This post I approach with some real trepidation and apprehension, for its subject which has drifted around for sometime in my subconscious mind, and I must say awkwardly if not uncomfortably, and mind chewing over my thoughts and feelings about and on the question of leadership, it has not been an easy experience. There is a certain amount of debate in and amongst the British left at the moment; and just to remind everyone ‘left’ is a description that I don’t like using; it’s like cannibalising the real meaning of socialism or if you like let’s use its other name communism. I think leadership is a very thorny question at this time, bristling with many perplexities within the broader Labour movement; it bubbled up during a lull or pause during which things fell calm and activities diminished or became rundown, and understandably for the Christmas holidays. I’m of course referring to the extra-parliamentary activities of occupations, protests and the demonstrations of students and many others who I will refer to as the new movement.
To be honest I don’t really know when or where I started using the term ‘new movement’, but it fits in with my feelings and plans for the future, it’s probably the fact that I’ve been around the block a few times during the course of the last twenty years, and I dare say presumptuously, like a great many who started off in the Labour Party then left and wondered looking for the promised land, the pillow to lay our socialist heads, the home to call our own, whilst many a travelling caravan came along, Socialist Labour Party (SLP), Respect, Convention of the Left, Socialist Alliance, Stop the War Coalition the list is endless, and it also say’s something about the left in Britain, something that they are very good at doing, but never do they stop to think for a moment for a minute are we doing any good here, in short then the left are good at starting up a new project, here there and willy nilly, but they never ever admit there failures, no-hoppers or political bankruptcies.
There’s another attribute which the British left are good at doing, and I don’t know if anyone else has ever noticed, but they are very good at telling others where they are going wrong and handing out free of charge a general lecture to all and sundry. I suppose that I am now standing on holy turf, and this is really why I’ve been putting off writing this post for so long; don’t you just hate the vile sectarianism or should I say the narrow-minded adherence to a particular sect or party denomination. Oh shit I’ve said too much and didn’t want it to come out like that, but it has, and why the hell hide, conceal or blot out and run away from the truth. The British left are not a state to behold, but rather a state of depression and not agitation, nether used or ornamentation is the reality. Now let’s not skip around here, it’s rich and arrogant to think anyone of us knows or holds the right position or can explain something that the majority don’t understand.
It’s become a habit like substance abuse; for the left to bitch on and backbite about each-other, and why that is, well I just cannot offer an explanation, truth is it doesn’t really matter, but it is a force of habit that holds us back and has done for a along time now. I don’t think anyone expected the rapid radicalisation of students, a surprise that has sent shock-waves reverberating into the Tory led government coalition and the ruling class, they thought that students were just another section of the sub-population that could be pick-off, an easy target that would not put up a fight, well they got that wrong, their intelligence service was poor, but it wasn’t just the government who were caught unawares, the left by and large had no idea of the depth of feeling and the anger of students that spontaneously exploded into occupations and street protests and gave birth to other protests against big corporations and business and their organised tax dodging and circumventing of tax obligations which adds up to scandalously billions of pounds, whilst the government is advocating and making massive cuts to public services. It also does well to remember that the government have wasted no time at all in taking over from Labour in pursuing those on benefits and labelling many including the sick and disabled as workshy.
This all adds up to one thing only, a war waged by the ruling class and directly rained down on all working people whether young or old.
In November last year I wrote that everyday brings a new attack, and that only months into a new government the return of the rotten Tories; propped-up by an equally rotten and now odious Liberal Democrats - we see the head office of the Tory party attacked and smashed, the police struggling to control the situation but still lashing out with their assortments of many different batons and truncheons’.
Over 50,000 young people brought
to a standstill that day with a manly peaceful march past Parliament to protest against the proposals to increase tuition fees up to £9,000 a year. The student body the NUS organised the demonstration with the usual gentleman’s agreement with the police, however and despite the customised laid-back relationship with the Met-Police the NUS leadership were taken aback by the student turnout, they only expected 20,000 at the most, but such was the depth of anger and feeling that day that a tsunami wave caused by an earthquake of such volcanic eruption rose throughout the student and educational fraternity, school pupils, students and lecturers stood together shoulder to shoulder. This was the beginning of what I call the new movement that organised occupations all over the country, and of course the now famous marches on Parliament with the kettling and the indiscriminate police violence. Without getting too much into the internal workings of the NUS which I know nothing about, it has to be said that the leaders were caught on a back foot of inaction and at odds with the growing militancy of students, they lost control of the campaign, as the students decided for themselves how things were going to run, and without leaders!” Westminster
Now I have written a great deal about the students and their recent actions and activities and don’t wish to repeat myself in this post which is primarily concerned with the question of leadership. Many have since started to argue that the new movement should have leaders; they have drawn comparison with struggles of the past, struggles in which students played a prominent and significant part, and I touched on these in the first part to this post which can be reread here. But what I really want to do is look at some points that have been made by other comrades and organisation within the circumscribes of this debate.
In a guest post on Leadership, comrade Chris H of Lansbury's Lido felt encouraged at the site of students coming out onto the streets of the capital and other towns and delivering a shock to the authorities, and he made the important points that the anger came from across the student population - young, old, rich, poor, university and college students. Even secondary school students were amongst the marchers. These students were the sons and daughters of a cross representation of
England and . Wales
There are many who think that the student population is predominantly middle to upper class in composition, this always gets my goat, and what is it that we refer to when we say working classes, and when we talk about a middle class are we not subscribing to the designed desire of the system to divide and rule the working classes, If you are forced to sell your labour it doesn't matter how much for, you’re a member of the working classes, that simple!”
The other point is that up until recent times more and more students were arriving from what may be considered working class backgrounds and up bringing.
Out with the old politics, and in with the new movement is not my line but that of the young writer and activist Laurie Penny. Here is a berth of fresh air a new approach to an old problem of class antagonism. We would be mad to say that we agree with everything that Penny advocates or as she views the development of the new movement, but there is much agreement and in the Guardian, in December she wrote the following:
Democracy is going cheap. Just in time for the January sales, the party responsible for introducing tuition fees has decided that it wants to jump on the youth protest bandwagon. "Join the party for one penny, and we will be your voice," writes Ed Miliband in a rather desperate Christmas message to under-25s.
What a cheek and as Penny quite rightly points out from the party that introduced in the first place tuition fees, Ed Miliband must think that students, that people are sardines as he attempts to wow and impress greatly the voter, the thing is people are beginning to see through that crap.
To be continued…