They live, they lie

Finding the better world in the here and now

They live, they lie

Spoiler alert - if you haven't seen the 80' film They Live I am using a good chunk of the plot of the beginning of the film as a metaphor for this article. I found it on Netflix a while back, it might still be around.

In the film the central protagonist finds a cache of sunglasses that let him see what lies behind the advertising and thrash of the society he lives in. It turns out we live in a shadow world controlled by unhuman beings who want to dominate and use us. These beings hide messages about consuming and conformity that the glasses let you see past.

The film is seen by some as being a commentary on modern capitalism and the way the spectacle is used to create needs we don't have to buy things we don't want so the system keeps on going. In fact, a lot of the time, fulfilling those needs often damages things we actually need in the wider world.

The central character, Nada, makes a friend called Frank and wants to get Frank to put on the glasses and see things as they truly are without the mass hypnotism. Frank doesn't want to and they have a fist fight over it. This is one of the most interesting bits of the film. I've seen a lot of things on Twitter and commentary on TV that really makes me think that practically everybody you meet is a Frank. Most of us know the world doesn't work the way it should, but understanding why and how isn't something we want to do, because thinking is hard and takes effort. You can also put yourself in a place where you are very uncomfortable.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with someone about his political awakening and he said he felt his friends and family acted like he had gone a bit mad. Well, yes, he had. If you start questioning the underpinnings of everything from why people strike to the proxy war in Ukraine and the ignored wars in Somalia and Yemen, not to mention the double think over what's happening in Palestine you will seem crazy. Changing your world view so that you no longer see things the way the consensus in the capitalist media tells you to, where you take the few facts they actually impart and see a different story of greed, theft and mayhem hidden behind the self justification or outright silence does make you seem crazy.

I watched some film years ago about the period when the UK went to the IMF for funds, way back (if I recall) in the mid 70s. The government sat down with the Trades Union Council and they agreed not to ask for pay rises and control unrest while the country sorted its balance out and repaid the loan. Everybody accepted that people overtaken by prices should just have less spending power while the bosses preserved and increased their profits. Ostensibly to pay off a loan to the government.

Can you imagine that happening now? Can you imagine a modern government even bothering to talk to the unions and getting them to agree? The restraint is never demanded of our owners, but of us. Back then, however, there was this nationalist consensus, backed by a lot of overt racism and unions would agree. When Thatcher came to power it was the beginning of a fundamental change. She said that there was no longer going to be beer and sandwiches at the centre of power while things were discussed with the trades union leaders.

There is a whole interesting and sad history about how the social changes were underpinned by a strike, but the strike was the capitalists refusing to invest in national economies any more because the rules had changed and the reregulation (of course it was called deregulation) of the way the stock markets worked meant that they could move their money wherever profit was best. This left the national trades unions in what we now call the global north with no battle to fight, their former antagonists had left the field. This capital strike was the engine of the deindustrialisation and neglect which has plagued the poorer parts of Europe and the USA ever since.

This article isn't going to cover this any further, however. Its purpose is to question some more modern trends in politics, coming right up to now.

The comfort blanket

We have questioned the received opinion of how society runs and looked at how it can make people look askance at you once you realise the surface promises made by our owners and their willing apologists are usually self-serving trash and not in our interests.

There is an odd phenomenon, though, where you find yourself thinking someone is reasonable most of the time and then discover they are saying things that are at best questionable. For one example, let's look at what the Brexit commentator Femi Oluwole has said about proportional representation:

His position is that the unpurged part of the Labour left should unite with the new leadership because both appear to want PR. The people criticising Starmer's loyal poodles are being called Tory enablers by others as well. The thing is, Starmer hasn't kept a single pledge he made when he was elected, his inability to support working class people is becoming more obvious by the day, he made promises about keeping things like re-nationalisation of the Railways from the previous Labour manifesto that he has broken (and not given any real reason why either). His poodle Rachel Reeves has also said that Labour is not for people on benefits, angering disabled activists, who finally won some dignity in the Blair years when things were funded properly to have it snatched away by the Tories, and there will be no let up from the latest incarnation of the Labour party if Reeves is to be believed.

This is the thing. On the surface, there is some semblance of common ground that would make a big difference to politics in this country. But every time these conservative donkeys in a faux left of centre suits are challenged they quietly drop whatever policy there is that might embarrass them in the billionaire-owned tory press and make things better for working class people. They've walked backwards from every policy or position, why does Oluwole think that this would be any different? Reeves demonstrates the true intentions - more of the same, but with a less obviously psychotic twist. Who cares?

Centrists, so called, they lie, they have lied, they keep on lying. They are every bit as bad as Johnson, and like him they don't even pretend. They just act like whatever their current anodyne position is is what they always said. Their position is not to have a position in case it offends someone who would probably never vote for them anyway. It's feeble, it's risible, it's desperately sad.

The other amusing thing is Oluwole talks about allying with the Liberal Democrats (LD). Starmer has already ruled out partnering with them, and with the Scottish Nationalists, and with a long list of vaguely progressive parties. In fact, the only party he hasn't ruled out is the Tories, which is quite telling when you think about it.

I could also point to the LD in office not delivering on any of their manifesto pledges but happily propping up Cameron's Austerity Tories in return for a few ministerial jobs and being taken slightly more seriously by the BBC. I don't know now what they stand for other than wanting to rejoin the EU. They're almost an anti-UKIP now with no other serious policies. They've become the people Tory voters can vote for while holding their noses, hardly a ringing endorsement. They helped the Tories start dismantling the NHS and have no shame over it. In power the LD ministers sounded like tories anyway. For example, just look at the farce around the privatisation of the Post Office.

Then we have James O'Brien, a pourer of vitriol on Tories and also consumed by an irrational hatred of Corbyn. His analysis of the Tory shambles government is sharp and on point, but he joined in with all the slander and nonsense regarding people who actually wanted to make things better. Repeating it without questioning it, which was odd for someone who does what he does for a living. He might have lost his job as the acceptable face of dissent if he had, though.

So here we have the comfort blanket - if you're willing to believe what some chancer has said, and forget rather what they have done, and quietly forget what they promised five minutes ago, you can construct a world that could be better without challenging the status quo. That's the rub. Conservatives are so-called because they don't want change, they then try to put things back that won't go back and we have the extreme disconnect with reality you hear from them. The small L liberals are the same, they are defenders of a more benevolent status quo, but nevertheless a status quo that has never existed, they too make up a past and yearn for it. Fundamentally this is lying to yourself and to others. In the case of the tories it's lying on an industrial scale so no-one can remember what actually happened any more, but the same is true of Starmer and the rose-tinted view you get if you spend time with LD supporters.

Johnson has a team of stooges working to bury the last nonsense he committed. For example when he toured the UK with that lying bus before the Brexit referendum plastered with wild claims about how much money Brexit would free up he later did an interview saying he liked to make models of buses and set them on fire, so when people searched for Johnson Bus they would see that bit of covering up high in the search results instead of his actual dishonesty. You find similar things happen when Israel does something bad or slanders someone - the reports of it being slander disappear after the news cycle ends but the slander often persists.

This is the problem. Oluwole and O'Brien believe what they last heard five minutes ago when the bitter experience of the rest of us makes us skeptical at the very least, and disbelieving most of the time. Forming some kind of alliance with people who lie all the time is pointless unless you have a way of forcing them to keep their word. Moral suasion does not work with people that don't have any morals. Even if you think you have a way of forcing them to at least pretend to be honest it doesn't mean they will do anything. If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything and your word means nothing.

Their defenders are unwilling to see the tissue thin veneer of the capitalist comfort blanket is rancid and cannot be saved. It would mean changing their world view and accepting that the capitalist status quo that gives them food and succour is poison for the majority. It would mean they would have to start working on creating the material conditions for change to happen (which means supporting working class people, their trades unions and calling the liars out) instead of seeing some vague similarities in policy claims and calling for unity with the real tory enablers. But they remain in character, as Frank, willing to go to battle with someone on allegedly the same side rather than seeing things as they are. For them, putting on the glasses that let them see clearly is too painful.

I haven't even mentioned how the Forde report now makes it impossible to work with the so-called centrists, have I?

A Better World

A feature of the coming summer of strikes and fighting for decent conditions is the media concentrating on how individuals are inconvenienced. This is the quotidian individualistic me, me, me view from our new made Thatcherite no such thing as society world. The idea that people can work collectively against the forces that seek to impoverish and break them is alien to this way of looking at how we live. The idea that this is not only acceptable but justifiable is incomprehensible. In fact Thatcher's original quote, that said society is made up of all sorts of groupings and bonds between people in fact contradicts itself when you look more carefully at it.

Instead we need to realise the call should be we, we, we in the sense that we can do nothing as individuals. This is where the reality of capitalist power really bites - the 0.1%  control billions of dollars and all of the resources that go with it. Their decisions can make a real difference to how the rest of us are forced to live all across the world. The pollution, the plundering of resources, the rigged markets that fill their pockets, etm., are not under our control. The key, the audacity, is that they do this with our permission and the support of their state. All of the false hopes that the Femi Oluwole and James O'Brien's of this world cling to are little more than the dust from the 0.1%'s coats. They have no substance to them and can be taken away because no-one can stop it happening.

This is why we have the mad-seeming spending of millions by the likes of Starbucks and Amazon to prevent them unionising, why they spend millions on deceptive propaganda to fix elections and introduce policies that make it hard for the socially disadvantaged to vote. On paper at least, powerful enough demands from the 99.9% need to be acted upon and listened to, it's not that long ago they were forced to buy us off with things like the NHS and other social democratic reforms across the global North. They were terrified of us once, now they have forgotten what we can do. We, we, we stops them doing what the hell they want to the rest of us and we need to recover and act on that memory. The 0.1% can't have this; they can't have people like us stopping them destroying the environment so they can make another few bucks while it burns. The days of gentle compromise like the 1970's are gone, the billionaires can't stand any challenge to their control.

We in the UK live in a country governed by a small cabal of privately educated, interchangeable, talentless robot clones who only got 42% of the vote but have a thumping majority in Parliament because we don't live in a democracy. These clones serve the narrow interests of the 0.1% and nobody else. They have pushed out policies that have killed, hurt, damaged and robbed the majority with ruthless efficiency. You cannot appeal to them to be nicer or more caring, because they won't understand you. Everything they do is perfectly in line with their class role.

The problem is, replacing them with an equivalent bunch of wannabe capitalist robot clones is a waste of time. All we will get is more of the same with different bunting and condescension instead of incomprehension. So what?

Change is coming. People are striking, standing up against being further impoverished. People are organising outside the constraints of the old political forms that haven't served them well for over a generation. People are realising they can be heard if they take one voice and turn it into many. Overcoming the isolate and destroy playbook is the key.

Earlier we said the capitalists took their funds and went on strike, leaving the old working class with nothing to fight against. We need to take the battle to wherever they have run to, supporting unionisation and democratisation wherever we can. We need to remember who we are and what we can do, and then do it.