After Compass where now for the Labour left?
Yesterday, Compass made a mistake of historic proportions in opening up its membership. Effectively, it has traded what could have been an influential position within Labour for terribly meaningful conversations with Liberal Democrat refugees about the soul-rending situation they find themselves in. The kind-of situation that involves posing to the left of Labour councils while sitting in and supporting the same government that is bleeding these councils dry of funding.
The politics of Compass were always questionable; nebulousness and an air of aloof indifference befitting of an organisation that sees itself as more of a ‘think tank’ clouded its effectiveness, nonetheless its departure is a blow. This is the case mostly because it has robbed the Labour ‘soft-left’ of a home and cast these comrades adrift. For this reason and this reason alone the departure of Compass is something that saddens rather than gladdens me.
I would suspect that these comrades will now choose to re-group with the addition of those who had already left Compass over the tactical voting shambles. If I may be permitted to offer counsel in the terms of suggestions then I would urge them to proceed in a more ‘activist’ fashion than Compass ever did. The campaign against legal loan sharking although worthy enough was politically insignificant in terms of the the bigger picture. Of course, the big question since May has been the ideological austerity drive of the Con/Dem government and Labour’s response.
The formation of a strong anti-cuts grouping within Labour, which should have been top of the Compass agenda, never seemed to be even seriously considered. It made no real effort to permeate the movement with its own ideas which is a little surprising considering they probably would have geld reasonably well with the demands made by the trade unions and the TUC nor did it fight this corner within Labour.
In principle, I am on the ‘hard left’ but the division between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ left is somewhat arbitrary and unnecessary in the current context. An agenda that has as its central tenants a sweeping programme of reforms aimed at extending political and economic democracy as an antidote to our current ills there is a nuclei of some common ground between the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ left.
The decision of Compass to exit Labour is disappointing but it also presents a clear opportunity for the Labour left to regroup to come together on a principled basis and to start punching its weight.