Thursday, November 28, 2013

Politics - Then and Now

The last few days has seen traffic to this blog shoot up massively, attracted by my posts about Ara Balakrishnan and the Lambeth 'Slavery' case. These visitors have included members of the mainstream media, many of whom have been in touch and who I've spoken to. Some, like the reporter from the Independent have credited this blog directly, others, like the Huffington Post have been happy to take what I've offered and then used it without attribution. However, that's material for a future article, for today I want to just make a few things clear about my politics as it's clear to me that some people haven't looked at anything else on this site.

Back in the days when Balakrishnan and his group were active, that is in the mid to late 1970s, my politics were far Left. I was a teenage Marxist, from an immigrant working class background. The world was clear to me. I knew that I was on the side of history and that proletarian revolution was the only solution to the poverty, racism and violence around me. I was driven by a strong sense of injustice, that people like me were excluded from society, that we were poor and would remain so. It was also clear that class society was organised to preserve the status quo and that the country was run by a political class that did everything it could to keep us down. On the streets the National Front and British Movement were active neo-Nazi movements that were acting as tools of the ruling class, and that the police were there to defend them and to fight those of us who were anti-fascists. And these views, though they may seem extreme now, were not that uncommon. Brixton, and places like Brixton, were home to numerous far Left groups, and though they differed in degree, the views I've described were common across most groups, whether they described themselves as Communist, Maoist, Trotskyist or Anarchist. And it was all so black and white - the temper of the times would not admit shades of grey. And, to be fair, being a teenager makes it easy to be certain, dogmatic and intolerant of ambiguity.

That was then. Here I am more than thirty years later, and I still believe that society is run by a political class that is intolerant of dissent and divorced from the lives of most people. I still care about poverty and racism and the struggle for economic and political justice. Only now I think that the victims of racism are as likely to be, or even more likely to be, white and working class as they are to be black. I believe that multi-culturalism is a poisonous ideology that enshrines and fetishises difference whereas I had wanted to eliminate difference and to aim for a society that was truly colour-blind. Where I wanted race to become inconsequential, todays anti-racists elevate it to a guiding principle and turn victimhood into a virtue. I now believe that you fight poverty locally and globally by economic development - and that free trade and globalisation are the best means to acheive this - whereas now it is the establishment that hates development. I believe that the green agenda is shared by our political classes and what sadly now passes for 'the left'. Rather than aiming to pull people from poverty and exclusion by giving space for them to work and to grow their economy, we instead try and shoe-horn them into 'sustainable' paths that actually means they stay poor.

And finally, where I used to see the world as black and white, I now see that it's all grey. Maybe it's the wisdom that comes with experience, maybe it's the fact that I've deliberately decided to test my assumptions repeatedly over the years and have to tried to adopt a sceptical attitude in politics, science and life in general. And perhaps, finally, it's the fact that I was so closely involved with the far Left for a number of years which means that I can be so critical of where they are now - the mind-set is familiar to me in the way that it isn't for those who've not been there.

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