Answering our critics
Posted by Left Luggage on March 31, 2009
Since we launched on Saturday, we’re pleased to say we’ve created quite a splash. Reading various online discussion forums, it seems that most of the comments about us are broadly supportive. “Incisive”, “interesting” and “a breath of fresh air” are just some of the things folk are saying. We’ve also gone international: an American site published one of our articles, provoking an interesting discussion.
We don’t think the positive response is solely due to the quality of our analysis. The fact we’ve been getting a good reception also indicates that a left-wing site discussing strategy and pointing out some home truths is sorely needed.
However, not everyone is convinced. There have been a number of criticisms, some of which we attempt to address below:
You make some rather grandiose claims about what you propose to do, but you’re just a blog rather than a political organisation. Aren’t you too tiny to make any impact?
It’s true that we’re a small group, and that all we are at the moment is a blog trying to influence good activists on the Left. We say as much here. This doesn’t represent the limit of our ambitions, however. Left Luggage is only a means to and end, not an end in itself. The aim is to make links with others on the Left who share our ideas about the best way to organise. LL is not the only means though which we hope to achieve this. We hope to establish links with community organisers, trade unionists and left activists over the coming months.
Ultimately, our long-term goal is to assist in creating a network of community activists, trade unionists and socialists that can begin to coordinate some campaigns in working class communities and workplaces. Ambitious? Yes, but clearly we don’t seek to do this on our own. There are many like-minded activists out there – some we’ve met, some we’ve yet to meet. One of the goals of Left Luggage is to bring together people who can further these ambitions.
Anyone with a WordPress blog can spout off about their political views. You’re no different to any other irrelevant mouthpiece out there. You need to prove yourself in practical politics before you have any credibility.
All of us involved with Left Luggage are involved in union and community campaigns and have been for years. Clearly, we’re far too small at the moment to take on the huge task of creating an effective campaigning organisation rooted in the working class. To begin to do this we need to build a network of activists thinking along these lines. Such things take time, but an important step is to win the battle of ideas. At the moment there are very few groups calling for the kind of strategic direction we think is needed. We hope to use LL to provide this direction.
Why don’t you suggest something positive, rather than complain about what the left is currently doing?
We think our outlook is positive, but the criticisms we make of the left are important ones that need to be heard. In time, we’ll feature articles about groups and activists who are taking what we think are good approaches to organising. Besides, while we lay out the basic elements of what we think needs to happen, it’s not for us to come up with concrete strategies. This is ultimately down to groups of organizers taking the initiative in their particular context and, hopefully, sharing ideas and experiences with activists elsewhere.
We’ve seen this all before. Who’s to say you aren’t just another Trotskyist groupuscule with a hidden ideological agenda?
You’ll have to take our word for now that we’re not! Some of us have had our fair share of bad experiences with groups like this, and in fact our analysis is partly shaped by a reaction against such groups and their way of operating. Hopefully this is clear in everything we’ve written. We try to be non-dogmatic and base our analysis in good sense and what works rather than abstract theory. If you still have your doubts, we advise you to get in touch so you can find out for sure.
Aren’t most of the groups of the orthodox left too rigid in both ideology and structure for your criticisms to have any affect on them? Aren’t you wasting your time trying to influence them?
Firstly, we aren’t trying to influence groups as such. It’s true that some groups on the left are destined forever to remain obscure and irrelevant. There is a difference between organisations and their members, however. In our experience, such groups often have many members who are skilled activists with a sensible approach to organising. If they adopted a different strategy in their locality, they could begin to produce real results. We hope to encourage this.
Secondly, there are many groups on the left that are not “beyond saving”. Where groups are internally democratic, it’s possible for them to be steered in more useful directions by their members. Through influencing activists, we may be able to influence the direction of some of these groups. This sounds like a huge task, and it is. But we feel the more voices arguing for the kind of change in strategy we’re suggesting, the better. We see any movement in this direction as positive.
You’re right about the baggage the Left needs to ditch. Why not jettison the discredited concepts “socialism” and “left-wing” while you’re at it?
It might well be the case that any party or campaigning organisation orientated to the working class is best advised to drop these labels, given their negative connotations for many people, but we aren’t yet a party or a campaigning organisation. At the moment we’re communicating largely with people who define themselves as socialists and as on the left. Furthermore, we’re proud to be socialists and to identify ourselves with the rich heritage of that movement. The fact that we profoundly disagree with the approach of some groups who use the word “socialist” in their title doesn’t change this.
Why do you stick to the outmoded concept of the “working class”?
The concept “working class”, or that of “class” generally, might have gone out of fashion recently, but that doesn’t stop it being as relevant as ever to any understanding of British society. The nature of working class (and middle class) occupations may have changed, but the nature of the class system has not fundamentally changed. The debate is a lengthy one, and it’s not our intention to lengthen it further here, but clearly a whole range of social problems – from inequalities in education to the housing crisis – are best understood via a class analysis.
We hope that answers most of the criticisms so far. We’re happy to answer other questions readers may have, please just email us to get in touch or use the comments facility on the blog.