Change? How? England arises…

Anthony Barnett

Tuesday, 03 February 2015

We are now clearly in the middle of a “constitutional moment” and those who want a new settlement for the country are beginning to stir and take action. How can you get involved, and what’s coming up?

Well, after fifty years of saying it just can’t go on like this; after the humiliation of living through Thatcher and company being the ‘radicals’ and saying change means becoming imperial at home and abroad; after New Labour indulging in the unchecked executive power of the ancient British state; after the coalition promising to return us to the comforts of consensus; after UKIP putting itself forward as the party against corporate cronyism; after a lifetime of all this is the left finally rousing itself?

When I say “the left” I don’t mean one single left, toeing an agreed line, seeking to grasp state power from its current administrators, to replace them with our ‘left people’ who will carry out the desires of the working class. I mean the opposite.

I take it that being on the left means supporting everyone being able to fulfill their human potential and opposing, therefore, the domination of corporate capitalism.

Within the generous swathe this encompasses, which can include Christian conservatives who do not want their town centre laid waste by developers (i.e. people who do not perceive themselves as leftists), there are many ways of being left just as there are, or should be, different forms of socialism, as Raymond Williams once argued.

Such a left will be pluralist, vigorous, high-energy, institutionally inventive, economically productive, financially practical, caring of the environment, backing the underdog, demanding a republican constitution (even if feeling ok about the Queen personally), passionate for the liberty of others, seeking solidarity with the new movements now growing in Europe, open to being inspired as I was by the Puerta del Sol when the indignados first occupied it, capable, in short, of making us a better country – a left which itself is many and thus able to be representative.

Is it coming? Finally, is England rising, is William Blake coming in from the cold? It might just be happening. The SNP are transforming, the Greens are surging, Syriza is inspiring because it demonstrates the rational possibility of an alternative to austerity, and if you, dear reader, are in the slightest bit interested in assisting the possibility then there are ways you can get off your bum.

For a start, you can join the Relay for Rights, from the 21st to the 23rd of this month. Led by the Justice Alliance, which is marching from Runnymede against the Global Law Summit, a disgraceful gathering of international legal fat cats trying to claim the Magna Carta as their carte blanche to assist the global barons!

Before then, this Sunday indeed, you can join me at Change: How 2015 which is a day in the life of this new left. Bringing together Reds and Greens, Nationalists and localists, vision and practitioners, the English and the Greeks, the Spanish and the Danish and much more. Over 100 actors on stages and 500 actors filling London’s oldest alternative venue in Islington for a Sunday afternoon that you curate your way round. 

Against the backdrop of an election we have heard and seen before – people are making their own political futures. Come, see, hear and feel Change and How.

And from now until the summer, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, openDemocracy will be running its Great Charter Convention series, led by Oxford’s Stuart White, calling for a constitutional convention, a written constitution and a new political settlement.

Anthony Barnett (@AnthonyBarnett) is the founder of openDemocracy. This article first appeared at OpenDemocracy here.

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  1. Posted by Robert

    I’d take Thatcher now after New labour and Cameron she was the best leader we had, not forgetting the miners strike which was her battle to end the Unions rule which labour have allowed to carry on, we had a battle with labour and the Union months ago.

    Nope sorry but Green are now more or less dropping the Greens priority to battle for voters.

    Progress is hardly heard off any more.

    But for me a Protest vote is what we need and that is UKIP.

    Labour as a party of the working class is dead totally dead.

    Reply