A spectre is haunting Britain. Indeed. Sounds familiar. The starting words of the Communist Duo themselves in the opening of their Manifesto to the world, first published in London in 1848, amid a Europe in turmoil, among a people beholding a revolutionary spirit. But this is not 1848. It is 2015. And yet perhaps not as much has changed as one might think. On the contrary, in too many ways some of the age-old inequalities feel all too familiar. True, there may not be the same kind of shift in industrialised technology, bringing workers in from the countryside to factories of the cities; and true, there may not be the same large-scale harvest failures as was seen across Europe in 1845 and 1846; and true, there is little in the way of a nobility's discontent with royal absolutism and a populist fight for a universal franchise. All this is undeniably true. But unfortunately that's where the differences end. And the similarities begin.
Because too much of what happened then is mirrored by what is happening now, today. Discontent with the governing elites continues to be rife: the global banking crisis, for example, caused by the few but hitting the many, affected the weak and vulnerable, wiping away pensions, snatching away homes, and leaving families with children poor and hungry. The MPs expenses scandal, fiddled by the privilege and bankrolled by the ordinary, working people of Britain, is another example of elitist impropriety, showing nothing but contempt for every voter and taxpayer in the land. And of course, let's not leave out the hacking depravities of the Press, the puppet masters who control what we read and how we think, intruding into our daily lives for profit and publicity. In short, so many people across Britain, ordinary men and women, feel duped and deceived, fooled and cheated, misguided and lost. With the rise of food prices and the growth in foodbanks, many are hungry; with the increase in zero-hour contacts, many are exploited; with the cuts in welfare services, many are disenfranchised; and with the deceits of the press and the politicians, many are disillusioned. Indeed, the themes of 1848 are all too familiar. And people want change.
And so, perhaps now, starts the awakening. Perhaps, now starts the casting off of what kept so many falsely believing. People are opening their eyes and seeing that things needn't be how they are. New Labour's opiate of the masses is to be swapped for action and progress for all, not just the aspirational. Fed up of squabbling over the minutiae of the middle, bored of tweaking the debate over the centre, people want politics to get back its bite - away from mediocrity and the sanitised, sleazy scripts; away from Cheshire grins and pointed thumbs. People want passion. People want authenticity. But above all, people want choice. And whilst the Right were offered Farage, the Left was offered nothing - just a bench of PPE graduates in shiny suits. Who would be their champion? Who would fight their cause?
And that's where Corbyn seems to excite. Because, for so many, he offers choice away from what was. He offers a new aspiration. He brings Marx and Engels back home. And up-to-date. He seemingly offers a Britain for the masses - for the tax payer, for the hungry, for the worker, the exploited, and the disillusioned. A true, authentic Britain for the many. This is not about class struggle; not anymore. For the Left, this is about something bigger, more inclusive, about joining hands across the spectrum. This is as much about the shop keeper, the artisan, the IT specialist and the librarian, as it is about the tube driver, the fire fighter, the lawyer and the postman. This is a time for people from all creeds and colours to unite, to throw caution to wind, and join the charge for a fairer society. This is about the parent, the pensioner, the pupil, the carer, the underdog, the needy as well as the ambitious, the living-wage earner and the squeezed middle to recognise they at last have nothing to lose except their chains. This is where it can all begin.
The bigger, unavoidable question, however, is whether or not Corbyn can deliver on this wave of new hope. Can he maintain the fires he has ignited? With over 40,000 new members joining over the last week, clearly there is an appetite for the Left's newly found confidence. Not only this, but it appears people are coming out of the shadows; lost generations, silent generations, are beginning to dare find their voice, daring to believe in change. But can it last? Will it carry through? Can Corbyn get the 16 million eligible voters, the unheard third of adults across the country, who didn't vote at the last general election to come out and engage in his politics?
Or will Corbyn's new, old Labour burn and fizzle out into nothing, just as the revolutions of 1848 did -extinguished and gone within a year. No quicker had the flames of revolutionary Europe ignited a new dawn, they had collapsed under the might of the old order, rejected and replaced by the very powers they tried to override? Is that what Corbyn faces? Is that where it will all end?
Or will it endure - sowing, deeply, the seeds that the fight isn't over. That there is still a cause to back. That there is another way. After all, the revolutions of 1848 may have been quelled, but the ideas of Marx and Engels persist and resonate. And today, more than at any other time in the last thirty years, they mean something, again. Here is where the real similarities lie with 1848. So many are demanding change. The question is whether Corbyn can deliver? Or, more importantly, if he can, are we really ready for it?