‘Doing politics differently’ is a massive scam.
So, at the last Momentum meeting in North London that I attended, I had the misfortune of sitting through an endless parade of bullshit. That is, constant insistence upon this idea that we need to ‘do politics differently’- what this entails, no one is quite sure, but as one person commented ‘We should knit a quilt for Jeremy Corbyn’.
Oh god no.
This drive towards finding a new alternative is not so new and has been around for at least a couple of years. I remember sitting at Occupy Stock Exchange, for my sins, many moons ago, watching the hippies ‘send vibration waves’ to parliament to physically shake the brickwork and bring it crashing down. Fair play to them, if it had actually worked, it would have been rather novel. But, to everyone’s surprise, it failed. Perhaps there was a misalignment in someone’s chakras.
It is understandable why people are frustrated. The common A-B march, one day strike action, endless meetings where, due to the heavy secteriana, no motions are passed, rampant triumphalism after every shit demo and fetishisation of action (usually an SWPer in corduroy and sallow skin demanding we ‘take it to the streets’ or some anarchist infatuated with their own machismo and rebelliousness setting a bin on fire) has created a crisis in the British left; the outcome of which are hundreds of disillusioned ex-Trots and anarchists with god-awful and confused politics floating around and tailgating every and any movement that springs from toxic and rotting ground. Especially if the said movement appears to offer an alternative to their Trotskyist past.
It is not Marxism or communist politics that are to blame for the intellectually defunct Trotsky cults, or at least not fully to blame; in fact, most Trots on the British left seem to actually have a limited understanding of communist politics, due to the lack of cadreisation and political education within these groups. This isn’t an accident, of course. By focusing solely on functional duties as opposed to raising the bar of their member’s understanding of leftwing discourse, these groups have created willing, unquestioning, and blind footsoldiers to do the bidding of their manipulative and egocentric leaders. In anarchist groups, while there is no formal structure, either the most masculine or the most loud, brash and rude become de facto leader, even if their position is not solidified in a party structure.
And as a result, methods of ‘doing politics differently’ actually differ very little from the tactics of the Trot groups: one only has to look at the laughable disaster that is Left Unity, with its different factions slyly trying to surpass each other, abysmal leadership and certain members abhorrent dismissal of Worker’s Power and the Communist Platform shows that the game pretty much remains the same. The same is the case for the Trots at large, whether aligned to a specific sect or not.
Of course, it is not just a question of tactics. The influence of liberal intersectionality and radical feminism, both of which, in my opinion, seem to actually despise women and their autonomy almost as much as some of the old boys in the unions do, has had an overwhelmingly negative effect. Instead of solidarity, you now have isolationism. Instead of being bullied by your full-timer or party EC, you’re being bullied by a middle-class student type who thinks dying your hair increases your radical potential, and you will be called out even when you haven’t actually done anything problematic. This has even spread outside the tiny, insular, irrelevant student union left bubbles. At the last Left Unity conference, they decided to demand Labour make their meetings accessible, even though that is already apart of Labour’s programme. Any efforts to point this out were met by accusations of ‘ableism’.
That’s just embarrassing and to be honest we should be collectively ashamed of what we’ve become.
We are all perfectly aware of exactly how some left wing men, often rather alienated men with the social skills of a 13 year old, only unlike a 13 year old they have less sexual shame, behave. However, standing up in a meeting and bellowing ‘LET A WOMAN SPEAK’ when no woman has their hand up is not going to magically transform the left as a part of society. It is interesting that often the most pious, intersectional, holier than thou, are often doing so either to bully, shut down debate, or worse. Looking at the implosion of intersectional “safe spaces” as they torment one another and call each other out into non-existence, and the fact that their politics ultimately has lead a lot of them into ideological dead ends, it would appear bottom of the barrel, bargain basement, cack-handed identity politics is also no alternative.
Another argument for ‘doing politics differently’ is that it will engage the working classes and young people who would otherwise be deterred by boring meetings and debates. Which just demonstrates how out of touch these people are that they think knitting a patchwork quilt of Jeremy Corbyn’s face will attract ‘da yoof’. Sure, I would be more so inclined to turn up to a left wing event if there was free MDMA involved, and maybe a bouncy castle. But, unbeknownst to the saggy, dour Trots and ext-Trots at Momentum meetings, young people are fully aware that life is dull. Their lives especially so, the drudgery of Zero Hour contracts and prospect of retiring at the ripe old age of 112 looming in the distance. And if meetings and debates produce fruitful outcomes, which they fully have the possibility to do, then here, substance trumps fun. I suppose it’s nice to come from a class where left wing politics is more of a pastime rather than a fight for our collective future, but some of us don’t have that luxury, unfortunately. For some of us, it’s war.
They also hide and conceal any evidence of radicalism, refusing to include the word ‘revolution’ for example, as it may scare the working class off. There is more radical promise in a takeaway menu than in the ‘OUR DEMANDS’ section at the back of the Socialist Party’s paper, only you have to pay £1 for the insult while reading the former is free. It makes it seem as if the working class is a nubile young fawn, delicate and shy, that needs to be coaxed into the arms of a hunter, when in reality the fawn has grown up and turned into a bashed up bitter old stag which votes Tory. The kind that hang around Richmond park and charge small dogs. Trot groups and groups made of ex-Trot fallout maintain that we should engage the masses with softly, softly, catch monkey rhetoric, pander to the British public’s piss-poor levels of political acumen by making gentle demands and wrapping our politics in SocDem, centre-left politics. Then, when the working masses inevitably reveal their revolutionary potential, the British left can jump out of a massive cake and yell ‘SURPRISE! We were communist all along!’ to gasps, then chuckles. ‘Oh, you guys,’ Barry, bricklayer from Essex who was once a member of the EDL will say, standing over the decapitated body of George Osbourne. Then we’ll all go dancing off into a red sunset singing ‘Aquarius’ from the musical Hair.
The terrible, terrible, terrible approach above needs to cease and desist if the left wants to survive. The British public are probably more rightwing and apathetic than they’ve ever been. Your masses aren’t climbing up the walls and banging on Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin’s doors, sorry. Left Unity is known among most people as ‘LOL Unity’. The less said about Stop the War coalition and TUSC the better. Momentum wants to ban radical left groups, despite it being made of radical left groups pretending they’re not radical left groups, in its efforts to back Corbyn who was elected on left-of-centre principles, thereby Momentum not letting any of his supporters be left-of-centre because that’ll scare away the same people who voted for Corbyn’s left-of-centre principles in the first place. Intersectionality has eaten itself. Okay, fine, Laurie Penny was always a bit of an embarrassment. Collectively, whether communist, anarchist or socialist, we are losing.
Instead, it is my suggestion that we return to Marxism and its foundations. We should review materialism, the history of the communist internationals, study, read, proceed from there, instead of exploring liberal, left-centrist tactics and ideologies.
To those who dismiss communist, socialist and anarchist philosophy as nothing more than vanity projects of ‘dead white men’: you are essentially erasing the agency of many non-white, non-male communists worldwide, as well as their body of work. It was the women, including sex workers, who initiated the French Revolution, for example.
Those who remove class from their political outlook should be removed from the left as a) you are essentially admitting that the current political climate can be tweaked within the system, and that it is somehow disconnected from the current toxic framework it reproduces on various societal levels, and b) you are a liberal. So abandon your radical militant chic, move on from here and don’t come back. At least until you properly grasp left wing politics. A ‘Male Tears’ mug selfie doesn’t make you a massive rebel if your politics are sorely lacking.
Those who think that the hard left has, at least partly, contributed to its own demise, then yes, you’re absolutely right. Britain’s proclivity for Trotskyism and Stalinism is part of the problem; bad ideas like the Transitional Programme among others have only hindered its development into an effective tool of class struggle. British anarchists are more inclined to watch Riot Porn on their Apple Macs and smoke dope and whinge as opposed to their proactive European counterparts. Class War has come full circle and become a teeny bit dodgy in terms of race and gender, but hey, that’s what happens with reductive workerist politics based on culture alone without further analysis on the economic. Thankfully, Stalinism seems to be dying out here, quite literally due to the age of its members. Socialist groups are just a mess. Yes, the British left is shit, but to completely and utterly sever yourself off from the basics in favour of baseless, destructive liberal strategies and politics is and will continue to destroy what little remains. It was a departure from the basic essence and schema of communist politics which got us here in the first place.
As far as I can tell, even the American left, while typically over-dramatic, very upper middle-class and openly downright rude to each other, is besting the British left in terms of political ability, organization and philosophical groundwork right now. Yes, that’s right, the American left.
That’s a whole lot of ‘nope’ right there.