ANDY CAPP DOES NOT LIVE HERE ANYMORE. BREXIT, VOL.2
In reporting the exit polls, which will then prove to be all too accurate, the compassed BBC presenter uses the word “catastrophe”. The Tories triumph, Jeremy Corbyn resigns and Boris Johnson announces that Brexit is imminent. The second leg of The Devils’ journey at the end of the British night, indeed: at the beginning of the end for the UK.
It is the beginning of the end. Dawn rises fetidly behind the arcades and amusement parks of Blackpool South, a ghost town with no future, where the Tories, after more than twenty years, have regained a decisive seat. The stench of shit has come all the way here.
It is the beginning of Brexit, of the break-up of Europe, of the coming fascism. It is the end of the socialist utopia of tens of thousands of young people who, for the first time in a UK devastated by the crisis, had approached militancy. It is the beginning and the end of any political consideration or analysis.
Between the hope of building socialism and the comfort of holing himself up in fascism, Andy Capp chose the latter.
In reporting the exit polls, which will then prove to be all too accurate, the compassed BBC presenter uses the word “catastrophe”. He hadn’t even done so in cases of war or terrorist attacks.
The Tories triumphs with 365 seats (66 more than in previous elections) and well over the required majority of 326. Their leader, Boris Johnson, announces that Brexit is imminent. The Labour collapse to 203 seats (42 less) and face one of the worst defeats in their history. Its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, resigns.
The SNP obtains 48 seats (plus 13), beyond all expectations. Its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, announces the next referendum that will sanction the inevitable independence of Scotland from Great Britain.
The beginning is a bus leaving from the eastern suburbs of Manchester in the morning. In another dawn, so remote that it seems to belong to a different historical era. It is Thursday, December 12, voting day. For over a century, people have been voting on Thursdays here, because Friday is payday and people start spending their money in the pub, and they are constantly drunk ever since. On Wednesdays, they have run out of money. On Thursdays, they are sober, hopefully.
The bus is joyful, full of hope. Under the aegis of Momentum, the left and youth wing of the Labour Party, students, workers, activists and the unemployed, average age under 30, are heading to Blackpool South. It is one of the constituencies hovering in the dystopian British single-member electoral system.
It’s the place to start the rescue from.
The boys arrive in Blackpool, take the material from the Labour’s headquarters, the list of Labour voters and the undecided. And, in the dirty pouring rain, they go out into the streets to campaign door-to-door. They knock, they smile, they chat, they nod, they explain, they listen. They move on to the next house. One after the other. All day long. While the rain blends in with the sea.
Rebecca, 26, is in charge of musical events. “The media played everything on the opposition between the two leaders, avoiding talking about the programs just to benefit the Tories. Presenting Corbyn as a tired, resigned, anti-Semitic old man, too much on the left, they killed two birds with one stone: on the one hand, they frightened the electorate, on the other, they could avoid saying what Labour would do for this country and what the Tories would not.”
Ashiya is 31 years old and works at “The Modernist” and “Tribune” — socialist magazines. She is in charge of Mcr Fem, a feminist collective in Manchester. “The dominant narrative has made it possible to put health care and migrants together, with fake news on the verge of ridicule, making people believe that the disastrous situation in which the health care system is comes from immigrants, and not because from privatisation, savage cuts and austerity implemented by the Tory government.”
Sasha is 22, a student, she has lived in Marseille and speaks a little Italian. “We’re doing everything we can, but people are now selfish and think only of themselves. Since Ms Thatcher, every sense of community and solidarity has gone. Even people who say they are worried about the state of public health actually think only of Brexit, because they are convinced it will give them more benefits.”
Ashiya, Rebecca, Nuria, Sasha, Emma. They walk all day in the incessant, infected rain, knocking on each and every door, talking, listening, marking on a sheet of paper who they have convinced and who they have not.
Hope painted on their young and cheerful faces, conquering the Blackpool South constituency. It will be a failure. A catastrophe.
Blackpool is a synecdoche of this country. Former holiday resort of the North British working class — the miners, during the two weeks of the year when the mines closed for maintenance, were the first to come here after the Great War. In the years of the economic boom, it exploded as a tourist centre.
Amusement arcades, amusement parks, brothels, seaside resorts and fish and chips shops. Neon lights and iridescent signs at every corner. A wheel that imitates that of London, a tower that mimics the Eiffel Tower. Something in between Rimini and Las Vegas.
Today, with low cost companies you pay less to go to Spain or Greece, and Blackpool has been abandoned to its fate. It has become a ghost town. There’s nobody around anymore. People emigrate, tourists don’t come anymore. There are only empty amusement arcades. And lights, which no longer illuminate anything.
Andy Capp does not live here anymore.
It’s catastrophe, as the BBC said. A debacle which is not born on a night of election results, but is the result of forty years of neoliberal policies. A domination of hearts and minds, to which people are so accustomed that they are placidly resting in the arms of future fascism.
Brexit is not just the sick dream of the Andy Capps of the North. It’s the miserable economic gain of the upper class of the South, of those arid and selfish characters told in Jonathan Coe’s “Middle England”. It is the financial speculation of investment funds based in tax havens around the world.
It is the capitalism of catastrophe, which gains from climatic, political and economic disasters. From the joyful phone calls of entrepreneurs during the earthquakes in Italy, to the young people’s eyes that light up in the City of London as they watch the effects of the tsunami in Japan on a screen.
From the business of racial segregation, after Hurricane Katrina, to the huge financial movements that anticipate and direct the South American coups. On the ruins of the United Kingdom and Europe, ravenous vultures have already gained hyperbolic figures. Andy Capp was just kicked hard in the ass, as always.
The subject of the United Kingdom (almost) never rebels. As George Orwell writes in “The road to Wigan pier”, the British working class accepts the violence of power and the tragedies of life without turning a hair. “They endure everything, as long as they are told it must be so.”
The dawn of hope in Manchester fades into Blackpool’s sunset of anguish. And, finally, into the night of electoral terror. The boys and girls of Momentum return home, to school, to work. Unsure if they are to find them back where they belong.
Brexit is the beginning of the end. It is “the annihilation of space by neoliberalism,” in David Harvey’s words. Now Britain will break away from Europe. At that point, Northern Ireland will be abandoned to its fate — it is impossible to build frontiers along the Teorainn na hÉireann — and will have to reunite, at a price that promises to be bloody, with the Irish Republic. And Scotland will in turn detach itself from the UK, through a referendum to remain in Europe. The vote was clear in this regard.
Whatever the political and economic consequences of this process, a conclusion is inevitable. The UK will be dissolved, the monarchy will disappear. Elizabeth II will be remembered in history as the last monarch of the island.
Boris Johnson turned out to be the most unsuspected Republican militant ever born on British soil. His insistence on Brexit, his quarrel with the Northern Irish Unionists, his lack of interest in resolving the Scottish issue, read in retrospect, had only one purpose: to destroy the Crown.
It is the beginning of the end of the monarchy.
Dawn rises again in the ghost town of Blackpool. It is the cold, sharp dawn of the day after the catastrophe. The boys and girls of Momentum have done all they can, and will continue to do so.
Emma is 32, studying for a PhD in Manchester. “Corbyn was right to resign, they’d have fired him anyway. But now he should be replaced by someone from the Labour left, perhaps a woman from the North, I’m thinking about someone like Rebecca Long-Bailey.”
Nuria is 23, a part-time student working half a day making French fries to make a living. When they fired her, she went to the Job Centre, where they told her that, if she wanted the subsidy she had to stop studying and apply for a full time job, otherwise they wouldn’t have given her anything. And they did. “The reason for the defeat is Brexit. The Labour was too late in proposing a second referendum, and many remainers lost confidence in it.” She also wants Rebecca Long-Bailey instead of Corbyn. “She works well on TV and in the media, and at the same time she can speak to the working class, because she’s from there.”
Catastrophe comes from the ancient Greek καταστροϕή, which means reversal, upheaval. The embryos of a new world are moving in a catastrophe. The end of the Kingdom contains the beginning of every possible revolution.
Ashiya, Rebecca, Nuria, Sasha, Emma and all those like them, who believed and still believe in it, are ready to start again. And they will do it now. They will continue to fight in the streets and in the collectives, to oppose the neoliberal fascism that imposed on them the vote of an old and devastated country, weak and incapable of dreaming.
They will dance on the rubble of the Kingdom to come.
As Joe Strummer — a boy who fought against the war on the poor brought by Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and lost it — said: anything is still possible. Andy Capp chose fascism, but for his children the future is unwritten.