'Georgesci': rescuing the alternative
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
The past few months have irreversibly changed pre-existing conceptions of society and how it ought to function; giving off the feeling of a genuine moment of change. Have-a-go Twitter historians mused about future exam questions about the collapse of governments, the impact of the pandemic, and the levels of cringe induced by our Victoria-Sponge addled VE dances. It seemed for some like the world may be made anew, our time at home allowing us to envision genuinely different alternatives to the domineering stronghold of work-hard play-hard neoliberalism. Many saw for the first time that it was never about our lack of fiscal trouser space that determined the working week, but the political resolve of a government reacting to a crisis of historic proportions, pathetically clinging to a ‘social contract’.
Whether it was Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s post-rave interviews that gave the appearance of an overconfident teen from the home counties gurning along to an overpriced D’n’B night during Freshers Week, or shyster in chief Dominic Cummings flaunting to those sacred Tory hinterlands in County Durham for a cheeky Specsavers appointment, it was clear that the government was under levels of pressure and scrutiny that a potentially disgruntled Jeremy Corbyn could never have dreamed of. In the words of said former Labour Leader it was a potential “here we…. Here we fucking go!” type transcendental moment of political resistance, against a government that was administratively incompetent, and had spent the last decade consciously bringing about a rotten social and economic order, one that created wealth for the shareholders whilst often starving the rest.
It is this supposed ‘political moment’ brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown, that first spurred to think about starting my own blog. I mean, when was there a better time to start really building up my own writing portfolio than at a time of global civilisational collapse? After all, while I’ve mentioned coronavirus, the lockdown is the sort of accelerationist apex of the 2010s and all its turbulence, injustice, and destruction. Many have mourned the concerns of our age with a rose-tinted ‘Rule Britannia’ type desire for a centrist political project. Such an idea did so much to unite the UK at the last election with former Tory and Labour ‘Who are they?’ type people in ‘The Independent Group for Change’, with their smatterings of ‘funny tinge’ racism on day one of their campaign, their heinous Nando’s preferences, and their almighty 10’006 votes at last December’s general election. A number of people that for enhanced schadenfreude’s sake would struggle to fit in the Wilderspool Stadium, home to Rugby League giants the Warrington Wizards.
However not all responses to the past decade must so painfully emulate a certain Mr Milquetoast. There is the space for a younger generation to take stock of what has happened, and imagine radical new futures. The past decade has seen the acceleration of the fundamental laws of neoliberalism to their logical end-point through Cameron and Clegg’s austerity agenda, a political project which; according to the Institute for Public Policy Research; led to up to 130’000 deaths that could have prevented were it not for government cuts to health services, such as preventative services and education. Internationally, the 2010s have seen a rise in the legitimacy and sheer size of the far right, across the world from the online alt-right public sphere, taking a hammer to any pre-existing ‘dog whistles’ as Mr “Mexicans are rapists” Donald Trump took his seat at the most expensive and powerful address in the world four long, long years ago.
The 2010s are also the decade of the ‘Youthquake’, when those oh-so infamously feckless and hypersensitive Gen Z-er’s took it upon themselves to gain a political consciousness, forcing typically middle class issues such as; you know; the imminent destruction of the planet and all life as we know it, into the mainstream political discourse.You see, a more optimistic alternative is there for the taking, the 2010s and the concentrated chaos of the past five to six months could perhaps represent a dream-like almost utopian crux point from which to actively re-imagine not only maybe politics, or economics, but the make-up of our entire world. In the words of the biggest philosopher duo since Marx and Engels; High School Musical’s very own Troy and Gabriella; it’s a whole new world!
However, the erosion of the Labour party’s radicalism under Sir Keir “We need an inquiry” Starmer, and the capitulation of a significant proportion of the print and broadcast media to re-hashing government attack lines, have meant that traditional channels of resistance are bottling it harder than a certain banana-skin footed Steven Gerrard in 2014. Take one of the biggest stories in recent weeks, the report into Russian interference within British politics, most significantly the 2016 Referendum on British Membership of the EU, and the ’17 and ’19 General Elections. This was a story of our government’s incompetence in allowing pernicious Russian financial and political interests to invade London and Westminster, supposedly looking the other way, potentially allowing the “will of the people” to be blunted. What was the press focus on? Conservative incompetence? Investigation of corruption? The idea that the Conservatives actively invited such influence? You know, journalism? Na; they closed ranks, essentially parroting government attack lines, in a Johnsonite dead cat on the table type scenario, as Mr Meritocracy himself Fred Dimbleby turned up to Jeremy Corbyn’s flat on a wild goose chase over his use of information about the US-UK trade deal, information which detailed the all too real predatory interests of big pharma in supplying drugs and medicine to the NHS at inflated prices. When mainstream journalism is so explicitly the Marionette to Dominic Cummings’s puppeteering, the case for a radical alternative is not only available but absolutely indispensable.
There was a time when our collective voices to hold power to account were channelled through popular and socially recognised institutions. I’m thinking the Labour Party and its history of radicalism, anti-racism, and trade unionism, broadcasters like Channel Four who once commissioned radical films from the emerging post-colonial Global South and long form documentaries about interesting and introspective subjects such as Lacan's brand of psychoanalysis, and magazines like NME which often infused social and political theory but can now no longer even afford to have a physical issue.
It is from this tradition of radical thinking, that infuses political theory with cultural criticism, that I found inspiration for the form and a potential theoretical slant to this blog come online magazine come existential crisis called ‘Georgesci’. The name and the inspiration for the name comes from one of those oh too regular YouTube binge sessions, in which one spends hour upon hour hypnotically transfixed, going deeper and deeper into a Carrollian rabbit hole of content. One such video was a documentary about the life of the Italian Marxist philosopher and political representative for the Partito Comunista d’Italia; the Italian Communist Party; Antonio Gramsci, named ‘Everything that concerns people’. This was one of those radical films made by Channel Four in the 80s, about the life of Gramsci, his journey from Sardinia, through the Italian Communist Party, to his imprisonment by Mussolini and his eventual death. Set to a soundtrack of traditional Sardinian folk music, worked on by radical academics Thomas Nairn and Hamish Henderson, and starring hugely popular actor John Sessions as the eponymous Gramsci, it all seems like something from an inconceivable and almost fictional past. A past when mainstream broadcasters like Channel Four provided the capital both monetary and creative to actively showcase and celebrate anti-establishment culture.
It is not only the form and era of broadcasting that this film represents that inspires me, it is also the content. Gramsci is philosophically important, coining concepts such as hegemony and subaltern, with a key role in ideologically challenging the wielding power of Stalinist Marxism in the twentieth century, a brand of politics which largely rejected Gramsci’s humanist emphasis on culture, the superstructure, and the ‘Everything that concerns people’ that he wrote of in his prison notebooks. In his prison books, Gramsci wrote essays on everything from philosophy and language, to popular culture and aesthetics, combining the everyday with the acutely theoretical, arguing for a new cultural and creative hegemony of journalism, activism, art, and literature to create fertile ground for his desired political revolution. Gramsci wrote at a time of intense breakdown, as Mussolini centralised his power base in Italy, and he; as a political representative, had been thrown in prison under the pretext of emergency governmental laws brought in after assassination attempts against Il Duce, with the prosecution arguing of Gramsci that “We must stop this brain from functioning.”
Similar premonitions of collapse and regression into fascistic tendencies today behove an emphasis on fostering the alternative, while Gramsci faced governmental and institutional fascism, in Britain the seeds are simply being sown. When it returns it won’t be boots on the ground, but stolen data to manipulate elections, BBC stories about the “both sides” of debates around certain people’s rights, and the collective apathy of a population resigned to exploitation. Mainstream channels of resistance have acquiesced to power, the Labour party repeatedly fails to live up to its eponymous role of “opposing”, and broadcast media institutions are only a couple of weeks away from making dystopian Vox-pop TV, in which the Great British public vote as to the suitable fate of desperate asylum seekers in the English Channel should be. The need for an alternative, independent, creative, journalistic, radical, hegemony is fundamental to all our futures, and will have to be created from the ground up.
Ultimately, I want this to be a space for work that challenges the state of things, providing an alternative to the journalistic-political establishment that commodifies news of human suffering into Twitter soundbites, re-hashes the government’s own narrative, and instead of holding power to the highest of standards is a part of creating its legitimacy in a period of intensive crisis. If you want to contact me about ideas for the future, you can find me on Twitter @GeorgeWalkeee, or contact me on the email I have created for this project: firstname.lastname@example.org. While it’s easy to let your head drop when the world seems to be regressing, we have got to seize the opportunity to use the current fracture to make the strongest case possible for an alternative future: be creative, be unafraid of being pretentious, and speak truth to power.