The Big Picture By William Bowles

21 March 2005

It’s an interesting observation I think, that the great majority of ‘left/progressive’ Websites concentrate on the evil doings of the imperialists but aside from the more academically oriented sites, very few pose or investigate directions forward. It is after all, much easier to tear apart the policies and actions of the imperium and although exposing the workings of capital is undoubtedly important, it seems to me that after a lifetime of involvement in the ‘cause’ in one way or another, the current situation is crying out for a structured and realistic way forward.

So what lessons can we draw from the past, especially the last fifteen or so years?

First off, it should surely be obvious that the imperialism of today is not very different to the imperialism of one hundred or one hundred and fifty years ago, being just as rapacious and violent as it’s always been. And now, with few obstacles in its path (or so it would appear), is intent on spreading to every corner of planet and destroying all opposition to its rule and it would appear, at any cost either to its people or its biosphere.

It also true to say I think, that as per usual, it is the poor of the planet, those on the sharp end of imperialism who have, for obvious reasons not only borne the main brunt of the spread of capital but have resisted and paid the ultimate price for resistance.

To say that imperialism in its current phase is primitive in every sense of the word is to make a gross understatement. So when we as socialists talk of ‘primitive accumulation’ it means not only the blatant and violent armed robbery of resources held in common by a handful of psychopathic gangsters and mass murderers, we are also talking of an ideology that is primitive in form and content, masquerading as a force of nature as it has done for the past five hundred years. It is only those who have thrown in their lot with this global mafia who attempt to defend the actions of their respective godfathers.

Meanwhile, we in the so-called developed world, largely insulated from the extreme effects of capital’s desperate actions, have nevertheless, albeit without effective political leadership, expressed our disgust at our leaders but unfortunately in more or less nihilistic ways, for example, by not voting in ever-increasing numbers. But then, we in the ‘left’ have failed them by not offering a viable alternative. Would they, had they the option, vote for a truly progressive alternative? That question I can’t answer but should that stop us? Of course not!

So is it correct to say that the one ‘gain’ made in the current period is the fact that the ruling classes of our countries have lost much of their legitimacy to rule? I would say yes to this proposition. However, the ‘left’, mired in its own confusion and over-inflated sense of its own self-importance refuses to deal with the reality of our post-Soviet world and would rather regurgitate arguments and positions, positions one would have thought to be largely dead an buried by now.

Take for example, the ‘anybody but Bush’ argument that seemed to dominate the progressive ‘debate’ in the US before the election, a debate devoid in my opinion of virtually all issues of principle.

We have, for the past fifty or so years, pinned our hopes on ameliorating the ‘extreme’ effects of capitalism, in what has been in effect, a rear-guard action but over time, losing ground. In part this has been due to the propaganda offensive conducted by capitalism that has branded all opposition to its rule as ‘communist-inspired’ and by tying it to the Soviet Union (no matter how distant the connection, either in space or time), sought successfully to present even a vaguely Socialist alternative as authoritarian, a dictatorship, unworkable, idealistic et al. So successful has the propaganda been that even great swathes of the ‘progressive’ movement have been caught up in it.

But perhaps more important even than the role of anti-Communism is the simple fact that the great masses of people in the Western world have truly believed that the interests of capital and their own are the same. But could this perception have run out of road? I think so.

One need only look at the deep unhappiness and dissatisfaction that many people feel in the ‘developed’ world, an unhappiness that manifests itself in so many ways that capitalism seeks to channel into consumerist directions through drugs, desperate consumption and perhaps most telling of all, by attempting to sell us an illusory version of a lost (destroyed) past through ‘heritage’, a seeking after our ‘lost identities’, creating reconstituted ‘communities’ in a capitalist version of history that is the equivalent of instant coffee, a history that bears just like instant coffee does to the real thing, only the most fleeting connection to the past.

At its more extreme end, capitalism taps into a deep well of bigotry, racism, sexism and xenophobia that has been instilled into us for more than five hundred years.

Yet I maintain that the very fact that capitalism has had to resort to such measures is a sign of weakness not strength; a sign of desperation that consumerism and the illusion of democracy no longer serves the function of suppressing dissent and dissatisfaction, that parallel with sucking us into its fantasies in order to maintain the illusion of ‘growth’, it has also had to resort to increasing repression, first of the ‘fringes’ but increasingly, all forms of ‘unacceptable’ behaviour have become the targets of the state. This can only increase as the coming collapse of the capitalist economy gets ever closer.

That in England, the WASP mentality has resurfaced with a vengeance under a neo-Thatcherite Labour government should come as no surprise, nor under the misnomer of ‘neo-con’ in the US, for the wellspring of imperialism lies with these two countries (all the competitors having been disposed of through the course of the 20th century and two devastating world wars).

I point to the fact that the Calvinist/Puritan tradition displayed by such reactionaries as David Blunkett, the former home secretary (his own romantic dalliances notwithstanding, after all, it’s a case of ‘do as I say, not do as I do’), informs us of the main planks of Labour policy which ironically draws on the tradition of the white, male, working class ‘aristocracy’ that was the backbone of the Labour movement for its entire life, paying little more than lip service to socialism as it sought to preserve capitalism, initially in the post-WWII period with a direct appeal to those who saw socialism as the way forward, fearing that indeed, real socialism could actually have come to pass and heading it off ‘at the pass’ so-to-speak by enacting policies which, on the surface ameliorated the dire state of post-war capitalism but without disturbing the underlying status quo (the so-called social contract between capital and organised labour).

But having thrown in its lot with capitalism, as the ‘threat’ of socialism receded, the need to masquerade as a party of socialism has been dumped, bit by bit until ‘New Labour’ came to pass.

If, after everything we have seen these past decades, there are still socialists out there who think that the party of Labour can be resuscitated, then they are surely suffering either from self-delusion or pure wishful thinking.

With the coming of the General Election here in May, we are no doubt headed for yet another tedious ‘debate’ that will no doubt be an ‘anybody but Howard’ one, arguing that even an avowedly proto-corporatist Labour government is better than a moribund Tory Party. Frankly, I think the Tories are spent force, headed for the dustbin of history, having outlived their usefulness in the overall scheme of things. But having said that, even were a Tory Party by some miracle, to get elected, it would make little difference.

Well, I don’t know about my fellow ‘comrades’ but I for one, will NOT be voting Labour under any circumstances. The time has come I think, to stand by one’s principles.

And in any case, short of some catastrophic ‘revelation’ concerning Blair and co, I think it’s fair to assume that even with a sharply reduced majority, Blair and co will be reelected. No doubt the pro-fascist parties, the BNP and UKIP will get some support from a small section of the population, but it means little and as history shows, support for these scum comes and goes. What is important to understand is that it is the policies of the ruling party that opens the door for the BNPs and UKIPs of this country.

So who will I be voting for? Assuming that I have a fourth or even fifth choice beyond Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat, for example, a Green Party candidate, then they will get my vote, not because I necessarily endorse the Green Party programme and most definitely not because I think they’ll win but because I would rather see a Green Party candidate win a seat in Parliament and oppose Blair and his gang of war criminals. Under such extreme circumstances I would even vote for George Galloway’s Respect Party, even though I have no respect for its opportunistic programme.

Consider, if you will, that more Labour MPs voted against fox-hunting than against invading and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis! Can anybody in their right mind vote for a party that thinks foxes are more important than people? And that the Liberal Democrats couldn’t even bother to pitch to vote against the ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation (by a strange ‘coincidence’ the bill was passed with only a 14 vote majority, the same number of Lib-Dems who failed to pitch. Conspiracists, get to work on that one).

Okay, what if in my constituency, I only have the ‘choice’ of the three main parties, then in all honesty, I’ll have put my own name forward on the ballot. So it will be a ‘spoiled’ vote but what could be more spoiled than voting for the party of war. Damn, if I had a couple of thousand quid to spare, I’d stand for election myself, at least then I could vote for myself without ‘throwing away’ my vote.

More importantly I think, is the fact that we need to formulate a progressive programme based upon a principled position consisting of opposition to imperialist war policies; solidarity with the oppressed of the planet; open borders/free movement of labour; one that advocates a sustainable economic policy that rejects consumerism in all its forms; an equitable trade policy; curbing the power of the banks and the other major financial institutions; restricting the power of the central state over areas that are simply not its concern; a decent education policy that encourages thinking; fair and decent treatment for our old folks; restoration of total equality of the sexes, especially the economic recognition of the role that women and men make through the role of the ‘family’ (whatever form the ‘family’ takes); a restoration of the ‘commons’ which means a rollback of the privatisation of all those resources that we share in common. No doubt you can add to this list, but one thing is clear, it’s either fighting for a society based upon economic and social justice for all, or its barbarism and possible total extermination.

Ultimately of course, we need to remove capitalism in its entirety but one thing at a time folks, one thing at a time. Voting for Labour as a ‘lesser of two evils’ is simply not an option that I believe is either realistic or any longer possible for any right-thinking person of the progressive persuasion to do no matter how you try and rationalise it. We have, I believe reached ‘crunch time’ on this little ol’ planet ours. It’s time to stand up and be counted.

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