“I THINK THIS BEATLES SONG sums it up”, commented Darth Smith, below a link to the Fab Four’s 1968 classic “Revolution”. Almost immediately, Darth’s homage to Jacindamania was countered by Iain Mclean who linked the Daily Blog’s readers to that cold revolutionary shower, The Who’s “Don’t Get Fooled Again”. Then it was John Minto’s turn to post on Labour’s leadership change. Fair to say, this was much more in the spirit of The Who’s “meet the new boss – same as the old boss” than Lennon and McCartney’s “you say you got a real solution”.
Meanwhile, 13,000 kilometres away in Caracas, Venezuela, the world is being treated to yet another example of what happens when “socialism” takes precedence over “democracy” in the playing out of Democratic Socialism. As the world watches the conflict unfold on the streets of Caracas, its understanding of the word “socialism” – never very strong – is further distorted by the wild scenes of anarchic violence coming at them through their television screens.
“But the people of Venezuela are only fighting back against the organised (and US-backed) resistance of their ruling class!” Yes, that is what the John Mintos of this world would say – and, in part, they would be right.
But it is equally true to say that, after years of economic mismanagement, the slum-dwelling poor who formed the backbone of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution, have had enough. Rampant inflation, shortages of basic household necessities, and an horrific escalation in violent criminal behaviour have lent credence to the right-wing opposition’s charge that the Revolution has failed.
They watch the Bolivarian government of President Maduro traduce their nation’s constitution – the key clauses of which Chavez caused to be printed on the packaging of everyday items so that even the poorest citizens would know and understand their democratic rights – and they are forced to acknowledge that the bruised and bloodied middle-class protesters on the streets of Caracas bear a strong resemblance to their younger selves of 15 years ago.
“Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.” Indeed.
Which is why I believe Darth Smith is right when he hints that the Beatle’s “Revolution” should be Jacinda’s unofficial campaign theme-song. Not only for the way in which the music drags left-wing politics on to the dancefloor and forces it to embrace the wild carnival expectations of its emancipatory rhetoric, but also because of the hard-nosed, working-class realism of Lennon’s lyrics.
“You say you want a revolution”, sneers Lennon, “we’d all love to see the plan”. No fool, Lennon understood that the social upheaval produced by revolutionary action always comes at a cost to real, flesh-and-blood human-beings. If that’s what you’re suggesting, he says, then you’d better have a very clear idea of how greatly the benefits of your revolution are going to exceed its inevitable price.
Nowhere in the song is Lennon’s disdain for the dilettantism of 1968’s student revolutionaries more pronounced than when he delivers the lines: “But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/ You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.”
Lennon was pilloried in the left-wing press for his unequivocal declaration: “But when you talk about destruction/Don’t you know that you can count me out”. The New Left Review called it “a lamentable petit-bourgeois cry of fear”. But Lennon’s artistic eye and ear understood what the revolutionary intelligentsia did not. That their revolution: the revolution of armed workers parading through the streets, a la Petrograd 1917; or of Mao’s murderous Red Guards shaking their Little Red Books in the faces of their terrified elders; was not what revolution would look like in the welfare states of the West in 1968.
Any revolution breaking out amidst unprecedented material abundance; any revolt undertaken by an educated population; was not going to resemble any of the upheavals of the past. In 1968, the French communists looked at the graffiti daubed on the walls of Paris and shook their heads in incomprehension. “Underneath the pavement – the beach!” What did that even mean! Lennon knew.
Twelve years after the release of Revolution, and not long before his assassination, Lennon was still insisting that destructive change was counter-revolutionary: “Count me out if it’s for violence. Don’t expect me on the barricades unless it’s with flowers.”
I’m with John. That’s why I agree with Darth. The Beatle’s song does sum it up. Jacinda does need to put herself at the head of a revolutionary throng. Not one bearing rifles or waving little red books of dogma, but at the head of a movement determined to re-order this country’s economic and social priorities by means of an unprecedented blending of intelligence and compassion. That such a re-ordering has become a matter of urgent necessity is self-evident to all but the greedy and the cruel. The revolution that Jacinda leads must be a revolution of real solutions drawn from and supported by New Zealand’s caring majority.
Don’t you know it’s going to be alright, alright, alright.