Is it possible for two seemingly opposite positions to both be true and at the very same time? Yes it is. Given that ‘truth’ invariably has a huge dollop of subjectivity wrapped up in it, it is entirely plausible that two opposing positions, contradictory as they may be, both contain at least sizable chunks of truth. But before we get carried away, let’s be crystal clear about this ‘truth’ business. Some propositions are definitively true while others are definitively false. The dinosaurs, for example, existed some sixty million years before the evolution of the biped, and those that have argued, and those that continue to argue that dinosaurs and man roamed the earth together are simply wrong. No debate, no ambiguity, no partial meeting of minds. Similarly, Copernicus and Galileo were absolutely correct about the place of the Earth in relation to the solar system, and the Catholic Church, which bitterly opposed these two great thinkers, was absolutely wrong. Ditto for those that argued a ‘flat Earth’ position and those that courageously disputed it. So we have learnt through the scientific age that certain propositions can be proved true or false through rigorous and repeated testing. While always retaining an element of scientific scepticism, we have forged our modern world on the basis of such scientific rigor. All opinions are not equal. Some are demonstrably correct and others are patently false. But when it comes to political ‘truths’ things get a bit messy.

Russell Brand argues that voting in the Westminster set up is a complete waste of time. He claims you can put a cigarette paper between the main political parties. They all support the rotten capitalist system and voting only serves to entrench that system. Johnny Rotten, former front man of the 1970’s punk band, The Sex Pistols, reckons that position is bollocks. For him, universal franchise was a bitterly fought and hard won right and should not be squandered. Yes, the main parties all subscribe to the  capitalist ‘free-market’ farce, but our job is to show class solidarity and vote for the least worse option. To do otherwise is to allow the worst option to perpetually rule. So who the hell is right – Johnny Rotten or Russell Brand? Call me, ‘Mr have it both ways’ but for me there is substantial truth in both positions. Allow me to elaborate.

There is no doubt in my mind that we live under a dictatorship – the dictatorship of capital. Our elected politicians, even supposedly powerful ones like Barrack Obama, have little or no power in the face of corporate demands and their back-room machinations. So called ‘progressive’ or left leaning political parties tinker around the edges of capital, redistributing perhaps a half a per cent of national income down to the lower orders but the dictatorship of capital remains firmly in place no matter who we vote for. Empirically this is borne out by the facts. In Britain for example, under the thirteen years of the last Labour Government, the share of the national wealth held by the top one per cent not only held firm but actually increased. Ditto for the United States under Clinton and Obama. Well intentioned or otherwise, progressive politicians seem to be impotent. Global wealth keeps flowing remorselessly to the owners of capital. And the mealy mouthed Milibands of the world can’t do a thing to stop it.  It seems Russell Brand has a point. Voting is irrelevant. David Graeber, writing in the Guardian 30/5/14 and referring to the work of the French economist, Thomas Piketty. puts the matter succinctly enough;

‘Capitalism does not contain an inherent tendency to civilise itself. Left to its own devices, it can be expected to create rates of return on investment so much higher than overall rates of economic growth that the only  possible result will be to transfer more and more wealth into the hands of a hereditary elite of investors, to the comparative impoverishment of everybody else.’ 

But things are not quite as grim as they might seem. Yes we live under a dictatorship but one that flourishes most when it is hidden behind the cloak of popular support. When push comes to shove, capital is willing and prepared to jettison its democratic veneer and adopt openly dictatorial methods. We saw it only too clearly during the global crisis of capital in the 1930’s when Italy, Spain and Germany all adopted fascist methods of control and all pretence of democratic life was outlawed. Capital ruled with naked force. And there was no shortage of high level support for this fascist road in Britain, France and the USA as well.

But fascist dictatorship is not capital’s preferred option. It operates best under the guise of democracy. It would rather keep the tanks and the jackboots confined to barracks and out of public sight. Let them vote for tweedle dee or tweedle dum as long as we remain in control. Knowing all this to be true, the dispossessed and disenfranchised peoples of the world, in whatever country, and in whatever circumstances they find themselves in, should take whatever opportunities that present themselves to  enhance their position relative to that of capital. It may be a small economic advance like winning an increase in the minimum wage. It may be a marginal improvement in the national tax regime. Or it may be a political gain such as the introduction of proportional representation or an expansion of the voting franchise.  Or it might be of a social nature such as the decriminalisation of homosexuality or a small improvement in working conditions for women. Taken singularly they may not seem much of an advance, but collectively they place the ninety nine percent in a more favourable position in the epoch defining battle with the private owners of capital. 

 In some respects it’s about perspective. If we never win any small victories then we can quickly become sullen and demoralised. But force a few social and economic gains, however seemingly insignificant, and the appetite grows for more. In this sense, Johnny Rotten’s position is dead right. Just imagine that the Green Party’s European vote surged from ten per cent to twenty per cent. That would create a huge wave of optimism that small chunks of the economy and the environment could be wrestled out of the hands of private capital. Perhaps the renationalisation of the railways or the increase of subsidies for renewable power sources. Relatively small victories I agree, but valuable ones nevertheless.

So what conclusion should we draw? Simply that,’ vote or don’t vote’ is not the real question. The real choice is to be politically active or politically inert. To be active involves above all a sharpened political consciousness. The resultant political activity can be anywhere on a wide spectrum; environmental, social, union or party political. Either way it will quickly bring you face to face with the blunt and brutal workings of capital’s sometimes hidden, sometimes open dictatorship. A single issue campaign, a decision to become active in a trade union, a commitment to a progressive political party. It doesn’t really matter what one does, it’s the political consciousness that counts. And yes, there can be and likely will be sharp contradictions between  various progressive political activities but these will inevitably get resolved over time.

 The dictatorship of capital is as irrefutable a fact as is the evolution of man from ape. Some will still try to refute it but such people tend to have a deep vested interest in the status quo. But facts are stubborn things. And the facts keep pointing in a certain direction. The owners of capital are getting richer and the gap between the owners of capital and those that create that capital is getting ever larger. The Bank of England is now forced to admit this. The IMF and World Bank are now openly saying so. As for Russell Brand and Johnny Rotten, I suspect that both men know this truth and both men should be applauded for their recent political interventions. In their own way, though seemingly at odds with each other’s position, they are both absolutely right.

End JPK Copyright. 21/10/14

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 October 2014 14:49 )