‘This is the age of anglophobia. England now faces a crisis of cultural identity and the crisis exists, in the frequently quoted words of Antonio Gramsci, in the fact that the old is dead and the new cannot be born. In the interim, Gramsci predicted, all sorts of moribund causes would emerge.’
You would be forgiven if you thought the above was written at any time over the last few months but these words appeared in print in the NME in July 1986, in Don Watson’s article derived from his interview with Matt Johnson, on the eve of the release of The The’s Heartland single. This was Johnson’s take on the state of England, appearing on the album that also cast a jaundiced eye at our special relationship with America. This is the state where pensioners are raped/And the heart is being cut from the welfare state, he sings and thirty three years later that welfare state has been put through the mincer of successive Tory governments as our elected officials wash their hands of as much responsibility as possible towards supporting those it supposedly serves. But it is in the song’s finale that Johnson delivers his sucker punch with perhaps the most resonant phrase of his musical career, a refrain so memorable in composition that it became the de facto chorus. When he and his backing singers sang, This is the 51st State of the USA, little did he know that being a vassal state of America, in the era of Thatcher and Reagan, was nothing compared to the potential fate of the country decades later should the crooks steering the Brexit ship through our democracy get their way.
Evading EU regulations and laws and crashing the economy so investors can asset strip the country at bargain basement prices, doesn’t look like ‘taking back control’ unless you are a member of the elite cabal behind a Trojan horse so obvious it is practically see-through. US companies have been lining up to buy the NHS and our education establishments for years - hell, Jeremy Hunt even wrote a book about the former prospect - and should they get their way then you would have to say that we will not be the 51st State so much as a colony of the American Empire. Factor in the recent moves of US private equity firm Blackstone, which is investing heavily in the UK property market then not only will our health service and schools be largely owned by American corporations, but your future landlord might be one too. Greg Palast outlined the great British Sell-Off in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (2003), but the process of handing over every remaining resource in the country will go into overdrive if Brexit happens, and the fact that American money, and players like Aaron Banks are standing in plain sight behind the likes of Cummings, Reese-Mogg and Johnson kind of gives away the true nature of the Special Relationship.
If Thatcher and Reagan spearheaded the neoliberal backlash in the eighties then where we are at now is a world where vast corporate power seems intent on taking complete control. America used to colonise weaker countries in Asia and South and Central America, but now it has zeroed in on Europe. The role American banks played in hollowing out Greece seems to have been forgotten and the US vultures have been circling over Britain for several years, patiently waiting as British politicians and businessmen, desperate for fame and money, have used a heavily-funded and legally questionable propaganda campaign to convince enough of the population that leaving the EU will make Britain great once more. In this they have evoked the English Civil War with their calculated rhetoric, acting like Royalists in their trashing of parliament whilst repeating ad-nauseam that democracy must be upheld when it comes to the referendum vote. Quite where democracy will come into things in a country where education and health care are handed to the highest (American mostly) bidders and worker’s rights trashed - amongst other things - is never really discussed of course. Just how can you have a democracy when education is privatised alongside practically everything else. When everything is privately owned, then what the fuck is there left to vote for? Is this what they mean when they keep banging on about upholding democracy?
The amount of turkeys voting for this demented Christmas is truly depressing, a populace who on the one hand have been conditioned to fall for the bullshit idea of a return to past glories of Empire, and on the other conditioned to believe that despite a catalogue of governmental disaster these last 9 years, with borrowing going up like it has overdosed on Viagra, the worst thing in the world is in fact Jeremy Corbyn. I have no idea how Labour’s current leader would fare as PM but I have met quite a few people who when I ask them to explain why they ‘hate’ Corbyn cannot answer the question; the conditioning hasn't included reasoning, only the simple thought that the worst performing government in living memory is still preferable to a Labour party led by a man who is, well, nobody is really sure but it is something to do with the evils of Marxism, and Socialism (they can’t explain what these are either) and hating Jews and practically being a member of the IRA or something. So on it goes and we head to the polls in December, a nation lurching around like a drunk at a kids party, wondering why nobody has got a spare Rizla, and meanwhile the rest of the world looks on slightly appalled, but equally enthralled, like a crowd rubber-necking at a spectacular car-crash.
I don’t need to go into all the details of the dark arts that have been employed by those pushing for Brexit, with dirty money links to Russia and America. Those of you reading this no doubt already know the whole story and most of its details, and if not you are simply a bot being run from somewhere in Eastern Europe. It is, however, worth dwelling on the sheer grotesque spectacle of the misfits who have seized control of government and the Brexit agenda, who must appear to the political world of Europe like a conspiracy theory dreamt into life by a mental patient: Cummings, a man with such a collection of chips on his shoulder he needs salt and vinegar on the other; an elite anti-elitist with a shady past in Russia and a try-hard attitude to sartorial inelegance. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man who has taken Victorian cosplay to such an extreme he is probably fashioning plans for another expedition to find King Solomon’s Mines once this Brexit business is done and dusted, and who spoke at a dinner run by be-kilted Gregory Lauder-Frost who does his best to appear as though he would like nothing better than to resurrect the Monday Club in order to get on with their unfinished repatriation business. I don’t think I need to wax so lavishly when it comes to their leader, Boris Johnson, not when four simple letters will do, and the same goes for the man who has done his best to put the education system back into the dark ages whilst looking like a Thunderbirds puppet - Michael Gove. But these misfits are just the four most visible puppets while the actual puppet masters in America and, it would seem, Russia can clearly be seen pulling the strings. Both would be glad to see a weakened Europe. Both have leaders who play fast and loose with democracy, coming across as though they are auditioning for the part of the baddie in the next Bond movie. Trump looked so pantomime-villain-bad in his election campaigning that it was hard to accept anyone would fall for voting for him, but that was to underestimate just how simple and broad the strokes need to be when presenting an image to the world these days. We are practically at the point where political discourse is no more complex than Four Legs Bad, Two Legs Good. Perhaps we can have that emblazoned on a red bus in the run-up to December’s election just to see if it results in a sudden rise in hate-crime towards England’s pet population, though Cummings, that elite anti-elitist, might struggle with even that - I mean, are all Two Legs Good?
Such is the surreal nature of our political landscape at present it is hard to separate the satire from the fact it strives to satirise, and so the Brexit farce limps onward, a can being kicked down the road - our version of fiddling while Rome burns. And Brexit does have the whiff of end-game about it, a kamikaze last fling of the loaded dice. Whilst they still proclaim that leaving the EU is ‘taking back control’ what they avoid saying is just who is taking back control from whom. Looked at starkly the ‘common man’ voting for Brexit stands to gain little more than the right to continue with their delusions that a bunch of toffs, dodgy Yanks and rich white men give a tuppenny toss about the working classes of this country. Encouraging them to get behind a war against the middle classes is merely to ask them to applaud the sawing-off of all those middle rungs of the long ladder separating themselves at the bottom from the entitled wankers at the top. Should they succeed then welcome to a modern feudalism, Britain as a banana republic without the hot sunny weather or tropical fruit. The reality of the Brexit design is much closer to selling off huge numbers of your own population into a life resembling servitude and slavery than anyone cares to admit. It worked once when there was wealth to be plundered far from home - this time round we are the plantation, those in power the plantation owners, and those gaining the real wealth - America.
The irony of a nation who once colonised the four corners of the globe led by buffoons evoking empirical glory in its campaign that will see Britain become a colony itself would be hilarious if it wasn't so tragic. Meanwhile, when we need some Levellers, Ranters or Diggers we have a seemingly ineffectual Labour opposition. When we need truly revolutionary words like those of the pamphleteers of the mid-seventeenth century we have a media owned and infiltrated by the Far Right in all its guises. Maybe we need another The The album?
Here comes another winter of long shadows indeed