Capitalist Realism and Opportunity in the UK
October 22, 2010 Leave a comment
Nevertheless, it’s crucial that we recognise that this is a time of opportunity for the left. Laurie Penny is right that the Labour Party does not have the answers at the moment. Yet the Labour Party’s current lack of an agenda can be seen as a good thing, for two reasons. Firstly, at least this means that Labour has lost the managerialist neoliberal agenda that defined it for the last fifteen years. The de-New Labourization process will take a while, but it will be expedited much quicker with Ed Miliband as leader than it ever would have been with David at the helm. (Notice how David – whom the media were presenting as a great lost leader, a kind of world-historic statesman, on the grounds, presumably, that Hilary Clinton took a fancy to him – is already a forgotten man. In the media’s soap narrative, David’s leaving front bench politics was an open wound which the Labour Party would take years to recover – that doesn’t quite seem to be the case.) Secondly, the fact that the post-Blair and Brown Labour Party is now a cored-out shell means that it is a space, which it is at least plausible that could be filled by new ideas and strategies. For the first time in fifteen years, the future of the Labour Party is not fixed. It’s worth remembering at this point that the failures of the Labour Party, its succumbing to capitalist realism, is not just the consequences of the internal logic of the part. It was extra-Parliamentary forces that gave rise to the Labour Party in the first place; it was the defeat of those forces that drove the Labour Party into its craven placting of business in the New Labour era. If Labour is to be anything more than a zombie party once again, it will be new forms of extra-parliamentary organisation that revivify it.
For that reason, this is definitely not the time to recline into the leftist version of capitalist realism, the defeatist counterpart to the Bullingdon club’s bullishness. Now is the time to organise and agitate. The cuts can provide a galvanising focus for an anti-capitalist campaign that can succeed. Protests in these conditions won’t have the hubristic impotence of anti-capitalist ‘feelgood feelbad’ carnivals and kettles. This is shaping up to be a bitter struggle, but there are specific, determinate and winnable goals that can be achieved here: it isn’t a question of taking a peashooter to the juggernaut of capital.
The UK, the first capitalist country, is the world capital of apathy, diffidence and reflexive impotence. But it is also a country that periodically explodes into rage. Beneath todays’s ideological trance, beneath the capitalist realist hopelessness, an anger simmers here that it is our task to focus and co-ordinate. Public displays of rage can play an enormously significant role in shifting the symbolic terrain that is currently governed by capitalist realism.
Whenever the ruling class tells us that “we’re all on the same side”, it is a sure sign that we can hurt them. Similarly, the current media phobia about unions is an indication of the power that they have at this time. History is starting again, which means that nothing is fixed and there are no guarantees. Right wing victory is only inevitable if we think that it is.