Saturday, November 26, 2016
A message from "Weimar Little England"
I spent some time yesterday arguing with two old friends who will not I hope be offended if I say we disagreed because I felt they were in denial about aspects of the current political situation whereas they felt that I (and a like-minded comrade) were exaggerating.
Regular readers of this blog may not be sure they agree, but I used to be someone who was particularly prone to measured and cautious expressions of opinion as I tried to persuade interlocutors. I genuinely was not given to exaggeration – before this year I would sarcastically have dismissed someone saying that democracy is at serious and immediate risk in the advanced capitalist nations (albeit it had been massively weakened by the growing power of corporations against states).
I think that 2016 has shown all of us that we were wrong. I know I was. I did not foresee that a combination of bigotry and stupidity would lead to a vote to leave the European Union, nor that a similarly toxic mix across the Atlantic would bring to power a dangerous demagogue. I fear I will not be surprised now if Austria elects a fascist President, nor even if France falls.
It is not at all an overreaction to the events of this year to foresee nuclear war in Europe, nor to consider the likelihood that real tyranny will triumph in the USA. I quite understand that it is more comfortable to deny this, to insist that things are not really so bad and that former friends who backed Brexit cannot be responsible for the consequence of the racism and bigotry of their co-thinkers on that question.
It is understandable but it is wrong. It is that bad – and those who choose the wrong side on vital questions at a dangerous time cannot escape responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
As we were having that argument a wise person was asking pertinent questions; “You know films set in the 1930s when everyone is pottering on as normal and you want to shout at the screen? Well, how would you know if you were in one?”
The answer has to be that you wouldn’t, but that if you even think you might be you have to be consistent and brave in standing up, in every part of your life, for what you believe in. I never knew my maternal grandfather (who died of TB in the 50s) but I know he was a mild mannered man – yet in the late 30s he concluded an argument with a visiting German Nazi by pouring a bucket of water over him.
The vermin of UKIP and the American “alt-right” won’t play by any rules in arguing against the beliefs of all democrats and trying to undermine all in which we believe. Our only rule in response has to be that we won’t surrender to them. There is no legitimacy in the referendum result any more than there is legitimacy in the election of “President” Trump.
And then today we woke to the loss of Castro.
It is as if events conspire to remind us that the chapter opened by the October revolution is now definitively closed. There is no global alternative to capitalism.
Capital no longer needs to fend off a threat from a combative working class with social welfare, civil liberty and democratic rights.
We must hope that the passing of the great revolutionary does not destabilise Cuba. That one island can stand for more than half a century against US imperialism will always be an inspiration to those who believe in progress whatever happens next, but it will be a further setback if the Cuban revolution is defeated.
Socialist Cuba has given so much to the world, and in particular to the peoples of Africa and the Caribbean (who have often borne the brunt of global capitalism). We must continue to be inspired by this example and draw courage from the example of the Cuban people, as from the example of all previous revolutions.
As socialists we must remember our responsibility both to our class and to the future of humanity. It may well be that the choice between “socialism and barbarism” is being made around us in a way we would not support, but this question is not settled. We have the power to change the world.
If we know that we are indeed characters in a film set in “Weimar Little England” we have to stand up now, and every day, to resist bigotry and prejudice, to defend those under attack and to protect the values of democracy and socialism.
We may not win but at least we must fight.