Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Faint Sound of Knives on Grindstones

According to Mr Osler, the Labour left-winger, John McDonnell, may intend to make a formal leadership challenge tomorrow. Of course, he's not going to beat Blair - but it might finally open up all the straining cracks in the New Labour edifice - a 'stalking horse' situation.

Will be interesting to see how the PLP and the membership reacts.

An Unwise Meandering Afterthought:

I'm lefty enough not to harbour any illusions about the Labour Party transforming itself into a socialist party (as Tony Benn often remarks 'the Labour Party's never been a socialist party' it's just that it's 'always had socialists in it') and neither do I imagine for one moment that socialism can be reformed into existence by means of parliamentary legislation (although these people seem to think so - perfectly nice chaps, but rather obviously haven't given the matter much thought).

However, socialism, I'm afraid, is not on the immediate or short term historical agenda. This much should be obvious. The key question socialists have to face is that, as Tim Wohlforth puts it somewhere, of how we can make 'the transition to the transition' - how do we get to a situation in which a transition to socialism becomes a real possibility? It seems to me that we can only put socialism on the historical agenda again through slow and patient work to build up the constituency for socialism and to build up socialist consciousness - to prepare the organisational and psychological conditions for successful socialist struggle in the future. This is likely to be a lengthy task.

Socialist organisation and consciousness must be built through an educational process of ‘struggle for feasible objectives corresponding to the experience, needs and aspirations of the workers’ (Gorz). The socialist movement must take the working class as it is – it must take account of its actual level of consciousness and its actual demands and aspirations. At first these ‘feasible objectives’ will be limited to measures of parliamentary reform within capitalism, but as the working class engages in socialist struggle, its more radical potential can be drawn out dialectically and in stages.

Not many people on the Left would disagree with this so far, I should think, but they might not agree with the rest of what I'm going to say (and my SWP readership should please avert your eyes now). Where we are at the moment necessitates actively getting our hands dirty in reformist struggle - getting right in there. We can't stand aloof from struggles within the Labour Party, if the left is going to mount a serious challenge (and we'll have to see if it's serious, and how much party and popular support for such a move there is). The experience could help to swing the axis of political debate substantially to the left. There is absolutely no sense in standing back and simply exhorting the working class to join your revolutionary party. That tactic hasn't worked for... oooohhhh.... well it's never worked. Of course radical socialists need to maintain some degree of independence - I'm not suggesting that all socialist organisations should dissolve themselves. But they also need to get stuck in to where it's at. It would take an exceptionally intelligent and flexible organisation to get involved in such struggle while not capitulating to parliamentarism and avoiding incorporation. It would be easier not to do it. But then finding a path to socialism was never going to be simple and straight forward was it?

So what am I saying? - dunno really. Ha ha ha ha.

What I'm saying is that if there is a credible challenge to Blair from the Labour Left I might re-join the Labour Party on a temporary, no-illusions basis. Of course, the key factor here is the cost of membership - one has to get one's priorities right - if it's over a tenner you can forget it.

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