Sunday, 23 June 2013

In to the Valley of Death.....

Right now it seems the left in this country, and indeed across the world seems to be getting its act together.Although much of what is happening is inchoate confused and sometimes contradictory there does seem to be a pattern emerging.
Capitalism is not quite in retreat,and its not exactly down on both knees but it is stumbling,and it does seem to be even more confused than the forces of the left.
I mean the left in the broadest sense,not exactly the full blooded tightly knit parties of Bolshevik revolutionaries,but rather a wider movement that in the main has seen through the weakness of social democracy and is stumbling towards a new socialist identity.

To be sure the events in Turkey,Brazil,Greece,France Denmark(maybe I've confused the events in Denmark with Borgen!) are all pointing in the same general direction.
There are stiring too in the Middle  East,although they are generally confused with religious sectarianism and in some cases gangsterism, and saddest of all there is the need to rebuild a socialist alternative in South Africa, where the ANC under Zuma has become a corrupt and self serving elite.
But generally things are moving.Of course we have to acknowledge that there are forces moving in the other direction too.That when capitalism is in real crisis it frequently turns to fascist ideology to strengthen its sinews and provide boots on the ground.Throughout Europe and the United States the evil forces of the far right are growing.In Greece,France,Russia,Scandinavia and even Germany fascist parties and -paramilitaries are starting to reappear.
In Britain many on the left thought we had seen off the BNP only to see them reappear once again,disguised as the EDL or in suits and sheepskin jackets as UKIP.

The labour Party in time of capitalist crisis is behaving with predictable timidity, but then the social democratic race has run its course.The party that carried so many of our hopes has become a hollowed out shell for careerists and opportunists Whilst there are pockets of folk who still think that there is a socialist vision lurking in the party that ditched Clause4   and was happy to encourage "the filthy rich" most have deserted to either give up or seek comfort in single issue politics or the pub.

This weekend however revealed that there is something exciting going on.The Peoples Assembly in London attracted several thousand people and inspired a great many.It must have been successful given the virtual press blackout it engendered.
How significant too that this weekend Miliband chose to inspire those comrades left in the party with the
promise to continue the coalition's austerity policies after the next election.
Hurrah for that inspirational leadership!
At the same time the huge growth in the Left Unity movement, inspired by Ken Loach's moving film 'Spirit of 45' that may be the Autumn lead to the creation of a broad based left party that will bring together more people than anything before.

If you add on top of that the growing ferment and anger in the Trade Union movement, and the recognition that the struggle against the austerity and cruelty of this government and the set-up it validates-then the signs are good.The creation by Unite of Community Branches that stretch out from industrial working members to the widest community, to folk engaged in battles against the bedroom tax,youth unemployment,deprivation, racism,discriminating in all its forms-then you have potential for a new dynamic.

So why do I sometimes feel a bit like Captain Nolan in Tony Richardson's film 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'.You remember the scene,when Cardigan led the light brigade down the wrong valley, and Nolan,realising the mistake tried to ride in front of Cardigan to tell him where the enemy was.cardigan ordered him back and before Nolan could remonstrate he was killed!
Now I don't feel that I will be shot by big Russian guns,or fall from my horse,but I have a sense that there are dangers,and they're not coming from the bloody enemy.
There are all the old sectarian moans and objections.Look at any local Facebook,for instance the Northampton Peoples Assembly and you will see old battles being resurrected again.You know what's coming when the word 'traitor' is bandied about, and worse still 'commie', in a casual and illiterate way.

there will always be differences on the left, and sometimes they are irreconcilable ,as happened in Spain during the Spanish Civil war, and as in Chile in 1973 when the debate between advance to consolidate against consolidate to advance got in the way of a united struggle against the fascists.But surely we have learnt something after decades.

this state is the enemy,and if we want a fair just and equitable society then we need to ignore the siren voices and move together-forward!  

Thursday, 6 June 2013

To lose one Councillor may be careless...

It is often assumed by anonymous bloggers and the like that I am somehow anti-Labour.Having spent 40 odd years in the party,and thirty of them on the thankless task of being an unpaid municipal social worker,I think I've paid my dues to the social democratic shining vision on the hill!

I'm still very fond of many of the good folk I've known in Northampton Labour Party and remember withy pride and affection the battles we all fought together.
And there's the operative word, 'together'.
Whatever set back and misfortune we found ourselves in during the miserable eighties and nineties we were united in a spirit of comradeship.
There is a danger for us old fogies to wallow in a political nostalgia about our heroic struggles and  unreconstructed class warriorship which you 'youngsters' know nothing about.
Of course there were bitter internal conflicts, we took Northampton South CLP to the brink of extinction because we as a party refused to allow SDP types to operate within the party.We refused them the right to stand as candidates and it took the mighty Eric Heffer MP to come up and read the NEC's edict to us-with I might add no effect whatsoever.
It was only the intervention of a General Election and the defections of a bunch of numpties that saved the party.

Defection to the right has been a frequent feature of Northampton's socialist tradition, but that was usually because we were behaving as a naughty left wing party and being cruel to those who preferred being Tories with slightly pink rosettes.
For much of the last thirty odd years we were red in tooth and claw ,we often made Militant look decidedly effete. 

But times have changed and the party that I joined somewhat reluctantly in 1972 has become a hollowed out shell not really fit for purpose.

The party in Northampton was different, there were generations with different ideas and methodology.The Party we joined was still one of Reginald Paget, a right wing aristocrat with decidely odd views.He was sympathetic to some dubious right wing regimes and was a passionate fox hunter.
However Reggie had been a lawyer at the Nurenberg  Trials and was the MP who seconded Sidney Silverman's bill to end capital punishment.
Reggie was a paradox who was a reactionary in foreign policy and a radical in domestic affairs.Possibly a classic Midlander!

His party reflected that, a mixture of old fashioned shoe union members,some pre-war 'Labour League of Youth' radicals mellowing with girth and bank balances and some devoted working class pavement sloggers who desperately wanted change and were prepared to make any compromise to reach the New Jerusalem.

As a bright eyed bushy tailed urban revolutionary it seemed unlikely that Marie and I would fit into the provincial traditionalism of the Labour Party.
But we did because of the generosity of spirit and tolerance of our noise that we found.In Castle ward our neighbour was a remarkable lady,Doll Pickering, a stalwart of the United Reform Church and a widow of an earlier Castle Ward Councillor,John Pickering.There was a whole host of older members like Doll, Bet Roberts in Semilong, the legendary Frank Tero from Semilong too and into that heady mix a handful of young turks.Graham Mason, Geoff Howes,Marie and me.

The older members gacve the youngsters encouragement,a gentle guidance and supported us even when we must have sounded like outrageous Bolsheviks storming the Winter Palace.

I note with sadness the report from some young observers to the Labour group complaining about the lack of support, the sulphurous nature of relationships within the group and party and the breakdown in trust.
This is echoed in John Palethorpes blog,what a chance to work with young people and let them experiment with ideas .
Opposition is the best place to let the young eagles fly!
What's happening, factionalism not over politics but personalities,jockeying  for position and power and worst of all making a complete bollocks of opposing the Tories in any meaningful way.
When all you have is careerism and shallow opportunism with no ideological base other than 'campaigns' that revolve around knocking on doors and 'listening' then it's hardly surprising that you attract the feeble minded and politically shallow.
Can you be surprised that the battles are all personal and at the first sign of trouble the toys tumble out of the pram and they 'defect',to Tories or worse-UKIP!
Although in truth I see little difference between the Official wing of right wing politics and the Provisional wing.

I now doubt if the Northampton Labour Party can be saved for anything remotely like socialism so I say clearly to those who still believe a socialist alternative,even here in Northampton is possible, the the Left Unity project,initiated by Ken Loach and his moving film 'Spirit of 45' may be the solution.
'Those who don't learn by their mistakes are doomed to repeat them."