There’s been some shock and outrage expressed in the last few days over Ed Milliband’s decision to U-turn on opposition to the Tory cuts. This really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Labour party have not been on the side of the working class for a long time before Blair or even the 1970′s and 80′s that are seen by some as a golden age of the party.
Of political parties claiming socialism to be their aim, the Labour Party has always been one of the most dogmatic – not about socialism, but about the parliamentary system.
Empirical and flexible about all else, its leaders have always made devotion to that system their fixed point of reference and the conditioning factor of their political behaviour. This is not simply to say that the Labour Party has never been a party of revolution: such parties have normally been quite willing to use the opportunities the parliamentary system offered as one means of furthering their aims. It is rather that the leaders of the Labour Party have always rejected any kind of political action (such as industrial action for political purposes) which fell, or which appeared to them to fall, outside the framework and conventions of the parliamentary system. The Labour Party has not only been a parliamentary party; it has been a party deeply imbued by parliamentarism. And in this respect, there is no distinction to be made between Labour’s political and its industrial leaders. Both have been equally determined that the Labour Party should not stray from the narrow path of parliamentary politics.
The Labour Party remains, in practice, what it has always been- a party of modest social reform in a capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted.
The above quote is from the introduction to Ralph Milliband’s Parliamentary Socialism: A Study of the Politics of Labour published in 1961. The reality is that the Labour party has been beyond the control of it’s rank and file members and unions since it first gained MP’s in the 1920′s. The latest move is no more of a surprise today than Neil Kinnock’s failure to support the miners in 1984 or to even attempt to effectively resist the de-industrualisation of Britian, the smashing of communities and the financialisation of the economy that was Thatcherism.
Ed Milliband and the Labour party are (re)abandoning the working class now at a time of open conflict. They’ve chosen the parliamentary system, the law of the rich and the bosses. It’s who they are, as Ed’s father said in 1961 – everything is flexible except for the goal parliamentary power.
This time though things are different, it’s not the 1980′s. In the 1980′s the Tories reinvented Britain, created the conditions by liberalising capital markets to allow capital to redeploy production to countries with cheap ununionised labour and attacked the working class organisations at home. They also sold a vision. A vision of home ownership for all, a stake in the corporations they sold off. It was pure deceit, there’s nothing empowering about a mortgage and being able to buy shares in a business you already owned as a citizen before it was sold off by the state is willingly participating in your own robbery. It worked though, 18 years of power and the completion of a project that lasted 10 more years under Labour. In 1998 John Major said of Blair’s government “they have good policies, they’re our policies”.
There’s no vision today though, it’s a straight up fight. They can’t sell council houses off cheap because they’ve already sold them. There’s no BT share issue for us to get excited over or British Gas shares to tell Sid about because they’ve already sold them. The vision of the Tories today is “The Big Society” which translates to “We’re not taking tax off the rich to pay for services so do it yourself”.
Unlike the 80′s the Labour party have got out of the way early doors. Less than 2 years in and they’re hand is nakedly declared. There’s no handwringing over whether a miners ballot was quite as it should be to excuse not providing unequivocal support for working class people fighting for their jobs. Ed Milliband isn’t even pretending to be on your side.
The unions are crying about this, as though this is some kind of revelation to them. It’s not. It might be the time they turn, when Unite along with Unison and the GMB etc. follows the RMT and disaffiliates from Labour That’s up to you though. If you’re a member, fight for it and for love of sanity make sure you opt out of your unions political fund and make it clear you’re doing so because of Labour Party affiliation.
The fight now is who pays for the disaster of the 1980′s de-industrialisation and the fiancialisation of the economy. Do we as the working class pay for it though redundancy and pay cuts? Do the disabled and vulnerable pay for it through service and benefit cuts? If you think that’s what should happen, you don’t need to do anything. Vote Labour in 2015.
It’s up to us, it’s never been more clear that all we have is each other. The Labour Party aren’t going to help us, forget them.
By Kenan Malik from his blog Pandaemonium
I gave a talk on Wednesday night to the Studienbibliothek in Hamburg. Entitled ‘Left, Right and Islamism’ the talk explored the ways in which the responses of both left and right to Islamism have betrayed of basic principles of freedom and liberty. One of the key themes in the discussion afterwards was about how the liberal fear of giving offence has helped created the space for Islamists to take offence. The more that we worry that people will be offended by a book or a play or a cartoon or an idea or a thought, the more we give licence for people to be so offended, and the more that people will seize the opportunity to feel offended.
It is not just Islamists who live by outrage. Returning to Britain, I discover in the three days I’ve been away three incidents that perfectly illustrate how everyone now wants to feel offended – or rather how the authorities, from the police to trade union bureaucrats, seem to want everyone to feel offended.
First, there was the case of the woman whose racist rant on a Croydon tram went viral after another passenger videoed it on a mobile and posted it on YouTube. The police tracked her down from that video, charged her with ‘racially and religiously aggravated harassment’ and got her remanded in custody. Then came Jeremy Clarkson who made a typically inane joke about public sector workers needing to be shot. UNISON, the public sector union,demanded his sacking and a police investigation. And then Manchester City footballer Micah Richards received some racist backchat on his Twitter feed. @WillMadine94 tweeted: ‘You big fat nigger u r shit. Martin Kelly over u all day for england. Play for africa!!!’. Lincolnshire police launched an investigation (the tweeter is believed to live in the county) and are trying to track him down.
Each of these incidents is different, ranging from poor taste to hateful abuse, and each requires a different response. What none of them requires is for the law to intervene.
Tram woman was nasty and abusive; she is of a kind I have faced many times in my life (though thankfully rarely in recent years). The way to deal with her was as the passengers on the tram actually did: they confronted her and challenged her abuse.
Clarkson should simply have been ignored. He is like the pub bore whose whole aim is to provoke a effect. The more that people rise to the bait, the more they make his day. At least Clarkson had the excuse that he was trying to make joke. UNISON has no such excuse. There is, as David Allen Green pointed out , something more than a little odious about a trade union ‘calling for someone to be summarily sacked. No disciplinary procedure, no due process, no contract rights: the man should be fired immediately.’
@WillMadine94 is one of those foul-mouthed, bigoted trolls that pop up all too frequently on the web (though he seems now to have deleted his Twitter account). Richards, if he had really felt offended, could have blocked @WillMadine94 on his Twitter feed. Instead, Richards responded : ‘Love the racist abuse keep it coming… ☺.’Hardly the response of someone shattered by the abuse. The police decided to step in anyway.
Outrage these days has become almost a means of defining oneself, of marking out one’s identity. I know who I am because I am outraged by this, you know who you are because you are outraged by that. Muslims, Christians, atheists, liberals, conservatives – for every group outrage has become an expression of self-definition. The mark of identity is the possession of a thin skin. Monica Ali, whose novel Brick Lane caused umbrage among some Bangladeshis , talked in an interview I did for my book From Fatwa to Jihad , of the creation of a ‘marketplace of outrage’:
What we have developed today is a marketplace of outrage. And if you set up a marketplace of outrage you have to expect everyone to enter it. Everyone now wants to say, “My feelings are more hurt than yours”.’
Indeed they do. It is a marketplace that is quickly becoming more crowded than a passport queue at Heathrow airport.
The marketplace of outrage is not, however, simply a means of creating self-identity. It is also a means of social regulation. Speech regulation – whether of hate speech or of offensive speech – is becoming a mechanism through which the authorities can police relations between groups in an era of identity politics. in an increasingly tribal society, the slightest whiff of saying something unacceptable has become a matter for social discipline. It is a kind of society that Islamists revere. What is extraordinary is how many liberals, and those on the left, seem to desire it too. I’m outraged.
NCAG members were out and about today joining pickets and marching with trade unionists across the county.
One particular group of striking public sector workers stand out for their commitment to Norfolk communities and they are the striking paramedics who answered red calls hour after hour for no pay at all.
Are these the actions of selfish taking the piss trade unionists or dedicated, professional and essential public servants?
While the right wing media and Tory propaganda machine work on overdrive it has been more than clear today that there is more than just hesitant support for public sector workers in their struggle. There would be even more if the TUC leaders were to get off their behinds and embrace private sector workers and working class communities also.
There is much to play for, the destruction of the whole welfare state is at stake. But while Tories and their apologists appear on our screens day after day spouting nonsense about trade unionists and blaming the previous equally useless government for the mess we’re in, most people are able to see through the nonsense and remain committed to both the welfare state and those workers who form it’s backbone, and they’re not yet ready to sell them out to the corporations.
Long may that remain.
/ / Student march & demonstration / /
The route will take the march from its starting point on Malet Street, through Trafalgar Square and up the Strand, before passing St Pauls’s and rallying at Moorgate Junction. This follows the decision to march on the City, rather than to Parliament, in the midst of fresh financial crises and Occupy LSX.
/ / Electricians day of action / /
Rank and file construction industry workers called for a day of action against the attack on pay and contracts conditions.
The Pinnacle building site (Bishopsgate Tower)
London EC2N 4BQ
St Thomas Street
London SE1 9SY
Blackfriars station construction site
Queen Victoria St
London EC4V 4DY
/ / Taxi drivers protests / /
London taxi drivers will be holding a day of protest over attacks on the licensed taxi trade, organised by RMT union:
2:00 – 4:00pm
Headquarters of TFL (Transport For London)
42-50 Victoria Street
London SW1 0TL
followed by general cab drivers demonstration at
Background information: http://www.rmt.org.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeID=151765
/ / Occupy London permanent protest camp / /
Steps of St Paul’s Cathedral
London EC4M 8AD
From the Cautiously Pessimistic blog.
A fair amount of the stuff I write is made up of criticisms of various parts of the left. Lefties and anarchists famously spend a vast amount of their time arguing with each other, and a lot of people, understandably, get upset by this and tend to think that if only we could just get on and work together we’d achieve so much more. It’s certainly a view I used to take when I was slightly younger and less cynical. So, here’s my attempt at giving a few reasons why I think it’s perfectly legitimate to spend a lot of time sniping at the left:
1) I think it’s more important to say something that isn’t that obvious, rather than to say something that everyone knows. Pretty much everyone can tell you that the BNP are bad. Ed Miliband, the Guardian, and probably your gran can all tell you that David Cameron’s a wanker, even though they might not all put it in those terms. An explanation of the way that unions and left-wing parties, rather than just standing up for workers, actually often suppress workers’ struggles, is a lot harder to find, so offering that kind of criticism feels a bit more worthwhile than just reminding everyone that the tories are bad, again.
2) Being politically active necessarily gives you a skewed viewpoint on reality, something that all activists would do well to remember. Obviously, the extent to which your perspective gets warped will vary wildly depending on what you do and how active you are – camping out in an eco-village is very, very different from normal life, trying to get the people you work with to go on a go-slow not so much – but still, if you’re politically active in some way, your experiences will differ from the experiences you’d have if you weren’t active. You’re unlikely to bump into a BNP organiser on a picket line, and the chances of meeting a hardline tory at a march to save your local hospital aren’t great, but you are pretty much guaranteed to meet someone selling Socialist Worker wherever you go. So it’s not really that much of a surprise that you build up pretty strong opinions on much of the left quite quickly.
3) This is the important one that needs to be borne in mind: these people are part of the problem. From Germany in 1919 and the Kronstadt rebellion to the Spanish revolution and May 1968 , those claiming to be on the side of the working class have often ended up as the most dangerous enemies of a revolution. But this isn’t just some dry historical point: there’s plenty of examples to prove the same point today. Of course, the most dramatic case is that of Greece, where Communist Party members joined with the police to protect the Parliament from attack last week , a move which has been condemned by the popular assembly of Syntagma Square . Elsewhere, an “Anarchist Watch” twitter account has been set up by McCarthyite elements in Occupy Denver to try to drive radicals out of the Occupy movement; it’s already inspired an “Anarchy Watch UK ”, which may or may not be a pisstake, it’s anyone’s guess.
But, even though the left here doesn’t actually assemble squads to fight in defence of capitalism, and the “Anarchy Watch UK” account may well be fake, there’s still plenty of examples to show how keen the left are to serve our rulers: from the tiny Trotskyist groups mourning the tyrant Gaddaffi to the Labour Party supporters taking the opposite approach and arguing that “now the left should back UK big oil” , the perspective of international working-class struggle against all dictators and exploitative companies doesn’t even get a look-in. I don’t often look at the Weekly Worker, but I happened to do so this week* and found a very revealing article on the recent violence in Rome , which is especially relevant in light of last week’s battle in Greece, where they complain about the fact that anarchists and autonomists had been “allowed” to fight the cops, and blaming this tragedy on the Spanish movement’s hostility to political parties, because “parties have a degree of internal cohesion, group loyalty and discipline” that would have allowed them to take control of the situation. In an article complaining about the black bloc’s fighting with the cops, this can only mean that, as in Greece, the left groups see their role as being to act as an external guard for the police, beating back militants before we can even reach police lines. Of course, groups like the Communist Party of Great Britain or the Workers’ Revolutionary Party are far too weak to actually play the thuggish, reactionary role they’d like, and they’re totally irrelevant to most people’s lives, so confronting them won’t be a strategic priority for the forseeable future; but still, just because they’re weak enemies doesn’t mean we should forget that supporters of Gaddaffi, UK oil companies and the police are still our enemies.
Still, it’s not enough to just be against the various defenders of capitalism; we also need some idea of what we want, and what kinds of action we want to encourage. So, to turn over to the positive section of this post, parents and staff at Bournville School in Birmingham have recently defeated plans to turn their school into an academy , the Indian car workers who occupied their factory have won the reinstatement of 1,200 jobs , disabled folk and their supporters rallied all over the country at the weekend , Frank Fernie, the student jailed for his role in the March 26th protests, is now out , students occupied Chile’s senate building for several hours last week , and the rank-and-file struggle in the construction industry continues with protests in London and Manchester on Wednesday 26th October and plans for a national demo on November 9th . Since that’s the same day as a major student demonstration, things could get very very interesting then, and I’d urge anyone who’s a student or unemployed to try and get down to London for the night before, since things are likely to start pretty early in the morning.
Finally, a few interesting articles that I’ve seen recently: Italy Calling has a piece on the clashes in Rome one week on , Open Democracy has a big analytical article looking at the Occupy movement and UK Uncut as examples of a new kind of movement without organisation , and libcom’s Occupy Wall Street tag just has loads of interesting stuff, updated fairly regularly . Of particular interest is this communique from Baltimore . “Identity politics” and class struggle are often seen as conflicting, but the W.A.T.C.H. communique does an excellent job of showing how feminist, queer, trans, and anti-racist “anti-identity politics” are vital to a truly revolutionary class struggle anarchist/communist analysis.