I don't think that there can be any doubt that there is a mood change taking place in Western Democracies. It has taken a long time but I have no doubt now that it is happening. Just as the 'progressive movement,' which took place around a hundred year ago, reacted to the growing power of corporations, people are once again reacting to a system which is essentially broken. For a generation now, the rightwing has been spinning the tale that society cannot afford to give everyone a decent pension or keep the elderly out of poverty, they have been telling us that we have to tighten our belts and do the bidding of the multi-national corporations, all the while the corporations have been making ever greater profits and the richest group in society are just getting richer. But people are beginning to wake up. People who have to work two jobs just to get by, people with good educations who have little or no hope of ever reaching the level of prosperity that their parents enjoyed, the millions of unemployed and underemployed are waking up to the criminal activities of the banks, the financiers, and the industrialists. People are waking up to a very simple fact; we are not here to serve the economy, but the economy is here to serve us! And if it is not serving our needs, then we, the people, are going to change it. Marx used a very good word to describe the idea that somehow the economic system functions beyond the purview of human activities and social relations; the word is reification. But people are realizing that far from functioning like a ghost in the machine, the economy is being purposively run by a small group of people in their own interests and beyond the rule of law. Smart, traditional capitalists, of course, have always understood the dangers inherent in the ideology of neo-conservatism which ignores the basic principle of social responsibility. A smart capitalist like, say, Warren Buffett, knows that if you let money rule the system with no sense of cultural or human responsibility, you are headed for disaster. Just has Joseph Schumpeter reminded us that we must create an economic system 'as if people matter,' people everywhere have realized that the Kevin O'Leary's of the world are touting an inhuman ideology which will end in social, economic, environmental, and human disaster.
Many of us have been patiently waiting for the great leap forward, and though it might not happen tomorrow or even next year, I can feel the change pulsing through the viens of people everywhere.
Lyrics to Billy Bragg's Waiting for the Great Leap Forward. (These are the original lyrics from the album Worker's Playtime, but Bragg changes them each time he sings them.)
It may have been Camelot for Jack and Jacqueline
But on the Che Guevara highway filling up with gasoline
Fidel Castro's brother spies a rich lady who's crying
Over luxury's disappointment
So he walks over and he's trying
To sympathize with her, but he thinks that he should warn her
That the third world is just around the corner.
In the Soviet Union a scientist is blinded
By the resumption of nuclear testing and he is reminded
That Dr. Robert Oppenheimer's optimism fell
At the first hurdle.
In the Cheese pavilions and the only noise I hear
Is the sound of people stacking chairs and mopping up spilt beer
And someone asking questions and basking in the light
Of the fifteen fame-filled minutes of the fanzine writer.
Mixing pop and politics, he asks me what the use is,
I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses,
While looking down the corridor to where the van is waiting
I'm looking for the great leap forward!
Jumble sales are organized and pamphlets have been posted,
Even after closing time there's still parties to be hosted,
You can be active with the activists or sleeping with the sleepers
While you're waiting for the Great Leap Forward.
One leap forward, two leaps back
Will politics give me the sack?
Here comes the future and you can't run from it
If you've got a black list I want to be on it.
It's a mighty long way down rock and roll
From the top of the pops to drawing the dole
If no one out there understands,
Start your own revolution and cut out the middleman.
In a perfect world we'd all sing in tune
But this is reality so give me some room!
So join the struggle while you may
The revolution is just a T-shirt way!
Waiting for the Great Leap Forward.