With the Tories in power the left is in full-on reconstruction mode. But while we do this it’s important to remember the lessons of the last five years. With this in mind, here are ten suggestions the things the left should see the back of right now.
1. Join the Labour party!
It’s our only hope! Yes, these were all things said since 2010, when the New Labour witch was defeated with Gordon Brown’s resignation.
Apart from the longer history of Labour, can we now say efforts to reorient the party were a failure and are increasingly even less likely to succeed? Despite all this work the Labour party came to the electorate promising austerity – but slower. With racist mugs. It almost goes without saying that Miliband was unrecognisably left by any standard held by actual left-wingers.
Yet despite this, Miliband is seen as on the left by a lot of the Labour ‘big beasts’ and by commentators more widely. The left is now toxic in Labour’s view. Even the modest goal of moving the party to take an anti-austerity stance seems ridiculous when it went to the electorate with a pro-austerity stance – meaning the argument was already lost within the party.
You worked hard, but it didn’t work out. Move on.
2. Join People’s Unity!
Look. Groups like Left Unity and People’s Assembly have had five years to move the electorate left and 12.6% of the electorate, many from recognisably working class backgrounds and traditional Labour strongholds, voted Ukip.
Can we take a sobering look at things and say that these projects have failed? They haven’t escaped their immediate subcultures to reach beyond those who have been doing this sort of thing for many years. If these groups are to survive, the aim is to work on a ruthless ground war beginning now. The same goes for many sections of the left.
3. Turn a thing into Tahrir Square!
In some cases it might be a good move to occupy a space for a while. That space either interrupts capital or functions as a general space for organisation. A university occupation, though increasingly unsafe, is usually a good training ground for people which is not especially risky. But if you are going to deploy this tactic, it’s best to have a definite end to it and to know when it isn’t useful.
As a general tactic, taking and holding a space without thought should stop. Why? Because holding the space becomes its own end and defending that space against the state becomes really difficult and is a drain on time and resources. As was said at the height of the Occupy movement, we should try to occupy our own lives. As boring as it is, we should try to work in communities and workplaces in a more sustainable manner rather than construct this special place largely available only to full-time activists.
4. Make total destroy!
Occasionally a bit of tactically-targeted property destruction or a good old riot can get the job done. But these actions are risky. We should probably spend more time doing things that will not result in the possibility of jail time rather than ask people with no safety net to risk their lives.
Those who do, if the time comes, should have legal and other support. For example, largely white activists should certainly never put Black activists in danger on protests by taking ‘radical’ action when the latter are likely to suffer even more at the hands of the state. Those inexperienced at this stuff, as was the case at Millbank, should not be allowed to go to jail. Whatever you are doing, you shouldn’t be doing it just to get off on the thrill of it.
We should probably learn the lessons of the summit-hopping activist milleux that were laid out almost 15 years ago.
5. You know what the problem is? That Tumblr intersectional left.
Look there Mr Cis-Het White Class-Analysis Man! I’m gonna let you into a little secret: most of the working class people in the world are neither male nor white! A great number of them are neither cis nor straight! An intersectional analysis is, as it has always been, also an empirically and materially proper class analysis because this is the way the world is.
The same goes the other way around: a decent feminist or queer or racially-grounded analysis is also a class one – this is why it is called intersectional!
How about you pipe down a bit in the next five years? The kids of Tumblr probably have a better analysis of class society than you and they’ve never even read the second volume of Capital! Must be annoying, amirite?
6. The problem is we haven’t thought more seriously about combining Michael Heinrich’s theory of value with that of the communisation groups.
Theory is great. It attempts to understand the world as it really is in order to orientate practical efforts towards abolishing the present state of things. It makes sure we aren’t doing the wrong things at the current time.
While we do need it (hell, this article is basically theory but with more swearing), it’s probably best if we don’t spend quite so much time on debating it. Or if we are spending time on it, it might be better to try and teach its lessons widely. Not in a patronising way, but in a enabling and useful way. People are far, far smarter than you give them credit for and if you don’t think so then what are you doing?
7. Buy my leftist lifestyle magazine!
Spend your money on something more worthwhile, like loads of people crowd-funding their rent or supporting a campaign directly. If this is your job, try your best to publish somewhere that will pay you and has a big platform. If not, publishing is cheap online, pretty much costless: publish on your blog. Don’t waste time and resources on kickstarting an aesthetic vanity project.
8. Stop splitting the left!
If you are saying things like “stop splitting the left” because you are protecting your sexually-abusive and/or racist mates, then jog the fuck on. The left should feel glad to split from you.
If you are saying “stop splitting the left” because you want the ideas of your groupsicle to be hegemonic, then get a grip. The left has always been diverse and has always had real internal disagreement – read some of the letters of the 19th century greats to work this out if you must. This has nothing to do with it being an effective force.
As above, intersectional analysis, broadly construed, is the only left place that has any theoretical grounding in reality, both in theory and in daily life. It is the only future an international left actually has.
9. Media blackout.
Last weekend it was said there was a media blackout over protests in London following the election, but the story turned up on the front page of the Daily Mail and on the website of every other major newspaper.
Quite apart from the fact that given the sheer number of protests and the resources of media organisations it is sometimes an editorial decision not to cover events, if you think the media exists to serve wealthy interests then why do you expect coverage? Maybe a good goal would be to affect change in the daily lives of those on the protest while not at the protest? The mainstream media should be used where possible but the primary goal should not be to be reflected in it.
10. Russell Brand.
…let’s drop the messianistic celebrity sex pest now please?