Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Counterforum - and strategy for the left

Opening meeting on 2 May: A feminist manifesto for the 21st century - Lindsey German and Nina Power

Discussions on 3 May: The shape of the crisis, Islamophobia, racism and fascism, The 21st century working class, Gramsci and hegemony, The internet-serving the revolution? The left and the movements

Speakers include: Brendan Montague (campaigning journalist) Lorenzo Corretti (Popola Viola anti-Berlusconi movement) Chris Nineham (Stop the War) Kate Connelly (PCS activist) Adrian Cousins (editor Counterfire) Lindsey German (socialist author and convenor Stop the War Coalition) Clare Solomon (President elect University of London Union) Elaine Graham Leigh (Campaign against Climate Change) John Rees (author of Imperialism and Resistance) Tami Peterson (Birkbeck SU Exec) James Meadway (economics editor, Counterfire) Peter D Thomas (author of The Gramscian Moment) Shamiul Joarder (Friends of Al-Aqsa)
All personal capacity

Registration fee £5 - you can book a place at Counterfire

There's lots of material on the website that links in closely with the discussion topics, but one piece I especially recommend is 'Marxism and the crisis: a strategy for the left' by John Rees. Here is - forgive me for spoiling the ending - the final section, called 'Strategic thinking: can't pay won't pay':

Some of these theoretical weaknesses are reflected in the recent lack of strategic thinking about what the left should be doing. After the Seattle demonstration of 1999it was clear that although the recovery in the industrial struggle was slow, there was a political upturn. This was demonstrated by the rise of the anti-capitalist movement, the anti-war movement, activism around global warming and third world debt and active disillusion with Labourism. The correct strategy for revolutionaries was to use the tactic of the united front to build this resistance, carry socialist argument to a wider audience and, crucially, to use the growing political confidence of the class to lift its confidence in the industrial sphere. This was the origin of the idea of ‘political trade unionism.’

The onset of the recession and the recent increase in struggles related to it show how correct this approach was and is. Many of the struggles against the recession~most obviously the Vestas factory occupation~have been as much political struggles as narrowly economic strikes. They have involved political issues, been motivated by political activists and have campaigned using the very same types of organisations as the political movements.

It would be strange then if at precisely this moment the left should choose to move away from this perspective. We need to stand back and take serious stock of where we are. The essential points are these:

1.The political radicalisation that began in 1999 is, under the impact of the recession, spreading more widely throughout society and helping to lift the level of industrial resistance. There is a growing threat from the right, but it will only become dominant if the left fails to provide leadership on the central question of the recession.

2.We need a wider theoretical debate so that our analysis of the crisis is broadened to effectively integrate the new dimensions of the economic crisis and its social and imperial dimensions into our analysis.

3.Politics remains central. But this does not simply mean socialist propaganda, however valuable this is. It means a renewed commitment to united front work on political and economic issues.

4.The war, as the demonstrations over Gaza in January 2009 and the continued crisis over Afghanistan show, is central to British politics. It will remain central to any notion of political trade unionism.

5.The recession requires an initiative on a class wide, national basis which tries to involve the widest possible layers in the labour movement in generalising the resistance to the recession.

6.The resistance at Visteon, Vestas or in the postal strikes, for instance, would have been stronger still if there was an already existing nationally organised network of supporters to whom they could have turned for support, meetings, collections, delegations and so on.

7.Such a network would provide a much wider audience for revolutionary ideas than can be obtained by propaganda means alone. The creation of such a network is the best possible guarantee that the recession will not pass the left by without there being any qualitative increase in its size. In the years ahead the creation of such a network is likely to be crucial in raising the level of working class resistance and building mass support for socialist politics in the face of the greatest crisis of world capitalism since the 1930s.

1 comment:

  1. OK, looks like it could be a good event but what appalling timing to have it on the weekend immediately before the election when every socialist worth their salt will be out leafletting for TUSC or Respect or left Greens or local campaigners...or at the very least campaigning with UAF or HnH.
    It smacks of the worse kind of sectarianism of the (insert name of demonic sect of your choice here).
    Breaking the mould?