New Year Party
Unusually for an article in this magazine we are going to begin by consulting a god, Janus being the deity in question. Having the supernatural capacity to look backwards and forwards at the same moment he seems a worthy informant.
Actually, it does not require omniscience or 20/20 hindsight to see that 2023 was not a great year for humanity. Most recently an armed group of self-styled martyrs and freedom fighters demonstrated their military prowess by storming a pop festival and randomly killing teenagers before moving on to kill and kidnap across a wide area.
This provoked regressive nationalist ideologues into their brutal response, a protracted arbitrary slaughter of children, and civilians in general. In the insane gamble of war, atrocity is all too often matched and raised by greater atrocity.
In Britain this moved political leaders of the main parliamentary parties to declare their unwavering support for this ‘self-defence’. Does this mean that if you’re assaulted by your neighbour it’s legitimate for you to burn his house down with his family in it?
Meanwhile young, and perhaps not so young, Ukrainians and Russians continued to kill each other on behalf of their respective capitalisms. NATO countries seemingly have whole orchards of money trees allowing them lavish expenditure on the arms industry to continually supply weaponry freely to Ukraine.
Although the money trees of the USA are seemingly becoming less abundant as politicians of one wing of capitalist government refuse to endorse further funding. This is driven by the search for populist appeal in the forthcoming presidential election. Firm, unwavering support is suddenly trumped (forgive the pun) by pragmatic expediency.
In Britain also there seems to be rather less cash available from the fiscal orchard for growing numbers of families struggling with serious poverty, amassing rent/mortgage arrears along with other debts, becoming dependent on food banks even as actual banks continue to profit massively.
Similarly, the NHS is severely restricted from using technology that could prevent so many premature deaths and cure conditions or, at least, alleviate suffering caused by treatable ailments. With such advances being increasingly expensive in a profit-driven world, cost-effectiveness not diagnosis becomes the deciding cynical, clinical factor.
Climate change continues to demand attention. Wild fires flare, there’s drought and flood, storms rage as never before and the death toll rises. There seems no sense of irony amongst national leaders who fly around the world to attend climate change conferences. And it turns out many of the delegates are actually representatives of fossil fuel industries.
Through the natural instinct for self-preservation, people, individually or as families, flee from hot spots of war, extreme poverty and environmental degradation. At this point, of course, they stop being people and become migrants.
Migrants are subdivided into legal and illegal. Legal migrants can be just about tolerated as long as they accept being cheap labour doing jobs few others are willing to do for such poor wages. Illegal migrants though are anathema.
Underlying all this misery is capitalism that went its merry way unhindered, other than by its own contradictions, throughout yet another year. For a system now long since past its sell-by date, it persists despite the stench of its rottenness, but only because the great majority of world’s population, the workers who create the wealth, have yet to choose to dispense with it.
Our consultation with Janus as to forthcoming prospects is not encouraging. Looking forwards it doesn’t take a futurologist to foresee that radical change does not appear likely, at least in the short term.
There will be a general election which could be at least an indicator of an upsurge of enthusiasm for and interest in breaking with the established political pattern. The problem is there will be no clear way for such a change of consciousness to be clearly marked.
A significant vote for the few Socialist Party candidates would be a start. Mass spoiling of ballot papers, just writing ‘Socialism’ or ‘SPGB’ across them, would be a positive act, rather than just not voting which could suggest apathy rather than engagement.
It is often argued, correctly, that the right to vote is valuable and many people in the past suffered and fought for it, therefore it should be used. Indeed it should, but simply voting for one of the main parties, or one of their left/right-wing outliers, is truly wasting the vote as nothing will fundamentally change.
If you really consider your vote to be valuable then seriously consider to whom you will entrust it. How can it become the means to bring about significant and profound change? Capitalism lies at the root of the all the misery outlined above as experienced throughout 2023.
The alternative is a worldwide democratic commonwealth in which production is to meet everyone’s needs, not a small minority’s profit. A society without national borders and armies to defend or attack them. A world that can face up to climate change unencumbered by the need to continually produce commodities for sale.
Politics will no longer be split into rival factions of left and right. Despite the postures of many groups, sects and parties who misappropriate the word, socialism is not a left- wing cause. The left/right split is very much part of the politics of capitalism, originating in the national assembly of the late eighteenth-century French Revolution.
Socialists intend society to move beyond such notions as divide people, rather hoping to unite them in common cause to take control, and thereby improve, their economic, political and social prospects.
The New Year Party is the one that presently stands up and holds out for this change, this revolution including via the ballot box, understanding that it cannot be achieved through compromise. It is clear that people must develop the means to bring this about because no party can do it for them.
No small task to be sure. It will require a New Year resolution of the majority to actively work towards the realisation of socialism. Will it be this year? Next year? Sometime? Never? That depends entirely on what people decide. True democracy.
Or is Janus doomed to find his double vision blurred by tears shed for the suffering of the world at every turn of the year in perpetuity?