Evil Always Wins
Something amidst all the chaos, the metallic chattering and despair of the snap election announcement. Something that seems to stand just beyond the vicious glee with which Theresa May declared that we were going to have to endure another six weeks of this shit, of staring blank at the TV while the BBC’s milquetoast Toryism hardens and The Guardian sends columnists to interview Nazis while begging for money and the Liberal Democrats reappear shakily on the scene as a poorly-reanimated homophobic corpse gushing lies from every orifice. Something beyond that, lurking and curling, and looking like — hope. What if Labour wins?
Close your eyes: you can almost see it, can’t you? You can see Corbyn coming from nowhere to win the leadership election in 2015; you can see Mélenchon coming from nowhere in France; Labour has six weeks and five hundred thousand members; they could win, couldn’t they?
It takes a second to remember that this is even a possibility — that this is, technically, a general election, deciding who will form a government, and not just a sort of puppet-show of May’s fantasies in which we’re all forced to participate. Certainly almost everyone so far has behaved as though the latter is true — including May herself, who wants to be elected without having to go to the trouble of ever defending her grotesque beliefs, and the broadsheet media, who have performed their duty with all their usual gutless obsequiousness. But no: this whole charade’s greatest psychic cruelty is that, for all that, it will turn out to be an actual election, one in which someone resembling an actual socialist is running in a major party to be prime minister of the United Kingdom. It offers a sort of glimpse of hope, maybe a glimmer in a distant and darkened mirror. This has never happened in my life.
Leftist politics always has this: the little worm of hope lodged somewhere at the base of the soul. It’s not a pretty thing; there have been few if any moments throughout human history that have not been occluded by random and intolerable cruelty; like all genuine hopes it contains the losses and mournings of past and future. It will always speak of a disjoint and an incompleteness, and rarely make it as far as resolution.
In 2015 I spoiled my ballot paper rather than vote for a Labour party that carved ‘Controls on immigration’ onto a massive stele as part of a ritual and doomed-to-fail summoning of the vapid racists of Toryland. That election held nothing for hope to hook onto. In 2017 we have a fractious Labour half-filled with craven losers who think that slab didn’t go far enough, polling somewhere near the bottom of a well. And yet: its leader is out there, trying patiently to explain that it’s corporations and the bastard-rich, not migrants, that are to blame for the immiseration of life in Britain. Extolling something beyond standing proudly drinking real ale before the union flag while sinking beneath the bloodwaters. You can imagine that maybe really things would be better if Labour won. Hurts, doesn’t it, seeing that hope out of the corner of your eye? After all — evil always wins.
And yet: leftist hope anticipates this, in its mournfulness and in its form that signals loss. Like socialism it is haunted by countless past defeats. But those defeats can never cancel it out; the recognition of that loss, the seeming inevitability of hope’s frustration, is animating rather than enervating. We are driven, not because we imagine we can reach out and grasp some brightened future just like that, but because hope makes inaction intolerable: and all the more so the more desperate that hope seems. Evil always wins, yes; but we act, always too, in the belief that this time it won’t.