A generation is once again standing against the cult of mendacious market mantras that pervades all politics, writes JOHN WIGHT
FOR far too long we have been accustomed to a political culture shorn of compassion, decency and solidarity. We’re all familiar with the script: a leader, or prospective leader, is someone who isn’t afraid to “make the tough choices,” “tell us how it is,” “be unpopular” and “take the hard rather than the easy decisions.”
The real message being delivered in these cliched soundbites is that if elected, they will govern in the interests of a tiny economic elite at the expense of the majority and pledge to demonise, attack, hound and hurt the poor and most vulnerable more than their competitors at every opportunity in the process.
It is a narrative and a discourse tantamount to the equating of political power with callous indifference to human suffering, transforming cynicism and cruelty from vice into virtue, while pretending that there is no alternative. In the same inverted morality words such as compassion and decency are equated with weakness and idealism, the last qualities we should expect in a politician who is serious about governing the country or occupying any position of influence within the political mainstream.
Jeremy Corbyn has rapidly become the antidote to this lie — this Daily-Mail-Tory-New-Labour-City-of-London-benefit-sanctioning-foodbank-proliferating-migrant-bashing-minority-othering conception of what a successful and rational society should look like.
At a time when we have a government that sends sniffer dogs and policemen to Calais rather than doctors and nurses to deal with desperate human beings fleeing war, persecution, and unimaginable privation in countries we have helped to destabilise and destroy, we need an alternative. At a time when a few live in disgusting ostentation while all around us homelessness, destitution, and poverty is growing exponentially, we need an alternative.
In a country that prioritises spending billions on replacing weapons of mass destruction in the form of Trident rather than spending it on building affordable homes, investing in the NHS, schools, and on making sure that everyone who works receives a wage commensurate with a decent quality of life, we obviously and desperately need change.
Those, particularly within the Labour Party, who’ve issued warnings over the dangers of lurching to the left behind Corbyn are standing on the shoulders of the siren voices who warned Clement Attlee and the men and women who helped transform British society after WWII that the creation of a national health service was a utopian pipe dream — unaffordable, unworkable and delusional.
They are standing in the tradition of those who warned that the goal of full employment as the key objective of economic and social policy was contrary to free market doctrine and guaranteed to end in disaster.
Indeed, whether they know it or not, they are the modern incarnation of those who preferred a society divided between the deserving rich and undeserving poor, fuelled by the belief that individual wealth is evidence of moral virtue while poverty is due to moral degeneracy, the former rightfully rewarded and the latter justly punished.
As with the Attlee government’s transformational programme after the war, Corbyn’s campaign is not driven by what can be done but by what must be done, by the necessity of reintroducing sanity and humanity into a political culture that has become captive to the needs of the rich and big business.
We’ve had enough of these Cassandras in our political culture, just as we’ve had enough of being told that the summit of human happiness and fulfilment is a massive salary and the ability to buy anything we want whenever we want it. We’ve had enough of happiness being confused with excitement, of being assured that competition is more compatible with our nature than co-operation, and that the poor man who steals a loaf of bread from a supermarket belongs in jail, while the rich man who closes a supermarket because it is no longer profitable, thereby consigning hundreds of people to poverty, belongs in the House of Lords.
A cult of business dominates every aspect of our national life, leading to decades of economic illiteracy on the part of successive governments.
To put it another way, no business or businessman or woman has ever created a job in this country. Not one. It is not businesses that create jobs. It is consumers who create jobs by spending money to create the demand for goods and services to which businesses respond by expanding their existing business or in the form of new businesses being created and with them employment.
And when it comes to this creation of demand, it is an empirical fact that people on lower incomes will spend more of any extra money they receive than people on higher incomes, as their needs are correspondingly greater.
So rather than focusing on cutting benefits and incomes, we should be talking about raising benefits and incomes. And rather than listening to those who tell us that businesses can’t afford to pay their employees a living wage, we should be telling them that any business than cannot afford to pay a living wage is not a viable business and has no business being in business in the first place.
We need, in other words, to reassert the primacy of the state and government over the economic forces that are in truth the real government under the status quo, a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.
The ideas and vision that Corbyn represents, buried beneath the weight of Thatcherite ideology for far too long, have risen from their slumber and are now part of the mainstream political discourse again, breathed new life by thousands of young people who demand a real and humane alternative to the thin gruel that passes for reality today.
It is why when they those siren voices continually shriek that Jeremy can’t win, what they don’t realise is that he already has.