The bickering, backstabbing and pseudo-intellectual debate of student socialism.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Backing John MDonnell

With the left increasing its influence in the social movements and the working class movement elements of the permanent Labour left have decided to take a stand. With Labour now further to the right then it has ever been John McDonnell has launched his campaign for the Labour leadership. Despite the fact that the meagre forces of the Socialist Campaign Group will not be enough to get him on the ballot it is a campaign that aim’s to re-engage the traditional left with the new movements. John’s campaign wants to hold meetings and events for the grass roots across the country over the tasks of the political left along the model of the stop the war movement.

Although the campaign is doomed to failure it (along with the election of Walter Wolfgang on to the Labour NEC) should provide encouragement to the whole left and be a boost to forces like Respect who want to work with and grow from the remains of left reformism within the Labour Party.

The description of the campaign on his website:

John's campaign will be a direct challenge to the current political consensus. Millions of people are yearning for an alternative to the policies of war and privatisation promoted by the three major political parties. For the first time in years, they no longer have a political voice.

Over the coming weeks and months, John will be convening a series of meetings across the country which will discuss and flesh out the policy programme of a real Labour government.

Below are some of the policies that John will be campaigning for:

· Support for public services. Against the continued privatisation and marketisation of our public services.

· Support for free and comprehensive education. Against trust schools, rich donors and tuition fees.

· Support for alternative green power sources, conservation and clean British coal. Against the costs and risk of nuclear power.

· Support for civil liberties and trade union rights. Against reactionary incursions into the rights of free speech, assembly and trial.

· Support for a Government committed to peace, withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and nuclear disamarmant. Against support for more of Bush's wars and wasting £24 billion on nuclear weapons.

· Support for increasing the basic state pension and immediately restoring the link to earnings. Against forcing more people on to the means test.


At 1:27 AM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

you'll have to run that one by me again. How does a resurgence of left reformism within Labour strengthen left reformism outside the party?

Surely all it does is sow further illusions in any reclamation project.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger A soft socialist said...

Impressive, totally non-sectarian . . .

At 2:32 PM, Blogger El Tom said...

It would be nice if he'd pledge the reverse of some of the legacy agenda though.

I don't really see marketisation as a problem, but privatisation. not necesarily the same thing, but I'm a bit of a market socialist, so I'll declare an interest.

McDonnell has some real tactical problems.

Firstly, a lot of people on the labour left won't back him simply because the SCG is not strong enough. the fact that he hasn't got a chance means that anyone who backs him will probably suffer reprisals; which guarantees that he won't be strong enough.

The obvious solution is to recruit more MPs to the SCG.

Which wasn't exactly helped by the big split they suffered a couple of months back but failed to tell anyone about...

The second problem is that the LRC is full of trots, who most Labourites hate. I'm on the SYN mailing list, and half of the people on there are socialist action or AWL (mostly AWL). they are spending their time tearing into each other about venezuela, already. And arguing about who is lefter, as per usual.

people hate to see a party within a party, particularly the sort of party the AWL represent. The fact that so many of them are trots means that McDonnell won't be able to braoden his appeal so well (which is exactly what he is meant to be planning). One of the things where we in compass have an advantage is that we can legitimately claim to be part of the 'democratic left' (in reformist terms). for one thing we're descended from them (and hence, the CPGB... doh!), but we're all left-reformist non revolutionaries.

I wouldn't back him anyway. I'm part of the labour left, but not the same sort of left as him. He's not mutualist enough, and fails to accept that if you're going to be a reformist you have to try and win votes.

As someone who is a member of the SWP and respect, you will know that sometimes you have to sacrifice some of your principles and demands to have a chance of influencing events. If learning from history means anything, it's that 1983 doesn't get anything done. Why be a bennite when you can join the SWP? there is no difference in outcome, you see... and this is coming from someone who is a proud ex-bennite (hmm. and ex trot too, so i'm not sure what that signifies!).

Labour needs to stand up to neoliberalism in a way that will get us elected. On the other hand, we are lucky that dodgy wars are now pretty unpopular!

I also haven't seen how he plans to make structural improvements to public services, increase democracy, cope with green issues etc. I remain devoutly compassite.

I see more of a point in aiming for the centre (or left of centre...) and then pulling it leftwards towards you.

The left wing of the possible, comrade. Always.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

like I said Cliffite,

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

he won't get anywhere, because of soft "left" careerists like the above, all he'll do is waste the time of those worthwhile labour activists who could better spend their time somewhere else (ie. not in the sodding Labour Party).

At 8:58 PM, Blogger A soft socialist said...

Well said Tom, whats the point of being in a political party if it can't get into power and change things?

At 12:37 AM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

and change things?

ask yourself the same question after 9 years of the Thatcherite status quo.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger A soft socialist said...

Thatcherite status quo? How original. First Government to commit to a national minimum wage, how thatcherite . . . .

That might be an accurate way to describe Blair but it is no way to describe the PLP.

You carry on in opposition, change nothing.

We'll get on with governing.

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

sorry for being unoriginal, you must be really bored of having all an sundry calling you for what you are.

The point Adele, is the Blair is not abberration, he represents the culmination of a long term social process in which the Labour Party's base changed. That's why McDonnell rather gentle social democratic values are viewed by people who see themselves on the Left of the party as being unelectable, even having MPs fearing the consequences of voting for him!

But what exactly is he standing on? Against privatisation - the majority view in the country. Support for green fuels - majority view. Trade union rights - haven't seen a poll on it, but I reckon most people reckon that the unions could do with a little more freedom. Withdrawal from our various imperialist adventures round the world - majority view. Increased state pensions - majority view in this country.

The reason why you think he's so far beyond practical politics is because you actually believe in the status quo and clothe it in a mask of radicalism that claims you're just compromising for a chance of power.

You say opposition changes nothing, I say the reverse, capitulation and collaboration changes nothing, it simply implicates the individual in the effects of power. Opposition is the only thing that changes anything. It assumes people building their own autonomous power with which they can take what is rightfully their's, rather than being given the re-arranged scraps of society.

Why do you need a minimum wage in a Thatcherite society? Because workers have no independent way of regulating wages, of forcing employers to give up what is fair and right. They need a safety net to prevent their own powerless from mutating into blind fury. The US has a minimum wage, it's now lower in terms of real income than the 70s, while social inequality grows and grows. It's worthless without actually changed the balance of power in society.

Still, you can be up there with all those other politicians who move rightwards with age.

At 11:32 PM, Blogger A soft socialist said...

''That's why McDonnell rather gentle social democratic values''

Umm. Excuse me while I split my sides.

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

the prosecution rests:

John McDonnell, left-wing extremist.


At 7:53 PM, Blogger Cliffite said...

Jack ray,

Because part of the task of the revolutionary left has to be rebuilding the wider left - It's the field we all opperate in. So many of the attacks on working people could be countered even by the sort of community and workplace organisation we had 20 years ago. Newlabourism and toryism have removed so much power from the bottom of society (tennants groups, unions even local councillors etc) that we need to rebuild some of this around the new left.

John McDonnall represents some of this new left in the Labour Party. Some people will join Labour during his campaign but more significantly more people will get involved in rebuilding organisation in the Unions, Defend Council housing campaigns and other social movements.

Adele, I'm mildly bemused by the sectarian comment.

Anyway next blog tommorrow yay!

At 10:59 AM, Blogger El Tom said...

Haha! careerist! kiss my arse, I'm too busy earning a living to be even a proper activist! You don't even know me mate.

I do not agree with blairism or indeed 'the thatcherite status quo'. I even made a comment above about the pressing need to fight neoliberalism.

Yeah, because blairites are always banging on about that...

learn to read bucko.

There's left in the soft left, and don't you forget it.

It's just that half of McDonnell's 'gentle social democratic values' are effectively transitional demands, and his campaign is being run by the gently social democratic AWL. His behavior has even split the SCG. So what do you do?

I think an alternative is called for, I just don't know who...

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Derek Wall said...

Come on people if you want some radical politics join the Green Party of England and Wales. Green Left in the party far from being marginal has a lot of support.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger A soft socialist said...

Ah glad I have amused you. I too wish that labour would hurry up with devolving power so that the council could do stuff that needs doing like re-regulating the buses.

New left, more like the reawakened left.

Oh and if anyone thinks that Tom is a carreist you couldn't b further from the truth. Most of the people that put most energy into politics are people that really believe in something and he certainly does.

A democractic socialist electable labour party with MPs and councillors that carry out a democratic socialist programme.

At 1:25 AM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

to cliffite: see, I agree more than anything that we need to rebuild those social organisations, but I wouldn't confuse that with rebuilding the Left.

to el tom: My comprehension is more than adequate, I just fail to see how you "fight neoliberalism" by strengthening the political class that has imposed it upon us. Good to see you continuing the fine tradition of "red-baiting" on the labour left, btw. Lovely, McDonnell's a trot.

adele/soft socialist: having principles does not stop one being a careerist. Only two reasons for being in the modern Labour Party when everyone else has found one of many great ones to leave: you're old and it's too late to change now, you're young and you think you're going places. Oh, and you're still amusing me, btw, with your delusions :)

At 12:32 AM, Blogger A soft socialist said...

In response to the accusation thrown at our comrade the uber compassite, I think that compass are trying to improve and change new labour to make it a bit more labour. To me that has nothing to do with any neo-liberalism.

In terms of my delusions well I'm young but have no ambitions to go anywhere in politics past local government. I'd rather achieve something thanks.

Oh and how is it red baiting to call McDonnell a trot. He is one.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

firstly - the Labour Party isn't capable of junking Thatcherism. Look around the world and find me an SI party that hasn't embraced neo-liberalism. They don't exist and that's because their modern incarnations are related to social trends, not ideological battles won or lost.

and I'm supposing that McDonnell is a trot in the same way that John Reid is a Communist (ie. he was once upon a time involved with a group) or maybe in the same way that Livingstone is one (in that one or other sect carries his luggage for him).

It certainly isn't because I've ever heard him self-identify as one, or make any statement whatsoever to that effect.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger El Tom said...

would you like some email adresses? I know a lot of the trots myself!

I didn't wich to make a positive endorsement either way, the point I'm making is that people are bound to realise eventually, and that that is, objectively, a problem for McDonnell. I tend to be more the hunted than the witch hunter, though generally that is on quite an erroneous basis! I've often been accused of trotdom myself.

I'm only erally making this point to show how he aint a gentle socdem.

And I don't seek to strengthen the rich and capitalistic at all, I wish to strengthen the rights and power of workers.

So why make that accusation? And more importantly, on what evidence?

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

where did I deny that the AWL are involved with the LRC? I was commenting on McDonnell's politics, not on those of his bag carriers. Livingstone has turned pretty sharply to the Right since rejoining the LP, but Socialist Action are still tailing him.

It's certainly an overstatement to say that the AWL are running his campaign, or that his programme is a set of "transitional demands". And it's the kind of hyperbole that's close to red-baiting, the same thing that was done with Tony Benn and militant. Far beyond making your latter point (that the AWL involvement might look bad).

And my basic problem is that I see helping the Labour Party as helping the rich. And I'm not saying that about this LP or this particular government. I mean, which golden age of a pro-working class LP shall we cast back to? The one in which Bevan told Attlee to use troops to break the dockers and hauliers strike? The one which wrote In Place of Strife? The one that imposed Incomes Policies? Maybe even the leadership that sold the miners out?

Your organisation is part of the problem and always has been. I don't want to keep it alive, I don't want it to tack left and gather people's enthusiasm for any more doomed projects. The LP when it did anything worthwhile, did so in response to the activity of the working class, it did things that the Tories would have done anywhere, more or less. It reflected rather than mobilised power at the bottom of society. The real task ahead of socialists isn't winning a battle of ideas and remodelling society from above, it's rebuilding that power. It's actually people using their ability to change society themselves, rather than hoping the Labour Party will do it for them. And it's hard work and we might not be able to do it, but it's the only way and it's better than being on the other side.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Cunni said...

A Market Socialist? LOL. Theres an oxymoron.

At 5:20 PM, Blogger A soft socialist said...

Jack and Tom, just out of interest, have you ever read Crosland's book, the future of socialism?

At 9:48 PM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

I've read a lot about it, rather than the book itself. Why?

At 12:53 AM, Blogger A soft socialist said...

Just wandering because it is quite a sort of modernising look at redistributive socialism. Just wandering how much you agreed with it?

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Jack Ray said...

him a Right-Wing Labour MP? I shouldn't imagine a great deal ;)


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