There’s a paralysis and sense of unreality in British politics. The Tories lurch from crisis to deeper crisis. Almost every week sees a new report about appalling poverty. Every month there is more evidence of the catastrophic toll of climate change.
But none of it seems to matter. Most of the media treat the Brexit debates like a mix of reality TV and sporting event. Will Theresa May win by five votes or will Jacob Rees-Mogg outwit her?
Can the People’s Vote make a late comeback? Is Chuka Umunna about to put in a transfer request?
This happens because politics is deliberately separated off from ordinary people’s lives.
Those at the top have always feared real democratic involvement and—whatever position they take on Brexit—they hate it more than ever now.
The only way ordinary people have ever wrested control for themselves is when they have organised, protested and kept fighting until they won.
In Glasgow last Saturday Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “The people who are bearing the brunt of nine years of austerity cannot wait years for a general election. They need a general election now.”
That’s true. But how are we going to get it? The parliamentary impasse could be changed only by a transformation of struggle from below to make the most of the crisis of the establishment.
And nobody should underestimate how much this matters.
What if May eventually goes but the Tories escape and stay in government until the next scheduled general election in 2022?
They promise nothing but more attacks on working class people.
There will be more privatisation, more hollowing out of the NHS, more fear about growing old and having to rely on a threadbare or non-existent social care systems.
Even more people will be driven by sanctions and Universal Credit to foodbanks and charities.
We can’t just look upwards and wait for Labour. We need action now, and if we have a Labour government.
It would be good to have a movement like the Yellow Vests in France. But we won’t get there by looking wistfully across the Channel.
Instead we have to try to organise ourselves. Every spark of struggle matters—the Birmingham care workers, the traffic wardens in London, the college strikers in Scotland and England, and others.
We need more of this. We have to push union leaders to stop just being “angry and disappointed” or “shocked and concerned” when bosses cut pay or slash jobs. Instead they have to start fighting.
One crucial focus is the battle against racism which the Tories are using to divide opposition.
The demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff against racism and fascism on 16 March are not just about battling division but also sending a wider message. We are not spectating, we are acting.