Posted by Left Luggage on April 29, 2009
A slightly delayed view of the last week, featuring an interesting analysis of how the Left should deal with the police, a new blog aiming to address strategic questions facing socialists outside the “mainstream Left”, more school protests and a reflection on the political complexion of Labour after the next general election.
Following our article on how the Left should respond to crime, blogger A Very Public Sociologist has a very though-provoking piece on the other side of the coin: how should left-wing activists deal with the police (or, rather, for the moment, talk about dealing with them).
The obvious difficulty is outside a revolutionary situation, calling for the abolition of the police invites derision and dismissal. The far left in Britain has either tended to argue this position regardless, compounding their isolation from the bulk of the politically interested population (take your pick from among the colourful array of ultra-lefts), or have maintained a strategic silence […]
It may be good on the diagnosis of crime but is decidedly poor in what can be done about it, creating the impression the left is soft on criminality and completely unserious about it. Obviously, this is not good enough – it leaves us disarmed in front of those communities where crime and anti-social behaviour is endemic.
He cites the example of the Socialist Party, which has a set of “transitional demands” on law and order issues and suggests that democratic control of policing at a local level should be a major demand, and recognises that the Left should be arguing for more resources for working class communities. As the post is focussed on the police, the question of how communities themselves can respond to anti-social crime is left open.
An exciting development in the “blogosphere” is the new blog Stargrave1, which takes up some of the issues Left Luggage is trying to initiate a discussion around. The writer, a “left syndicalist” and IWW member who has been involved in Green electoral politics, explains in his first post the:
current pressing need for well thought-through and openly discussed strategies for those who currently find themselves outside of what passes for the “mainstream left” in Britain
He lays out a number of proposals for how this group of independent socialists (and left syndicalists) should shape the future, highlighting the good work of Liberty and Solidarity (though suggesting their unwillingness to engage in electoral politics is problematic), and suggesting the Left needs to move beyond the sect and have local independent candidates taking direction from local community groups and unions:
Intervention on the field of official politics at a local level in the foreseeable future would not be through another factional or sectional Party, but through Independent candidates agreeing a common general programme, key amongst their aims being to take direction from community and workplace bodies in their locality.
Whether the idea of independent candidates is problematic or not, Stargrave argues that we have in the first place to put the horse before the cart by building fighting and democratic organisations in working class communities:
those of us who would adopt this strategy would first and foremost be interested in supporting and building fighting workplace and community organisation at a local level, which is in fact more of a pressing concern and necessity than contesting elections.
Stargrave also raises a host of important questions of strategy and principle that the Left needs to consider, making this a very though-provoking and timely piece.
Right from reception class, social divisions are on full view […] Average this tendency out across a borough, and you can see why the best education authorities include Richmond Upon Thames and Surrey, while the worst performers include Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney. The alignment with social class could hardly be clearer.
There was also another school protest in Glasgow this week, when parents at Our Lady of the Assumption Primary, in Maryhill, took to its roof on Monday to protest at plans to close school. The protest follows the occupation of two other schools in the area against Glasgow City Council’s plans to close or merge 13 primaries and 12 nurseries. It also comes after a rooftop protest by parents of a school in Lewisham, South London, last week.
we will have a Labour Party dominated at the top by Blairites spouting Labourist rhetoric, backed by “reformed ” Brownites and chancers like [John] Cruddas talking all left (take a look at his voting record for where he is really coming from) – see the “unions’ friend”, privatiser Alan Johnson and the sickening Mandelson on Newsnight last night (welcoming a new age of “left wing” interventionism and regulation) for a taste of the dishonesty and language mangling that is to come.
For those still within Labour and hoping to get a chance to reform the party, this analysis will make grim reading indeed.