Archive for the ‘Labour Government’ Category
Excellent article on the International Socialist Network by Kieran Crowe,
I think we need to talk about how we are going to deal with the People’s Assembly.
The piece continues,
I have been trying to locate some good data on the effectiveness of anti-cuts campaigns, and must confess I’ve drawn a bit of a blank. There does not seem to be brilliant data out there to say where cuts have have been successfully blocked. Suffice to say, the movements have not been without successes – though they have not been across the board anywhere, it has been far from impossible to organise against cuts.
The role of the organised left in the anti-cuts movement has, to say the least, been inconsistent and marked at times with gross sectarianism. As mentioned before, the Labour left has taken some time to find any footing at all with opposition to austerity, due to the key role of New Labour and Labour councillors, but they seem to have regained the initiative to a large extent with opposition to the bedroom tax. The smaller centre-left parties have been similarly contradictory: Green and Nationalist councils have pushed cuts through, while their activists in other areas have criticised Labour for exactly the same.
The role of the far left has not been particularly more glorious. The 2008 crisis prompted by the collapse of American hedge funds led us to a big push on anticapitalist rhetoric, but most of the tactical and strategic initiatives we produced were objective failures. Numerous campaigns and front groups were founded, usually as more or less exclusive tools of the founding organisation and with grand goals that they were objectively unable to pull off. The activists (often full-timers) pushing them were highly enthusiastic though, and often so adamant that ‘their united front’ was the one that would deliver victory that they would happily engage in Popular Front of Judea arguments with their counterparts for other groups pushing very similar looking campaigns.
Need we rehearse the disputes around the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) and the so-called Unite the Resistance? Not to mention TUSC?
One development we are going to have to discuss is the People’s Assembly Against Austerity (PA). The PA is, in some ways, not really new as a concept – it is an outgrowth of the ‘Coalition of Resistance’ campaign that the was launched when several left groups were founding similar initiatives and that has received significant backing from the leaderships of several trade unions, notably the centre-left leadership of the mass Unite union under Len McCluskey.
The PA has, to say the very least, managed to stand out by being on a considerably larger scale than previous conferences. With a venue for over 2,000 booked, there is already the possibility of spill-over space being hired. This would make the PA four to five times larger than its nearest rival and probably one of the biggest activist conferences for a generation in Britain. The publicity it has generated has similarly been far greater than previous events: it has been plugged in the Guardian and denounced in the Spectator, which is a rare breakthrough into the mainstream, recalling a little the publicity that Stop the War got at its height.
My immediate reaction was to get on board.
There is, inevitably, a layer of the left that will attack the PA this way and make a point of principle out of it: witness the anarcho-miserablist Ian Bone of Class War, a man who famously advised people to stay away from anti-war demos in 2003, who has pledged to stand outside the PA venue, telling attendees how very wrong they are. If we take our activism seriously, we must find a mid-position between nodding along to McCluskey and abstaining on the sidelines with people like Bone who just think they’re smarter than everyone else.
Which will be fun, if nothing else.
My guess is the right approach to the PA would be to intervene through and as part of delegations to it from genuine campaigning groups. Most IS Network members ought to find this easy: we have, most of us, been part of anti-cuts groups at some stage, or can easily join one. Going into an anti-austerity body with the express purpose of getting it to participate in the PA would, in fact, be a useful thing to do and might help reinvigorate groups that have stalled.
This is in tune with what many of us feel.
Something I feel to be worth throwing into the debate is the role of trade union councils – in Barnet the trades council was central to the founding of the anti-cuts group and manages to remain in alliance with it even as it operates with its own autonomy. Anti-cuts groups elsewhere that have become moribund and trades councils that have been conservative for decades could potentially be revitalised in local areas if they get encouragement and support from similar groups that are doing better, giving us a far wider pool of activity to operate.
As a Trades Council activist I could not agree more.
There is also likely to be an interesting debate about regional People’s Assemblies later in the year – which have the potential to be very large and attract further layers of activists. Regional PAs would be quite different from a national one – indeed if you want a version of the event that is less ‘top table’, this may be what you would end up producing. It is still not counterposed to the national event.
One thing I do not believe can be argued is that that the event can be simply abstained from, though if other people do have other ideas for fighting austerity, we should hear about those too.
This analysis is so spot on that I nothing more to add.
Obviously The International Socialist Network is going places.
Sisters, Brothers, there’s a Place for You in the People’s Assembly!
The People’s Assembly was launched this week.
In a powerful article in the Independent Owen Jones argued,
How the People’s Assembly can challenge our suffocating political consensus – and why it’s vital that we do
The cartel of modern politics is only ever disrupted from the right. Now, with the help of like-minded others, I will be touring the country to set up a left-wing movement.
Comrade Jones included the following points,
Inevitably, such an initiative will have to plough through a fair amount of cynicism from both left and right. Put “left” into a sentence including “piss-up” and “brewery”, and few would disagree.
But this isn’t going to fall into the trap of being a recruitment exercise for some obscure sect with newspapers to flog.
It’s being driven by a formidable coalition of unions such as Unite, Unison and PCS, representing millions of workers in both the private and public sector; Labour activists and the Green Party; campaigners for disabled people, tax justice, women, BME people; and people frankly who are just stranded and without a political home.
It’s not the 867th attempt to set up yet another doomed left-wing party, but a movement that will nonetheless fill a chasm in British politics.
The evidence is there:
Around the country, including Suffolk and Ipswich, local meetings will be held in the near future to build support for this initiative.
There will be not just the Assembly but marches and protests.
As somebody involved in the local Trades Council and who has been to recent meetings at the London TUC where this has been raised (the latest a couple of weeks ago) I can truly say that it has support from all shades of the real labour movement and the left.
But this is more, it is a People’s Assembly, for us lot to get our voices heard against the Liberal-Tory Coalition that is ruling through fear and hate.
A new cross-party group will be set up by senior Labour figures tomorrow in an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.
Labour for Democracy will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens. But it will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.
Although the launch was planned before last week’s Leveson report on press regulation, it is timely because Ed Miliband and Mr Clegg have backed the inquiry’s call for a new system
For good measure the Greens are added to the ‘progressive’ list.
The background is Labour for Democracy’s analysis of how ‘pluralism’ can further ’progressive goals’.
Support for progressive values and policies is not restricted to a single political party, as shown by our new analysis of polling data. A real desire to see progressive change means working with supporters of other political parties.’
‘Pluralism is simply a commitment to work with others, including members and supporters of other political parties if that increases our chances of achieving progressive change. While Labour values are most strongly supported by Labour voters, many supporters of other parties also share some of our values. No party today speaks exclusively for progressive opinion; none will do so in the fut
“All Labour members will work hard for every Labour vote. But whether we win the outright majority we seek, or end up with a hung Parliament, the change Britain needs will require the support of all who share our key values. Existing structures encourage tribalism, but Labour’s history has often been of working with others for progressive goals – in trades unions, community organisations, solidarity movements and defending the environment. Some of the changes we are proudest to claim – the NHS, the welfare state and devolution – would not have happened without the support of people outside the Labour movement. At a time when old allegiances to political parties are breaking down, yet organisations like 38 degrees are mobilising active and effective support, we need that approach more than ever.’
The launch of Labour for Democracy on 4 December is an attempt to break down tribal sectarianism and promote a pluralist culture within the Labour movement. The focus is not on coalitions or cross-party deals, but on finding ways of delivering what progressive voters want. We’ve already shown that, in the main, past Lib Dem voters hold similar values to Labour’s, and quite different to most Tory voters. It’s also clear that, despite the failures of the coalition, the public still generally want politicians to work together when they can, rather than exaggerate their differences.
The launch of this initiative has met instant hostile reaction.
Labour First have condemned the creation of the new “Labour for Democracy” group within the party, which according to the Independent will “will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens” and “will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.”
The Independent reports that the Group is “an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.”
Speaking to LabourList this morning, Secretary of Labour First, Luke Akehurst, said:
“The creation of this misnamed group, “Labour for Democracy” is a slap in the face for grassroots campaigners who are working flat out to beat all our political opponents, Greens and Lib Dems as well as Tories, UKIP and BNP, as we did comprehensively in the recent by-elections.
It is completely premature and defeatist to start flirting with the Lib Dems when all the opinion polls and by-elections show we have a realistic chance of a majority Labour government.
We need to continue to squeeze the Lib Dem and Green votes in order both to take seats off them and seats off the Tories. Any move which rehabilitates the Lib Dems and lets them off the hook for having put the Tories in power actually increases the chances of another hung parliament. Their behaviour in 2010 indicates their preferred coalition partner is the Tories.
We had naive talk about pluralism in 2010. The people making those noises should have learned their lesson. The Lib Dems are not a progressive party and the Greens are an anti-working class and anti-economic growth party. We should be seeking to defeat them both intellectually and at the ballot box, not pandering to them.”
There is little to add, immediately to this.
Except apart from the fact that everybody on the left and most of the Labour Party in the UK (including Ipswich) loathes the Liberal Democrats, and that ‘progressive’ is too windy to mean much, there is this:
The Labour for Democracy initiative will strongly remind many people of Charter 88 and the (now wound up) Democratic Left (DL) in the early 1990s. These groups advocated tactical voting, support for ‘anti-Conservative’ candiodates, right up to the 2011 election. They were open to Liberal Democrats and Greens who supported ‘proressice values’ above all on Constitutional issues.
Are Labour for Democracy linked to this tradition?
There is, as yet, no direct evidence.
The old Charter 88 and Democratic Left strategy for a ‘progressive alliance’ is not dead.
On the Web site produced by the remnants of Charter 88 and the Democratic Left (Charter 88 transformed itself , through its merger with the New Politics Network (what remained of the Democratic Left) into Unlock Democracy, we find this today:
“Beyond the Progressive Alliance
Charter 88 was very much a political response to Thatcherism and its basic strategy was to bring together the two parties of the centre and centre left around a programme of democratic and constitutional reform. Probably the high point of this strategy was the Cook-Maclennan talks prior to the 97 General Election between the Lib Dem’s and Labour which lead to joint programme of constitutional reform that included devolution, freedom of information and the HRA.
Though this strategy delivered much it was always a limited one. The reality was then and is now that if democratic change is going to happen it needs to appeal beyond a sterile left right divide. Democratic reform is not a left right issue but one that divides people along a libertarian authoritarian axis and there are people on the left and the right who recognise that our society needs more democracy not less.”
Nothing, it seems, feeds hope like failure.
The challenge over the next few years is not to recreate the alliance between people on the centre left of politics that was at the heart of Charter’s strategy, but to build new alliances that include all those who want to transform politics. Many of these alliances will be issue specific and like the one we created to deliver the Sustainable
What Money Can’t Buy. Michael Sandel. The Moral Limits of Markets. Allen Lane. 2012.
Conservative MP, Ben Gummer (Ipswich), believes that owning a business should give you an extra vote in municipal elections. Local councillors too often “cannot read a balance sheet”. Towns and cities need to be run by those who can. Following the City of London there should be special electoral privileges given to companies and their owners. This would help councils face economic reality.
It’s hard not to be reminded of this when reading Michael Sandel’s new book. The philosopher notes that “Today, almost everything is up for sale”. In Santa Ana California you can by a “prison cell upgrade” to make your time in goal more comfortable. You can get into a top university by paying, passing ahead of those with better grades.
“Jumping the queue” with cash, for everything from airport immigration control, theatre tickets to medical care, is spreading like wildfire across the USA. These, and other aspects of “marketisation”, from corporations benefiting from ‘insuring’ their employees lives, to rampant advertising and ‘sponsorship’, are part of a world where “everything is up for sale”.
Sandel is less sure-footed about the UK. Here people have, despite the NHS, been able to pay to jump the queue for medical needs; public schools offer a way to buy an education that guarantees far superior access to Universities.
But there are signs that the process is not so different.
Conservative councils, like Barnet, propose offering better services and quicker access to those who can fork out cash. Companies and others have been able to purchase influence over Academy Schools. Now ‘free schools’ are a way for those with the money to get state support for their educational projects, including private firms and religious groups. Payment extends to lesser affairs. To urinate in a Council (though privately run) lavatory in Westminster costs 50 pence, leaving the really poor to piss in the streets.
Markets and Queues.
“Markets and queues – paying and waiting – are two different ways of allocating things…” Sandel writes. There is an “ethic of the queue” It is, ‘First come, first served’. It “ignores privilege, power and “deep pockets”. There is a deep resentment against anybody who refuses to wait her or his turn. It is, one might say, justice as fairness. Read the rest of this entry »