Labour and BNP – both got what they deserved
Posted by Left Luggage on June 11, 2009
While posts on its website are a rare phenomenon at best, the Independent Working Class Association consistently produces startling content. Considering the recent Euro election results, the IWCA argues along similar lines to Left Luggage that the BNP’s victory (which it undoubtedly was, despite attempts to minimize it extent) demonstrates conclusively that the Left now needs to adopt a “strategy of winning-over rather than side-lining the alienated working class voter”. In other words, the way forward is for a genuine political alternative from the Left to be built. And, as we have highlighted, the IWCA admits there are lessons to be learned from the BNP’s success:
Ideology aside, the BNP has established a benchmark for how smaller parties can advance. There are lessons to be learned there and it is futile to deny it.
The IWCA also points to Labour’s historic drubbing and the hollowing out of the party’s activist base as presenting a historic opportunity for the Left, but it is without organisational or ideological presence or coherence:
to say that progressive elements are ill-prepared to take advantage is to underestimate the scale of the disarray. Putting it bluntly, the working class and its allies are utterly adrift. […] For the first time in living memory there is no identifiable working class/left leadership visible anywhere in Britain.
Furthermore, the IWCA points to the failure of Left groups to have learned the lessons from the BNP’s early successes or the IWCA’s own pilot-schemes where the group had members. We recently highlighted some of the problems of Left sects focus on party-building at the expense of the working class. The IWCA say:
Ideology aside, perhaps the one key ingredient missing from all of the failed unity efforts was the failure of any one of the groups, or prominent individuals to engage with the process in a way designed to meet the political needs of the working class as a whole, rather than those of themselves as individuals or their groups. Even when IWCA pilot schemes proved again and again that the mainstream parties were as vulnerable to an attack from a progressive working class party as they were to the BNP, this critical lesson was not taken on board. The example was not imitated. And though it is unlikely there will be any retrospective drum rolls for us getting it right, the overall terrain is nonetheless simplified to enormous advantage. Potentially, that is.
The IWCA is also self-critical (something which tends to be unusual on the Left), pointing out that both it and the BNP made their first electoral breakthroughs in 2002 but while the far-right now have dozens of councillors and two MEPs, the IWCA only has two councillors in Oxford after peaking at four in 2006. It is right to ask why the IWCA failed to achieve its aims, ambitious as they were, of meeting the challenge of the BNP in electoral terms.
There have been small pockets of success, most notably Oxford. But many local groups appear to have become inactive or drifted out of the IWCA to form separate organisations, Hackney being one of the most obvious examples. Perhaps one reason for this is the failure to achieve critical mass; with its small membership base the IWCA was always going to struggle to succeed nationally despite achieving results locally. Where a local group might depend largely on one or two activists, it is always vulnerable to folding.
We would also argue that while a reorientation towards communtiy politics was (and is) essential, this should not lead to abandoning work in the industrial sector. The IWCA in its founding manifesto was rather too dismissive of trade unionists’ potential as trade unionists, in our view.
It is encouraging that the IWCA now seems to be recognising it needs to find a new way forward with other Left activists, to learn lessons from their experience and to attempt to find a new long-term strategy to rebuild working class self-organisation:
At a political level we will renew the search for a way forward with other progressive forces. The strategic objective would be to eventually match the reach of the BNP nationally.
Systematically building an infrastructure to rival the BNP’s is not simply out of a desire to compete with the Far-Right for working class hearts and minds on the ground in the here and now. Instead we will be encouraging other independent groups and individuals of a like mind to set our sights on being in the right place, when Labour as a ‘natural party of government’ is no more.
But how to get from the present to there is the tricky bit. One factor is certain. A long-term strategy is now required. It is unlikely there will be any short cuts. So it is the long game or nothing. A daunting prospect. But on the plus side, the opportunities unfolding before our eyes do have an undeniable once-in-a-century feel about them.
As we have said before, there are many groups engaged in community politics focussed on the working class now at work throughout the country; some are explictly political projects, for example Liberty and Solidarity, while others are campaign-led, “apolitical” in a sense, but are broadly left-wing. There are opportunities there, if this fragmentation can be overcome.
There is another aspect: there seems to be an increasing recognition among the Left as a whole of the need for unity and the to create new political initiatives. As ever, the prospects are uncertain but we are witnessing a moment of possibility at the least.
This entry was posted on June 11, 2009 at 10:59 pm and is filed under Anti-fascism, New workers' party, Socialism, Strategy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.