Of course, all the ridicule in the world wasn’t enough to stop the worst happening, so now we find ourselves living in a land of giants and trying not to feel too grateful if we’re not the ones getting squashed.
This is the reality I’ve been living in since those exit polls came in (“They’re only exit polls,” we said), since we elected an unencumbered Tory government to power (“Such a slim majority,” we said); if I’ve not posted much here in the past few months then that can be attributed to a mixture of flailing activism and masturbatory grief.
It’s the sense of how little I found myself grieving that really got me. As K-Punk wrote while in the throws of the sort of mild ecstasy that this election allowed:
In their different ways, Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett have widened the bandwidth of a media-political scene previously monopolised by the Oxbridge boys’ club. In terms of policy, there isn’t much on offer beyond a reset to social democracy (Plan B as opposed to Austerity’s Plan A), but capitalist realism is so deeply embedded that it was hard not to feel a frission when, for instance, Wood defended trade unions and the welfare state…
In the UK, this could be the most important election since 1979. Even the most sentimental pipedreamer couldn’t imagine the Labour Party will be returning to Plan B socialism in the immediate future, still less offering something more modern and radical. Yet it’s perfectly plausible that a Labour-SNP coalition could now achieve what Jeremy Gilbert and I argue that New Labour could have been expected to attempt: “make some efforts to change the strategic situation in the long-term: to rebuild the unions, to re-energise local government, to facilitate the growth of an alternative media sector”.
Not even that looks plausible now, but rather than making those ambitions look more romantic, it somewhat diminishes my own sense of hope, for me. Imagine being gutted not to get that.
This has been a great time for Twitter warriors from all sides, of course, because if you want to blame any given political party for the result then you can do so with impunity. The Greens and Plaid Cymru weren’t convincing enough, Labour failed to inspire, the SNP were too inspiring, UKIP made their ubiquity felt while clinging to their underdog status, and the Lib Dems had the temerity to die like we all asked them to.
Then there’s the Tories, who looked like they were fucking everything up if you weren’t going to vote for them but who did exactly what they needed to do: spoke to bosses and landowners and rent seekers, but also to people who dream of being like them, or who simply couldn’t imagine a future in which people with power don’t get to keep it and use it however they like. Us, basically. They spoke to us.
At this point most of my likely readers will surely raise an objection (“Not me pal, I can’t even say Tory never mind vote for the fuckers!”), and rightly so, but this is out fault too. If we could imagine an alternative, perhaps we struggled to articulate it. Where we articulated it, we failed to make it seem plausible.
Our enemies were bigger than we were – and as during the independence referendum, the press were on hand to provide us all with frequent warnings about the dangers of trying to overthrow giants – but weren’t there still more of us? Beaten down and battered as we are, immured to capitalist realism as we might be, could we really not take a stand against such obvious bastards?
Scotland’s a slightly different case, of course. This nation did get together to vote for an alternative, but despite Sturgeon putting her best foot forward during those debates on national TV the SNP couldn’t convince the rest of the nation that they were invited along for the ride, and given that the SNP’s exit plan was rejected by 55% of Scots at the polls last September it seems we’re still going to be living in Schrodinger’s Kingdom for a while longer yet.
(How much longer? Now there’s a question!)
Perhaps you’ll forgive me for wallowing in my own sense of impotence here, or perhaps you will think it an unpardonable indulgence; the former response would have the virtue of kindness, while the latter would be hard to argue against, given the state of things at home and abroad.
This is a time for international solidarity, for working out what can be done to mitigate the effects of austerity in our poorest communities, at Holyrood, in local government, and in the places where those effected try to live. This is a time for organisation and action, but my own contribution will be dishonest if it does not come with this acknowledgement of weakness.
You see, in times like this, I know what it is to want to try to forget it all… to stop running around looking for ways to stop my fellow humans from being crushed… to try to use the benefits of my race and class and gender and sexuality… to abandon all hope and principle, and bet it all on my own ability to become a giant.
I won’t, I can’t, but given how ineffectual it feels being part of the opposition, I shouldn’t pretend there’s not a voice speaking to me in the back of my mind. Perhaps you know it too. Perhaps we all do, and perhaps that’s a big part of why we’ve allowed ourselves to be made so small.
Listen closely to that voice. Here’s what it says: