In the middle of any existential struggle to survive, it is to be expected that more people who choose to vote in bourgeois democracies, would vote for those who are the most active in implementing solutions to problems faced by the electorate. The Covid19 pandemic has been a year of such an existential struggle to survive for most countries. Indeed in the UK the Covid 19 casualties have been 127, 000 dead and many thousands of variously injured casualties and still counting. The Tory government led by Boris Johnson has bungled many things, sleazed their way through dishing lucrative equipment deals to their rich cronies and demonstrated double standards with regard to self-isolation. However, compared to the Labour Party and its leadership, the Tories have been positively dynamic and have been rewarded for it by the election results.
Before proceeding further, it needs to be understood that the British electoral system is in the firm hold of two trends among the British Middle-Class. One historic middle-class political trend (the Labour Party) traditionally represented the patronising, do-gooding elements of the British middle-class. It often contained (and sometimes was led by) charismatic, energetic upwardly mobile, working class members. The other historic middle-class trend (the Tory Party) traditionally represented the self-interested middle-class, entrepreneurs and small business people. This party often contained (and was often led by) well-groomed Aristocrats. The ‘essence’ of the day to day exploitation of working people was not in dispute between thesee two trends, the only difference was whether the iron fist that repeatedly crushed working class citizens was naked or cushioned by a velvet glove.
That broad scenario is still generally the case, except that the leadership styles of both British parties had over a few decades, undergone a considerable change. The leadership of the Labour Party has progressively become more aloof, groomed and distant; the leadership of the Tory Party has become, less aloof, less groomed and less distant. It has reached a point in 2021 where the leader of the Labour Party is an aloof, hair-groomed, knight of the realm, Sir Starmer; the leader of the Tory Party ‘Bojo’ is a bonhomie, outgoing, joker with unkempt hair and similar manners. Not only are these two personas almost the complete opposites to each other, but they are opposites to their leadership predecessors. The Labour Party is now led by someone who is pretending to be a caring aristocrat and the Tory Party is led by someone who is pretending to be a caring ‘man of the people’.
Neither are trustworthy of course. However, with Boris you know what exactly what you get. We get a male-chauvinist, ‘Artful Dodger’, with his ‘got to pick a pocket or two’ associates lurking behind the Downing Street facade. With Sir Starmer you get what you see – next to nothing! The best I can reveal that he is a pro-Biden, vegetarian, Arsenal preferring, royal establishment supporter, but not much else. However, this difference in persona and dress style also corresponds to some extent, to the Party policy differences as to how to manage the multiple crises now facing the capitalist mode of production. The Labour Party rejected the Jeremy Corbin one – nation ‘Spirit of 45’ state expenditure reforms and has opted to drift into an ossified Blairite New Labour conservatism. On the other hand, the Tory Party rejected ‘Thatcherism’ (and via Teresa May) has now opted for a ‘clownish’ version of ‘one nation Toryism with the crucial addition of high levels of Labour-Party-type state expenditure. This is a tactic which has obviously worked – for now!
Unlike the popular media, we should also keep in mind that these (as well as previous) voting patterns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the British Working Class, because so far only 35% of citizens have voted. This means that almost two out of every three people found neither leaders or parties were worth voting for. And this rejection of capitalist forms of democracy is not simply a negative emotional outcome. It at least means that an overwhelming majority (possibly 2/3) of British citizens after many decades, no longer have illusions in any form of bourgeois politics. The idea that voting for political elites will change things for anything better than what already exists has been progressively discarded. Even among those who still think voting is a rational form of activity, very few now have a sheep-like form of political party loyalty. The break with those two bourgeois voting illusions is a step in the right direction.
It is likely that the next change in consciousness, like previous changes, will be determined by the social and economic conditions which emerge from the current existential skirmish with the microscopic virus Covid19. The UK population already has a percentage of the population who wish to get back as close as possible to a version of previous capitalist normal. Undoubtedly, there is another percentage who wish to have a different more egalitarian form of capitalist normal. There is even a small percentage who wish to have a radical, more ecological ‘green’ capitalist normal. However, very few have – as yet – recognised that any form of capitalist future is as existentially threatening to humanity as any number of future Covid – type Pandemics. However, a glimpse of what form of capitalism is to come, has already been partly revealed.
A section of the capitalist and upper-middle class, here as elsewhere, have amassed further wealth due to the Covid lock – down period. The extremely wealthy are poised to invest their tranches of capital in various directions once workers are free of restrictions and can be put to work making profits for them. Another section will re-open their profit making enterprises with some obvious Covid-inspired modifications. One will be the rapid increase of home working for their employees. Where this occurs, this will transfer the costs of providing a working space, heating, lighting, cleaning and toilet facilities from the employer to the individual worker. A rise in the rate or mass of profit may result for some capitalists but it will result in a loss via more costs to workers. Yet another, modification to working conditions for workers will take the form of fewer employment opportunities and fewer work colleagues.
Another section of the previous employing class have undoubtedly been bankrupted during the Covid crisis and some have been forced to join the ranks of precarious workers. This will increase the numbers seeking employment at the same time as a decreasing number of job opportunities become available. Future unemployment, low pay and precarious employment, will threaten not only more peoples‘ health, housing (rented and mortgaged) but also homelessness and family break up. These changed circumstances for working people will impact upon their consciousness. Undoubtedly a struggle will ensue as to who or what will receive the blame for these unfolding circumstances.
The ruling elites and their supporters everywhere, will probably orchestrate (or support) a campaign to blame one or more of the global working-class victim groups. If the victims do not successfully counter this ‘blaming the victim‘ by pointing out the role of the capitalist economic system, it will be because they have not been assisted by those who have the time, the ability and the knowledge to do so. Now is the time to put sustained efforts into preparing a non – sectarian, revolutionary – humanist movement to intervene in those future struggles.
Roy Ratcliffe (May 2021)