Corbyn, naked moments, and the leviathan stripped bare

If capitalism were a sea monster, propelling and propelled by the waves of the sea, then very occasionally it is stripped bare to create a naked moment. And if dialectics are the waves of the sea, to-ing and fro-ing in constant motion, driven by contradictory forces and tensions, then some of us know that tides turn and naked moments are inevitable. But none of us foresaw this one.

“Leviathan in the fresco. The Last Judgment.” Painted by Giacomo Rossignolo, c. 1555 (Wikimedia Commons)

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 was a naked moment and, in hindsight, it was remarkably brief. From the mainstream media to the streets, people were speaking about “capitalism”, and questioning capitalism. The spin of the government in shutting down this moment – with a new language of “austerity” which placed blame on the public sector rather than the bankers and gamblers of global finance – was swift, efficient and effective. Blink, and the naked moment was gone.

As I write this post, it has been two weeks since Jeremy Corbyn, with an incredible, accumulating and unrehearsed mass beneath him, achieved a landslide victory to take leadership of the Labour Party. The leviathan has been stripped bare. The momentum of an impromptu movement has pulled off its clothes, and the light emitted from its nakedness is glaring. In this moment, people are being (re)politicised with hope. And in the process, many are having an epiphany as they begin to rudimentarily understand the nature of capitalism, the nature of the State, the nature of the media, the nature of the political establishment, and the nature of class politics. Amid über-nakedness, all is exposed.

“Destruction of Leviathan.” Engraving by Gustave Doré, 1865 (Wikimedia Commons)

A week after Corbyn took leadership of the Labour Party, and almost buried in the numerous Corbyn-related stories in the news, it was reported that a senior serving general in the British Army predicts a military coup if Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. This is capitalist reality and right now it is blazing, but so much so that there’s the danger of instances of flash blindness bleaching the retinal pigment of our eyes.

What awaits? How will those of us on the Left respond? By throwing ourselves, as many of us already have, into the spontaneous movement to help it become an organised movement, by acting as a memory of the working class, by being active in and through the Labour Party and the trade unions, to fight for and develop genuine democratic space for political debate and change, and by ultimately serving (alongside others) as an engine, a rudder and a sail to victory. Alas, for the old-time heavy-weights of the Left, if one cannot monopolise control of a movement, one stands aside from it; what tragic egotism at a time of hopeful solidarity and a prospect of winning.

As I move forth, excitedly and nervously, the lines of comrade Janine Booth’s poem “Carpe Diem. Don’t Stuff It Up.”  echo in my head:

Tears of joy from years of anguish
Corbyn’s won – by a country mile
Let red flags fly and traitors languish
Nothing wipes away this smile
The tide has turned in our direction
Don’t let the cynics interrupt
Democratise, end disaffection
So go for it – don’t stuff it up

We’ve had our times of sad betrayals
Suffered decades of defeat
The Blairite train’s now off its rails
Our movement’s getting to its feet
The Labour right is none too thrilled
Well, they’ll just have to suck it up
But smugness only won’t rebuild
So organise – don’t stuff it up

The S-word’s on our lips again
Socialism’s in the news
Take time to listen and explain
Come walk in working people’s shoes
Time to blow the blues away
Let struggles rise, campaigns erupt
Carpe diem – seize the day
What’s Latin for ‘don’t stuff it up’?

Don’t think one man’s the one solution
Don’t stop as though the job is done
It’s only half a revolution
It’s not the end, it’s just begun
The time ahead will test our mettle
No poisoned chalice – winner’s cup
Let’s stir the dust, don’t let it settle
Go on to win – don’t stuff it up.

The inaugural Bolshy Cycle Ride

“On an antiquated, ridiculously heavy frankenstein’s monster of a bike, I rode up agonising hills and down wild descents. I was last home and felt it for days. And here’s the thing: my mind, my imagination, my sense of history and somehow my spirit of solidarity were all reinspired and reinvigorated, just as my craving to cycle was. Best Sunday out in ages.” Dan Higginbottom

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“The ride was well worth the travel up from the Midlands. I ride a lot but what marked this out for me was not only discovering new roads and stunning views but learning about the bike and its role in social history. The long route was challenging but we were rewarded by spectacular scenery and it was a real buzz to ride some roads that had been used for the Tour de France and seeing the names of the pros still grafittied onto the roads. I will definitely do another Bolshy Bike Ride.” Helen Russell, Former World and European Duathlon and Triathlon AG Champion, and Rider of Tour de France One Day Ahead 2015

“I didn’t know how I would do cycling for 20 miles across the Peak District, but it was a stimulating, exciting, and rewarding experience. The combination of the encouragement of my comrades, the inspiration of Camila’s talks and the glorious sunshine made the day incredibly memorable! The history of cycling and its emancipatory role in the lives of women and the working class, of socialist politics and of environmental movements was fascinating, and the day was a perfect balance of nourishment for the mind, body and (apologies to the materialists) the soul.” Max Munday

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“The less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theatre, go dancing, go drinking, think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save and the greater will become that treasure which neither moths nor maggots can consume – your capital. The less you are, the less you give expression to your life, the more you have, the greater is your alienated life and the more you store up of your estranged life.” Karl Marx

For details, see my blog page: The Bolshy Cycle Ride