As Britain continues to be in the grip of uncertainty that is known as ‘delivering Brexit’, the future seems to be a bit of an unknown. Except for one ‘certainty’ that the ruling conservatives keep parroting — the mantra that destabilising them risks the UK ending up with a ‘Marxist’ government.
This is of course a scaremongering reference to the danger of having old school leftist leaders like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell at the helm of the country’s affairs. The party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who took an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist stance all through his career, is perceived as a deeply dangerous person and has been often labelled by various right wing (now mainstream) commentators as a Trotsky-ite or Marxist or pro-Russian or pro-Palestinian politician.
In this sort of narrative he and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell are referred to in terms of being agents of totalitarianism and enemies of western democracy. The possibility of the current Labour leadership winning an election is hence always referred to as a ‘catastrophic’ possibility, which would deliver Britain to the dark forces of socialism…
A typical example of this is a piece in the Sunday Telegraph last week by the conservative MP Alan Holloway who spoke of what the Conservatives need to do to “prevent Britain falling to a Marxist government.” Britain ‘falling’ to the Marxists makes the situation sound like the country was being defeated by orces of tyranny and darkness led by Darth Vader, as opposed to a change involving people voting in the Labour Party.
This demonisation of socialism and socialist thought has been on the rise for several years now, not just in Europe but all over the world. The talk of state utilities and control is only discussed in terms of inefficiency or wastefulness, never in terms of their rationale or ethos. In Britain the past two governments have over the years been chipping away at and undermining public services such as the National Health Service (NHS), so that now they have been much weakened and eroded. Former Labour chancellor and prime minister Gordon Brown recently spoke about how the various measures he had introduced with the specific aim of ending child poverty had now been undone and abject child poverty again looms large as a real possibility.
Why would one choose to return to such a national situation of Dickensian proportions? Is it because of ‘economic inefficiency’ or merely because of capitalist greed? Is it because the idea of social justice is incomprehensible to most people and they prefer instead to live in deeply divided societies where income disparity and injustice (on an almost pre-French revolution scale) prevails?
Whatever the reasons, for some reason, socialism is painted by the mainstream media as an evil. I will always remember what an elderly white couple protesting against Obama’s healthcare reforms told TV news: with great indignation they exclaimed “We don’t want this. We’re not Socialists!” (The word spit out like an abuse).
Leaders like Corbyn and Bernie Sanders (despite their own age) connected with the younger generation because of their commitment to egalitarian social policy. Yet the media narrative continues to demonise so-called socialists and delights in the defeat of leaders like Lula or Bachelet.
Despite the mainstream narrative, some people are still working towards the goal of tackling social inequality and building more united societies. Recently, a group of progressive Europeans led by the French economist Thomas Piketty drew up such a blueprint for a ‘fairer Europe’, so the discussion continues as far as alternatives to capitalism are concerned. This blueprint suggests taxing multinationals, millionaires and carbon emissions heavily in order to generate funds to tackle the most urgent issues of society. This is not a particularly corporation friendly approach but it does claim to be more positive and fairer socially.
Whatever the intellectuals may outline, electorally, socialist thought has taken a huge hit in this age of greed and propaganda. What is particularly ironic though is that despite the revival of this sort of Cold War ‘socialism phobia’, the politicians with Russia links in recent scandals have all been pro-business and right wing. Nevertheless, the label still sticks to the socialists.