Posts Tagged ‘The Future of the Left’
The Last of the True Believers: Comrades of the World Unite!
Scottish Review, February 17th 2016
The age of insecurity has turned out to be an age of rage and anger. Yet, so far, a near-decade of economic collapse, turmoil and corporate deception hasn’t led to a widespread revival in the fortunes of the left’s ideas and popularity.
Instead, the picture is a very mixed, patchy one. There has been a rise in populism, xenophobia and identity politics: Trump and the US Republicans, UKIP and the French Front National, and the much more sinister hard-right examples in Poland and Hungary. There has been the emergence of a revivalist left in places (Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn) and a new populist one (Syriza, Podemos). But nowhere, apart from Greece – that hasn’t worked out too well – has a popular left entered government challenging the economic and geo-political straightjacket.
There is a widespread dismay with political establishments and mainstream politics here and across the West. This has contributed to a new interest in ideas, radical politics, books and accounts of previous campaigns and struggles. Bookshops such as News from Nowhere in Liverpool or Bookmarks in London report huge increases in sales of left-wing books and publications, classic and new.
It is this backdrop which makes David Aaronovitch’s ‘Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists’ more than an esoteric, idiosyncratic read, but one which has some relevance in the midst of the emergence of Corbynmania. ‘My Father and Mother were Communists’ memories are obviously a declining heritage industry but Alexi Sayle recently contributed to this oeuvre with a typically more light-hearted read. He affectionately reviewed Aaronovitch’s book and made common cause (both having one Jewish and one non-Jewish Communist parent) about the surreal nature of the party parallel universe (the party dentists, plumbers and accountants, often irrespective of their skill). Read the rest of this entry »
Can Radical Scotland find its Voice? And if so could it be RISE?
Sunday Mail, August 30th 2015
This weekend a new force in the Scottish political scene emerged – RISE – standing for Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism.
What do we need a new political force for, you may ask? We already have a crowded political landscape. And why do we need another pro-independence one? At last count there were already four: SNP, Scottish Greens, Scottish Socialists and Solidarity.
RISE, in case anyone thinks otherwise, has no connection to George Galloway (he is another kind of Respect) and certainly has none with former MSP Tommy Sheridan, who now has his own one-man show with Solidarity.
RISE emerged from the impetus of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) that had a significant impact in the independence referendum – and is an alliance of the Scottish Left Project with the non-Sheridan remains of the Scottish Socialist Party. Read the rest of this entry »
Let Us face the Future: Labour, Jeremy Corbyn and the Power of the Past
Open Democracy, August 21st 2015
This is the most exciting and cataclysmic Labour leadership contest in a generation.
The nearest comparison must be the Benn insurgency for the Deputy Leadership of the party in 1981, where he narrowly lost to Denis Healey. This marked the peak of the left’s influence in Labour – until now.
What is occurring in the Labour contest, with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the diminishing of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, is little more than the passing of a political generation, and the main reference points and ways in which the party has understood itself and done its politics.
The Blairite project is over, with the Blairites now reduced to a tiny rump and a few desperate, intemperate followers (Progress, John McTernan). Labour’s traditional right has been hollowed, out with the trade union leadership and activist base who once gave the party such ballast (and brought it back from the Bennite induced abyss in 1981-82) now firmly on the left.
To illustrate the scale of change in Labour, the previous centre of gravity of the party in the Kinnock years, and even in the early years of New Labour (‘the soft left’) has all but disappeared. Its leading proponents have been tarnished by office (John Prescott), died (Robin Cook), or gone to foreign shores (Bryan Gould) and have not been replaced by a younger group. Read the rest of this entry »
The Summer of the Living Undead: A Labour Party for What?
Open Democracy, July 15th 2015
The Labour leadership contest is noteworthy for a number of factors, none positive or helpful for the party.
Labour have just suffered their second consecutive defeat. They finished 113 seats behind the Tories in England. It has now become a cliché to say they face an existential crisis; as Matthew Norman pointed out in ‘The Independent’ this week, it is in fact a ‘post-existential crisis’ (1). The party is in collective denial, retreating into its comfort zones, and almost numb at the position it finds itself in.
Previously when Labour lost (and it has lost many times), the party did attempt to wake up and regroup. Post-1979 the party in opposition had five leadership contests. Excluding the Benn kamikaze run in 1988, when he won a mere 11% of the vote, the other contests – 1980, 1983, 1992 and 1994 – all provided rich evidence of a party with debate, energy and ideas. No longer.
This is a defining moment about whether Labour has a future, what it is for, as well as for centre-left British (and in particular English) politics. Here are ten observations about the state of Labour and the current contest: Read the rest of this entry »
Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes?
Scottish Left Project, December 5th 2014
It is a frenetic, dynamic time to be living in Scotland – politically, culturally and in many other aspects of public life.
Nearly three months since the momentous indyref Scotland is still gripped by a sense of movement, possibilities and new openings – up to and beyond the 2015 and 2016 elections.
Yet at the same time in parts of the independence movement there are unrealistic expectations of political change, of belief that the union is finished, and that Scotland can embark on its destiny in the next couple of years.
Any radical politics has to have a sense of what is possible, to push it as far as it can, to understand timescales and how these dovetail with strategy. And critically it has to understand the political culture beyond its own boundaries – in the Scotland which voted No.
The independence referendum was a historic moment, an epic time in Scotland’s political evolution, and an awakening of the democratic impulse. Yet, it produced a comfortable victory for No and a defeat for Yes. For all the commentary that Yes won the campaign and that the idea of independence has been normalised, defeat has an upside: an opportunity and release which shouldn’t just be squandered. Read the rest of this entry »