Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dog days of the British left

Poor old Dave Osler is pretty depressed about the state of the left ; both the extra-Parliamentary far-left and the Labour Party ("the end result is that Bameronism gets away with representing itself as all there is. Welcome to British politics without a functioning left").

Dave is a very thoughtful and serious guy. I, personally, share some of his misgivings about the state of the British left. In particular, I share his distaste for the collapse of the "left" into communalism (I should stress, at this point, that all views expressed in this piece are mine and not Osler's) and its retreat from class politics.

Since the defeat of the miners' strike in 1985, the mainstream British left has tended to downplay the class struggle. That is, to some extent, excusable: the class struggle itself has been at a low ebb for many years. But now, with the arrival of super-exploited migrant workers, there is no excuse for leftists to collaspse into communalism: the class struggle is back on the agenda in a big way. Organisations like "Respect" that foster communalism, should simply be denounced as the reactionary obstacles that they are. A big fight is needed to open up the existing organisations of the British working class (trade unions and Labour Party) to the new arrivals.

And, Dave, there are some signs of hope: the McDonnell campaign (the sillier claims of some of its young organisers notwithstanding) has gained real support in some unions; 'Blairism' /'Brownism' is now discredited in most unions and amongst many rank-and-file Labour Party members. And there are small, but hopeful signs of the class struggle re-emerging in places like Tesco and Heathrow airport (Gate Gourmet was not a "sell-out"): we must build upon these - admittedly limited - actions, and support the T&G's Organising Unit's campaign to recruit and organise migrant workers.

I long ago broke with James P. Cannon on matters of theory. But he was a damn good organiser, with a real "feel" for the class struggle: he knew what it was like to be a working class socialist in difficult times: he described them as "The dog days of the left opposition".


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