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M. Holmes

Keeping the Flame

                                 Socialism in a Political World


I was born into the world, in an NHS hospital, nearly 28 years ago. Free at the point of need, created over 40 years earlier by a nation devastated by two world wars, and lately victorious over totalitarian fascism.


In this world, even your birth is swathed in politics.


I was born a month before Margaret Thatcher was toppled by her former allies, achieved in no small part due to the rightful rebellion against the Poll Tax. Discovering this years later, I learned what could be won through political action.


Growing up in the ex-coalfields of the Midlands, sitting in pubs with my dad, listening to stories from the mouths of miners, I learned what had once been and now was lost. All around you politics, and it couldn't be escaped for better or for worse.


Even if I hadn't understood that, it would have been hard to escape. Politics was in the blood of my family. My dad was deeply embedded within the trade union movement and spent much of his professional life fighting racial and sexual inequality within his workplace. My mum, whilst not politically active, has always been forthright in her views that peace, justice and acceptance of other people are vital to be a good person in this world.


I first really engaged with the word 'socialism' when I was 17. Since that was on the cusp of the 2007-8 financial crash which left the Western economies reeling, the timing couldn't have been more apt. To find that there was a concept that bound up everything I believe in, a single cause and one for which millions of people had struggled as proud, card-carrying “Reds” all over the world, was something which swept up my imagination and carried me away.


I read everything I could on socialism – but the more I read, the more frustrated I got. At that time, socialism was at a low ebb in Britain, with the burning out of New Labour, the remnants of “Old Labour” as they were known then not likely to make a comeback, and the onward march of the Coalition and austerity.


I always supported Labour, but felt we weren't pushing strongly enough against austerity and were too timid and accepting of the Tory narrative around national debt.


When Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership, thanks in no small part to the work of hundreds of activists, I decided to join the party and to lend my time and energy to this underdog movement that might, just might, prove to be a turning point for politics in our country.


In the three years since, Corbyn's Labour has proven itself, against the sneering of the mainstream media, to be a serious and credible force, and a beacon of light for democratic socialist parties both in Europe and further afield.


My active political work is still fairly new – just under three years working in my local area as an active Labour member. But as our party undergoes a process of radical change, struggle and rebirth, there's no better time to ask, “What does it mean to be a socialist”?


At the risk of sounding pretentious, I feel that being a genuine socialist carries a series of obligations that we cannot set aside. Socialism requires us to attack all the injustices of the current age without fear or favour; whether the causes be popular or not. Racism, sexism, prejudice, social and economic injustice, environmental decline, hunger, ignorance and want – these are the monsters that the Left must slay on the road to a better world.


These are colossal tasks, of course, and generations of socialists and progressives have lived and died without seeing them completed. To me, this is why there is so much important work in educating people, and particularly the next generation. Sometimes all we can do is fight injustice in our time and keep the flame alive, passing it to the next generation in the hope that they will live to see the socialist cause accomplished.


But in 2018, the stakes have never felt higher. With Trump in the West and Putin in the East, with the concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1%, with climate change intensifying, social divisions widening, and with the Tories moving ever further to the far-right, these are hostile and dangerous times. More and more, we are seeing that this could be the last chance for socialists to transform the world; or else we will see that flame snuffed out forever, and fall into endless darkness.


When I was asked if I wanted to write a fortnightly column on all things political, I obviously jumped at the chance. Politics is the story of my life, the story of the world and all of its people, whether they realise it or not.


I hope to use this column to tell that story from my own point of view.


 

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