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Left Fracture: The British disease?

I guess there is whining aplenty here in Australia about the state of the left. There's certainly much to be annoyed about in way of its marginalisation and disunity. While I've been very acerbic about the failure of almost all the far left groups to commit to a regroupment project -- any regroupment project -- I think one of our successes here nonetheless is that we've been able to keep the worst excesses of the British disease at bay and still pursue a regroupment agenda.

"The British Disease" is a cynic's joke as it is a name I use for the dead hand of sectarianism which seems to have found fertile ground esp in Ol' Blighty. In fact, along with pork pies and English grammar, it is one of the UK's most pervasive exports.

A good swag of the far left groups in this country are, or have been, local franchises of London based toy internationals. This certainly has its advantages in way of reducing ideological start up costs, but it has meant that London has to sneeze first before the colonials catch cold.

And catch cold they certainly will. As the snide joke goes. (actually it was mine):
Q:How many far left franchise members (put selected party name here) does it take to change a light globe?
A:Sorry. They won't know until after they ring London.
Maybe that's unfair. But you only have to monitor trends in England to predict what's likely to be on the political agenda soon enough down here in the antipodes regardles of local conditions of indigenous politics.

Of course maybe the mother lode across the way is the font of political wisdom and tactical smarts? Maybe it's really only a case of paternal political mentoring after all...? Maybe there is a lot we can learn from the experience of the English far left parties...?

Then, maybe not.

In a piece just published in the Morning Star -- a left wing British daily newspaper -- Liz Davies attacks Britain's Fractured Left for being dedicated to disunity. Davies articulates, what seems to be, a general backlash against Britain's far left groups for failing to work together and allowing space for the British National Party -- the local right wing neo Fascist (arm) brand -- to advance at the recent Euro poll.

With a General Election due in 2010 and with the prospect of a Tory victory and further BNP gains, Davies writes:
The left's inability to offer a realistic alternative at the ballot box means that it has failed those who reject neoliberalism. It's nothing short of a tragedy.
Davies chronicling of the British left's mastery of fracture is wrist slitting stuff. As far as I know, her story is sadly true. She writes (on her Socialist Alliance experience):
I watched the so-called revolutionary political parties destroy any chance of effective left co-operation and flout principles of democracy and accountability.
Then, after still more tales of fractious wow, she writes:
You couldn't make it up. It's deeply tragic.
And so it is. As one English left activist told me recently, the left in the UK is at its worse state in decades.

We can't gloat over this state of affairs because we don't have the runs on the board either -- even credits that can compare with some of the ready achievements of the British left both today and through a proud tradition of struggle.

But we are not in tragic mode-- in the way they seem to be. We have not recklessly spent all our opportunities to come together as they seem to have.That doesn't make us any better -- only, I guess, more careful and perhaps a tad more consistent in our pursuits.

And not so tragic perhaps?

11 Com:

polizeros | September 25, 2009

Good post. What I find utterlyu baffling is the complete inability of the far left to do anything on the financial crisis and the banksters. I mean, it's the crisis of capitalism they've all been waiting for, but when it came, no one is doing anything.

No protests, no calls for action, no push to organize and recruit. Just nothing.

Red Wombat | September 25, 2009

While it's true that the response of the left to the economic crisis has been, well, poor, it's not fair to say there's been absolutely no response.

More important, I think, is the fact that the left has been unable to respond *noticeably* (that is, to insert our critique into public discourse and the public eye).

One reason, of course, is the relative ability of Social Democracy to dance to the left a little, and quiet things down.

But it also goes to the question of left unity, and finding a coherent shared voice. For every left group with a critique of capitalism, you can find another one with a slightly different (or quite different, even) critique.

Why bother traipsing through dozens of verbose and arcane manifestos and screeds when you know that the left hasn't got its shit together, and - based upon ongoing experience - apparently *can't* get it's shit together.

The current failure of the left to reap gains from the GFC indicates one particularly important thing, in my opinion. Contrary to the tired and traditional defence against unity projects "unless there's a real movement" (or variation thereupon), we need to find common ground and a common voice *now*, or we will be drowned out by (the by now badly misnamed) social democracy's death rattles every time things turn bad, and (in Oz, at least) squeezed out by the barely social democratic Greens.

And we will remain hopelessly marginal while the world burns.

Dave Riley | September 25, 2009

I guess the question -- aside from agitational rhetoric -- is what to do? We're here in Australia and we are confronted with a local economy so when it comes to layoffs -- such as Pacific Brands -- we respond -- and very well too I think.

However the main issue in the trade union movement isn't for now the economy but Labor's industrial legislation.On that we are running hard.

Elsewhere, the primary trade union focus is against privatisation not the 'economy' per se.

Where I think we have a role to play as instigator is in housing in response to foreclosures which are racheting up -- esp in areas like Western Sydney.

Other than that we are launching our 10 point response plan -- which lays out a socialist response to the crisis.

But a key aspect of our focus there is to argue that the best response to the economic crisis is a green one. So as well as organising we argue for Green jobs.

See the argument. Download it here.

We've been pushing that perspective both in the trade unions and in the climate change movemnt.

But the problem is lack of motion on the economy primarily because we have been cushioned much more than the US has been -- esp with our reliance on China spending up big in $AUD.

polizeros | September 26, 2009

One of the most ferocious critics of the financial mess in the US has been an anonymously written blog, ZeroHedge.com. Written by libertarian financial insiders, they are seriously pissed and have broken major stories, like on flash and high frequency trading. The stories went viral and now such practices have or will be banned soon. They've also slammed Goldman Sachs repeatedly and most definitely drawn blood.

The Left needs to, and can, do stuff like this.

Then we have the bizarre ACORN videos being done by hardcore right wingers quoting Saul Alinsky's rules as motivation.


Red Wombat | September 27, 2009

O that note, check out Left Banker's blog: http://www.leftbanker.net/about

Anonymous | September 27, 2009

The idea that DSP members complain about left disunity is an absolute joke.

Your conduct in the Socialist Alliance drove all of the other left groups out and you have split your own party in two!

Absolutely no one trusts you and no one wants to work with you in the near future. The DSP have effectively set back left unity in Australia years.

At the same time you slander other left groups saying they are from 'toy internationals'. Sounds like a great way to rebuild the trust that you have lost in recent years Dave.

If I was you I would worry less about the 'British disease' and more about the sickness in your own party.

Dave Riley | September 29, 2009

I can assume who the anonymous commentator is as this is a perennial whinge from him.

But the complication in way of fact is that the smaller affiliates left the SA on their own volition primarily because the SA failed to grow a large electoral following and because the great bulk of the SA membership wanted to form a party and not just an electoral coalition.

The message from the UK is that English organisations with local franchises here are not interested to actively regrouping the left in an all in socialist party. Other outfits such as the FSP were keen on unity but were not willing to break ranks and stay in the Alliance when the others signaled that they had dropped their orientation.

But all of these outfits are welcome to re-affiliate any time they like on the same basis that other affiliates have joined the SA.

It is worth while pointing out that the dispute centred on the desire of the DSP to merge into the SA -- a move supported overwhelmingly by the non aligned membership and opposed by all the other Marxist parties affiliated.

Well, that trajectory has been delayed for the past 4 years but is now picking up pace.

The point of my post was that we have not lost all in factional fracture as much as it has occurred in the UK. The Alliance and the great bulk of its non aligned membership has remained committed to the regroupment perspective since 2005/2006 and the SA is the only open ended left unity project being pursued in this country.

The exit of these affiliates , quietly and rather hesitantly at the time , while a set back, was not one that destroyed the project.

We are approaching the 7th National Conference of the Alliance this coming January and it is going to be a bit of a reboot for the enterprise especially as the DSP quickens its engagement with the Alliance and invests more of its political and organisational assets in the exercise.

Disenchanted Socialist Perspective | October 04, 2009

Toy Internationals -- hahahaha what a laugh.
The DSP (SWL, SWP etc) were formed at the behest of the USFI - and the faction belonging to Jack Barnes' SWP.
Speaking of Australian offices of 'toy internationals' -- if they are not organically linked to the workers struggle why is the Socialist party (the CWI or Committee for a Toy International) the only one with elected reps?

Anonymous | October 07, 2009

While I have my differences with the Socialist Party and the CWI you can not knock them for having thousands of members across 40 odd countries.

Having an international organisation with agreement on perpectives and a program is not a crime.

They have led important struggles in several countries and as a result they have had a swag of councilors elected - and now also a MEP.

Q: If the CWI is a 'toy' organisation what would you call a small group that is based only in Australia, can not get its own members to agree on perspectives and can not convince any other party in the world of their strange politics?

A: The Disenchanted Socialist Perspective (DSP)

Bob | October 07, 2009

The point of the post seemed to be that such internationalism -- the internationalism of internationals -- worked against greater collaboration among the far left. In effect it generates a brand name to keep a franchise separate and distinct from other class struggle forces.

I agree with that. I think that's a false internatioanlism

Gene Berkman | November 25, 2009

If Marxists take power in the UK (or Australia) you won't have to worry about how many reds it takes to change a lightbulb. Central planning will ensure that you don't have any lightbulbs to change.

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