Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Brown in the brown stuff

There is socialist analysis of the disastrous election results for New Labour in London and nationally over at Lenin's Tomb and in more detail here. Briefly, thanks to Gordon Brown's government's arrogant contempt for, and relentless attacks on, the working class, Labour voters in their millions sat on their hands at home in protest at a government which has presided over growing levels of social inequality. As a result, the Labour Party took one of the biggest electoral hammerings in its history, and even Ken Livingstone went down to defeat because of his ties to Gordon Brown. Worse, Gordon Brown and New Labour's attempt to blame the economic crisis not on rich bankers but on migrant workers (with racist rhetoric stolen from the fascists about 'British Jobs for British Workers') in the climate of permanent war and Islamophobia has, lo and behold, led to the British Nazi Party getting a seat on London's GLA. Given Brown shows little sign of doing the decent thing and resigning - but rather seems content to try to shove more neo-liberal shit down the throats of everyone, the following points made in a statement by the Left List seem worth reiterating:

'The period opening up is in some ways like that at the end of the 1970s. Then a tired Labour government also paved the way for Margaret Thatcher by adopting anti-union, socially conservative agenda at a time when it was also attacking working class living standards.

What is necessary now is not a left that runs the line 'Labour at any cost' but a left that stands by working class people and struggles alongside them.

This will not necessarily be a primarily electoral struggle. It will be an industrial struggle, an anti-war struggle, an anti-fascist struggle and a struggle on many other fronts that we cannot foresee. This is especially true at a time when the extra-electoral struggle is not declining, as it was in the late 1970s, but rising. But there will still be an electoral dimension.

The Left List votes outside London showed some good examples of effective campaigning. In Preston we got 37 percent and missed electing a second councillor by 70 votes. In Sheffield we came second with 25 percent of the vote. In Manchester we won 12 percent and, in a newly contested ward, nearly 10 percent. In Cambridge and Bolton the vote was around 15 percent.

The Galloway operation in contrast has reduced itself to a local party in a couple of areas without even the pretence of being a national organisation. Galloway will not be able to win a seat in the general election if he cannot win more than 11.3 percent in East London. And although Salma Yaqoob's Sparkbrook ward returned another councillor the vote went down in the neighbouring Sparkhill and Kings Heath wards, both of which would need to see increased votes for her to win the whole parliamentary constituency of which they are a part.

The Left List does have serious trade union support and a nationwide presence. We must now use this to assist in the rebuilding of an alternative to New Labour that will not be derailed by the surge in Tory and Nazi support at the ballot box.'

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3 Comments:

At 6:11 pm, Anonymous Matthew said...

Sorry Snowball, this isn't analysis, it's sectarian apologia.

 
At 2:00 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Matthew - I always appreciate being told when I am in danger of moving into sectarian apologetics.

However, after these elections, one cannot unfortunately explain the poor showings for the whole of the left without mentioning the role of the disastrous split in Respect somewhere. Now of course there are no innocent parties in that split - and the swp made mistakes - fine. But the whole left in Britain is now so depressingly fragmented that simply talk of 'socialist unity' is a bit of a pipedream at the moment. Trying to patch up the existing far left for electoral unity is just not a runner at the moment, sad to say. We all need to learn from the lessons from the split before we can move on. That is why it is more realistic to talk about how the left relates to some of the other struggles outside of the electoral arena and rebuilding networks and our base there at the moment.

 
At 1:12 am, Blogger paddington said...

I think more analysis is required as to (a) why Livingstone lost and (b) why the left in general performed so dismally. I don't think the answer to (a) is "because he was affiliated with Gordon Brown or New Labour", and I certainly don't think the answer to (b) is because of a split in Respect.

Ken Livingstone lost the election because of a slow-burning stupefaction which began soon after his first re-election, and which continued throughout his lacklustre campaign. He was prepared to make a stand on things over which he had no control - Chavez, Iraq - yet helped to make London the most business-friendly capital city in Europe and agreed regeneration schemes which basically amounted to decanting the working class. This rightward turn intensified in recent years, but predated his return to the Labour fold.

I must say that blaming the Left List's awful performance (and I don't mean that disparagingly - I voted for Lindsay) on the split within Respect is somewhat naive and counter-intuitive. Leftish voters did not arrive at the polling booth and dismiss the Left List because "they're the ones who split from Galloway".

The anti-capitalist left has a fundamental problem in elections: it is defined by what it is against, but by definition cannot put forward a positive programme of action within the capitalist system. Lindsay German was impressive in ensuring that social housing stayed on the agenda, but this was a very moderate, reformist policy. It only seems radical because the main parties are so damned neo-lib.

Sorry to be negative - I agree with you that the left will fight its battles outside of the electoral system. Twas ever thus, and so it should be. Those who believe the Labour Party can recover and take a leftwards turn are barmy. But as for the immediate future of the non-Labour left, I am presently a little bit stuck.

 

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