Like it or not, beating the cuts means working together…
One of the things brought into sharp focus by the debate over how Labour councils/councillors should respond to the central governments frankly barmy (even by capitalist standards) austerity drive is the ever-present tension between the Labour Party and the wider left.
While I can understand the passion for the cause of those critical of the council responses and feel they are instinctively correct and on the right side of this debate, I can’t escape the feeling that some comrades on the outside left are secretly quite pleased to be having a pop at a Party they regard as no better than the ConDem Frankenstein government. Like crazed kamikaze pilots these comrades don’t need much of an excuse to make a attack-run against the good ship Labour. Of course, the problem with this is it runs the risk of alienating people who would otherwise politically agree and it doesn’t really constitute much of a strategy. It risks cohering especially those on the soft-Labour left and in the centre around a group identity that is currently the property of the Labour right.
Some within Labour, and its impossible to gauge how many exactly, feel genuinely trapped by their circumstances into doing things they don’t want too and they feel they are doing the best they can. Objectively, the anti-cuts movement is in no position to go anywhere very fast by excluding these forces within the Labour Party and, just as vitally and by extension, within the wider labour movement. My gut feeling is that public opposition to the cuts outside of a tiny layer of highly charged activists is actually broadly in line with the current Labour position of ‘softer, gentler’ cuts. Intersecting with that mood and being able to lead it through persuasion is something the anti-cuts movement will have to do if it wants to achieve long-term success. This is not the same thing as shouting at it until it ‘sees the light’ and requires a degree of subtly and artful thinking that often isn’t evident in the propaganda of the far-left.
Meanwhile, Labour comrades are no better when they launch sallies like this one from Paul Richards on LabourList against horrifically ‘sectarian’ and no doubt swivel-eyed ‘Trots’. Despite political difference, ‘the Trots’ are, in the main, committed and talented comrades whose presence within the movement is a vital source of strength. Also, when they allow themselves to think and speak outside the cultish commitment of their groups to Marxism-as-a-fossil, they have germane and politically useful things to say. Sometimes these things might be uncomfortable for people within Labour to hear but that makes it nonetheless necessary that they say them. Exceptions to every rule exist but that is no need to engage in excluding everybody of this political persuasion from a movement that needs them as much as it needs us.