It seems as if we live in a time of great upheaval and progress. British citizens vote in free elections, enjoy equal rights, and face the rule of law. Yet is impossible to ignore systemic issues that our democracy dismisses as inevitable: poverty, famine and endless struggle. It’s just a part of life to be accepted- or is this merely late capitalism barring the door to any perceived alternative, through the façade of healthy democracy?
The Overton window, a term used to describe the range of policies perceived as politically acceptable, has well and truly shifted from the days of miners’ strikes and demand for nationalisation.
Any sort of left-wing sentiment is dismissed as the voice of bureaucracy, historic failure, and idealistic nonsense.
Since the shift of the Labour party- especially during the rise of New Labour - there has been no real mainstream voice for democratic socialist views. Socialist sentiment is perceived as unelectable, demonstrated clearly in the hostile reception of left-wing economic policy from the mass media. The UK (and most of the Western world) has succumbed to the power of the establishment’s dogmatic and self-preservative views.
Late capitalism’s façade of strength and innovation is an irresistible mask to the reality of society. It is important to remember democracy operates not purely through an elected Parliament but holistically: with the people, government, state institutions, businesses, media, and more. However, they are all simply cogs in a grand machine.
Businesses influence people through everyday interaction and seek to further their corporate conservative agenda. The business perspective of profit generally means they depend on a ‘socialism-for-the-rich’ form of free market, slamming ‘scroungers’ but depending on huge government bailouts such as in 2008. Newspapers are operated by media tycoons such as the infamous Rupert Murdoch, and they too run as businesses that look out for their own interests.
The decline of the left in the 20th and 21st century clearly displays the efficacy of such a message and such methods of conviction. The iron grip Thatcher seemed to hold on the electorate from 1979-1990 led to the Labour movement seeking to move to the centre, and even the right of British politics; first with the moderate Neil Kinnock and gaining power with the ‘third way’ Tony Blair, on a philosophy designed to bridge the gap between the Conservatives’ neoliberalism and social democracy- which had formerly been seen to be the right of the Labour party. This solidifies the decline of the left and democratic socialist attitudes in the UK, marking outliers like Michael Foot and Jeremy Corbyn as unelectable and thus condemning them to failure.
Truly, this must be the Overton window harnessed for right wing interests.
The decline of the left of British politics weakens democracy, giving a false dichotomy between two parties with little differences in terms of overall economic and political stances. This decline has been encouraged by the establishment forces that have vested interests in the deterioration of the socialist movement: business, media, and of course conservatives.
My point is not to glorify socialism here, but to present the decay of socialist attitudes in the UK as a deliberate act of establishment interests, and as a systemic weakness in British democracy, limiting the actual choice of the nation to two parties (of course with distinctive policies and stances but) indisputably on the right on the political spectrum.
Just to reject capitalist values laid down as inalienable facts is to understand a wider spectrum of ideologies deemed unelectable by the political establishment, and thus, to aid in the pursuit of true choice and democracy.