A Radical 2017 – All We Need To Do Is Join In

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Jon Bigger writes on direct and effective alternatives to the opportunism and whining of the liberal left 

Since the Brexit and Trump results one thing that’s been glaringly obvious about any mainstream response is that it amounts to nothing but liberal bedwetting.

Article after article in the UK liberal press, day upon day has focused on what the terrible conservative forces will be getting up to and how we’re all under threat from the menace. Actually they’ve focused mainly on free movement which I’ll come to shortly. I want to talk this month about how we can focus on our radical response and how we need to have solidarity at our core.

The way they talk it’s almost as if liberalism is this ideal, tranquil and peaceful system without which we will have chaos, uncertainty and nuclear war. Liberalism is in fact structural violence. It is chaos for most people. The chaos of benefit sanctions, corrupt representatives, bailiffs, the cops, immigration officials and the free market. It’s the chaos of people doing terrible things to others on the basis that they have a piece of paper that says they can. The fact that with liberalism can come human rights, boundaries to official power and peaceful transitions of power hardly takes away the chaos that the system inflicts on people continually. We have to challenge all the forces that are ranged against us.

Picture the Labour Party Christmas do. Two Labour MPs having a chat over a glass of bubbly. Imagine the dullest small talk ever and you’ve pictured the scene. One asks the question “what do you think of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership?” and the other answers “I’d welcome it!”  It’s an old joke but things must be really bad if they think the solution to their problems is him being more prominent.

The left will do anything for power and they now seek to be more populist. Momentum, the Corbyn support group, has gone as far as to share a video on Facebook made by the TSSA union which uses xenophobia to make the case for nationalisation of Britain’s railways. Left populists will embrace whatever they think they can get away with. There have also been murmurs against free movement in left circles.

Free movement can exist separately from the free market however — and we shouldn’t confuse the two. Just because the conservative ideas that dominate our time dictate that free movement is bad doesn’t mean we should pander to it. It is , after all, an obsession with national boundaries which we don’t accept should exist or be enforced.

Getting on with real work

Away from the liberal tears and the calls for more petitions and ethical consumerism we have people actually doing stuff. It’s wrong to say the fightback has begun because really it’s just continuing. In the last month we’ve seen strikes hit a number of sectors. The newspapers were full of strike action in the run up to Christmas and there are reports of further action early in 2017. The United Voices of the World union (UVW) is organising low paid workers in cafes and restaurants in upper class department store Harrods. They plan a demonstration today (January 7th) against the bosses keeping a large percentage of tips in the store. Already this news has gone worldwide and Harrods has been forced to say that it will review it’s procedures.  How nice it is to smell ruling class fear. When some of the lowest paid and precarious workers in the UK are ready to fight their bosses and their bosses are members of the Qatari royal family, you sense this is really speaking truth to power.

Our role has to be one of solidarity. We must help workers rise up against their economic masters. Anarchists can be rightly dismissive of the unions when seen as a whole and where they perpetuate the myth of working class power resting in getting either better or more representatives in parliament. But we should divorce that from the day to day fight that workers are in. Where they rise up they may need assistance and we should seek out what help they need. In all our actions we should aim to help those in struggle not make their lives and livelihoods harder. Ethical consumerism  for example is not generally an act of solidarity and can be very harmful. Very often workers don’t want their products to be boycotted as selling them is what gets food on the table. It’s important therefore only to boycott something that has been called for by those affected. By putting the people affected at the source of conflict first, we can have maximum impact and do the greatest good.

In 2017 we will see a year of protests, strikes, direct action, occupations and demonstrations. Wherever they take place we can be right in there affecting the outcome. We need to be on the offensive and the politics of the time will provide us with plenty of opportunities.

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Jon Bigger

2 Responses to A Radical 2017 – All We Need To Do Is Join In

  • drmorch says:

    Good article, but I would assume that: “Very often workers don’t want their products to be boycotted as selling them is what gets food on the table,” is not an absolute in every circumstance? Would you apply this logic to workers in the arms industry, fracking, those workers selling products produced from slave labour, etc, essentially those items produced at the expense of human suffering and misery? Where would you draw the line?

  • Jon Bigger says:

    Yes, that is exactly my point – that ethical consumerism isn’t some blanket method to change the world. It needs consideration on a case by case basis. Often though, as consumers, we don’t get choices, for example over where our energy comes from or whether we to buy arms or not. Some things are done on our behalf by government so I’m not sure they’re great examples. Where the line is drawn might be different for each individual but my point here is that if we are acting in a way that we define as ethical consumerism then we have to be mindful of the impact, which might actually render our efforts unethical in certain circumstances. As an example, I’m a vegetarian so I boycott the meat industry to a large extent. I’ve obviously made a decision which impacts on the jobs of people in that industry but I consider that to be a worthwhile impact in the greater scheme of things. There are other factors that complicate matters such as the time and energy people have for researching how products are made.

    So I’m not saying ethical consumerism is wrong and should be avoided; I’m saying that it has a level of complexity to it that requires deeper thought than to just start boycotting everything we feel is bad. We live in a capitalist world and what is ethical is very much up for discussion.

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