The other day, I was in Bristol, mostly to see Mephistophelean magic man Derren Brown and eat curry until I passed out – but I did, semi-reluctantly, drop in on a Momentum event about the Europe referendum.
Broadly, I hate the EU. Whatever the intention was when it was first established, today’s it’s about the neoliberal zombification of a continent, via financialisation, privatisation, and permanent austerity. I think it’s so utterly riddled with corporate corruption and contempt for democracy that it should be shut down, and that a fair few of the dead-eyed goons that run it should be thrown in jail for crucifying Greece in the name of the banks.
You’d be forgiven, then, for thinking that made me an obvious Leave voter – but I’ve been just about won round by the line of argument some have dubbed Brexiters for Remain. In a nutshell: the EU is terrible, we need to leave – but not now, when its few benefits protect us from the most despicably right-wing government in our history, and Leave politics is dominated by turbo-Thatcherite racists. Continue reading
Because I’m mentally, spiritually and, increasingly, physically about 85 and therefore laughably out of touch, I hadn’t realised Shelly Asquith was already up for re-election as NUS Welfare Vice-President.
I first became aware of Shelly when she was president of the student union of the University of the Arts in London, and already one of the country’s most prominent radical young campaigners.
There, while still managing to be active in everything from Palestinian solidarity to LGBTIQ rights campaigns, she was at the forefront of the fight for free education, and against austerity’s devastating impact on our schools, colleges and universities.
Unsurprisingly, given her flabbergasting work ethic and popularity with students, she went on to be elected Welfare VP – where she’s launched offensives on rip-off landlords, cuts to already-threadbare mental health provision, and become one of the strongest voices against the absurdity of the government’s PREVENT agenda (basic premise, let’s stop the radicalisation of young British Muslims by victimising and alienating young British Muslims, while clamping down on any political or ideological resistance to the marauding neoliberal status quo). Continue reading
2015, so far at least, has been a year characterised by me getting repeatedly distracted from banging on about the thing I need to be banging on about, which is the environment.
First there was the general election. And then there was Corbyn’s unexpected but delightful transition from pariah-status fringe parliamentarian to Labour leadership frontrunner. I sunk hours into writing about both.
Now Corbyn’s won, I can already feel myself being sucked in again – instinctively reaching for the keyboard to defend him with every new ludicrous slur or piece of borderline-criminal media impartiality. I’m at risk of becoming the political equivalent of one of those overcompensating macho boyfriends who hospitalises anyone who looks at their girlfriend a bit funny. Continue reading
Frankie Boyle and the Artist Taxi Driver: Straight-talking luminaries of the New New Left
Marx is overrated, the Bolsheviks killed people and put socialism back decades, and the Marxism most worth with bothering with nowadays isn’t very Marxist at all. Thus concluded our whistle-stop intellectual coach trip through far-left political philosophy, now pulling in at its final destination.
It’s obviously been a very selective and simplified overview. I’ve tried to write it in such a way that people not massively acquainted with the ins and outs of radical philosophy could understand it. Continue reading
Marxism was originally billed as some grand, infallible, all-encompassing theory of everything – which it then went on to spectacularly fail to be. Unstoppable social and economic trends were supposed to spell the inevitable destruction of capitalism and guarantee that socialism would spring out of its ashes. As it turns out, just because a clever man with a beard says something is going to happen doesn’t mean it will.
Classical Marxism has been roundly trounced by history. Marx’s predictions haven’t come to pass. Messy reality just hasn’t unfurled in the neat, systematic manner he anticipated. And as a result, in the decades since, the best Marxism has abandoned attempts at cast-iron predictions and rigid socioeconomic frameworks, and instead concerned itself with pragmatically addressing two big questions: if capitalism is so abundantly awful – anarchic, crisis-prone, horrifically exploitative to an extent that limits and ruins billions of lives (which it is) – then 1) why do people not rise up and get rid of it? And 2) how can we bring about a situation where they do rise up and get rid of it? Continue reading
Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour leadership election. He won by a landslide – a 59.5% knockout in the first round. Andy Burnham got 19%. Yvette Cooper got 17%. And she seems like a decent human being. She’s definitely not deserved the personal abuse she’s received throughout the contest, much of it from our side. But Liz Kendall got 4.5%. I’ll leave it at that.
I was entirely unprepared for the Corbyn phenomenon. I’ve known about and been a fan of Corbyn for ten years, give or take, and he’s someone who I hold in the highest esteem – he’s unerringly principled, utterly committed to the causes he believes in, and has dedicated his life to helping the poorest and most vulnerable, which to my mind is the best thing you can say about anyone.
And despite all that, if you’d have asked me what I thought the chances were of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader back in May, just after Ed Miliband stood down, I would’ve said ‘less than 1%’. If you’d have asked me what I thought the chances were of Jeremy Corbyn or anyone vaguely left-wing even getting on the ballot paper, I probably would’ve said the same. In the run-up to the general election, I wrote a blog post specifically designed just to remind people the parliamentary Labour Left still existed – praising Corbyn, McDonnell, Skinner and co but generally lamenting its current weakness and poor prospects for the future. Continue reading
One of the main reasons this blog, this series of posts, and the thing we’re for the minute calling Modern Socialism all exist is because we think the Left needs to abandon its obsessive fixation with Marx. Rather than trying to desperately crowbar Marxism into contemporary relevance, we need to cherry-pick its best insights and work them into a new, accessible, modern manifestation of radical socialism. And then, with all that’s worth preserving safely extracted from the stifling dogma, we need to leave the old symbols and the old jargon and the old near-theological splits and squabbles behind.
That’s what this post is going to have a go at. Separating the delicious, nutritious, mind-expanding socialist wheat from the variously discredited, irrelevant and just-wrong-in-the-first-place dogmatic chaff. Examining Marx. Then providing a sound barrier-breakingly fast (and necessarily selective) whistle-stop tour of Marxism after Marx. For socialism, for equality, and for great justice.
Karl Marx was a very clever man, and having spent considerable time studying history, politics, and economics, he decided he’d figured out a grand theory of everything. He called it dialectical materialism. Continue reading