Many moons ago I was a member of the Labour Party; not just a ‘member’ but an ‘active member’ who not only paid up my annual subscription but attended ward meetings, sat on committees, posted leaflets, collected food for striking miners and knocked on people’s doors at election time asking for them which way they were likely to be voting. The truth is, I believed in all this stuff. This would have been the mid-80’s, when Britain was under the Thatcherite jackboot and was becoming one of the most divided societies in the western world. I called myself a Socialist (with a big S) and all these years later, when pushed, will tell anyone who wants to know that I am still a Socialist, though what has happened to my fellow travellers on the left I’m none too sure. You may well be thinking, ‘What was a hard-line socialist doing in the Labour Party at a time when Neil Kinnock was doing his utmost to rid said party of such evils unless it was part of some Trotskyist plot?‘ (you were thinking that, weren’t you?). Well, I wasn’t a Trotskyist and had no time for Militant Tendency or the International Marxist Group or Derek Hatton or Arthur bloody Scargill; I was just an average working class young fellow who was sick of things never changing for ordinary people, rising unemployment figures, lack of housing, an increasingly stretched NHS, shit state education and the rise of the Yuppies.
I believed that state control of essential resources and services to be used for the betterment of the lives of the poorer folk would be the best way forward for British society. Call me naive if you like but I still do. Where I do think I was wrong was in believing that the British political system could ever deliver this for the working class. I may have occasionally spouted off dreamily about the need for ‘revolution’ (although this was mainly to wind up any perceived old codgers I encountered) but, in the main, I did think that we’d eventually change things through the electoral system. How wrong I was.
It’s probably fair for anyone to observe that the reason Britain never made the necessary swing back to the left was because old style socialism was generally discredited and no longer desired by the British public but I think there was something else going on that has proved to be a far more potent weapon in the right’s determination to destroy leftist aspirations: the deliberate engendering of apathy amongst the working class. The growth in apathy took a number of forms depending on who needed to be inoculated with a dose of ‘couldn’t give a toss, mate’. On one hand, you had the so called ‘aspirational working class’ who had always, in the main, been solid Labour Party supporters but were not averse to the idea of buying their council houses, sending little Johnny or Jenny to private school give the chance, joining the golf or squash club, joining the ranks of lower management at the factory (‘Daddy, what’s a factory?‘) and taking their annual holiday in Spain or even Turkey. Now, taken individually, it could be argued that there’s nothing wrong with any of these things but when you put them all together as a ‘lifestyle’ there is an undeniably pernicious tang to such delights. It’s that little useless carrot that says, ‘You, too, can have all this…providing you are good girls and boys and keep supporting the status quo.’ Of course, you have to promise to take little care for your poor unemployed neighbour or the elderly couple across the road or the sick gentlemen on the corner; after all, didn’t Thatcher tell us that ‘There is no such thing as society’? What we had to accept for this golden opportunity to shine was that Darwin’s notion of survival of the fittest had to be allowed to do its work throughout the land – it was the only way. Many people bought into this crap.
The other side of this coin was aimed at the people who were perceived to be irredeemably out of the loop as far as the new social revolution was concerned: the long term unemployed, the poor, the unskilled workers, the ‘underclass’ (probably all pissed or on drugs anyway). It was vital to make these sections of society believe that there was basically NO HOPE for them within the normal political process, thus making things like taking an interest in current affairs, reading a proper newspaper (or reading of any kind), joining a political party or even bothering to vote a complete irrelevance to such people. Providing they had TV, cheap booze, cigarettes, take away food outlets, football etc. then they would remain like passive sheep, ultimately to be herded (can you ‘herd’ a ‘flock’ of sheep?) to market or even the slaughterhouse. The relatively recent rise of the ubiquity of computer games, the internet and any other ‘must have’ gadget you can mention has only added to the weaponry of the Establishment in their struggle to make us drown in our own apathy. If this doesn’t work, flooding sink estates and inner city areas with cheap drugs should do it. (I’m only too aware that drugs are also prevalent in more rural areas these days as well but I hope you get my drift). Yes, it’s old Karl’s ‘opium for the masses’ but this time it really is opium or, at least, some sort of derivative. On the whole, however, the Sky Sports, cheap supermarket booze and The X-Factor is sufficient to do the trick.
Whilst all this is going on, the political classes become harder and harder to tell apart, no matter what they happen to call themselves; they rip the nation off royally (I haven’t even mention the role of ‘Royalty’, have I?) with their expenses claims, tax dodges and cash for questions, knowing full well we are all too drugged to the eyeballs on all the crap they’ve sold us to care one way or another. On top of that, whenever they decide that its high time we helped the US invade yet another country (Syria, are you ready?), we’ll not only go along with it but we’ll supply the cannon fodder too. Of course we could go on and on complaining about the state of the NHS, mass immigration, the genuine threat of militant Islam, gypsies on your doorstep nicking the lead off the school roof, the crumbling education system, homelessness, the EU, unemployment, paedophiles in the higher echelons and anything else but they now know that we are far too apathetic to really do anything about it whilst we still have out iPods, iPhones, 44″ HD screens and ‘East Enders’ three times a week. This is what it’s all about, folks: behave yourselves and you can have your crap and eat it but if you do have the audacity to try to change things through the political process they won’t even have to kill you (unless that happens to be convenient) because they’ll merely corrupt you.
I can hear you saying, ‘We know the problems, what’s the answer?’ Currently, I can see no answer. Join UKIP? Fine if you want a re-run of Nazi Germany. Think I’m exaggerating? Wait until they form a coalition with the EDL. Change the Labour Party from within? No chance – the politics of common sense and the average British person is anathema to the chattering classes of Miliband’s crew; they’ll ensure you are silenced before you can say ‘Clement Attlee.’ How about the Green Party? Do you really want to spend weekends camping with the neo-fascists of the expensive hand-kitted jumper from Peru brigade? You could head for Stornoway but that’s my dream and I bet the bastards will be there as well. No, the only thing to do right now is live our lives in as Dadaesque fashion as possible, making a mockery of the whole stinking cesspit until the system eats itself and we can rise from the ashes and establish a true socialist Utopia of peace, love and equality. Don’t expect too many to follow, though, because they are all too busy on their iPads booking tickets for ‘Glasto’ (maaaan) – though I expect that sold out a long time ago, baby.
Merde to la revolution! (for now).