After the Crash – a New Left?


© Soundings 2010

We believe that now is the time for a new coalition of ideas and action on the centre left, working together to find common ground for change. At the heart of such a coalition is the belief that social democrats, liberals, greens and civic nationalists share a wide range of concerns. We all want to build a society in which individuals have more life chances, and we all fear for the future of the planet. We all believe that a more equal society is absolutely essential to secure these aims, and we all believe that greater democracy is crucial in giving people power, voice and the ability to secure more freedom and a sustainability economy.

Although Labour remains a central part of the progressive future, there are also tens of thousands of members of the Green Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the SNP, along with progressive people in no party, who are prepared to discuss this kind of coalition politics. After the Crash is intended to help begin a conversation between these constituencies, so that we can find better solutions to the problems we face than are currently on offer from the mainstream of the major political parties.

Jointly published by Soundings, Social Liberal Forum and Compass
In association with the Media Department at Middlesex University and Department of Politics, Goldsmiths, University of London
Supported by the Lipman Miliband Trust

Contributors: Jon Cruddas, Caroline Lucas, Steve Webb, Neal Lawson, Stuart Hall, Doreen Massey, Richard S. Grayson, Jonathan Rutherford, Alan Finlayson, Jonathon Porritt, Leanne Wood, Richard Thomson, Stuart White.

After the Crash – re-inventing the the left in Britain

Edited by Richard S. Grayson and Jonathan Rutherford


29 comments on “After the Crash – a New Left?

  1. Blanco on said:

    Labour, Green Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the SNP – assuming we throw in Respect for good (far left) measure, we have a majority of the country’s voters represented by these six parties. Why, then, are we all in different parties? If everyone in the smaller five parties joined Labour, they’d own it.

  2. Blanco on said:

    @2 The only way to change those structures is from the inside. It might be very difficult but it’s better than trying to do it from the outside, which is impossible.

  3. Marko on said:

    Why would the Lib dems be part of this, they are not ruling out froming a government with the Tories in the event of an hung parliament!

  4. David Ellis on said:

    The Lib Dems are trying to play the `reasonable’ middle ground as usual. Against Labour they say investment is good but there must be cuts (as if Brown isn’t preparing and carrying those out already) and against the Tories they say cuts are fine but there must be investment. They alone seem to realise that the British ruling class will need a subtle two-pronged approach to this crisis if it is to be unloaded on to the backs of the workers: cuts and high inflation. Either approach on its own won’t be subtle enough to get away with. The lib dems are always trying to be `reasonable’ in the teeth of the black and white approaches of the dichotomized labour/tory debate (even when it’s not that dichotomized) but they never manage it because they are unaware that two wrongs don’t make a right nor a reasonable synthesis unless of course might is right which for them it is.

  5. julesa on said:

    No – no mention of socialists / revolutionary left because as a ‘nice idea’ – sorry to be so cynical – it is a coalition of the ‘decents’ and is (not because of this fact per se) doomed.

  6. Blanco on said:

    Oh yeah, the Greens are the “decent” left – drink-sod, poppinjay pro-war trots, the lot of them.

    What rot. The reason socialists and especially revolutionary socialists are not mentioned is because they are irrelevant.

  7. Blanco- Did you just say the Greens were pro-war?

    Blimey- I thought Blanco was a bit crazy but it would seem as though he is, in fact, nuts!

    I think we should welcome this publication, I know I certainly do, as does Andy.

    The one thing the left needs is new thinking, especially along plural lines. No one group or individual on the left can claim to have all the answers, they don’t. The least we can do is try and see as much of this opinion in one place and see for ourselves the areas for common engagement with other progressive forces.

  8. julesa on said:

    Insofar as the revolutionary left are irrelevant Blanco that is a great pity and certainly not an occasion for rejoicing if you wish to seriously to see a movement that could transcend the horizons of capital globally.

  9. Could have been promising… will read some more of it … but at first glance really turned off by the list of “social democrats, liberals, greens and civic nationalists”. WTF? No trades unionists or socialists, or working class communities – not even feminists or ethnic minority communities included in this list then? But we get liberals included! Neo-liberalism is at the heart of the problem, and the liberal democrats are a vicious neo-liberal party. Of course social liberalism can be separated from economic liberalism as part of the left project.

    What a disappointment. We need a new left, but this is not it.

    To be honest, the original after the crash book was not up to the mark. But thats what you get at the meeting ground of Crud-ism and the soundings stable of Lawrence and Wiseheart. Looking to discover the elements of the counter-hegemonic alliance for a new plural left? Be prepared for many false starts then, including this one.

    Basically, it is the socialist left that should be grouping these forces (greens, democrats etc) in a counter-hegemonic alliance with the organised working class as the keystone. That would be Gramscian. Not this lash up with forces wedded to the market. Gramsci is spinning in his grave!

  10. #12

    barry, I think that some of your criticism is on the money.

    I have no problem with coalition building, but this is the wrong coalition.

    I have no trouble with most of the contributors as individuals, but the argument is too tilted towards liberalism, the absence of any voice from the trade unions is a serious ommision.

  11. Part of the problem for the left here is the historical abuse of the word ‘progressive’.

    We’ve formed ‘alliances of progressive forces’ with all kinds of dodgy people since the 1930s.

    Trouble is, the word ‘progressive’ is so vaguely defined, that even Blair and Mandelson can style themselves as ‘the progressive left’.

    Mushy formations involving libdems and nationalists can use the same kind of verbal cover to make themselves look like some kind of positive social force, when in reality they have nothing to offer working class people.

    Today whenever I hear the word ‘progressive’ used by politicians, I reach for a bargepole, then don’t even touch them with it.

  12. #13 Actually, I don’t think he was (just check out some of his comments about the Greens on Brighton-based blogs)

  13. daveyboy on said:

    Well, there is an estimation of the marxist strand in the Stuart White chapter beginning at p.112, specifically at p118.
    Says as much as needs to be said, I think.

  14. Jonathan Rutherford on said:

    re: comments about the absence of trade union voices, feminism etc, issues of race, yes I agree this is a weakness. But the ebook itself isn’t just about alliances, it was an act of making alliances. On a personal level I’m open to alliances to the left. Is it too much about liberalism, possibly, but the aim is ‘the centre left’ and socialism has been marginalised and what seems most likely to resonate amongst large numbers beyond the left are an ethical socialism and social liberalism. Is it ‘the coalition’ to the exclusion of all other formations, no, its opening a conversation. My guess is that there will be a number of left coalitions with a lot of people moving between the two and the issue will be whether or not we are capable of working together.

  15. little black sister on said:

    #5 and #15 There’s also an issue over who is meant by “socialists”.

    In the tussles in Respect, the ultra-left like to refer to themselves as “the socialists in Respect”, leaving out by definition Salma, Galloway, SR, Stop the War and all the other components.

    “Socialism” is much more than the ultra-left. It covers a whole range of politics from reformism to revolutionary Marxism (and good revolutionary Marxists are certainly not ultra-left).

    Socialists in general are not irrelevant to this initiative, but the ultra-lefts are, as always.

    I expect that if it avoids the word “socialist”, it’s because the word can be misunderstood. The last thing you want is to be identified with the infantiles.

  16. Blanco on said:

    @Luke In that instance I was being ironic. You yourself no doubt agree that the far left are useless, and that any actual project to create a formidable political alliance (i.e. not one based around old trade unionists and others who haven’t achieved anything in their lives) will involved the CENTRE-left parties, not the far left.

    The Greens are obv not pro-war. But a lot of stupid trots, like Dave Semple, always list the kinds of forces that make up “the left”: they always miss the Greens off it.

    Still, I do think that you’re wasting your time in a party that is unlikely to form a government in the next 60 years, if ever. If you feel that’s the best way to spend your life, don’t let me stop you. But actual influence on policy requires power. You might say it will make a difference to have a Green MP. But how much difference has it made to have 2 Green MEPs? There are far fewer MEPs than MPs in the UK, so each counts for a lot more. What is the point of a party with 1 or 2 MPs? It’s just pressure group politics, man.

    But I suspect you’ll end up joining Labour in the end.

  17. #5, #15 and #19

    What is socialism?

    Clearly there is debate about what socialism is, for some it has become a very narrow definition that excludes anyone who wants to have any real infleunce on the political mainstream, it is worth remembering that Herbert Morrison argued “Socialism is what the Labour Government does.”

  18. #18

    There are some useful chapters in the book, i like Jon Cruddas’s article, which I think is realistic about where the Labour Party stands in society now; and Richard Thompson’s chapter on nationalism and the view from Scotland, and Leanne Wood’s article on the expereince in Wales are interesting.

    i profoundly disagree with Stuart White’s analysis of labourism, and that is the hole in the structure of the book where the relationship between organised labour and politics should have been considered. Stuart actually puts forward quite a superficial argument.

    The other huge gap in the book relates to multi-culturalism, and where that missing topic should have been there is instead a rather slender contribution from a Lib Dem about fairness. It is paticularly stark that Jon Cruddas mentions in his chapter the infuence of classical liberalism on R H Tawney, and having raised that towering genius who advocated equality and fairness as a sound moral and ethical basis for society, we have this rather slight gesture towards the topic by Stuart White.

    It looks very much like Stuart Webb was invited as a token Lib Dem, rather then because he had anything interesting to say. Perhaps stronger editorial guidence might have teased out from Stuart Webb what might make the Lib Dems potential pertners in a progressive coalition.

    i have to say that any progressive coalition has to include organised labour, and make a robust deefnce of multi-culturalism, and on that basis this cllection – while interesting – sends the wrong signals for me.

  19. This is a liberal/reformist alliance and has very little to do with socialism unless socialists are involved. It’s a further move to the right and Respect won’t get a look in unless it ditches a lot of what it stands for. I’m sure the Dispatches program about Tower Hamlets will ensure Respect is kept at arms length by this any alliance that develops around Cruddas.

    As for the call to join Labour only someone who wanted to drown would board that wreck. New Labour will drag anyone who joins it down into Davy Jones Locker.

    No left alliance in the UK can be successful without involving the rev left who are much larger organisations than proto-reformist groups. The only non-revolutionary group in the UK of any significance is Respect and that only got an MP elected with the support of revolutionaries.

    This bunch have done very little to rebuild the left while socialists have been actively involved in this process. It’s a shame that those hostile to socialists are pinning their hopes on what amounts to another empty policy document from Cruddas. The rest of us will get on with the day in day out activity.

  20. I am with Andy (less or more as they say in the North) even as he quotes Herbert Morrison “Socialism is what a Labour government does” – I assume this is a wind up.

    It is not just that this scheme is tilted towards liberalism but that it neither has a decisive role for the organized working class movement (and trade unions) nor sees the unity and agency of the working class as a whole as a decisive factor in carrying through fundamental change.

    Whether the forces around Cruddas can be carried further depends not on the relatively marginal efforts of any dizzying constellation of ‘left groups but more on what pressure is put on them by the mass movement.

    But an approach that excludes from political alliances all except those who define themselves as socialists doesn’t take account of the ways in which many progressive people define themselves. Green’s especially, Respect supporters certainly but also millions of Labour voters and Labour abstaniners.

    If David Ellis thinks that a the Cruddas-style alliance of liberals and Labour can be defined as a ‘Gramscian/Stalinist wet dream’ he needs to change hands and read both Stalin and Gramsci.

    And in the spirit of qualified approval I suggest a good starting point might even be Chris Nineham

  21. Someone earlier wrote:

    ‘good revolutionary Marxists are certainly not ultra-left’

    I’m not sure I understand this. Surely if you support revolution as opposed to constitutional reform this in itself makes you on the ultra-left, as opposed to ‘moderate’ left, or ‘progressive’ left?

  22. “I’m not sure I understand this.”

    Socialists are either reformists who believe they can reform society or they are revolutionaries who believe capitalist will never give up power unless they are overthrown by the working class. There are various different interpretations of how to achieve reform or revolution. Ultra-leftism is a political critique used by Marxists to refer to an individual or group that refuses to work with reformists. In this thread the term is being used by reformists to describe all revolutionary socialists and is consequently a meaningless term of abuse.

  23. I don’t see why any socialist would want to involve themselves with such a woolly bunch who clearly prefer working with liberals than socialists. What is the point in this supposed coalition exactly? After the crash – how can we still dupe the masses and continue to lead them up the blind alley. Anybody who believes that an increasingly radicalised youth will look to this mob of anti-working politicians rather than the revolutionary left is ever so slightly out of touch.

    Thought this was a Socialist Unity site, no a Social Democratic/Liberal Unity one.

  24. Miloronic on said:


    “Thought this was a Socialist Unity site, no a Social Democratic/Liberal Unity one.”

    Maybe it should be renamed Socialist Disunity!