Risen from the grave By William Bowles

3 November 2003

As predicted, the Tories have dumped the wimp and chosen Dracula, whose attitudes and policies when in power rivaled the position of the British National Party. Press coverage of Howard’s ascendancy has been a wall-to-wall whitewash of this reactionary and racist individual, with acres of coverage of how Michael Howard is now a ‘reformed’ right-wing Tory, who will lead from the ‘centre’. Yet the power brokers who made the running to dump IDS have been the 1922 Committee whose position on just about everything is just a little to the left of Hitler (but not by much).

So-called modernisers in the Tory Party like Michael Portillo who, in his own words is “white, middle-aged, from the south-east of England, [and] middle class” are nevertheless prepared to climb on board Dracula’s coffin in a last ditch attempt to rescue the Tories from political oblivion. (Where’s the wooden stake when you need one?)

But what does it say about the state of politics here? Well not much really except that any resemblance it has to democracy is merely coincidental. With only around 30% of eligible voters actually bothering to vote, the future looks decidedly grim.

Just how much damage Blair has done is I think, now becoming apparent even to those in the Labour government who have for the sake of ‘party unity’ gone along with Blair’s reactionary and outright opportunist programme (winning is all). With Howard as head of the Tories, the pressure will be on Labour to ‘out-Tory’ the Tories even more than they already have, after all, there’s no place left for them to go.

And as I pointed out the other week in a piece here, the political landscape across the rest of Europe is polarising in another rather frightening replay of the past. The ‘extreme’ left in France has just formed some kind of alliance, although how long it will last is anybody’s guess. The main point here is that it reflects on the one hand, a political vacuum, with millions of citizens casting about for a genuine progressive party, and finding nada, nothing, zip, zilch. It’s like voting on the Moon. On the other, the lack of a genuine progressive alternative will just force the ‘less enlightened’ amongst us straight into the arms of the extreme right. Just check out the recent election in Switzerland for the proof of this.

And as with the US’s miraculous economic ‘recovery’, the one we’ve had here is fueled entirely by low interest loans, or debt to use the vernacular. Today’s ‘good times’ are tomorrow’s disaster. The so-called increase in productivity is not only a complete illusion, real increases in productivity is now a completely meaningless concept as none of it is taking place here (or in the US), it’s taking place in China or wherever. All we do is consume by borrowing. The entire enterprise is utterly ludicrous and without purpose and I think an increasing number of people have cottoned on to the con, although shaking the consumption habit ain’t easy (when you’re depressed go shopping at your local, that is, up the freeway, altar of consumption, consuming as you go of course).

Meanwhile, the press here is full of nothing but a ‘debate’ about the appointment of a gay Bishop! Day after day, it’s dominated the headlines and, like the ‘debate’ about the Tories, the entire process belongs not in the year 2003 but in 1923 or thereabouts. Who gives a toss whether the guy is gay, straight or into golden showers? Once more, the issues are an invention and in England where around 95% of the population have never even seen the inside of a church, the ‘debate’ is of absolutely no relevance to anybody. As ever, the dominant culture calls the shots and decides what’s important to the lives of its citizens. And as proof of just how irrelevant the entire debate is, in the hours of radio and acres of newsprint devoted to the topic, I can’t recall a single instance of Joe or Jane Schmo being asked for their opinion on the subject. And no wonder, because I suspect they won’t like the answer.

The organised left that I used to belong to and that fragmented in lockstep with the Soviet Union, is still peddling the Leninist/ Stalinist/Trotskyist/Maoist or combinations thereof, line, without any recognition that the world has moved on rather drastically. Yet ironically, the time is right for a genuine resurgence of a progressive alternative to the current mess. Amazingly, I think people, if approached with a viable programme would leap at it, including a genuine plan for public ownership, sustainable development and a return to a humane manner of living based on relationships not on possessions.

I think the current obsession with ‘heritage’, genealogy, the countryside, in fact anything to do with the past, reflects a deep-seated rejection of the present. It’s not that long ago that people remember a countryside full of butterflies and birds and seas full of fish. Every time they hear the news it’s to be told that all the sparrows have disappeared or the latest, the insects that trout and salmon live on, have all inexplicably vanished. Taken individually, it doesn’t mean much, but add it all together and it reflects a degradation of the quality of life that people find intolerable. Hence the total (97%) rejection of genetically modified food. And the Blair technocracy is so utterly out of step with the current reality that when it starts cursing the citizens that they’re being ‘Luddite’ and destroying England’s competitive advantage, they don’t give a shit!

Okay, I’m nutting off, so what. The reality of life today for millions of people is intolerable, that’s why the consumption of reality-altering substances of the legal and illegal variety, is reaching astronomical levels. But that’s okay, the pharmaceuticals and the breweries are raking it in and Thatcher’s ‘trickle down’ theory actually has worked – in the illegal dope trade. And the boys have got their guns to play with, so what are we all worrying about?

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