Left Luggage

The socialist strategy site

Ditching the baggage

Posted by Left Luggage on March 27, 2009

On much the British Left today, there is an unquestioning acceptance of the key priorities for socialists, and little willingness to engage in critical reflection on strategy. But in politics there are no self-evident truths. All ideas must be tested and stand up to scrutiny in practice. Even notions that seem common sense should be open to question. For example:

  • Can we combat the British National Party without discussing issues such as crime and immigration?
  • Should we devote more energy to international issues than to more immediate problems that the Left has a chance of solving?
  • Are we guilty of focussing on student recruitment at the expense of organising working class people?

It is comforting to console ourselves with the belief that our stance on these issues is right, but that objective circumstances need to change for them to be vindicated. The recession threatens to expose this as a fallacy. This should be an ideal climate for socialist ideas, but the Left remains on the margins.

The danger is that if we do not face up to our weaknesses and reassess our strategies, we will consign ourselves to the margins for the foreseeable future. A major beneficiary of this will be the far right, who have shown themselves amply capable of exploiting social grievances to position themselves as allies of the working class.

We have to stare reality in the face and acknowledge the Left has no significant roots in the working class today. There must be an urgent post-mortem on the strategies the Left has pursued for decades that have led us to our present position of obscurity. We must recognise that the working class has not failed us; we have failed the working class.

Left Luggage has been launched to facilitate critical discussion on the strategies currently pursued by the Left and to generate alternatives. We need to identify and then ditch the burdensome baggage of dead-end strategies that perpetuate our insignificance. We hope this blog will become a forum to discuss these crucial issues in a constructive and non-sectarian manner.

4 Responses to “Ditching the baggage”

  1. Part of the baggage might even be the term “left”…?

    • You have a good point, Charlie. Add to that the word “socialist”. Certainly worth consideration when trying to relate to people to whom such labels and other symbols might have distinctly negative connotations. We’ve a little mention of this in our latest post, which attempts to answer some criticisms of our approach.

  2. Flea bite said

    I fully welcome this positive initiative and agree that it is clearly an urgently important task that the Left unites to criticallly discuss matters of stategy and vision on the Left.

    There is no real coherent strategy on the Left as the Left is so horribly fragmented, divided and is severely weak and lacking in many respects as a result.Consequently, it´s has a weak presence in every sense and poor visibility.

    In my view “we” need to create a broad convergence of vibrant and relevant ideas on the Left, to bring about a vital unity and a coherence in order to develop a well thought through democratic green socialist vision and a well understood and agreed upon political strategy.

    The planet and the existence of the human species is in severe danger with the onset of global climate change as a result of unsustainble global capitalist production and consumption.Imperialism and global capitalism are clearly in deep deep crisis,the so called democracy we live in is also in deep crisis with massive alienation and we are witnessing the rise in support for the fascist, rascist BNP.

    Our society is in deep crisis……ignorance, individual greed , selfishness, nihlistic thuggery,violence and brutality abound.There is a massive prison crisis,with violent crime(knife and gun crime,with deeply alienated youth joining thuggish and murderous multi racial gangs which roam free as corporate crime and corruption runs amoc in the City).The state education and health systems under neoliberal capitalism simply fail to deliver as illness and ignorance abound as exploitative private education and private health grows in abundance.

    The so called justice system does not work as the class based laws of the ruling class based on IMPUNITY AND IMMUNITY rule.

    The military and police help defend the interests of this hideoussly ugly, unjust and undemocratic capitalist system.


    First of all, what do we define as the Left exactly?

    Are we talking about movements for self emancipation and or new left parties?

    Personally, I think the crisis of ´the Left´as I understand it, is that there is no viable OR inspiring vision.The Left in all it´s groups and factions is stuck in a appalling DEAD END of it´s own making and self deception and consequently is all the more self defeating in it´s uncompromising postures.It is more caught up in it´s own rightness and purity than relating and listening to ordinary working people´s daily problems and issues.

    Unless, the Left can learn to be FULLY democratic and tolerant within and without itself and is able to learn to listen and give space to broad creative critical and mass particpatory discussion and debate, then there is no real future for the Left.It will simply continue to WITHER AND DIE,continue to be arrogantly oblivious to it´s alienating methods and will blindly continue it´s futile existence in the endlessless competing and damaging infighting amongst itself, in its infantile and childish manner,wasting it´s sparce resourses in continuing to lay down and impose it´s own stale ideas to no real effect.

    We need to learn some humility and can learn alot from creative ideas and experiments which have taken place here in the present in other areas, from past and previous struggles,among the Left elsewhere in the World….. the particpatory democratic approach of the Socialist party in Holland,from PA,participatory budgeting and decision making,community and popular education,popular power,Venezuela, the green movements, the womens movement.What works and is working? What is successful?

    In my view, we need to bring about healthy critical discussion and debate on the broad Left.The aim has to be solidarity and unity,organisation and coordination.Personally,I think we have to bring(whoever ´we´are) about a convergence of ideas, organisations and movements which are mutually self supporting.

    We need an inspiring vision for the future.A viable and sustenable, possible and practical democratic, internationalist, socialist vision with particualry emphasis given to a workable and sustainable (ecologically as well as economically) socialist economic strategy if we are to move from capitalism to Socialism.

    We need to learn to AGREE and build confidence and trust, cooperation and communication and thoroughly think through how we want to get to where whe want to get to, fully taking into account where we presently are ,honestly and realistically assessing where most working people are at(and finding out what they want and need and what they think of the Left), where the World is at present.

    Perhaps, the main aparently irresolvable problem lies in the question and great disgreement over……..radicalism ,reform or revolution or do we need a merging of all strategies and ideas given that global climate change and the capitalist imperialist crissis is and will continue to determining our future existence.

    We need to develop much greater sense,tolerance and solidarity, in fully fully learning the vital lessons of the demise and massive failure of stalinism and communism in the World.

    We need to genuinely learn from Left successes and failures, past and present and ongoing, locally, regionally, internationally, learn from and strenghthen links within the global climate change movement, the global social forums movement, the anti capitalist movement,the anti war movement,the anti imperialist movement, the anti nuclear movement,the cooperative movement, Greenpeace,trade union struggles,the positive developments in Venezuela,, Nepal, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and El Salvador.

    We need to develop positive and effective means of communication and develop ways of raising seroius amounts of funds inorder to develop these…tv and radio channels,more effectively using the internet through emails, facbook etc,websites and bloggs etc internet bringing in artistsand creative thinklers of all forms varieties into the movement.

    We need to learn from the “creation” and split of the Scottish Socialist party,the reasons for the peculiar vagaries of the Socialist Labour party,the sad demise and break up,abuse and manipulation of the Socialist Alliance, the reasons for the appallingly damaging and disillusioning Respect split.

    Basically there needs to be a very critical thorough going re-assessment and evaluation of the various stengths and weakneses of all sections of the Left, groups and movements (medias of communications,personal, group,websites and papers, propaganda, organisations and organisational structures, appeals etc) and positive suggestions for incorporating the best aspects and a development of generosity and cooperation.We need to urgently and intelligently mend and heal the deep divisons within and between all Left groups and organisations,broad emancipatory social movements, particularly within the trade unions,the anti fascist and anti racist movement, the reds and green, the womens movement and the gay and leasbian liberation movement, the disability movement…..

    The Left (or large sections of it) as it, it seems is stupidly stubborn and will not or cannot break from it´s uncompromising sectrarian competitiveness which only serves to sew the seeds of division and defeat,depression and despondancy both within and without the socialist movement.

    We need to be able to inspire CONFIDENCE and OPTIMISM to fully sustain growing membership and further develop and gain political support.

    Unless, this can be resolved then there seriously is no hope in bringing together all sections of the Left.For fuck sake, we should, we should all be capable of living with a great sense the unity and solidarity based on working togewther, based on the vast amount of what we agree on and have in common and learn to agree to live with and healthily debate our political differences within one large unavowedly and distinctly democratic Left party.If such a party were genuinely and profoundly democratic then it´s future would be determined by it´s GROWTH and diversity and the stength and vibrancy of it´s democratic culture and debate not by it´s present disillusioning inability to discuss and debate a new and failure to win support nevermind win struggles.

    I dont agree with much of the traditional predominatly white male and stale Left, in it´s macho posturing, self deluding predictions, it´s shallowness and determined reluctance to discuss reality(however this is defined)from cleaning up streets of dog shit and repairing lamposts to developing community planning from the base to realistically assesing and seriously engaging in the electoral process.

    In my view,only when there is a class based fighting, coherent and fully democratic Left party, relevant and inspiring,with a popular practical and sustainable vision coupled with an clear socialist economic and pòlitical stategy, that has the ability to be flexible and creative, responsive and supportive to ongoing struggles such a strikes,workers occupations and ongoing grass roots community struggles,campaigns anmd movements, only then will there be a broad appeal and healthy growth in support for the Left as sense and solidarity, intelligence not inertia, cooperation and communication,imagination and creativity, relevance and respect,confidence and trust are vital and relevant to this urgent task.

  3. Agree with a lot of what you have to say here, Flea bite. Three things stand out:

    1) Creating positive values. Interestingly, I don’t believe this is something that is talked about much on the left, as a whole. This is a problem, I think, as our values – solidarity, democracy, cooperation, participation etc. – should be central to how we work, and they are also ideas that would win widespread support among ordinary people. Developing such a culture can not be only about what we say, but crucially what we do, and how we do it.

    2) Disunity on the left. This is a depressing fact for anyone not alligned to this or that group, and many who are, no doubt. The reasons behind this are no doubt complex, but maybe we could include their current state of marginalization, a lack of internal democracy in some instances, and an inwards-looking orientation. Given the state of fragmentation, though, is there any hope such groups could overcome this sectarian mode of operation?

    3) Learning from others. You mention a number of international movements and I agree we can learn from these. What is interesting is that radical groups from elsewhere in the world are often a focus of attention for the left, also solidarity, and a certain degree romanticism. But rarely are their basic organising strategies considered or attempted. Often they will be the kind of grassroots work we are advocating here.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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