In her maverick contribution to UnHerd’s Political Realignment week, Bidisha makes the case for a radical new party.
In Britain, the political system is currently stymied by Brexit, with both main parties deeply split over the issue. We have a cultish and ineffective Opposition and an embattled Prime Minister who probably heaves a sigh of stony dread every morning as she goes to the office.
There is widespread public mistrust of establishment figures in power and cynicism about the integrity of major institutions. Civic life and community cohesion are breaking down and social mobility has stalled.
In such a climate, it is easy to scapegoat those who have even less power and cannot answer back: foreigners, outsiders, strangers. Cultural insularity and philistinism is increasing. Fear of others, fear of difference and knee-jerk judgements, based on skin colour, clothing and language are stoked by tabloid headlines and world leaders alike. Sexual violence is endemic and, by and large, perpetrators act with impunity.
So bring on the Radical Liberation Front! My party will make significant changes to the values and the structure of society. It will offer liberation from misogyny, machismo and endemic male violence and from stubborn jingoism, xenophobia and increasing cultural myopia. It will drag this philistine, patriarchal, phone-addicted Little Englander nation into the kind of 21stcentury that women would actually want to live in.
In many ways, the RLF is nothing new. It simply embodies the principles of feminist socialism. It envisions a state in which the games of domination, combat, accumulation and mastery are derided rather than valued. Exploitation and subjugation of all kinds – in families and factories, boardrooms and war rooms and bedrooms – will be replaced by honesty, communication and vulnerability.
In short: a profoundly different world on every level. So how would we make that come about?
Brexit would have to be overturned, obviously, and if those who voted for it want to riot in the streets for three days, let them. Citizens have rioted in the UK over far more important things, like entrenched racism and police killings of unarmed black men – and nothing changed. After three days, the rioting would calm down and the RLF would go to Tusk, Juncker, Merkel and Barnier to eat some crow.
Then the RLF would be able to focus on improving the basics of life for everyone so that daily existence is not a struggle but a reliable, common basis from which to try and live. There would be free universal healthcare, childcare, education, housing, community centres, early years family support and elderly care – all paid for by forcing rich individuals and mega-corporations operating in the UK to pay the correct tax instead of exploiting legal loopholes. Domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centres and refugees’ resource centres would be fully funded and childcare, nursing and elderly care providers would be among the best respected and best paid, not the worst paid, people in the country.
The RLF would listen to women and children, to ensure that perpetrators of violence and abuse against them do not enjoy impunity but are punished for as long as it takes to recover from abuse – which is a lifetime. The criminal justice system would be overhauled with training given to the police, the media, juries and judges given in the extent, reality and consequences of sexual trauma, domestic violence, coercive control and other types of mainly male violence.
The entire justice process would start from a position of listening to, believing and supporting survivors. Character assassination, consideration of past sexual history and perpetrators cross-examining their own victims would be outlawed. Sexual crimes would incur compulsory full-life sentences. Women seeking vigilante justice against their perpetrators in the failure of official justice methods would be at liberty to do so.
At the same time, I would reform the prison system. Young people who have suffered disordered lives with poverty of opportunity and poor education, who get caught up in petty crimes related to gangs, drugs or theft would not be jailed. Instead, they’d be channelled towards challenging and useful community labour.
Since the RLF champions multiculturalism, multi-coloured Britain and multilingualism, it would close all detention centres, scrap the Home Office system of denial and discouragement, allow asylum seekers the right to work and open up Britain’s borders.
Prostitutes would be decriminalised, destigmatised and freed from police harassment and brutalisation. Men who think it’s okay to rent women for their own use would be criminalised and jailed for 20 years for their arrogance, violation and entitlement. Same goes for men who think it’s okay to sit back and be gratified while a knackered woman strips and dances for them. In the RLF state, women would not be objectified commodities to be used for others’ gratification.
Wealth, fame, possessions and power would no longer be prized above compassion, consideration for others, inclusion, emotional intelligence and co-operation. Wages for different professions would be brought in line with each other to eliminate the judgement, competition and status-games which cause so much unnecessary angst and egotism. Meanwhile, all workplaces and all major cultural institutions would have a proper crèche and flexible hours. And employers who discriminate against women on maternity leave and new mothers would be punished. There would be proper use-it-or-lose it paternity leave for fathers.
In schools, there would be compulsory sex and relationship counselling from primary school upwards, in an attempt to combat porn culture and endemic sexual bullying and assault. They would tell the unvarnished truth about our history, from slavery to colonialism, and put money into promoting the study of the arts, music and humanities as well as vocational skills and trade apprenticeships. Learning at least one other language would be compulsory from an early age. That way the country might produce cultured, well-rounded and curious individuals.
Oh, and sexual harassment anywhere, in schools, on the street, on public transport, in every sector and every profession, would be punished by spontaneous human combustion!