Monday, 29 September 2008
Why Am I Blettering On...
So, time to explain where the blog title came from.
From 1976 I passed through, first, a number of left wing groups within the Labour Party and then, from just after the 1983 election, the Communist Party. In 1991 it all came to an end and I retreated to lick my wounds. In a move which faintly embarrasses me when I recall it now I even went round to Gordon McLennan’s house to resign personally, and accepted a glass of whisky from him as I blurted out that I was leaving.
We live in a world where everyone over 30 sat in front of their TVs and saw millions of people escaping from collectively run economies when the Berlin Wall came down. Economies run under the formal label of 'socialist'. & there is no coherent socialist economic policy which has ever since been developed which comes close to overcoming the effect of that sight. State run economies failed. Everything that I had spent so long attempting to understand, explain and promote had fallen apart. Perhaps Gordon was right to offer me that whisky after all...I'd had a big shock.
Oh I still called myself a socialist, even a Marxist influenced one, but in practice I undertook very little directly party political activity, although I did engage in various kinds of community politics, and even held down ‘political-with-a-small-p’ type jobs.
New Labour always left me cold. It wasn’t even a direct political rejection, just that they were always so distant from the sociological ‘feel’ of the labour movement I had spent so long in. I just despised them, faintly at first, and then with an increasing passion, especially after the decision to trick us into the Iraq War.
But now, in New Labour’s dying days, my interest has sparked again. This blog is not really about teaching myself economics or being a third rate commentator on the financial crisis, it’s about trying to work out what I now believe in. ‘Socialism’ - what’s that then the young people ask? & I can see their point. It’s been edited out of history as anything other than a monstrous perversion or, at very best, a charming historical curio that says nothing useful about out globalised world. It can offer nothing in allocating resources - apparently the basic job of our strangely de-politicised,technocratic politics. At best it is a private language of academic clerks, used in their mysterious temples of learning, through which to re-mystify a world which I find pretty bloody mysterious already.
But I do not accept that the problem of poverty has been solved - though it has of course been greatly alleviated. Equality - measured either globally or nationally – continues to increase, obscenely. Nor has the issue of meaningful work has not been solved by a very long chalk and may actually have intensified as a problem. We live in a world where it is patterns of consumption which defines people - this car, that watch, this new dress - not the meaning of work or production. I think this leaves many, many people with a deep inner sense of dissatisfaction. There are exceptions to this general statement, however, and it is in the sphere of *intellectual* production - where this distinction breaks down. If intellectuals can have meaningful work, why can't manual workers? Yes, there will always have to some 'cutting of wood and drawing of water', but why isn't society and economy organised to allow people's creativity to blossom at work? These feel like fairly traditional ‘left wing’ questions to me...
But they don’t constitute‘socialism’ in any sense. They are fragmentary responses to a world changed beyond recognition from my youth. I want to understand what the left has been doing since I've been away. & I suppose I want to find out if I can possibly feel part of it once again.