These are dark days.
Last night the troubling groundswell that fuels all populist movements was in plain sight on the terraces of the Bulgarian national stadium.
Priti Patel meanwhile is setting up entrapment centres for vulnerable homeless Europeans and is likely to set aside her supposed principles to back Johnson’s versions of May’s Brexit so she can hold on to the home oﬃce keys. May and Cameron have been found out for lobbying in Bahrian for petrochemical ﬁrm bosses who happen to be Tory funders, conﬁrming they will sacriﬁce all our futures for power. (Yes, profit goes to the firm’s boss, but for the politician the aim is power.) The Johnson leadership dismisses balanced budgets, the screams from most of British capitalism against Brexit, and all our futures in the face of the climate emergency, in an attempt to whip up a storm that will consolidate his power. In the Middle East Putin, Assad and Erdoğan scrap over power in the region at the price of further death, displacement and misery for Syrians and Kurds.
Most of these power players have their useful idiots who claim to be on the progressive side. They all share a hatred for ‘liberals’. Putin and Assad apologists, lexit and ‘blue Labour’ fans of working class racism; all take their aim at liberals first, as if Trump and Farage would go away if only some people would stop suggesting solidarity with democrats or wanting their kids to go on an Erasmus programme.
Of course many in the world have seen or are seeing even darker days than these. They share an experience of power that cannot be explained with the tools of marxist political economy. From Stalin and Hitler and Mao to Moduro and Assad and Mugabe it should have become clear that power is not simply the working of the unseen hand of capitalism; it is an end in itself. It should also be clear – to put it mildly – that we should beware of left populists baring gifts. To be blunt, political programmes that are devoid of addressing democratic deficits are poisonous.
Where are the chinks of light?
Extinction Rebellion is changing the conversation on the Climate Emergency in a way that no political party has been able or – in most cases – willing to do. Anyone can take part, and some surprising people actually do. Their central demands are ‘Tell the Truth’ and – through citizens assemblies – enable people (without a ‘the’ or a capital p) to make informed decisions through citizens assemblies.
Portugal is making some headway with a coalition that holds the Socialists’ feet to the fire. As Eunice Goes argues, the ‘secret recipe’ includes common achievable goals and ‘dialogue and more dialogue’.
Michael Chessum of Another Europe is Possible argued last week at our Conference that the Green Party was an essential ingredient in pushing Labour towards supporting a confirmatory referendum.
For Revolutionary Pluralism
Of course, we need policies for mitigating the climate emergency and for addressing inequality and poverty. I will be doing my bit as a Green Party candidate in the forthcoming election to argue for, amongst other things, a basic income for all (now fully costed), a carbon tax and a four-day week. But we must make doing something about power central to a progressive project. We must recognise that winner-takes-all systems are dangerous. And just saying you are ‘for the many, not the few’ is no guarantee that, when it comes to power, you actually mean it.
Fair votes, written constitutions, regional layers of government, committee systems for councils… international structures built on democratic foundations capable of challenging power: these things do not make for a sexy manifesto, but without them we are probably lost.