Sunday, September 23, 2007

Is the Left up the creek without a paddle…?

With all the debate swirling around the left blog world about Respect to the tune of Should I Stay or Should I Go, it has made me wonder just how bad a state the Left is in. Can we resuscitate it in its current fragmented and shattered state? And will it remain on life support for a little longer?

The New Right of the 1970’s developed a coherent offensive led by the bourgeoisie. It is now called neo-liberalism. For the past 30 years there have been a systematic attack on the working class though there have been fight backs (Miners’ Strike, Wapping, Poll Tax). These attacks have been “full spectrum": ideological, economic, political, industrial, military , educational and in the United States religious.

This offensive has been so relentless it has shattered opposition. This Frankenstein monster will doubtlessly continue for a couple of more decades at least. The full spectrum approach takes into account all aspects of life and society and how things inter-relate with each other (rather same method Marxism takes but with a different conclusion).

I think we have to recognise that the enemy is utterly different from 40-50 years ago. The Left needs to organise differently and fundamentally we need to abandon the old templates of democratic centralism and party discipline. We are light years from a coup d’etat and we cannot formulate a Bolshevik Party # 2 however we much we dream of being the next Lenin and learn the texts.

We need to build more fluid and democratic organisations that are open to people and follow a more educative role as opposed to finding a line for people to follow. People these days like to hear the debates and the different ideas on offer. This is how you learn about ideas and how ideas get tested against each other and against the experiences of the class struggle. Indeed a criticism of the British SWP is that they take people who have had educationally privileged backgrounds and turn them into political yobbos. The top down approach may have been feasible in the context of clumsy and slow information technology and low cultural and educational level.

The Left needs a style of politics that aims for the development of intelligent confident comrades. We need something that allows open and free debate and involves people in all of the struggles against the neo-liberal onslaught. This is how to spread political ideas and to engage with people.

How do we get from where we are now to the sort of political forms I have described above?

As I have argued before, it makes more sense to be in the LP and active on the Left. New Labour is steeped in neo-liberalism but at the same time is a bourgeois workers party (I still believe Lenin was right on that). I am sure Brown would like to steer New Labour into a neo-liberal sunset but there are still expectations as it's a social democratic party which, has roots in the trade union movement. Of course Brown would dearly love to forget that.

The labour left still exists and still has an audience both within the LP and the trade unions. The McDonnell campaign, derided by those outside of the LP, is evidence of this. All the informal polls indicated this. The campaign foundered on the parliamentary party, handed-picked by the leadership and under heavy pressure from the whips. There is always the example of Walter Wolfgang: you could almost say that being in the LP is ultra-left!

Sooner or later Brown will need to purge the LP. Maybe this will be done in dribs and drabs and will not allow much for mobilising against, maybe it will stumble and there will be a chance of hitting back.

Whatever the nature of the Left of the future a vital component will be what is left of the LP and the unions. In order that there is a left in the labour movement there needs to be an active left in the LP and unions now. If you are outside the LP and outside the unions you will never have any chance of doing anything in either.

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