I haz a serious dilemma.
Blair didn’t push all of us to apathy when he ignored the will of the people and took us to war in 2003. Many of us turned to anarchism, in utter disgust at the one party state the UK has effectively become since he dragged the Labour party to ‘the right’.
Like many others of my generation I’ve never registered to vote because in my lifetime the choice has only ever been cosmetic. Which colour boot would you prefer to smash your face in? The parameters of debate have been restricted to manufacture an outcome favourable to the elite 1%.
Now, 13 messy years later, Jeremy Corbyn has offered us a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to reclaim politics which today are described as ‘hard left’ – but which used to just be called ‘left’. Of course the Blairites regard Corbynomics as a ‘dangerous experiment’ – Corbyn is offering us an alternative narrative. It is a blessed relief that they have opted to abandon ship in the latest failed chicken coup. Post Brexit, the political landscape has changed significantly.
It’s comforting to know I’m not the only anarchist facing the dilemma Corbyn presents.
Rupert Murdoch’s The Times reported in May that Andrew Fisher, who urged voters to back the anarchist Class War party during the general election. is to be given overall control of policy in the Labour leader’s office. Whether this is true or not, I’ve seen quite a number of posts recently from anarchist friends who have joined the Labour party to support Corbyn. There is even a fedbook group, Anarchists for Corbyn. I’ve felt the urge to join them more than once.
In one way it’s interminably depressing. I don’t want to vote for a ‘party’, or a ‘leader’ in an undemocratic system which I know to be inherently, irredeemably corrupt. I have come to loathe party politics and particularly personality politics, but the values Corbyn represents are too significant to ignore. His message is too important and too urgent.
So I’ve welcomed Corbyn’s crusade to change parliamentary politics, but from several arm’s length, with my cynicism still intact. I’ve welcomed it in the same way that I’ve long campaigned for the Green Party’s policies, but I still haven’t registered to vote or joined any political party, because I still haven’t been able to believe that meaningful change can come from the ballot box, or by politely petitioning power to reform itself.
Now though, in the wake of Brexit, the few progressive voices in Parliament are converging around an idea which bears serious consideration. A progressive alliance, to offer a genuine alternative narrative at the ballot box – politicians and grassroots organisers coming together around precisely the sorts of fundamental root and branch reforms necessary for us to survive the increasingly apocalyptic age.
This stream from the Compass event, ‘Post-Brexit Alliance Building’ is a must watch if you’re interested in the question of how we might finally start working together to challenge and overcome the injustices of the modern age.
Caroline Lucas has been calling for a Progressive Electoral Alliance for some time now. Serious talks about how such a pact might work have apparently been taking place since at least February and last week the Green Party published an open letter inviting Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron, and Leanne Wood to form this much needed alliance.
At the talk, she said that “true leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”. She believes that “political pluralism delivers better results, that no single party has the monopoly on wisdom” – a sentiment echoed by a representative in the audience from Make Votes Matter (Somebody Jordan? Her first name was drowned out by the applause) She said she was “opposed to oppositional politics and wonder if we could make it more than just an alliance of the broad left”. Without the support of some progressive Tories, we will not get the sort of reform we so urgently need.
Take Back The City organiser, Amina Gachinga represented the non-partisan grassroots’ frustration with “the lack of democracy in London and the outrageous levels of inequality that prevail in this society the most unequal city in the global north”. She said “We need electoral reform. This is a time for a rethinking of how politics is being done in this country”
Amina’s contribution received the most rapturous applause of the event.
Is democracy really our best shield against the tyranny of capitalism? Could it also be a sword to defeat injustice? Listening to these people talking about putting aside their differences, I can almost begin to believe it’s possible.
But real change comes from persistent direct action. Mass mobilisations. Street activism. The grassroots. Parliament cannot be reformed, because it’s corruption is neither accidental nor covert. Rather it is deliberate and explicit yet rarely, if ever, to be discussed – least of all in terms of reform.
When I joined Occupy Democracy‘s calls for democratic reform in what became the #TarpaulinRevolution 2014-15 – we were subjected to violence, intimidation and censorship. Many people were arrested and dragged physically from Parliament Square, and then through the courts.
But people are still daring to discuss electoral reform and democracy – imagining a world where we face the challenges we have ignored for far too long, together.
If I put my cynicism aside, the call for a Progressive Alliance is explicitly for real power to the people, from the bottom up. For real conversations about what is really happening to our planet and most importantly for real, meaningful action to ameliorate the destruction and subsequent suffering that the present socio-economic order has wrought upon us.
Compass are calling a series of public meetings to explore: what could a progressive alliance look like? How possible is it? And what can we do to start to make it feasible?
The contributions from all the other speakers and from the floor were insightful, particularly the dissonance surrounding which environmental regulations are helpful and which are not. We urgently need to have a real conversation about small scale agriculture, land rights and environmental protections in the context of food security and sustainability.
This interview discusses the community rights movement in the US and might be a good place to start:
Thomas Linzey is the executive director and an attorney for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has assisted close to 200 communities across the US in eight states to adopt binding local laws that elevate community rights to sustainability over corporate rights and powers.
The proponents of the Progressive Electoral Alliance seem to have the deepest understanding of the problems we are facing and a plan for how to start facing them, together. Proportional representation is the main plank of the initiative. That alone would represent a significant revolution.
I am excited by the prospect because if I understand it correctly, what is being proposed is a genuinely non-hierarchical, non-partisan, grassroots movement.
It could be the route to a saner future which I’ve been yearning for my whole life.
So here’s my dilemma. How can I get stuck in?