This is our truth, tell us yours
As I write Donald Trump looks on course to become President.
Any American leftie worth their salt will recognize the quote in the title of this post.
I have no advice for my American friends. My advice is for the left in the UK. Don’t mourn, organize.
Even as I write I am sure any number of American chatterati are writing columns about how it was the FBI wot wun it for Trump.
If the Left in the UK thinks about that for more than a minute, they’re lost.
Don’t think about why the FBI intervened in an election in such a decisive way. James Elroy has got that market nailed down. Think about how anti-establishment narratives like Trump’s are built and propagated, and how it might fit that narrative for Hillary Clinto to have a private email server. Not so much ‘L’etat c’est moi’ as ‘The State Department is mine.’ How foolhardy do you have to be, to treat state correspondence as your private property, then wonder why people see it as evidence of an overweaning sense of entitlement. The undocumented morass that was Blair’s sofa government similarly looks, from a distance, like a place where privilege was more prized than effective public administration.What reeks of an unaccountable establishment more than Blair and Brown, in an Islington restaurant in the early 90s, carving up the Labour leadership between them? Never mind that they could not agree on a single policy idea or ideological fact, they made an old fashioned establishment deal, and, eventually, failed as establishments do, defeated by David Cameron, the embodiment of privilege dressed up as an anti-establishment candidate.
Hillary Clinton looks likely to fall to an anti-establishment candidate for one simple reason; to millions of Americans she is the establishment. Discussing why Hillary needed to be president after so long in the public eye, and so much success, is for biographers who’re not shy of sidewalk psychological diagnosis; for the left in the UK our task is to reflect on how privilege cloaked in anti establishment rhetoric holds up an unflattering mirror to the Blairs, Millibands and Kinnocks of our world, and exposes the shallowness of our own belief in meritocracy. I have no doubt Will Straw believed he was qualified to run the Remain campaign, but on the outside looking in,wondering why their degree and masters degree couldn’t get them a job, his appointment and incompetent performance of his duties was overwhelming evidence of the existence of an establishment that prizes networks over ability. Or to put it in the language of the Sun,that it’s who you know, not what you know.
For the left in the UK our task is to think about how anti-state parties secure the support of those for whom even a trade union recognition agreement or collective bargaining rights is seen as evidence of privilege. Ouraudience needs tobe the mass of unorganized workers whose reality is second class employment rights in the rest of the employment market, because that’s where anti establishment parties flourish. The modern day Grunwicks are places that never even see a trade union leaflet, never mind a picket line.
In the USA the reality of their version of democracy is that even the right to vote is contestable; anyone in the UK who sees that as alien or foreign needs to take a look at our shrinking electoral roll, and the reality that voter registration is no longer seen as a duty, but a privilege you take up if you want a mortgage or a mobile phone contract.
If the left wants to stop being beaten by anti establishment parties, the answer is simple. Stop acting like the establishment. The answer, quite simply, is don’t mourn, organize. Organize around pensions and sickness benefits for everyone. Organize around equal pay and employment rights. Organize around housing tenure and availability. Don’t defend, agitate. Ask why we have to spend the least of our GDP on public services ofany ofthe countriesin Europe.Ask how many council houses could be built with the money Teresa May has promised Nissan. Agitate. Argue. Not the Third Way, invented by Blair and incomprehensible to all and sundry, but the first way, the Labour way. Agitate, organize, defend the rights of everyone.
For the left, for the forseeable future, the message must be; don’t be the establishment. If that means MP’s kids have to get real jobs, in the real economy, so be it. If you’re an MP who’d rather your kids don’t have to do insecure, badly paid jobs in a febrile, disorganized employment market, don’t fix it for your kids to get an internship with your friend. Fix the employment market.
Don’t mourn. Organize.