A fight without sectarianism, is not a fight without arguments

The strength in the anti-cuts movement, emanating from the draconian and dangerous agenda of cuts from the existing government, and led in many ways by students and trade union activists, has increased greatly in its current form – and as a consequence further questions are being raised inside it, that extend further than merely “what is it we are against?” (as Tom Miller has rightly written about here).

As the movement grows even stronger, numbers increase and demands start to be met, it is inevitable that questions will get tougher: “Yes, we want change to government policy, but what will that change look like?” and “Yes, the government should crumble, but how do we promote and help form a credible government in its place?”

Many people have been fairly scepitcal of entering into debates on theory, saying things like “save this waffle for the dinosaurs at the branch meeting” – I’m not of that opinion, and I’m also glad of the reference Miller, mentioned above, makes about Lenin (I myself used the Spanish Civil War, for example, to illustrate a point on so-called “left unity” ).

A common criticism of Marx is that while he critiqued and criticised capitalism expertly, he spent less time mapping out what Communism would be like operationally or morally. Perhaps he needn’t have. This, people will say, allowed Communist leaders to do some pretty drastic things justifying their means by their ends, while public intellectuals could excuse killing if it meant a Communistic outcome. It’s no surprise to me that in the periods from WWI to the end of the Cold War the left were not only carved up into Reformists, democratic socialists, revolutionary socialists, utopian socialists, Communists, and Anarchsists, but each of these were carved up in the form of libertarian socialists, Bolshevists, Menshevists, Council Communists (you get my gist).

The left is a broad spectrum, inevitably it will fall out on issues, and at points one faction will wonder why another is being compromised with (why, for example should a statist reformist, work with an an anti-statist libertarian socialist, while he compromises with a civic republican on certain matters). It’s good to belong to a broad church, but differences should be rationalised, and difficult conversations should be engaged – and they should be done earlier rather than later. It is not an option to put off this conversation, no matter how difficult, and no matter how inconsequential it seems at the time, particularly as some of the activism is so exciting and so all encompassing.

In order to steer clear of in-fighting later on, difficult conversations are a must – now.

The movement of students, workers and sympathisers of whatever stripe, with continued energy, focus, and direction, will start to see differences; there was a feeling the night before the tuition fee bill vote that Lib Dem MPs were on their backfeet – we may have lost that battle, but there is a war to be won (a cliche, sure, but you see my point). Unity can bring this disgusting and ideological government to its knees, but as that other cliche establishes, action without theory is aimless.

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“Influential left-wing ideas”

Bob has linked me to another meme, this time on good and bad influential left wing ideas, and I’m only too happy to comply. The rules are self-explanatory so away I go:

Good ideas:

Considerate partisanship – You can’t please all the people all of the time, nor can you agree with all the people all of the time, but you can and must work with as many people as you can, disagree and have the punch up later.

Anti-Clericalism – Not to be conflated with anti-religiousness or militant secularism; to be anti-clerical is to do two things: make sure a single denomination church cannot rule indefinitely; curb another way for people with ideas above their stations to control the levers of political power.

Democratic Socialism – The belief in the parliamentary road to socialism without the belief in the capitalist mode of production. Simple. It also anti-Stalinism without being libertarian socialism; socialism from below as opposed to dictatorship of the proletarian.

Marxian Darwinism – The concept, presented in its best form by Dutch Council Marxist Anton Pannekoek in his 1909 essay Marxism And Darwinism, that we are at once social as well as economic animals and therefore the striving for egalitarianism is a duty. For those who say Darwinism is incompatible with left wing politics, it might be remembered that social Darwinists (Capitalist or fascist) are using natural selection as a terse analogy; what Darwin’s theory points out is that we rely on our society and should therefore want the best out of it (to be in for a good chance of benefiting from it).

Anti-Fascism – The left must be opposed to all forms of fascism, be that from the white working class, the black middle class, the Asian upper class, or the unintelligible Aristocracy of all countries.

Bad ideas:

Cultural Relativism – the notion at best smacks of hegemonic patronisation of those who supposedly know no better, at worst it is the attempt to excuse intolerable behaviours on the grounds that cultural difference reaches further than universal concepts of good and bad.

Postmodernism – At best, and like the above, postmodernism attempts to explain away notions without regard for universal concepts of good and bad, at worst denies the existence of an objective reality independent of cultural or subjective appropriation.

Utopianism – “You sir, yes you, the chap with his hands over his eyes, and his head in the clouds, yes you, shut up will you!”

Anarchism – Left wing unity is a problematic term because established knowledge will have you believe that anarchists and socialists share common cause and this should be at least tolerated. But unity on these lines are arbitrary, rather than seemingly common sensical as some would have you believe. It seems obvious to me that common cause can be achieved quicker with a conservative who believes in asset-based egalitarianism than an anarchist who believes it necessarily follows that a state leads to dictatorship and private property protection.

The Chavista Movement – A Bolivarian alternative to NAFTA or other free trade movements that ideologically reduce poor South American workers to the wretched of the earth? Yes. A catch all anti-American policy that incorporates people holocaust denying scum like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not just as an economic ally, but as a friend? No!

Not influential enough:

Eco-socialism – Evo Morales once said: “The Earth does not have enough for the North to live better and better, but it does have enough for all of us to live well.” Can you imagine these words from a Tory Environmentalist? No. Therefore it is incumbent upon the left wing green movement to distinguish itself from mere environmentalism.

I’m going to leave it there.

Chaps to invite, again (!), are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here

Against Sectarianism from a Labour Perspective: A Rant

A couple of moments ago, Wes Streeting, who is a Labour Councillor in Redbridge, said this in a tweet:

“Not sure it’s very ‘Tony’ but surely we should support Labour’s most electorally successful leader and PM having a statue?”

Statue aside (in his words, “am I bothered”) it is so easy for some people; we’ll support our tribe come what may, and that’s that (no doubt you’ve heard the argument before; we should support Blair/Mandelson as they bring in the votes, forgetting the price the party has had to pay for that experiment). Only for anyone in the Labour Party who really cares about it, and are politically committed to boot, this will not do. Surely a nodding dog who promised everything to everyone (like Barack Obama at the start of his term) would be more electorally successful, but the Labour Party is a political party, historically it has been a political machine and a socialist one as well. While it’s trying to please everyone it is pleasing nobody; Blair may have won his pathetic game against his contemporaries in the Commons, he may have smiled at the correct moments in a PR attempt to woo the heartstrings of the electorate, but he had no political fire in his belly to win the argument for socialism (in fact, by the end I’m sure he’d rather do anything else) and therefore we in the Labour Party should not “support” him. No way.

Yesterday I played a game that my Grandad received for Christmas. One of the questions raised – aimed at a certain generation – was: “should it be absolutely right for a person to fight for their country over anything else?” I was the elephant in the room, among mostly ex-service people (my parents and grandparents included) who said no – but I stand by my answer; today more than ever nation is a tribe that can serve only as sentimental value, ideas and convictions is a dish best served political, and in an age of postmodern disdain for ideas that can guide your uttermost convictions, it is the task of the left today to fight against that current – nationalism and tribalism were bad for politics in generations previous (obviously I justify British presence in WWII, but Churchill was an imperialist, it’s an old point, unpopular and often disavowed, but it’s true) and are bad today.

But who today are really to blame? Reading the above may lead you to think I’m not myself slightly tribal to a political party, but in many ways I am, but not in the sort of way damaging to my political convictions. My own brand of Labour Party tribalism means that I think TonyBlair was a monster – and it’s because I care about the party so much that I can say this. Those who send messages, such as the one above, are more damaging to the party than they realise.

Who I blame for the rightwards trajectory of the political party I am a member of is not necessarily those rightist figures themselves – it is young members of Trotskyite splinter parties like the Socialist Workers Party. In the days during the militancy period in the 80s, people were thrown out in a Kinnock, McCarthy-esque, early New Labour drive to rid the party of socialist ideas – history denialism. There were two elements to emerge; an element who embraced the sectarianism of the left who created the far left pressure groups we know awkwardly selling papers today, and then Grantite-entryists who as best as possible worked inside the Labour Party with the intention of bringing socialists together. Younger generations inside those parties don’t face the same problems; for them the Labour Party is sinking ship composed of capitalists and warmongers. However, these people have less fire in their bellies than the right wing of the Labour Party whose socialism has died with the size of their mortgages.

While sectarian factions choose not to touch the Labour Party with bargepoles, so the right of the party become vindicated in their place, and with the slow death of New Labour, and the sloppiness of Ed Miliband, now is the time to work inside and alongside the party, not against it. Owing to the constitution of the small far left parties, and their continual relevance among young socialists as opposed to working inside the longest existing, and historically the most idea rich socialist party in the UK – the Labour Party – they are by their very nature sectarian, and therefore it is justified to shut the door on their personal vindications to the Labour right wing, while offering a place to them if they wanted, and sharing ideas where possible (like the Labour Representative Committee do with smaller parties).

Daily Mail confused by reality/fiction again

Books of the Year 2010

From this day on, until the 2nd of January, I hope to be too pizzled to blog (is there such a time, I hear you ask – silently), so what better time to do a good ol’ meme (nicked from Paul, who in turn nicked it from Norm – and, well, it’s hardly a new idea is it).

I’m taking on Paul’s rules and format, which you know anyway; 10 favourite non-fiction, 10 favourite fiction, 5 binners, not necessarily published this year, but read by yourself this year.

Here I go:

Top 10 non-fiction

Kenan Malik – From Fatwa to Jihad

David Cesarani – Eichmann: His Life and Crimes

Slavoj Zizek/John Milbank – The Monstrosity of Christ

Ron Rosenburg – Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil

A.C. Grayling – Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime?

Richard Dawkins: Climbing Mount Improbable

Peter Hitchens – The Cameron Delusion

Alain Badiou – St Paul: The Foundation of Universalism

Iain Sinclair – London Orbital

George Ross – The Brink of Despair: A History of Basildon 1915 – 1986

(An eleventh? Well that would have to be the immortal Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton)

Top 10 Fiction

Anais Nin – A Spy in the House of Love

Hermann Hesse – Steppenwolf

Jean Cocteau – Les Enfants Terribles

D H Lawrence – Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Fyodor DostoevskyNotes from Underground

Give it a miss

Mikhail Gorbachev and Daisaku Ikeda – Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century: Gorbachev and Ikeda on Buddhism and Communism

A.C. Grayling – Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay

Susan Blackmore – The Meme Machine

Francis Fukuyama – After Neoconservatism

Phillip Blond – Red Tory: How Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix It

 

I’ll then add here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here

Walking from Pitsea in Essex to The Sekforde Arms in Clerkenwell

Work has all but dried up and I have writers block – it must be Christmas. An engagement in the evening was all I had on so I did something I have always wanted to do from my parents house in Pitsea, Essex; that is walk to London – The Sekforde Arms in Clerkenwell to be precise.

The only trouble was I hadn’t given myself too much time; it was seven minutes past two when I left and I wanted to be sat down in a warm pub having a drink and talking politics by about eight. The conditions were terrible for such a venture; freezing cold weather, iced footpaths and smatterings of rain and snow. It probably would’ve been easier to chase the Southend Arterial Road, or the A127,

Basildon Council offices

all the way along to Havering, but I gave myself the other challenge of walking the back roads; just to make things a little more exciting. I tailed along Wickford Avenue to the Southmayne road at which point I took the Broadmayne road all the way down to Upper Mayne, where I walked through a frozen Gloucester Park towards Laindon.

 

Instead of going up the entire A176 leading to Pipps Hill and the Arterial Road, I turned left on the B148 up St Nicholas Lane, which has the oddly placed financial district of Laindon, near to where James Hornsby High School is. I carried on down this road until Southfields Business Park, which features a beautiful clock in the middle of one of the roundabouts (pictured). I followed the road round Westmayne near the Toomey Saab car joint, past Fords, after the exit for Dunton Village and eventually turned for a brief walk on the Arterial Road before you get to Dunton Wayletts, adjacent to lower Dunton Road.Underpass opposite Gloucester Park Swimming Pool

After walking briefly down the Arterial Road adjacent to East Horndon I exited at Tilbury Road (where I probably could’ve got to had I turned down the road which led to Dunton Village). Tilbury Road was the second worst road to walk on for me (the first coming later) being without path, narrow and sludgy. Quite why it has a bus stop placed near the roundabout exit is beyond me. It was starting to get dark at this point. I followed station lane which led me to a very residential West Horndon. Past here I took a bridge over the rail line and continued down St Mary’s Lane – the worst road to walk down of the journey. The road was narrow, without any footpath, and at this point pitch black. I kept having to walk from one side of the road to the other in order not to bit by over-zealous cars. The road is a very long one which passes through Thurrock and eventually leads to the London Borough of Havering – a triumph in itself. It is home to some very pleasant houses, two kennels and a carp centre called Koi Logic (which is situated just at the end of the B186 at Warley Street).

Laindon financial centreIt was really raining at this point, going as I did under the M25 or the autoroute britannique. Along the B187 by Lichfield Terrace and before the Masons Arms pub I stopped in a small shop for a lucazade and a dime bar. Further up past Cranham I stopped in the local Waitrose adjacent to Tudor Gardens, where I really turned the walk into a derive, buying as I did a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a bigger bottle of Lucozade to drink and contain the wine (so as to hide the actual contents) and a large bar of Dark Chocolate with sea salt inside. I first attempted to crawl up Front Lane – where the Cranham sign is situated (pictured) but though better of it, carrying on up St Mary’s Lane (which leads up to Upminster Bridge tube station near Hornchurch stadium).

I took a right at station lane up to Upminster national rail and succumbed to getting the train (it was half past six at this stage). It’d taken me about four hours and twenty minutes to walk from Pitsea to Upminster. I travelled by train to Fenchurch street, hopping off and walking on the North sideLaindon Shopping Centre of the bank until London Bridge where I crossed to the Southbank walking up towards Blackfriars bridge. Crossing at the bridge I seemed to zig zag the bridges for no apparent reason; I walked New Bridge Street to join Farringdon Street which traces part of the River Fleet Walk. Past the road with Farringdon tube station, and immediately past the Clerkenwell Road intersection between the A201 and the A5201I turned down Bowling Green Lane, taking the road all the way down to Sekforde Street, turning right at that road and reaching my destination. I necked the last drabs of my wine and joined the conversation – in fact one of the very first things I mentioned to an acquaintance was the walk I had just embarked upon.

Underpass near to Southfields Business ParkI may have cheated somewhat, but why should it be taken away from me; my walk from Pitsea in Essex to The Sekforde Arms in Clerkenwell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clock in the roundabout near Southfields Business ParkClock in the middle of a roundabout near Southfields Business Park

Southend Arterial RoadOn the slip road towards the A127

Adjacent to Dunton Villiage

West Horndon, near Station Way

The first place in London I arrived at

A snowman in a house in Havering

The rainy B186 – overlooking the M25, coming away from Ockendon

The “big car park”

Cranham sign on Front Lane

On the warm tube from Upminster to Fenchurch Street, where I transferred the wine to the now empty Lucozade bottle – a girl two rows in front must have thought I was doing a wee

Tower of London, after getting out at Fenchurch Street Station National Rail

London Bridge Tower – the “Shard of Glass”

Entrance to the London Bridge

Entrance to the river underneath London Bridge

View of St. Paul’s from Blackfriars Bridge

Stonecutter Street, where accounting and consulting firm Deloitte is situated, on the River Fleet track

I knew at this stage that Clerkenwell would be close

On the tube back to Fenchurch Street at the end of the night, this chap was smoking – broken Britain!

In lieu of a sustainable livestock law

Rob Flello, MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, failed to get his sustainable livestock bill through Parliament on 15 November, which would have allowed farmers to swap imported soy animal feed for home-grown alternatives. Dependency on imported crop is unsustainable for the protection of the planet, which has near unanimity among politicians and business leaders today, yet opposition to the bill focused on its attempt to forge new regulation on an issue already being addressed by the food industry.

According to Pits n Pots news in Stoke on Trent, the bill enjoyed support from some 55,000 people, Friends of the Earth, and had the backing of 176 MPs, but in the end only managed to secure 62 votes – with some pointing out that many MPs needed to stay in their constituencies that day for Armistice Day Services.

Nevertheless, the failure of the bill to be passed does not spell doom. During the bill debate held in the House of Commons on 12 November, the more thoughtful Conservative opposition noted the work by many individuals and organisations helping to decrease dependency on imported crop and save rainforests in South America.

Tony Baldry for example, the MP for North Oxfordshire and as he refers to himself, the last surviving Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the House of Commons, recognises the benefits of increasing British livestock production, however he is unimpressed with how much “red tape” the bill required.

Like Flello, Baldry wants British reliance on imported soy to decrease in order to lower the nation’s carbon footprint. Additionally he would like Britain to address the problem of chronic poverty in developing nations caused by livestock asset loss (such as losing the benefits of mixed farming methods, livestock consumption of waste products, pest control, fertiliser and food production) however he is confident the industry can bring about the changes itself.

Jim Paice, the Minister of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) noted in the debate that the Dairy Supply Chain Forum’s Milk Roadmap is a good example of where producers, processors and retailers come together and commit to common goals on environmental stewardship, nutrient planning, and recycled plastic milk bottles among other concerns of the day. He reminded MPs that the beef and sheep sectors are also working towards sustainability measures.

While well meaning in their criticisms, they forget that this law was not created to undercut good work taking place, but to ensure mechanisms are in place to stop unsustainable farming and to drive out wrongdoers. The reason the bill enjoyed so much support from organisations as diverse as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, National Heart Forum, and Compassion in World Farming is not in the hope of frustrating self-directed sustainable measures, but to counter unsustainable ones.

A legal framework to combat reliance on soy – which two thirds of all manufactured food products in the UK contain – grown in South American plantations would begin to reduce the amount of rainforest being converted into farmland. Though livestock is not the only sector where soy reliance exists, measures to incentivise the maximisation of local production have not gone far enough; the bill would’ve made a significant difference to local production while ensuring other nations keep more of their produce.

Other criticisms suggested that the bill would place a ban on large dairies, reduce meat and dairy in people’s diets, and set trade barriers on imported animal feed. However if true, this will be the case even if sustainability measures are taken in ways described by Tory opposition to the bill, at least with the first two.

If local production of milk and soy is increased, it will be precisely this, and not cheap foreign imports, competing with large dairies to stock shop shelves. Furthermore, in growing more reliant on national livestock farming, whether through law or through accepted milestones mentioned by Jim Paice, the availability of meat and dairy will be dependent upon production supplying to demand – just as usual. The real problem here, much like that of the price disparity between local produce and cheaper imports in general, is whether people will be able to afford good diets while measures are taken to cut import reliance. Organic and locally produced foods can be up to double the price of imported produce. What had been missing from Flello’s bill were measures to make sure consumers could afford to maintain healthy diets while a reduction in imports took place.

Solving this problem would not mean reinventing the wheel. The Healthy Start vouchers for pregnant Mothers or families with one child under four and who are claiming income support, is a government scheme providing free milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, infant formula, and vitamins. Flello should have taken the opportunity to promote widening this scheme so many more families could be entitled to help. In the absence of the law, yet with willing participants in the farming industry eager to meet the goals of the bill, organisations should call on the government to compensate by extending local produce vouchers to those who will be most affected by the rise in their shopping bills.

As for barriers to animal feed, goods inside the EU are not considered imports, so this will only apply to trade countries outside the EU, and for reasons already explained is an appropriate measure to take in promoting sustainability and reducing the nation’s carbon footprint.

The failure of the bill to be passed will make it a lot harder to ensure sustainable practice is carried out, but not impossible. Individuals and organisations need to continue putting pressure on the government to oversee realistic and effective objectives are achieved in the farming industry, while ensuring people can afford a healthy diet alongside changes to production are made for the betterment of the planet is a national must.