“There are two flames that burn in the human heart, the flame of anger against injustice and the flame of hope that we can build a better world.” Chris Williamson
With news coming out of the mainstream and independent media, sounding alarm bells from all directions – when do we reach breaking point? As the political pendulum has swung to and fro in the last century and we find ourselves flung far from a promising future for the next generation, with doom and decay glaring at us everywhere, do we dare grasp for hope? Do ordinary people stand a chance at bucking the trend? This may sound a simplistic and generalised assertion, but one worth considering.
The Western European glory after the 2nd World War, followed by the onslaught of the Cold War; the unthawing of the Cold War and tumbling of the Berlin wall dividing Germany, freeing nations of oppressed people, was a flash-in-the-pan for hope. Yet, the war machine quickly accelerated east, as the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, further ravaged what the Soviets left behind and the U.S. invaded Iraq in the First Gulf War. If Berlin’s wall coming down on the cusp of the final decade of the 20th century, sounded a starting gun for a new beginning, it was quickly quashed and the uncertainty of the new millennium, increased the pace of decline.
After 9/11 in the U.S. and the culture wars ensuing from invading Afghanistan and Iraq for a second time, the world has become darker and darker in the last 30 years. However, the coming of the internet and self-education of ordinary citizens, has been our biggest defence. Yet, the gleam of neo-liberalism, capitalism, and steely resilience of a millionaire class, the now infamous 1% has steadily gathered strength – with divide-and-rule, the order of the day. Multiple missed opportunities for stability, makes peace a distant mythical fantasy.
One of the most crushing missed opportunities of recent times, was the 2017 general election in the UK, where Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party gained significantly – narrowing the tory party’s grip on parliament, to a wafer-thin majority. Any democratically elected government has opposition, but Labour has a long-standing tradition of factionalism, as internal rivalries have jeopardised its sustained path to power. It is now widely known by political observers, how Corbyn was railroaded by several coups as party leader, from within Labour itself.
With the electing of a right-wing leader of Labour and purge of left-wing members, post-holders or MPs, the left has been marginalised inside and outside of Labour. Typically working-class, poorer, or disenfranchised, a backlash of resistance has mushroomed in answer to the current trend toward corporation before community, profit before people and planet – as the slogan goes…
There is a tug-of-war between people, non-state actors and governments worldwide. This millennium alone, from the anti-Iraq war protests; pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong; the Arab Spring to anti-austerity protests in the west – descent has been seismic.
The Festival of Resistance convened at a conference recently on 16th and 17th October in Nottingham. Speakers and breakout sessions highlighted and debated issues facing working-class people, resisting the corporate media, NHS privatisation and so on. The aim was to decide on becoming a new people’s party from just a movement – the overwhelming feeling and vote favoured becoming just that.
“People/workers everywhere have allowed labour parties to be taken over by capitalists and neo-liberalism, so they are no longer representative of the working-classes or marginalised.” Said Bill Mitchell, a top economist speaking via video link from Australia. For a flipside perspective, when contacted, Conservative MP for East Devon, Simon Jupp, was unavailable, but not unwilling to be interviewed.
During the conference, there was an urgency to reclaim determination to ‘fight back.’ Huda Ammori, a Palestinian Iraqi, said of the fight against attacks on her family and political stance: “Nothing scared me more than doing nothing.“
Chris Williamson, former Labour party MP for Derby North, had lots to say on Labour’s lurch to the right: “I wish Jeremy Corbyn would recognise the Labour party is a dead dog and will never be able to deliver socialism – it will not do it, it’s no longer a vehicle for that purpose.“
A core component of the multiple hurdles faced by ordinary folk, is democracy itself. Williamson emphasised how the system of proportional representation is broken. Speaking of apathy, he said: “I understand that cynicism – representative democracy doesn’t work. The representatives that we have in parliament, the reps we have in town halls, do not represent the interests of people. They represent oligarchs, corporate capitalism, big pharma, big tech.” He stressed the need for heightened expectations and questioning situations people find themselves in. For example, when he was leader of Derby Council, marginalised communities were encouraged to ‘have their say’ in how and where resources were deployed. A more grassroots participatory system is crucial for change. He couldn’t say enough on the need for collective endeavour, political education, or the imparting of right versus wrong, instead of right versus left. He cited the 2017 elections and how UKIP voters were won over by Corbyn’s common sense manifesto, ‘For the Many Not the Few’ –having nothing to do with political divides.
Despite Corbyn’s continued support, resistance to the noose closing in on societies worldwide, simply cannot wait. People still ask, how will such a beacon of hope for leadership be replaced, but people must stop looking to heroes and sheroes for guidance. Although Williamson spoke of the emergency climate crisis and mountains to climb before the tide begins to turn, as Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, with friends sang about in ’89, celebrating the fall of the wall. Quoting Tony Benn, Williamson said: “there are two flames that burn in the human heart, the flame of anger against injustice and the flame of hope that we can build a better world.”