Sunday 9 January 2011

Left unity: is it desirable and possible?

A comment on my Netroots UK post yesterday posed an important criticism of such initiatives:

the idea that the left should work together is to my mind at least, truly absurd, that would be like asking cameron to team up with nick griffin (well, perhaps until we have PR anyway). “ (from hilly)

For me, the idea is not absurd but the question is whether, what and how it is achievable. Greater minds have, of course, been preoccupied with this question over the previous century and at a far more sophisticated level than I can offer (and it has sustained many a degree course seminar!). But let me try.

The Tory-led coalition government is committed to deep cuts, ideologically targeted at undermining public services and the welfare state. Those against this, which we might call ‘the left’, can at least unite, or let’s say organise at least, in opposition to this. It was done in 2003 for opposition to the then-proposed Iraq war - though that didn't have the achieved result that time, 2m people can at least say that they spoke forcefully and in unity (however strange some of the temporary bedfellows).

The left of course covers a whole host of groups and aims. I appreciate there will be elements of the ‘People’s Judean Front’ here, and much depends on what is meant by ‘unite’ - that’s still to be explored.

As far as yesterday’s event goes, I think it was an excellent initiative. Whilst ‘online activitism’ will not include or suit everyone, the event was at least useful for rallying and organising existing supporters (eg. here’s one presentation from yesterday, by Luke Bozier, about local online organising). And of course, opposition to government policies cannot exist online alone but they are useful for including people do not physically attend meetings and demonstrations.

Personally I’m with the approach that recognises that ‘the left’ needs to exist in the real world, rather than idealised one. The Labour Party itself was planning significant cuts in the next parliament - we cannot oppose all cuts. But I’m with those who believe that public services and the welfare state should be preferenced (yes, having the cut the fat and bad practices which do exist in these areas - I’ve seen them - I work in a public sector-related area!) over ‘fat cat’ bonuses and tax avoidance by big business.

At a minimum, all the various ‘anti-cuts’ actions, meetings, demos etc. could be more co-ordinated. For some, this smacks of corporatism and the ‘trimming the grassroots lawn’ (as Penny Red said in her tweet) but for others it means that in this media-PR controlled world, and one where Middle-England’s horses have not to be frightened (if we are to take some of them with us), the anti-cuts message is more likely to be understood. Co-ordination also means that groups wanting serious dialogue and engagement will lead rather than those who prefer anarchy.  (Sorry to have gone on when a shorter reply might have done!)


hilly said...

well, i was being facetious, and cameron has unified with the far-right (in europe), so there's probably no reason the resistance couldn't work together to alleviate suffering.

...but who's going to lead?

ed miliband, the obvious choice as chief organiser of the resistance probably doesn't want to be associated with anything that might embarrass him later (look at all those false promises cameron wheeled out only days before the election that are now returning to bite him on the bum - the ema pledge being the most deadly example).

in greenwich the fightback is being led by greenwich save our services, they have a facebook group, and a blog, and they campaign at woolwich town hall.

Raven said...

Thanks hilly (we've DM'd since this.) It's certainly going to be an interesting year...

I was pleased (and surprised!)to see my NetrootsUK post was linked to by the Fabian Next Left blog, which itself gives, of course, an excellent roundup of that event.

The Fabians have of course been busy with their own annual conference today, where Ed M has been speaking - and not too badly by the accounts I've read...