by William Bowles
Writer, Dandelion Salad
May 25, 2018
I need to continue my previous essay, it remains woefully incomplete. I kinda hinted at it in the last para but never completed the thought.
Then I got an email from a comrade and friend in NYC after I’d published it:
“Thanks, but the question left unanswered is: does the road to “regroupment” or whatever you want to call run through supporting Corbyn or opposing Corbyn and the LP? To me it’s the same question that was faced in Greece 2015. Did regroupment require supporting or opposing Syriza. And in either case, why? And what is the alternative?”
I replied, ‘I don’t know what the alternative is’. But of course it still begs the question and the question needs to be answered. Soon. Do we, on the genuine left, support Corbyn but not the Labour Party as it currently stands? And if so, how does that work?
Do we, the left collectively, all join the Labour Party and take it over? Great idea. Simply overwhelm them. Dream on! Can you see the various left/marxist/socialist/trotskyist/whatever groups subsuming themselves? And what of the existing hierarchy? And in any case, it’s not simply about numbers, it’s about thinking, debating, planning and acting and being a contributor to this revitalised Labour Party.
I have no idea about the numbers involved but I think a significant but not overwhelming number of lefties have joined the LP and some of them will be consciously working toward transforming the existing ideology of the Labour Party. The Party hierarchy is kept informed by its local supporters/cadres/workers as to the nature of new members and no doubt ‘background checks’ are performed.
The basic problem is, aside from the ideological/philosophical, is the vast gulf between the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and the Constituency Labour Parties (CLP). During the decades from the 1980s onwards, CLP membership plummeted as the PLP turned increasingly to the right. This enabled the PLP’s bureaucracy to quite easily control local CLPs and place their people in positions of control.
In order to reverse this, it’s obvious that the left, in each CLP needs to regain control. So, as many have done, we join our local CLP and join the fight.
Once we’re members it means debating, canvassing, and above all, watching what you say or do that might get you kicked out. Thus, you have to resign your membership to any other political group or party that you belong to. Joint membership is against the rules and grounds for expulsion.
Okay, so we’ve ‘cleaned up’ our act and now all, or at least most of the left are in the Labour Party, working essentially surreptitiously, to redirect the Party toward socialism.
There are at least two possible avenues to consider:
1) Concentrate energies inside the CLP to deselect the rightwing MP in your Constituency and select a leftwing one or,
2) Forget about the PLP for now and concentrate on using our energies in grassroots organising and campaigning aka Momentum, to build a new mass movement from the ground up using the existing network of CLPs. In turn this would make demands.
Currently, No 1 ain’t possible, it’s against the Rules, so first the Rules would have to be rewritten.
Do I really want to expend that kind of energy on a political party that doesn’t want me?
What this brief foray into the world of politics reveals is the immense complexity of it all. We’re talking about a generation of struggle and in an environment that is the ideologically the complete opposite!
Or, and this is a depressing thought, is Jeremy Corbyn the best, no, the only thing we have and we have to make sure that he can take control of the PLP and that he is the PM of a future Labour government. How does that work?
We have already seen the kind of forces arrayed against him, in the media and with his own ‘comrades’. Will the kinds of compromises (and he has already made some pretty significant ones) leave him and the Party emasculated?
The point is; at the end of the day, is it feasible to see a completely reborn Labour Party at the end of this, long tunnel?
At this point, I welcome some comments…
from the archives:
The Corbyn Effect by William Bowles
Saint Corbyn? by William Bowles
The Rising Of Britain’s ‘New Politics’ by John Pilger
Disastrous Capitalism – But is a Labour Government the Solution? by William Bowles
To the Barricades Comrades? by William Bowles
Should I Vote For Corbyn? I Mean Labour? By William Bowles + Tariq Ali: Election Time in Britain + Tasting the Bitter Pill of History by William Bowles
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Excellent essay; with much food for thought.
Just one thought…. in discussing the difficulties over “the true left taking over” the corporatist LP, isn’t it fair to say that it was attempted – and almost succeeded- by “The Millies”. But they were overpowered and generally expelled by The Establishment.
And “the true Left” in UK, like “The Humanists” here in the USA (“Bernie-ites”), get charged with – and too often proved – to be unelectable at a national level. Of course the horrendous present times might overcome that big hurdle, if the message is got out clearly and loudly.
Thanks for your comment, Roger.
Thanks William for this welcome post-script. A few thoughts.
The difficult question for the Left is what socialism aka the-just-society actually means and whether the lowest common denominator is the ideological (moral) basis that authentically determines the whole. We can and must agree, surely, that wholes consist of all the parts, don’t we? If so, how do we devise a process, not a system, that allows (all) individuals to thrive without hindering or restricting others.
The tendency to ‘christianise’ socialist values, is in my opinion an error and undesirable, even though the impulse may justly be attributed to a reading of morality inspired by a sense of religious justice; because it confounds the real need for political pragmatism, with a disputed religious hermeneutic that can never be universally agreed about. Ever since the revolution of the printing press that led inexorably through Reformation and war to the scientific enlightenment (so-called) & the C19th higher criticism, the business of belief has inevitably been fraught with divisive opinion. The greatest teacher is always experience.
If Labour is to govern in the real world, post-Brexit, then it may be necessary to take a hard look at the policies of New Labour prior to the catastrophic Iraq debacle. Not withstanding seven years of Chilcot, I think it is reasonable to say Blair’s team got many policies right; principally, speaking from my own direct experience, was the liberal opening up of education and the notion of meritocratic development ~ fairness and fulfillment, rooted in the wholesome soil of unbiased diversity.
I think what Labour needs most desperately now, is core ecological insight. Understanding the lived context of Nature. We cannot expect metaphysical reality, however we define it, to conform to our political prejudices; anymore than wishful thinking is likely to change the weather. Let’s be realists, in the sense of acknowledging our planetary boundaries and the essential proportionate requirements that sustainable provisioning demand. To understand this, one need only turn to the Oxford-based, Campaign for Real Farming to gain a coherent approach to the most crucial and relevant issues and initiatives.
If we are to prosper life in these Islands and elsewhere ~ generating a beneficial influence on the universal affairs of the world, by example ~ we have to accept the limits that Life itself, in the broadest possible sense, actually sets; while at the same time, liberating the pristine energy of youth…..by proactively cultivating individual excellence, real learning, open intelligence and unrestricted creative expression.
The greatest service Labour could deliver, would be a radical reform of corrupt business, through effective corporate law that regulates the way the money hegemony functions; primarily by directly supporting radical environmental/biospheric innovations that prohibit and prosecute criminal ecocide on all scales and encourage robust community-based activities.
I could go on, but how do you feel about a universal minimum income?
Thanks, David. Of course, you know that I believe that Jesus is a Communist/Socialist.
Have you watched this video yet? It gives both sides to the Universal Basic Income discussion:
And another one:
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