For some years now it has been running around in my mind and like the shifting sand in an egg timer or hourglass. What exactly do we need leaders for, why are so many of the so-called left obsessed with the cult of leadership?”
Follow the Leader or Simple Simon Said’ was a game I remember only to well from school days many years ago, and a recent psychological study concluded that the game can be a healthy way to help children to improve self-control and restraint of impulsive behaviour, or I would argue a tried and tested means of control instilled into children to become if you like followers like the sheep in the field.
Control in a capitalist society is very important for the system to function, a system where everyone has his or her place. I suppose that’s a very simple way of explaining how our modern world works. Why be flash about it, we are all conditioned to do as we are told and from an early age at that, that is what education is about and what it is increasingly becoming.
As a socialist I have over the years, and I must say not always but have become very disillusioned and free from the enchantment of leadership, this I suppose will pose the inevitable question as to why. How long is a piece of string, which reminds me of the naughtiness of joke I once saw on television where someone on a busy high street was asked to hold one end of a length of string by the prankster who then went around the corner and persuaded another unsuspecting shopper to hold the other end, and this was imagined to be funny.
We are all aware of the explosion onto the streets of our students and school educates just before Christmas, an explosion, a detonation of unexpected anger at the unacceptable hiking up of students tuition fees and the general class attack on education including the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance, paid to poor teenagers to help them continue studying, which will stop thousands getting the qualifications they need to lift them out of poverty. The Education Maintenance Allowance of between £10 and £30 a week is paid to students whose household income is less than £30,000 a year. Student groups are planning to protest against plans to cut it on January 11, when MPs are due to vote on the issue, and we should all support them, if we or you can.
Anyway coming back to this question of leadership, developing my argument further I realise that up till now I have not mentioned the many occupations that gave impetus and made such an impulsion that even trade union elders sat-up and took notice of this new emerging generation; the newly elected leader of Unite Len McCluskey writing in the Guardian on Sunday 19 December he side what many of us older hands felt:
's students have certainly put the trade union movement on the spot. Their mass protests against the tuition fees increase have refreshed the political parts a hundred debates, conferences and resolutions could not reach.” Britain
And he was spot on to say that the magnificent students' movement urgently needs to find a wider echo if the government is to be stopped. That echo I would humbly suggest must be found not only in the Trade Union movement but in the wider communities of our Towns and Metropolises. We have to learn from our changing and radicalising young people. They organised not with leaders but in co-operation as their leaders sat on the edge of the fishbowl and then fell in as the NUS leadership diminished and weakened in the face of student anger.
This spontaneous and self-generated reaction came like a blot of lightning from haven, and for years those like me who had been around since before Thatcher feeling every hit and blow against our class, prayed for that day our youngsters would wake-up from that long sleep induced by a system and a class of rulers who learn history and its lesions before we do.
I only attended one of the many occupations and was taken back at how well organised the students at UCL were doing things, never in my life have I been witness or party to such considerate and open planning, no one in charge but everyone able to have their say, the students made history which they can be very proud of in the years to come.
So as we moved towards Christmas things started to wind down and understandably, but they our students had influenced events in such away. The Education Activist Network and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts are but two such organisations that were born out of student protestation. And what does it matter who or what are involved in these groups as long as they are effective.
Now many, and as I feared, have stared to criticise and find fault with the students activities and their simple but effective campaigning, especially from the left and other would be armchair types, the variety of which say; I know how to do it, and what is needed here; if you get my drift, they move about the movement I find aimlessly finding arrogantly cakehole’s to make mountains out of nothing.
Here we have a whole generation up in arms, taking to the streets, being kittled and beaten by a paramilitary police force, who obviously get off on beating the shit out of young people and kids, and what do the left do, they start to tell them the students what is needed and where they fall down on this and that and the other. Now I find myself asking do we really need this, when our backs are forced against a wall, when we all face the most visible malicious and vindictive attack on all our living standards; do we really have to have a debate on leadership or the need for it. Is this really necessary, is this right timing, and is it not simply a diversion from what should be the job in hand, and that’s building the fight and taking it forward.
Building conference and demonstrating that we have every chance of winning in the long term is more, oh yes, much more important than trying to dictate to a generation who seem to have more electromagnetism and level-headedness than the last three generations rolled into one.
So lets lay off them and build the fight instead.