Posts Tagged ‘New Labour’

Four Easy Pieces – end

December 25, 2012

If you look for a divide between “left” and “right” today, you may find that those who think they are on the left say: we need special treatment because we have been victims in the past. Those who call themselves right wing say: we are being discriminated against now and nobody cares about us. Quite apart from the merits or demerits of the arguments, the omnipresence of the word victim is a devastating indicator. “Left” and “right”, “progressive” and “conservative”: all inhabit a society that has no interest in justice. Western society, deeply narcissistic, is looking for therapy.

However, no matter how nicely you dress it up, exclusion continues to rest on external features: chiefly – but not exclusively – skin and sex. Sure, the “progressives” will protest: but but but…we’re only against those who have all the power and are benefitting from unearned “privilege”. And yes, the “conservatives” wail: but but but… we’re only against those who really don’t want to belong here. Both arguments were used, to great effect, in the 1930s. The difference between them? Simple: the clearly delineated segments of society that were singled out for exclusion – or worse. Changing the target population does not signal progress. It signals the exact opposite.

However, it is especially distasteful when done for an alleged “progressive” cause. I found this assessment of the New Labour government on a British newspaper discussion site. I will let it speak for itself: ‘New Labour [was] a reactionary pro-market, oppressive, and even murderous, government which… managed to conserve the appearance of being progressive for many years by using the false veneer of identity politics… Many of us hate the way identity politics has been used to actually replace social justice.’

There is a word underpinning this sentiment: betrayal. While you were managing your supposedly progressive identity sweepstakes, you betrayed the original ideals of the progressive movement. And the results are in: today, the part of the world we call The West consists of a series of balkanized surveillance states where up to 20 per cent of the population has been cruelly written out of the script: uneducated, unemployable, a permanent underclass. Unrestrained commerce rules supreme, even after the monumental banking cock-up of 2008. Congratulations comrades! You were going to fight resurgent fascism – how, exactly?

What you need is a rigorous return to basics. This means the following: you are a member of a community, a society first. You are male, female, black, white, gay, lesbian, migrant, religious, atheist, et cetera second.

It is past time for the Left to rediscover why it was created in the first place: to bring about a more egalitarian society for all. Here is a clue, a paraphrase of that famous James Carville slogan that sums up four lost decades and which the Left needs to re-appropriate: ‘It’s the society, stupid!’ And once again, that means all of it – not just the part that looks and thinks like you.

New Dawn anyone? Let us hope so. All the best for 2013.

After a night's work: dawn. April 14, 2011, 6am, Nzérékoré, Guinea

After a night’s work: dawn. April 14, 2011, 6am, Nzérékoré, Guinea