Saturday, 26 March 2011
It is indeed terrible that so many are about to lose jobs and prospects. I know what is waiting to hit the university, where some of the best people in vital offices will be lost. The great rally today is understandable and natural, and the various scuffles at Fortnum & Mason, at Topman and the rest are nothing much. Perhaps the whole is a cry of pain and anger - anger chiefly at the crash itself and what brought it about - with the usual circus sideshows. It doesn't seem to me a coherent demand for anything particularly clear. Is the cry for no cuts at all? For different cuts? For slower cuts? The first makes a good slogan, but the issue is about the second and third which are not much as slogans. CUT A LITTLE LESS! is not very dramatic. CUT AT A SLOWER PACE! is no better. The big 'alternative' as proposed by Ed Milliband is a combination of the second two, but it is still awkward for him to be leading the charge on the barricades as it is less than a year that Labour were in government and it was under their watch, and with their policies, the crash happened.
I say 'them' meaning my party of choice. History is not to be wound backwards. We are not going to recover coalmines, steelworks, fisheries, shipyards and dockyards. The unionised workforce is very much reduced. No doubt railway workers and UNITE can still bring some services to a halt but the TUC has no great army of tanks to park on what Jim Callaghan once called his lawn.
Short of a revolution - and I thought things might just move in that direction with the collapse of the banks and the financial system but we seem to be past that - it has to be different. Banks collapsed but the financial system survives. The importance of the financial sector is beyond me to gauge but I don't imagine it is something that can be controlled at a purely national level.
I would like an honest Labour party that told us it will do the best thing possible in whatever conditions it had to operate in. If it has to operate within globalised constraints, let it form its policies according to the best humanitarian options available. Let it be unashamedly ameliorist. Let it worry less about presentation and hollow rhetoric than about the gradual shifting of the moral centre towards a more generous, egalitarian society, persuading us to it, so we don't just talk or shout but do it. That much is possible and honest. I think it can work. I think the people among whom I live understand that and could respond to it.
That policy won't yield much of a slogan either. Things can only get better has been done to death. But I don't care for slogans anyway. My prescription for a march would be a silent one whose only banners were those that indicated where particular groups came from. This is who we are. This is where we are. Get to the squares and stand there. Forget the speeches. The change starts with silence. And with our own willingness to be honest about what such a change would entail for us. Injustice must be fought from within our own silent pockets.