Who’s Left?: how the Left failed the Big Test

In my latest New Internationalist column, Who’s Left (May 2009), I wonder why the far-left has been so useless in putting forward the socialist argument when capitalism has been caught eating itself so spectacularly.

I watched stunned while over ten years the dominant strand within the Marxist left did over other leftists whenever a wave of solidarity manifested in positive action. Every time they welcomed someone with “talent”, you gradually realised this was a ticket to ostracism, backstabbing and gleeful fantasies of Kronstadt-style discipline (“We should have shot them down like partridges”, I kid you not).

It wasn’t as if the movement was big or vibrant enough to withstand such losses. They may have stood on podiums lecturing the grunts about how every member is like gold dust in their “every sperm is sacred” spiel, but in practice they squandered the chief resource of any movement: its activists.

Corruption isn’t just the preserve of bourgeois liberal politicians; it’s a mindset. I was shocked to see the same motives of greed, power, fame and jealousy totally eclipsing the common cause in an Olympic bout of territorial pissing. Totally bonkers when they themselves had identified a limited window of opportunity following Blair’s election in 1997 and the inevitable disillusion for anyone who hadn’t been observing the upwards trajectory of the Tory creep.

Now that the public has seen through the political class the Left is nowhere. Today’s local elections should have sent votes into the stratosphere, even if it was just in protest. But we know they won’t.

It’s good to see Independent columnist Mark Steel picking up on this at last, but as so many of them knew about this problem for ages and declined to help those of us who were trying to challenge such destructive behaviour, why has it taken so long? It’s no good waiting until the axe is about to fall on you. That’s not what comradeship and good politics is about. Anyone who’s read the Pastor Niemoller T-shirt knows that: “First they came for the Communists …

I’d suggest that in turning a blind eye and failing to support dissenters those stalwarts of the left have been part of the very problem they now condemn. They can hardly complain now their own past practice is biting them on the bum.

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13 thoughts on “Who’s Left?: how the Left failed the Big Test”

  1. It was a fine rant, Mick. One richly deserved. (Oops! They told me I wasn't allowed to use the word "rich". Yet another word to add to their Big Black Book of Sins.)

  2. The main reason the so called rev conservative left is such a load of bollocks is because the poor saps genuinely believe they have a scientific answer to their politics, when in reality politics is based all 57 varieties of human emotion, including low cunning.

    Due to the scientific socialism tag, they believe they have the answer and the ability to solve all of human kinds problems. Christ these people even have a policy about what leg your prick rests on.

    Why do they need to look for political allies beyond their own leadership group, after all, those who are not with them, are class enemies, who when the revolution comes will be dispatched to the gulag in the sky.

    We workers may have many faults, but we are not stupid enough to vote for people whose scientific socialism has produced nothing but a mountain of corpses, it is for this reason too, why we will never vote en mass for the BNP, no matter how much certain Trots think we are easy prey for nazi nonsense.

    In truth the likes of the SWP are part of the problem and I doubt as an organization they will ever be part of the solution. Rant over 😉

  3. I agree with your points 1-3. Mod. They've helped usher in a new era of right-wing dominance through arrogance, destructive practice and who knows why else.

  4. Well you put your finger on it:

    "Now that the public has seen through the political class the Left is nowhere."

    The problem being, much of the British Left are *seen* as part of the political classes, a class apart, similar background, just the dumb down version, Oxbridge by another name.

    It is the leaders and the led syndrome.

    The British Left has never had the self awareness to ask:

    1. Why do we continue to fuck things up?

    2. Why can't we reach people?

    3. What is it about ourselves that puts others off?


    All of those questions go unanswered, cos bits of the British Left *think* they have all of the answers and don't need to ask questions of themselves, so you end up going around in circles.

    and that is not a good idea with the rise of the BNP. Then the Tories, oh fuck. How despressing

  5. "It's always some other group's fault, never your own."

    It was my own group, Magenta, not "some other's". The lack of any internal democracy make it impossible to tackle abuses.

    "And it isn't the "Leninist party discipline" that is the real threat, especially if the BNP and suchlike surge."

    It is a real threat when it guts your own side in the face of "the BNP and suchlike … ".

    Until the left can be honest about the way it conducts itself it will continue to repel the very people it purports to represent.

  6. This is going to come as a shock, but the radical right are not noted for mutual and internal tolerance. So why do they appear to be doing well?
    There is a long tradition of ex-members of left groups commenting bitterly on the experience, sometimes tipping all the way over to the far right.
    One problem with this piece is it doesn't really escape from left-wing behaviour patterns, while denouncing them. It's always some other group's fault, never your own.
    And it isn't the "Leninist party discipline" that is the real threat, especially if the BNP and suchlike surge.

  7. Is this your way of talking about the June 4th incident Madam M?

    (NB, I hope that doesn't sound like a dig, 'cause I don't meant it that way – honest).

  8. Marxists have got this notion that political takeover has to be by force because the bourgeoise wont give up 'control' to the working class. They've swallowed Marx's Communist Manifesto despite the fact that it's the biggest bit of simplistic nonsense going.

    First of all society is far more complex than Marx made out, especially now. And secondly there is the ballot box, the powerful police force and then the armed forces. There aint no armed revolution gonna happen.

    Yet you've got these dumb heads thinking there is. They've got fixed minds that can't be changed not matter how many times a great big wet fish slaps them across the face and says, 'Bollocks'.

  9. Louise is completely correct.

    The reason Respect split is essentially the same reason the Scottish Socialist Party split, which is also the same reason the Socialist Alliance fell apart- control. The leaders of the various factions are too afraid of losing control over their cadre, and still see themselves in competition with the other factions, who they are now supposedly working with. They'd rather maintain control of their own bit of turf than risk losing it in the struggle for something bigger.

    These coalitions remind me of nothing more than the House of Commons. The component groups spend more time attacking each other than working together, 'whipping' their members to vote according to the party line and ensuring that the party with the most members gets its own way over every issue. And if you don't belong to any of these factions, your opinion is worthless.

    The Leninist method of political organisation is not capable of building the democratic socialist party we need. More and more people are coming to this conclusion.

  10. The (dis)organised left has done so much damage to the movement. The only positive example I can think of is the SP trying to pull the recent wave of strikes out of the nationalist abyss. But even then, they are still so small given the conditions (full credit, though, to the individuals who've been working their butts off.)

    You are right about mass apathy and we know in part where it's come from.

  11. This is one of the problems of democratic centralism, and the bollox called 'Leninist party discipline'… It is all about control, and in someways this mirrors your average bourgeois party (including the borgeois workers one!). The revo left has itself to blame with the desperation to control and take over. Also, the sneery contempt shown by the revo left when people organise, and it just doesn't match one of the 57 varieties of strategy and tactical intervention put forward by one of our Glorious Leaders.

    Opportunities lost, and when good opportunities are shown there is a knee jerk desire to stymie the good intentions.

    It is not rocket science to work together as an alliance based on transparency and true democracy. Something that can attract people to basic socialist principles and the gap is there….

    And at the moment I really can't imagine (hopefully I will be proved wrong) that even with the advent of a Tory government it will galvanise the Left and working class into mass action. More mass apathy….

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