Dark Realm: Since Friday, 15 March, the Left has been dazzled by Jacinda’s light. So much so, that it has failed to understand that, far from defeating the Right’s darkness, the Prime Minister’s recent illuminations have only exposed the terrifying dimensions of its realm. Light speaks only to light. Political dark matter has always been, and always will be, profoundly deaf to everything except the soundless screaming energy of its black and inexhaustible rage.
ALL IS NOT AS IT SEEMS. That’s the brutal truth to keep in mind. Even in the golden afterglow of last Friday’s extraordinary National Remembrance Service: all is not as it seems.
So many on the Left do not appreciate the true dimensions of the vast and immovable cultural-political consensus that allows Capitalism to survive and thrive. If it wasn’t there: or, if it was there, but amenable to reason and love: then Capitalism would long ago have given way to a more human order.
This grim judgement is a lot easier for the Left to accept when reactionary ideas and parties are in the saddle and riding them hard. In those moments, it is easy to convince Capitalism’s enemies that it is, indeed, a monstrous nightmare pressing down upon the lungs of human hope.
A Left without illusions has a much better chance of organising effectively and, on rare occasions, winning.
The real danger comes when events conspire to make it appear as though the Left has already won.
Consider the events that shook Paris and the rest of France in May 1968. The tens-of-thousands of students in the streets. The barricades. The CRS – France’s brutal riot police – counter-attacking. Parisians rushing to the aid of the beaten and bloodied citizens. Clouds of tear-gas wafting down the boulevards of the capital. Spontaneous strikes in France’s largest industries. Workers turning their bosses away from the factory gates. Surely, in May 1968, France teetered on the brink of revolution?
That is certainly what it looked like and felt like.
Except, that is not what was happening.
After the French Communist Party had bribed the striking workers with a ten percent across-the-board wage rise and the factories had been handed back to the bosses. After President Charles De Gaulle had returned from Germany, where he had taken refuge with the French army units stationed there. After the French Prime Minister, Georges Pompidou, had allowed the scheduled elections for the French legislature to proceed. Only then was it made clear what the people of France really thought about the events of May 1968.
In those elections, the governing Gaullist party and its allies won 387 seats in the National Assembly. The Socialist Party and the Communist Party, between them, just 91. The Governing party had taken 111 additional seats. The combined forces of the Left had lost 99.
What had looked like a revolution was anything but.
In the United States the story was the same.
Between 1968 and 1972, the USA was rocked by some of the most tumultuous political protests of its entire history. Mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War grew ever larger. The “Youth Revolt” filled newspaper columns and the airwaves. Young left-wing delegates to the 1972 Democratic Party Convention secured the presidential nomination for Senator George McGovern – an avowed liberal and fierce opponent of the Vietnam War. The Democrats offered the American electorate the most progressive party platform since Roosevelt’s New Deal.
McGovern’s opponent, President Richard Nixon, appealed to “the great silent majority of Americans” to give him four more years in the White House.
The great silent majority were only too happy to oblige.
Nixon won an astonishing 60.7 percent of the popular vote: McGovern just 37.5 percent. The streets of America may have been teeming with young, idealistic protesters, but they were vastly outnumbered by the silent and invisible armies of the Right.
Closer to home, in 2002, the National Party was routed by Helen Clark’s Labour Party, receiving just 20.9 percent of the Party Vote. Pundits reckoned it would take National several elections to rebuild its support. Some even suggested the party might be over. Three years later, however, the Don Brash-led National Party came within 46,000 votes of winning the 2005 General Election.
Brash’s in/famous “Nationhood” speech, delivered to the Orewa Rotary Club in January 2004, unleashed a vast wave of hitherto unacknowledged Pakeha resentment towards the New Zealand state’s official policy of bi-cultural “partnership”. Responding to the highly-charged mood of racial anxiety which Brash’s speech had whipped-up, Clark felt obliged to pass the deeply divisive Foreshore & Seabed Act. Had she not, it is probable that Brash would have defeated her government, scrapped the Treaty of Waitangi and abolished the Maori Seats. The sleeping dogs of Pakeha racism, kicked into a state of vicious wakefulness, had demanded, and been given, large chunks of raw political meat – by both major parties.
When we look up into the night sky, what do we see? The moon, the planets and the stars ranged across the heavens in a glittering diadem of light. Looking at all this beauty, it is easy to believe that the universe is made up of nothing but light. But, all is not as it seems.
What the physicists and cosmologists tell us is that in between the stars there is something else. Something mysterious and invisible, and yet so powerful that without it the universe could not exist. These unknown forces are said by the physicists and cosmologists to make up 85 percent of the universe. The world of light, they calculate, represents a mere 5 percent. The names given to these mysterious and invisible cosmic forces are “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”.
The capitalist universe is similarly held together by dark matter infused with dark energy. Though silent and invisible, these political forces are ubiquitous and immensely strong. Powered by the dark psychic energy that drives capitalism: the lust for power and wealth; the willingness to exploit and consume; the hatred of all that is weak and in need; the worship of force and violence; and the ever-present fear of falling into powerlessness and poverty; dark political matter is not exceptional in the capitalist universe – it is the rule.
Since Friday, 15 March, the Left has been dazzled by Jacinda’s light. So much so, that it has failed to understand that, far from defeating the Right’s darkness, the Prime Minister’s recent illuminations have only exposed the terrifying dimensions of its realm. Light speaks only to light. Political dark matter has always been, and always will be, profoundly deaf to everything except the soundless screaming energy of its black and inexhaustible rage.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 2 April 2019.