Dead Men Left

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Decapitation, corpses, nosepegs

If internet comments are anything to go by - they're not, but hey - Toynbee's fatuous nosepegs for Labour votes campaign has backfired quite spectacularly. This thread is worth a run down for the utter paucity of arguments on the pro-(New) Labour side.

I say (New) Labour because any real Labour supporter out there with an ounce of common sense will at the very least want to clip New Labour's wings. I'd argue we need to go one step further, and decapitate the beast; moreoever, we need to start thinking about its replacement. Respect is standing in some 26 constituencies, and in some - East London, and Birmingham - we expect to do extremely well, perhaps even winning a seat. It's a grim prospect, when viewed from the still-substantial remains of Old Labour, but after Iraq and eight years of thinly-veiled neoliberal politics from New Labour, we have to start rebuilding a real left-wing alternative in Britain.

I don't see any other plausible vehicle for doing this than Respect. The Greens seem unable to build significantly out of Labour's unevenly collapsing base. Maybe I am underestimating them, but their perennial habits die hard: in a certain sense, they do not function as a political party, engaged with real political forces, but rest their appeal only on simple moral claims about the world. You don't have to be Machiavelli to think this is an odd way to proceed in the type of politicised societies we have lived in for the last few centuries.

This apolitical politics could, of course, be a cunning and far-sighted strategy from the Greens, apparently devoted followers of Lyotard; but aside from my own resolute opposition to po-mo tomfoolery, it would appear to produce few tangible results, given the thirty years of the Greens' existence here. It gives rise to an almost accidental sectarianism on their part, as seen in their standing against Respect in Bethnal Green and Bow - a decision that provoked huge arguments in the local organisation. As soon as other parties start to make similar moral claims to the Greens, they have a tendency to become extraordinarily defensive. If there is a way forward for the Greens, I suspect it will involve doing what their more successful counterparts across mainland Europe have done, working systematically with other forces on the left, and stamping out the apolitical tendencies that have led them into coalitions with the Conservatives.