By Niall Walker
"Dystopias are the cultural symbols of a declining order: of the Death of the West."
Tiptoe through dystopia. It never seems like a place you’d want to go. Barren, sterilised landscapes of riots, despair, unblinking eyes on screens and people chanting in the dark. Like England this summer after the Croatia game, only with more rain.
On even this most apocalyptic of imagined terrains, however, there will be one figure, hiding from the gaze of power, bravely offering resistance. Through their mouth, the writer speaks. The reader senses civilisation in them: the hope for social resurrection, even as their world falls apart
Mark Carney may not be the first person to spring to mind here. But it is the current Governor of the Bank of England who plays dissident to the nefarious mechanisms of evil in David Thomas’ invaluable addition to the dystopian canon: Prime Minister Corbyn… and the 1000 days that destroyed Britain.
As this once Great country falls prey to the Labour leader and his malevolent Chancellor, Dianne Abbott, Carney plays a defiant Cassandra role, foreseeing - in promises of rail nationalisation and tuition fee scrapping - a future of doom. Turning to journalists in Heathrow departures with ‘a wry smile’ after being sacked by a vengeful Corbyn, the Canadian is defiant: ”Well, I guess we’ll just have to see what the markets have to say about that.”’
Carney exits stage left, a symbol of hope's defeat to the powers of evil. In the ensuing chaos of Corbyn's Britain, Thomas wields the hyperbole as only a Daily Mail opinion writer knows how. Labour’s proposed National Investment Bank ends with ‘the Premier League’s biggest stars departing en masse’. Opposition to nuclear weapons leads to an American ‘embargo on the import of British goods’, all of which results in this immortal piece of prose:
“The night sky over London was thick with choking black smoke, but in the hellish glow of the flames rising from a myriad burning buildings, the rioters, looters and demonstrators fighting on the city streets could just make out the United Nations helicopter taking Jeremy Corbyn away from 10 Downing Street to his retirement cottage in Ireland.”
Give this man a Pulitzer.
Lord Rothermere's Crystal Ball
Since this article went live on Mail Online, 3 tumultuous years have been burped out by Mother Time. Thomas’ imagination now seems puzzling to reflect on: a world where One Direction can still go ‘off on a US tour and never return’ and ‘London would have to take its orders from Berlin’ whatever that ever meant. To slight the Mail for its inability to predict the future may seem unfair. This, however is precisely what they claim they are doing ‘As this brilliant imagining of a Corbyn premiership reveals…’
Reveals. Reveals? REVEALS!!! What we are reading is presented not as the cobbled together fiction of a former editor of Punch. This is investigative journalism.
Why have we always been so enamoured with tales of our own destruction? Dystopia in many ways is the secular descendant of religious warnings of apocalypse: through the sins of our present society, the end of humanity will come. What the Mail’s immodest verb usage highlights is how we continue to afford legitimacy to dystopian tales which most accurately predict our own future: Trump as the ‘Waldo’ moment of politics, and the 'Orwellian' societies we now inhabit.
What the Mail’s piece really reveals is a contemporary anxiety that haunts national leftist projects from Venezuela to Islington: can you overcome international finance and industrial militarism with only the decaying apparatus of a state at your disposal?
Rising up Through the Cracks
Thomas and the Mail are not the first fictionists to imagine this conflict in a British context. Chris Mullin’s 1982 novel A Very British Coup may lack the mouth-frothing intermissions on Owen Jones’ ancestry - ‘a princeling of the Far Left elite as the son of two members of Militant Tendency and the grandson of a Communist’. But it ends, like Thomas' polemic, with a left-wing Labour leader, Harry Perkins, resigning amidst pressures from the deep state.
Left wing political projects are defined by the inadequacies in our democracy. What Mullin and Thomas articulate, in varying styles, is that success depends as much on cracks appearing in these diverse networks of power as it does mass participation in the political arena.
The question for Corbynism is: are these cracks appearing?
Perversely, the Labour leader should take solace in Dystopia. The genre’s popularity speaks to how intensely we can imagine our society falling apart. From fantasies of ecological destruction, mass sterility and resurgent authoritarianism, dystopias are the cultural symbols of a declining order: of the Death of the West.
The question which follows is what will replace it. What is terrifying for Thomas, for Carney and for the Mail's financial backers, is that Socialist politics will play a role in answering it.
Pictures courtesty of https://uk.news.yahoo.com/donald-trump-black-mirror-and-americas-waldo-183202296.html?guccounter=1 and the Mail's own piece.