Sunday, 30 September 2007

John McDonnell in the Morning Star

Very interesting article written by John in yesterdays Morning Star (Sat 29th September)

I think it is crucial that the points he makes and conclusions he draws are debated in the wider movement. The issue of Labour Representation is not going to go away. Far from it, as workers move into struggle, more and more will be drawing Political conclusions and the Labour Left will have to think a little more 'outside of the box' when it comes to trying to attract the workers to the ideas of Socialism.

There is a debate over at Socialist Unity blog ( )

AFTER the events at the TUC and Labour Party conference, it is time for the left to take a hard-nosed look at where we go from here.
First of all, we have to face up to the harsh realities of the new political world in which we are operating.

The historical path of the left stems from working people coming together in the workplace and discovering their strength through solidarity. Nourished by socialist ideas, they recognised that, if they wanted to exercise power beyond the workplace, they needed political representation. So the Labour Party was born.
Democratic party structures were established to develop the policy programmes to be implemented when power was achieved.

This week’s vote to close down democratic decision-making at the Labour Party conference and Gordon Brown’s first speech as leader demonstrated that the old strategy is largely over. The conference is now virtually irrelevant and its replacement, the National Policy Forum, is a behind-closed-doors exercise of centralised control of party policy-making.

Brown’s speeches at both the TUC and Labour conference demonstrated decisively how much he fundamentally believes in the principles of neoliberalism - the dominance of the market, flexible labour and privatisation.
Even if there was the potential to use what is left of the party’s structures to attempt to influence him, it is clear that the overall political direction of the Brown government is non-negotiable.

The left has the difficult task of accepting and explaining to others that the old routes into the exercise of power and influence involving internal Labour Party mobilisations and manoeuvres have largely been closed down. We have to face up to the challenge of identifying and developing new routes into effective political activity.

The contradiction is that the more undemocratic the Labour Party becomes, the more it cuts itself off from the real world at a time when new social movements are emerging.
People may be increasingly giving up on political parties, but they haven’t given up on politics. They still want to challenge the injustices they meet in our society and they are devising a multitude of mechanisms to do so, from independent media and climate camps to affinity groups organising direct action.

New social movements have mobilised on a vast array of issues ranging from climate change, asylum rights, to housing and arms sales. Many trade unions have also rediscovered their roots as social movements themselves in their new campaigns on everything from private equity to the exploitation of migrant workers.

New alliances are being forged and, where trade union leaderships have been incorporated as supporters of the status quo, rank-and-file activity within their unions is re-emerging and organising.

The difficult task for the left now is to appreciate that new strategies, new coalitions of forces and, above all else, a new dynamism are needed to deal with the new political environment where the traditional routes have been so narrowed.

The left needs to open itself to co-operation with progressive campaigns within our community, learning from them, treating them with mutual respect, rejecting any patronising or sectarian approach and, where needed, to serve as the catalyst to instigate and facilitate campaigning activity. Creativity is also needed to stimulate the analysis, debate and discussion of the ideas and principles which we may share in our wish to transform our society.

The main political parties are increasingly seen as irrelevant to the real-world issues facing our communities, resulting in declining participation rates and election turnouts and deepening scepticism.

This doesn’t mean that people are apathetic. Far from it.
There is a growing radical nature to our times and an opportunity for a period of exciting, frenetic activity capable of creating a climate of progressive hegemony which no government could immunise itself from no matter how ruthlessly it closes down democracy in its own party.

John McDonnell is Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington. His book Another World is Possible: A manifesto for 21st century socialism is available to buy online, price £2.50 inc p&p at or by sending a cheque payable to LRC to PO Box 2378, London, E5 9QU.


grimupnorth said...

we are certainly in a desperate situation and there's no point kidding ourselves....alternative courses of action must be found....

Doctor Dunc said...

Do you have any suggestions, Susan?

grimupnorth said...

At the moment,not really. I am basically struggling to come to terms with the fact that the labour left has been let down so spectacularly time and again this year by the trade union leaders as , in my naivete, I never expected that to happen.When I am feeling a bit more optimnistic I will try and organise a meeting of like minds just to do a bit of brain-storming.There is a real mood of despondency. I share it at the moment

Doctor Dunc said...

It's really a case of history repeating itself. There have been generation after generation of apparently radical trade union leaders who have ended up providing cover for right-wing Labour leaderships. I do sometimes think it has something to do with the culture of negotiation and bargaining in the union movement that they struggle to ever put down lines across which they won't be moved.

On previous occasions the alternative course of action was via the CLPs. But of course so many members have drifted away (or stomped off!), and all the democratic structures have been got rid of, that isn't really a way to change things either. I do worry that there isn't really a democratic route to reclaiming the Labour Party. And I'm not sure what form an insurrection could take! I certainly don't think there's any future in any other non-Labour organisation. I just think we have come up with some creative ways of changing this party, and need strategies for the various scenarios we may find ourselves in in the coming years. I think some centre-left and leftish people thought Brown was going to be under constant siege from the Blairites, and therefore they would become crucial to him. That hasn't happened. So I think there are a lot of people running around looking for a role at the moment. Compass has died on its arse, as predicted, because of its idiotic approach to the leadership/deputy leadership question.