Left Luggage

The socialist strategy site

Left Luggage: More time for politics

Posted by Left Luggage on September 11, 2009

Realising it has been comfortably over a month since our last post, we need to issue our apologies to any readers who have been watching Left Luggage for updates during this period; we understand how frustrating it can be to find – without any explanation – seemingly dead or dormant sites where once you could expect regular content.

We made a decision at the beginning of August to cease the publication of new material and intended to put together a summary of the political situation as it stands, as well as the opportunities and constraints ahead. This hasn’t happened for a number of reasons, so please accept this explanation by way of a substitute.

The small group of us who contributed to Left Luggage got together earlier this summer to assess what we had achieved in the four months the site had been running, and where to go in future. We felt we had produced some valuable, well-written and common-sense content and had built a (very) small niche for ourselves within the Left “blogosphere”, had accumulated a small following of regular readers and comment-posters, and had established some tentative links with activists involved in other blogs and groups. We also had articles published elsewhere on sites like ZNet and Dissident Voice that allowed us to reach a wider audience.

However, we recognised some limitations to the project that called into question whether its continuation was worthwhile. These were primarily:

1) The amount of time and energy needed for a small number of people to maintain a regular supply of high-quality content (many of our pieces have been lengthy compared to other blogs). Clearly we have limited time outside of work and we therefore felt that in the long term this could compromise the local political initiatives the group is involved with individually, simply because of the time we were tending to devote to Left Luggage. Obviously this would contradict the key strategic direction we have been advocating. In addition, one of the two editors of the site is planning to launch a new project with young people in London this autumn, which will even further squeeze the time available to update Left Lugagge.

2) While we had established a regular readership of about 100 unique users per day, we seemed to have plateaued despite some peaks when we had content posted on other website or articles of especial interest to a wider readership. Most of the people posting on the website seemed to be (largely) receptive to what we have been argued; they were generally broadly in accord with our analysis of the Left, its limitations and key elements of a future strategy. Therefore, if we were mainly reaching the same people using similar same arguments, with which they generally agreed, it raised the question as to how much use Left Luggage could be in promoting this perspective.

3) Additionally, we felt at the risk of repeating ourselves. In the 75 articles we have published since March, we have covered a lot of ground and an enormous variety of issues. But fundamentally we are addressing ourselves to the same cluster of problems and proposing a modest set of strategic solutions. From the beginning we set ourselves the task of covering a specific central issue: why is the Left so weak and out of touch with the vast majority of working class people. We never sought to cover every international or even national issue, and do not propose to offer a detailed political theory, just some simple strategic points.

That we had a limited reception on the Left as a whole is not surprising for a small blog updated only a few times a week. What we also noticed was that there are really a very limited number of avenues for open, non-partisan discussion on the Left. When you consider specifically strategic issues, the number shrinks even further. There is virtually nowhere where the Left engages in self-critical strategic discussion. That this is the case says volumes about where the Left is and why for the short-term it will remain stranded in a quagmire of irrelevance.

But the tasks for the Left remain as ever: speaking to the concerns of working class people; proving itself to be the best fighters for the immediate interests of that class; engaging in long-term political work to rebuild working class self-organisation and political culture. Simple as these tasks may be, we unfortunately see no advancement among the Left as a whole towards the adoption of such an approach. As such, there can surely be little hope that the British Left is going to step out of the wings and into centre-stage.

For readers who have come to this blog late, we would like to point out some articles that we believe have particular value: on the Left’s general malaise; our approach to crime and anti-social behaviour; the fetishising of international movements; on young people under neo-liberalism; on the imoportance of culture in class analysis, and another article on the same topic; and on anti-fascism.

For regular readers of Left Luggage, all that remains is to thank you wholeheartedly for taking an interest in the blog and for contributing to discussions here, which have been very productive and useful. Thank you once again.

8 Responses to “Left Luggage: More time for politics”

  1. modernityblog said

    Shame, I thought much of your work had a good purpose and should be more widely read.

  2. Weston Bay said

    I echo what Modernity says. I only came across you recently but you came up with well written, intelligent pieces here and deserve a better hearing. Shame on the left and shame on me!
    It’s going to be a cold, cold winter out there.

  3. Duncan said

    Can’t say I’m not disappointed to hear this, a lot of what was said here deserves repeating!

  4. Alex Doherty said

    I agree, it’s a great shame – especially in the absence of anything similar in the UK. Your reasons for discontinuing are completely understandable – I guess it shows the sad state of the left that people are spread so thin that a really valuable project like this site has to go by the way-side.

  5. Salman said

    Left Luggage was a unique site and an ambitious project. It’s a shame you’re winding it up, but I fear your analysis of the Left’s quamire at the moment is correct. Let’s hope it is only short-term, and the gems you’ve produced here will be taken on board come the glorious day.

    Hasta la victoria siempre!

  6. Bob said

    I was saddened to read this. I completely understand your reasoning. Trying to reach an on-line audience can be time-consuming, and “real” politics is obviously more important. For myself, family and work life and other things mean that I don’t do anywhere near enough “real” stuff, while my addictive personality means I probably do too much blogging…

    Having said that, I hope that you leave the door open to occassionally posting things. And also please feel free to let me know if you have anything I can publicise for you (for what it’s worth – after nearly 5 years of blogging my readership is a little more than yours was).

    I say this because I think that the contribution to the online debate which you made (I’d prefer to be able to say: have been making) is important, and I wish more on the left paid attention, rather than getting embroiled in the silly flame wars that take up the comment boxes of so many of the better read left sites. As the far right grows, and as the left continues its freefall, the messages that I took from you – the importance of micro-local grassroots activity, of unity from below rather than above, of a renewal of the core class politics orientation of the left – seem more crucial than ever.

  7. Bob said

    I don’t know if anyone’s still moderating comments here, but I just rather belatedly read a very interesting and well written blog post that deals with some of the same issues as this site and will be of interest to anyone who shares the sort of orientation I mentioned in my comment above:
    also here: http://meanwhileatthebar.org/blog/?p=26

  8. Will said

    Just started reading over this blog, very interesting. Shame to see its readership peak at 100

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