Posted by Left Luggage on April 13, 2009
The second in our weekly round-ups examines some recent developments that suggest there is a renewed interest in engaging in a reassessment of strategies for the left, along with some forecasts of political radicalisation during this recession.
This seems to be an unusually fruitful time for discussion of strategy on the left. There have been a range of new initiatives launched in recent weeks alongside wide-ranging debate about the way forward. Some of this came in reaction to the G20 protests, but more generally is product of economic crisis and its potential to reconfigure the political scene.
We begin with Red Pepper, which examines the potential for resistance to government policies that aim to “[sit] out the social consequences of the recession.” The article, written by the editors, acknowledges the need for political organisation “to be connected to social forces rooted in the struggles of daily life against oppression and injustice”, in other words “engaged with the day-to-day disaffection in working class communities”. The magazine suggests a new political direction for trade unions, and is calling on activists to share their experiences of resistance and alternatives to further this debate.
In another article on the same site, Ben Lear discusses this year’s numerous international summits and the “counter-summit mobilisations” that will inevitably follow, questioning the efficacy of these “mega-spectacles”.
The factory occupations in Belfast, and Enfield, north London, have received widespread coverage and support. The Independent Working Class Association suggests this “local and community-focused” resistance could be the future of protest against a discredited economic and political system. Richard Seymour, of the of the Lenin’s Tomb blog, while reviewing attempts to fix the neoliberal economic system, acknowledges the left is “historically weak” but suggests “we are in for a protracted period of crisis, and struggle, in which objective factors will have exaggerated importance.”
David Osler also examines the factory occupations in a blog post, and makes a number of interesting points. Firstly, he cautions about the left’s tendency to trumpet any “minute uptick in working class activity as evidence of a ‘new mood’”. He also suggests that, unlike in previous decades, the process is “not being refracted through the official structures of the Labour movement”. Yet, as he points out, the radicalism that is emerging will inevitably find political expression in some form and it is by no means clear that “Britain’s disorganised and dishevelled far left is up to the job”, warning of increasing electoral support for the British National Party.
The Morning Star highlights two recent political initiatives it argues could “open up new perspectives for left at labour movement advance in Britain”. In discussing the potential of the People’s Charter, Robert Griffiths points out that “the traditional vocabulary of the left is not always the most effective language with which to address millions of workers and their families”. He goes on to say that “very few people in Britain today believe that ‘socialism’ is the answer or even understand what socialism is or could be.” Something that sheds an interesting, tangental, light on this is a poll this wek of adults in the US that showed only 53% of Americans believe capitalism is better than socialism.
Griffiths, also highlights the No2EU – Yes to Democracy electoral platform, which has so far won the support of the RMT union, and numerous left-wing groups. He suggests this platform “should not be seen as the mass electoral alternative to Labour at the next general election, but has an important stream feeding into a resurgent left and labour movement.”
Another online development that suggests there is a renewed interest in approaching the fundamental challenges facing the left i.e. a reassessment of strategy and revitalisation, is PPS-UK, the Project for a Participatory Society. This initiative, linked to the American website ZNet and basing its ideas on those of Z’s founder, Michael Albert, urges a “radical rethink of our vision and strategy” and an “honest assessment and examination of our history in the hope that something better may develop out of the process.” According to the site, there are chapters established in Cardiff, London, Birmingham, and the East Midlands. This site contains some interesting points about how the left operates and it will be interesting to see what comes of this initiative.