Monday, 30 June 2008

The problem for the left? We just aren't sufficiently organised!

We know it really. We don't talk about it very often. It's something we whisper about, rather than shout. But we can't escape it: socialist politics is all about organisation, but organising is something people on the Labour left are traditionally pretty hopeless at!

It's not hard to see why. We're mavericks. If we weren't mavericks we'd have either somehow reconciled our principles with New Labour, or we'd have left and joined some sectlet. To borrow from Tony Benn, we dare to be Daniels. But Daniel wasn't overly organised!

But you can be a dissenting voice and be organised. That's the whole point of a labour movement and of trade unionism. Our dissenting voices only start to be heard if they are in chorus.

The extent of our disorganisation came to me in a flash today when I received my regular copy of 'Progress' Magazine. I assume I receive this because I am a CLP officer (I'm guessing not all party members receive it, though that's an interesting question!) It is clearly paid for by union sponsorship (the back page is a Unite advert) and slipped in the front cover is a flyer for the Labour First slate for the NEC elections.

For too many Labour Party members this is the voice of Labour. It comes just as the old Labour Party magazines used to arrive - as if this were the voice of the Party. Yet it is campaigning stuff: Alan Milburn on public sector reform, John Hutton on going beyond the small state/big state debate, Denis MacShane on pro-European politics since the Lisbon Treaty, and an editorial on the continued case for New Labour.

By contrast, how many Labour members see Socialist Campaign Group News or Labour Briefing? We couldn't even organise to link Labour Briefing clearly with the LRC, let alone get union funding to send it to every CLP (with a CLGA leaflet in the front cover)!

Yet, until we do, we continue to talk to ourselves and we maintain our position as a healthy minority in the party.

I believe that, on a huge number of issues, the left speaks the language of the membership in a way the right couldn't hope to. But too few members hear us speak.

The challenge is clear - how do we go about meeting it?