We have been witnessing over the last few weeks momentous events on the financial markets. Not since the Wall Street Crash of 1929 has the system of capitalism been so threatened with complete collapse; so far only state intervention (socialism for the rich) has kept the nightmare scenario of global meltdown at bay. I'm no economist, I'm as perplexed as everyone else regarding the rarefied world of finance capital, but what is certain is the project of neo-liberalism is in serious crisis; it is facing what soviet communism faced when the Berlin Wall fell.
But unlike the ideology of state communism, where even within the ruling cliques of the Eastern Block faith in their dogma was beginning to slip, the myth of the free market and the worship of capital are firmly entrenched in our politicians and mainstream political parties; in our print and TV media, from the broadsheets down to your most moronic tabloid. Except for the large European trade union federations (mainly in the public sector) the social networks and working class culture of the past have decayed, mere exhibits in the museums of our industrial past. We in the west live as atomised individuals in a giant theme park of consumerism-but now seriously under threat. Like Catholicism was during the Middle Ages capitalism is the very air we breathe, the fundament of our very existence.
You would think this is the ideal time for the radical left in this country to come out of the wilderness. But there is a problem and this problem is what makes these events frightening. The left no longer exists as a viable force for freedom and liberation. What exists of the left, except for a few notable exceptions, are at best the surviving remnants of ancient battles, looking back wistfully on the glory days-1917, 1936, 1968, and at worst the pseudo-left, making up a hotchpotch of fragmented single issue campaigns: animal rights, vegetarianism, anti-racism, peace, feminism, the environment, but seemingly united by smug self-righteousness, puritanical moralising, a patronising attitude to working people, their everyday pressures and their life styles, snobbery and a willingness to make alliances with reaction. I'm not pointing this out to attack the core concerns of these campaigns, I support nearly all of them, nor the many well-meaning individuals involved. What I wish to say very strongly though is that the above attitudes are the overall tone, from the Guardian newspaper (house journal of the pseudo-left) to the feminist picket outside a lap-dancing club.
Back in the 90's a new movement seemed to be on the rise going under the umbrella term of Anti-Capitalism. For all of the youthful naivete's of some of its western participants (tempered though by the social and working class movements from the third world) it looked as if a new radical left was about to be born-exuberant, celebratory, confrontational, imaginative, holistically refusing to reduce campaigns to single issues, and above all libertarian. But then the planes hit the Twin Towers on 11th September 2001 and everything changed. The War Against Terror was launched leading directly to the horrors of the US invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. But the 3000 dead of 9/11 and the countless dead of US aggression thereafter were not the only victims. Almost overnight Anti-Capitalism disappeared from our TV screens and each demo attracted less and less people. (Of course the struggle against neo-liberalism continued on a large scale in the poorer counties, especially South America, but never reported in the mainstream western media.)
Taking its place, amongst left wing organisations in the UK, was the Anti War movement. It culminated on the 15th February 2003 with the biggest political demonstration in British history and a spontaneous strike by school kids, using mobile phone text messages to co-ordinate action nationwide. But this positive beginning was not to last. Again you had ever-diminishing numbers attending the demonstrations, becoming a bi-annual trudge through the streets of central London, shouting facile slogans-reaching rock bottom with 'We Are All Hezbollah.' These slogs inevitable ended at Trafalgar Square were the banner holding spectators (not protesters) listened to boring speeches from left wing worthies and Islamists. The protests' only achievement was to highlight our disempowerment.
Behind this charade of mass demonstrations were organisations who between them dominated the Stop The War Coalition, the main anti war grouping: The Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party, opportunist politician and self-styled maverick George Galloway and his Respect Renewal (now split from his alliance with the SWP) and the Muslim Association of Great Britain, the UK branch of the Egyptian based Muslim Brotherhood-a reactionary religious party. You also have to include the pseudo-left Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, an important partner in the Coalition and the sub-Stalinist Communist Party of Britain, who are behind the Morning Star daily paper.
I could write a small pamphlet on the multitude of sins of the above. For the moment I will limit myself to a short overview of the first three groups mentioned.
First up the Socialist Workers Party; a Machiavellian, almost Orwellian organisation, who supposedly subscribe to the tenets of Trotsky but really have more in common with Stalin, despite Trotsky's own penchant for authoritarianism. Wherever they go you will find animosity and division. Recently down played class struggle and embraced pseudo-lefty moralising, right up to the point where they support religious censorship more violently then devout Muslims.
Next George Galloway, one of the founders of Respect alongside the SWP; an egotist with the scent of corruption, whose own politics are a strange combination of 1945 Labourism, Stalinism, and right wing cultural attitudes-anti abortion and pro death penalty. An admirer of fascistic leaders like Saddam Hussein and now the theocratic Iranian regime, smearing with hints of homophobia, the gay and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as pro-war. His Respect Renewal Party has as members and affliates Yvonne Ridley-an ex Daily Express hack, Muslim convert and front person for the Iranian government's English language satellite channel; and The Islamic Party, anti-Semites and deniers of the Holocaust.
Lastly the Muslim Association of Great Britain, a political Islamist group who are not even remotly left wing. Their sister party in Egypt (The Muslim Brotherhood) are physically attacking the left, trade unionists and women's organisations. In a recent opinion poll only 2% of British Muslims believe MAGB represents them.
As the Anti War movement is the arena where the far left has gravitated too and prioritises, this depressing collection of authoritarians and pseudo left sermonisers are an excellent example of how progressive and radical organisations have degenerated or at best been led up a blind alley. Frighteningly in the background lurks the spectre of Fascism. The white working class has all but been abandoned to the influence of the British National Party. When the economic crisis really does strike hard at the populace any time now, the BNP have a good chance of becoming a dominant force in British politics.
So things look pretty grim. This is not the time for smug self-congratulation, that we saw all this coming; the possible consequences of the crisis and the human suffering involved are just too catastrophic. But before you accuse me of over-pessimism, in my next post I will look at this issue in a slightly more optimistic and hopeful light. The radical and progressive left does not only include those I discussed above.