Can anyone reasonably argue for capital at this juncture? This question hangs in my mind as we stand on the brink of what is widely described as an economic “reckoning”, and as the demands of the financial markets actively abandon any pretence of resembling the real world.
The great lie is that moderation and triangulation is pragmatism, the more realistic option posed against the wild and dangerous radicalism of totemic opposition, when its pathological attachment to fantasy is the most acute and the most morbid. At a moment when the conservative party is sending forth their most accomplished actors to tell a tale of glorious rebuilding efforts and an optimistic striking forward into a golden future, is this really the time to turn around and say no, you can’t have nice things, and we won’t fight for them? Of course it goes without saying that “build back better” “bounce forward” et al shouldn’t be taken remotely at face value, and are effectively Boris Johnson mustering his last vestiges of elan to scrape back the lost romance of victory, and that the Labour party’s retreat from political opposition in any meaningful sense is simply an attempt, however misguided, at bagging an imagined socially conservative flag-worshipping working class, but it doesn’t make it any less galling that at such a time, when we don’t just want but need a radical opposition to capital, it disappears from view.
I say this because the fantasy of the centre is that we can proceed for some indefinite amount of time, in theory infinitely, with some minor tinkering, maybe some nice words slapped on top. This is a concoction of almighty proportions, it may as well be claiming that the streets of London are paved with gold, such is its faith in the complete lie. The reasoning that lies behind this approach is wheeled out often, and it goes something like this – 1. To change anything we need to win elections, and so [this second part remains unspoken] 2. To win elections we need to change nothing. Whatever you think of Tony Blair, it is said, at least he won elections, as if this is some kind of inherent virtue, as if to do so he didn’t simply roll back any last hint of leftist politics and submit to the continuation and exacerbation of Thatcherite economics. Yes, he was an accomplished politician, but what did this give us? For every positive social reform attributed to new labour is the nullification of their reactionary-baiting and economic conservatism. Blairism may have ridden a wave of stability and contentment to some degree, but its legacy casts a deathly pall.
But the circular reasoning continues. The liberal obsessions with electability and respectability blossom into the kind of sanctimonious, preachy bullshit the left has been constantly accused of [sometimes with due cause], before long the claims start coming out that leftists who refuse to vote in another conservative are supporting the conservatives, under the assumption that whatever their faults, surely anything has to be better. As a matter of fact it doesn’t, and we can’t afford to think this way. Arendt was wrong about a lot of things I’m sure, but that famous quote remains apt;
If you are confronted with two evils, the argument runs, it is your duty to opt for the lesser one, whereas it is irresponsible to refuse to choose altogether. Its weakness has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget quickly that they chose evil.
This principle is quickly forgotten even by those who regularly use Arendt as an inspiration. In the context of the left, there is the constant temptation of capitulation; we start reasoning ourselves in knots, telling ourselves that we need to play the games of the enemy to win. It’s true that in some scenarios it is justified to support an option that isn’t necessarily wholesale radical change [for many Corbynism was in fact such an option], but there is a vector of triangulation which causes us to shift further and further into a fuzzy realm of non-belief until we forget what we stood for in the first place, and why we were fighting for it.