There’s something very worrying happening here. It’s in the language, in the kinds of terminology that is getting deployed to describe people. Under the carapace of a resurgent right-wing populism is a disaffection. An anger which is against the political establishment, against politics of all kinds, but with something more to it, too.
It is something I found when I began doing something, not unlike you, forty years ago. Interviewing people – using tape, which I never used again! – I found there was a disorientation in many working class communities. You see in the old division of labour there was something comprehensive. Everyone knew their place, every town made something… and people were not afraid to think and believe in themselves. That collective was more easily imagined and brought to mind…. me and my class. Our future. But I found, even, what is it… forty years ago! That the certainties of that structure were disappearing. And I was accused of romanticism, of nostalgia… but Labour, the Left, never recovered, they lost that demographic. In some ways they’ve lived on borrowed time. Many communities have lost something, a certainty, a way of life, yes, that they never recovered. And in moments like this there are dark energies, globally even, allowing this uncertainty to be vented out with the most hideous of consequences, absolutely hideous.
You must remember that there’s been a kind of double expropriation of politics. There is one of language, wherein terms have been taken and shaken and divested of their original meanings. Democracy, community, even what is happening with the EU… all these problems of sovereignty relate to TTIP, to the banks, but words and causes have become loosened and unlinked, and it has become popular to blame something entirely different. The EU is not responsible for their grievances. These are issues of tax avoidance by Google or British American Tobacco, of the UK being a kind of pirate state, a land of stolen loot, where nothing’s been made for a long time… But there has also been a gentrification of political language, particularly radical politics. A professionalisation, where one needs a Masters or PhD to participate and speak of class politics. I’m the son of [working class English industrial family], but I sound different don’t I? And you too, like you say… So when there is this reaction against all politics, against liberals, there’s something that should make people on the Left uncomfortable. It is a reaction against a loss of coherency. A disorientation in the old working class, who cannot think nor speak, in a certain way…
Sceptical? Yes… that’s my outlook, too. I’ve never been a party member. Well, I joined Labour again for Corbyn… and we have to believe he could succeed, because in that belief or lack thereof is a politics, one which the right-wing media is utilising very well. But as I’ve got older I’ve dreaded the antagonism that comes with having a fixed position. I can’t bear people who ask questions already knowing the answer. One loses that confidence, that sense of… animation? Maybe, that… ability to reach to generalisations, assert arguments with a sense of entitlement to being right. One loses that with age. How old are you? Well… I avoid the Internet now. So many just feel they can say the most horrible and unpleasant things to someone they feel no connection with. No. Perhaps it is time for me to stop. I don’t have the energy to rough through that any more. One’s world becomes more full of doubts. One sees that the world is no longer yours, no longer for you, and that maybe it’s time to pass the baton on.
But one must always bring energy. I do not believe in facetious hope, always calling on others to have faith. That doesn’t help, that can make the intolerable bearable. But I believe that one can have sincere doubts and still attempt to release energy. Do not ask me for my viewpoint. When you say you want to know what the answer is, I say it is in all of us, the community, getting together and deciding collectively. And that is possible.