Blog post @ Volume 3, published 20 March 2012
The demise of the NHS has certainly not been felt as much as it should have. Or else how can we explain the almost inactivity around the dismantling of possibly the last egalitarian institution in Great Britain?
The Left screeches on Facebook and other social networks about the subject, but has not been able to mobilize more than a few hundreds to a few rallies and demonstrations. Are we witnessing a complete apathy on behalf of the British people, or is it that the Left has become innocuous? The answer lies probably somewhere in-between.
One point, however, needs to be made about both parties in question – there is a disconnectedness of the two. You don’t see your average Joe from down the street becoming politicized enough that he will run to join the SWP as soon as possible; and neither do you see the Left (at large and on average) communicating with the public in a way that truly touches the core of the British people’s beliefs. Apologists everywhere would turn up now and say that “the Left is doing its best with the resources it has”, or “it’s just that people no longer believe in anything”, or even that “the Left means nothing to the working class anymore”, but these views are not only rather ‘First-World’-centric (even if the topic at hand is within the ‘First World’) but also disingenuous.
The student movement of 2010/2011 was capable of galvanizing a lot of people who had never been politically active before, and didn’t even had the proclivity to do so. In other words, it was a movement with a capital M, and it was capable of bridging that gap between the organized Left and much larger masses. But why did the student protests achieve such levels of attendance and copious media coverage, while the protests around the NHS or the pensions struggle are failing so miserably vis a vis the rapid and furious attacks they are subjected to?
Now, I am not a supporter of the Twitter-Revolutions theory and even Paul Mason’s Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere seems often rather vacuous to me, but the solution to this impending problem of the Left and of the general resistance to neoliberal attacks on the welfare state might well lie in a change of modus operandi.
Just like in a relationship, if it is going badly you either brake it up (sad faces all around) or you start counseling, proactively working on eradicating the obstacles in front of you. Shouldn’t the Left and the resistance movement be like that too? Let us look at it from the perspective of both the Left and the masses.
The Left seems to be immersed in a culture of either Manichaean sectarianism or populist propaganda. In both cases, either due to lack of resources or out of consequential opportunism respectively, it ends up engaging in acts of resistance instead of truly challenging the status quo. Why defend the NHS when we should be demanding the end of the neoliberal policies that are privatizing our healthcare system? Why fight to save our pensions when we could be striking to improve them?
As for the average Joe, well he might be anesthetize with the prospect of capitalist contentment, but the realities of the financial crisis and other ugly consequences of the capitalist system are hitting him hard, prickling him awake. And the Left has to come and meet such increasingly conscious people. It is a double job of leading and following – much like in the social networks that proliferate on the internet today. The Left has to know how use Twitter and how to organize mass demonstrations. It needs to write manifestos in 140 characters, to unashamedly call for revolution and socialism via email, text and share.
Is it being a New Left or is it just about ‘the Left’ getting “its fucking act together”?
I suspect it is, again, a bit of both.
Of one thing only I am sure, the world we activists, leftists (and many average Joes) envision as right is doomed if we don’t transcend the above mentioned issues. Specially since I’m afraid that once that world has lost, there is no counseling that could save us all.