In response to the political events of this bleak week, the editors at the Everyday Analysis Collective will be offering their reflections, putting their individual viewpoints into conversation within this report. Here, Dan Bristow reacts.
The general election held on Thursday 12 December 2019 beckons in something of a new and long winter of discontent, forming as it has the first substantial Conservative majority government – counting 2015 as something of an anomaly, in its self-destruction and self-perpetuation at once, via the invention and implementation of the libidinally-driven (no psychoanalysis here, except to highlight that Lacan says somewhere that every drive is a death-drive) explosion of ‘Brexit’ – since the early 1990s, representing for many in the millennial age-bracket the first instance of this in toto since they were young children (which is not to discount the gallant and victorious rallying efforts of the Liberal Democrats to fully support and facilitate their masters over the course of this past decade, through coalition and beyond), and for those of ‘generation Z’, the first in their lifetimes.
Briefly, I feel there are some points to be made in a sober structural analysis of ‘what happened’, and will elucidate them here, and this to counter some of the flare-ups of indulgent recoil from the left masquerading as self-flagellation for having got behind a project representing a politics different from the hegemonic right (which is that of the same policies across the board, but with cosier euphemisms and crocodile tears in more ‘liberal’ quarters). Indeed, the packaging-up and ejecting of ‘Corbynism’ holds every possibility of being utilised – and this has quickly happened – as a cynical and strategic manoeuvre seeking to thus sweep away socialism once and for all from a political position that will remain ‘left’ in empty name only; indeed, the ‘Blue Labour’ trolls are already out in force. (To draw a little on James’ reflections on the manifesto ‘offer’, there is a damning indictment in the fact that such policies of ‘ending foodbanks, saving those suffering on Universal Credit, rehousing the homeless’, for example, need to be made, in a political climate where these are being represented as in effect ‘optional’ for government: state responsibility has become so open to fullscale outsourcing and privatisation that morally assuming these responsibilities – by virtue of simply being the state – is contended; this, to say nothing of voting rights – and humane affordances – accorded to the demographics these manifesto policies seek to protect, within this climate.)
Since the massive gains made in Scotland by the SNP in 2015 (and similar, though less dramatic changes to the political demographics of the other nations of the divided kingdom), the odds have been stacked against Labour in the English election, to say the least. In fact, there has arisen a monolithic structural roadblock to winning a majority for Labour, only compounded by the fabricated split that Brexit has inaugurated, on which, sadly, the party’s turn to backing a referendum that offered a Remain option, against a cataclysmic no-deal, which had some merit in terms of an attempt at unity on an issue over which the spirit of the country is truly divided, was nevertheless a capitulation to the scandalous signifier of the ‘moral majority’, the term that liberal-conservative fabulists use to designate themselves when they have suffered a defeat.
The Labour Party won their campaign battles on the streets and online – the effort for which (far, far more effort, and care, in terms of energy expenditure than the Conservatives would ever condescend to muster) must be given its substantial due – but there needs to be a real reckoning taken of the impossibilities structurally racked up by the ostensibly archaic (anachronistically hegemonic) medias, of television and newspapers, against the allowance, in terms not only of broadcast and print space, but most importantly in terms of debate-framing, against launching counternarratives to their class interests. If critique and deconstruction are not enough to bring about real change to the messages these medias perpetuate, new tactics to facilitate – politely – their withering away are in need of being advanced.
The left splits along its ethical lines, and the right will always cynically unite to win power to wreak its destruction. The project of socialism was built over long centuries, and the attempts at its dismantlement, by the right, and by rightist elements across the party- political spectrum, has been in process since day one. Broadly, and specifically to this moment, it would seem that what is needed on the left is what could be called a ‘return to Marx’; to find points of intersectionality and solidarity through labour, uniting work sectors: industry, retail, tech, telecommunications, content creation, green infrastructure, etc., and these unities need forming in our working towards understanding why, and changing, an electoral condition in this country toeing the line of ‘by the many, for the few.’
Marx pointed out that workers are alienated from their labour: this fundamental insight recognises what splits us, as subjects: it is this. There is no split between this condition and the ability to think this condition. This is what the right will aim to divide us by, into the categories of everyman ‘workers’ and elite ‘thinkers’. Many of our fights will congeal around these signifiers; seeking to disassemble the unifying binary ‘everyman-elite’ will encompass so many of the battles: against sexism, racism, ableism, homo- and transphobia, classism; and beyond. This imaginary binary is at the heart of the right’s devious, dishonest and inegalitarian discourse. Jacques Ranciére bases his concept of equality on the radical idea that we all have an equal capacity or capability for thinking ourselves: we the workers, we the thinkers, and thus we the makers, of our work, and of our world.
Daniel Bristow is co-editor of Everyday Analysis, a writer, bookseller and psychoanalyst.