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.
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.
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.