… and the unions weren’t in it.

James Martin Europe, Greece, UK,

These polls, coming over here predicting our future, getting it all wrong. If only they were right for the UK election.

Whether you were one of the drones watching ‘Britain’s got the X-Factor in the jungle’ or if you were a BBC Parliament, RT Political, Prime Minister’s Questions fiend like me, this last month our friend History took a giant selfie – stick pic too. This last month has seen LGBT rights advance from the Neolithic in the USA and amongst many other things, Greece reaffirm its heritage as the birthplace of democracy. The future of democracy truly hangs in the balance, why?

Wednesday 8th July could be one of the most memorable dates in the post-democratic era. No I’m not being pessimistic when I say ‘post-democratic’, you know me by now, I’m a realist. I will give you an example. I’ve been out this evening with a few mates, one works in insurance (no it wasn’t Jones, if you get the reference let me know) and the other an accountant, who regularly spars with me in astronomy and economics. Tonight was not my night. It started off all right; a discussion of the New Horizons probe to Pluto, history took another selfie. Matters descended in to the situation in Greece. A young Marxist like me, as opposed to Bruce Willis, got consensus – surprisingly, that the situation in Greece was the common fault of the cartel of the Wonga-banks, you may know them as the ‘troika’. We then moved on to the forthcoming events of Wednesday July 8th. A budget and a EU decision on TTIP.

In my view, TTIP is one of the biggest threats to democracy since WWII. When I shared the leak to my trade union on June 3rd of the TISA clauses in modern free trade agreements, the response was null. Having lost an election, my movement is for the first time since the 1910s in a state of uncertainty. What to do? How to combat TTIP? For me TTIP highlighted the lengths that corporations would go to secure profit above all else. From the wholesale privatisation of space exploration to the means testing of disability entitlements, TTIP and right wing governments see the mantra of ‘business knows best’ as the best argument to win over an apathetic populous. Its enabler, this free trade agreement.

I have to address an elephant in the room. We have a problem in our movement in combatting the simplistic mantra of the right wing just now. The wholesale privatisation of state assets, extended now to even the ‘untouchable’ Nordic countries where state control of pensions and welfare is under direct assault from neo-liberal forces. Our problem is that we are presenting our case for our class struggle and workers’ rights as if we wish to return to a 1970s arrangement. When I said that history took a selfie, our movement could at least post this on social media, the very least an email.

Then Greece came along. Hope. There has been an underlying frustration across Europe, right wing governments installed with ever decreasing vote shares, 24% in the UK, the left unsure of how to react, almost cheated from government. In the UK, after the devastating victory of the UK Conservative party, unions and the left have looked inwards, solidifying existing power structures. Not in Greece. It took a while before I found history taking a similar selfie to the one it took in Greece Monday, no it wasn’t of Greece at the London conference in 1953 when it cancelled half of Germany’s debt, it was however the 6th century Greek society that gave birth to democracy.

I have spoken about TTIP, and could do for much longer than an article, it will remove democratic rights and I have felt myself – as others have across Europe and beyond – alone. I suddenly found a left wing government restoring that very democratic tradition to its country of origin. Greece voted 61.13% against a banking cartel that has oppressed (unelected) leaders and even appointed premiers to a country with a view to maximise profits to banks.

OXI

My ‘post-democratic’ attitude changed on hearing the Greek referendum. From a sea of plutocratic forces, I saw a siren beckoning me – no rocks this time. The siren was the equivalent for me of that old superstition in England that should you bang Francis Drake’s drum (no innuendo), he will ‘return to rescue the country from peril’. It was the Greece flame that the hopelessness of another right wing government became one of hope for me. Hope that a nation, the people, had stood up to defend their hard fought gains. Could you imagine Britain getting off its fat arse to defend its rights, to think of internationalism instead of the armchair-Jeremy Kyle racists? My hope on the other hand is that Greece is contagious, a contagion that ‘Jones’ would be proud of, after all she ‘is in insurance’. Contagion for me, on the other hand pollsters got it wrong again – Ah to be a government shill!

So what do we do in the UK? For a start, Syriza has inspired Greece and some of the European population in terms of hope. Hope is the ability to inspire people that things can be better than today. UK Unions must look to their members for survival, rejecting the neo-unitarist idea that that we share a common purpose with the bosses, to deliver a vision of hope. It may not be tomorrow, but the people are coming and I’m with them.

Our movement can stick to fax machines, form filling and bureaucracy if we want to, but history took that picture, it’s the curved-corner slightly sepia looking one we look at when reminiscing over the ‘good old days’. The people of the UK are looking to some kind of alternative austerity, just look at the alternative vote share at the 2015 election! That said the alternative and left party are crying for some kind of leadership. History took a selfie and I’m afraid we are not in it. History took a selfie in the US and saw marijuana legalisation and marriage equality and nearly passed out with shock. In Greece it took one and saw absolutes in terms of crises, yet a people defiant of exploitation by bankers. If it took one in the UK, it would show top CEO’s raking in record bonuses, the suicide of the disabled due to cuts, the trade union – historically a source of defence for all our class – chasing its own shadow – the population most likely unaware that ‘History’ was taking a picture.

By the way the insurance references in this article, refer to the last message in the film ‘Twelve Monkeys’. Will history repeat itself? Or will you do something? Articles are great, action even greater. After all, each of us are one pay cheque away from homelessness, if we are lucky enough to have an income. I’m not sure what else I can do to awaken the UK to our plight other than banning the X-Factor, placing Twelve Monkey’s and V for Vendetta on permanent play. Not my vision of the future, so let’s prove Jones wrong and become an assurance not an insurance. Democracy is on the balance after all.

What, Everyone should have health insurance? I say everyone should have health care. I’m not selling insurance.” – Dennis Kucinich

Jones is my name. I’m in insurance” – Terry Gilliam


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James Martin

Socialist. @UnitetheUNION National Tutor. Historian, Psephologist and Astrophysicist. Regular contributor to @USiLive.

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