Has the left lost its way?

MaoA couple of days ago, Kevin Ovenden posted the following comment on this blog, as an introduction to some other points he was making

I had a drink with a senior figure in the Unite union who’s a good friend of mind last week. They mentioned in passing that they used to, about a year ago or more, check in to this site *every* morning because “you got a selection of interesting articles from the broad left and you could see what the left was saying to itself”. They don’t do that any more.

I think it is a fair point. Actually, the readership of the blog remains very healthy indeed, and there is an informative and regular debate, which I think is unique in the left blogosphere. However, over the last few months, there has been less topicality.

Partly, this is because I have been very busy with the industrial dispute against Carillion at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, and I have had less time for writing. In particular, I have regretted not having the opportunity to engage more fully with the debate about One Nation Labour, which touches on a number of issues I am interested in. It is also partly because John Wight and I have discussed how there is no obligation on us to write about topics just because they are topical, we are after all volunteers, and we both have busy lives .

However, I think there is another underlying problem, in writing about what the left is doing,  because the left really isn’t doing much at the moment which engages with the political mainstream.

I will write a longer and more considered article on this, but I am interested in what our readers think. Has the left lost its way?

375 comments on “Has the left lost its way?

  1. Karl Stewart on said:

    I wouldn’t worry too much if people complain about this site Andy – it’s an excellent site and a great resource for the movement.
    I know KevinO and I like and admire him a lot. He writes some great stuff and I hope he’ll do some more, but he was a tad po-faced about the AWL article.

    (If we’re honest, all of us on the left enjoy a bit of sectarian knockabout now and then – it’s a bit like when two footballers fight during a match and everyone says: “How disgraceful…” but we all want to see the punch-up.)

    Anyway, why not post up today’s John White article on the US obsession with guns?

  2. Caroline on said:

    I think we need to concentrate more on what unites us rather than what divides us .What about some articles on workfare,fascism in Greece the economy etc. Arm us with the weapons (words ideas info) for the fightback

  3. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    I am going to say that in all due honesty I view this thread with trepidation considering there is a Stalinist propaganda picture of, I assume, Mao and the statement of “Actually, the readership of the blog remains very healthy indeed, and there is an informative and regular debate, which I think is unique in the left blogosphere. However, over the last few months, there has been less topicality.”, considering the aggression and antagonism to the Left on this Blog by the editorial staff, and others, that does not facilitate fraternal and comradely debate.

    Nevertheless in saying that in my humble opinion one has to define the term Left before one can have such a discussion. Are we just talking about Left political parties such as the SWP and the Socialist Party et al? Does that include the Labour Party which in my humble opinion is not a Left or working class party as many of you know because I have made my belief known here; and that the working class need a new and independent political party which may not be a Left as some comrades want, but still needs to be formed. Or is everything just up for grabs and it is going to a free for all?

  4. I think it is self evident that the Left has lost its way or, at the very least, is disoriented and not establishing the kind of profile you might expect at a time when the coalition government is increasingly unpopular and its economic strategy is manifestly not working. Part of the reason may be to do with the outside world. Part may be to do with the culture of the Left itself.
    The Tories have been relatively successful at slicing away at public services. There has been no ‘big bang’ provoking a generalised fightback. There have been some bush fires such as the pensions protests but they have died down fairly quickly. Their anti-welfare rhetoric has struck a nerve with some sections of the population. The second national anti-cuts march, while substantial, was smaller than the first. New Labour has a healthy-looking lead, but it is some way from being election-winning and the party’s front bench still hasn’t earned the wholesale respect of the public on the economy.
    All of this could have a marginalising impact on the Left.
    What worries me more, from the perspective of somebody involved as an independent activist in the fight against the cuts and particularly the campaign to save the public library service, is that the Left looks much older, greyer, divided and less confident than when it was, for example, I was in the Socialist Workers Party from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s. At that time, for all its faults, the Left beyond the Labour Party was fairly self confident, if often divided and fractious. Now it looks anything but. The Respect fiasco has had a disorienting effect certainly. I would be interested to read contributions so long as the whole debate doesn’t descend into sectarian point-scoring, rudeness and recrimination. The time of salami-slicing in public services seems to be coming to a close and whole areas of public spending may be axed, as shown by Newcastle’s withdrawal from the Arts. The assault on redundancy, the privatisation of the NHS, the proposed onslaught on the teaching unions and accelerating attacks on benefits show a weak government with a fragile mandate going ahead regardless with an offensive strategy. There seems to be a manifest chasm between the Left circumstances require and the one we have.

  5. #3

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc800mXRAnA

    Btw what are you doing dossing around at this time of the day Jimmy? I thought that was only for fake lefts like myself.

    No papers to sell? No workers to win to the ideas of Marxism itself?

    Maybe you could pop over to Haiti and tell them all how they should have done it like Deggsy and co in Liverpool instead of following that sell-out Aristide.

    Oh and you forgot to mention your full expectation that Comrade Newman will delete your comment.

  6. Jimmy Haddow: Nevertheless in saying that in my humble opinion one has to define the term Left before one can have such a discussion

    I think that’s right either we are talking about the various sects and groups or we look at a wider interpetation including Labour and the Green’s. Also are we talking about England or the UK because different forces come into play beyond England.

  7. Alan Gibbons: I would be interested to read contributions so long as the whole debate doesn’t descend into sectarian point-scoring, rudeness and recrimination.

    No we need some serious politics as well.

    Btw what about Respect was a fiasco? The bit where someone publically associated with opposition to imperialist war and austerity got elected to parliament (twice) and is regularly on the telly?

    Alan Gibbons: There seems to be a manifest chasm between the Left circumstances require and the one we have.

    I absolutely agree with you on that.

  8. Karl Stewart: I wouldn’t worry too much if people complain about this site Andy – it’s an excellent site and a great resource for the movement.

    I didn’t intend this thread to rehash discussions about the blog.

    What i am interested in, is a discussion of what projects the left are enaged with, in the face of this right wing government, and the austerity aganda. It seems like we have almost no credible initiatives on the go

  9. #8 People have been going on about Socialist Disunity for as long as I have been visiting this blog.

    It isn’t an organisation with a line and those who run it are not even members of the same organsation.

    People can make their own minds up as to who they can make common cause with. If the thread on the AWL helped some people to do that (one way or the other) then it’s served a useful purpose. The same goes for the SWP.

  10. SA: I think that’s right either we are talking about the various sects and groups or we look at a wider interpetation including Labour and the Green’s. Also are we talking about England or the UK because different forces come into play beyond England.

    Well for a serious discussion, you would have to look at the whole picture.

    The scale of economic crisis, and the different vehicles to respond.

    I would suggest that in those terms the broader left is usefully considered as all those who oppose the austerity aganda, and who wish to see an economic policy based upon investment and growth.

    That inevitably must include a disccsion of the trade unions, and the vehicle which the unions use to proecute their interests includes the Labour Party; we need a rounded assessment of how well that is going. But naturally we would also need to consider the industrial staratgy from the unions for opposing cus and austerity.

    But equally, the initiatives of the far left, such as the “Coalition of Resistance”, and “Campaign for a New Workers party” should be subject to the same forensic scrutiny. I fear they wouldn’t fare well. The left groups seem more and more irrelevent, not just to me, but I think they are having less and less impact on broader politics.

  11. Vanya: #8 People have been going on about Socialist Disunity for as long as I have been visiting this blog

    Sorry, I deleted the comment you were responding too. It was just too boring and off-topic to stay.

  12. Vanya: Btw what about Respect was a fiasco? The bit where someone publically associated with opposition to imperialist war and austerity got elected to parliament (twice) and is regularly on the telly?

    Well whether Respect has beenna fiasco or not probably rather depends upon your relationship to it. However, even those well disposed to George Galloway and Respect must acknowledge that the credibility of Respect as an organisation is much diminished.

    My view is that Respect more or less exists only as the electoral label that George galloway uses in election, and not much more.

  13. The fiasco I referred to was the disintegration of Respect into warring camps with the secession of the SWP. I think that was pretty obvious. George Galloway obviously has real resonance as his two electoral victories show. Whether he can be instrumental in building an organisation is much more open to question.

  14. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Yes, it has lost its way. There is actually a trend to slip to the right. Visible in mainstream Labour being unable to resist austerity and in fact implementing it, but also in self-designated Marxist groups having broadly the same foreign policy as their ruling class does. This is discernable in the case of both the SWP and the AWL, which have both come in for scrutiny on this blog recently, but there are others.

  15. Well, Andy I would respectfully suggest that you, very obviously, are attempting to channel the diversity of Left opinion through the prism of the Labour Party and that comes with an awful lot of questions. As an unaffiliated outsider, the recent by-elections (and, from what I understand, the selection process for at least one of the LP candidates) certainly didn’t provide a convincing argument that the Left of the LP is winning the internal battle. I think that many grassroots organisations ,such as UK Uncut, have succeeded in bringing topics like taxation and workfare into mainstream consciousness and their membership includes many activists from other left-of-Labour parties, so radical ideas still are relevant,it’s just a matter of presenting them in a way that relates to the general population. I’m not convinced theLP in it’s current state is the best vehicle for that. And if the Right of the party starts to turn the screws in the buildup to the next election, which I believe they will do, then that point may be even more relevant.

  16. Andy Newman: Sorry, I deleted the comment you were responding too. It was just too boring and off-topic to stay.

    But it wasn’t – it was just censorship, be honest. But please don’t claim to talk about the left on that basis. And don’t worry – I won’t post again because you clearly don’t want to have yor ideas challenged.

  17. Caroline on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I am a bit of a lazy so and so but it would be good to see more articles by women. For example Izzy Koksai penned an excellent piece on workfare in the New Left Project why not put it and others up on here

  18. Nadia Chern on said:

    The problem for me starts with the left’s rather deluded response to austerity. We all recognized that there would be a huge offensive of public service cuts and much of the left saw this as the key battleground – trying to raise a popular movement against the cuts. Unfortunately, the only places where a movement has occurred is in areas where the left had developed some community organization and strength. What has been missed is the reality that the working class might not have the confidence to resist such an offensive.

    The atrophy of working class organization at workplace and community level cannot be underestimated. This has weakened the ground on which the left organizes with any success.

    The results of this are twofold. Firstly, the locus of the offensive has been as much in a general attack on living standards as in cuts. This has generated an enormous well of bitterness but little active resistance so the bitterness can veer around the ‘political spectrum’. The fact that this attack on living standards started under the Labour government from 2006 weakens Labour’s ability to grasp the bitterness.

    Secondly, a political upheaval in people’s ideas is taking place at the same time as they are looking to the easiest expressions of opposition. So we get mass votes for Labour at the same time that parties like Respect can report that the reception of its ideas has never been so good (even if not always recognized in votes). Conversely, we witness the surge in support for UKIP as the Tory right begins to decouple from the party.

    The electoral arena is the easiest expression of opposition and so remains likely to be the main route for expressing resistance as working class organization remains at an historic low.

  19. Jellytot on said:

    @10It isn’t an organisation with a line and those who run it are not even members of the same organsation.

    A key point. It’s a friggin’ blog, not a Party, group or organisation and not even a conventional publication connected to one.

    What’s got some people’s backs up is that there have been a few articles (written by different people) about the inner workings of a few left groups that have happened to follow in close succession. It should be recognised that all these articles have attracted hundreds of comments and a massive amount of interest so, maybe, the only thing that this Blog could be guilty of is giving people what they seem to want?

    Andy commented that the “left really isn’t doing much at the moment”. The fact that the reaction to the ongoing onslaught has been muted in Britain may have caused insularity and the Left to turn in on itself. If this is the case then the recent articles could be seen in that light.

    @3 I view this thread with trepidation considering there is a Stalinist propaganda picture of, I assume, Mao

    What’s “Stalinist” about that picture?

    It’s a rather pleasing image of the Young Pioneers of China looking over the Taiwan Strait from Fuijan (an image that would resonate with most ‘mainland’ Chinese up to the present). It’s painted in the style of the late 50’s/early 60’s. I collect originals in this style and I’ll have to track down this one down.

    The real “Stalinst” dross came later during the mass insanity that was the GPCR.

  20. Jellytot: The real “Stalinst” dross came later during the mass insanity that was the GPCR.

    I know this is being sidetracked, but I think that some of the propaganda posters of the Cultural Revolution period are rather good, I have two ot three of them framed on my walls at home.

  21. Caroline: For example Izzy Koksai penned an excellent piece on workfare in the New Left Project why not put it and others up on here

    Well broadly, we need to be careful, because I have no indication that she would be willing to have it posted here.

  22. Omar: Andy I would respectfully suggest that you, very obviously, are attempting to channel the diversity of Left opinion through the prism of the Labour Party and that comes with an awful lot of questions. As an unaffiliated outsider, the recent by-elections (and, from what I understand, the selection process for at least one of the LP candidates) certainly didn’t provide a convincing argument that the Left of the LP is winning the internal battle.

    I think the first part of that assessment is unfair. I am not trying to channel anything.

    Surely one of the key objectives of the left, of which ever stripe, should be to get the government to adopt alternative economic policies, which reverse austerity? As there is no prospect of the Tories changing, and as there are more mechanisms available to us, it makes sense to engage with the Labour Party.

    On the second part, the situation is certainly far from rosy for the left and the unions within the Labour Party; the discussion that needs to be had is why the left and the unions can’t get our act together. There will be others who think that the whole project is doomed, but do they have a credible, better alternative?

  23. Mike: it was just censorship, be honest.

    Look, you are a clever man, and therefore you know the difference between editorial discretion and censorship.

    The purpose of this thread is to have a discussion about the state of the left, and perhaps the concomitant theories of social change which inform the various left projects.

    You rather boring point was on an entirely different topic, of how this blog should relate to the flotsam and jetsam of the left groups; which had you posted it on the thread about the AWL, BTW, I would have allowed it to stay.

  24. Nadia Chern: Secondly, a political upheaval in people’s ideas is taking place at the same time as they are looking to the easiest expressions of opposition.

    I remain to be convinced of this upheaval of ideas. What makes you say that?

    My experience of knocking doors for Labour, is that people are open to a traditional Labour message, but not with any rweal conviction that labour would be even different, let alone better.

    This doesn’t mean that they are open to a “left alternative” to Labour, it means they are not yet realy convinced that any alternative economic polices are credible

    However, look how the press responded to Ed Balls over the recent mini-budget; even the relatively mild expansionary measures Ed proposed received short shrift from the political commentariat, and I am not convinced that that mesage is communicating to voters.

  25. saothar on said:

    Andy Newman: The left groups seem more and more irrelevent, not just to me, but I think they are having less and less impact on broader politics.

    Some truth in this point, but they would need to go some way before they reached the level of irrelevance of the Labour Party lefts. At least the small socialist groups try to challenge exploitation by the bourgeoisie and its hegemonic manufacturing of norms on issues such as cuts and immigration. At least they make arguments that reveal the class interests lurking behind some of the ‘common-sense’ assumptions that are expressed on such issues. They don;t buy into the nonsense that cuts are necessary, or that immigrants cause low wages and homelessness for ‘British’ workers. No, they don’t have much influence, but at least their arguments on issues like this are useful. The Labour Party does none of this, but falls in behind the reactionary agendas.

    I recall a few months ago people wetting themselves with excitement on this site because Paul Krugman, a bourgeois economist, but one who dissents from the prevailing neo-liberalist agenda and has opposed austerity programmes, appeared on Newsnight and totally trashed the pro-cuts arguments of a Tory MP and a business leader. What seemed to be lost was the fact that the arguments of Krugman, which were certainly not radical, and still based on the maintenance of globalised capitalism, were actually further to the Left than anything Labour, left, right, or centre, has produced for years. So what does that say about Labour?

    As regards the future, I had high hopes for the likes of the World Social Forum and the various strands of the Anti-Globalisation Movement, and saw these movements as the obvious target for involvement by trade union and socialist activists. They haven’t lived up to their early expectation, but possibly still offer a model for the future, something to be improved upon by this and future generations of activists. There has to be a move from anti-capitalism–which most of those activists share–to coherent political programmes that will begin to chip away bourgeois control in the medium term and hopefully bring about concrete change in the long run. I also think that socialists in this country should do more to link up with civil society organisations and other social movement type bodies, groups for example like the feminist group Object and refugee and asylum-seeker organisations. Unless the bases of struggle are broadened out, bourgeois hegemony will continue to be reproduced and some people on this site will become even more cynical.

  26. Jellytot on said:

    @27I know this is being sidetracked, but I think that some of the propaganda posters of the Cultural Revolution period are rather good, I have two ot three of them framed on my walls at home.

    I can understand the toe curlingly embarrassing slogans that frequently accompanied the images so that’s always coloured my view of the posters produced then. Most younger Chinese, even those politically aware, will view them today as little more than ‘kitsch’ items. My in-laws (who survived the GPCR) can barely stand to look at them as they revive terrible memories.

    It’s a personal taste thing but I always like the fresher and less agit-prop style of the poster in the article.

    P.S. Apologies for the sidetrack

  27. saothar: No, they don’t have much influence, but at least their arguments on issues like this are useful.

    That does raise the question of useful to whom? Surely the yardstick has got to be whether the ideas help to effect social change?

    The question therefore arises, of how do we see change occuring. It may seem optimistic to think of a Labour government responding to a reforming social-democratc aganda proposed by the trade unions. BUt it is something that could be conceived based upon the foundations of our current society

    I fear that much of the left – including the so-called revolutionaries – have actually given up on social change, and have opted instead for just commentary., and their politcal activity thereofre just means spending time with people they agree with.

  28. saothar on said:

    Andy Newman: That does raise the question of useful to whom?

    The arguments are useful to anyone who wants to challenge the prevailing bourgeois hegemony on the issues I have mentioned, and others–whether you are a member of these groups or not. ~

    Lets face it–if you are a member of the Labour Party and you want to challenge the Right fundamentally on issues such as cuts, you’re not going to have your intellectual arsenal improved through a perusal of Labour Party publications, or vacuous speeches by Miliband and Balls.

  29. >
    saothar,

    Well if your aim is to propagandise against the Tories , then fair enough.

    But to reverse the government agenda needs engagement with mass popular forces that the far left cannot reach

  30. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Vanya is being extremely stupid and ignorant in his comment on post 5; by the way I never doss around, I am a hyper-active 57 year old doing this or that and only post here between doing things, whether it is political or non-political. But I must say it is also naïve and disingenuous to suggest that correspondents who argue a particular point of view which is not the mainstream ideology on this blog should change their estimation and perspectives to please others. After all Mr Newman never argues a different perspective from the one he holds now and continually pushes the pro-Miliband Labour Party and right-wing Trade union leadership line in every contribution on ‘His’ blog; which is then followed-up by the hangers-on, like Vanya.

    I have been a CWI member for over 32 years and I discuss the world social and political situation at various Socialist Party events/meetings and I have no disagreement with their perspectives, so why should I not discuss these in forums both in the cyber world and in the real world; for example on Socialist Party Scotland Stalls and papersales and Labour movement meetings, etc. And I expect comrades like Stuart of the SWP, or the members of the AWL or members of the CPB do the same thing, the point is we are not all burnt out has-beens of Left political parties and we do have something to contribute, specifically this thread, to the intellectual and ideological concepts of the “Left”. While agreeing that this is not a ‘Party Blog’ it is correct that all ‘Left’ perspectives should be aired, whether Party or non-Party, and not subject to the continual personal and/or non-political abuse from some quarters.

    In saying all that in Scotland the majority of the ‘Left’ have capitulated to the bourgeois nationalism of the SNP in the YES campaign by dipping, and some cases covering, the banner of Socialism; apart from the Socialist Party Scotland/CWI that is. But I will follow that up in part two of this post, must not make it too long or boring or Mr Newman will delete it.

  31. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Part 2:
    In my humble opinion the 2014 Independence Referendum will be an historic event. It is the first time that the Scottish people will have faced a decision on whether to be independent from the rest of Britain. The run up to 2014 will dominated by intense debate and discussion on the social, economic and political future direction of Scotland.

    In particular what policies are needed to end cuts and austerity, rebuild our decimated public services and tackle the massive levels of poverty and inequality within Scotland and further afield. It is a therefore a unique opportunity for socialists and trade unionists to participate with a clear message that puts the interests of the working class, young people and the poor front and centre.

    There is no doubt that for many working class people the decision about whether to vote for independence will be shaped by the desire to find a route out of the unprecedented economic crisis and the associated savage austerity policies. The potential to build a campaign that fights to put an alternative to unending cuts in the run-up to the independence referendum cannot be avoided.

    None of the current campaigns in that sense fit the bill. Yes Scotland and in particular the SNP leadership are dominated by pro-business ideas. The SNP’s vision for independence involves slashing taxes, having neo-liberal currency union, maintaining the symbols of inequality like the Royal Family and making Scotland a paid-up member of the imperialist alliance of NATO.

    Neither do the SNP support widespread public ownership, not even of the hated power companies, of which I was campaigning against, the other day Vanya. Without doubt under devolution the SNP have introduced some relative progressive policies. But they have also pursued an identical approach to the ConDems by freezing public sector pay, implementing the pensions attacks and cutting billions from the Scottish budget. Under Scottish independence the SNP leadership seem intent on putting the interests of an ailing and decrepit capitalist system before the rights of the millions. Now the Scottish Socialist Party, the SSP, are involved in this the main Yes Scotland campaign and have been completely subsumed by the SNP ideology and have been utterly corrupted.

    The Radical Independence Campaign was set-up by the split-off from the Socialist Workers Party in Scotland and involves a range of academics and intellectuals grouped around the Scottish Left Review magazine and the Jimmy Reid Foundation. RIC held a 700 plus strong conference in November attended by Greens, socialists and SNP activists and a layer of young people. However the not so-radical RIC explicitly stands for a capitalist independent Scotland. “What we want is a Nordic-style universal welfare state with a mixed economy model” Most of the left organisations in Scotland are participating in either Yes Scotland and/or RIC but are promoting the idea that an independent Scotland would automatically be a progressive, more equal, less neo-liberal society.

    However, the Socialist Party Scotland, which includes myself, are campaigning for an independent trade union and socialist campaign for the Independence Referendum which will fight for decisive measures to end the austerity agenda. Unlike the majority of the left, Socialist Party Scotland is not prepared to dip our socialist banner. Today, and for many years more to come, savage austerity, the picking apart of the gains made by workers in the past is all this system has to offer. I believe that the only alternative for the working class, young people and the poor is to build a mass movement against austerity in the form of a 24-hour general strike as a first step.; the building of an independent political representation for the working class; and for the eventual break with capitalism in the form of decisive socialist measures. These are all ideas that could be discussed amongst the ‘Left’ to bring it back on to the left track.

  32. Andy Newman:
    >
    saothar,

    Well if your aim is to propagandise against the Tories , then fair enough.

    But to reverse the government agenda needs engagement with mass popular forces that the far left cannot reach

    Equally can we agree that the Labour Party won’t reach those mass popular forces? (Because of the weakness of an alternative, anti-austerity narrative that you rightly highlight.)

    Here in Southampton, we had Labour sweep the Tories out of the city council this year, after a year-long industrial dispute they provoked with the binmen and other local government workers. Unite in particular were crucial to getting boots on the ground, door-knocking and leafletting for the Labour Party.

    But without serious mass organisation, since then the Labour council have been forced into one u-turn after another, making people redundant, extending outsourced-service contracts, cutting bus subsidies, closing the youth service etc. It is profoundly dispiriting for working-class and socialist people.

    I do not believe the Labour Party can be the vanguard of a substantive shift in public opinion over the need for austerity. The national party has explicitly said that any attempts at organising local authority resistance to cuts will be met with expulsions. But I do believe Labour can, and must, reflect such a shift if it occurs – it is, after all, the only party connected to the labour movement which is likely to gain power.

    But we can’t skip steps. The key is what Nadia mentions – the atrophy of organisation in communities and workplaces. That is the first step, and again, I do not believe the Labour Party is a suitable vehicle for rebuilding that. It is after all an electorally-focused party, people’s efforts are focused on getting people out to vote, not on changing public perceptions. It is a conservative force, and its most influential section, its parliamentary leadership, is the most conservative of all.

    The labour movement has to take a long-term approach. While for most people, in most areas, voting Labour will be automatic, that does not necessarily mean that activism in the Labour Party (which by its very nature means electoral campaigning, and for the party as it exists rather than as we would like it to exist), should be the priority of the organised left.

    That isn’t to knock comrades in the Labour Party. It’s just to try and explain why many people do not feel that work inside the mass party is the most fruitful use of our limited time and resources.

  33. #38 I think this comment probably takes us closest so far to something approaching an answer to the problem.

  34. Andy Newman: Look, you are a clever man, and therefore you know the difference between editorial discretion and censorship.

    The purpose of this thread is to have a discussion about the state of the left, and perhaps the concomitant theories of social change which inform the various left projects.

    You rather boring point was on an entirely different topic, of how this blog should relate to the flotsam and jetsam of the left groups; which had you posted it on the thread about the AWL, BTW, I would have allowed it to stay.

    NO, you look! You dismiss the SWP and other groups as flotsam and jetsam. That’s your prerogative. Your blog attacks Owen Jones, the main point of my deleted post, who is one of the rare young left voices in the Labour Party – or perhaps more flotsam and jetsam to your contributors? It seems you are defining the left in very narrow terms – who isn’t flotsam and jetsam?

  35. saothar on said:

    Andy Newman: Well if your aim is to propagandise against the Tories

    That would be a step forward from Labour’s current position, of acquiescing with them.

  36. Nadia Chern on said:

    Andy Newman: remain to be convinced of this upheaval of ideas. What makes you say that?

    Sorry, Andy, I wanted to comment to focus a discussion on the left’s problematic obsession with anti-cuts fronts, none of which make sense as national shells.

    My problem with your position is that the absence of an alternative cannot be viewed as a confirmation of Labour or Labourism.

    Your experience is a curious mirror to my own, when doorstepping :-). If you go to argue for Labour, then people will go along with you as it is the automatic pole of opposition for most. If you go to argue for Respect as I do, you find that people will normally want to talk, will not want to stop discussing and will tell you that they will vote for Respect. Then you find that most still vote Labour. Historic loyalties run deep.

    There is also the gradual breakdown of many of the existing pillars of British society, which reflects a deep cynicism and disenchantment. Why is there such scandal in the police, the BBC, parliament, the Murdoch media? Its not because people feel the same as they always felt about British society – its because people are bitter, cynical and disaffected (they don’t believe in these institutions in the same way as before). Why might this be the case? Because the banks, the politicians and the media have tried to sell a lie and one that is exposed by the continual pinch on wage packets. If you look at the set up of the skivers vs striver debate (which you mention in relation to Balls), I find the fact that only 40% agree with the Tory line while the same number actively disagree astonishing given the push from the media.

    The most striking illustration of the current situation is the dramatic spread of food banks in the urban areas. Friends and family are now using these despite feeling deep shame about it. They are also growing increasingly desperate and upset as they see no way out.

    The other issue that we have not addressed is the disaffected who do not even vote or register and are growing increasingly vitriolic.

  37. Mike,

    No, we don’t “attack” Owen Jones. What lurid language, illustrative of a stupidly polemical approach to politics.

    We publish a variety of voices, not all of which I agree with, and one article by a guest author used a recent article by jones as a starting point for a discussion of Labours history of acquiescing in imperialism.

    So what?

  38. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    can I ask is my voice going to heard as my comments, timed at 5:33 and 5:34, are still beung held in moderation?????

  39. BrokenWindow on said:

    It’s important that you are at least addressing this question. It needs to be asked with some urgency as there is very little being done,at least on a mass level,and the promising signs,in the student loan demos,have fizzled out.

    Stategically there is a problem in that a significant number of left-thinking people,not necessarily partymembers of the far-left but unionised,have absolutely no truck with the Labour party. This has intensified since the Iraq war which split the Left too. Also the far-Left have not got beyond there genmeral fresher-profile of a party with any serious answers. I shall get the usual crit for this but it’s a fact;they are not seen by any significant minority as credible. and there lies the gap. No main party to be influenced by a grassroots resurgence and no radical party with any serious intent,numbers wise and with rounded leaders who can run with any of the journ

  40. It seems to me that there are a number of mechanisms for shifting opinion, and we should not overlook the power of such forces as UK Uncut, but equally the largest and most powerful potential forces for a challenging the austerity agenda are the unions.

    It is my view that whether or not unions express their labourism through the Labour Party, the unions are inherently labourist – with a small l.

    Now there are a number of complications, and my own activity through the Labour Party is that it makes sense to me, to leverage the best advantage for the left based upon my own personal circumstances. I dont say other people should or would do the same.

    However the struggle within Labour cannot be ignored, not least because that is still the mechanism where some of the most important unions still see as the primary outlet of their activity. Unions need to decide to assert their political interests, whether through Labour or otherwise, and if working through Labour doesn’t work, then we need to learn that lesson for ourselves, and make decisions accordingly. The political tempo is much slower in the unions than even in the Labour Party.

    But forget whether or not the entire Labour Party can be won to an anti austerity position, it would be a big boost if there was even a credible minority ; and the elements for that do exist. Represented potentially in the unions, the PLP, the shadow cabinet and the commentariat, and therefore also in the CLPs.

    The difficulty is that the window for doing something will not remain open for ever.

  41. Come off it, this is hide and seek. The article in question said:
    “By virtue of exalting members of the immediate post-war Labour majority government as a yardstick by which to measure the current crop of Labour politicians Owen Jones does nothing more, than at best, reveal his total indifference to the victims of this Labour government’s foreign policies. At worse, could Jones be revealing something more sinister than this? Is Jones implying that as long as the British white working and middle classes are sufficiently supported economically by the British state it doesn’t matter how many ‘wogs’ are slaughtered and exploited by Her/His Majesty’s Government in foreign lands for this righteous end?”
    Not an attack – and lurid too.

  42. BrokenWindow on said:

    The labour party has alienated a lot of people who at one time believed,in power,it would move to the Left. Since Kinnock,this has seemed increasingly unlikely. Since Blair,impossible; the right wing neoliberal agenda has gripped the Labour party. People to whom this alienation felt most acute, are not going to jump on some Trotskyist far-left platform. Thye still care passionately about issues which shaped their early political outlook but no longer believe LAbour can offer anything progressive. In Respect,they see an anomalie,welcome,a temporary glimmer but nothing that can withstand the political bruising of a media hostile to everything the Left stand for,let alone the implosive nature of the Left when it has some momentum. Galloway has had this honour twice now.What is left is a vacuum,as the masses have left the stage. Worryingly,I think the social media has had its part to play in atomising people further. Slipping down the rabbit hole is the perfect escapism for a significant portion of people now. Sending another petition,watching another youtube clip all counts for activism today. Notably,the anti-cuts movement have usurped the Old left in how they mobilised. How could they not? The unions have been shamefully silent. How long does it take them? The Olympics could have been a summer of discontent but instead the unions rolled over again. And when they do not,as the RMT have shown,do they act with fellow workers in mind or just union members? The Left is as atomised as the workers collectively are atrophied. Underpinning this is an absence or failure to theoretically engage in wider debates about globalisation and nation states,the economy and technology,relying on its old marxist reflexes that now see it twitching redundant in the ditch of history.It must clearly state what and how it would do things better,not behave as Livingstone did and think it has some Hegelian god-given right to be in power. It hasn’t at all and most of all it must re-engage with the peple it hates the most,the young working class white men and women who have gone to the right. And it must stop excusing homophobia and racism of any kind.

  43. Mike,

    That article wasn’t by me. You seem to have trouble grasping the concept that we publish a range of views that we dont necessarily agree with seems to elude you.

    Nu’man is of Yemeni heritage and has a particular view of how the British left has failed to challenge the legacy of colonialism.

    It is not an “attack” on Jones, it is a difference of opinion.

  44. andy newman,

    The problem I see with focusing on trade union influence over the Labour Party, as a political strategy, is that inherently relies on the full-time apparatus, limiting scope of mass union involvement.

    That is not to say I think this is a bad thing. The affiliated unions should maximise the pressure on Labour. But essentially this surely comes down to people in top positions who have the greatest public profile. This does not leave much room for others; indeed, arguably the important thing is for trade unionists to annoy our own leaderships into themselves keeping the pressure up on Miliband and co.

    You argue the political tempo is slower in the unions than the party. The problem is the political position is far, far ahead in the unions. There is less territory to cross. There remain influential strandsin the party, and the higher you go the more dominant they appear, who seem to accept the fundamentals of the government’s defence of austerity, either in principle as by invoking the need for ‘credibility’.

    The unions may also be ‘labourist’, but the question remains: How best should the labour movement exercise its traditional influence, both on the programme of the Labour opposition, and in the sense of increasing the prospects of a Labour government?

    The choices appear to me either organisational or ideological.

    Trade unions could focus on winning the debate within the formal policy-making process of the Labour Party, and, as I mentioned happened where I live, mobilising their rank and file behind Labour’s electoral campaign. But let’s remember for one moment the weakness of the anti-cuts position within the public sphere. What use would winning the Labour Party, if the wider public remains apathetic or even hostile?

    It would be far more profitable, in my opinion, for the trade unions to focus on an expressly ‘non-party’ public campaign – and specifically, focusing on campaigns like Keep Our NHS Public and Disabled People Against Cuts, and emulating the UK Uncut model of highlighting tax avoidance and HMRC’s complicity in exercising double standards for the ‘rich and the rest’.

    If we shift the debate in the country, by emphasising the ideological sphere, regardless of whether we go through the process of debating in constituency parties, policy forums etc.

    Additionally, again to use the example I am most familiar with, of Southampton, if the trade union movement is consciously organised behind the Labour Party, when – as, I think we can all agree, will inevitably happen – a Miliband government suffers extraordinary pressure from the elite, it will disorient those politically active cadres of union members on whom the movement depends. This in turn will undermine the strength of purpose of any likely Labour government.

    The organised working class needs to retain its conscious sense of separation from the Labour leadership. If we are all batting on the same team, Labour will be less likely to accede to pressure. I also believe that such a direction is more likely to increase the visibility of, and sympathy for the position of the labour movement, amongst the general public, and thus the chances of Labour being elected.

  45. Peter Hine on said:

    I only read two blogs in the UK, so I can find out the latest discussions and issues over there. Those being SU and Lenins Tomb. I’ve been doing this for a few years, but of late it’s disappointing to read some of the articles on SU attacking left organizations. And THAT is where the ‘debate’ is.
    So while the two recent articles on the SWP has 472,427 comments and the one on the AWL has 344, an article on Palestinian statehood only gets 6 comments and the one on flying the union flag in Ireland gets 8 comments.
    I’d have thought these were important issues, yet SU wants to spend its time in (what seems) an endless petty personal vendetta.
    Even the discussion on the Don’s(and I’m familiar with Plough Lane) got 9 comments.

    Discussion on the left for the best way forward for the working class is absolutely important and for learning the lessons of history.
    But really, the ruling class must be laughing at us when they read this blog and see how the left is ripping itself apart.

  46. Apologies, my comment at #48 should read:

    “If we shift the debate in the country, by emphasising the ideological sphere, successfully, there will likely be a reflection of that in the relative strength of the broad left wing of the Labour Party, regardless of whether we go through the process of debating in constituency parties, policy forums etc.”

  47. #49 The problrm with your argument is that it’s with the people who comment, not the people who run the blog.

    It’s hardly Andy, John or Tony’s fault if they put up a great article about the threats to the NHS and nobody has anything to say about it for example.

    I won’t get into the rights or wrongs of the stuff about the SWP or AWL. If you want to comment on those threads I’ll have something to say.

    #48 Very well observed stuff there. It actually reads like strategic thinking. More of the same please. And with rerference to your comments on the other thread, you are most definitely forgiven 🙂

  48. Nadia Chern,

    “What has been missed is the reality that the working class might not have the confidence to resist such an offensive.

    The atrophy of working class organization at workplace and community level cannot be underestimated. This has weakened the ground on which the left organizes with any success.”

    Absolutely. And there’s plenty more to come. Those council employees about to be outsourced haven’t a clue what’s going to hit them.

    But in the end, the Left have spent the last forty years supporting mass immigration. The results of this policy are simply the results of supply and demand, but that’s a truth that can’t be expressed by the trades union movement.

    Marx – “The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the worker is, of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible, which is only possible when the supply of this commodity is as large as possible in relation to the demand for it.”

  49. Vanya,

    re the NHS, I asked a consultant (a liberal sort but no socialist) last weekend what he thought of the reforms.

    “They’re setting up the GPs to take the blame when it goes wrong. Most GPs don’t want to handle the hospital budgets, they want to care for patients, and those GPs who do want to handle hospital budgets probably shouldn’t be in that job”.

  50. Manzil,

    I don’t disagree. A big trouble with the Labour Party is the lack of mechanism for CLP members to influence policy; and the high number of boring meetings is an obstacle for activists who are also engaged in campaigns outside the party.

    Therefore, exercising influence does require leveraging the instutional weight of union organisation. That is why it is not a strategy everyone can follow, but I think activists in affiliated unions should.

    It is correct that what we need is a convincing ideological alternative , which of course needs to come from a broader range of forces than the Labour Party, but will have mire weight if it is reflected within it, which means we also need support in the mainstream centre-left in the PLP and the shadow cabinet. – which also needs the credibility of the big unions.

  51. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Well it looks like my original sentiments at the beginning of this thread were correct. This has nothing to do with the Left losing its way but just another superficial and banal discussion about the Labour Party and how they are the only ‘Party in the village’. In post nine Mr Newman said that “I didn’t intend this thread to rehash discussions about the blog. What i am interested in, is a discussion of what projects the left are enaged with, in the face of this right wing government, and the austerity aganda. It seems like we have almost no credible initiatives on the go” I have made a contribution to this discussion about what project, one of many, my Left group is starting to get involved in, but you have not put it forward, you will say for editorial reasons, which is another way of saying let’s censor it. The irony is that it just becomes as narrow-minded and sect like as the left groups you personally complain about, but of course you do not want a re-hash discussion about the blog.

  52. David Ruaune on said:

    I think the picture at the top was a bit of kitsch Maoism, and the title – “Has The Left Lost Its Way” – used the picture against its original intention, so it was kinda ironic.

  53. Karl Stewart on said:

    It’s not all doom and gloom. The RMT has just won a 3.5 per cent pay rise for its members and the CWU has just won a 3.1 per cent rise for facilities and maintenance workers (a strike ballot moved the pay offer up from 1.5 per cent).

    So there are some victories out there, and there will be more upward pressure on wages in the year ahead.
    The living wage campaign has made progress too, and the government plans to attack fixed-term contract workers’ rights will spark a renewed drive by unions to fight for permanent contracts.
    A hard fight by our unions on these issues will feed through into our unions’ political input into the Labour Party – and I think this is where momentum for moving left will come from, and is already starting to happen.

    Outside of the labour movement, I think people on the left make too much of groups like UKuncut and of the students’ protests. They’re actually quite elitist.

    It was the 2011 uprisings of working-class youth – which actually did involve real direct distribution of property – that really rattled the powers that be and that’s the fighting spirit we need.

    Finally, Mike, don’t stick up for Owen Jones, he supports the CIA’s smear campaign against Julian Assange.
    I admired Jones until then, but I don’t anymore. There are times when people on the left get tested, Jones was tested over the Assange issue and he rolled over.

  54. Socialist on said:

    The interesting thing about this site is that the main writers tend to be social democratic in their outlook and sceptical of ‘revolutionary socialism’, whilst the readership tend to be the hard left, often associated with Marxist-Leninism and the fringe vanguard groups.

    I actually think these groups generally do more harm than good to socialist politics which is why I enjoy seeing their politics being put under the spotlight on this site.

    All forms of fundamentalism are dangerous and fundamentalist socialism as espoused by SWP, CWI, etc is no different from fundamentalist religous beliefs.

  55. Newmanist on said:

    Andy Newman has lost his way, on the eve of the SWP conference they expel a group of dissident comrades, as reported in the Weekly Wrecker another leading gossip-monger, and no dramatic article on “the crisis in the SWP”. He clearly is very busy.

  56. Andy raises both a good question and some interesting introductory observations for an end-of-year discussion.

    Lost its Way? A resounding yes I’m afraid. And it is vital some harsh realities are faced.

    In 1979 when I joined the old CPGB the party had just over 30,000 members. For good or ill this was still a sizeable organisation with a substantial base across unions, key workplaces communities and campaigns. It could still boast a handful of councillors too, elected as Communists.

    Like I said, for readers of this site, for good or ill.

    1997-2010 were amongst the most favourable conditions imaginable for an outside left party.

    In government new Labour disappointed over, and over again. A mass anti-war movement emerged that could turn 2 million out on to the streets. A number of trade unions disaffilated from the Labour Party. Social media opened up new means to communicate and organise. Members were exiting the Labour Party leftwards in their tens of thousands.

    Yet no organisation has emerged with even a tenth of the size of the CP when I’d joined it. Membership figures don’t lie, we can argue the toss over a hundred here or there, these organisations are tiny, only punching above their weight thanks to ceaseless dedicaton of core activists, but in terms of numbers each and every one has failed, dismally.

    Respect? There are differing views of it on this site. But it is surely uncontestable that almost all the immediate promise of George Galloway’s extraordinary victory in Bradford West have been squandered for one reason or another, a broader political impact is now most unlikely.

    Elections? The old excuse used to be the inequities of first past the post. Yet in the GLA and European Elections PR is used. Again not even the relatively low threshold to get eleced has been achieved. The only exception was when Ken Livingstone stood and won as an independent for London Mayor, but no independent organisation was built, Ken rejoined Labour and following two successive defeats he is now an entirely marginal figure in the Labour Party.

    Labour Left? There are to’s and fro’s of the odd MP here winning some support but any kind of stategy to shift Labour towards some kind of left is remarkably absent. The Parliamentary Labour Left representation is small, ageing and decreasing. As for left-controlled councils, none to speak of in the manner of the 80s and 90s. Any influence there might be in the CLPs is of hardly any impact likewise the left members of Labour’s NEC.

    North of the border the SSP imploded, despite the favourable conditions of PR there are no signs of the constituency it once represented in the Scottish Parliament securing any kind of representation.

    Trade Unions? Some left victories but the bigger picture in most sectors is both falling membership and even more seriously falling density of membership, average age of trade union membership is rising too. Despite the huge sums of money in the political funds few trade union campaigns win much support outside of their own ranks. The 2012 TUC march against the cuts even on best estimates was just a third of the one a year earlier. Trade Union General Secretaries who call for a General Strike at rallues can’t even get their own union’s out for a day of action.

    This is an absolutely dire situation for all concerned. Yes there are some sparks of life, Occupy, UK Uncut, the 2010 student movement, the upsurge in response to Operation Cast Lead, some local anti-cuts campaigning.. But the roots and substance aren’t there to develop any of these with the continuity and mass support they require to grow, in most cases they too are in decline after an initial burst.

    Outside of the traditiinal left the Grens enjoy some success and Plaid have elected the most left-wing of all the party leaders in the excellent Leanne Wood. But neither are making anything like the impact might have been expected.

    Meanwhile under Labour the BNP flourished, securing almost 100 councillors, two MEPs and a substantial base across a wide range of communities. Now under the Con-Dems UKIP are doing even better, with none of the Nazi and criminal-thuggish baggage they are set to grow, and grow. As Owen Jones put it very well, “Ukip’s rise represents a failure of the left. Ukip has become a vehicle for those repulsed by our technocratic political elite.” Owen focuses that failure on the outside Left, the same can be said of the Labour Left too.

    From 1997 all the conditions, politically and electorally, in and out of Labour, existed for some kind of left breakthrough. Instead it has been the outside Right that has flourished. This is the real measure, and consequence, of losing our way.

    Mark P

  57. Karl Stewart on said:

    UKIP represents a split in the Tory Party – it’s the party for moany Daily Mail and Express readers who think Cameron’s too liberal.
    I call this group the “political-correctness-gone-mad brigade” and UKIP represents this constituency – it isn’t the new nazi party.

  58. Karl

    Sorry for any confusuon. I wasn’t suggesting UKiP was the ‘new Nazi party’. But I was pointing out that s with the BNP before it a populist-rightist party is flourishing. In both cases these are parties outside of the mainstream, doing well on the right. The magnitude of the left losing its way is that in the most favourable conditions imaginable, and in London, Scotland and the Euro Elections PR too no such success to Labour’s left. And at the same time no visible success inside Labour shifting it to the Left either, and little or no strategy to do so.

    I made the comparison to the 30,000 or so members of the CPGB in 1979 as an indicator of the catastrophic failure of any outise left group to get much closer than 10% of those membership numbers now.

    Mark P

  59. Karl Stewart on said:

    Mark, the confusion comes from the alarmist nonsense of idiot posh boy Jones, who, in the article you refer to, does indeed seem to think UKIP is some kind of new, fascistic force which we should all be frightened of.

    The growth in UKIP’s electoral support is directly connected to the slump in Tory votes – and while of course the reactionary “political-correctness-gone-mad agenda must be confronted politically, what we are seeing here is, in essence, a split within the mainstream party of the right – the Conservatives.

    By contrast, the mainstream party of the left – Labour – has not split. Some 15 years of repeated attempts to create a new mass party of the left have repeatedly failed and the labour and progressive movement remains united around this one single electoral vehicle.

    Through our affiliated unions, through the day-to-day struggles at the workplace and through various progressive campaigns and activities, we can exert a progressive influence on Labour.

    As to the CP, yes it’s got way fewer members than it did back in the 1970s – people like you and I are not currently members and perhaps we should be.

  60. prianikoff on said:

    #60 The CPGB may have had 30,000 members in 1979, but it was an ageing party, which had failed to recruit amongst youth during the preceding decade.
    By the early 80’s, it was seriously affected by the events in the USSR and Eastern Europe. These animated the split between the Euros and pro-Moscow Communists in Britain.

    These problems were CP specific, but the defeat of the Miners strike and its consequences adversely affected the entire trade union movement.
    The landscape in which trade unions operate today is very different to the one that existed before 1979. Anti-union laws, casusalisation of the workforce, the growth of agency employment, the globalisation of capital, deregulation and widespread tax avoidance all mean that the employers have gained the upper hand.

    The biggest problem for the unions is reaching out to the large numbers of workers who fall outside of existing collective bargaining arrangements and representing them. Only in that way will membership and union density increase.

    The success of popular anti-tax avoidance campaigns, such as against Starbucks branches shows that there is widespread opposition to corporate power. Unions should be joining these campaigns and finding ways to apply them to their own situations.

    But they also need to fight for the policies and legislation which will prevent the employers using legal loopholes to evade taxes and exploit cheap labour.
    This means challenging the acquiescence of the Labour leadership in the corporate agenda.
    An important part of this will be to develop ways to challenge EU policies on a pan-European level, to provide a socialist alternative to the little-England nationalists of UKIP.

  61. Mark P: The magnitude of the left losing its way is that in the most favourable conditions imaginable, and in London, Scotland and the Euro Elections PR too no such success to Labour’s left. And at the same time no visible success inside Labour shifting it to the Left either, and little or no strategy to do so.

    For me, the left could not succeed, without some re-evaluation of what the left’s project actually is.

    As I am fond of quoting Angela Davis n saying. It is necessary not only for people to be aware that things are wrong, but also to believe that it doesn’t have to be like this.

    The left – in its broadest sense – has failed to acknowledge the challenge raised by globalisation, the rise of multi-national corporations, and the extraordinary high technological level, which can only be sustained by division of labour on an international scale.

    So import substitution, and any form of autarchic economic policy is impossible; and so any socialist policy must look not only of democratiic control of the economy, but also a mechanism for interfacing, and negotiating with multi-national corporations, and continuing to be an effective partner for capital.

    This torpedos the far left below the water line, because even in the fantasy scenario that they could achieve a “revolution”, the state they would control would be thrown around like a cork bobbing in the waves; and we would all be growing turnips and curly kale in our back gardens to eke out a bare subsistence existance.

    Why would firms like Honda or Toyota continue to import components and sub-assemblies from around the world for final assembly into cars in Britain, if the government was hostile to them, or sought to nationalise parts of their company?

    So much of the left’s thoughts on the economy are locked in a paradigm which became un-workable 50 years ago.

    the lack of a credible radical left concept of political economy, combined with shrill fundamentalism of left voices seeking to rotate the debate about the impossible, has I beleive inhibited a challenge to the lieutenants of neo-liberalism in the labour movement.

    That is the significance of China, which does suggest a credible socialist economic policy is possible.

    Similarly, on the industrial struggle, instead of spending our time seeking to build the biggest possible challenge to oppose austerity, and defend jobs and services; in union committee after union committee, the impossibilit left has sought to rotate the debate around tactics which are unachievable given the current level of confidence and consciousness in the union membership.

    People can take it for granted, as an active trade union branmch secretary, and as an active member of the Labour Prty (chair of the Swindon Local Campiagn Forum), ,that i do personally prioritise organisation; however, I stress that we need to develop a convincing ideological challenge that is sufficiently credible to achieve mass popular acceptance as an alternative.

    Actualy, I think that the franmework of One Nation Labourism is potentially promising, and I see Glasman playing lip-service to the vocabulary of Tawney. But the theme of the common good needs not to be marginalised to the voluntary and third sector, but to be central to the government’s economic policy.

  62. prianikoff: The biggest problem for the unions is reaching out to the large numbers of workers who fall outside of existing collective bargaining arrangements and representing them. Only in that way will membership and union density increase.

    I am not sure that follows. The most cost effective way of increasing membership and density is to focus on those workers who ARE covered by collective arrangement, but who have not joined the union.

    You are of course not wrong about the need to push into new sectors, and use new imaginative methods. So I am just being pedantic, but i think my correction is an important one.

  63. Karl Stewart on said:

    Prianikoff, the defeat of the Soviet Union had a catastrophic effect on the whole of the left worldwide – whether CP, social-democratic, or any of the “57 varieties”.
    Here was a profound defeat of the idea that an alternative to capitalism was possible and it impacted on us all. It certainly wasn’t “CP-specific”.

    As to the internal struggles within the CP – I was not around back then, but from what I’ve read and people I’ve talked to – a straightforward “Euros v hardliners” description seems to me to be something of an over-simplification.

    I get the impression that the reality of that internal struggle was a lot more varied, diverse and nuanced than a simple “us against them” fight between two ideologically coherent “sides”. (Although of course I wasn’t there.)

  64. prianikoff on said:

    #68 “…the defeat of the Soviet Union had a catastrophic effect on the whole of the left worldwide – whether CP, social-democratic, or any of the “57 varieties”

    From what I recall, the SWP grew quite rapidly at the time (to around 10,000 members) It was even quite triumphalist about it success for a while.
    At the time,Nina Temple, General Secretary of the CP said: “I think the SWP was right, the Trotskyists were right that it was not socialism in Eastern Europe..”

    The problem was that the SWP’s analysis was far too superificial. “Shock therapy”, rapid privatisation and the dismantling of the planned econonomy were a disaster for the working class.

    The SWP claimed it was all a “sideways move” and didn’t warn about this possible outcome.
    Consequently, it lost a lot of the members it had recruited as a result.

    It’s probably now got about the same number of active members as it had in the early 70’s (7,500 paper members, of whom only 1/3rd are regular subs payers and do anything)

  65. prianikoff on said:

    #67 I was thinking specifically about the growing numbers of workers who fall into a “grey area” regarding collective bargaining. Specifically, agency workers on temporary contracts and zero hours agreements and those who lose their jobs as a result of de-facto privatisation of public services.
    In my union work, I’ve seen an increasing number of these cases coming forward in recent months. They are members, but their rights are severely curtailed and in some cases there are disgusting examples of legal intimidation being used against them. I can’t go into more detail as there would be “whistle-blowing” implications.
    But the national unions need to be doing more to represent such people and draw them into activity.

  66. prianikoff: From what I recall, the SWP grew quite rapidly at the time (to around 10,000 members) It was even quite triumphalist about it success for a while.

    The SWP never had 10000 members or anything like it.

    There was always a collective culture of lying to people above you in the organisation to exaggerate success. Some national full timer told Cliff there were 10000 members, and Cliff chose to suspend disbeleif, and started trumpeting this preposterous claim.

    Because things can only ever get bigger and better, the SWP were never able to retract the claim.

    The fact that the SWP grew on the back of the collapse of actually existing socialism in Europe proves nothing, because overall the left suffered a huge set back.

    Forgive my lurid language, but a parasite can grow and be healthy at the expense of the host; but once the host dies, then the parasite dies too.

  67. prianikoff: I was thinking specifically about the growing numbers of workers who fall into a “grey area” regarding collective bargaining. Specifically, agency workers on temporary contracts and zero hours agreements and those who lose their jobs as a result of de-facto privatisation of public services.

    Well yes. Underlying the dispute I am involved with against carillion is the danger that this very major company is seeking to take over large parts of public services, and wnats to exclude GMB – the second largest public sector union – because they prefer an extremely incestuous relationship with UNISON.

    In the words of one senior UNISON official to me (witnesed by a TUC official), their union had learned that the only way to deal with hard-nosed private sector companies like Carillion is for UNISON to “make themselves useful to the employer”.

    This is even more the case where services like home care have been privatised out too Mickey Mouse service companies; and the unions have got a real job on.

    I firmly believe that the way forwards with employers is that they have to face a choice, they can either have a productve and constructuve relatonship, or they can choose a war. But that choice only gets the outcome you want if employers are a little afraid of you.

  68. Andy Newman,

    I think it is rather widely accepted among socialists that the international division of labour within the global political economy means that any post-capitalist economy, if it is to raise the development of our productive forces, cannot by definition be broken back up into autarchic, national lines.

    The difference is you seem to believe that the ‘alternative economic strategy’ road was the only strategy, and thus that globalisation ends permanently the possibility of an (inevitably national) socialist economy. That the most we can achieve is a state-led tussle with multinational capital.

    The example of China is instructive. It represents a massive pool of resources, especially relatively cheap and disciplined labour, on which the advanced states can draw. That, and its Communist heritage, are what allows it to renegotiate the terms of its integration into the world market. I do not believe that would be possible in, say, Britain – not without replicating the low wages and strict labour discipline the CCP must of necessity use in order to make use of foreign investment.

    Indeed, I think it is actually among the adherents of the left Labour and ‘official communist’ traditions which continue to rely on a nation-centric model which is outdated and unworkable!

    Globalisation has changed things – but not out of recognition. The ‘short twentieth century’ (and thus the strategy of a parliamentary road to socialism and cross-class welfarism) was the aberration, not the rule. Political economy must be international or it is a regression.

    Despite the hollowing-out of state controls, capital remains concentrated in the ‘triad’ of Europe, North America and Japan. Either of the first two regions would offer a substantive and sustainable economic bloc which would hugely influence the world economy. And obviously given our historical traditions and the particular expression of the ongoing crisis in Europe, not to mention the fact that we are all (I think?) British, it must be working towards a progressive European community that the left should work.

    Which is why I have no sympathy for calls for withdrawal from the EU, as though that is a panacea. We should be for the maximum integration of European societies and of their labour movements.

    Capital flight and tax avoidance are a problem – when left governments ‘go it alone’. But it is an international outlook and agenda that we should be adopting, not a return to old ways of thinking.

    And the ‘competition state’ thesis has not been borne out by history. State (and even welfare) expenditure remains roughly the same as pre-Big Bang levels. The internationalisation of finance has been followed by the further development of multilateral and regional governance frameworks. Indeed, the very acceleration of calls for fiscal and political union in the EU highlight that while globalisation undermines the national state, it also produces supra-national bodies capable of displacing it.

    Also, as an aside, presumably you do support nationalisation of, say, firms which are being closed, or industries which are part of a national infrastructure? Those are, after all, essentially tactical defensive measures, about improving life here and now, rather than part of a grand vision for the future.

  69. The point about the laye 1970s CPGB demographic is well-made. But the essential point remains, in the most favourable conditions imafinable no outside left group has made headway towards an active membership remotely close to that 30,000 figure. In fact most are smaler, a lot smaller, than the CPGB membershio at the time of its 1991 dissolution.

    Andy’s points about the broader political landscape are typically well-made. However the pont remains it beggars belief that no group could grow in size and no electoral breakthrough could be secured.

    These are really significant failings. Whatever the weaknesses in E.Miliband’s politics I suspect the really gross errors of Blaitist Labour won’t be repeated. The immediate prospects for the outsode left look to be getting steadily worse, organisationally and electorally at least.

    The period 1997-2012, not only did the Left lose its way it lost the biggest opportunity for growth in a generation. Meanwhile UKiP are 3rd in most polls and odds-on to top the polls in the 2014 Euro elections. Blown it, doesn’t even to measure the predicament. As Andy also says there are huge lessons to be learned but first you have to want to learn ’em. Pretending all is more or less well remains the default position for too much of the Left.

    Mark P

  70. prianikoff “It’s probably now got about the same number of active members as it had in the early 70′s (7,500 paper members, of whom only 1/3rd are regular subs payers and do anything)”.

    It really is time to question the membership of the SWP and SP. For years their membership has been overestimated and as a result too much attention focused on their various front organisations which suck in keen active young supporters and sees them leaving quickly disalusioned by the over control seen in these groups where their version of “democratic centralism” not only dominate their party but also all their interventions and fronts. Its been a disaster for all the Left for years.

    What you wont see is a clear statement of the current membership of the SWP and SP (perhaps Stewart would like to come back on this). Looking at their current meetings,branches and conferences etc i would suggest that the SWP probably have no more than 1000 active members (!!) and the SP no more than 800. Yes far far less than they make out or we realise thus giving them more credit than their membership entitles.

  71. Mark P:
    Meanwhile UKiP are 3rd in most polls and odds-on to top the polls in the 2014 Euro elections. Blown it, doesn’t even to measure the predicament. As Andy also says there are huge lessons to be learned but first you have to want to learn ‘em.Pretending all is more or less well remains the default position for too much of the Left.

    I do just want to emphasise caution when it comes to UKIP. Does anyone seriously believe their support isn’t ‘soft’? When faced with the prospect of a Labour government, probably a clear majority will swing behind the Tory party. Because support for UKIP does not signal a break with conservatism in the way that support for a socialist group may in some cases signal a break with labourism.

    It is liberalism that appears to be in terminal decline. Polarisation between Labour and the Tories can be seen in polls – if we assume that support for UKIP is essentially a populist protest by the Tory right wing, then the parties are almost equal in the way support divides between them. Which makes more sense than a massive Labour lead, given the confused state of Miliband’s leadership.

  72. Karl Stewart on said:

    The SWP adopted a ridiculous position at that time.

    Their line: “Communism is dead – now fight for socialism” was not only completely unprincipled and opportunistic, it was also utterly illogical and made them a laughing stock.

    I remember even their own paper sellers were extremely embarassed by it.

  73. Personally I wouldn’t haggle over the figures. The facts remain >

    1. 1997-2010 The most favourable conditions imaginable for the growth of a serious mass left

    2. No group enjoyed anytjing like major and sustained growth.

    3. No electoral breakthrough, despite PR at a number of levsls. Instead the Outside Right did considerably better .

    And now? Most pf those conditions in their previous form are gone. Opportunity, missed and quite unlikely present itself again in such a favourable way in the near future.

    Lost its way?

    Mark P

  74. Well UKiP’s support has held up, in fact grown, in Euro election after Eurio election. They now have an indecent spread of local councillors and are able to poll well enough in Parliamentary Elections and by-elections. Nothing anywhere approaching this has been achieved by the Outside Left. While the Inside Labour Left have signally failed to achieve any kind of Labour Party policy change or increase in influence.

    So debating the ‘softness’ of the UKiP vote could all too easuly become an excuse for examing the non-existence at all of a Left Vote, soft, hard or in-between, and does anybody seriously expect that to change in time for the 2014 Euro Elections. Last time round in London Bob Crow topped the list for No2EU and achieved a vote considerably smaller than the just the RMT membership in London. Compared to UKiP the prospects aren’t exactly good are they?

    Mark P

  75. Manzil,

    We need a bigger state footprint in the productive economy, which should include strategic nationalisaion, the pharmaceutical industry still looks an attractive proposal.

    We also need a state led banking sector, and a development bank.

    However the state does have to learn to live with capital without capitulating to it.

    I dont agree that the lesson of china is the need for cheap labour, unless you think that productive investment can only be profitable based on low ages.

  76. prianikoff on said:

    #77 (Red)

    SWP has always recruited on a scattergun basis and is very poor on retention and education of its membership.
    Its pre-conference bulletin, issued in November, has a C.C. report on membership
    It says:-

    “registered membership of the SWP stands at 7,597.
    This is up on last year’s figure of 7,127, the 2010 figure of 6,587, the
    2009 figure of 6,417 and 2008’s of 6,155.

    “The membership that pays a regular sub to the organisation stands at 32 percent,
    slightly down on last year’s figure.”

    In terms of “united front” work
    UAF has a fairly representative leadership:-
    (e.g. Hon Chair Doreen Lawrence, vice-Chair Christine Blower, Asst Sec Jude Woodward, Parliamentary Sec Peter Hain)

    My main criticism of the grouplets over the past year is the way they’ve set up no less than *three* competing anti-cuts campaigns.
    NSSM, “Unite the Resistance” and the Coalition of Resistance.
    Quite bonkers in my opinion.

  77. prianikoff,

    SWP membership figures are ridiculous, as any one who has ever been an SWP branch secretary will attest. A branch with perhaps 5 people might get sent a list of 30 names by the centre. Most of whom have never existed, and nothing can ever get them removed.

  78. Mark P,

    I’m not denying the inadequacies of the left, in that I agree with you.

    But I do think you overstate the UKIP case. We have a mainstream political culture which is incredibly hostile to Europe. To the extent that even its advocates couch pro-EU arguments in terms of national self-interest. It is not unexpected that such an environment would allow a populist party to do well, especially when it is hugely aided by the mass media (do people remember the ‘UKIP-isation’ of the last election, which seemed to be an explicit attempt at denying the BNP a breakthrough?)

    I personally know many otherwise ‘Labour people’ who habitually vote for UKIP in European elections. It is considered a single-issue vote. Their support now in opinion polls is a direct consequence of the ‘anti-politics’ mood which has understandably taken hold given the obviously corruption and self-interest which the political-media-banking nexus is seen to represent.

    Now this is an indictment of the left’s failure to adequately represent working-class views, absolutely (the same thought comes to mind in the recent discussion on ‘open borders’) but I don’t think there is anything to learn from the example of UKIP itself.

    I think a more serious consideration is why the BNP, before its latest implosion anyway, was so successful at out-achieving the left – given that its support came from areas which you would hope the left would have sunk roots in, and without the broad acquiescence of the establishment with Farage enjoys. UKIP’s broad-but-shallow upswing seems to me less a reflection of substantive political shift than a predictable consequence of the specific events in the last few years.

    Indeed I think UKIP’s rise is more an indictment of the confusion of class interests within (and amongst the supporters of) the coalition government, than it is of the left.

  79. Andy Newman,

    In that sense then, in the immediate term I agree with you as to socialist economic strategy.

    I dont agree that the lesson of china is the need for cheap labour, unless you think that productive investment can only be profitable based on low ages.

    No, I didn’t mean to suggest that.

    But the relatively inexpensive cost of labour in China has, surely, been one of the major attractions to Western capital. I don’t think we can automatically generalise from their experience, although there are important lessons – specifically, as you mention, the need for an increased (productive) state sector in order to increase the relative weight of progressive governments within the world economy.

  80. Karl Stewart on said:

    Red:
    What you wont see is a clear statement of the current membership of the SWP and SP (perhaps Stewart would like to come back on this).

    Not entirely sure why you’ve asked me Red. I’ve never been in either party and mine is only an estimation based on outside impressions.
    Having said that, I think you’ve underestimated the SWP (which I’d put at around 3,000 or so) and overestimated the SP (which I’d reckon in the mid-hundreds and falling.) But as I said, that’s only an outsider’s impression.

    The CP, which reports its membership figures regularly and accurately, hovers around the 1,000 mark.

    These are by far the largest three UK marxist organisations and, as MarkP points out, all pitifully low by comparison to the 20,000-strong CP of the late 1970s.

    Yes, times are tough on the left, and it’s right to point this out and warn against a complacent “all is well” attitude, but neither should we sink into despair.

  81. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    In the early 1990s, when I suspect they were considerably larger than now and the 10,000 members claim was being made, I reckoned that, all things being equal, the SWP would have had around 70 members in the fairly working-class English city where I then lived, if they really had 10,000 members nationally.

    They were in fact doing well if they had 20 to a branch meeting, which often included non-members.

    #83 suggests that their regular dues-paying membership now is in the vicinity of 2,500, which seems to be about right to me. The activist core would probably be 1,000 or less.

  82. Karl Stewart on said:

    The left may or may not be patronising and condescending – members of left groups have varying degrees of social skills.

    But the one and only reason why anyone ever voted BNP is racism. It’s a fundamentally racist party and every single person who votes for it does so because they’re attracted by its racism.

  83. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Karl Stewart:
    The SWP adopted a ridiculous position at that time.

    Their line: “Communism is dead – now fight for socialism” was not only completely unprincipled and opportunistic, it was also utterly illogical and made them a laughing stock.

    I remember even their own paper sellers were extremely embarassed by it.

    It was a kind of “After Stalin – Us” attitude. As self-deluding as the KPD’s “After Hitler – Us” position of 1933. It has left them thinking that reactionary Islamist wackos today are “revolutionaries”, a mistake that few lefties in the Muslim world itself would make, as they often have painful experience of Islamism’s right-wing character. However, the SWP are pseudo-revolutionary dilettantes in a relatively stable capitalist/imperialist country. The actual consequences for them that arise from misinterpreting the world are limited. So they will probably go on misinterpreting it.

  84. Egalitarian on said:

    IMHO, electorally, the left (by that i mean all those to the left of Labour and not in the Greens) would appear to need: (1) an organising principle to coalesce around. I would suggest that co-operation could posed as a direct alternative to competition which, at root, is the organising principle on which all the mainstream centre-right parties from Labour through to UKIP rest. (2) an over-arching narrative that subsumes all others. Perhaps “reducing the gap between rich and poor” could be that narrative since so much economic, social and environmental benefit would follow and there are always huge polling majorities (70%+) in the UK that believe the gap is too wide and should be narrowed, and (3) the discipline to work together to promote (1) and subordinate all other aims, narratives and petty rivalries to (2).

    Looking at the history of the left in recent decades, it is clear that point (3) that will be the problem.

  85. Nadia Chern on said:

    I think the comparison with 1979 membership of the CP is crass to the point of irrelevance. To discuss the left, we need to start from where we are not wishing we were. 1979 was a different age with differing compositional characteristics in the working class and at the end of a decade of historically high levels of class struggle. The Soviet Union still acted as an alternative point of reference for many meaning socialism & communism were familiar terms.

    Moralistic injunctions on failure in this context reveal more about the author than about the reality. If anyone wishes to blame the left for the rise of UKIP, they merely repeat the mantras (‘if only we were bigger…’) that fail to grasp that class is not the discourse of politics in the last ten years in the way that it was in the 1970s.

    I’m afraid that such arguments just remind me of the false premise that because we see mass left electoral vehicles in Europe in the form of Syriza, Left Party, etc., somehow we can emulate it here if only the left would unite. It fails to take account of what has happened in Britain in the last 30 years. We are experiencing the lowest level of class struggle since the rise of capitalism in the UK.

    With working class organizations weakened and the poles of attraction to the left withered, this type of ‘outside right’ populism is inevitable. The question is about re-energizing the left’s relevance and pitching in class politics in a way that is meaningful. We can learn a lot from groups like UK Uncut. The best populist messages at present revolve around tax avoidance and inequality as these are both narratives swirling around the political climate and link quickly to class politics.

  86. Egalitarian on said:

    Agree with Nadia. Income inequality (the gap between rich and poor) is the obvious big gift horse whose mouth the left is staring dumb-wittedly into. It’s much easier to grasp than class struggle and Marxism. Talk of “health and social problems” – much easier to grasp and will resonate further than talk of alienation.

  87. Karl Stewart on said:

    But Nadia, surely organising around pay – which has lagged behind inflation for some time now – and job security – in response to the attacks on fixed-term contract workers’ rights – are the best ways to rebuild our union movement?

    These are real, concrete, material issues for workers now and will make a real difference in workers’ lives.

    A bunch of middle-class students making a nuisance outside their workplace will just annoy them.

    And how is it in their immediate interest if their employer has to pay more tax? How will that raise their pay?

  88. Karl Stewart on said:

    Sorry for my tone there Nadia, I do actually agree with a lot of your contribution there – it’s just the UKuncut stuff I didn’t agree with.
    Again, apologies for the tone I used there.

  89. George Hallam on said:

    Nadia Chern: If anyone wishes to blame the left for the rise of UKIP,

    This may be of interest.

    Lord Ashcroft has done done a poll on UKIP.
    http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2012/12/the-ukip-threat-is-not-about-europe/

    UK Polling Report comments:

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/6715

    “The demographic breaks show UKIP supporters continue to be heavily skewed towards elderly men – 43% of their support is from over 65s, just 8% from under 35s. 66% is from men, 34% from women.

    “Lord Ashcroft headlines his article on one of the most persistent myths about UKIP, that people vote for them over the issue of Europe and, therefore, winning the support of those people is all about offering policies related to Europe.

    “Past polling has shown this to be nonsense – a huge YouGov poll of voters in the 2009 European election found that Europe was only the fourth most important issue for UKIP voters after the economy, immigration and crime; a 2010 YouGov poll of UKIP voters at the 2010 election found the issue of Europe trailing behind the economy and immigration – and Lord Ashcroft finds the same now.”

  90. Nadia Chern on said:

    Karl, no problem at all. I agree with you you about organizing over pay and conditions. Rebuilding the trade union movement is a long term objective for the left.

    My point is that UK Uncut has been successful in shaping a political debate in Britain to some extent. Whether they are middle class or working class (and I’m not convinced that your characterization is right) is not of much interest to me – they have shown us how to build a platform.

    George – that is a really interesting piece. It largely mirrors the composition of the Tory activist base. My experience is that immigration is the big issue for UKIP voters.

  91. George Hallam on said:

    Nadia Chern: that is a really interesting piece. It largely mirrors the composition of the Tory activist base. My experience is that immigration is the big issue for UKIP voters.

    Yes, in some respects.
    Howwevre there seem to be some important differences.

    See the large YouGov poll of voters in the 2009 European election.

    http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-pol-ch4news-EUelectionsVoting-090608.pdf

    When you were growing up did your parents generally support one political party more than others?
    UKIP voter CON voter
    Yes – my parents generally voted Conservative 32 47
    Yes – my parents generally voted Labour 42 25

    Do you think the Conservative Party…?
    Used to care about the concerns of people like me, but doesn’t nowadays 16 3
    Used to care about the concerns of people like me, and still does nowadays 22 56
    Used NOT to care about the concerns of people like me, but DOES nowadays 18 27
    Used NOT to care about the concerns of people like me, and still does not do so 29 2

    And do you think the Labour Party…?
    Used to care about the concerns of people like me, but doesn’t nowadays 54 46
    Used to care about the concerns of people like me, and still does nowadays 5 3
    Used NOT to care about the concerns of people like me, but DOES nowadays 1 1
    Used NOT to care about the concerns of people like me, and still does not do so 35 42

  92. George Hallam: Yes – my parents generally voted Conservative 32 47
    Yes – my parents generally voted Labour 42 25

    This is what UKIP voters say?

    I don’t think we can meaningfuly deduce anything from that, as given the age profile fo UKIP voters, when they were growing up Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill led those two parties.

    The rest of the data is inconclusive, not suggesting whether UKIP voters are more “labour” or “Conservative” when taken in the round.

    What is more, it is not clear whether this poll is just the casual (Euro-elections only) UKIP voter, or the harder core – council and Westminster elections as well.

  93. Karl Stewart: But the one and only reason why anyone ever voted BNP is racism. It’s a fundamentally racist party and every single person who votes for it does so because they’re attracted by its racism.

    Yes – but the left did not contest the terrain of national identity, and allowed the right to define it in terms of race, instead of contrasting a civic nationalism based upon inclusivity and shared values.

  94. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: The rest of the data is inconclusive, not suggesting whether UKIP voters are more “labour” or “Conservative” when taken in the round.

    Nothing to see here folks. Move on.

  95. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    In my humble opinion this thread “has lost its way”. The pseudo-academics have taken over this thread who are using facts as a primary as a means not to do anything; instead of the activists who use facts as a secondary and do something to change the facts into a positive aspect for the working class and their families. In other words change the conditions to change the consciousness.

  96. Nadia Chern on said:

    I must admit, I thought the same thing as Andy in relation to the questions you highlighted George. It looks very leading as there isn’t a simple question about who the respondents would vote for if UKIP were not standing or who they previously voted for.

    It suggests that these respondents would ‘look to Labour’ to represent their interests now but from what angle is anybody’s guess. Are they Tories shifting allegiance or disillusioned Labour voters, etc.?

    It is interesting data but not conclusive in any sense.

  97. Karl Stewart on said:

    Hi there Jimmy, many thanks for taking a break from your “activism” to give us your pearls of wisdom – much appreciated comrade!

    By the way, if the ongoing and relentless decline in SP membership continues, do you think Socialist Appeal will allow you guys back in?

  98. Karl Stewart:
    But Nadia, surely organising around pay – which has lagged behind inflation for some time now – and job security – in response to the attacks on fixed-term contract workers’ rights – are the best ways to rebuild our union movement?

    These are real, concrete, material issues for workers now and will make a real difference in workers’ lives.

    A bunch of middle-class students making a nuisance outside their workplace will just annoy them.

    And how is it in their immediate interest if their employer has to pay more tax? How will that raise their pay?

    Surely you’d agree though that the campaigns around Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, eBay, Google etc. have been hugely influential, forcing the ‘Westminster bubble’ to talk about the issue of tax avoidance and how ordinary people and big corporations are treated differently by HMRC and this government?

    And that issue, of unequal treatment, is vital if more traditional organising around pay and conditions isn’t going to be misrepresented as somehow sectional or greedy. I think as a campaigning model it shouldn’t be dismissed. The position of rejecting austerity needs to be reintegrated back into the public anger over unethical practices by bankers, politicians etc. We need to create a new common sense, an ‘us and them’ outlook which marginalises the elite advocates of continuity (on our own side, too!), and seeks to redefine ‘the community’ with the labour movement at the front and centre rather than, as too often happens, being conceived of as somehow external to ‘legitimate’ voices and grievances.

    Karl Stewart:

    By the way, if the ongoing and relentless decline in SP membership continues, do you think Socialist Appeal will allow you guys back in?

    Surely you’d not wish having to listen to Alan Woods on your worst enemy…

  99. Mark P,

    Mark, why does the Green Party of England and Wales, which has over 100 councillors, 2 MEPs, an MP, London Assembly members and around 10,000 members ‘enjoy some success’, why the BNP which is now losing members, elected or otherwise and is on the point of bankruptcy ‘flourish’?
    I’m not trying to score points here I’m just interested how much visibility the Greens have on the Left scene. I’m aware individual Greens have a profile in say the Coalition of Resistance but in trade unions and other traditional ‘left’ associations and campaigns do they have any visibility?

  100. George Hallam on said:

    Jimmy Haddow: The pseudo-academics have taken over this thread who are using facts as a primary as a means not to do anything; instead of the activists who use facts as a secondary and do something to change the facts into a positive aspect for the working class and their families.

    sticks and stones.

    You obviously have no clue as to what we are doing in Lewisham.

  101. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil, to be honest, the whole UKuncut thing just doesn’t impress me that much – I was way more impressed by the direct redistribution of property the working-class youth carried out during August 2011.

    That was real direct action, and direct taxation straight to the people.

    Of course there’s nothing wrong with highlighting the hypocrisy of tax avoiding companies. But it’s not an alternative to trade unionism and it certainly shouldn’t be the main focus of trade union campaigning – our duty is to push on pay, Ts&Cs, that’s how we’ll rebuild membership.

  102. OK two responses.

    First, of course 1979, off he back of the ’72 and ’74 miners strikes and plenty more was a different era.

    I wasn’t however equating there eras though.

    The point I was making instead was that in the most favourable conditions imaginable, plus changes tok the electoral system to PR for a number of elections, the Outside Left has both failed to grow in terms of membership, and to male any sort of generalised electoral breakthrough. This aplues to all groups on the Outside Left. The conditions for the Inside Left in Labour are different, yet the outcome the same, next to no growrh, no evidence of increasing influence.

    Either you accept this as a catastrophic failure which needs addressing, or you don’t. The rason why the Left has list its way is that the defailt position is the latter, the ‘more of the same’ of the conservaive Left.

    Second the Greens. Yes they have mde an impact but nothing like the breakthrogh that might have been expected given forst Labour’s betrayal on Iraq and secondly the collapse of the Lib-Dem vote. The BNP I would suggest made more of an impact up to 2010 but thankfully are now in headlong decline, long may that continue. The outside right spot now occupied by UKiP is potentially a far more dangerous development as thet have none of the ex-Nazi and thuggish criminality baggage to their name.

    Mark P

  103. Pete Shield:

    I’m not trying to score points here I’m just interested how much visibility the Greens have on the Left scene. I’m aware individual Greens have a profile in say the Coalition of Resistance but in trade unions and other traditional ‘left’ associations and campaigns do they have any visibility?

    The last time I saw Green Party activists where I live was during a protest of several hundred, jointly organised by Unite and Unison, outside the city council on 2011 budget day. They were holding signs protesting waiting lists for allotments and asking people to sign petitions against water fluoridation.

    Whatever your views on those issues, I think that says something about their priorities.

  104. Karl Stewart,

    Fair enough. I’m not saying workplace organising isn’t key.

    I do, however, feel that – especially in light of the problems associated with holding coordinated strikes (see the breakdown of a united front on ‘N30’) – we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of shaping public opinion to more traditional union efforts, and I think UK Uncut has been rather good on that.

    On the other hand, the 2011 rioting, while my heart bleeds for Poundland, achieved nothing but to get a lot of young people banged up and for an altogether reactionary narrative of the ‘feckless underclass’, and the need to police it, to dominate the airwaves for weeks on end.

  105. Manzil: They were holding signs protesting waiting lists for allotments and asking people to sign petitions against water fluoridation.

    The’re the same on this side of the Channel…

  106. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    It is regrettable that individuals like Mr Stewart come out with such theoretically, politically and historical crass statements as he did in post 108. He is unfortunate to have had his political education in the Stalinist school of disinformation and he ends up looking politically silly and with theoretical egg on his face. As he did last May when he continually called me a liar when I correctly articulated, by proving the facts, that Ken Livingstone was as culpable as Ed Miliband in advocating cuts and continuing the ConDem’s austerity programme.

    In the aftermath of the collapse of Stalinism and transformation of most of the former workers’ parties, which included the British Labour Party, into completely bourgeois formations, albeit with a historical voting base amongst workers, the support for socialism has been thrown back. In most countries there are no mass parties arguing for socialism. However, at different times, there have been sizeable votes for Left candidates in some countries although these have not yet resulted in the creation of mass socialist forces. Nevertheless, even then, Left electoral success is no guarantee that socialist forces will be built. While some parties in the CWI, like the Socialist Parties in Ireland and England & Wales, have developed their electoral and/or trade union base significantly other Left political groups have entered into crisis after their electoral successes.

    The result was that many of the old parties like the Labour Party in Britain had a dual character, pro-capitalist at the top but with a working class base, that resulted in the repeated struggles within them. Steadily the pro-capitalist forces worked to tighten their grip on the parties, sometimes resulting in mass splits like those that occurred in the social democratic parties after the First World War and the 1917 Russian revolution. In the Labour Party this was seen in the right wing efforts that begun after the First World War to weaken its distinctive federal structure and turn into a top down controlled machine. This was finally achieved under “New Labour” in the unique historical conjuncture created after the collapse of Stalinism.

    The CWI, after a debate which took place in the early 1990s, and I was actively involved in, recognised this qualitative change in most of the traditional workers’ parties threw back the working class movement and left the working class in many countries without form of any political representation. Out of this debate a very small group around Ted Grant, Alan Woods, Rob Sewell split away, (not expelled as the Woodists legend likes to portray it), from Militant/CWI and formed what became the Socialist Appeal group. The majority stayed in Militant, which then became Militant Labour and then after another democratic debate in the mid-90s the Socialist Party.

    Out of this objective change in the 1990s meant that the challenges of building both independent workers’ organisations and support for a socialist programme – faced by Marx and Engels in nineteenth century and the Trotskyists in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the USA and Vietnam in the late 1930s – were posed once again in many countries, albeit in a very different historical period.

    The CWI was the first international socialist current to pose this task in the 1990s, although since then others on the Left have drawn similar conclusions. But the debates over the concrete questions of how to build new forces and on what programme are by no means over. Indeed they are very relevant because, while in various countries there have been different attempts to build new parties in the last 20 years, none have so far enjoyed lasting success and built a strong socialist movement able to challenge the ruling class.

    Now this is the debate that this thread, and subsequent threads, should be taking place and it should be based on what social programme that needs to be developed to fight the capitalist austerity agenda, how to we get that social programme to the working class and how to we build political representation for the working class.

    On the question of the CWI out South African Party, the Democratic Socialist Movement, along with the Miners who have been involved in the Lonmin strike and other workers are setting up a new workers’ party called the Workers’ and Socialist Party, WASP. Of course the political consciousness is far in advance of Britain at the moment but that is music for the future for this country. The problem of being an individual in the Left movement one does not have the collective cohesion, and theoretical rudder, to know what is really taking place and is buffeted by bourgeoisie ideology.

    I leave a post from the CWI site about the formation of the South African new Workers’ and Socialist Party for debate.

    http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6095

  107. Uncle Albert on said:

    Mark P: The outside right spot now occupied by UKiP is potentially a far more dangerous development

    Commenting on a possible influx of job-seekers from Romania and Bulgaria in today’s Independent, Andrew Grice writes: “Ukip’s private polling suggests that any party linking Europe with immigration – a much more important issue for most voters – could appeal to 80% of the public. […] I sense a perfect storm on the horizon for Ukip.”

  108. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil, that’s a relevant point about the breakdown of the “N30” alliance of unions.
    But that was due to the widely varying pension saving schemes across the public sector – I think it was just impossible to avoid separate sets of negotiations.

    And the other factor was that so many workers just can’t afford to belong to these savings schemes, so it was easy for the government to present an argument based on “greedy public-sector workers” and foer them to say to other workers “why should you pay for their gold-plated pensions?”

    Looking ahead, a major push on wages has the potential to unite millions across industries and sectors – pay has lagged behind inflation and we’ve got to catch up.

    We can also build on the success of the living wage campaign.
    And we need a strong focus on job security – fight for peermanent employment contracts and against the attacks on workers’ rights.
    I really think there’s potential for a solid, hard fight on these issues and we can rebuild basic union organisation through this.

    The political left needs to be at the forefront of all this, pushing the agenda forward and forget about “electoral alternatives” at this time – big waste of time and energy.

    (And we should all buy some of Mark’s T-shirts – cheer up the grumpy old sod!)

  109. Kaerl, our sales are up, bucking all the retail trends. Its not the T-shirts that get me down, its the wholeale failure of the Left I’m part of and the absolute determination not to face up to the facts of that failure in orer o shape something better.

    Mark P

  110. Nadia Chern on said:

    Mark P

    Accepting the catastrophic failure of the left to make the most of the current crisis is not the issue from what I can see. There are parts of the left that pretend otherwise but most have not participated in this discussion except Jimmy Haddow whose sole remit seems to be as blockheaded as possible by hurling abuse instead of taking up the discussion.

    The problem is assessing the reasons why this has happened and offering potential answers (or at least the right questions) that can present a strategy. You haven’t come close so far which I view as a shame as you usually can be relied upon to be inventive in your thinking.

  111. Nada

    Thanks. Before venturing towards the inventive (and tav for the compliment) some kind of agreeable consensus needs to be reached that the past period, 1997-2010, has been one of catastrophic failure for both the outside and inside lefts. If we’ve reached that stage most happy to offer some ideas for discussion.

    Mark P

  112. I think several factors have damaged the appeal of the socialist thrust of the labour movement:

    -Lack of confidence, acceptance of the liberal ‘end of history’ idea, overconcentration on attacking the crimes of socialism-when do you hear capitalists even admit crimes of capitalism and imperialism?

    -A reluctance to organise in working class communities, a general decline in organisation-not just trade union associated with the decline of manufacturing but a general aversion to running proper meetings or implementing any form.of hierarchy at all on principle.

    The biggest reason must be individualism-the preference for pursuing identity politics, appearing haughty and self-righteous and ‘anti-british’. Instead of focusing on bread and butter issues and class politics, the left are perceived to be middle class/more interested in the problems of the third world than around the corner/ actively anti-england/britain/too ready to dismiss genuine concerns about immigration being used by capitalists to drive down wages and terms & conditions as racist…etc

    UKuncut have been great for the battle of ideas, but a successful left must be confident, class orientated and disciplined.

    To use one example, as an RMT young member I have met the kind of people the next generation of working class activists need to be like. To have experience of working in an orderly, disciplined fashion proper structured meetings/organising in working class communities on bread and butter issues-housing/wages..etc

    It has been too easy for the establishment to protray socialism as alien to this country-something pursued by vegetarian cranks more interested in Palestine or Cuba and booing the England football team than anything else.

    To win elections and campaigns you need an activist base and a wider social force. We have the working class but it is often unorganized and too many estates have been devoid of socialist organisation and left to the BNP.

    The best thing we could do for the cause is to recruit more people to unions/help install a sense of discipline/participate in community campaigns and start working where people are rather than where we want them to be.

  113. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    post 122 and is not Mr Stewart and vanya and others blockheads as well when they respond to my political comments???????

  114. Well, the site seems to be moving right but is still on the left. I wouldn’t say it’s lost its way.

    The left as a whole has though, big time.

    More worried about inappropriate language and identity politics than about socialism. It makes me sick.

  115. George W:

    -A reluctance to organise in working class communities, a general decline in organisation-not just trade union associated with the decline of manufacturing but a general aversion to running proper meetings or implementing any form.of hierarchy at all on principle.

    […]

    The best thing we could do for the cause is to recruit more people to unions/help install a sense of discipline/participate in community campaigns and start working where people are rather than where we want them to be. (My emphasis.)

    I’ve never experienced a lack of proper organisation at socialist or trade union events. If anything the reverse is true, the hierarchies are used to supplant rather than coordinate people’s participation. The ongoing SWP expulsions are a perfect example of what happens when a group becomes detached from the traditions and culture of labour movement democracy.

    Your argument could be more accurately applied to ‘social movement’-type activism, especially the student protests, UK Uncut etc. My experience of the recent Starbucks protests, for instance, was that a clear majority involved were very woolly politically – lots of liberal, anarchic and lifestyle politics etc. But these are comparatively new phenomena; they cannot be blamed for the failure of the left organisations.

    The isolation from working-class communities, on the other hand, is very noticeable. One remedy may be broadening out labour activity into the community – which is why I think a focus on more inclusive political questions like tax avoidance and the attacks on disabled people would be helpful.

    Your comment I placed in bold says it a lot better than I could. I think the dual effort should concentrate on: 1) organising workers; and 2) orientating the labour movement towards broader political issues. I think a principle vital to both such aims is openness and cooperation across political traditions and tactics, and a democratic and broad-based campaigning/organising approach.

  116. Jimmy Haddow: Stalinist school of disinformation

    Jimmy Haddow: which then became Militant Labour and then after another democratic debate in the mid-90s the Socialist Party.

    You forgot to mention the Scottish Socialist Alliance then the Scottish Socialist Party then Solidarity then the Socialist Party Scotland – so far!

  117. Manzil,

    Agreed. Sorry I wasn’t being very clear. Talking about generational issues I meant that there seem to be too many young lefties that are not in unions, are more individualistic & middle class about thier political ideas-based on ethical consumerism and being dismissive of the issues in white working class areas.

    The way forward has to be recuiting more people to unions, organising workplaces and communities, installing a sense of confidence and people power. Strengthening local trades councils and making their role a central one in bread and butter campaigns-on housing/public services..etc

    We need to build and organise a social base and to be seen to be campaigning on relevant issues. Unfortunately the left are in many people’s minds poppy burning/england hating/wholly liberal types out of touch with real people.

  118. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    On Post 120, then Mr Stewart I take it you will take up the call for a 24 hour general strike by helping organising meetings in your area and in workplaces to discuss how to make it effective. This can stop Cameron and his crew in their tracks. Capitalism – and the capitalists of both the ‘responsible’ and ‘irresponsible’ varieties – has no answers. This would be the beginnings to create a powerful core to a 24 hour general strike and once called other workers would want to take part. A Guardian online poll in September showed an eighty per cent support for a general strike against austerity. In my activity on the stalls, etc, indicate to me that there would be a tremendous support for generalised strike action. Mr Stewart I disagree with the fact that November 30 2011 was defeated because of “the widely varying pension saving schemes across the public sector – I think it was just impossible to avoid separate sets of negotiations.” But had everything to do with the craven capitulation of the right-wing TUC leadership and Unisons Dave Prentis to the Tories. On this we have a different perspective to this altogether.

    I also disagree when you say “political left needs to be at the forefront of all this, pushing the agenda forward and forget about “electoral alternatives” at this time – big waste of time and energy.” On the contrary a new mass party of the working class must be built as the political voice of organised labour. Miliband showed once more on 20 October at the TUC demonstration that, like the capitalist Liberals – whom the Labour Party originally displaced as the voice of the workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – the present ‘Labour’ Party is in the camp of capitalism. This may not stop Labour wining a majority in elections – it currently stands at over 40% in recent polls – but many will vote for it through gritted teeth in order to defeat the Tories. But workers in the US voted for a ‘radical’ capitalist party to defeat the right-wing Republicans. A Miliband government will disappoint millions if it is elected and remains within the framework of capitalism, as it will. The fact is the Left must help to build now a new mass voice, an independent party of working people. Support for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is a small step in this direction.

    This discussion must not be how small the Left is and cry in our milk/beer, but it must be on how the Left can reach the working class and build that new political alternative to change the capitalist society we live in. Now I am criticised by vanya/Stewart for my activism(?), but George W made a salient point in post 124 that the Left needs to organise both within the working class communities and within the trade unions. The point is when we talk about the political Left losing its way, I am not talking about them all coming together to be under one Left umbrella, I am talking about a new mass workers’ party that will need a programme that shows how jobs, services and benefits could be paid for without making other working class people suffer. This Party could point to the hoarding of billions of the mega rich, an estimated £800 billion they hide in bank accounts as they can see no easy route to a quick profit. What about a 50 per cent levy on that as a start to pay for investment in jobs, homes, disabled benefits, the NHS and so on. I do not think that is being blockheaded Nadia.

  119. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 129, Sorry Jim, but the CWI in Scotland went on a slightly different path as they did in England and Wales. The CWI in Scotland became Scottish Militant Labour before Militant Labour in England and Wales, and was a component of the Scottish Socialist Alliance which was not part of the CWI; as the SSP, or Solidarity, was also not part of the CWI. In both cases, SSP and Solidarity, the CWI had political platforms within these Parties and became Socialist Party Scotland in 2010. In you want to know more about the events of the CWI in Scotland just go on to the CWI site and go on to the Marxist,net and click onto the “Scottish Debate” to find out more.

  120. Karl Stewart on said:

    GeorgeW, why the phrase “white working class”? What’s wrong with “working class”?

  121. Jellytot on said:

    prianikoff

    From what I recall, the SWP grew quite rapidly at the time (to around 10,000 members) It was even quite triumphalist about it success for a while.

    The SWP’s growth spurt between 1990 and 1992 occured in the aftermath of the Poll Tax Riots and that brief upsurge of activity when the Tory Government announced the Pit Closure programme in 1992.

    The triumphalism around the latter event was indeed bizarre with senior figures (it may have even been Cliff) claiming that had the SWP been twice as large it could have diverted marches to parliament, thus influencing the vote for the closure programme, and thus brought down the Major government!

    That all this happened at the same time as the collapse of the socialist governments in Eastern Europe was somewhat coincidential IMO.

    Mark P

    The outside right spot now occupied by UKiP is potentially a far more dangerous development as thet have none of the ex-Nazi and thuggish criminality baggage to their name.

    The existential threat represented by UKIP and the BNP are different.

    Although both toxify the body politic and drive the narrative to the Right, UKIP stands firmly in the Powellite Tory Right tradition and was born out of deep fissures within British Conservatism in regards to Europe, notably as a reaction to Maastrict. The BNP, in contrast, stands in the tradition of British fascism represented by Leese/Jordan/Tyndall and was clearly a successor to the old National Front (with different tactics which where somewhat successful for a time).

    UKIP has almost certainly attracted some voters who had previously voted BNP 5 or so years ago for similar (anti-immigrant) reasons however it would be difficult for UKIP to be as nakedly racist in the same way that the BNP were and Farage is clearly a different political animal compared to Griffin. Also UKIP may find it difficult to get traction in some of the solidly WC communities that the BNP felt at home in – the age and class composition of the two groups is distinct.

    Because UKIP are not fascist, traditional methods of anti-fascist campaigning clearly cannot be used to counter them (I mean, how can you “expose” an organisation as being Nazi when they obviously aren’t?!). Also, any type of ‘no platforming’ would clearly be ridiculous and utterly counter-productive.

    In the end, it may be best just to treat UKIP as an adjunct to the Tory tradition and counter it by working to build the strongest possible vote for Labour as a counterforce. But I haven’t fully worked this out yet and would be interested in hearing any ideas about how to counter a group like UKIP.

  122. Egalitarian on said:

    Do any people on this site ever consider how these sorts of discussion would play to an audience not already politically to the left of Labour? It seems to me that the biggest achievement of the left in the UK has been to take the beautiful idea of socialism, which is about the liberation and uplifting of all humankind, and turn it into something that is snarling, repellent, incomprehensible and utterly irrelevant to the concerns of the majority of people in the UK. Well done!

  123. Karl Stewart,

    Because I have heard supposed socialists during campaigning say “oh lets not bother there that’s a white working class area” and pull a face. It should be our base of support but we have left it free for the BNP to infect with racism.

    Idenitiy politics is poisonous.

  124. Karl Stewart on said:

    Well if people on the left are saying that, it’s a pretty stupid view that shows how totally out of touch they are.
    Working-class areas are always the most culturally mixed, the estates, the families etc, there is no “white working class”.
    It’s on the wealthier estates where you’ll find the “white areas”.

  125. George Hallam on said:

    Jellytot : In the end, it may be best just to treat UKIP as an adjunct to the Tory tradition and counter it by working to build the strongest possible vote for Labour as a counterforce. But I haven’t fully worked this out yet and would be interested in hearing any ideas about how to counter a group like UKIP.

    Check out Lewisham

    May 2012 GLA election Greenwich & Lewisham

    Lab Maj: 38037 (28.87%)
    Len Duvall* Labour 65,366 (49.61%)
    Alex Wilson Conservative 27,329 (20.74%)
    Roger Sedgley Green 12,427 (9.43%)
    John Russell Liberal Democrat 9,393 (7.13%)
    Barbara Raymond People Before Profit 6,873 (5.22%)
    Paul Oakley UK Independence Party 4,997 (3.79%)
    Roberta Woods British National Party 3,551 (2.70%)
    Tess Culnane National Front 1,816 (1.38%)

    October 2012 by-election in Whitefoot ward of Lewisham London Borough Council 2012

    Party Candidate Votes Vote % Change
    Labour Mark Ingleby 924 41.9% +0.3%
    Lib Dems Janet Hurst 646 29.3% -6.3%
    Conservative Simon Nundy 258 11.7% -4.7%
    People Before Profit John Hamilton 241 10.9% +7.7%
    UKIP Paul Oakley 100 4.5% +4.5%
    Green Ute Michel 36 1.6% -1.6%

    ________________________________________
    2010 Result (3 seats)
    Vote Share
    Labour 41.6%
    Lib Dems 35.6%
    Conservative 16.4%
    People Before Profit 3.2%
    Green 3.2%

  126. George Hallam on said:

    andy newman: It is not self evident to me what point you are making?

    GLA Greenwich & Lewisham covers 6 parliamentary constituencies.

    LPBP is a local party that covers 3 of these though most of our activity is concentrated in only two of these

    UKIP is an established national party that is well-financed and gets plenty of national media coverage.

    All LPBP media coverage is local. It has been generated by our campaigning on concrete issues such as the sale of council houses.

    As the election results show we gained non-trivial votes that were a lot better than UKIP. I think that this shows that taking a lead on issues that affect the mass of ordinary people will win over people who would otherwise follow UKIP.

    http://www.peoplebeforeprofit.org.uk/lewisham

    It’s scarcely worth mentioning that we did far better than any ‘left’ party.

  127. The left is always in crisis because the working class have not in any way embraced left ideas, they are too busy consuming stuff to worry about overthrowing their oppressors. I do not buy into the idea that the left have done anything wrong, history has been unkind. But we are correct to say, I think, that:

    A) it is socialism or barbarism
    B) People would be better off without the parasite class of capitalist exploiters.

    The problem is that because things are kind of ok, people don’t want to think about things too much. It isn’t easy for the left to operate in this environment and it isn’t getting easier as globalisation expands.

    It is a rotten, corrupt world out there, the left didn’t make it that way.

    Where I do have a problem is when this site devotes articles to a bunch of meaningless fuckwits like the AWL. But it’s your blog!

  128. The old dominant forms of working class politics- social democracy and Stalinism- are dead or dying. Both were counter revolutionary and designed to prevent the self emancipation of the working class.

    The Stalinist elite opted for a return to capitalism and Social democracy was beached by the ruling class move to finance capital in the mid seventies. The social democratic parties are now organized to implement counter reforms at the behest of finance capital. With the passing of these counter revolutionary forms of working class politics the possibility of a real international socialist party becomes evident. The old forms of the far left were highly distorted and materially linked to the dominant counter revolution forms of Stalinism and social democracy. Thus the dogma and lack of internal democracy. In the next period we can expect the emergence of new mass forms of working class politics which reject dogma and bureaucratic leaderships and strive to create an international movement for socialism. What is left of the labour bureaucracy- with the help of Capital- will attempt to undermine this movement by playing the nationalist card but given the integrated and cosmopolitan nature of the new working class this will not be easy for them. The international occupy movement was a small example of the movements to come. We need a democratic socialist party that takes theory seriously and is open and honest with workers.

    sandy

  129. Despite the sectariana I’ve enjoyed these recent debates and think they are useful to the far left, and those who remain in the various self styled socialist organisations.

    As a former member of the SWP I can attest to their decline in influence and the barmy internal culture that exists.

    As a young cub in the ‘party’ in 1997 I suggested we use the internet and email as a tool to spread our ideas. Although told variously that it was elitist and workers didn’t have computers I persevered and was eventually ‘taken for a coffee’ where the curtains were drawn back and real reason revealed. As a Leninist organisation the internet facilitated horizontal discussion inside the party and this could not be allowed. Until the comrades worked out how to use the BCC function and now email is derigeur.

    Why do I care? I’m not sure I do. I certainly don’t care for the sectarians still involved in these organisations. I do however worry about the influence these organisations have and am concerned that no change will come from within these grouplets. Anyone who remains in the SWP knowing that they expel members for having disagreements with them has accepted the logic of the party. Those that don’t leave or get chucked out.

    The problem is that these parties form fronts for fighting the cuts and once formed, people assume that they are doing what they are supposed to i.e. fighting the cuts. In reality they are just names, Unite this – Right to that – and there is little organisation behind them. There are towns and cities across the UK where people believe there is opposition to the cuts but in reality there is nothing.

    There is absolutely no strategy for victory – the only reason they exist is to recruit, and stop the other lot recruiting.

    These parties, the SWP and others, expend vast amounts of effort and money sustaining their organisations. Money that could be spent campaigning or convincing people of the need for socialism. Just the CC itself costs around a quarter of a million pounds in wages (yes, they do get paid).

    People have said that we look ridiculous to the right. Sadly, i don’t think anybody is looking. Three anti-cuts groups. I mean three? It used to be, before the internet, that you could lie to the party members in a town or city outside London and say ‘our anti-cuts group is the biggest’ and we’d have no choice but to believe you because there was no facility for discussion with comrades in other towns, or other organisations.

    Socialist Unity has provided this forum and the far left is better for it. It might be be better named ‘when the SWP met the internet’.

    It comes as no surprise, then, that the SWP and groups like them are coming a cropper now. When a member was expelled pre-internet they were dead to the organisation and usually never seen again. Today, that is impossible and so the party is slowly winding down.

  130. Mark P,

    Good analysis Mark P. I think the problem for the Trotskyist left lies in their origins during this period and before. When there was a vibrant Labour Left and Communist Party the role of the Trotskyist left in Britain was to yap at the heels of these substantially larger organisations.

    Today the Trotskyist left is the far left but they haven’t grown in to that role and have found taking a lead difficult. Doubtless we have just passed up the best opportunity in a generation to build a left wing electoral coalition. Can you imagine where we would be if the left had spent the New Labour period building our forces? We’d be all over this crisis like Syriza and other European left groups.

    Instead the far left has fallen back into it’s habitual role of yapping dogs, blaming the Labour Party, the trade unions and other left organisations but never looking at their own internal culture and methods of organising.

    It is only thanks to the shambolic incompetence of Nick Griffin and the rest of the far right that it is only Nigel Farrage that we are facing. I dread to think what the opposition might look like today had the BNP managed to hold it together long enough to get a foot hold in Parliament.

    the current task of the socialist left is to articulate an alternative to cuts. This shouldn’t be difficult given that even some parts of the ‘system’ agree with us and feel that the cuts hamper the recovery. We should be able to build a broad alliance of forces to win this argument with the public. Instead we’re engaged in navel gazing and purging our organisations.

    We must look absolutely barmy to those outside the left. This is our moment to shine and we’re squandering it.

  131. Karl Stewart,

    With all due respect you are talking bollocks, there are many white working class areas. Sadly some used to be strong bases of CP support before the decline of traditional industry and the union organisation that provided a strong voice.

    Ignoring even the existence of such areas is part of the problem of the left. Simplistic identity politics is much easier but is no substitute for class orientated unions and community organisation around campaigns for better housing…etc

    Refusing to put the effort in to rebuild working class organisation that we used to rely on is something we are all gulity of.

  132. Jimmy Haddow: On the contrary a new mass party of the working class must be built as the political voice of organised labour. Miliband showed once more on 20 October at the TUC demonstration that, like the capitalist Liberals – whom the Labour Party originally displaced as the voice of the workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – the present ‘Labour’ Party is in the camp of capitalism.

    I agree that a electoral strategy is needed, if only because the likely disarming of workers’ political consciousness that would follow the predictable class compromises of a Miliband government would otherwise likely undo much of the basic union organising that Karl correctly prioritises.

    But – and it is a big ‘but’ – I do not believe your political analysis is correct. After all, unlike most of the Second International, the Labour Party has always been in the ‘camp of capitalism’.

    Nor is it anomalous to the constitution of the party, as a broad umbrella, and exclusively parliamentary platform, of the working class. Indeed Labour’s programmatic conservatism derives from its role as the ‘political voice of organised labour’! The labour bureaucracy is an inherently reformist section of the Labour Party, which tail-ended rather than led the great advances for working-class people over the last century. Not for nothing, even during the apogee of Labourism after 1945, did the bastions of the organised working-class often turn to shop-floor organisation outside of trade union officialdom.

    I think the attempt to recreate a ‘labour party’ is wrong-headed and doomed to failure.

    There were socialists inside Labour at its foundation. I believe that participation in the party is no longer a credible tactic. So we should continue to champion a consciously ‘socialist’, broad left party. (I am much in sympathy with the repeatedly frustrated efforts of Socialist Resistance over the last decade.) People may regard success in that as an unrealistic prospect, but at least it is a coherent position. On the other hand, deliberately attempting to repeat the mistakes of the past strikes me as abject lunacy.

  133. Socialist on said:

    #141

    This is a great example of written text that on the surface appears coherent but when scrutinised is meaningless; it provides an insight into the mind set of someone programmed to think in a certain way.

  134. Karl Stewart on said:

    GeorgeW, don’t give me that “I’m a working-class hero” shite – you’re the fucking university boy.
    Working-class communities are more cultuerally mixed than wealthier areas – fact.
    It’s in working-class communities that you find black and white people living side-by-side and married to each other – fact.
    There is no “white working class” – that’s a racist term introduced by racist organisations like the BNP. It suits them to divide the working class along colour lines.
    The working class is the least racist class.

  135. Karl Stewart,

    I could ask what makes you think having been to university makes someone no longer working class? Half of my generation went were they all not working class? Now im a guard on the railway, still not working class?

    I still maintain you are wrong to ignore the presence of white working class areas. The claim that working class people are the least racist is cute.

    The left have been good at community based campaigns against racism and groups such as hope not hate are fantastic at revealling the violence behind and getting the vote out against fascists.

    However what we have not been good at is recognising the class dimension of fascism and the neglect of white working class areas, leaving greviances about housing and other issues to be twisted by groups like the BNP into racism.

    Its easy to get personal and I am gulity of it as well, but its getting boring. Make friends, make friends, never, never break friends?

  136. Len Butterworth on said:

    Absent a programme of immediate and transitional demands to fill the enormous vacuum left by New Labour and around which it seeks to win the working class then there is no left just a gaggle of warring sects, stalinists and opportunists.

  137. #149 Anyone can write a transitional programme.

    Trotsky did, and, with plenty of competition, it was the worst piece of political literature he ever produced.

  138. Len Butterworth on said:

    ~150 Anyone eh? Don’t be shy let’s have it. By the by I said immediate and transitional needs and these should address the concrete situation. I’m excited to see the results of your self-proclaimed genius. Have at it.

  139. #151 There are many things that I can do (or certainly used to be able to do last time I tried).

  140. Len Butterworth on said:

    Do you know that New Labour like the Tories get £1 million a year from the state to develop policy and yet even with all those resources Ed Milliband hasn’t been able to come up with even a spun version of the failed Blarite Third Way and Brown’s `dodgy neo liberal growth theory’. Ed is a vacuum. But of course the left sects and stalinists are equally reticent when it comes to programme because programme entails responsibility and accountability. Sure they can spout the principles in abstract for Sunday speechifying but most of the time whatever little programme they do have is up for negotiation if it means getting a `left’ bureaucrat or reformist or opportunist on their platform. They are as self-serving as New Labour and the trade union bureaucrats themselves and in fact operate a division of labour with them. No, if the left is to enjoy any kind of renaissance a popular succinct revolutionary socialist programme is compulsory.

  141. Len Butterworth on said:

    #152 Well get on with it then. You are clearly a greater man than Trotsky and one of these things that you claim to be able to do is write a transitional programme so please don’t keep us hanging on. Shit or get off the pot.

  142. lone nut on said:

    #154 Well in your initial comment you did seem to imply that drawing up this transitional programme was rather a simple affair, and since you think it’s so necessary i assume you have yourself at least drawn something up on the back of a fag packet, so why not share that with us?

  143. Len Butterworth on said:

    #155 Thought you’d never ask:

    1. Full employment immediately by sharing the available productive work and a living wage as a minimum for all.

    2. End the bail out of the banks. Nothing can be achieved as long as the centuries of national wealth are being liquidated and the balance sheet of the state ruined to this impossible end. Let the bankrupt banks go bankrupt and take their staff, estates and deposits into administration to form a people’s bank with a monopoly of credit that can lend at base rate and facilitate social investment.

    3. Defend public spending and balance the books by collecting sufficient income tax.

    4. Nationalise and democratise the self-serving, profiteering, asset-stripping, ant-democratic, cash-hoardng monopolies by making them social property and their managements subject not to greedy shareholders and fat cat excutives but democratic selection by their workforces.

    5. Living pension for the over 60s.

    6. For a federation of sovereign British nations and the renegotiation of the founding treaties of the EU in accordance with socialist principles.

    I thank you.

  144. Len Butterworth on said:

    #157 Sorry don’t get it. You were the clown who said anyone could do it `just like that’ and yet so far nothing, squat, nada just more keyboard piss. Simply a provocateur posing as someone concerned with the fate of the left i’m afraid certainly not someone intent on enriching the discussion.

  145. lone nut on said:

    Thanks for the programme, Len. I’m sure if you carry on bellowing it belligerently the working class will soon flock to your banner. Incidentally, I don’t think I could write a transitional programme, but then again I don’t think I could write Fifty Shades of Grey, or a triple concept album about the six wives of Henry VIII, but my shortcomings in these areas haven’t prevented me from leading a rich and fulfilling life.

  146. Karl Stewart: Working-class communities are more cultuerally mixed than wealthier areas – fact.
    It’s in working-class communities that you find black and white people living side-by-side and married to each other – fact.
    There is no “white working class” – that’s a racist term introduced by racist organisations like the BNP. It suits them to divide the working class along colour lines.
    The working class is the least racist class.

    In a broad, ‘the system perpetuates division’ sort of way you’re right, working-class people aren’t any more racist than others. But nor are they less so. The BNP near me don’t get their support from golf clubs. They get it from hugely deprived council estates that have been abandoned by everyone else.

    And while there are lots of mixed areas where I’ve mainly lived, in the city centre, on the outskirts of town you get overwhelmingly communities of ‘white working-class’ families. Does that mean they have some interest different from other ethnicities? Of course not. But a lot of people do self-identify as being different as a result of that, of being ignored because of it, and we can’t ignore that fact.

    On the other hand, while the BNP obviously benefits from racialising what is self-evidently a class issue (and fuck the BBC for their patronising ‘white season’) a lot of the left have inculcated this too.

    I remember being at a UAF-hosted public meeting and lots of middle-class Swappies baulking from their militant ‘No Pasaran’ rhetoric at the first mention of actually going to the estates where the BNP were active. They’d written off these areas because people flew St. George’s Crosses and were thus considered beyond the pale. Their alternative was to leaflet the local university campuses instead!

  147. Len Butterworth on said:

    Hey you can’t even write a short coherent comment on a blog and no doubt that hasn’t prevented you from leading a rich a fulfilling life so I’m wondering why you try to do it. Perhaps you are lying about the fulfilling life. Good luck if you are rich though.

    As for bellowing belligerently I’m not sure how comment 150 odd on an obscure blog constitutes that. Happy to discuss the programme if that is what workers are interested in. If not and they’d rather post fatuous comments and links then fuck em. Suspect you and Vanya are not the workers though just a couple of disruptive sectarians or opportunists acting out.

  148. Len Butterworth,

    Well your humour is rather misconceived as you re mocking politics that is not shared by the contributors to this site.

    How is it funny to take the mickey out of trottskyism on a website that is in no way associated with either Trotskism or “revolutionary ” socialism?

  149. Len Butterworth on said:

    You are quite right lard arse. This is an anti-Trot sight so no point taking the piss here.

  150. Does Len have a definition of productive work, as point 1 in his ‘programme’ says this will be shared out?

  151. When I suggested that I could write a transitional programme it was in the spirit of Hotspur’s response to Glendower:

    “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.”

    “Why so can I, or so can any man. But will they come when you do call for them?”

  152. Jellytot on said:

    Manzil

    Agree with your anaysis in #160.

    What propelled the BNP to success was their ability to sniff out and build within certain pressured largely White Working Class communities who were receiptive to their message. These areas usually, but not always, bordered more multicultural areas. Fascist activists like Eddie Butler were masters at this concentrated, targetted approach.

    Even during the high tide of BNP success around 2007 they as an organisation barely existed in most parts of England but husbanded their forces in specific areas.

    Anyway, you could always do the maths around the 2011 census data to prove that White Working Class must exist in concentrated communities. With 86% of the nation (80% in England and Wales) declaring themselves “White British” they simply must.

  153. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    On this debate about “the Left” losing its way(?) I feel I must give a political rejoinder to vanya in post 5, “No papers to sell? No workers to win to the ideas of Marxism itself? Maybe you could pop over to Haiti and tell them all how they should have done it like Deggsy and co in Liverpool instead of following that sell-out Aristide.”
    I do this not only for vanya’s sake but some other contributors, which includes Mr Newman, lack of understanding why socialists and an organisation that believes in the socialist transformation of society actually follows, observes and discusses , contributes and participates in the struggles of the international working class. Rather than individuals just give pious solidarity mind-sets and emotions, as a number of contributors have indicated in a number of different threads in the recent past; and as one correspondent lambasted the Socialist Party for having the audacity to offer a socialist programme to the Egyptian working class from London.

    To start with Capitalism is a world economic and social system and the opposition to it must be organised on international lines. The tendency is now for trade unions to do just that, to come together across the national boundaries of Europe; and just look at what happened on 14 November in a number of European countries: a co-ordinated general strike. However, the same applies from the point of view of Left/Socialist parties, the working class and more importantly for Marxism. That is why Karl Marx encouraged and helped to form the First International; which led into the formation of the Second International; then the revolutionary events of 1917 onwards that then led to the formation of the Third International and then its degeneration which led to Leon Trotsky’s idea of the creation of a Fourth International. It is for that reason that the socialist group I belong to, the Socialist Party, and its international organisation, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), observes, discusses and debates, and shares ideas about the social process that take place in every individual country through-out the world and submits a socialist solution to their problems.

    Since Marx’s times well-meaning, and not so well-meaning, social reformers have disparaged socialist and communists for giving an international perspective. Just take one example being Fenner Brockway a reformist who was a member of the Independent Labour Party in Britain during the 1930s. Brockway attacked and condemned Leon Trotsky who at the time was fighting to build new Marxist international following the Third International’s Stalinist degeneration. Brockway accused Trotsky of trying to build the Fourth International from the “heights of Oslo”. Trotsky responded to this absurd submission by saying that: “He, Brockway, cannot allow a new International to be constructed from ‘the heights of Oslo’. I leave aside the fact I do not live in Oslo and that, besides, Oslo is not situated on heights. The principle which I defend in common with many thousand comrades bear absolutely no local or geographical character. They are Marxian and international. They are formulated, expounded and defended in theses, brochures and books. If Fenner Brockway finds these principles to be false, let him put up against them his own. We are always ready to be taught better. But unfortunately Fenner Brockway cannot venture into this field, for he has turned over to Maxton that oh so paltry parcel of principles. That is why there is nothing left for him to do save to make merry about the “heights of Oslo” wherein he promptly commits a threefold mistake: with respect to my address, to the topography of the Norwegian capital, and, last but not least, to the fundamental principles of international action.” (On dictators and the heights of Oslo, April 22 1936, from the Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1935-36).

    So vanya, et al, I would like to suggest that the geographical location of a CWI member is a completely secondary question to the CWI’s political programme and prognosis? The reality is each national section of the CWI has its own democratic structures and elected leadership which is responsible for developing its perspectives, policy, strategy and tactics as they apply to their specific countries. The CWI as an international has the right and duty to discuss the work, and political perspectives, of the national sections, just as national sections are also encouraged to discuss the work of its sister sections and those of the CWI as a whole. In that way we learn from each other and this helps to strengthen the overall experience of the CWI as whole. At an international level an Executive Committee is elected at the World Congress, which discusses World and national economic and social perspectives and which rank and file CWI members read and discuss before conferences, which are made up of delegates from each of the national sections of the CWI. And just recently International Executive Committee of the CWI held a meeting and discussed a World Perspectives document which I put here: http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6076.

    Anyone can go onto the CWI site, http://www.socialistworld.net/ and read the international and national perspective documents to see the CWI’s political and theoretical prognosis based on the living events of the day. Nevertheless, the CWI while not the last word is aiming to create with the working class new worker parties linked together in a mass international that will create the socialist transformation of society. I believe that this is one of the ways the Left can “engages with the political mainstream” as Mr Newman would like to phrase it. A merry Xmas to you all.

  154. PJ Rose on said:

    All “the left” (whatever such an entity may be) ever seems to do is talk to itself, some might say to the point of self-obsession and self-delusion. With regard to another post, I would agree that the AWL is very much like a “cult”, but singling ou t them out is merely projection. The entire “radical left” in the UK is filled with charismatic leaders and brainwashed underlings; obscure, self-contained cults-like entities that are all convinced of their own importance, who often use their own obscure language , not provide an adequate analysis of a given situation/phenomena, but rather precisely because such an analysis is beyond their reach. To be a part of the “radical left” is to be a part of “the culture of the cult”. This I think is a major reason for the scapegoating of a medium like Socialist Unity by certain sects.

  155. Karl Stewart on said:

    The function and purpose of the university system is to perpetuate an elitist class system, by drumming into its graduates that they are fundamentally better people than non-university graduates and to give them that “class confidence” or arrogance.

    On the subject of skin colour among workers, yes of course there are areas where one skin colour is more prominent than another, but there is no “white working class” – that’s a racist term introduced into political discourse by the BNP.

    When I lived in Dagenham a few years ago, I had a white family on one side, a Bengali family on the other side and a Nigerian family in the flat upstairs. All of them were in manual, working-class occupations – the Nigerian guy and the white guy did the same job.

    Talk of a “white working class” was the slogan of the BNP, it meant opposing the non-white working class and creating racism and division.

    The BNP were eventually pushed back not by pandering to that racism, and not by adopting the B BNP’s slogans, and not by creating a new party of the left, but by long, hard and patient, consistent broad anti-racist campaigning by some very dedicated and principled and concientious people.

    Racism is wrong and there’s no excuse for it.

    It is a fact that there are overwhelmingly more culturally mixed working-class communities than in wealthier areas and it is also a fact that there are overwhelmingly more culturally mixed marriages and families among working-class communities than among wealthier people.

    That’s not the same as claiming no working-class people are racist – of course that’s nonsense – but it is true that the working class is the least racist.

    University graduates tend to not like having these facts pointed out to them, as their whole phsyche is one of superiority and class arrogance.

  156. brianthedog on said:

    #175 Karl your anti education/university diatribe must have been caused by too much turkey and stuffing – some anti indigestion tablets might ease the bile.

  157. Karl Stewart on said:

    Thanks for the tip Brian, I’m pro-education but anti-elitism.

    What’s your main point Brian? Are you pro-elitism? Or do you think the university system is not elitist?

    The other point I’m making is there is racism among all social groups, but it’s at its strongest among wealthier people and less so among working-class people.

    And what’s your take on that? Do you think working-class people are more racist than wealthier people? Do you think the left will win more working-class support if we adopt the BNP’s slogans?

    You see I don’t agree with the analysis that has the left and the BNP in direct competition for exactly the same voters.

    The BNP voter is typically a potential Tory or UKIP voter with varying degrees of racist views. It’s a myth – and a dangerous myth – that this person is typically a disillusioned socialist.

    Generally speaking, we won’t win these people to the left – they’re essentially right-wing reactionaries – but patient, broad, consistent anti-racist campaigning can impact on and reduce their racist views, persuade this person out of their support for fascism, push fascism back out to the political margins.

    Of course we also need a vigorous fight for socialist ideas, a concerted push on wages, job security, housing, public services etc – but that and the anti-racist struggle are not the same thing.

  158. Dagenham born and bred and ex.long term CLP member on said:

    Karl Stewart: The BNP were eventually pushed back not by pandering to that racism, and not by adopting the B BNP’s slogans, and not by creating a new party of the left, but by long, hard and patient, consistent broad anti-racist campaigning by some very dedicated and principled and concientious people.

    I thought the “BNP were eventually pushed back” – at the ballot box – in Dagenham – by getting out a Labour vote that had previously stayed at home.

    The BNP vote went up in actual numbers of votes, and despite that increase in the Labour percentage leading to the BNP losing all of their councillors, if I remember rightly, the vote was very close in a number of wards.

    Otherwise the council is back to the more of the same as in the previous 60 years. Either 100% or about 85% Labour councillors, not much sign of them being interested in protecting residents from central govt. cuts – indeed, one councillor has recently been expelled from the Labour group and the party. It’s a shame.

  159. Karl Stewart on said:

    Well if you’re “born and bred” and a long-term local CLP member as you say, then you clearly know a lot more details about the local area and local politics than someone who used to live there for just a few years.

    And I think you’re being too modest about What you guys achieved there at the last election – it was absolutely tremendous that every BNP councillor got booted out!

  160. You do not need a university education to see that the left ignores the problems of white working class areas at its peril!

    The social problems that the fascists exploit are still there and there is little in the way of campaigning done in these areas by local trades councils…etc

    Unless the labour movement is seen to be fighting for better housing..etc in these places the BNP will always find support. While some of the more hysterical might cry racism to even acknowledge the existence of such communities, the fascists are aware of them and ready to spread their hatred.

    My argument is about the need to organise better in white working class communities specifically. This is not an argument that black and white workers have separate interests or that we should ignore multicultural areas. I was making a specific point about a specific problem. Burying your head in the sand to ignore this in the hope it will go away is not useful. Getting personal likewise.

    Karl chill out you are in danger of embarrassing yourself mate.

  161. Karl Stewart on said:

    George,
    I’ve identified in earlier posts what I think the left’s industrial priorities should be in terms of prioritising job security, pushing on wages – which have consistently been falling behind inflation – and using these key issues around which to rebuild our union movement.
    Away from the workplace, we need to campaign on affordable housing, and of course health, education and public services.
    I don’t think an alternative left electoral initiative should be the priority at this time.

    So those were my main contributions to the discussion.

    You introduced the idea of a separate “white” agenda – what exactly do you mean by that?

    Why do you think we need to say different things to workers with lighter skin colours?

    Why do you think the left should accentuate these differences between workers George?

  162. Karl Stewart:
    You introduced the idea of a separate “white” agenda – what exactly do you mean by that?

    Why do you think we need to say different things to workers with lighter skin colours?

    Why do you think the left should accentuate these differences between workers George?

    But George said exactly the opposite of that!

    George W:
    My argument is about the need to organise better in white working class communities specifically. This is not an argument that black and white workers have separate interests or that we should ignore multicultural areas. I was making a specific point about a specific problem.

    Acknowledging the disengagement of large numbers, even entire communities, of the self-consciously ‘white working-class’ from politics and especially the labour movement, and saying we need to tackle that, does not mean compromising in the least with racism. There is no reason why organising in these areas should be any different from elsewhere. It’s simply saying, at the moment, for whatever reason, the old, almost organic connections have essentially withered on the vine – that special attention should be paid to this, unless we want to abandon whole areas that desperately need a class-conscious politics.

    I said before I agree that working-class people aren’t any more racist. Of course this is just anecdotal evidence: I don’t know enough to speak with authority on the social distribution of racist attitudes. So I’m more than prepared to believe racism is more prevalent among the rich.

    However, it doesn’t change the fact that organised far-right political action is grounded in deprived, white areas. I’m not saying that otherwise politically sound workers were tricked into fascism, that would be absurd. But the absence of strong labour and community organisations (due to lazy-bastard Labour councils and dilettante middle-class lefties both) means that people who are racist and reactionary have a freer hand to spread their filth unchallenged. The example of Dagenham’s elections actually being very close shows this in miniature: it wasn’t that the Hope Not Hate campaign convinced the racists to amend their ways; it’s that they swamped the BNP vote by turning out people who’d lapsed into apathy.

  163. andy newman,

    “However, I think there is another underlying problem, in writing about what the left is doing, because the left really isn’t doing much at the moment which engages with the political mainstream.” Andy what about in Scotland with the recent Radical Independence Conference? 800 people attended which is huge for a Scottish only event on the left. It also got a lot of coverage on the mainstream, Alex Salmond even had an issue a positive statement about it. what’s the reason for not engaging with this?

  164. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 184 says that “with the recent Radical Independence Conference? 800 people attended which is huge for a Scottish only event on the left.”

    Have a look at my post at 39 which indicates that the Radical Independence Conference that you refer too is not that radical considering the organisers just want to stay, like Mr Newman, et all, within the framework of the market economy. In their pre-meeting literature they do not mention Socialism at all and are quite explicit in advocating “a Nordic-style universal state with a mixed economy model” in the Scottish independent state. Without sounding harsh it is the economics, and politics, of the Kindergarden! The only way that the ‘Left’ can engage in the ‘mainsteam’ in Scotland is to pursue an independent working class strategy by advocating the building of a trade unionist and socialist campaign with policies that would eradicate the market economy. I post a report from Socialist Party Scotland members who were at the Radical Independence conference.

    http://www.socialistpartyscotland.org.uk/news-a-analysis/scottish-politics/438-radical-independence-conference-a-missed-opportunity

  165. Jimmy Haddow:
    I post a report from Socialist Party Scotland members who were at the Radical Independenceconference.

    http://www.socialistpartyscotland.org.uk/news-a-analysis/scottish-politics/438-radical-independence-conference-a-missed-opportunity

    Bit off topic but I just wanted to comment on the following passage in your report, as it seems a recurring (and, I think, unfair) theme in criticisms of Syriza from British leftists:

    This was particularly present in the speech of Stelios Pappas, Syriza’s European Policy Co-ordinator who called for renegotiation of Greece’s debt with the IMF, ECB and EU. In contrast, Xekinhma the Greek sister party of Socialist Party Scotland calls for non-payment of the crippling debt and the nationalisation of the banking system.

    Yiannis Bournous, a ‘leading activist’ in Syriza, gave an interview to the Australian Socialist Alliance, published by Green Left Weekly, that I think is helpful to understanding their position on the debt:

    From ‘Syriza rep. on historic responsibility of the left in Greece’:

    Syriza has also been criticised from the left for calling to renegotiate Greece’s debt rather than refusing to pay it. Can you explain the Syriza position?

    The question of the debt, we believe, is in principle a political question and not a technical one. The debt has been used as the excuse for all the austerity programs. Greece had debt problems together with a lot of other European states for many years. Even Germany has a public debt that exceeds the criteria of the stability pact.

    So we believe that with a political problem you have to give a political answer. What we have said from the start of the crisis is that this is not just a Greek issue. This is a European structural crisis of the way that the EU and the eurozone was constructed.

    So we have been insisting that there cannot be a national solution to a European problem. That is why, what we have proposed, together with the other forces of the European Left, is a European agreement on the public debt crisis that would include all the over indebted European states. It would follow the model that was agreed for Germany in 1953 after the World War II.

    This includes two things; one is an abolition of a big part of the debt. We have been proposing an audit to see what kind of debt we have. What part of it comes from corruption or speculative interest rates in the past or things like that.

    But at the same time, you need to protect some smaller investors, like households who have spent their lifetime savings to buy state bonds or social security funds who own state bonds. These were not protected in the so-called haircut of the Greek debt last year.

    The first bond holders to be destroyed were small household bond holders, Greek social security funds. Greek Universities which almost went bankrupt because of the “haircut”. That is why we say that our program and our strategy is class orientated. You need to protect those who did not create the crisis and punish those who did.

    At the same time, we are calling for an optimisation of the repayment condition of the remainder of the debt, again along the lines of the agreement for Germany in 1953. This means the precondition of growth. The years that our country appears with a positive growth rate we can repay. Those when we are in deep recession, like now the sixth consecutive year of recession, we cannot repay.

    You don’t have to be an economist to understand that. If you have recession and at the same time you have to repay interest and the capital on the loans and simultaneously find money for public investment to boost job creation; this is impossible. So we we need to make a choice. If you want Europe to be saved as a whole, you need to make choices. Our choice is to defend and promote those policies that could lead Europe out of recession; job creation, public investments, social control of strategic companies (banking sector, energy, transport etc) and at the same time secure basic social services etc.

    But this is not enough, of course, because we acknowledge that the crisis is structural. We say that the European treaties that have been voted on have led the EU to the point that we are at now. You need radical change of the treaties and you need a fundamentalchange in the statutes of the European Central Bank, so that it becomes a last resort lender, which will offer direct loans to over indebted states, with a very low interest rate, as it does today with private banks.

    The Party of the European Left made an official proposal for the creation of a European public bank for social and ecological development. This bank would directly fund with zero or very low interest rates only public investment directed to ecologically sustainable development and job creation projects.

    Syriza is explicitly rejecting the legitimacy of austerity. It has also said that, subject to the resolution of a European-wide debt audit, it backs a moratorium on all payments of the debt as it stands. You can disagree with its tactics, but it’s not a case of Syriza selling out on the issue of debt. It’s simply not resting on ultra-left, all-or-nothing slogans. It can’t, because its rise in support poses the question of power and ‘who governs’, and the Greek left needs to demonstrate how to actually mobilise people behind a workable programme. Simply rejecting the debt, regardless of circumstances, would probably unleash counter-measures by Germany and (especially) France that would crash the Greek economy, demoralise the workers and leave them back under the current grand coalition of class-collaborating bastards.

  166. Jimmy I read your link and was struck by

    “The urgent need for a 24-hour general by the working class across Britain did not feature in the discussion”

    Is this post to be fully funded and will it be advertised? Its certainly an attention grabber. I suppose Chavez was the inspiration. No doubt it will help mobilise the workers in uniform.

    The rest alas was the usual bollix.

  167. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #186 Jimmy you’re really missing the point on this one! The problem with the RIC isn’t that its not ultra-left enough, but that it supports independence at all, which will only help the capitalists on both sides of the border…

  168. Karl Stewart on said:

    I’m sorry Manzil and George but there is a working class and there is not a “white working-class”.

    There are working-class people with varying shades of skin tone, their cultural origins vary as much as their “colours” but they have class in common.

    You hear broad Scouse, Geordie, Mancunian, Brummie, Glaswegian accents from working-class people with light, medium and dark skin tones – just as down here you hear “jafaican” from young working-class Londoners whether black or white. They have class in common.

    George, if you really think there is a “white working class” ask yourself whether your own union (as you’re a train guard I guess it’s the RMT) agrees with you. Does it organise separate “white working class” branches? Does it call “white working class” strikes?

    Manzil, how do you define your “white working class”? Does it include Poles? Irish? Jews? A lot of Iranians have light skin tones, are they “white working class?

  169. jim mclean on said:

    Independence is a dead duck. The Left should be looking for a way forward come 2015. Salmond, and his inner circle, are left watching everything around them unravel. The Nationalist project has descended into a nasty little anti English campaign. People are being driven from employment by the second rate scribes who pose as the Scottish Intelligentsia. Scotland is not Ireland that has suffered over 500 years of imposed government and the stifling and suppression of political progression and development. Scotland has embraced this union wholeheartedly playing a major role in its development from its birth to the emergence of the Empire. It is so easy to support the Union of Scotland, England and Wales as it has been a natural political development. Just as it is so easy to oppose a divided Ireland due to its unnatural and illegitimate birth and centuries of political isolation. The Brave New World of Wee Eck has brought us what, English people being driven out of jobs in the arts. Women being driven out of further and higher education. The rise of racist attacks. The almost autocratic rule of the SNP who feel free to openly lie to the electorate and refuse to apologise. It is not a pretty sight. The RIC are just the usual suspects under a different banner.

  170. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #193 Well I hope and expect RESPECT’s George Galloway will play a role in the referendum. Especially if its closer than you seem to expect our side could really do with someone to put the left case for a No vote; we wouldn’t want a wholly Cameron/Darling etc led campaign lead to seperation by default!

  171. Karl Stewart,

    There really is no point in discussing this any further with you. You’re reading what you want to, rather than what we’re actually saying.

    One last time, because I’m a glutton for punishment:

    We are not saying that ‘the white working class’ forms a separate community with its own racially-analogous interests, or that the left should treat people differently as a result of this. We are saying that many people, who are white and working-class and live in areas where everyone else tends to be white and working-class as well, and which are deprived, and have been ignored or abandoned by the labour movement, are susceptible to the encroachment of racist politics because, in the absence of those aforementioned workers’ organisations, they can more easily perceive themselves to be a “white working class”, emphasis on the “white”, with interests which are counterposed to other working-class people who happen not to be white, and that this is deadly for the politics of solidarity and socialism.

    The position you assert that George or I represent exists solely within the confines of your own head.

  172. jim mclean: Independence is a dead duck

    I’d like to think so but I’m not so sure. People I’ve known for years have swallowed the whole pseudo-independence thing whole. When it’s pointed out that there’s little independence in the EU never mind NATO with the monarchy still in place, interests rates set by the BofE and retention of a foreign currency (ie the £) they retreat to the argument, “at least we’ll be able to make ‘our’ own decisions!” Such an attitude cannot be reasoned with. I’m astonished how some who should know better can be taken in with such a shallow/infantile formulation. I can only assume it’s desperation for anything perceived to be some sort of short cut to alternative policies.

    And the cuts and attacks on public services and working peoples’ living standards go on unabated too – more often than not with the SNP leading the charge.

  173. 192. Hope you enjoyed the Christmas Jim and are in good form for the New Year.

    Some questions though.

    jim mclean: “The Nationalist project has descended into a nasty little anti English campaign.”

    I cannot find any evidence of SNP anti Englishness in policy or statements. I can find lots of false accusations in the MSM. However if the alegation were to be true would it not be visible in the record and reflected in the latest figures? Last time I looked incidents involving ‘white English’ as victims in Scotland were declining.

    “the second rate scribes who pose as the Scottish Intelligentsia.”

    Are they worse than their English equivelents? Its a sobering thought.

    “Scotland is not Ireland that has suffered over 500 years of imposed government and the stifling and suppression of political progression and development.”

    Indeed it is not but neither is it England.

    “Scotland has embraced this union wholeheartedly playing a major role in its development from its birth to the emergence of the Empire.”

    Serious historians would say that is not so. The only ‘wholehearted’ supporters were from the ruling class. It became more widespread in the high days of empire.

    “It is so easy to support the Union of Scotland, England and Wales as it has been a natural political development.”

    I struggle to see outside of the realms of social Darwinism how the various political and military campaigns could be ascribed to nature.

    ” English people being driven out of jobs in the arts.”

    Are they though, I think you are refering to one case here and its detail seems disputed.

  174. Dagenham born and bred ex-long term CLP member on said:

    Karl Stewart: And I think you’re being too modest about What you guys achieved there at the last election – it was absolutely tremendous that every BNP councillor got booted out!

    Karl,

    the facts are that after a very long and intensive campaign by us and then Searchlight/Hope not hate and supported by the Mirror, the BNP vote in actual numbers *went up*. We only got rid of the BNP councillors because, as our canvassing and the actual results showed, we managed to get voters out who would otherwise have stayed at home. These voters were largely new local residents and former non-voters, and, yes, the BNP voters had ‘long term roots in the area’ (i.e. white, lived for generations in the area) and were ex-Labour voters. There is no guarantee that those who voted Labour last time around will vote Labour again, particuarly as the local parties are again just as moribund and apolitical as they ever were.

    We won very very few ex-Labour and then BNP voters back to Labour indeed.

    It is only the nature of FPTP that meant that despite a very large turnout the fascists got zero seats. The result in seats was obviously pleasing, but I can’t help thinking that at the same time it is bad for democracy in general when 25%+ across the entire borough equals nil representation, regardless of who it is who got these votes.

    Karl: I assume from your comments that you are in the CPB. If you lived in Dagenham (or Barking?) you will presumably know two CPB comrades who live(d?) there, I am thinking of a heterosexual couple, the female partner is from Eire who worked a long time ago for the Morning Star. Both were involved years ago in local anti fascist activity. I think they will agree in many respects with my analysis – please do ask them.

  175. SA: Serious historians would say that is not so. The only ‘wholehearted’ supporters were from the ruling class. It became more widespread in the high days of empire.

    This is tendentious. At the time the Act of Union was passed, there were certainly riots in the streets of Scottish towns and cities. But after that a significant section of the Scottish working class benefited from the fruits of the British Empire that followed. The British Army during the empire was disproportionately made up of Scots.

    But this is irrelevant, because there is no conscious working class element currently influencing the Yes campaign in 2012/13. Jim is absolutely right to point out that what’s on offer from the SNP will not see any qualitative change. They are going out of their way to cause the least disruption to the status quo as possible.

    And whether the RIC likes to admit it or not, the question of Scottish independence and the SNP are interlinked in the minds of the vast majority of Scottish voters.

  176. John: This is tendentious. At the time the Act of Union was passed, there were certainly riots in the streets of Scottish towns and cities. But after that a significant section of the Scottish working class benefited from the fruits of the British Empire that followed. The British Army during the empire was disproportionately made up of Scots.

    Its not tendentious, although that’s a lovely word. The ‘after that’ I find wooly just when do you think the benefits kicked in?

    Of course its beyond dispute that sections of the English and Scottish working class benefitted from empire however its worth contemplating the price payed by their forebears.

    The British army was also disproportionately made up of Irish. What conclusions should we draw from this. That such folk yearned to slay for the Empire or that they had few economic options?

    I would be suprised if the RIC failed to see that the question of Scottish independence and the SNP are interlinked in the minds of Scottish voters. It could hardly be otherwise. Anyhow surely the RIC are correct to set out their stall. Its what everyone does.

  177. Karl Stewart on said:

    Born and Bred, thanks for those points, it’s informative for all of us to hear some of these local details and also to hear your note of caution as to the ongoing situation and continuing concerns.

    (Just a brief point on the rise in overall voting numbers in 2010, wouldn’t this have been expected for all parties across the board given that the 2010 council elections coincided with a general election?)

    The main point I intended to make when I referred to having lived in the area was that in my personal experience it wasn’t an “all-white” community.

  178. Dagenham born and bred ex-long term CLP member on said:

    Karl Stewart: in my personal experience it wasn’t an “all-white” community.

    Indeed. But until about 1998-2000 it was (and god, do I remember that…), not just felt to be one, but also statistically.

    Official govt. statistics showed the borough was the place in the UK with the largest change in ‘racial/ethnic composition’ in a very short period of time. I’m pleased it’s not a white ghetto any more- but it was until fairly recently. That very quick, visible change did a lot to help the BNP gain even more support in an area where Tyndall saved his deposit (for the first time) in the post-Bryan Gould by-election in 1994 when the borough was still basically a white ghetto.

  179. Karl Stewart on said:

    Interesting stuff B&B, I moved away four years ago, after being there a bit over three years.

    (I really liked it there & even “adopted” the local team, who I still watch when I get the chance.)

    Anyway, no doubt the local demographic’s changed more recently.

  180. jim mclean on said:

    In relation to the fall in the number of racist attacks on English residents it is difficult to accept the latest figures as they have discounted the data from Strathclyde and Grampian Police for technical reasons.
    The creation of the new single state police organisation by the SNP has slipped by the left in what is the continual drip drip undermining of human rights by this party. With the police being directly under the Justice Minister with no independent watchdog and a party of sock puppets things do not look nice.

  181. jim mclean: With the police being directly under the Justice Minister with no independent watchdog

    Is there no equivalent of the IPCC in Scotland?

    Not of course that the the IPCC is particularly independent in reality anyway.

  182. jim mclean on said:

    There is something being set up to deal with the new National Police Force but it will be under the control of the former head of Strathclyde Police CID who will decide what if anything needs investigated. There is a Police Complaints Commission that is being wound up. Under them complaints were investigated by outside police forces.

  183. jim mclean: In relation to the fall in the number of racist attacks on English residents it is difficult to accept the latest figures as they have discounted the data from Strathclyde and Grampian Police for technical reasons.

    ‘Technical reasons’ in data sets usualy means the data has not been collected in the correct catagories rendering it incompatible. That would imply Strathclyde and Grampian fucked up at their end. That said the published decline is 17% are there reasons that Strathclyde and Grampian would buck the trend for the rest of Scotland relating to racial incidents with white English victims?

    The creation of the new single state police organisation by the SNP has slipped by the left in what is the continual drip drip undermining of human rights by this party. With the police being directly under the Justice Minister with no independent watchdog and a party of sock puppets things do not look nice.

    You will have to remind me what the continual drip drip of undermining Human Rights consists of as its passed me by. But the police being accountable to the Justice Minister is not evil of its self. At least the lines of democratic accountability are clear. Engage in cover ups and the electorate may punish you.

    Nor can I see any reason why a country with Scotland’s population cannot be well served by a single police organisation. The numbers are somewhere between Ireland and London. No one has ever suggested that the failings of the Guarda and the Met are down to them being unified organisations. Although moving to this is an obvious poltical step for a party seeking independence its not intrinsicaly a bad thing.

    As Vanya notes the history of the placemen and women running the Police Complaints Authority and the IPCC has hardly been illustrious, indeed its mainly served to allow governing politicians to keep their hands clean while still covering up scandal.

    I’m in favour of independent watch dogs but its not how the UK works in reality. Now it sounds like Scotland is going to get its own watchdog whether its any better remains to be seen.

  184. SA: The ‘after that’ I find wooly just when do you think the benefits kicked in?

    To be honest, I would have thought that was obvious. As the British Empire took shape the huge influx of wealth which resulted both immiserated and improved the lives of sections of the Scottish working class.

    But the point is there has never been a significant uprising or movement against the union in Scotland, the insurrection of 1820 aside, though it is arguable that this was more a struggle for economic emancipation than national.

    Ireland in contrast has a long history of armed revolts and uprisings against British rule. This is because, as Jim stated earlier, Ireland was and in part remains a British colony. Scotland never was and isn’t.

  185. John I don’t dispute any of that in broad terms although understanding when the emiseration was mitigated for some by the benefits is truely interesting to me in seeking to locate political attitudes.

    We are left with the situation where Scotland has, in living memory, moved from a Conservative and Unionist monolith to where we are today. Its a remarkable journey.

  186. Karl Stewart on said:

    George W:
    Karl ain’t a cpb member btw! His interesting views should be taken as his, and his alone!

    Yes I’ve made that clear, although my views are communist ones and I admire the CP a great deal.
    It is sad, however, to see the CP apparently now accepting racist morons into membership.

  187. Karl Stewart,

    I thought you were just irredeemably obtuse, but that comment is disgusting and malicious. You have systematically misrepresented George W’s views throughout these comments – I don’t know why, given that people can just scroll up and see what he actually said. You should be ashamed.

  188. Karl has completely overstepped the mark here.

    As someone who agrees with the point George W made, I object strongly to the racist moron jibe.

    It’s the kind of thing I expect from the less sophisticated members of the SWP

  189. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 187, Manzil, raises a point on the question of the Left and Europe by quoting or should I say partially quoting from the SPS commentary on the Radical Independence Conference which I posted in 186 and then goes on to quote “Yiannis Bournous, a ‘leading activist’ in Syriza”. What Manzil quoted was this: “This was particularly present in the speech of Stelios Pappas, Syriza’s European Policy Co-ordinator who called for renegotiation of Greece’s debt with the IMF, ECB and EU. In contrast, Xekinhma the Greek sister party of Socialist Party Scotland calls for non-payment of the crippling debt and the nationalisation of the banking system.”

    Maybe he should have quoted the paragraph before it and the sentence after it to make clear the full perception of the citation: “The speakers also echoed the vague idea that a better form of capitalism is possible with the representatives of Syriza and Front Le Gauche putting forward the slogan of a “Social Europe” rather than a socialist Europe.
    “This was particularly present in the speech of Stelios Pappas, Syriza’s European Policy Co-ordinator who called for renegotiation of Greece’s debt with the IMF, ECB and EU. In contrast, Xekinhma the Greek sister party of Socialist Party Scotland calls for non-payment of the crippling debt and the nationalisation of the banking system. Pappas called on the Troika to be forced to provide a 1945 Marshall Plan style new deal for the country.”

    The quote, that Manzil uses, by the “‘leading activist’ in Syriza” is actually saying we must stay within the framework of the market economy, in other words Capitalism, and not change it at all. Now the proposals that are being argued from a ‘Left’ reformist point of view are something to be supported but if left there they will very rapidly be destroyed by the economic system itself, lead no doubt by the German Capitalists and supported by the other capitalist national economies, which would include the Greek capitalists. Not unlike the ‘reforms’ the Blair government introduced that Mr Newman, and others, so laud on this blog which have been destroyed by the austerity programme of the ConDem government.

    The point that neither the Syriza leaders and the rest of the reformist Left, in Britain and the rest of Europe, are prepared to accept is that this present economic crisis is not “a European structural crisis of the way that the EU and the eurozone was constructed” as Yiannis Bournous likes to phrase it; but a world capitalist crisis, which is not one crisis but a succession of crises, that will last a long time, even by the reckoning of the capitalist spokespersons, and sections of the bourgeois, themselves, that needs to be fundamentally changed to, and for, the benefit the 99 per cent.

    Unlike Syriza leaders, Xekinima, the Greek section of the CWI, did not call for a ‘renegotiation’ of the crushing austerity measures, but for a Left government to carry out a programme to defend working people. This would include repudiating the debt, stopping all cuts, nationalising the main banks and industries, under democratic workers’ control and management, and fighting for a socialist Europe, as opposed to the bosses’ EU – breaking with the diktat of the Troika and capitalism, in general.

    A programme to unite Syriza and the KKE around opposition to all austerity measures and the EU diktats, for cancellation of the debt and nationalisation of the main banks and industries under democratic workers’ control and for socialist change, as the basis of a workers’ government, would win widespread support from the working class, youth and ruined middle class. It would inspire a resurgence of mass action in the workplaces and communities and build Syriza as a mass party.

    At the same time a government of Syriza, and a united democratic government of workers and all those exploited by capitalism, could appeal to the working people of Europe – especially those facing a similar situation in Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy – to join them in solidarity and begin building a new alternative to the capitalist EU and euro. The massive crisis in Spain and elsewhere would mean the working people would rally to such a call. This could be the first step toward the formation of a voluntary democratic socialist confederation involving these countries as a step towards a socialist confederation of Europe. Such a process should be begun now with direct links being built with the Left and workers organisations in these countries.

    I do not call that ultra-left, I call that politically and socially sensible and responsible because what is the alternative, but continued pauperisation of working class families while the leaders of Left organisations fiddle to the tune of capitalism must stay; rather than have Socialist societies across Europe would be able to democratically elect representatives to an entirely different type of institution – ones serving workers’ interests. This would be the basis for a European socialist confederation – an alliance of socialist states – that could democratically, and with full accountability, enable economic, environmental, social and cultural cooperation in the interests of the overwhelming majority of people across the continent.

    I will move onto part two now and discuss the sterile debate about Scotland.

  190. PJ Rose on said:

    Karl Stewart was absolutely right in his description of George W’s comments as “racist”. In fact, it’s particularly disturbing that Andy Newman has deemed it necessary to censure him for pointing this out. But perhaps I can be a bit more diplomatic: It’s another sad day for the CP when they begin to let communitarians into the party. It should be obvious that targeting voters based on skin colour not only reinforces the stratification of labour based on race , which is essential to western capitalism,but that it also appeals directly to the fascists. In fact, there’s very little difference between the approach of people like George W, and the squalid, racist approach of ‘Blue Labour’ (or indeed New Labour in general, which until this very month has utilised a certain appeal to racism, xenophobia, etc.)

  191. Morning Star reader on said:

    George W = mentioning need to organise in white working class communities and combat racism = being racist = CP = appealing to fascists = Blue Labour. Yup, seeing your point there, PJ Rose, well argued. A child of 6 can follow that logic. It also explains the Morning Star’s daily love-in with Blue Labour and the BNP.

  192. PJ Rose,

    The problem is, you’re just completely misrepresenting about what George W actually said in these comments, aren’t you? Basically, you’re a liar.

    As anyone with thirty seconds and the ability to use Ctrl-F can confirm.

    Evidenced also by the fact you never actually quote him directly.

  193. Karl Stewart on said:

    I can’t think of any other way of describing an analysis which categorises members of the working class according to skin colour other than to describe it as racist.

    I’m not saying Manzil, George and their fellow thinkers are irredemably evil racists, but that this analysis is clearly a racist one and the left should reject it totally.

    This site has made a great deal of criticisms of left organisations – particularly the SWP – and some of these criticisms are perfectly valid ones.

    But along with the criticism, it would be good to see some recognition of the extraordinary efforts that people on the left – and left wing organisations such as the SWP and others – have made in combatting racism, homophobia, sexism etc over the years.

    And perhaps a recognition that we won’t rebuild the left by going soft on racism and we won’t rebuild the left by moronically dismissing all left-wing people as “vegetarian, poppy-burning, England-team booing cranks.”

  194. Yes but categorising people on the basis of race is not what George actually said, is it? It was the exact opposite – that racism grows up where, due to class bias or simple incompetence, the left withdraws from working-class areas and leaves racists with a free hand.

    Once again, you don’t actually quote what he said.

    This can not be interpreted as anything under than a deliberate attempt at falsifying the argument which George made, and which others including Vanya and myself, agreed with.

    I have summarised at #183 and #196 exactly how you misrepresented what George said, even alleging he was claiming the exact opposite of what he actually said. I have no interest in doing it further, because you, like PJ Rose, are either a liar attempting to defame George, or incapable of comprehending basic English.

    And you called George a “racist moron”. You knew exactly what you were doing, don’t try and cowardly wriggle out of it.

  195. The solid, rational core to the point made by George is the need to address a key section of the working class in terms that connect with their actual level of consciousness.
    We need to take account of the real concrete experiences of workers who see their bargaining position in the market where they exchange their labour power eroded by the flexible labour market imperatives of the EU (or in an earlier era by the exploitative relationship between Britain and its colonies).
    Turn the question on its head. No one but a hopeless dogmatist would suggest that in addressing black workers, as workers, that we should discount the racial dimension to their experiences of oppression and exploitation.
    And it would be an ideological concession to racism to address white workers without explaining how their historically more advantageous conditions were based on the surplus extracted from workers in the colonies or how these advantages are inevitably passing.
    While the working class in this country is predominately white, people of colour are predominately working class. Thus an appeal to workers that centres on their shared experiences and interests is one that offers most chances of success. But to do this without explaining how it is the specific features of monopoly capitalism determine both their shared experiences and those that differ is an ideological concession itself.

  196. 192# Agree- the RIC are hopeless

    The campaign for an independent Scotland is anti working class.That is the reality and all the left verbiage in the world wont change that fact. Those “socialists” and “communists” who support the campaign for an independent Scotland reveal themselves to be neither socialist or communist. RIC is made up of the desperate, the deluded, the deceptive and the daft. And this campaign is going no where positive. Communists seek to increase the cohesion, strength and class consciousness of the working class. The campaign for Scottish independence seeks to do the exact opposite- it seeks to win workers to nationalism and break the actually existing unity of the working class in Britain created over 200 years of common struggle against Capital.

    There is no democratic content to the “struggle” for Scottish self determination led by the SNP. It is an attempted con job and any socialist or communist who gives it support should be branded as a fool or a knave. We should fight for the political independence of the working class from the forces of Capital and that concretely means opposing those lefts who try to “big up” nationalism in whatever form. What is needed is a British wide socialist party which promotes working class unity in struggle against the bosses and seeks to build European wide working class unity against the austerity offensive we all face

    sandy.

  197. sandy: The campaign for an independent Scotland is anti working class.

    Yes that’s why it enjoys such high levels of working class support.

    Karl Stewart: I’m not saying Manzil, George and their fellow thinkers are irredemably evil racists, but that this analysis is clearly a racist one and the left should reject it totally.

    Karl we can read. George and Manzil are giving us informed commentary. What’s being said, and I broadly agree with it, is causing you distress so you deploy the ‘R’ word. Its utterly unconvincing. You would be better off withdrawing the slur and telling us exactly why you think they are wrong.

  198. Watcher on said:

    #192 agree. SNP contradictory policies are unravelling around EU and Sterling. They have put dogmatic assertions without consulting EU, Bank of England or HM Treasury. All the left who support the Yes campaign can do is tail end SNP and become apologists for SNP spin on these matters
    The assertion that Scotland will be better off is laughable. Certainly not under the SNP. Real cuts of £5bn to Scotland’s budget will have to be restored and another £5bn to non-reserved spending. SNP has frozen council tax for six years leading to a further hole of £445m in the budget when they promised to introduce a progressive local tax as its replacement.
    90% of North Sea oil revenues will at best bring the deficit in line with that of the UK. But these revenues are declining in real terms and highly volatile dependent on a variable oil price, exchange rates and how much is extracted in any year. Scotland is dominated by the public sector (55% compared to 45% for UK as a whole). It’s much smaller private sector is dominated by Finance, as well as, oil which has seen big shrinkage over the last 5 years and is highly exposed to the ups and downs of the world economy. This will make it difficult for Scotland to fund a large deficit as investors will see much higher risks that for the UK as whole. If the Treasury did underwrite debt for Scotland they would charge a premium over the interest rates offered for UK debt.

    Only a radical approach of nationalising oil would eliminate the deficit and provide funds for re-balancing Scotland’s economy away from, finance and the public sector to renewables, social housing and public transportation.
    Progressive taxation would be also required which would hit the upper middle earners and top earners.
    The SNP is unwilling to carry out such measures and the left unwilling to campaign for them to win people behind them and put pressure on the SNP and Labour for more radical approach that could make the majority of Scot’s better off and have economic independence. The left instead tail ends the SNP and is happy to rally round the issues that do not confront the power of capital and the rich in Scotland.
    Most people can see that SNP’s policies are unworkable and even if implemented would not lead to a reduction of poverty and inequality and the start of building a new society based on a different economic model.

  199. jock mctrousers on said:

    Nick Wright: it would be an ideological concession to racism to address white workers without explaining how their historically more advantageous conditions were based on the surplus extracted from workers in the colonies or how these advantages are inevitably passing.
    While the working class in this country is predominately white, people of colour are predominately working class. Thus an appeal to workers that centres on their shared experiences and interests is one that offers most chances of success

    That’s a narrative that sounds very convenient for deficit hawks. We’re to tell the workers they didn’t earn or deserve their privileges …

    Most communist and socialist historians have usually agreed that the workers didn’t actually get much out of empire. It was the elites who profited from it, while the working class were sending their children up chimneys and their young men to be culled in the trenches.

    The ‘historic advantage’ of ‘white’ British workers came from centuries of struggle for rights, the example of the Soviet Union (whether or not it was what they believed – I maintaing it largely was), the massive European communist movement, and the mobilisation and experience in arms of almost the whole nation in WWII.

    These advantages are being lost because the will to fight has been lost, chipped away by a relentless campaign by the bourgeoisie. It’s the boiling frog syndrome.

    ” These advantages are inevitably passing” sounds all too like the MSM propaganda that we can’t afford to pay our workers more than Chinese workers in new globalised world. Bullshit. The EU is a very rich region, with massive resources. Are we still burning mountains of butter and milk and beef?

    We’ve got the Guardian to tell us that the workers are just going to have to settle for less; we don’t need it from ‘socialists’.

    I suppose it would be contentious to suggest that Respect looks very much like a communitarian party? And I wonder if the SWP people here support the view espoused by Richard Seymour that it’s not possible for non-whites to be racists, because ‘racism’ is an expression of a power relation… fill in the rest yourself. For instance, apparently London is now 50% non-white, and there’s a very popular newspaper JUST FOR THEM – ‘the Voice’ http://www.voice-online.co.uk/

    So, is the ‘left’ position that there is a black working class, but there cannot be a white working class? That seems to me a hard sell, if only to the ideologically confused who think they’re white.

  200. Watcher: 90% of North Sea oil revenues will at best bring the deficit in line with that of the UK. But these revenues are declining in real terms and highly volatile dependent on a variable oil price, exchange rates and how much is extracted in any year.

    I don’t think that is right. There are probably two generations of oil left, say 50 years. As oil as commodity becomes scarcer its price will rise. Nor can I see an independent Scotland as worse off – its a net contributor to the UK economy.

  201. jock mctrousers: . It was the elites who profited from it, while the working class were sending their children up chimneys and their young men to be culled in the trenches.

    This is nonsense. The relative conditions under which say Indian workers and British workers laboured cannot be compared. The growth of Britain’s major cities and its basic industries were grounded in the most exploitative relations between capital and labour, those of slavery.
    The industrial and economic development of Britain, and by extension the concessions that workers were able to extract by struggle, is grounded precisely in Britain’s colonial and imperial status.
    One feature of the 19th century was the way in which, following the shock of 1848, the British working class was stratified and a section most obviously ‘bribed’ and corrupted.
    These advantages are ‘inevitably passing’ because the dynamics of capitalist development on a global scale mean that profits are being extracted in new ways and new places.
    We don’t have to follow the Guardian (or Milliband) and settle for less (than what we had or even less than that which ‘our’ ruling class accumulates).
    We can have it all – all that is that we earn by our own efforts. But not without ending the system of private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

  202. David Hillman on said:

    The theory of Lenin (and to a slight extent of Engels) that the British working class failed to be revolutionary because they were bribed by the crumbs of imperialism is not useful – nor true. It is a pretty mechanistic explanation anyway.
    Anecdotally, a few years ago I checked in the 19th century censuses, and in marriage certificates from the public record office, about my English and cornish ancestors, and was shocked at how many were illiterate, signing their names with a x, and how many ended up in the workhouse. This happens in the heyday of empire.

    Generally, and the history can be checked, craft trade unions were more a help than a hindrance to the setting up of general unions.
    We live in a single world divided by class. It is not helpful to talk of a third world class, or a white working class, (or a Cornish or Scottish working cass).
    The challenge is to push our own governments, whatever country we live in, to develop economic policies which necessarily challenge international capital.

  203. Nick is correct in his comments re the relatively advantageous status of the British working class compared to its counterpart throughout the Empire at key periods of the country’s economic and social history. It is not even a point of conjecture but historical fact, I’d say.

    The development of the northern hemisphere was and continues to be contingent on the underdevelopment of the southern hemisphere, with Britain a major beneficiary of this uneven and combined development via its empire, which in effect was a transmission belt for the transference of wealth from its colonies to the metropolitan centre.

    Of course, the immiseration suffered by the British working class during the heyday of the industrial revolution and expansion of the empire is also a historical fact. But a section of the working class undoubtedly benefited from the increased opportunities that came with the expansion of the empire. A labour aristocracy emerged as technology and productive forces developed.

    And as Nick states, the only reason the British working class was able to win the major concessions it did in the 20th century was a result of the size of the surplus gained from the wealth and economic benefits of empire.

    When it comes to the point regarding the formation of a distinct white working class, there is a difference between pandering to racism and understanding where it comes from.

    George and Manzil were engaged in the latter not the former. Karl, for whom I have the utmost respect and who in my view is one of the most valued contributors to this blog, has got it wrong here.

  204. jock mctrousers: the workers didn’t actually get much out of empire. It was the elites who profited from it, while the working class were sending their children up chimneys and their young men to be culled in the trenches.

    The issue of immiseration ‘Vs’ fruits of empire in the development of the working class in Britain is quite complicated. For example, the worsening of working class living conditions from the early to mid 19th century is very clear when eg, the decline in average height and the appalling mortality statistics are considered. These can to a large extent be accounted for by the process of urbanisation under laissez faire capitalism. However at the same time, per capita sugar consumption was rising rapidly.

    Nick & John are correct re: the surplus resulting from the Empire making it easier for the capitalists to concede to working class demands (from the 2nd half of the 19th century onwards), and I would add, to allow state funding of key infrastructure / social projects eg the sewage systems.

    I think one also has to take into account the ideological impact of the Empire on people’s consciousness, ie in creating a pernicious imperialist nationalism including among working class people.

  205. Sandy

    At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseum, those on the left who support Scottish independence aren’t enemies of socialism who seek to divide the working class.

    Even those who mistakenly believe that Scotland is an oppressed nation are only promoting what is essentially an irrelevance, and to me that’s their problem.

    If you want to promote unity stop slagging off fellow socialists and obsessing about this question.

  206. Vanya

    How is the working class going to achieve political independence from Capital and its ideologies without a political fight against nationalism. To simply ignore Scottish nationalism is not an option. The Scottish independence “movement” led by the SNP is a real social force in Scotland. It is The Scottish Government after all and all political debate in Scotland is colored by the Scottish independence question. So for any marxist to simply state that the question of Scottish independence-( the creation of a new capitalist state in scotland and the profound affect that this would have on British politics)- is an “irrelevancy” that we express no opinion on is ridiculous and sectarian in the true sense of the word. After all marxists do try to engage with the real political world when proposing a way forward. You cant ignore the scottish independence movement and its pitch for working class support if you aim is to rebuild the socialist movement.

    sandy

  207. Jimmy Haddow,

    Sorry, I missed your reply earlier.

    The problem is, your programme for a ‘Left government’ is no less ‘reformist’ than the Syriza alternative you decry! At no point do you actually address the question of state power, of the need to fundamentally dismantle and rebuild the political system in Greece and across Europe along truly democratic lines: to impose the direct rule of the masses through its own structures of workers’ power. So your demands are not actually proposing an outright revolutionary alternative at the current moment, either.

    It is instead a call for a more unilateral and extreme reform programme, that (given the current state of popular consciousness and the balance of forces between the ruling class and the masses) would lead to Greece’s immediate isolation and defeat, rather than allowing for a steady escalation and international coordination of European working-class and anti-capitalist resistance. You have already conceded that workers’ democracy is not an immediate realisable call. We are merely quibbling over tactics, despite your own, strictly agitational radicalism. And Syriza’s tactics are simply more likely to advance our struggle.

    Indeed, you specifically call for a ‘a government of Syriza, and a united democratic government of workers and all those exploited by capitalism’. So you don’t even envision Xekinima growing and developing into a leading role in the crisis! As far as I know, the CWI is not even involved in Antarsya – that is, refuses principled cooperation with the explicitly anti-capitalist left – so what good is it to the Greek workers? You offer only empty phrase-mongering from the sidelines, while ultimately imploring ‘the Syriza leaders and the rest of the reformist Left’ you denounce to adopt your entire programme as its own!

    This is nonsensical and offers in no sense a concrete strategy, because your outlook and tactics preclude the very unity, and mass radicalisation, on which your strategy would ultimately depend.

    One notable example – how do you intend to build unity between ‘workers and all those exploited by capitalism’ by promising to repudiate the debts of social security funds, small bondholders etc. Your ‘be realistic, demand the impossible’-esque approach might be good fun for you to write, but doesn’t actually offer a solution, at least not one very different what is already universally accepted: a left government of the workers’ parties, on a platform of debt audit, nationalisation of banks and bankrupt industries, more public spending and stimulus etc. Welcome to the ‘reformist left’, comrade!

    But rather than acknowledging the need to work with the masses where they are, rather than where you would like them to be, you dance off into the wilds of party-line sectariana. The logic of your position is clear. In the space of a few sentences, Syriza is first compared to New Labour, and then to the ConDems! There is no appreciation of the massive and qualitative differences between these examples, all because they do not meet your maximalist demands. Everything is decontextualised, merely compared to an unchanging handbook. That is the very definition of ultra-leftism.

  208. this discussion seems to have got a bit unwieldy maybe it needs to be broken down a little bit and discussed elsewhere to this post? one thing i do think is that the trotskyist leninist groups should abstain from electoral politics and concentrate on community and trades union campaigns. i dont think anything outside of the greens and plaid cymru is possible to labours left electorally in the present moment.

  209. james?: i dont think anything outside of the greens

    The Greens in Brighton are a grim prospect in reality. For that matter the SNP are currently to the left of Labour. Agree about PC.

  210. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #239 “i dont think anything outside of the greens and plaid cymru is possible to labours left electorally in the present moment”
    Yes what a great victory Welsh nationalism had in Bradford, you absent minded plonker! Though I actually agree the Trot groups aren’t viable =)

  211. I can’t let this go. What self deluding nonsense:

    Jimmy Haddow: So vanya, et al, I would like to suggest that the geographical location of a CWI member is a completely secondary question to the CWI’s political programme and prognosis? The reality is each national section of the CWI has its own democratic structures and elected leadership which is responsible for developing its perspectives, policy, strategy and tactics as they apply to their specific countries. The CWI as an international has the right and duty to discuss the work, and political perspectives, of the national sections, just as national sections are also encouraged to discuss the work of its sister sections and those of the CWI as a whole. In that way we learn from each other and this helps to strengthen the overall experience of the CWI as whole. At an international level an Executive Committee is elected at the World Congress, which discusses World and national economic and social perspectives and which rank and file CWI members read and discuss before conferences, which are made up of delegates from each of the national sections of the CWI. And just recently International Executive Committee of the CWI held a meeting and discussed a World Perspectives document which I put here: http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6076.

    Compare with Phil Hearse’s description, based upon his own expereince:
    http://links.org.au/node/149

    An international `made in England’
    …The CWI, however, is a grotesque caricature of an international. A real international would imply an ongoing dialogue between different socialist organisations, strongly rooted in the class struggle in their own countries and able to discuss on equal terms. The CWI is the paternalistic organisation of international supporters of the (mainly English) Taaffe-Walsh tendency.

    The relationship between the Socialist Party leadership, who are also the leadership of the CWI, and the national sections is politically corrupt and clientelist. For comrades in poor countries, favour with the British leadership is often needed for the allocation of money. Taaffe and Walsh feel free to intervene at will in the affairs of each national section, and troubleshooters are routinely sent worldwide to “sort out” dissidents. The international centre is in the SP office, and generally all but one of the full-timers is British. It is the norm for section leaderships to consult with their allocated international full-timer before leadership meetings. And reports to international leadership meetings have to be approved by Taaffe and Walsh first (cf the hapless queue outside the executive committee corridor the day before IEC (international executive committee) meetings).

    Taaffe and Walsh think it’s fine to impose tactics from London. This is not international democratic centralism—even if any variant of that is appropriate today—but a corrupt hierarchy of orders and instructions which would have embarrassed even Zinoviev, the first leader of the Communist International to impose such a regime. Naturally, as soon as sections’ leaderships start to think for themselves, they run into trouble. If they don’t back down, expulsion cannot be far away.

    The methods of the London-based leadership have led to repeated problems in the last few years. Most notable is the expulsion of the Labour Party Pakistan, one of the most significant organisations of the CWI. An important part of the US leadership was expelled over political differences, and clashes are looming with others.

    The problems with the CWI are the same problems as with the SP in England, but transferred to an international level—where they become even more grotesque. The CWI will fall apart together with the SP, because it is not possible to build a viable international regroupment today on the basis of a single “correct” theory, only one version of Marxism, an all-authoritative English leadership and a high degree of homogeneity on most questions.

  212. #242 I remember when Phil and a couple of others joined the CWI because my thoughts at the time were that I wished them well and hoped that they would fare well. I believe that it was a genuine attempt to help build the organisation and not a spart style entry job, and I understood at the time exactly why they were doing it.

    I had no intention of offering to join them when I read their statement because I suspected that they would discover exactly what they did about the ultimate futility of the exercise.

    The irony of the split in Militant was that the majority who had the right approach at the time to the Labour Party were also by and large the ones who had learned least about sectarian methods of operating. The minority who wanted to stick with the Labour Party come what may were generally those who were most honest and apologetic about such behaviour.

    On the other hand if there are more people like Manzil in the SP, that does give some hope (as did their involvement in disputes in Lindsey and South Wales a few years ago) that they are capable of being a bit more than a sect on the fringes of the labour movement (itself).

  213. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #243 I don’t think Manzil is in the SP, he seems critical of all the Leninist groups, and recently said in a reply to me that RESPECT’s approach in 2010 was more intelligent than anything else on offer

  214. I am currently in the SP. (As I said to Vanya, don’t hold it against me!) I agree with Andy’s criticisms of the CWI above, but where I live currently they’re the most effective socialist group if you want to be active. I’ve also been a member of the SWP, when it made sense locally. It’s honestly not a factional thing.

    I don’t hold to the bureaucratic, cliquey joke that ‘Leninism’ consists of at the moment in Britain. But I do believe the people who are naturally attracted the SWP, SP etc. are overwhelmingly decent socialists (who do many good things), and are worth reaching out to; they also constitute a sizeable section of the UK’s organised left, and probably have to be part of any serious regroupment. I think overcoming the left’s ridiculousness sectarianism and short-sightedness requires engaging directly with these groups.

    Plus, even if that weren’t the case, you work with what you’ve got!

  215. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #245 Well I can see why you use an alias, some of the things you’ve said on here and the SWP DO thread could get you into real trouble with the party bosses! And I mean that as a compliment of course =)

  216. Ha ha. Aye, which is rather symptomatic of the problem with the left at the moment, I guess!

    I stand by my comment about Respect, incidentally. Building a broad left party, in which anti-capitalism is a significant but not dominating position, is crucial to successfully tackling the crisis.

    At the moment, with the massive turn to Labour (which will inevitably crack, under the pressure of the ongoing investment strike, and the class collaboration of its own right wing), the potential for organising resistance is limited. But, should Labour come to power, or its studied moderation result only in defeat, opportunities will increase. And despite other comrades’ views in this discussion that it’s a distraction, I think an explicitly political response is needed to tie our various struggles together, help popularise a progressive explanation of the crisis, and to pose a credible left alternative.

    Respect I think has come closest to offering a model of how to do that.

  217. jim mclean on said:

    Building a broad left party. FFS.
    It took Labour 50 years to get a majority and people want to do it in a fortnight.

  218. daneil young on said:

    Not a bad idea a united left party.Bye the sounds of things not a animal according to the party hard lines on this line.

  219. Manzil on said:

    Yes – the fact that it hasn’t successfully happened shows the official ‘lines’ in the main socialist groups on how to go about regroupment (basically, ‘on our own terms’) is fundamentally flawed.

    jim mclean,

    Yes, that’s exactly what I was arguing, well spotted. Left unity will probably be finished next Tuesday. Shall I put you down as a ‘maybe’ for the launch party?

  220. Danial young on said:

    Seig heil comrade Manzil.Sorry for the spelling,hope the trains are running better than my spelling.Is that alright comrade.

  221. PJ Rose on said:

    Firstly, George W contradicts himself. He claims that we shouldn’t be arguing that the “white working class” have separate or paramount interests to the non-white working class, but then goes on to say that “unless the labour movement is seen to be fighting for better housing …in these places”. Okay, so which places? Are the “labour movement” not already fighting for better housing in *all* working class/underdeveloped areas? The very acknowledgement of racial communities here lays the groundwork for a racialisation of the question at hand. The notion of a “white working class”, even just using the phrase, already signifies a community with separate interests to the *entire* working class.. In this sense, it is some kind of foolish parody of the kind argument one finds among the proponents of Blue Labour. Indeed, if one acknowledges that “the white working class” does *not* have separate interests to the working class as a whole, what is the point in invoking such a notion? Do people believe the BNP myth that political parties are only serving “immigrants” and that “political correctness” is somehow a conspiracy against the natives? I don’t think socialists should have any shame in feeling slightly ill when they hear other so-called socialists utilise a phrase such as ‘white working class”. It should be the endeavour of socialists to breakdown and combat the racist propaganda often utilised by the Tories , New Labour and the fascists, as opposed to indulging in it. So yes, whether one likes it or not, the approach endorsed by George W in this thread IS a racist one. The fact that there are so many that cannot follow this is quite disturbing.

  222. PJ Rose on said:

    Also, I really wish George W would elucidate how the housing issues he fears are twisted by fascists to gain support among this “white working class” should be dealt with by socialists? Does he think that there is even a grain of truth to the fascist distortions and that “white people” (or “indigenous people” to the dog whistlers) somehow get a worse deal than non-white people when it comes to housing?

  223. PJ Rose: Does he think that there is even a grain of truth to the fascist distortions and that “white people” (or “indigenous people” to the dog whistlers) somehow get a worse deal than non-white people when it comes to housing?

    When a politically conscious worker sees that the system for allocating public housing is based on applicants with greater needs (more children, worse existing housing condition etc) getting priority she will, in this most perfect of worlds, fully understand that this outcome is only just and fair even if,for example, this practically means that other applicants, say for the sake or argument, the adult children of her neighbour still living in their parent’s council house, have a reduced chance of housing.
    Such a class conscious worker will undoubtedly understand that whilst, in this particular case, the people with the greatest need might be more recently domiciled in Britain than her neighbour’s children the allocation of housing must proceed on the basis of need.

    What line would PJ Rose take in a discussion over the garden fence if, for the sake of argument,that the neighbour of the class conscious worker is, in fact, of West Indian descent, born here and the family with the greater housing need is a citizen of Lithuania.

  224. PJ Rose on said:

    What line would PJ Rose take in a discussion over the garden fence if, for the sake of argument,that the neighbour of the class conscious worker is, in fact, of West Indian descent, born here and the family with the greater housing need is a citizen of Lithuania.

    Nick, I certainly wouldn’t rely on any sort of xenophobic argument in the scenario you outline (“British houses for British people”). However, I’m glad you brought up such a scenario, as it serves to highlight, in an admittedly abstract sense, the utter redundancy of relying on, regardless of the motivation for doing so, this notion of a “white working class”.

  225. #257 The whole argument on this thread started with someone referring to ‘white working class areas’, not the existence of a ‘white working class’. There are still large numbers of working class comunities where the majority of people are substantially if not overwhelmingly white, and so if that is what is meant by white working class areas then to use the term is merely to describe reality.

    The same commentator pointed out that there are leftists who write such communities off, particularly when they see St Georges crosses flying from council flats and on pub windows, and a perception among the people in such communities that the left is as uninterested in their problems as the establishment.

    To realise this and try and address the problem is not in itself to pander to racism or racist myths.

    Of course the easiest way not to risk such pandering is to continue to ignore such communities, but then we all know the best way to avoid mistakes.

  226. The very fact these idiots accuse me of racism proves my point.

    In a perfect world everyone would be colour blind, love foreigners and we could simply wish socialism into reality.

    We don’t live in a perfect world. Its a sad fact that many white working class areas either support the fascists or are ready to do so in the future. Unless there is more labour movement campaigning here around areas such as housing then we will see future fascist election triumphs and everything that accompanies them.

    Unfortunately many people in such areas are adverse to socialism seeing its adherents as carrot munching weirdos who hate England and think it racist to even say the word white…etc-I can’t imagine what gives them this idea.

  227. Nick Wright: What line would PJ Rose take in a discussion over the garden fence if, for the sake of argument,that the neighbour of the class conscious worker is, in fact, of West Indian descent, born here and the family with the greater housing need is a citizen of Lithuania.

    It seems no answer is the stern reply. Yet this scenario is a common one in London where social housing is in short supply. The complexities of working class life seem beyond the consideration of some who pupport to be revolutionaries.

    We saw the same thing when Vanya and I attempted to discuss the disproportionate impact of crime on working class communities.

    It begs the question of what such folk think they can achieve and what relevance their activism will ever have.

  228. #260 As is always the danger in such discussions, particularly when you’ve been greivously insulted, to bend the stick.

    What’s wrong with carrots?

  229. PJ Rose: the utter redundancy of relying on, regardless of the motivation for doing so, this notion of a “white working class”.

    If you accept that there is a distinction between being and consciousness and furthermore that ideas when held by a large number of people become a material force then you have to accept that the existence of large number of people who are objectively working class and are equally objectively white and moreover see some kind of congruence between these two things then you might be a little less cavalier in rejecting the admittedly clumsy term ‘white working class’ as having no no analytical power.

  230. George W: carrot munching weirdos who hate England

    As a resident of Wiltshire, and prone to rural idiocy myself, I would say that we carrot crunchers are less likely than most to have such cosmopolitan views. Are you confusing carrot crunching with muesli eating?

  231. PJ Rose on said:

    George W, once again, what issues around housing are you referring to? And how is this specific to “white working class communities”? No, we don’t live in a “perfect world”, and not everybody is “colourblind”, but what have these issues, in *real* terms, got to do with housing, or, more broadly, the general issues affecting specifically “white working class” people. Also, yes some white people may imagine the adherents of socialism as to be “carrot munching weirdos who hate England and think it racist to even say the word white”. So, do you agree with this characterisation of socialists? Do you think socialists should fly the flag of St George (personally I’d piss on it before flying it)? Do you think we should be more friendly to nationalism merely because it is part of the ‘identity’ of this “white working class” ? While some socialists, myself included, could be accused of being rather obscure, when compared to the majority of the nation, in our hatred of patriotism and symbols of imperialism, can’t you see that by merely accepting these things as some kind of indelible , innate aspect of the identity of the white working class, you are engaging in a politics of defeatism and despair? These aspects make your analysis a carbon copy of the thinking behind “Blue Labour”, or New Labour’s adoption of Mazzinian-esque nationalism.

  232. Andy Newman,

    Quite right Andy, I got my metaphors mixed up again. As a proud Yeovil lad I regularly enjoy a bit of carrot crunching!

    All my point was that in the absence of the labour movement and appeals to class, there are many working class communities that are less multicultural (is that better appealing to PC sensabilities?) that will provide fascists with support. What should this entail? Bring it to the attention of your local trades council, deliver peoples charter leaflets, get signatures, write into local papers.

    My humble contention is that in engaging with these communities the labour movement can help channel anger towards in a class based movement for social reforms that otherwise might manifest itself in racism that can readily be exploited by fascists.

    As I have said before a specific point about a specific issue, stop twisting my words you poisonous bastards!

    (I hope that carrot eaters everywhere accept my apologies and do not label me as a racist prejudged against orange coloured vegatables!)

  233. PJ Rose on said:

    Nick Wright,

    Okay, Nick, can you demonstrate to me what is to be gained, in analytical terms, from stratifying the working class along the lines of race? One has to recognise a “material force” on the level of an ideological hierarchy (so, for example, the top-down notion that only ‘skivers’ receive welfare, a notion which is disseminated on the level of ideology, by the media, politicians, etc, and despite being objectively false, still becomes a “political’ issue in a material sense, i.e. during elections). The “white working class”, and all of the connotations of such a concept, is a vital part of what is called “false consciousness”, which is, in material terms, the ‘actions’ of the state to actively work to construct a n identity of the “working class” along the lines of the mode of production, and, in the case of the UK, imperialism, etc.

  234. George Hallam on said:

    George W: As I have said before a specific point about a specific issue, stop twisting my words …

    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools

    George W: (I hope that carrot eaters everywhere accept my apologies and do not label me as a racist prejudged against orange coloured vegatables!)

    Too late.

    “Carrots originated in present day Afghanistan about 5000 years ago, probably originally as a purple or yellow root. ..

    In Roman times carrots were purple or white. By the 10th century purple carrots were grown in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Iran. Purple, white and yellow carrots were imported to southern Europe in the 14th century. Black, red and white carrots were also grown.”

    http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/whitecarrot.html

  235. Manzil on said:

    George Hallam:
    “Carrots originated in present day Afghanistan about 5000 years ago, probably originally as a purple or yellow root. ..

    In Roman times carrots were purple or white. By the 10th century purple carrots were grown in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Iran. Purple, white and yellow carrots were imported to southern Europe in the 14th century. Black, red and white carrots were also grown.”

    http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/whitecarrot.html

    Sod the argument a mo, what is this wizardry…

    Mind thoroughly blown.

  236. George Hallam,

    That’s very interesting about carrots. Is the urban myth about purple ones being replaced by orange ones as a propaganda campaign for the Dutch house of organde TRUE?

    Got to love Kipling, does that make me an imperialist lackey?

  237. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil: Yes but categorising people on the basis of race is not what George actually said, is it? It was the exact opposite – that racism grows up where, due to class bias or simple incompetence, the left withdraws from working-class areas and leaves racists with a free hand.Once again, you don’t actually quote what he said.This can not be interpreted as anything under than a deliberate attempt at falsifying the argument which George made, and which others including Vanya and myself, agreed with.I have summarised at #183 and #196 exactly how you misrepresented what George said, even alleging he was claiming the exact opposite of what he actually said. I have no interest in doing it further, because you, like PJ Rose, are either a liar attempting to defame George, or incapable of comprehending basic English.And you called George a “racist moron”. You knew exactly what you were doing, don’t try and cowardly wriggle out of it.

    I know exactly what I said Manzil and I’m not “wriggling out” of anything at all.

    Categorising members of the working class according to skin colour is racist and the Jeremy Clarkson/Richard Littlejohn-style rant about the left being made up of “vegetarian-poppy-burning-carrot-crunching cranks” is moronic.

    No-one’s twisting anyone’s words – this is what’s been said.

    It’s deeply worrying that this racist shite is being indulged here.

  238. PJ Rose: Okay, Nick, can you demonstrate to me what is to be gained, in analytical terms, from stratifying the working class along the lines of race?

    Try this. When a black worker finds it harder to get work than a white worker do you not think there is some analytical force to reflecting _ in one’s analysis of this material condition – the category of ‘race’ as one feature of the stratification of the working class.
    If not take a more extreme case. Perhaps you think an analysis of the labour market in apartheid South Africa could proceed with out mobilising ‘race’ as a category in the stratification of the working class?
    Your whole approach to this question seems to proceed from the standpoint of language determining reality. As if, by simply not including ‘race’ – however problematic this term is – as a factor in shaping the material world, included consciousness, we can abolish these real politrical problems.

    Counciosness may be ‘false’ but it is still real.

  239. George Hallam on said:

    jock mctrousers: It was the elites who profited from it, while the working class were sending their children up chimneys and their young men to be culled in the trenches.

    This could be a film. The pitch would be:

    “Mary Poppins meets Blackadder; with Dick Van Dyke as Baldrick..”

    British history told as only Disney can.

    The campaign to legislate against the use of ‘climbing boys’ stretched over nine decades starting with the 1788 Act for the Better Regulation of Chimney Sweepers and their Apprentices, This specified that apprentices had to be at least 8 years old and that a sweep was limited to six apprentices. There were further acts in 1834 and 1840 but it was not until 1864 that fines were imposed for breaches of the law.

    The key piece of legislation was the 1875 Chimney Sweepers Act. This banned all use of climbing boys and made the police responsible for regulating the trade.

    Conscription was introduced in March 1916.

  240. Karl Stewart,

    Far be it from me to cramp your style while you are pursuing your undoubtedly heroic campaign against education, but might I just outline the meaning of some of those big words I used. I fear you are deliberately decontextualising those quotes-in laymam’s terms you are taking the piss.

    When I said the left was percieved or too easily potrayed as middle-class hippies…etc I used to word perceive which means in their perception, to them, they think that the left are middle-class hippies…etc I used the term portray which means to show something in a certain light, like how establishment figures promote the idea that the left are middle clas weirdos..etc

    So I was actually revealing rather than supporting the arguments of Jeremy Clarkson..etc

    When I used the term white working class I was referring to people who are a pinkish sort of colour popularly known as white and are working class. Many would readily identify with the label and it is a perfectly normal way of demographically describing these people who probably could be described as making up the largest demographic of people in Britain. As the working class are the largest and they generally happen to be white in many areas the working class consists of many different ethnicities and in some it tends to be mostly or soley white. It was in these specific areas I was talking about a specific issue.

    When I said I was talking about a specific issue in a specific area I meant that I was talking about a special problem in these exceptional areas, I was not making a general statement.

    When I said there is a problem in white working class areas where the lack of labour movement organisation meant that anger could easily be channelled into racism that the fascists could easily live on and use. In these areas many percieve the left to be interested solely in identity politics and ethical consumerism and so appear uninterested in issues relevent to them, I was not saying the left are all a bunch of weirdos and im a massive racist which appear to be the opinion you are ascribing to me.

    Please read carefully my comments above.

  241. George W: Is the urban myth about purple ones being replaced by orange ones as a propaganda campaign for the Dutch house of organde TRUE?

    That is true, it is not a myth. Before the 17th century, carrts came in a varety of colours, including green, yellow and white.

    Patriotic dutch farmers selectively preferred the orange varieties, and they were found to have advantages in disease and pest resistance, and so they prevailed.

    strange but true.

  242. George W: white working class I was referring to people who are a pinkish sort of colour popularly known as white

    The pink colour is from the blood within, the skin of most people of European heritage actually is white, as you can see more clearly when we are dead.

  243. I would suggest that the argument about housing is a pretty straightforward one to make for anyone with a basic grounding in socialist theory. We needn’t make any concessions to racism as practiced by certain ignorant sections of whichever class, regardless of how “real” they believe their perceptions to be. We need to emphasise that home building needs to be directed and funded by the state and not left to the whims of the market, which is quite evidently unable to meet the needs of the population and to insist on this as a basic method of wealth redistribution.

  244. Andy Newman: he pink colour is from the blood within, the skin of most people of European heritage actually is white, as you can see more clearly when we are dead.

    Andy, most of the time we are not dead so mostly we are pink 🙂
    (It is an empirically verified fact but we call it white even though it is pink. A daily example of the power of language to determine reality)

  245. PJ Rose on said:

    Nick Wright,

    Nick, I already said in an earlier post that capitalism has a predilection to stratify labour along the lines of race (and also gender, ethnicity, etc), but that’s now what we’re talking about. We’re talking about, if anything, indulging and reinforcing a primary manifestation of this exploitative stratification, which is this constructed notion of a “white working class”. I’m not denying “race’ as a factor in the configuration of the capitalist state, but I’m rather denying this notion that a white working class person has interests that should be separated from the working class as a whole. Indeed, this is the most consistent anti-racist position. White working class people in the UK are not exploited or discriminated against because they are white, but working class people of a different colour and ethnicity face the same exploitation as white workers, with the added dimension of institutional and casual racism, plus the added threat of organised fascism . In order to take seriously the notion of a “white working class”, wherein the inclusion of “white” signifies that the race of this strata is somehow important in a organisational sense, we would have to believe that white workers either had, for the umpteenth time, separate interests to non-white workers, or indeed we would have to indulge the ludicrous, racist trope that white people were somehow being ‘discriminated against in their own country” (i.e. the argument that ‘immigrants’ get houses before the natives). In other words, the connotations of underscoring a “white working class” are almost always fundamentally racist ones. Taking all of this into account, the only time socialists should conjure race is in order to negate it along the lines of anti-racist and anti-fascist action/education via the principles of universalism and anticapitalism. I have yet to hear one concrete example of why it is necessary to appeal to the “white working class”?

  246. PJ Rose on said:

    Nick Wright,

    Also, Nick, mobilising race in any analysis of the South African labour movement is obviously warranted, and indeed it is warranted in the UK, but only if, for example, we were to deal with actual exploitation based on race/ethnicity that occurs in the UK. It hardly has to be said that explitation of a worker based on his/her whiteness *never* occurs in Britain. There is no system of racial exploitation or discrimination that works to the detriment of white people, of any social strata, in the United Kingdom. Thus, once again, I ask, what is the point in utilising the word “white” when describing the working class in the UK? Just because a significant strand of bourgeois ideology attempts to stratify workers along the lines of race, and just because this has a material effect (i.e. voting on issues of “immigration” at elections, which is little more than a diversionary trope, or indeed, unintended consequences, such as voting for/supporting fascists), doesn’t mean that socialists should attempt appease or indulge this. If we do, then we begin to tumble down the slippery slope that leads to the kind of dog whistling and appeasing of fascists that is associated with LIB-LAB-CON.

  247. PJ Rose 284
    On the contrary, unless we take into account the material fact of racist ideas and the material conditions in which these ideas develop then it is practically impossible to combat them.
    Example: Unless we find a convincing way of addressing the real fact that in conditions of acute housing shortage the allocation of priority housing means that some groups, perceived as latecomers, are more likely to acquire social housing in areas where successive generations of existing tenants find themselves unable to escape the private rented market then we are disarmed.

    These realities may be ‘local’ and untypical of the totality, they may be themselves the perverse product of hosung policies developed in an earlier era when more council housing available for rent and thus allocation by priority rather than price but realities they are.

    Abstract appeals to the ‘real’ but possibly unperceived shared class interests of these disparate groups will inevitably fail.

  248. PJ Rose: have yet to hear one concrete example of why it is necessary to appeal to the “white working class”?

    It is not a question of appealing to them as such but of taking their actual existing level of consciousness seriously as a factor in shaping their actions and beliefs and in devising a strategy to overcome such ‘false consciousness’.

  249. PJ Rose on said:

    Nick Wright,

    Nick, of course I agree with the opening premise of your latest reply, but the issue is the shortages and deficiencies in public housing, the cause of which is decades of neoliberal policy, not the race or ethnicity of anybody involved with these issues. In fact, it should be an imperative for us to highlight the insignificance of race/ethnicity in these issues. And I’m not sure how true it is that usurpers are being prioritised for housing over long-term residents. Look, Nick, I’m certainly not calling you a racist, but don’t you think that this latter argument is sailing pretty close to the wind ?

    We have to understand why people turn towards fascism, the better to combat it, but we must never find ourselves in the position of even implicitly encompassing the exploitative tropes circulated by fascists, the media, or indeed opportunistic LIB-LAB-CON politicians. We also must remember that racist angles on non-racist issues form a significant part of false consciousness and keeping the working class at the very least disorganised.

  250. PJ Rose on said:

    Nick Wright,

    287,

    Yes, like I said, we should only engage with people through the lens of anti-racism, anti-fascism and anti-capitalism. We certainly shouldn’t appeal to them usng the language, symbolism or even slightest invocation of bourgeois or fascist ideology and propaganda.

  251. Nick Wright: Abstract appeals to the ‘real’ but possibly unperceived shared class interests of these disparate groups will inevitably fail.

    Quite so; we might also observe that a community of consciousness follows a community of experience; and that the cultural signifiers of a shared national heritage may appear more real than the more abstract concept of class.

  252. PJ Rose: We certainly shouldn’t appeal to them usng the language, symbolism or even slightest invocation of bourgeois or fascist ideology and propaganda.

    what utter nonsense, you are reducing issues of consciousness to questions of ideology, and politics to ideology. That may make you feel superior and comy in your splendid isolation, but it is an approach rooted in individualistic solipsism, not in politics

  253. Manzil on said:

    Karl Stewart: It’s deeply worrying that this racist shite is being indulged here.

    Yes, let’s actually have a look at all this racist shite, given that you unfortunately didn’t actually quote any of the poisonous, semi-fascist outpourings of George W[affen-SS]:

    George W: To win elections and campaigns you need an activist base and a wider social force. We have the working class but it is often unorganized and too many estates have been devoid of socialist organisation and left to the BNP.

    The best thing we could do for the cause is to recruit more people to unions/help install a sense of discipline/participate in community campaigns and start working where people are rather than where we want them to be.

    And oh god, there’s more!

    George W: Ignoring even the existence of such areas is part of the problem of the left. Simplistic identity politics is much easier but is no substitute for class orientated unions and community organisation around campaigns for better housing…etc

    Someone stop him!

    George W:
    Unlessthe labour movement is seen to be fighting for better housing..etc in these places the BNP will always find support. While some of the more hysterical might cry racism to even acknowledge theexistence of such communities, the fascists are aware of them and ready to spread their hatred.

    My argument is about the need to organise better in white working class communities specifically. This is not an argument that black and white workers have separate interests or that we should ignore multicultural areas. I was making a specific point about a specific problem. Burying your head in the sand to ignore this in the hope it will go away is not useful.

    Everyone gather round and we can tar and feather George W, the rotten bastard.

    No Platform to racists on Socialist Unity!

    George W:
    When I said I was talking about a specific issue in a specific area I meant that I was talking about a special problem in these exceptional areas, I was not making a general statement.

    So what you’re saying is, this is a general statement about a general problem? You big racist.

    (I think they’re on to something here, this approach is far more satisfying.)

  254. PJ Rose: we should only engage with people through the lens of anti-racism, anti-fascism and anti-capitalism.

    My experience, when working alongside people who actually are racists, is that calling them such is usually counterproductive. The important thing is to engage with the contradictory nature of their belief systems and find ways in which essential class and human interests can be asserted through their own experience.
    In the case of the great difficulty the children of working class families have in getting housing near their existing family it is, of course, necessary to explain the functioning of the housing market, the lack of council housing, the validity of a needs-based allocation system etc etc.
    It doesn’t matter how illusory, fragmentary or atypical it may be but if the perception exists that ‘other’ people enjoy an advantage in the housing queue then you need to offer an explanatory framework, a language and a practical course of action that has some hope of resolving the question in ways that do not reinforce racism.
    If, of course, the issues of race, ethnicity are not insignificant in gaining access to housing, or jobs, or education then no matter how determinate the ‘decades of neo-liberal policy’ might be the question of housing access remains rather inconveniently concrete for the peole concerned.
    Neo-liberal ‘flexible’ labour market policies mean that workers in this country have to compete with recently arrived workers who are able (or compelled by objective factors) to work for a lower rate of pay. Race and/or ethnicity are unlikely to be negligible factors in this depressingly familiar and concrete circumstance.
    Taking these facts as ‘real’ is does not necessarily entail an invocation of bourgeois or fascist ideology and propaganda. Quite what enaging people ‘through the lens of anti-racism, anti-fascism and anti-capitalism’ actually means in these circumstances escape me.
    Lens are things you see through. A bit like consciousness.

  255. PJ Rose,

    Yeah Andy stop excusing your inclination towards nationalism and patriotism. Be more like PJ Rose, thier bedroom is one hundred per cent anti-fascist and one hundred per cent anti-capitalist.

  256. Does anyone not recall the French experience of the Left “trying to engage the concerns of the white working class”? The result was said target demographic opted for the real McCoy and it nearly resulted in an NF government!

  257. Omar,

    I would argue it was when the French left stopped engaging with the concerns of the white working class that they started voting NF. It was the decline of the labour movement in communist strongholds that lead the way for Le Pen to capitalise, like how previous bastions of support for socialism in this country vote BNP.

  258. George W: It was the decline of the labour movement in communist strongholds that lead the way for Le Pen to capitalise, like how previous bastions of support for socialism in this country vote BNP.

    I’d say in France it also had much to do with the crime committed by the French left in buying into its government’s Islamophobia, joining with the right on the spurious basis of secularism as the sine qua non of French citizenship.

    I’d say the French left has certainly pandered to anti immigrant and anti racist tropes.

    Here it’s more the case that Labour’s shift to the right and the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have alienated the Muslim community, with the Blair government cynically exploiting this to deflect its responsibility for 7/7 as consequent on its role in the aforementioned wars. The net result has been the polarization of the Muslim community from the rest of society.

    The BNP were briefly able to exploit this, combining it with the effects of the housing crisis and the squeeze on services and resources in those poor working class communities predominately populated by whites, to come up with a populist programme designed to tap into the false consciousness based on race which emerged within its most backward element.

  259. George W,

    Based on what I was reading in the late-90’s, George, the a few Left parties adopted a tougher line on immigration and multiculturalism with the predicted results and ,indeed, some former leftists defected to the FN as they saw their electoral prospects crumble. Perhaps Pete Shield might have more to offer on the subject, though I’m not dismissing your points either. But we need to be VERY careful about this issue.

  260. Calvin,

    You will recall in the 2002 election that LePen beat Socialist Lionel Jospin and the result was a run-off between him and the corrupt Chirac. The Left didn’t even figure.That’s much too close for me.

  261. Manzil on said:

    Omar,

    Surely the issue in France is more the left’s complicity in supporting the official creed of ‘secularism’ and ‘colour-blindness’ – one that allows the elite to paper over the deeply racist discriminatory foundation of French society, by a shallow liberal appeal to civic equality as an excuse for not addressing substantive injusticess. If anything the British left has left itself vulnerable to the reverse: an excessive deference to the mainstream discourse of a classless multiculturalism, which privileges self-appointed ‘community’ leaders over an actual expression of the working-class interests of most ‘minorities’.

    The common failing is a failure to articulate the centrality of class to power relations in society, even where on the surface they are expressed through the prism of cultural difference.

  262. Manzil: The common failing is a failure to articulate the centrality of class to power relations in society, even where on the surface they are expressed through the prism of cultural difference

    Absolutely, but it is precisely this focus on “the surface” issue of race, immigration, shared values or whatever that obscures the common class interests of all working class pepole, be they white or not. “Engaging” with it in the manner described above risks normalising racially-based, rather than class-based discourse.

  263. Calvin on said:

    Omar:
    Calvin,

    You will recall in the 2002 election that LePen beat Socialist Lionel Jospin and the result was a run-off between him and the corrupt Chirac. The Left didn’t even figure.That’s much too close for me.

    I agree, but 18 percent isn’t remotely the same thing as ‘nearly resulted in a government’.

  264. I use the French example, BTW, to illustrate that regardless of how easy an issue it is to engage with the white working-class from an opportunist, electoral perpective it is not something that can be kept a lid on once their is a perceived consensus on it.

  265. George W,

    De-industrialisation has a major role to play, the French left, particularly the PCF has the CGT as its foundation and traditionally has been much better industrial organisation than community organisation. As the factories closed so did a key point of contact between the Party and the class.

    With regard to secularism one of the major issues for the PCF is that, unlike the UK Left, it has a high % of members who come from Maghrebian roots, almost to a woman these comrades are militantly secular. So while the PCF is way ahead of the PS on voting rights for non-French citizens, housing, social and employment rights as well, it retains its militant stance on the secular state. As does what is left of the NPA, and LO. The recent fractions that have broken off from the NPA and joined the Left Front, such as the Anti-capitalist Left have started to had debates about islamaphobia but even in these factionettes the majority opinion is pre-secular.

  266. uck french spell checker does work on English text- should read

    The recent fractions that have broken off from the NPA and joined the Left Front, such as the Anti-capitalist Left have started to have had debates about islamaphobia but even in these factionettes the majority opinion is pro-secular.

  267. Calvin,

    Well, that 18 % was only 1 point or so less than the frontrunner received in the first round and much of LePen’s softer support went to Chirac in the second round, along with the panic votes of Left supporters. All I’m saying is that reckless flirtation with this issue will end in tears for parties of the Left.

  268. Manzil on said:

    Omar: Absolutely, but it is precisely this focus on “the surface” issue of race, immigration, shared values or whatever that obscures the common class interests of all working class pepole, be they white or not. “Engaging” with it in the manner described above risks normalising racially-based, rather than class-based discourse.

    I don’t advocate that – but I don’t believe that was what George W was describing.

    You’re right; what you describe is the sort of approach Labour politicians have adopted for years: accepting racially-charged explanations of poverty and exclusion on their own terms in the hopes of dampening those forces. Instead, by essentially acknowledging the legitimacy of such approaches, they inevitably strengthened their hold over public opinion, and the need for even more concessions.

    But you needn’t accept a divisive right-wing explanation of workers’ immiseration to recognise, in the lack of strong socialist and labour politics, such an agenda has taken hold in many areas. I don’t think we should confuse an awareness, that we have to do much better in organising such communities, with pandering to the racist elements within them that develop in the left’s absence.

  269. Manzil,

    Well, Manzil, when I hear terms like “addressing concerns about immigration” and the like,my ears start to wiggle.

  270. Omar is right that we have to be very careful about this issue and is also spot on that there is a risk involved in engaging with concerns of race and nation.

    But as I suggested previously, the easiest way to avoid such risks is to fail to engage at all.

    George W’s original comments on this issue were motivated by his (in my view) genuine frustration that the attitudes of a substantial segment of the left in this country (a) means that they fail to engage with peeople living in predominantly white working class communities, (b) reinforces the prejudices that most working class people have against the very ideas that we should all be uniting around.

    The give away for me as far as PJ Rose is concerned is his/ here suggestion that anyone is saying that socialists ‘should’ fly the St George flag and his/her desire to piss on it.

    I was going to explain why I have a problem with such an attitude but it occured to me that I may well be wasting my time.

  271. Andy Newman: Quite so; we might also observe that a community of consciousness follows a community of experience; and that the cultural signifiers of a shared national heritage may appear more real than the more abstract concept of class.

    Andy, I assume the admirable work you’ve done with the Goan comrades in the Carillion strike wasn’t hampered by issues of national heritage amongst White GMB members in your branch, was it? And if so I imagine they could be dealt with by acknowledging the common struggle of the membership? Why do you think such a class-based strategy couldn’t work on a national scale or even from estate to estate?

  272. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Prepare for a mighty battle against deeper cuts. Because of inadequate and faulty leadership, working-class people have paid a terrible price: in mass unemployment numbering 18.5 million in the European Union, a slashing in living standards and the appearance of poverty that the present generation have up to now only been able to read about in books like George Orwell’s ’The Road to Wigan Pier’.

    http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6104

  273. stuart on said:

    In trying to address the problem of racist ideas taking root in run down communities we cannot ignore the historical role of Labour. The particular localities under discussion are likely to be either ruled locally by Labour administration and/or historically so ruled.

    Whilst the left can correctly appeal to broader class interests such an argument, however well articulated, is unlikey to cut much ice in the abstract, there has to be a real visible left focus, and unfortunately for the residents the ‘left’ means Labour. And in this regard, the trade union bureaucracy, with its ties to the Labour party, is inclined to discourage worker militancy thereby ruling out the possibilty of some real live left-wing focus that could cut across the racism.

    Labourism used top provide some kind of antidote to racism, so in the early 1960s Labour opposed racist immgration law. However, successive Labour governments have since dissapointed working class people- and have also pandered to racism in the process. Moreover, the Labour left, from whom we might expect much more, held power at local government level under Thatcher in the 1980s only to implement cuts and refuse to confront her policies. This made it easy for the right to chatacterise the left as only interested in PC matters and no more inclined than anyone else in taking up ‘bread and butter’ issues.

    So when we ask what is wrong with the left and why racism can be seen to flourish in run down estates, and when we wonder why residents may seem alienated from the left, we have to look at the legacy of the ‘left’. If there is no genuine left focus then right wing racist ideas can fill the vacuum.

    In conclusion, it is wrong to blame primarily individual socialists for any perceived failure, rather the problem lies with the most influential institutions of the left, institutions that make it so much harder for socialists on the ground. But those of us who look to build to the left of Labour are taking the correct course, however difficult this task may be.

  274. Manzil on said:

    Omar,

    Fair enough. As Vanya says at #311, we have to be extremely careful, but I don’t think there is any reason addressing over immigration necessarily has to concede ground to the right.

    George spoke about, ‘concerns about immigration being used by capitalists to drive down wages’. Now socialists should of course argue that it’s not migration but the logic of capitalism that’s responsible for attacks on workers. We should never accept that other groups of workers are to blame.

    But equally, I don’t think it’s helpful to just dismiss these concerns, which are fundamentally about the effect of global capitalism, as racist. Even in their backward form, such outlooks implicitly acknowledge the class structure of society (that it doesn’t represent them, because those in power have different interests); they inherently leave people receptive to consciously class-struggle approaches. It’s just that they’re channelled down a political cul de sac that offers nothing but disunity and reaction.

  275. Morning Star reader on said:

    I think there are dangers in using terms like “white working class” and “white working class areas”. Firstly, they give a prominence to racial categorisations that could play into the hands of racists and fascists. Secondly, they could be taken to imply that white working class people share a common racially-defined outlook or identity – which is untrue, and thankfully still rejected by many working class people. Thirdly, there are non-white people in most working class areas these days, and if anything we should emphasise this multicultural characteristic.
    Having said that, it is clear (as Manzil reminds us) that George W’s motivation in contributing to this thread was to highlight the need for the left to organise to combat racism in working class areas.
    That is why Karl’s attack on him and his views was ignorant and disgusting. I hope Karl recognises that it was unworthy. It also diverted the thread from what could have been a more positive discussion about anti-racist work in working class communities where racist views are not only widespread but overtly supported. In that context, too, we might have considered what terms to use or avoid.

  276. Manzil,
    #315

    Yes, but if the manifestation of these concerns is support for parties that do not have the working-class’ interests at heart, or even worse, support for violence against minority communities based on a backward interpretation of class-struggle, then we’ve got a big problem.
    The problems of the white working class precede the influx of migrants over the last two decades and that should be an easy enough point to illustrate, even if it requires a bit more effort than “blame the immigrants.” The “effects” of globalised capitalism exist, in the European context, in one of the richest areas of the world. The focus of the problem should be on the political- i.e. the need to administer and redistribute this vast wealth NOT on racial/cultural changes that are a result of the global nature of the economy. Even a socialised economy (to whatever degree) would still require some engagement with the global economy to remain viable, so it simply doesn’t make sense to give too much play ,as One Nation/Blue Labour does, to the cultural/racial makeup of the working class.

  277. Jimmy Haddow: Because of inadequate and faulty leadership, working-class people have paid a terrible price: in mass unemployment numbering 18.5 million in the European Union, a slashing in living standards and the appearance of poverty

    ‘Scuse moi for interrupting your broadcast from the Campaign for a 57th International, but isn’t the mass unemployment & descent into poverty due to capitalism + ‘austerity’, rather than “inadequate and faulty leadership”?

  278. George Hallam on said:

    Noah: The issue of immiseration ‘Vs’ fruits of empire in the development of the working class in Britain is quite complicated.

    Amen to that.

    There is a shortage of reliable data, for example it was only in 1841 that there was a complete census of occupations. The patchy nature of transport and communications in the pre-railway age meant that there were wide-ranging price differences for the same commodity, not just between regions but within them. Given that food accounted for over 60 percent of household expenditure this meant that living standards varied considerably. Such differences were perpetuated by the lack of mobility. Then again the earlier you go the more non-wage income becomes. All these go to create some nice econometric problems.

    Noah:
    For example, the worsening of working class living conditions from the early to mid 19th century is very clear when eg, the decline in average height and the appalling mortality statistics are considered. These can to a large extent be accounted for by the process of urbanisation under laissez faire capitalism. However at the same time, per capita sugar consumption was rising rapidly.

    See: Feinstein “Pessimism Perpetuated: Real Wages and the Standard of Living in Britain during and after the Industrial Revolution”
    The Journal of Economic History Vol. 58, No. 3 (Sep., 1998),

    For those who lack access to JSTOR there is a comprehesive summary in Koot’s “The Standard of Living debate during Britain’s industrial revolution” to found as a pdf at: http://www1.umassd.edu/ir/resources/standardofliving/thestandardoflivingdebate.pdf

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2566618?uid=3738032&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21101489190623

    There was an interesting piece on diet in the JRSM in 2008

    “Healthy adult life expectancy increased rapidly after the undoubted miseries of the Hungry Forties due to the rapid improvement in the range of vegetables and fruits available to the urban poor. It reached a peak during the mid-Victorian period and fell back at the end of the century, the damage caused by the first generation of mass-processed foods only partly mitigated by the environmental and medical advances of the time. The apparent increases in life expectancy cited today depend heavily on the chosen start date, and as we have shown, 1900 (while mathematically convenient) provides a misleading baseline. Given the current pandemics of obesity and diabetes, and given that life expectancy is now falling in areas as diverse as Strathclyde, much of Africa and the FSU, and within significant social strata in the USA;n9 the confident concept of inevitably increasing life expectancy no longer convinces.
    If we start from a mid-Victorian baseline, the picture changes dramatically. The mid-Victorians were living in an age without modern diagnostic tools, drugs, contraception or surgical techniques and yet (as the first paper in this series emphasized) their life spans were not dramatically different from those of today. The inescapable message is that the brief dietary advances of the mid-Victorian period have been lost to us because of our low calorific throughput (due to our more sedentary lifestyles), as well as the increased consumption of processed, and in many cases less nutritious, foods.”

    http://jrsm.rsmjournals.com/content/101/9/454.full

    I suppose a Marxist might regard this as an increase in relative surplus value.

  279. Morning Star reader: I think there are dangers in using terms like “white working class” and “white working class areas”. Firstly, they give a prominence to racial categorisations that could play into the hands of racists and fascists. Secondly, they could be taken to imply that white working class people share a common racially-defined outlook or identity – which is untrue, and thankfully still rejected by many working class people. Thirdly, there are non-white people in most working class areas these days, and if anything we should emphasise this multicultural characteristic.

    This is a very good point, and is reinforced by the fact that working class white people who live in areas that have become more ‘multicultural’ are less (rather than more) likely to support racist parties.

  280. George Hallam on said:

    Noah: This is a very good point, and is reinforced by the fact that working class white people who live in areas that have become more ‘multicultural’ are less (rather than more) likely to support racist parties.

    For example, Lewisham.

    Not that we are perfect, just less racist than in 1977.

  281. #313 Interesting that you mention The Road to Wigan Pier- George W’s carrot crunching reminded me a bit of Orwell’s rant about popular perceptions of socialists in Part 2.

    #314 The problem is that sections of the far left, having influenced Labour to adopt progressive (‘PC’) policies on certain issues (an extremely positive development) particularly at the council level, then tail-ended the classless (for which read petit bourgeois), apolitical self-righteousness that was the negative side to all that. So for example the SWP look like the left face of Guardianistaism.

    On the one hand you get the SP rightly giving unconditonal support and a degree of leadership to workers at Lindsey while others held back out of fear of being ‘racist’, while on the other they were neutral as to whether Ken or Boris should be mayor of London.

  282. George Hallam: The inescapable message is that the brief dietary advances of the mid-Victorian period have been lost to us because of our low calorific throughput (due to our more sedentary lifestyles), as well as the increased consumption of processed, and in many cases less nutritious, foods.”

    My guess, and it is a guess, would be that the main equaliser between both periods is stress. I’d say we live with more expectation, more individualism, and with it more stress than our Victorian counterparts. The advent of neoliberalism and consumerism has hit the working class of today like a tsunami, making the concept of communities of solidarity an increasingly outmoded one.

    PJ Rose: What line would PJ Rose take in a discussion over the garden fence

    A garden fence? Bourgeois c..t 🙂

  283. George Hallam on said:

    Noah: as a kind of semi-resident of Lewisham myself

    As a semi-resident it is your duty to come on part of the demonsration on the 26th January to save Lewisham hospital.

  284. Manzil on said:

    Omar,

    Again, though, I don’t think that’s what is being advocated by anyone in these comments. Whatever your criticisms of arguments advanced in this discussion, you presumably don’t think they are comparable to the mainstream social democratic scapegoating of migrants? The CP for instance (which I believe George W belongs to?), with which I have many disagreements, is self-evidently not arguing the same thing as the ‘Blue Labour’ lot. I think at most you could make a case that people have not been sensitive enough to the possibility their rhetoric will be taken wrongly. This is after all a discussion amongst socialists – I’d have presumed we didn’t need to preface our statements with denunciations of racism.

    No one has suggested that we should be compromising with “parties that do not have the working-class’ interests at heart, or even worse, support for violence against minority communities” – or with workers who are attuned to, or even active within the politics they represent.

    But for every committed reactionary, I think there are a considerably larger number of people who are susceptible to their influence precisely because the left in this country hasn’t been there, putting forward the case for working-class unity, demanding that we fight back and share the wealth etc. That doesn’t mean accepting their views; it means explaining why they are wrong, not denouncing them as the enemy. I can think of entire communities near me that, if they’re lucky, will every now and then get Labour canvassers around (who do shy away from tackling racially-tinged complaints) but haven’t seen a socialist since Scargill was on the telly. That, in my view, was what George W was bemoaning: the disgraceful antipathy of many supposedly left-wing groups to actually organising in such areas.

  285. Manzil on said:

    Also, does anyone have any socialist vegetable facts?

    Very important; please reply ASAP.

  286. George Hallam: As a semi-resident it is your duty to come on part of the demonsration on the 26th January to save Lewisham hospital.

    Yes, I will definitely be at the demo unless I have to be in Hamburg, where I am also a semi-, hemi-, or demi-resident.

  287. Feodor on said:

    Before I say anything else, I would like to express my gratitude towards everyone who’s participated in this debate, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the many and varied comments, and have learnt a lot reading them. The standard of debate on SU is imo leagues ahead of anywhere else on the internet, and the moderators deserve a lot of credit for that too. So, cheers all, and please do keep up the sterling work. 🙂

    With that little bit of arse-licking done ( 😉 ) I’ll move onto something more substantive:

    Manzil:
    But for every committed reactionary, I think there are a considerably larger number of people who are susceptible to their influence precisely because the left in this country hasn’t been there, putting forward the case for working-class unity, demanding that we fight back and share the wealth etc. That doesn’t mean accepting their views; it means explaining why they are wrong, not denouncing them as the enemy. I can think of entire communities near me that, if they’re lucky, will every now and then get Labour canvassers around (who do shy away from tackling racially-tinged complaints) but haven’t seen a socialist since Scargill was on the telly. That, in my view, was what George W was bemoaning: the disgraceful antipathy of many supposedly left-wing groups to actually organising in such areas.

    Where I live, a solidly working-class part of Swansea that has voted Labour since time immemorial, we don’t even get Labour canvassers any more. For the last council elections, my house received one leaflet from Labour, nothing from anyone else. For the Police Commissioner elections, there was also one leaflet, this time from an independent candidate. No one knocked the door. 🙁

    This is nothing short of a disgrace. And this judgement is strengthened by the fact that one regularly sees Labour, SWP and SP people doing things at the university campus, as well as in a rather ‘bohemian’ area on the western edge of the city centre which has a rather mixed social composition of professionals, businessmen, out of work artists and musicians, students, and workers. Needless to say, this area is one of the main Lib Dem strongholds in Swansea, whereas the entire east of the city is strongly and consistently Labour. It’s telling, therefore, that this is where the energies of the left are directed. (To their credit, the SP do direct more attention towards specifically working-class areas/issues: e.g., they played a very significant role in the pensions dispute of a few years ago at the Ford Visteon factory. But in itself I think this reflects how, by and large, they are still wedded to factory organising over community, meaning they don’t make much contact with the un-organised workers who are undoubtedly in the majority.)

    It’s also telling, in a depressing sense that underlines the left’s continued fall from relevance, that the on-campus activities of the SWP and SP are increasingly conducted by persons well over 40. They can’t even seem to recruit a couple of students to run a stall any more! This, btw, is not intended as a dig: I have a lot of respect for the people I’ve met from both parties, and despite my political differences with both, it saddens me to see them in such a sorry state.

    It’s also worth pointing out that even though the area where I live has a long history of voting Labour, until the last council election returned two Labour councillors, the ward had been represented by two independents – one for one term, the other for two. And the one who unseated the existing Labour councillor about ten years ago, did so in part because of his local standing as a respected pub landlord and the widespread discontent about the appalling cronyism of incumbent Labour Council, but also in part because he used BNP leaflets (of course without any mention of the leaflets’ source) about grannies being overlooked for housing in favour of immigrants etc., which undoubtedly struck a chord.

    I say this because this underlines what others have been talking about: when the left is absent in wc communities, the void will be filled by fascists – not liberals or conservatives, but fascists. And what the LP seem not to realise, is that while they can still get a majority in such areas, this is highly dependent upon the over-50 vote – people who came of political age when the LP still had a strong connection with wc communities. With the younger generations, however, there is no such organic connection, and it is among this demographic that British fascism finds its footsoldiers.

    What Mazil calls ‘the disgraceful antipathy of many supposedly left-wing groups to actually organising in such areas’ has created a ticking bomb, as its left an ideological void that’s been filled by the far-right. And as people tend to stick to the first political frame of reference they encounter, the pessimist in me thinks that this may be a social constituency the left will not be able to recover. Thus once the older generation dies off, there won’t even be a strong base for social democracy/labourism, never mind any of the more radical far-left programmes. Moreover, if this does transpire, then we are well and truly fucked.

    Finally, and my apologies for the long post, when Mazil says ‘That doesn’t mean accepting their views; it means explaining why they are wrong, not denouncing them as the enemy’, I have one qualifier to add.

    This is, in my limited experience, when speaking to someone one-on-one, treating someone with reactionary views as an ‘enemy’ is counter-productive. They must be engaged with in a sympathetic manner, perhaps even humoured – i.e. a typical response is ‘I see where you’re coming from, but the real issue is…‘. It’s a delicate balance to be sure, but I think the correct strategy is to neither denigrate nor accept, but to challenge in so polite a manner that one has a friendly conversation rather than a political debate – most people of only limited political interest seem to be turned off by the inevitable hostility of serious political debate, and they won’t be won to our side by haranguing them.

    Conversely, however, when in a larger group, the opportunity for polite discussion is not always there. If you want to exert influence, you have to try and command the debate; waiting patiently for your turn, so to speak, just won’t do. Thus, when confronted with a reactionary view, it must be challenged with some verbal aggression. Because the point is that the group dynamic means that you need to be less interested in converting the reactionary, and more interested in making sure the rest of the group are not won over to their ideas. In such situations, then, one can be dismissive and denigrate their views in a manner that shows your intellectual superiority – even arrogance – because the whole point is to show the reactionary to be a misguided idiot whose views should not be accepted by anyone with even an iota of common sense. Granted, you run the risk of fisticuffs, but I think the dangers of leaving such views pass unchallenged in large groups are far greater.

    To conclude, I think if the left has lost its way, one of the main reasons has to be that it no longer has the stomach to conduct the ‘battle of ideas’ outside of the small circles of the already converted. In effect we’ve returned to the situation of the early 19th c. – socialism has become an idea without a practice, a political programme without a social constituency. And no amount of theoretical phrase-mongering about the ‘working class’ in the abstract will ever serve to connect us with the concrete problems working people face in reality. Saying it will all be well after the revolution, but in the meantime buy our paper, is not a suitable response to a parent worried about drug addicts in the local park or a pensioner worried about their fuel bill. They will quite rightly dismiss you as an idealist crank, a political dilettante.

    Finally, finally, Hal Draper put it best:

    Marx and Engels constituted the first socialist school to hold a position supporting trade-unionism as such (while critical of given policies, leaders, etc., of course). And after their time, socialist history divides mainly between the social-democratic types who supported reformist trade-unionism precisely because they were themselves reformist rather than Marxist, and the would-be revolutionary socialists who found “revolutionary” arguments for returning to the old crap of socialist anti-trade-unionism – with the addition of Marxistical rhetoric to dress up their sectist approach. Very few so-called or self-styled Marxists have understood the heart of Marx’s approach to proletarian socialism: The basic strategy for building a socialist movement lies in fusing two movements – the class movement for this-or-that step which gets a decisive sector of the class into collision with the established powers of state and bourgeoisie, a collision on whatever scale possible; and the work of permeating this class movement with educational propaganda for social revolution, which integrates the two.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/draper/1973/xx/microsect.htm

    If you replace the narrower phrase ‘trade-unionism’ with the broader ‘bread and butter demands of working-class persons and communities’, I think you’d have a telling indictment of the contemporary British left – though one could always say that we’ve reached an even lower point, where the reformists are no longer interested in reform and the sects are fast becoming cults.

  288. stuart on said:

    Vanya: #314 The problem is that sections of the far left, having influenced Labour to adopt progressive (‘PC’) policies on certain issues (an extremely positive development) particularly at the council level, then tail-ended the classless (for which read petit bourgeois), apolitical self-righteousness that was the negative side to all that. So for example the SWP look like the left face of Guardianistaism.

    I’m afraid this just sounds like some kind of accusation not backed up by any real evidence. The analysis of the SWP through the late 70s and 80s was one of defeats and downturns for the working class, however the class struggle (successful or otherwise) was always the starting point. The SWP never sought to regard the ‘social movements’ as separate from class struggle and certainly not a substitute for it. How are you able to justify what you are saying?

    Vanya: On the one hand you get the SP rightly giving unconditonal support and a degree of leadership to workers at Lindsey while others held back out of fear of being ‘racist’, while on the other they were neutral as to whether Ken or Boris should be mayor of London.

    I think we need to be very careful here. There is a danger that because we lack a real left focus, IMO at least in part due to trade union bureaucracies not wanting to encourage fightbacks less they embarass Labour, we end up articulating positions that give comfort to the political right. Lindsey was what we might call a contradictory strike and one we’ve debated on here at great length. But one thing that emerged out of it, IMO a quite negative thing, was the No2EU campaign. Unfortunately this was a product of one the more worrying features of the Lindsey dispute.

    The SWP has always been against the EU but has always urged that care be exercised over how we articulate our opposition. It is important not to give the impression that our problems are mainly caused through exploitation by ‘foreingers’. And worse still, that these foreigners are responsible for unwanted immigration. This is not the politics of class but the politics of nationalism. And it is the politics of parties such as the BNP and UKIP. It is quite clear that presently, UKIP are looking to conflate the issue of the EU and immigration. As socialists we should have no truck with this, immigration is not a problem.

    The working class can be pulled in different directions, that is collective class struggle and/or a nationalism that regards foreigners as the enemy. Just becuase the Labour party has been such a disappointment at national and local level, and just because the level of class struggle has been so low for so long, there is nothing to be gained but a lot to lose in trying to be better nationalists than those on the right or the far right.

  289. #337 No, I don’t want to rehash the arguments about Lindsey. Suffice to say for me the initial dispute there absolutely highlights what I am saying. You obviously disagree.

    No2EU you need to take up with your partners in TUSC (Bob Crow, the SP, the CPB?) which developed out of it.

    Having said that I mistakenly voted for it instead of the Greens, against the views of the majority of my fellow members of Respect (including my partner who frequently reminds me of the fact when she wants to have a go, such as when I spend too much time blogging). I will therefore have my own reasons to be happy when Griffin is voted out.

  290. stuart on said:

    Vanya:On the other hand if there are more people like Manzil in the SP, that does give some hope (as did their involvement in disputes in Lindsey and South Wales a few years ago) that they are capable of being a bit more than a sect on the fringes of the labour movement (itself).

    This report highlights what I am saying…

    ‘But the logic of focusing demands on the question of who gets the jobs is pitting “British” or “local” workers against “foreigners”. It divides workers who should be allies in fighting against the bosses’ attacks. This actually makes it harder to fight over the many important issues facing construction workers—including the system of outsourcing that allows contractors to trample over workers’ rights and forces people to compete against each other’.
    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=18015

  291. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    This is totally subjective, but there are working-class racists/xenophobes, because I have encountered them. Whether there are more than there are middle-class ones, I don’t know. But middle-class/educated people often hide or soft-pedal their views, because they have a greater awareness of “political correctness” and of what forms of expression are illegal or at least questionable, so they try to try to stay inside certain boundaries. Working-class people often express themselves more frankly, either out of honesty or out of ignorance.

    Commenting on anti-Semitism, George Orwell once noted that people educated enough to have heard of the word “anti-Semitism” would generally deny being anti-Semitic themselves, even if they obviously were hostile to Jews. I think there is a similar phenomenon today.

    In the absence of what the IMG used to call a “class struggle left”, there is no reason why working-class people tormented by unemployment and social exclusion wouldn’t turn to fascism.

  292. Mark Victorystooge: In the absence of what the IMG used to call a “class struggle left”, there is no reason why working-class people tormented by unemployment and social exclusion wouldn’t turn to fascism.

    Well some working class people could not turn to fascism as they remain an out group for the fascists. Others dislike fascism. Yet more might be of the mind that the fascists have proven themselves to be incompetant idiots who should never be let within reach of real power.

    The working class is quite sophisticated in my experience.

  293. Manzil on said:

    Very good points from Feodor at #336. I feel what Mark Victorystooge says about a specifically ‘class struggle left’ at #341 is particularly pertinent to Feodor’s example.

    I was told by one of their newly-elected councillors that, in the 2012 local elections, Southampton Labour contacted more voters citywide than the entire Welsh Labour Party. On the surface, this would seem like a step forward. But at no point did those connections open the door to an ongoing relationship with those overwhelmingly, intensely deprived communities. It is the nature of the Labour beast.

    Instead, that campaign was a transitory phenomenon, exploiting the widespread disaffection with the Tory onslaught against local public services for a progressive end, but unable to mobilise a permanent movement capable of challenging the systemic causes of that onslaught. In the absence of a strong degree of community organisation, with a political voice (whether in the form of Labour or not), that Tory counter-reform agenda has simply continued, now mediated by the Labour Party. The effort of the local trade unions to elect a Labour council has thus been seen, very publicly, to have come to naught.

    This will make it more difficult for the mainstream workers’ organisations to replicate even the minimal, and expressly ‘electoral’ connections which their campaign pulled off last year. The answer cannot be simply a greater organisational effort to connect with working-class communities; there must be a sensitivity to the importance of the politics of that effort also.

    The ‘battle of ideas’ Feodor mentions is crucial. The idea of a ‘19th century’ left in particular, of an entirely abstracted socialism, I found very perceptive, and should be a concern for all of us.

    However, I think the example of Labour’s response to the crisis shows that in and of itself, building a social constituency, even one that is overwhelmingly working-class, is not necessarily the solution, because without ideas – yes, ones which are actually integrated into people’s experiences of modern life, but is nevertheless explicitly political and class-conscious – even the most well-intentioned people are simply buffeted about by the limitations (structural, legal, financial, even simply ones of available time) which the political system places on the activity of the labour movement.

    From an SP perspective specifically (I’ll duck the rotten veg being thrown, shall I?), I think there’s some truth to the allegation it emphasises ‘industrial’ over ‘community’ organising. But I don’t think it’s necessarily deliberate – where I live, it’s just been a case of trying to stretch very limited resources to support workers who have come under attack, whether that’s the ongoing cuts at (and now closure of) Ford, to the systematic assault on local government workers. It’s almost been a case of hopping from one episode to another. While I think that has proved useful in building a reputation for taking workers’ struggles seriously and seeing ourselves as offering solidarity rather than asserting leadership, it has meant perhaps too little attention to thinking strategically about how socialists can make themselves relevant over the longer-term. And that, given the decline of ‘traditional’ industry, will require an emphasis on community and reaching out to unorganised and casual workers.

    I think the problems of engaging with working-class youth specifically, and the case is probably true for the SWP as well (perhaps more so, given its class composition), derives from the fact their connections to youth are nearly exclusively through higher education, social movements and student protests. As opposed to the sort of jobs most young people are in – high street shops, supermarkets etc. – which are obviously harder to organise, but equally have been under-emphasised by a socialist model which has been unable to cope with the deliberate de-industrialisation and precarization of the economy.

    Also, I agree completely that context is everything when it comes to confronting fascism – obviously the left should not be ‘sensitive’ to people espousing such ideas in an organised political form, which is a considerably different situation from backward ideas being raised with us on an individual basis.

  294. Manzil,

    Indeed. I have recently read the new biography of Phil Piratin from Manifesto Press and for all his heroic actions at the battle of cable street the real defeat of fascism in the east end was brought about by communists actively joining gyms where blackshirts supporters went and engaged them politically rather than violently, it had much better results. Moreso his work in leading and supporting tenants in rent strikes, campaigns for better housing and breaking into the bomb shelters of posh hotels and underground stations during the war did even more to break up support for the fascists.

    I think one problem of the left is there are too many people who want to stand on a barricade fighting fascists, at least in their own imagination, and not enought prepared to trudge around estates leafleting and engaging people politically about solutions to the issues of their community, empowering them to organise. We are all guilty of posturing rather than doing proper work but it is something we need to sort out.

  295. Karl Stewart on said:

    Stuart’s got it right here:

    stuart: The working class can be pulled in different directions, that is collective class struggle and/or a nationalism that regards foreigners as the enemy. Just becuase the Labour party has been such a disappointment at national and local level, and just because the level of class struggle has been so low for so long, there is nothing to be gained but a lot to lose in trying to be better nationalists than those on the right or the far right.

    And some excellent points here from Morning Star Reader:

    Morning Star reader: I think there are dangers in using terms like “white working class” and “white working class areas”. Firstly, they give a prominence to racial categorisations that could play into the hands of racists and fascists. Secondly, they could be taken to imply that white working class people share a common racially-defined outlook or identity – which is untrue, and thankfully still rejected by many working class people. Thirdly, there are non-white people in most working class areas these days, and if anything we should emphasise this multicultural characteristic.

    And I think this is the critical point here. The minute we start adopting the language of the racists, or expressing sympathy with the racists’ complaints, we’ve essentially accepted their core argument and undermined our own.

    Parties like the BNP are racist bullies, they recruit and win support from other racist bullies and intimidate others into not opposing them – the way to defeat bullies is to stand up to them, not pander to them.

    I see Phil Piratin’s book has been referred to – did Piratin suggest placing a greater emphasis on organising among the “gentile working class”?
    Did Piratin express sympathy with those who said there were too many jews in east London?

    I’m sure plenty of people on here have spent many hours and rainy evenings trudging around estates knocking doors, selling left papers, canvassing votes, delivering leaflets etc – I certainly have, it isn’t a new or novel idea.

    The point is though, unless such activity is focussed on a particular purpose, for specific objectives, issues etc, then it can become activity for activity’s sake.

  296. PJ Rose on said:

    Yeah, answers by Nick Wright have confirmed his racism . In fact, Newman’s primitive patriotic urges are as good as racism too. This site really is a cesspit of reaction.

  297. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: I see Phil Piratin’s book has been referred to – did Piratin suggest..?

    Why not read the book and find out for yourself?

  298. Feodor on said:

    Mark Victorystooge:
    But middle-class/educated people often hide or soft-pedal their views, because they have a greater awareness of “political correctness” and of what forms of expression are illegal or at least questionable, so they try to try to stay inside certain boundaries. Working-class people often express themselves more frankly, either out of honesty or out of ignorance.

    A little anecdotal evidence in support of your point: I’m ‘ethnically’ white but quite dark – not all that unusual among Welsh people. And over the course of my life, I’ve been called every racist epitaph under the sun. A lot of the time, however, there is not much malice behind this, because it is little more than crude macho working-class banter.

    That’s not to excuse it, but I have to say probably the most offensive comment I’ve ever received was a compliment from a South African lady who ran a pub I worked in. She didn’t say anything crude; instead, she noted how ‘clean’ and ‘honest’ I was. And to me, that’s more indicative of a deep-seated racism, i.e. the idea of a distinct racial hierarchy in which each race has its own specific characteristics, than being called a ‘paki’ or something similar by someone in a pair of tracky bottoms and a hooded jumper.

    SA: Well some working class people could not turn to fascism as they remain an out group for the fascists.

    On this, I think one of the most disturbing features of the whole EDL phenomenon is that they were able to appeal to a much broader ethnic constituency than fascists typically can. A fascism which presents Muslims and/or Eastern Europeans as the enemy, does have the potential to attract, e.g., British persons of Caribbean descent. (UKIP seem to do well within this demographic, and while they’re not in any way a fascist party, there is a certain overlap with respect to their views on immigration and Europe. And unsurprisingly, their rise coincides with the Labour Party’s inability to present convincing narratives on these issues.)

    It’s a mistake to presume that the essential nature of modern (and historic?) fascism means they will never be able to recruit non-whites in significant numbers and that, furthermore, saying ‘but they’re racists’ will always be a strong buffer against non-whites joining fascist groups.

    Manzil:
    I was told by one of their newly-elected councillors that, in the 2012 local elections, Southampton Labour contacted more voters citywide than the entire Welsh Labour Party.

    That’s shocking but not surprising.

    What does surprise me about the Welsh situation, however, is that Plaid seem content to ignore Labour heartlands as well – the SNP, afaik, don’t take this view, at least if their recent campaigning in Glasgow is anything to go by.

    Maybe this’ll change under Leanne Wood’s leadership, but it seems almost as if they’ve struck a deal with Labour wherein each more or less gives the other a free pass in their core constituencies, which in turn ensures that on a national level there will always be a combined Labour-Plaid majority.

    Manzil:
    I think there’s some truth to the allegation it emphasises ‘industrial’ over ‘community’ organising. But I don’t think it’s necessarily deliberate…

    I think you’re quite right that this is a consequence of limited resources, and it wasn’t intended as a malicious criticism. Indeed I actually think the SP’s strength in industry is probably its best aspect, it’s just as you note, with the decline of traditional industry this demographic is shrinking.

    Unfortunately, given the lack of numbers and resources, you’re probably in an either-or situation rather than one in which you can do both. Which, I guess, means a pressing strategic question is when does organised labour become so marginal to the wider experience of the working class that focus should be placed on the community instead of the factory? Should we attempt to re-build trade-unionism or direct our attention towards new forms of organisation? I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I’d be interested in what others think.

    Manzil:
    As opposed to the sort of jobs most young people are in – high street shops, supermarkets etc. – which are obviously harder to organise, but equally have been under-emphasised by a socialist model which has been unable to cope with the deliberate de-industrialisation and precarization of the economy.

    Personally, as someone who’s only ever worked in the service sector, I do think it’s nothing short of a travesty how little attention the left pays to workers in this sector.

    Not only does it mean poor pay and conditions, which are endemic, go unchallenged. But when, e.g., public sector workers with fixed-term contracts, pensions, the ability to take sick days with sick pay, etc., oppose attacks on these hard-won benefits, it is much harder to win solidarity from service workers.

    If civil servants are unwilling to support service workers, why should service workers be expected to support civil servants? The most advanced sections of the class, i.e. the one’s who’ve actually won significant concessions in their workplaces, have to lead the charge of the whole class, else they will be easily isolated and defeated.

    Manzil:
    Also, I agree completely that context is everything when it comes to confronting fascism – obviously the left should not be ‘sensitive’ to people espousing such ideas in an organised political form, which is a considerably different situation from backward ideas being raised with us on an individual basis.

    I wasn’t actually thinking of ‘an organised political form’. More the difference between these ideas being expressed at a social gathering where numbers and a lack of structured debate means you have to be quite vocally forceful if you want to be heard, compared with a one-on-one situation where you know you’ll have the chance to respond and rebut.

  299. Manzil on said:

    Feodor,

    At the moment, I think we essentially have to ‘redistribute’ our neglect, focusing where we think we can have the greatest influence. That will vary based on people’s personal circumstances. But we shouldn’t delimit in principle the areas of life to which an embedded left should attend. Anti-capitalism must be anti-systemic and totalising; it must offer a viable alternative.

    As a delightfully sectarian aside (by all means skip this para), the SWP’s focus on ‘the revolutionary party’ as a small group ‘intervening’ in the class struggle (something which its leadership has just defended in the ongoing faction fight), is in my view a deeply worrying and counter-productive outlook. Doesn’t that concept of interventionism implicitly admit the divorce between socialism and the working class! It assumes, barring the odd change in the course of events, that their existing organisational premise is fundamentally sound, a highly disciplined sect, external to the labour movement, tricking or nudging the poor blighted masses towards a more enlightened future.

    We need mass organisation; thousands of people who are politically educated, class-conscious and committed to solidarity in their community and at work. And a left with such a degree of organisation could handle all the problems we face. At the moment we do not have that; at most, we have the potential for it, suspended within the edifice of the trade unions and social movements. But as a principle, mass socialist activity is central: we cannot subordinate ourselves to the concept of always being a party of extreme opposition; the left should aspire to hegemony.

    If you’re, say, a shopworker, why the hellwould you appreciate trade unionism? While the service sector is incredibly hard to organise, even discounting that Usdaw are a shocking union that remains wedded to a concept of social partnership entirely unsuited to a sector typified by bullying managers, precarious contracts and low wages. I still have the bruises from banging my head against the brick wall of that union at Sainsbury’s. I’m not surprised the labour movement has failed to adapt: far easier to organise people in the public sector, where zero-hour contracts, shift work and revolving-door turnover don’t get in the way of building a sustained presence in the workplace.

    An SP comrade of mine works in the DWP. Now a clear majority of civil servants he works alongside detest workfare and the endless parade of bullied and victimised jobless they’re forced to ‘sanction’. But where is the PCS campaign against it? Where is the solidarity extended to the psychologically crushed masses of the unemployed? The Labour council in Southampton is closing down the youth service. There is a campaign to resist this, but before now, where have local government workers and socialists been to press the claims of forgotten young people to a better future than is currently their lot?

    As you say: if the organised workers are merely a sectional interest, they lose all claim to speak for working people; it is socialist consciousness and a universal project of ‘people before profit’ that provides us with a moral claim. And yet little attempt that I see has been made to champion it. Socialism cannot be simply about being a better shop steward than the next person, however important that may be.

    Fair point re: social situations and the like. Complete agreement. Although perhaps easier in theory than practice; I remember once just shouting ‘you’re all a bunch of c***s’ and drunkenly storming off from a suddenly-racist group on a pub crawl, which probably wasn’t the best way of marginalising them.

    Plaid are an interesting phenomenon: probably the most left-wing leader of a major political party in the UK, but very little attention has been paid to it that I can see. Perhaps because there is a disconnect between the national voice and their local practice? Especially if, as you say, they don’t seem to actually be challenging for the support of working people in Wales. I don’t know. The Greens in England suffer the same thing; the radicalism of Lucas and co seeming light years ahead of the average branch.

  300. George Hallam on said:

    “Words are wise men’s counters; they do but reckon by them:
    but they are the money of fools..”

    You all seem to have got yourselves into a terrible state though a carless use of language. As an outside observer is clear that you are failing to distinguish between two usages of the term ‘working class’.

    The first is very concrete and every day. The second is abstract and technical.

    ‘working class’ (concrete)
    Low status, lacking in refinement, education and culture. Not ‘middle class’.

    Richard Russell the head of Colfe’s School, Lee near Lewisham, expressed it very well when he spoke recently about “little skinheads with the St George’s Cross tattoos who come from families where maybe nobody has worked”
    see the Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9589978/Private-schools-failing-to-recruit-working-class-white-boys.html

    ‘working class’ (abstract)
    since the 19th Century, the set of wage labourers who, “having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live.” Note by Engels – 1888 English edition of The Communist Manifesto

    It should now be obvious were the ambiguity lies. The commom use includes a range of classes: proletarians, petit bourgeois, Lumpenproletariatians.

    The solution is have a moratorium on the offending phrase and force people to find alternative terms which express the meaning they intend without ambiguity.

    To save correspondents the trouble of thinking this out themselves I have provided the necessary alternatives.

    ‘working class’ (concrete) use the American terms ‘trash’ and ‘red necks’ .

    ‘working class’ (abstract) use the Marxist term ‘proletariat’.

    Being abstract ‘proletariat’ is colourless, (for PJ Rose) odourless (to the relief of George Orwell) and tastless (to satisfy the prejudices of Brian Sewell, Roger Scruton, etc.)

  301. non-patisan on said:

    despite comments appearing on the right in the home page. This is the last comment i can see on this thread, not sure why, juts letting you know.

    John: Nick is correct in his comments re the relatively advantageous status of the British working class compared to its counterpart throughout the Empire at key periods of the country’s economic and social history. It is not even a point of conjecture but historical fact, I’d say. The development of the northern hemisphere was and continues to be contingent on the underdevelopment of the southern hemisphere, with Britain a major beneficiary of this uneven and combined development via its empire, which in effect was a transmission belt for the transference of wealth from its colonies to the metropolitan centre.Of course, the immiseration suffered by the British working class during the heyday of the industrial revolution and expansion of the empire is also a historical fact. But a section of the working class undoubtedly benefited from the increased opportunities that came with the expansion of the empire. A labour aristocracy emerged as technology and productive forces developed.And as Nick states, the only reason the British working class was able to win the major concessions it did in the 20th century was a result of the size of the surplus gained from the wealth and economic benefits of empire.When it comes to the point regarding the formation of a distinct white working class, there is a difference between pandering to racism and understanding where it comes from. George and Manzil were engaged in the latter not the former. Karl, for whom I have the utmost respect and who in my view is one of the most valued contributors to this blog, has got it wrong here.

  302. Stuart- Your SW article link merely reinforces my view on the subject.

    For me Lindsey was a big test. The Millies may have failed different tests over the years that others didn’t, but the SWP failed this one and the SP passed with flying colours. When I read about things being contradictory as if this is some big revelation I always worry.

    Feodor- Interesting points about immigration and ethnicity.

    Something I would have believed to be an urban myth had I not witnessed it myself on buses from Longsight into the city centre and then out to Moss Side on a few occasions myself was mutual fear and hostility between a number of British born Black youngsters (many of whose grandads would themselves have worked on the busses) and Polish drivers when Stagecoach and one of the smaller firms employed a large number of them.

    Black lads agressively asking drivers what they were looking at as they paid their fare or on at least one occasion a young Black woman loudly demanding that someone explain why people who couldn’t even speak f…king English were doing jobs working with the public.

    Not making a point, just an observation.

    On the subject of orgainsing service workers- with you all the way. Part of the way forward in my view is to pursuade unions to allow people to join when they’re already in trouble so that they can be represented in disciplinaries. If they get a result that’s an incentive to remain in the union and get others to join.

    Mark Victorystooge- ‘Class struggle left’ brings back memories. Along with the concept of the ‘SLAB’ current within the Labour movement, meaning those who orientated towards Scargill, Benn, Adams and Livingstone (the line of the Ross faction in Socialist Action).

    Manzil- Congratulations for admitting to using the C word. Probably even more unforgiveable to some people than talking about white working class people (of slagging off TUSC 🙂 ).

    PJ Rose- If you don’t like the site I suggest you rearange 2 words into a well known phrase or saying. Btw when I come accross the word cess pit it always reminds me of James Anderton’s attack on AIDS victims.

  303. Karl Stewart on said:

    George W: Karl Stewart, No he understood the need to engage and organise in such areas, i get the impression he also had no time for pathetic posers.

    Would you like to meet up George?

  304. #356 and 357

    I understand that being called a racist moron is not particularly conducive to positive attitudes, but it is a bit of a shame as I suspect that face to face is probably better than the internet for positive resolution. You can always step outside in the car park if all else fails 🙂

    (Although Salford might not be the best venue!)

  305. Vanya,

    Internet forums can turn the nicest people into argumentative idiots. I bet it would be great to meet up with everyone and have a pint.

    (salford can be a good venue for such things)

  306. Manzil on said:

    Vanya,

    You love TUSC and you know it. 😉 And yes, it wasn’t one of my better moments, but given the state I was in at the time, I imagine the workers of the world will forgive me a momentary lapse.

    On the subject of Lindsey, I’d echo your comments about the SWP’s bizarre position. They weren’t the only ones with reservations about some of the rhetoric being used in the early stages. But they were the main ones who used that as an excuse to write it off as inherently reactionary rather than acknowledging the disconnect between the objective situation and its subjective expression by the Lindsey workers. Begging the question, how do they expect to transform the attitude of the working class, which is overwhelmingly un-sympathetic to their revolutionary socialism. Doesn’t quite fit in with their old Luxemburgist view of the struggle itself transforming workers’ consciousness.

    Also – the Adams in ‘SLAB’; as in Gerry?

  307. Manzil: You love TUSC and you know it. 😉

    I particularly like the catchy name, redolent of the worst album Fleetwood Mac ever made.

    Manzil: Doesn’t quite fit in with their old Luxemburgist view of the struggle itself transforming workers’ consciousness.

    Quite.

    Manzil: Also – the Adams in ‘SLAB’; as in Gerry?

    Yes.

  308. Feodor: On this, I think one of the most disturbing features of the whole EDL phenomenon is that they were able to appeal to a much broader ethnic constituency than fascists typically can. A fascism which presents Muslims and/or Eastern Europeans as the enemy, does have the potential to attract, e.g., British persons of Caribbean descent. (UKIP seem to do well within this demographic, and while they’re not in any way a fascist party, there is a certain overlap with respect to their views on immigration and Europe. And unsurprisingly, their rise coincides with the Labour Party’s inability to present convincing narratives on these issues.)

    Yes the Labour Party have failed to construct a convincing narrative.

    That said the presence of those of Carribean descent among the violent racists is not new. It could be observed in the 70s in the days of ‘Paki bashing’. At one level this can be rationalised by peer group pressure with isolated individuals falling in line with their (white) mates but on another its observable that there is no love lost either. When significant numbers of Nigerians first began to settle a popular pursuit amongst carribean youth was hunting Boo,Boo’s (Nigerians) and once again little love was lost on either side. The Nigerians eventually emerged triumphant. I mention these things by way of illustrating the complexities of the situation – pretty much as Vanya did in 355.

    The EDL was perhaps more remarkable for its open courting of Zionists and Gays but at its core supporters the old Empire Loyalism held out. Yaxley Lennon was denounced as a Leprachaun. Now as he sits in Gaol and the State has a comprehensive list of violent white supremiscists we can ponder the rise and demise of the EDL. All the same it did not attract large scale working class support beyond its drinkers and brawlers and wannabes.

    The BNP was more alarming in my view, but that too is truely fucked with no hope of resurrection.

    Vanya, I recall the phrase as Scargill, Livingstone AND Benn – Gerry did not figure although they certainly liked him.

  309. Manzil on said:

    TUSC’s programme is actually based off the same album: “What Makes You Think You’re the One”; “Not That Funny”; “I Know I’m Not Wrong”; “Walk a Thin Line” etc. 😉

    I’ll show myself out.

  310. Karl Stewart: Would you like to meet up George?

    Seriously,Karl, you didn’t just challenge someone to a fight on an internet forum, did you ? What are you,twelve !?

  311. stuart on said:

    Vanya: Stuart- Your SW article link merely reinforces my view on the subject.

    This is a bit vague. What view? The view that jobs should be designated as ‘British’? It was on that basis that the strike was ‘won’ as Polish workers were sacked. The UKIP view. The anti-immigration view.

    Vanya: For me Lindsey was a big test. The Millies may have failed different tests over the years that others didn’t, but the SWP failed this one and the SP passed with flying colours. When I read about things being contradictory as if this is some big revelation I always worry.

    Again this is pretty vague. If the SWP were warning against BJ4BW and then a construction strike, conducted shortly after, in South Wales led to the sacking of Polish workers, how did the SWP ‘fail the test’?

  312. stuart on said:

    Manzil: On the subject of Lindsey, I’d echo your comments about the SWP’s bizarre position. They weren’t the only ones with reservations about some of the rhetoric being used in the early stages. But they were the main ones who used that as an excuse to write it off as inherently reactionary rather than acknowledging the disconnect between the objective situation and its subjective expression by the Lindsey workers.

    In the interests of some much needed accuracy I submit the petition launched by the SWP on the Lindsey strike.

    http://www.petitiononline.com/jobs0209/petition.html

  313. Andy I left a comment asking you a question about how the size and impact of Radical Independence Conference fits with your wider critique of the left but got no reply, just some predictably dull comments from the CWI. Would it not be at least worth registering an interest in the size and impact of the event in Scotland even if it doesn’t fit with your position on independence? I’d ask the same of John Wight who i understand by your post is the co-producer of the blog?

  314. Dan: Would it not be at least worth registering an interest in the size and impact of the event in Scotland even if it doesn’t fit with your position on independence?

    To be honest I know little about it. It was clearly a big event, 800 people in Scotland is significant, but it seems like it was very inconclusive, and lacked any clear political outcome.

  315. #368 The reason I’m being vague is that I am not going to rehash the arguments about Lindsay. It’s been done to death on here.

  316. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    SA: Well some working class people could not turn to fascism as they remain an out group for the fascists. Others dislike fascism. Yet more might be of the mind that the fascists have proven themselves to be incompetant idiots who should never be let within reach of real power.The working class is quite sophisticated in my experience.

    Categories of people that might be an “out group” for fascists of at least the European type might still be attracted by other, questionable ideological flora, in the absence of Marxist arguments. I will illustrate this with two anecdotes based on personal experience:

    1. A few months ago, I was travelling on the upper deck of a London bus. Nearby there was a twentyish Caribbean man talking on his mobile phone to someone, explaining how he had discovered that “the Illuminati run everything”. Later, I read in the American Kasama Project website that conspiracy theories about the Illuminati are quite common among African Americans. My guess is that a fair number of Afro-Caribbeans and African Americans know the world is out of joint and seek explanations in conspiracy theories like the Illuminati. It is likely that they have never encountered the explanatory power of Marxism, so that is why they go in for this outlandish stuff.

    2. A few years back I was in the biggest London march against “Operation Cast Lead”, the Israeli attack on Gaza. I was kettled, and was not allowed out until night was drawing on. I began moving towards the nearest underground and a young bloke who seemed to be of Pakistani origin asked me if I was a Muslim. I said not, and he got angry and said I must be a “Jew”. One of his friends restrained him, but I decided to get out of there quickly before the situation became really nasty. I think many Islamist protesters tend to find non-Muslims demonstrating about Palestine or other causes to be rather suspect. I don’t know, perhaps their spiritual leaders warn them against the Jews or Communists they might encounter. Again, in a world where people either don’t encounter Marxism or see it as a bogeyman, they might be attracted to reactionary explanations of the world – in this case, anti-Semitic Islamism.