So, happy bloody new year to all of you, although I doubt, by now, that you're expecting one. It's 2008, it's January, it's bum-numbingly cold, and the doommongers are out in force. Maybe it's just the cold-drizzling leaden skies over Camden town, or maybe the cramped and filthy student flat I'm skulking in; maybe it's just because I'm getting old (at 21-and-a-quarter, my teenage years are a dim and terrible memory of Labour hysteria, anti-war marches and acne cream). But I've never seen a roundup of such dire predictions for the coming 12 months.
The forecast encompasses the dimming of Gordon's star below the horizon of a watery-red Labour sunset; massive gains for the Tories; a scrolling back of funding for public service initiatives; the possibility of further atrocities in the Middle East into which our ridiculously expensive defence capacities will once again be coaxed without the say-so of the people; and everyone ignoring the plight of vulnerable minorities (women, ethnic and sexual minorities, immigrants, the less abled, the young) amid a flurry of belt-tightening neo-conservatism. The new year has barely been flung, red and screaming, onto the January slab of life, and the dreaded r-word is already being whispered in parliament. No, the other r-word, you filth: recession.
As Saint Toynbee points out, there is a middling-to-fair chance that Labour will be able to drag itself out of this hole, or at least make some sort of stoic best of a terrible job. However, 'even if Brown defies the gravity of those predictions, this is not going to be a feelgood year, according to Polly. 'The squeeze on public spending will hurt. The Treasury will say no to everything, with scant petty cash for political easements and soothings of crises. Holding public sector pay to 2% for three years in a row is impossible. A government that ran on the greased rails of public service expansion will feel the unfamiliar pinch of parsimony.'
This is not an altogether bad time to point out that we are living in a house of cards. Western society has become bigger, faster (harder, better, stronger...), more expensive, more demanding, greedier, vastly more populous. We are a resource-hungry society living in a resource-poor world, and yes, I'm talking about fuel, food, air and water, but I'm also all those less vital more tangible things: pretty clothes, fancy shoes, kitchen appliances, books, gadgets, little luxuries, all those things that, in Primo Levi's reasoning, are the glue that holds together the substance of what it means to be human and to be civilised. Everything that keeps us all warm, clean and sane is on the line, and it's on the line in a climate where great swathes of the world's population have been disenfranchised, disinherited, kept poor, stripped of their rights and dignity and culturally fucked over for a very long time indeed - where, all over the country and across the world, they're shouting louder and louder for what is deservedly theirs.
Sooner or later something's gonna give. Capitalist political ideology has stretched to accomodate these extra people, new ideas, conflicting interests, binary pressures - but it can't stretch for much longer. Call me an idealist, a doomsday preacher or a plain old angry young woman, but I truly believe that capitalism is coming to the end stages of what it can accomodate. I believe that the house of cards will fall, and that it will fall in our lifetime. I believe that by our fortieth birthdays, my schoolfriends and I will have inherited a very different sort of world to be in charge of.
In times of crisis and instability it's often the fascists who rise to power - for fear of violating Godwin's Law I'll not mention those GCSE Weimar Germany modules, but the point stands. Conservatives are making gains across Western world, and all the while, the Left fiddles. 30 years on, British Left politics still bears more resemblance to the radical scenes from The Life Of Brian than to any vision of a real, dedicated counter-consensus. To see us through the coming hurricaines with the forces of reason, justice, equality and personal freedom relatively intact, we need a Left that's united; the recent implosion of the Respect party signals just how far we've got to go.
Above all, be brave. That's how Toynbee concludes her piece, and that's the rallying cry that's going to have to serve a deeply divided Left for the next twelve months and beyond. Along with our politicians, we need the courage to be radical. Radically re-thinking our concept of social and economic policy is the only thing that will ensure stability. We need the courage to swallow our differences: the Left, in Europe and America, must cease its interminable bickering and unite as people with one all-encompassing goal: the desire for change, and the belief in the real possibility of a better world. We need a young, creatively-thinking, organised Left which has the creative vision to imagine change, the dedicated unity to plan change, and the organisation to effect it. Above all, in 2008, we must be brave.
For now, though, the first day of the year is drawing to a close, and I have a cup of tea, an electric heater, a joint the size of a baby carrot and a pile of decent socialist sci-fi. Small pleasures in a scary world. Amid copious doom-propheteering and dire political and economic forecasts, we on the young Left will be brave enough to hold together. So bring it on. Bring it all on.