Left Luggage

The socialist strategy site

Archive for the ‘Left Luggage’ Category

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.

Posted in Left Luggage | 8 Comments »

What Left?

Posted by Left Luggage on June 7, 2009

I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine recently, in which he questioned Left Luggage’s strategy. He asked why we direct our arguments towards the section of the Left populated by groups whose names contain the word “Socialist…” or “Workers’…”, rather than towards much larger groups involved in global justice, human rights or environmental campaigns. He acknowledged that the latter groups were not explicitly socialist (or often even left wing) in orientation, but argued that they were preferable to the groups we currently address in a number of ways.

Firstly, he argued that these groups had far more members and supporters than the openly socialist groups, even if most of those members were middle class. This, he said, gave the “soft Left” a greater reach than the “hard Left”, and a greater potential for influence.

The second argument was that the soft Left was far more internally democratic than the hard Left, and less attached to the kinds of symbols, slogans and dogma that might put ordinary people off. These two advantages make the soft Left better able to launch creative campaigns that capture the attention of the public, he claimed.

My friend felt that the involvement of the soft Left in environmental and global justice campaigns was proof of their progressive values, and suggested that it might be a strategic error to ignore such a numerically significant and (potentially) influential demographic.
-Keep reading>

Posted in Class, Environmentalism, Left Luggage, Socialism, Working class | 4 Comments »

Gaining a hearing

Posted by Left Luggage on April 16, 2009

While our focus is on strategic issues facing the British Left, we’re pleased that our analysis has been attracting interest from elsewhere. Two major left-wing American websites recently featured our work, sparking positive feedback from readers.

Our article examining whether the Left should tackle crime was used on the Dissident Voice website, while our analysis of the different recruitment strategies used by trade unions and left-wing political groups, and their wildly differing effectiveness, was reused on the popular Znet site.

We’re noticing there are many people discussing the way forward for the Left right now, and we’re glad to be able to contribute to this debate.

Posted in Left Luggage, News | Leave a Comment »

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, -Keep reading>

Posted in Left Luggage | 2 Comments »