied those socialist principals to the way we organise the economy. Think of what collective effort for individual gain would mean. How qualitatively different would our lives be, if all of us shared in the fruits of our labours, instead of them being hijacked by the few.
An end to food banks really is within our grasp. We can abolish low pay and insecurity at work. Together we can defend our communities and organise our resources so that nobody goes without, and we can build a society where all are cared for and have the opportunity to learn from the cradle, throughout a long and satisfying life, to the grave. Then, imagine us stronger, more confident and united, building a relationship with the rest of the world, based on peace and stability.
That’s the vision offered by Labour. It’s about taking back control over our lives and our neighbourhoods, our workplaces and schools. For all that Theresa May dances, and her allies sneer, the choice facing all of us is very clear.
It’s an old choice, and one we’ve squandered in the past. In 1916 Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish Marxist, wrote, “…society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism”.
She was speaking in the midst of the First World War and the carnage on the battlefields of Europe. After eight years of bitter austerity, the looming threat of the far right in Europe and beyond, and the hunger of our leaders for yet more war and conflict, those words seem ever more relevant today. A different world was possible then, it is again now. Let’s grasp the real opportunity.