Raging against the Machine
Why is it all kicking off everywhere? Paul Mason asks this question in his recently updated eponymous book which charts the rise of radicalism and protest since the great unravelling started in 2007/08. It makes for a compelling read for anyone, anywhere, on the political spectrum to see how the State has proved unable or unwilling to try to fix the World’s economic problems and how capitalism, as we know and practice it in the West, may itself may be unfixable. The rise of the ‘networked’ individual has provided a new type of protestor, one that is more mobile, flexible and, most importantly perhaps, more informed than ever before. Mason sees the wave of protests from Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park as part of a continuum, with striking parallels to 1848 in terms of economic and social circumstances. The reportage is both depressing and positive; circumstances may be dire for millions of people but protest can achieve real, constructive and, in some circumstances, liberating change. We can’t know what the next few years will bring – will fascism grow, will the Euro collapse, will the State lose more relevance and where it is all going to end? Mason provides the reader with a comprehensive overview of what and who has been ‘kicking off’ and keeps a journalist’s eye on the ‘why’ too. An essential read – Paul Mason sees some hope for the future among all the despair of the austerity rack.
Labour Keeping Their Options Open
Nobody in the British Labour Party wants to go into coalition. Yet, as we all find out to our chagrin, we can’t have everything we want in life. The first two years of the current Conservative-Liberal Coalition has been marked by trench warfare against the minority coalition party by the main opposition one. There has never been any love lost between the Liberal and Labour parties, be it at national, and particularly at local level. Each accuses the other of being unprincipled, incompetent and not representing ‘ordinary working people’. The cleft between the ‘progressive’ parties was further emphasised when New Labour adopted many of the trappings of a security state as a response to Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism, while the Liberals (both traditional beard and sandal types and the newer, more economically right-wing ‘Orange Book’ Liberals) fell back on their tried and trusted civil libertarian path. But with the compromise of governing having blunted a lot of Nick Clegg’s moral and political authority and the Conservative Party welded to shrinking the size of the State, the notion of a Lib-Lab coalition is once more in play. Co-operation over the Leveson Report is just one indicator of how these two parties can find political ground of common interest. Labour should be blunting some of their fire that’s been heading towards the Liberal Democrats if they want to keep their options open after the next General Election. For Nick Clegg, is it too much for him to hope that he will still be Deputy Prime Minster in 2015, this time under a Miliband Premiership (and not David, the great hope of the Blairite Tendency)? And that is why politics is always the art of the possible.
A Transcendent Symbol
Life is short and we look for role-models. leaders and wise men and women to guide us through it. Occasionally, such an individual appears in the political sphere and one such individual is Nelson Mandela. Politics the game is about short to medium term gains – vision is a rare commodity among politicians – constantly looking for the quick fix within the parameters of conventional wisdom. Mandela has risen so far above the traditional political paradigm that he is now an international icon and a symbol of hope and inspiration around the World. The ‘health-watch’ of the last decade has served to re-enforce his status as symbol of national unity in South Africa, serving as a a quasi-spiritual leader in a country beset by chronic socio-economic problems since the end of apartheid. His eventual demise is feared so much because he stands as the representative of how life can be and how South Africans (Black and White) wish their country to become and not return to the despair of the past: fighting for justice, compromising when necessary but never losing sight of the ‘prize’ and compassionate in governing. Mandela is so transcendent that he is admired by big business CEOs and young revolutionaries alike – he is one of the few radicals that the privileged feel comfortable with, But it is as a symbol for the poor, the downtrodden and radical that he has the most power. Nelson Mandela will be missed when he goes as one of the few global leaders who kept their integrity and will be remembered as an inspirational figure of the 20th Century sans parallel. World leaders do pretend, Mandela rarely did.