Image: Anti-fascists chasing the fash out of Cardiff, autumn 2014 (photo by Sa Kollantai)
We live in hyper-real times where we are so distracted by our little ‘black mirrors’ that we spend more time absorbed by our screens than actually interacting with each other. It’s a common sight to see people carelessly cross the road whilst staring at their screens, whilst small children are addicted to gaming and sea-side crowds go for the augmented reality of Pokémon GO, rather than deriving pleasure simply from interacting with and directly experiencing the nature and company right in front of them. ‘Reality’ alone is no longer enough, and it is the same advances in corporate owned and controlled technology which allows us to at least partially detach ourselves from our immediate sensory experiences and each other that is the same alienating, socially disconnected technology consciously used by war generals, politicians, corporations and state forces at large to wage war, sell pointless products, discipline workers, spread fear and division and spy on us all. No wonder we want to escape and substitute electronic connection for the real thing in a world of heightened despair, horror and economic, social and existential mass suffering with a future that is increasingly bleak, so long as we remain isolated, divided, distracted and fearful – as our rulers like us. Mass shootings across the world appear a daily occurrence, whilst the last month has had a year’s worth of political events packed in it including the attempted coup in Turkey. There is a collective anxiety and mood of despair and passivity which only mass, united action could potentially cut across – if only the left can get its act together, with no signs of this anytime soon.
It’s a post- Brexit world where the U.K. now has one of the most right-wing governments in decades and the whole official narrative about immigration is far to the right, with certain so-called hard left parties fundamentally misreading the result as a ‘victory’ for the working class when it is in fact a defeat and unwilling to vocally defend non-British born workers and indeed anyone perceived to be not white and / or British enough by racists. This is not to say that everyone who voted to leave is racist, far from it, but it is a recognition that for the overwhelming majority of people, there was no ‘Lexit’ – the socialist left was barely heard, let alone in a position to lead the Out campaign on a principled internationalist and class conscious basis. The ‘hard’ left’s frequent minimisation of the increased confidence of the nationalistic right and the growth of vocalised racism is disturbing and unfortunately reflects the white bias of so-called ‘revolutionary’ parties such as the Socialist Party, for example, which somehow manages to ignore the obvious fact that non-British born workers and their families are part of the working class too and potentially are some of the most determined class fighters against austerity, racism and class exploitation. Instead the SP, perhaps inadvertently, reinforces state racism by arguing that people have ‘legitimate’ concerns about immigration, rather than defend immigrants and refugees and their right to remain here on the basis of rejecting the divide and rule tactics of the ruling class. This is a massive mistake for both moral and political reasons: we have a duty to defend and mobilise the most oppressed of our class and it is essential that we do so if any mass movement against the whole economic and political system is ever going to be built.
It’s vital that we attempt to fill the void which exists politically in Britain and in many countries around the world and take an organisational lead to stop the fascists filling it, without handing over that potential working class opposition to a Labour Party which is trapped by the parliamentary paradigm and the right-wing, openly pro capitalist bureaucracy which inevitably ignores the democratic will of its own members and the wider working class and stops at nothing in order to deceive, disorient and undermine any attempt by the Corbynistas to introduce even mildly pro-worker policies.
Corbyn is a sacrificial lamb of the movement. It’s as if the class needs to experience him fail to achieve socialism through parliament before any lessons can be learned about the need for a genuine working class organisation to emerge and mean time everything is getting worse. Of course it is completely understandable why anyone in their mind prefers the principled but naive, anti-war leftie Corbyn to Machiavellian careerists such as Owen Smith – the m.p. for my own constituency, Pontypridd, where going without food, joblessness, insecure housing and no welfare state in practice is the oppressive reality, as it is in all working class areas – but, and this is the but which slams us all in the face – this is the long-term and direct result of decades of misrule, incompetence, indifference and savage cuts at the hands of Labour, as well as Plaid Cymru. The Labour Party in Wales is a right-wing organisation. It is not acceptable to blame the Tory government for funding cuts – your party has implemented it. Despite the honest and sincere claims of new members of the Labour Party here that Labour Grassroots in Wales is a left-wing organisation, the leaders of WLG have implemented austerity at both national and local level and have and are actively holding back strike action and genuinely democratically controlled anti-austerity campaigns because they want to keep their priviledged, well-paid full-time lifestyles, satisfy their own egos and maintain cosy relationships with employers in-tact and persist with worshipping politicians who claim to be left-wing but are only interested in their careers and hijacking protests to boost their media profiles and votes.
I’m not prepared to join a party which passes cuts budgets and privatisation and includes Blairites and other right-wing, pro-big business supporters. I’m proudly not just anti-cuts, but anti-capitalist full stop. As I have explained elsewhere on my blog, the Labour Party, not least through its domineering control of many of the major unions, still represents the biggest barrier to an effective, extra parliamentary working class fight back and I remain very skeptical about both Corbyn and Momentum. I do not think the Labour Party is the answer and I’m convinced that so long as Corbyn attempts to appease the right, rule out re-selection of m.p.s and attempt to maintain ‘unity’ with the parliamentary Labour Party (whilst at the same time it is very clear that the right will happily crush the party in order to destroy the left) is a doomed strategy as the interests of a self-interested ‘party of government’ (read a party willing to administer capitalism and maintain the status quo) is not reconcilable with the objective interests of the working class and poor.
Therefore whilst I am prepared to critically but fraternally work alongside Corbyn supporters in the wider labour movement against austerity and right wingers like the detestable, austerity supporting and corporate funded Owen Smith, and whilst I respect the genuineness of many new rank and file Labour members, particularly socialist leaning ones, I can’t join or endorse a party I think is part of the problem and not the solution.
It is also the case that it is not just the Labour Party and the Socialist Party (and their rivals in the Socialist Workers Party) which deserve criticism. The so called Marxist / anarchist left as a whole and the soft left around The People’s Assembly etc. are out of touch with the working class people they imagine they are leading / going to lead, with one or two honourable exceptions. The existing left uses an exclusive, obscure and alienating intellectual vocabulary which only reflects this total disconnection from the poorest and most oppressed sections of the class, including up here in the Valleys. Cardiff offers a sanctuary to pseudo-intellectual types who prefer pretentious poetry readings, feeling important with over-paid, right wing union officials in wine bars and flattering the egos of shallow ‘celebrity’ protesters (Charlotte Church, anyone?) and hanging out in self perpetuating social clubs to actually trying to relate to and connect with the poorest and most oppressed workers and the unemployed, many of whom voted to leave the E.U. and rightly see the Labour Party as the establishment. Online especially, there is too much intellectual snobbery and point scoring from the comfort of the lonely sofa, with no genuine attempt to reach a common understanding and unity around a potentially joint programme of action. Egos dominate, cults replace cults and it all becomes a power struggle with deference always given to mainly self-appointed ‘leaders’ and celebrities (think John Rees et al at a national scale, but there are numerous competitors) and endless attempts at socialist groupings which disintegrate and squabble into tiny nothingness. There is a lack of maturity or sense of responsibility, with too many hard left activists (be they Trotskyists, anarcho communists, syndicalists, entryists etc.) too busy seeking comfort in their cliques denouncing everybody else, rather than making the effort to interact with working class people with all their prejudices, weird beliefs and confused ideas.
There are no prophets of socialism. Those of us who are activists do not have all their answers and we have, if anything, more to learn than anybody else about how to build real mass, anti-capitalist struggle if that is ever to become more than a nice fantasy in our heads. The mood in working class areas like mine is one of anger and a feeling that people can’t take much more – if it can be channeled in the right direction on the basis of community organizing independent working class protest action and internationalism by real socialists, anarchists, communists etc., rather than just providing left cover for a party as responsible as the Tories for working class suffering, then I genuinely believe that the far-right can be cut across and real grassroots, community and workplace based organisation can begin to expose not only the Blairites and the Labour Party machine and how and why parliament is a dead-end, we can more importantly start to get off our knees and find dignity in solidarity and struggle. The question is, when is this going to happen? I’m ready if you are.