I was disappointed, if not surprised, to see the headlines saying that our new, radical, dangerous shadow chancellor will follow the fiscal charter of the incumbent, reactionary, incompetent chancellor. (John McDonnel: Labour will match Osborne and live within our means). In spite of promising signs in the first week, when the media narrative indicated that Corbyn and his new team were doing everything ‘wrong’ and stomping all over tradition, and ‘needed’ a spin doctor, the process of pulling them back in to the establishment narrative of economy and society has begun.
When I started work for the Apple dealer I used to work for, I had a choice. Would I muck in with the team and become one of them, or would I stand aloof and apart, refusing to be a joiner or a team player etc.. The pressure was high. Muck in implies getting your hands dirty. In this case it wasn’t so much hands as soul. Being one of them would have meant participation in and tacit approval of company social events that sometimes involved lapdancing clubs as well as binge-drinking and random coupling. And I did not want to do that. So I didn’t. So that, and my accent, meant that I did not fit in, was seen as a snob. If you’re not there when people disgrace themselves and degrade women, they haven’t got anything over you. You have to do the thing, do the nasty, to join the inner circle. The final straw for many of the staff came when I chose to wear a Brasil football shirt to work when England were playing in a World Cup tournament. My snarky act of minor rebellion caused considerable outrage. After that, they hated me.
This is how organisations operate. They blow dog whistles, they operate under shibboleth, they have tacit understandings. They put up hurdles and hide bear traps. When Corbyn became the leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, the die was cast. Unpack that title, for a start. Most loyal. Which means, kneel, which means, sing. How can you accept such a title if you claim to be a republican? Turn up at the service wearing a donkey jacket: game over. Turn up at the service dressed in a smart dark suit and refuse to sing: game over. Become leader of the opposition and join the Privy Council (which involves taking an oath on the kneel): game over. Refuse to do that: game over.
Whether it’s waving a burning £50 note in the face of a homeless person, accepting fellatio from a dead porker, or kneeling before the queen, all organisations have a price of admission. You wanna join the crips, you gotta steal a car, or take part in a drive-by shooting. You wanna join the Teamsters, you gotta do a little thing. To be in you have to undertake certain acts. And when you have undertaken those acts, once you have been through the threshold ritual, you are changed. You cannot change back. Over here, you are a boy; over there, you are a man; but to get there you must pass through this line of people who are beating you with sticks. Over here, you are a socialist. Over there, you can be Prime Minister. But first you have to pass through the ritual in which you’re just another empty suit who parrots the narrative peddled by the oligarchs and the corporations.
Corbyn is still liminal — just. He’s not quite all the way in. He has poppy day to negotiate. He has yet to kneel before the queen. If he fails to do so, he will remain an outsider, and will face five years of character assassination from the mainstream media. If he refuses to wear the poppy, may [god] have mercy on his [soul].
I too started a new job recently. So far, I’m fitting in okay. I bought some cakes on MacMillan Coffee Morning, donated a fiver. I’ve managed to gloss over the fact that I’m not interested in the rugby. I’m not doing the long hours thing, though, where you stay at work late ‘working’ so people know you are ‘working’, so that’s going to be an issue. And I’m not going to wear a fucking poppy, so that will be another one.