Billy Bragg, the British musician and political activist, has provided a left cover for the Labour and trade union bureaucracy in Britain for several decades. He has now posted an article on his web site opposing any political development of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
A lifelong opponent of socialist revolution, Bragg instinctively recognises the movement as a potential threat to capitalism and the bureaucracy to which he is loyal.
His article, “Occupy Wall Street and Melancholia of Party Politic”, takes the recent Lars von Trier film Melancholia, about a huge planet hurtling towards earth, as a metaphor for “the bloated financial markets running out of control, smashing into the real world and destroying the hopes and dreams of millions.”
Bragg claims that there is a reaction against this financial juggernaut within the official parties. The best he can come up with in regard to the Labour Party, however, is to draw attention to party leader Ed Miliband’s one-line attack on “predator” companies. He also cites US President Barack Obama’s “lukewarm nod of recognition” to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and even Conservative Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that “the government was going to take responsibility for getting loans to small businesses.”
It is some time now since the working class looked to the Labour Party for leadership or hope, and its mood is not “melancholic”, as Bragg asserts, but wary and hostile. Bragg is speaking for himself when he writes of “those of us frustrated by the melancholy mood that seems to have gripped the population in the face of the on-coming financial clash.”
The musician notes, “Public opinion is shifting towards a belief that it is fundamentally unfair to allow those who created the financial crisis to continue to get wealthy while working people struggle to pay their bills”, before asking sceptically, “Is that idea alone capable of motivating a mass movement for a fairer economy?”
Bragg here identifies the most significant shift in political consciousness among broad masses, only to dismiss it as somehow lacking. What he opposes is the development of politically conscious opposition to capitalism. He wants popular sentiment to be dominated by the single-issue protest politics of the middle class.
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