This is a new year and we all need to work harder. The economy is faltering and, although employment is expected to grow this year, millions will still be left jobless. Inflation may have fallen back, but there has been little growth in wages and many are still trapped in poverty. Essential government services and health care are still being chipped away at by the Tory party and their coalition partners. Now is not the time to be complacent. Now is the time for action.
All of the above is true but another more painful truth dawned on me recently. This is that the right is winning. They sit in government, they dominate our press and business community, their views form the basis of our political dialogue. In short, they are winning.
Many people believe that benefits are too high and that the unemployed are undeserving of help. Many feel that the NHS is wasteful and needs the incentives of private business to become efficient. It is often said that the government is too large and needs to be reined in, and that public sector spending is bad for the economy and should be cut. The subtle language of this is that the debt should be brought down regardless of whose backs the government’s cheque books are balanced on.
A lot of people who do not consider themselves to be political, or who consider themselves to have centrist opinions, actually use right wing rhetoric. This can be seen plainly in the debate of Britain’s continual membership of the EU. The right has walked into the dominant position in this debate because the left have let them.
The prevalence of right wing opinions does not simply extend to the economy. Many people believe that immigration is bad and is destroying our way of life, that political correctness is oppressive to our culture, that women deserve to be raped because of how they dress or behave, that the disabled are nothing but scroungers, and that the legalization of gay marriage would somehow undermine the millions of straight marriages across the country.
A lot of the dominance of right wing opinions comes from spinelessness of our left wing leadership. In the words of journalist Laurie Penny, “the Labour party still cannot find its ideology with both hands”. The TUC seems unable to find a means by which to oppose the government’s austerity program beyond politely marching from A to B, which will be completely ignored. Other left wing leaders stay silent in the face of right wing rhetoric from fear of being labelled as either Socialists or unrealistic dreamers.
I am not afraid of either of these labels. In fact, I wear them with pride. I do not think it is unreasonable to dream that we can be better off and live in a more equal society – and if the word for this is Socialist, then pass me the red flag. Now is not the time to be silently left leaning. Now is the time to be loud, angry and visible. Now is the time to tell the right that they cannot write off whole sections of society and that they cannot spread brutish ignorance and prejudice because it suits their political agenda.
There is hope. People are still willing to march and take demonstrations to knew heights. UK Uncut have performed high profile demonstrations that have hit tax-dodging businesses where it really hurts, in their wallets. Ordinary people have turned out huge numbers to oppose EDL marches across the country and successfully drowned out the racist street movement. People still scream in the streets and on the internet about how unjust a society we are becoming – have a read of this passionate argument for protecting the dignity of the disabled. The Everyday Sexism project publicly catalogues the abuse women face on a daily basis so that it cannot be ignored.
The right have always been good at dividing us, but together, with our heads held high and hope in our hearts, we are stronger than they are. The belief that we are all deserving, that we should all be equal and entitled to a decent standard of living, will win out over the idea of coldly tipping of the scales of society in the favour of the rich and privileged.
This is why I am redoubling my efforts this year and retasking my blog to focus more specifically on the left as a movement and what we can do to become stronger, better organised and more visible. I shall celebrate our successes and lament in our failures, but always remain watchful of the needs of a movement as diverse as ours.
We have to be better. We have to start winning. I am become very frightened of what we are becoming as a society – less sympathetic, less tolerant, less equal. The right might intend to drag us into a dark world where your birth determines your lot in life. Where being a rich, white, straight man is glorious and those people look down on others who are unlucky enough to be anything else. A world where money is the only thing that matters and society is bent to serve those who have wealth.
They are winning and we are slowly falling into darkness. But together we can change all of this, and it starts today.