I can’t shake off the feeling that I am not meant to be here.
I was in a different job before and it drip-fed me very different ideas about the world. Admittedly, that job was not typically proletarian. As a henchman for imperialism, my duties included enabling the neo-neo-neoliberal agenda, ensuring and enhancing the imperium’s capacity to strafe shepherds and doing the behind-the-scenes stuff to keep the storm-troopers focused on suppressing galactic rebellion.
It was a happy time until the itch came. The itch that said things were not right in the world. I call it The Matrix Itch and it woke me up but I still feel like an impostor. Now, I am a Marxist, self-proclaimed. Well, Marxist-ish. In my view, Marxist writings and concepts explain the world better than any comparable body of thought. For example Tories (bless them) lack a theory of history, as do fascists and liberals. Does that make me a Marxist? Who knows?
So I find myself on the Political Wasteland or, as I call it, the Meaningful Left. Where tribes, driven mad by past defeats and led by the withered, assail each other and reave across each other territories. I stumbled into this parallel world, quite by accident one day. I happened to have proclaimed as utterly wrong what, in the military bubble, was held, variously, as absolutely right or not really worth pondering or simply a feature of the job or as sacrosanct and beyond repudiation. Imperialism. The Meaningful Left I have collided with is that part of the political left which has a radical program for equality and unity and peace and other good things. This Left is revolutionary. On paper, at least, it will not kowtow to capitalism, it will not seek common ground where there is none, and it is a Hard Left.
At times, admittedly, this area of politics still throws up some terrible ideas.
In some quarters there are still the authoritarian fads of Maoism and Stalin worship.
Some ideas are so abstract as to be useless, like those which are generated by some of the ultra-left Anarchist sects. Ideas which, by all accounts, hope the kicking-in of a shop window will spark the revolution… man. Lumped in with this trend is the idea that by forming shining, little communities and kind of… ignoring… capitalism, it will fall down around our ears. It hasn’t.
There are the left-leaning Liberals, who again and again insist upon their role as the dead-weights of history by moralising every practical matter, every discussion of action, literally, to death.
Some people, Marxists in particular, simply refuse to tag along with the labour force as its character has shifted. To use an industrial cliché, there is trouble at the mill. The trouble is that the mill-workers have nearly all moved into the service industry while the pamphleteers are still canvassing the mill and, finding no proletarians ‘proletarianing’, have been duelling with each other for some time.
Oh, yes. There are substantial problems in this new place I have reached.
In my estimation this Meaningful Left begins at the western fringes of the Labour Party and stretches from there to the uttermost limits of abstraction. It includes some Liberals – though I do not always welcome them – and also provides a home for some Identity Politics People. Some ofthese rigid, slavering folk are right-wingers who, by some mishap, have brought their petty creed – a politics of division – leftwards to torment the battlers. Their refrain is something along the lines of ‘how can you be talking about global capitalism, when clearly the most important issue in the world is that I AM A WOMAN’.
Alongside a commitment to freedom – real freedom, not the shallow, liberal (9-different-flavours-of-coca-cola) kind – and to peace and equality, the defining feature of Leftists – Marxist people, Anarchist people and to a lesser extent Social Democratic people – is that they dislike each other venomously. They are committed to tribalism; at times it looks like they have become so concerned with out-manoeuvring each other that they have no time left to change the world. This diminishes them because, really, as most outsiders can see, the left groups are mostly in agreement with each other on the key points and, while their arguments on how to change the world are not unappealing, when these foaming gangs are viewed through the sectarian, cordite haze… they don’t tick any boxes. If I had not had a consciousness-raising experience of my own, I’d be happy at the pub, watching football and drinking every weekend too.
This is a story of the modern far left in Britain. If I have gained any insight it is through a spell of immersion and fieldwork. If my cries are lamenting, it is because I would like to see these politics have a profound effect.
I make no claims to neutrality and the fact that I am writing at all should tell you I have picked a side in the great battle of our age. This blog post is Gonzo and I am a leftist myself.
I’d write a book about it. Make a film about it. Maybe I will. Maybe I will and then no one will speak to me again. Maybe I’ll be branded a sectarian, maybe I will care that I’m branded. The brand could smart for a while.
Maybe it won’t.