I first wrote this last year but I didn’t really do anything with it. Recently I have been reminded of it and have given it a dust down so here it is the longest piece I’ve written.
People can change things, yes you read that right. Perhaps that is stating the obvious but in actual fact there’s plenty who don’t believe it. All too often I’ve heard in my life whats the point? You/we can’t change anything things will always be the same. It can be a compelling argument. Sometimes things don’t change at all for a long time indeed very often in the last 30-40 years things have got worse for ordinary people, not just in the UK but around the world.
The narrative that we can’t do anything is spin put out by to put it bluntly the ones that don’t want anything to change. It can also appeal to the negative side of us. But this isn’t some crazy conspiracy theory. The 1% with the most money and power want the Status Quo or things to stay the same. But this isn’t going to be a rant about that. I want to talk positively about what we can do to make Society a better fairer place.
When you look through history it’s the people who have changed things. And make no mistake it’s usually a struggle. Whether that’s been the French or Russian Revolutions or the Suffragette movement here it’s been ordinary people coming together and organising to change things that have done it. Change hasn’t just happened, the powers that be haven’t just rolled over and said ok. It’s took concerted action and years of struggle.
The same goes for Trade Unions and the struggle for workers rights. Every gain the worker has ever gained has been through collective action. That could be the struggle for the 8 hour day or more pay or more holiday. It’s unity and collective action that has won it. Now I’m not writing this for the seasoned campaigner but rather the newcomers who have come into politics looking for alternatives. And the people who don’t dare believe, who think change is impossible.
The key to this is not to give up although at times it’s easy to be despondent. Occasionally it can seem change can happen overnight but it’s never as easy as that. There’s usually long standing grievances and discontentment that’s been building up for a long time. Take the case of the Labour Party and the Election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. No one gave him a chance at the start. In fact he wasn’t one of the original candidates. But the original candidates had seemed very uninspiring to a layer of the membership who feared we were going to get more of the same Blairite type leader.
Two ordinary members of the party Michelle Ryan and Rebecca Barnes decided to start a petition asking for a ‘left’ candidate to stand. This petition ended up getting over 5000 signatures an amazing amount for something like that and Corbyn decided to stand. Things happened quickly and by the skin of his teeth Corbyn got on the ballot paper. Now things snowballed and Corbyn was soon a hit on the hustings circuit. From being a no hoper he became a contender.
Everywhere Corbyn went to speak brought ever bigger crowds and a movement was born. The parties establishment couldn’t believe it, it literally was their worst nightmare. They couldn’t understand what was happening. And that was their problem. The point is although the Corbyn movement seemingly came from nowhere it had been bubbling in the background for a few years. Lots of people and party members wanted change in the party and had become fed up during the Blair years. Not only had the Blair New Labour Government blew a historic chance of radically changing the country for the better by being economically Conservative it had took us to a foreign war in Iraq that the majority of people didn’t want. They completely disregarded the biggest march in British history to be the lapdog of President Bush.
On top of this in the Labour Party itself Blair closed down the parties Democratic structures and marginised the left in the party to a large degree. The party machine took over and party conference changed from being a debating arena to a stage managed convention. Lots of members gave up and left me included.
What this did was help to create a Democratic deficit not only in the party but the country as a whole. Members and in the wider sphere the general public felt not listened to, took for granted. Some people began to feel there was no difference between the parties anymore that Labour wasn’t talking for its traditional support as it use to do. This was where the stirrings of a movement against the Labour Leadership started but it was very slow to begin with. These things usually are.
It started slowly when Ed Miliband was elected leader in2010. That was a shock result but he had promised the end of New Labour which appealed to many. But his leadership while a improvement in some ways on Blair and Brown was very frustrating as he seemed unwilling or unable to break the Blairite grip on the machinery of the party. The party still had a top down down do as we say ethic.
This was some of the background to Corbyn gaining in popularity when he was standing for the leadership. He was promising members more say, promising to apologise for the Iraq war (something he had always been against) most of all he was a complete refreshing change from what came before and what else was on offer. So when he was elected as leader with 59.5% of the vote it caused a Political earthquake. No one not even his supporters at the beginning expected that.
Now this goes back to what I said at the beginning people can change things. Anyone can be a catalyst for change. Of course what I was just talking about is a Political party and not wider society but again it was proved in the 2017 General Election that people can be inspired to change things. Labour were 20% behind in the opinion polls when the Election was called and were completely written off. And yet we came within in 2 and half % of the Conservatives in the vote. How did we do this?
Well by offering people hope was a big factor something that had been in short supply for many years. By inspiring people to think that change was possible.
There’s 2 important things that I haven’t mentioned yet. Democracy and Social Media. Democracy is what frightens the establishment. They may pass it lip service but they don’t really want to extend it. Why? It’s quite simple it’s gives more power to the people. Put simply the establishment, the elite, the ruling class or whatever else we want to call them don’t want to extend democracy because they are scared of losing their levers of power that go on behind the scenes. I believe in extending democracy as much as possible. That’s for Elections where I believe PR would be a more Democratic way of doing them. Now I’m the compete opposite of a UKIP Supporter but in the 2015 Election they got 3.9 million votes but only 1 seat. The Greens also got over a million votes but only 1 seat. This causes a resentment from voters who quite rightly don’t think they have been listened to and aren’t being represented like they should be.
Voting needs to be extended to the over 16’s as well. Sixteen-seventeen year olds are often treated in a patronising way. There has always been a element from older voters that the young don’t know anything, aren’t mature enough and us oldies know best. This is another Democratic Deficit in this country. There are over 1 and half million being denied the vote. Well I say that but in some Scottish and Welsh Elections they are now been given the right to vote. That’s fantastic but when you think about it that is making the voting system two tiered. So it’s yet another reason to extend voting to all over sixteens. It’s time has most definitely come. But there is one thing though that I can’t help feeling. That the Conservatives will never extend voting because they know far far more will vote Labour than anything else. So we have got to pile the pressure on this like so many other things.
The House of Lords as a 2nd chamber is also outdated and undemocratic. It’s a collection of hereditary peers and appointed peers, in other words none are elected by the people. This is something that needs to be near the top of the list in the modernising of our democracy. We need a elected 2nd house with a form of PR as the method to elect. These would be some ways to improve democracy and a good place to start but there would still be far more to do. What we need to do is lessen people’s alienation and hopelessness. As I said at the beginning people can effect change. Another example of that is the EU referendum result. Many didn’t think leave could win but they did. The turnout was high and people felt engaged and energised by the experience of participating in democracy. I write as a reluctant remainder. Of course if then the vote isn’t carried out though it will cause ill feeling and resentment and lead to a crisis in democracy. Huge amounts of people will feel they haven’t been listened to or took notice of and it would create big problems in our future democracy.
Democracy needs to be the lifeblood running through all parts of society. That way people can be held accountable and it’s also a fairer way to do things. Another way to do that would be to have democracy in the workplace. When I say this I don’t just mean electing your Union rep although that is good of course. No I mean ordinary workers actually being involved in the boardroom being elected helping to run and help decide the future direction of who they work for. Sound radical? Well yes but it’s not a new idea it’s been around a long long time. And there’s a reason it hasn’t happened because there is huge resistance to it from companies. Most people who work in a sizable workplace have had at times a questionnaire come round asking for suggestions etc. We all know as well that very often they end up in the bin. Now in principle it’s a good idea but there’s a very good reason they end up in the bin. It’s because employees tend to think it’s just a paper excise and they won’t be listened to anyway. And they are probably right. But if workers got proper representatives to help with the running of their companies that would help in the not only democratising the workplace but it would help improve the mood, confidence and increase the sense of ownership. A happier workforce is a more productive workforce but Capitalist bosses fear losing any sort of control.
Something else I wanted to talk about was Social Media. This is at times a double edged sword and it can be used as something negative. But what I want to do is talk about is the positive force it can be and how it can help us organise and get the truth out to the public. The good news is lots of people now get the news from Twitter, Facebook etc and there are lots of alternative news outlets such as Evolve Politics, Novara Media and the Skwawkbox for example. This considerably weakened the power and influence of the right wing press. So Social Media can be a fantastic tool to find things and help to organise as well. 20 years ago this wasn’t available. So the Revolution of change can actually start online. In fact it already has in many ways. The Corbyn surge both to become leader (both times) and Labour’s unexpectedly ( to the establishment Political pundits and old guard) better result in last year’s General Election was helped massively online. The same happened with the Bernie Sanders campaign in the USA and elsewhere I’m sure. We now have at our fingertips the tools to help us meet like minded people, to set up online groups and forums and talk to each other like we could only dream about in the past. This really is something to celebrate but more than that it’s an opportunity we mustn’t squander.
Well you’re probably wondering where am I going with this. Like I just said the Revolution has already started what we have to do is start linking the dots. There are many things we have to do but the bad news is we are running out of time. I say that because it’s become increasingly clear that Climate Change is real and it’s getting worse . This is something that has been Public knowledge since the mid 1980’s but it’s been known about by big oil and science circles for at least 20 years earlier. So let that sink in. Yes it’s been known about for over 50 years and in that time nowhere near enough has been done to try and slow it down. Why? It’s a obvious question and it’s what makes me and many others very angry.
Basically it’s because big oil ( the massive oil companies) have a conflict of interest with the rest of us. They are more interested in carrying on making their big fat profits than the future of the planet. Now you’re probably thinking that doesn’t make sense and you would be right it doesn’t. You would think early on these companies would have started to look at alternatives ways to fuel things. And they did, for a while. But what they also did was employ scientists of their own to put out their own work saying there was no such thing as Climate Change, that other scientists were wrong. This has been going on for years and still is today. They have been spreading lies and half truths all this time. Of course this has had a effect. For a long time big business would rather listen to Big Oil telling them that Climate Change was fake or greatly exaggerated than face up to the truth. And now we have a Climate denier as President of the USA. Dangerously for the rest of us he just doesn’t get it at all. He’s burying his head in the sand while the rest of us are burning.
Something I’ve made saying for a long time and others as well is even if there was a doubt about parts of the Science in how Climate Change was going to effect us it would still be the prudent thing to start trying to cut emissions anyway. We all know it effects air quality anyway so there’s very good reason to. But the sad fact is nowhere near enough has been done in the last 30 years. In the late 80s there was another big environmental problem looming the hole in the Ozone layer which had been caused by something called CFC’s in aerosols. That problem was relatively easy to solve just by using a different chemicals. Unfortunately Climate Change is bit different because it’s extremely difficult to use less oil and petrol in a modern society.
What is the matter with us? Do we want to destroy ourselves? Are the big companies making massive profits more important than the future of the planet? There’s something else to consider as the climate gets worse in the future the super rich will be able to protect themselves a whole lot more than the rest of us. Make no mistake it’s the poorest that as usual are going to be hit the hardest. Something’s very wrong with Society.
Now I’m no genius but I know what’s wrong with it. It’s our economic system that is the problem. Capitalism. It undoubtedly was a massive advance on what had gone on before. But it’s time is coming to an end. It is failing and in crisis and it is incapable of getting us out the mess it has helped create with Climate Change. The world’s financial system puts money first above everything else. Profit rules. Now I’ve heard it said many times that Capitalism is innovative and it has been at times in the past. But if it was now surely it would have come up with solutions to the problems we face?
The truth is no matter what brilliant ideas there are out there Capitalism’s number 1 drive is too increase profits and expand markets. The Capitalists also say we are free but that only goes so far for ordinary people like us. But the more money, power and influence you have the more freedom you have because massive Corporations can do pretty much what they want and so can the richest individuals. People realise this and it’s another deficit in our democracy and cause of bad feeling. So in my view Capitalism is heading us into disaster because it can’t change. If it had changed the big oil companies would have done more than just lip service to green issues. But they can’t change because they know the biggest profits lie in oil. And therein lies all our problems.
This is why it’s time to link all the dots together because like I’ve said times running out. All the social movements have got to link together. All the different groups need closer ties than ever before. Because it’s not just Climate Change that Capitalism can’t solve there’s many other problems it’s can’t solve like Economic inequality as well. It feeds on it. Capitalists exploits poor countries and they exploit poor people. So while we supposed to be an advanced and advancing world the reality is we are going backwards and it’s only the super rich that have advanced. So while the super rich have never had it so good things have gotten worse for the rest of us. That’s Capitalism at work in particular it’s worst variety Neo Liberalism.
To briefly explain Neo Liberalism is what we have had to endure for nearly 40 years now in the UK and most of the rest of the world as well. It is a particularly callous form of Capitalism that encourages greed and selfishness and believes the free market can do no wrong. Neoliberals believe in a shrunken state meaning that the state should be involved in as little as possible. According to them the great wealth that is made will trickle down to benefit not just the rich but everyone in society. It is plainly obvious to more and more that this hasn’t happened. If it was working after nearly 40 years I think the evidence would be there. It’s not. We are now told there’s no money. That Communities have to suffer cutback after cutback because we can’t afford anything anymore.
The truth is there is shed loads of money out there. The world is awash with it. But it’s not in ordinary people’s hands and our share of the cake has progressively been getting smaller. This is another of our Democratic deficits because people have been feeling powerless.
So back to what can we do? I’ve always been optimistic that us the human race isn’t so stupid that we would destroy ourselves. That we aren’t that dumb. The trouble is it appears some of us are and we cannot carry on for the next 30-40 years like we have the last. We face the greatest challenges mankind has ever faced. Burying our heads in the sand isn’t an option anymore.
What we need is a fundamental rethink of how we organise society, not only in the UK but globally. And we cannot tackle Climate Change, Economic Inequality, the Democratic Deficit and all the other problems we have effectively through Capitalism. But another world is not only possible but essential. And let’s not kid ourselves it will be easy because it will be anything but. It’s going to be a huge massive gigantic struggle. But like I said earlier change always is.
We can’t turn the clock back either we have to face the problems of the 21st century. After Climate Change another gigantic problem we have is the size and massive power of Transnational Corporations. These companies have immense power and now make up their own rules and have little need to listen to National Parliaments. In fact the only organisations that these Corporations MAY listen to are for example the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and maybe the European Union. All of these organisations are undemocratic too (although the EU does at least pretend to have some essence of democracy with the European Parliament.) This is another reason for our democratic deficit and we have been cheerleaders for these Corporations and Organisations for far too long. These Corporate elite now effectivity rule the world not the United Nations or individual governments. Power has been transferred from the public and the state to private unaccountable and massive Corporations.
We seem to be walking straight into a dystopian future from a Sci-Fi film. Carrying on like this eventually there will one Transnational Corporation that rules us all. We are some way away from that but you can see it’s a possible outcome in the future. All these things I’ve spoken about are the reality of life in the 21st Century. Generations after the Second World War were promised that things would get better for everybody and they did but somewhere in the last 30-40 years with the rise of NeoLiberalism (that word again) we have gone into reverse. We have become more and more undemocratic business interests are deemed more important than anything else.
Society has to move to the next level to not only advance as humans but indeed survive. Perhaps that is the final spark, the jolt we need. Because we have to Stand up and be counted for our children and our children’s children. We have to dare and grab this opportunity. I believe that next level is Socialism a new way of organising our Society in a fairer way. You may say that’s old hat, that it doesn’t work. Yes it’s an old idea but it’s never been properly tried. There are and has been at times glimpses of it around the world. One of the best examples is our NHS. Put simply it’s a Healthcare Service that’s free at the point of use for everyone where people and their health are put before making a profit. Now the Tories are privatising at via the back door and the giant healthcare companies are circling around it like vultures. But I digress.
We have to work towards a new Socialism for the 21st Century and indeed the most important element of that is increasing Democracy at every level in Society. Democratic Socialism believes in people having more say that’s what it’s about giving more power to everyone. Then we can start to move towards a society that is based on sustainability that addresses real social needs rather than just the maximisation of profit. You don’t have to be an expert on Political theory or Economics to know something’s wrong with Society. By the same yardstick anyone can get get involved to change things. Life is a learning curve. The change has to come via social movements as well in conjunction with the Labour Party in the UK and left political parties in other countries to put the leverage and pressure on the Political establishment. Our vision has to be wide sweeping. Importantly we don’t have to agree about every little detail because getting the majority of the things that need to be done done is far better than falling out getting nowhere.
The revolution has started in many ways but there is still so much to do. We need a wide united coalition of Social movements for change. It’s potential is vast and unlimiting. Community organisations, environmental and climate change activists, trade unions, human rights campaigners, students and the young, disabled campaigners, the pensioner’s movement, peace and arms trade campaigners and all the movements against global poverty and Third World debt. We are all linked by the inequality, injustice and greed of Neoliberal Capitalism. These alliances have to be built the dots that have to be joined.
The challenges that we face as a Global community cannot be solved easily. But we can all start building the movements in our own countries and with today’s technology link together like never before. And we can all start locally and nationally to fight for the Socialist solutions we desperately need more than ever. So that the will of the people is listened to above the endless search for ever bigger profits. I said at the beginning we could change things and I truly believe people power is unstoppable once we hit a tipping point. People power has and can change things. It’s a uncomfortable truth to the ones at the top.
I’m going to finish with a quote from a hymn that one of my favourite politicians Tony Benn use to often say. When he was growing up his Dad use to say this to him
“Dare to be a Daniel!
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known!”
Those few lines say so much. What the world needs now is hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions and yes billions of us to stand as Daniel’s. When we do that we cannot fail.