A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Found: a thinking hard leftist

Three posts down you can read the indignant chunterings of Duncan and Bob Piper as they protest that the 1983 General Election defeat had nothing to do with the policies we fought it on or the malign influence of the Hard Left. Nope, on planet zog where the Hard Left live it was all Healey and Callaghan's fault. That and the workers were suffering from false conciousness and were so interested in the class treachery of owning their own council houses and some BT shares that they failed to see what a wonderful country it would have been if we had been able to leave the Common Market and implement the Alternative Economic Strategy.

However, I have now started believing in miracles having discovered that living only 3 streets to the west of me is someone from the Hard Left who has actually engaged their brain cells and moved on from the political paradigm of the early '80s.

Dave Osler (http://davespartblog.blogspot.com/) is coming from a very, very different place to me politically but at least he shows some attempt to analyse where the world is now and how his brand of politics should respond to it. He says:

"To add to the tragedy, much of the marginalisation is self-inflicted. I cannot think of a single section of the left that has truly come to terms with the last two decades, and made sense of the ways in which the world has been dramatically remade.

The challenges are many, from the collapse of communism, globalisation and environmental crisis to the rise of political Islam, European integration and the emergence of China as a world power in the making, All that was solid did indeed melt into air. But somehow we just never saw history’s sucker punch landing on our collective jaw bone.Where are the thought out responses?

Where is the recognition of the need for cross-border unions and cross-border political parties? Where is the debate on - for instance - whether co-ordinated action by European social democratic parties could maintain manufacturing employment without lapsing into reactionary protectionism?

Where is the serious attempt to draw up policies capable of combating climate change, the most important political issue of all? You can’t deal with a problem of that magnitude simply by sticking an additional bullet point onto the Transitional Programme.

Inertia at the level of political theory condemns us in advance to irrelevance. The left remains content to do what it has always done. That means it’s going to get what it always gets.

Consider the John McDonnell decision to run for the leadership of the Labour Party. Leadership bids are a time-honoured Labour left tactic for enthusing its base, of course. But this time round, it amounts to little more than going through the motions.

There isn’t a Labour left to enthuse. As a result, there is little buzz, no sense of excitement, about the proceedings. The meetings have been small, and largely attended by people old enough to remember the Benn for deputy race that represents the campaign‘s prototype.

Elsewhere, Trotskyist organisations have learned to run electoral fronts with a little more pizzazz than they did in the seventies. But Respect is clearly going nowhere fast. As one of Respect’s national committee members revealed recently, membership has fallen from around 5,000 at the time of the euroelections in 2004 to 3,040 last year and 2,160 this year.

The Scottish Socialist Party has imploded spectacularly. One side or the other in Sheridan dispute has committed perjury and some comrades may well be looking at an extended stay in Barlinnie.

Unions are increasingly compelled to merge together for warmth, and content themselves with providing legal and financial services to members, with a sideline as unpaid health and safety inspectors.With a few partial exceptions, they do not make even a pretence of trying to exert political influence. The main leaders are convinced that Brown enforcing a public sector pay freeze from inside Number Ten is as good as it gets."


Anonymous Duncan said...

It seems a trifle rich to post blog entries about the past - Stalinist-esque victor's versions of the past at that - and then, when people challenge that version of the past, accuse them of 'chuntering' about things long gone. I regularly engage with people about contemporary issues - you can like or dislike what I have to say, but I've plenty to say. But if you're going to pretend that it was left-wing Labour policies that led to Tory dominance in the 1980s then I'm going to challenge that. Doing so does not mean I have no ideas about the present or the future (I assume you having brought the '83 election up in the first place doesn't mean that you have nothing to offer analysis of the following 23 years).

What you present from Dave 'Spart' is a remarkably pessimistic piece, and obviously pessimistic pieces from the left will appeal to people on the right.

There is a hell of a lot of new thinking going on the left, but new thinking doesn't have to equal surrender to Thatcherism. There are socialist solutions to the problems of the modern world, and I'm more than happy to debate them with you, Luke.

2:42 pm, October 09, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Duncan I believe "it was left-wing Labour policies that led to Tory dominance in the 1980s".
Simple as that.

2:55 pm, October 09, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

Fair enough. I disagree. I've given reasons for my disagreement which I think amount to rather more than indignant chuntering. Obviously your view is different - I wouldn't expect it to be otherwise. Okay, my use of the phrase 'if you're going to pretend' was a touch uncomradely, but then so was your implication that my analysis didn't invovle any 'thinking'!! Sorry if I seem over-defensive, but I tend to be on historical matters: my academic specialism as a published labour historian rather demands that - while I encourage people to challenge my views on labour's past as much as possible - it would be better for me to hold my peace than to allow my views to be dismissed as 'indignant chunterings': it does little for my reputation, even for them to be dismissed by you!!

3:15 pm, October 09, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I think we are quits having both gratuitously insulted each other! I didn't mean to attack your knowledge of this, just your interpretation.

I don't really think of the '80s as a historical period - too raw and recent. I think of it more as just a really miserable decade for my family and a lot of other people in Britain. Remembering how ghastly it was having Thatcher as PM is what keeps me going on cold wet canvassing days.

3:48 pm, October 09, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

Well there we have something in common, Luke. It's what keeps me going at such times too.

3:50 pm, October 09, 2006

Blogger Bob Piper said...

I believe "it was left-wing Labour policies that led to Tory dominance in the 1980s".

Believe what you like. You have no evidence to support that belief other than the rhetoric of the Labour right who have dominated the Party for 50 years, and yet blame the left for the failures. Having no evidence doesn't, therefore, entitle you to insult people who have a different point of view, but for every sneering member of Militant there were always half a dozen know it all bully-boys of the Labour right... and you are no different.

3:59 pm, October 09, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Bob the evidence is in the election results in general elections, in the findings of a zillion opinion polls, in what people say on the doorstep and in common sense logic - it will always be more popular to be positioned in the centre of the political spectrum than at the extremes.

I can accept that you may disagree with some moderate policies on principle.

I can accept that some of Blair's specific decisions have been wrong. There are even some I disagree with.

But the suggestion that Labour's popularity is not linked to broadly how extreme or moderate it is as a party is just wishful thinking. The same goes for the Tories which is why Cameron is rapidly repositioning them.

If people talk tripe I reserve the right to tell them I think they are talking tripe (in as comradely a way as I can).

I respect that your views are sincerely held but it doesn't stop them, in this case, being total, utter (and dangerous) nonsense. I am sure you are convinced enough that you are right not to be "bullied" by me.

4:23 pm, October 09, 2006

Blogger Bob Piper said...

Pity we haven't been able to identify the thinking hard rightist, just the usual careerist ones. Luke, you crack me up, you haven't even lost yet and you're preparing to blame the left for your defeat. Plus c'est la meme chose, plus ça change.

11:24 pm, October 09, 2006


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