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AS many observers have noted, the political sphere has become increasingly polarised in recent years.
A resurgent left has emerged globally to challenge the “Establishment.” Likewise, this “Establishment” has embarked upon a series of incendiary attacks on the left and its leaders.
Last year’s evidence that the Corbyn project is electorally popular did not stop the deluge of Establishment attacks. Nor have repeated attempts to reach out and compromise with critics done anything to pacify them.
It seems high time the left thought a bit more deeply about what this Establishment consists of and how to begin to present a positive vision to counter it.
Anti-austerity is fine, but we need to spend more time working out our alternative.
Thankfully some Marxist classics have done some of this thinking for us and can be applied today.
We can go a long way to answering what is this “Establishment’ by considering the broad definitions of the capitalist state found in both Gramsci and Althusser.
We have come to expect a battle with the Tories at the ballot box and with the media day to day but the battle is wider than this.
The Morning Star and other socialist platforms are taking the fight to the Murdochs and the Barclays of this world, which should hearten us.
The need to win government at all its levels to a socialist platform has been taken on by the Labour Party and this is a tremendous step forward.
Now is the time to recognise that formal government and the media are not the only theatres in the war of position.
We can’t expect to change society simply by changing government. We must challenge this hegemony and we can begin to do so now.
The current capitalist hegemony rests on the permeation of capitalist ideology into powerful institutions in every sphere of life.
Our government is capitalist, OK we have a plan for a change of government.
We work in companies legally obliged to maximise shareholder value not worker value. Clearly we also need a plan to take on this systematised exploitation.
Our public services are designed to fit around private industry. We need new proposals for the future of public services.
Our education system trains people to operate within the limited horizons of this capitalist world. We need our own education resources and press our agenda by influencing and ultimately controlling the education infrastructure.
In short, we need to develop counter-hegemonic power, focusing our efforts on changing society directly through a battle for socialism within the structures and institutions that make it up.
The trade union movement has been a key supporter of the Corbyn project and reciprocal support from within the ranks of Corbyn supporters has strengthened the movement.
Nevertheless, the dominant view of these institutions continues to see the trade unions as guardians of legislative workers’ rights set down by government and capable of further improvement by a Corbyn-led government. This needs to change.
In fact trade unions should be seen as the representatives of the broad and wide-ranging interests of the working class, operating in the workplace.
In the public sector, the distinction is easy to draw. Pay, terms and conditions and countering day-to-day harassment and bullying are important facets of this role but not the totality.
Public-sector trade unions clearly have a role in uniting with service users to oppose cuts to public services and changes to these services that disadvantage specific groups within the community. So far so defensive.
Defending the already poor and inadequate crumbs we receive from the capitalist plate is not sufficient in itself.
This alliance of public service workers and public service users, within the community, needs to reclaim the future by seizing the forward agenda too.
It is this alliance of forces that we would expect to shape the future of public service policies and practice under a socialist government, but why must we wait until then to begin?
What is true in the delivery of public services by public bodies is also true where such services have been farmed out to the third sector and to private contractors.
The current balance of power between those who control and represent the interests of capital and those who have only their labour to offer must be challenged.
In the public and third sectors, this can take the form of challenging the distribution of salaried income within organisations, as well as challenging the ideological assumptions of capitalist trained managers.
In the private sector we see the direct conflict over resources — what should be allocated to wages, reinvestment or taken as profit — as the primary sight of struggle.
But here too workers’ and consumers’ interests can only be fully served if they begin to contribute to and ultimate take control of the plans for future production.
Across the globe millions have begun desire a new form of government and to articulate what this future government may look like.
This energy needs to be applied more broadly so that millions are participating in development of new forms of production and productive relations, new social, health and education services, new community and neighbourhood management and new approaches to raw materials and environmental safeguards.
Where workers and consumers work together to design, plan and implement alternative approaches to production and the delivery of services, this makes the prospect of an alternative more viable and therefore more attractive and ultimately more likely to succeed.
In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher was able to beat society into submission with the claim that “there is no alternative.” This time around it is for society to beat down the capitalist politicians with the battering ram of a developing alternative society.
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