We are approaching the end of our second year of publishing Critical Mass. We embarked on what seemed a bold and exciting venture two years ago, and, despite existing on a shoestring, and with a very small core of volunteers, we started off and we have continued to publish; and recently our 1000th article was written. Soon it will be time for Critical Mass to pause for a few weeks for those who produce the PDF and website articles to rest, with any luck, and to think about the way forward.
When something comes to an end, there are often mixed emotions. After an unpleasant hospital procedure, there are sighs of relief. When you leave a much-loved job or home, when a child moves out or you have to cope with the end of someone’s life, we may feel the blow as a physical pain. Many of us felt this way when we received news of the devastating exit polls, after the general election in December 2019. We sometimes still relive that moment. We understand much more now about how it happened, the betrayal, duplicity, the vested interests, the corporations, the greedy rich and the entrenched nature of capitalism in our society. But we should not consider as lost the hope, enthusiasm, indeed joy, that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership brought to us, the inspiration that it gave to young people. The Corbyn era lit a flame that continues to burn, although the left is finding it hard to find a way forward. It is also almost impossible to see a parliamentary route to socialism, especially now that Sir Keir Starmer has turned the Labour Party into a close replica of the Tory Party.
Sometimes neighbourhood organisations achieve successes. We deplore the need for food banks, but sometimes food banks, especially those organised by and for a particular community, start up and not only provide lifelines for people who may not otherwise eat, but they raise awareness of the growing numbers of homeless people on our streets. Grassroots campaigns, whether about the environment, speed limits, school or business closures, threats to services for local communities or other issues can be powerful and successful. But today campaigns such as these may have a harder fight, may face greater opposition and have less chance of success. We may ask ourselves how a campaign to save a local wood, however valid and important to a neighbourhood, can ever be a real challenge to the corporations that care only about profits and the international financial organisations that carry on ruthlessly, heedless of the increasing threat to life on earth. But saving a local wood is definitely worth doing. It is a small step in what seems like an insurmountable problem, but it is still a step.
We felt as if we had to start again after December 2019. We have to begin somewhere. And of course we have already begun and we continue to fight, to speak out and remain hopeful. ‘The way to start is to start’ is the motto of a nursery school in Uganda. We must take heart and get on with it. If something does not succeed, we start again. We may not see a socialist society in our lifetimes, we may not see Shell, BP, Exxon, Google, Microsoft and all the rest taken into public ownership, but we are involved in a number of campaigns and Critical Mass in its small way, with its regular and occasional writers, help behind the scenes and our loyal subscribers, is hopeful, is keeping people informed and changing the conversation. Our writers cover a wide variety of subjects but here are some examples: Mike Stanton never ceases to remind us in his near perfect prose of the central importance of the class struggle and finds encouragement in the recent revival of working class protest; Marilyn Tyzack carries out meticulous investigative work and roots out corruption and greed in high places; Dave Middleton keeps us on our toes with his analysis of economic trends and engages us with his fascinating scholarly articles on socialism. He reminds us that the revolution will come. And let’s take inspiration from our much loved friend, colleague, fellow socialist and indefatigable campaigner, Ann Marcial, who writes from the heart, “I will never forgive this Government..and I’m prepared to go to prison. I’m passionate and positive and I come up fighting always… I always say until the last person stands we will fight and I intend to fight”.
There is much that we need to fight in these troubled times, and we will use our break to provide us with the energy we need for our new beginning in the autumn, when we start again. We started two years ago and we are still going strong and we will fight.