Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
Socialism is still a dirty word in England. The political establishment (Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem), all continue to shy away from directly associating themselves that word, although much of the Labour Party and Lib Dem members probably originally had some version of socialist ideals in mind when starting their political careers’. Perhaps some of them still do have real socialist ideals in mind but disturbingly find themselves tethered to the Neo Liberal bandwagon which Thatcher kick-started in the late 1970s-80s. This Neo Liberal situation in which we find ourselves means that by openly claiming to be a socialist, you are volunteering yourself to endure the patronizing chuckles of the mainstream media, the sneering and furious torrent of abuse from the Tories and ceaseless tutting from family and friends who perceive you as some sort of outrageous lefty, namby-pamby do-gooder who is not living in the real world. Indeed for all these reasons, a frustrating journey awaits the self-proclaimed ‘socialist’ who dares to reside in our green and pleasant land.
Before mentioning the conservative cultural and ideological baggage of the English for a moment, it is important to note that socialists are increasingly, since the credit-crunch of 2008, finding themselves with an astounding amount of examples and situations where the arguments for socialism could be put to good use: Bank bailout by tax-payers, Credit-Crunches and Crashes (what Marx referred to as systemic crises of the capitalist system), record levels of global inequality, corruption and the democratic-deficit in parliamentary politics around the world, environmental catastrophe due to rampant and cease-less capitalist accumulation of the raw materials so precious to our world. Such events, phrases, concepts and circumstances are ones we have all witnessed more frequently, especially since 2008/09.
The basic argument put forward by the reasonable and internationally minded socialist is for the inclusion of all humanity in a fairer world. Plenty of ammunition to argue for socialism lye all around us, especially in England: one of the most class-divided nations on earth. However, the very fact that we have these deep and enduring class divisions also makes spreading the cause of socialism more difficult. The establishment has a long history of class warfare and has perfected its art of war in England over the centuries.
Many of the working people of England have come to accept their subordinate status, worshipping the old aristocracy has become a common cultural practice and the perpetuating myth of social mobility serves to create a mirage of modernity and democracy, whilst supporting the enduring class divisions. Such an infuriating state of affairs for socialists in England could partly stem from the stubborn and conservative nature of the English people (working class very much included here). Even Marx and Engels in the mid-eighteen hundreds harbored frustrations over the conservative minded-ness of the English working class as opposed to their European counterparts.
Perhaps modern day socialists should heed the propositions of Antonio Gramsci and prepare the social and cultural groundwork for socialism by encroaching over the prerogatives of civil society. This would indeed be a long and hard fought war of attrition in England, but if the ideals of socialism are to ever hold any real popular resonance in England, a detailed and multi-faceted plan of action needs to be initiated. And now would seem an appropriate time to start the project as we witness the gaping wounds of the capitalist system splayed out for all to see.
Blighty has long been an awkward little place for socialists to gain any satisfaction. Marx and Engels encountered this awkwardness in the 1800s but now after the advent of Neo Liberal capitalism with Thatcher, the cultural distinction between the English people and the rest of the world seems to have increased. Are we going backwards? The current millionaire Tory Cabinet reflect the inequality and misrepresentation of bygone eras and the Labour Party after Blair have to a certain extent adopted vague rhetorical gestures of socialism but still refuse to proudly associate themselves with that dreaded word: socialism!
Tom Bone – Editor for Consensus44