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March 30, 2012

Comments

ejh

But in general the white working class, in London & the South East anyway, and no doubt with hon exceptions, were never bothered by Iraq, or were positively supportive of British aggression.

Do (or did) polls back that up?

CMcM

don't agree that there was any real democracy under Brezhnev (and indeed in Russia since the 20s), so what existed then wasn't demcen at all.

Apart from not being so sure about the existence of democracy in 1920s USSR I don't disagree. But you're claiming the idea of demcen as intrinsically democratic, which many people, including me, think it isn't. Its' inherent flaws were spotted by one young man (who admittedly later recant of this view) as early as 1904:
"In the internal politics of the Party these methods lead, as we shall see below, to the Party organisation “substituting” itself for the Party, the Central Committee substituting itself for the Party organisation, and finally the dictator substituting himself for the Central Committee."

(Which is a characteristically over blown version of what Phil said)

Phil

you yourself described Galloway's approach as dog-whistling.

I also said that any party standing in Bradford West would do it (as indeed they did). And your own link says that Labour ran a campaign consisting of trying to get the mosque vote out, and that the Labour campaign literature may have alienated white voters - to Galloway's benefit. (The Asian population of Bradford West is substantial, but it certainly doesn't amount to 55%.)

Again, what are you suggesting that Galloway brought to the contest? Your link says that he mobilised young Asians against a dozy Labour Asian establishment - and that he also appealed to white voters. And we know that he campaigned on jobs, tuition fees, Afghanistan and the redevelopment of Bradford - classic bread-and-butter Old Labour issues, none of which Labour could touch. Things are as they seem: a left-wing demagogue has won a massive victory by promising change and campaigning on left-wing issues.

Phil

Skidmarx: if everyone's likely to agree anyway, you don't need demcen - least of all in the SA/Respect scenarioa, when an alliance of parties & groups has transitioned to individual membership.

ejh

(contd. Socialist Unity, pages 1-9994)

skidmarx

CMcM - if it ain't democratic, it ain't democratic centralism.

Phil - No, because the SWP wasn't the whole of SA/Respect, and it's all a bit more complicated than than anyway, and you're doing something like "if X implies Y, then Y implies X".

Phil

No - these things matter precisely because the SWP wasn't the whole of SA/Respect. The SA had individual members, a very large number of whom were SWP members. If they could all have been relied on to think like SWP members (and why wouldn't they?), they could all have been allowed to vote individually - and in that scenario complaining that SWP motions tended to get carried really would have been sour grapes (which was where you started).

skidmarx

And I don't see any evidence that demcen was making them vote for things they didn't believe in, or that they had surrendered their will to a higher power. Specifically in relation to Respect , there seems more evidence that many SWP members would have liked to kick it to the curb than thought that it was all a Mr.Rees that caused the problems rather than the demands of George and his soon to be ex-SWP assistants.
If they could all have been relied on to think like SWP members (and why wouldn't they?), they could all have been allowed to vote individually You are more powerful if you all pull in the same direction. See Clausewitz.[I'm aware that Sun -Tzu says something a bit different]

bert

55% of a 50% turnout, which tweaks the maths somewhat. And, to quote back again, "he got a whopping majority, and this doesn't apply to everyone".

We do have a difficulty here. It's a contrast with the Republican primaries, where they run detailed exit polls. Even before the official results are announced, pundits are digging into the crosstabs, telling us this candidate won that% among such and such income group, etc. Here, we have none of that.

Instead, we have you saying that the official campaign literature provides all the explanation necessary and we need look no further. And me saying that the Respect vote has a large element of identity politics to it.

One thing I think we agree on is the weakness of the existing Labour machine, which had evidently rotted away under the surface. A Labour comeback will require connecting with voters in a different way, and I'm concerned that Respect's current strength makes doing this on the basis of community cohesion principles that much harder.

There's one last thing I should make explicit. Throughout this discussion I've been drawing on my experience of Respect campaigners in east London. They were all about grievance, full of religion, and 100% transmit/0% receive. There's a danger in generalising from that experience, of course. As we both said earlier, we'll see soon enough how things develop in Bradford.

Phil

we have you saying that the official campaign literature provides all the explanation necessary and we need look no further. And me saying that the Respect vote has a large element of identity politics to it.

No, we have me saying that the official campaign literature is evidence, because it exists. And we have you saying nothing at all specific, except points that apply with equal if not more strength to other parties - in between drawing a frankly offensive comparison with a right-wing Republican.

bert

I don't think we're making any progress, Phil, and with the greatest respect, I get the sense you're arguing past me at someone else. The idea that there is nothing to grass roots opinion in Bradford, or its expression in byelection voting patterns, other than the catchall protest issues chosen for Respect's campaign literature seems obviously foolish to me. There's plenty of material on the deeper picture - indeed, 7/7 set off a mini boom in it, some of it helpful, much not. I've explained the Santorum reference. Twice. It's weird that you're taking offence, and unclear on whose behalf. Rather than repeat myself I suggest we come back to this another time, and see if we can have a more constructive conversation then.

gastro george

A tired old hack speaks: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/01/nick-cohen-george-galloway-livingstone

ejh

Which piece I find to be exactly as long as the one by Kenan Malik.

Phil

I've explained the Santorum reference. Twice. It's weird that you're taking offence

Seriously? It seems fairly obvious to me that when you're talking about a British socialist - somebody well to the left of anyone active in US politics - bracketing him with somebody well over towards the right-wing edge of the US political spectrum might seem to suggest some scepticism as to that person's socialist bona fides. Maybe there are lots of entirely non-political(!) ways in which the case of Galloway, G. resembles that of Santorum, R., but it seems to me that it would have been best to pick a different point of comparison.

The idea that there is nothing to grass roots opinion in Bradford, or its expression in byelection voting patterns, other than the catchall protest issues chosen for Respect's campaign literature seems obviously foolish to me.

That's a legitimate opinion - although I think "catchall protest issues" has considerably less explanatory force in this context than my own "classic bread-and-butter Old Labour issues". My point is simply that your opinion doesn't seem to be supported by any evidence. You don't seem to be able to adduce anything that Galloway brought to the Bradford contest that might justify treating Respect as a sectarian communalist menace, or for that matter treating his election as anything other than a good thing. Anything, that is, apart from the fact that you don't like Respect.

Phil

You are more powerful if you all pull in the same direction.

You're more powerful still if you're all seen to pull in the same direction voluntarily.

If I'd been an individual member of the SA, I and my few dozen (hypothetical) co-thinkers might have been able to win a few dozen non-aligned members or even a few dozen SPers to our (hypothetical) position, and from those small beginnings our (hypothetical) position might become dominant in the organisation. Except that we wouldn't be able to win a few dozen SWPers, though; it would be the full party or nothing. And to get the full party on our side would mean engaging with the processes by which policy is made and changed within the party - processes which are somewhat opaque to outsiders, and appear to be only intermittently active. Our allies within the SWP might end up with the SWP collectively adopting their & our position - which would carry the SA as a result - or they might end up expelled, putting us back to square one.

Either way, demcen within an organisation whose members are members of a larger membership-based organisation is a massive impediment to policy-making within the larger organisation.

skidmarx

You're more powerful still if you're all seen to pull in the same direction voluntarily.
Lot of truth in that.
demcen within an organisation whose members are members of a larger membership-based organisation is a massive impediment to policy-making within the larger organisation.
Or it speeds it up, convince one of the borg the comrades, and the rest will fall into line, like automata.

chris williams

Skidmarx, the Wikipedia entry on the history of the SA is not true.

ejh

Damn, I meant to post a photo of David Shepeherd at 111...

skidmarx

@chris williams - Yes, of course, this couldn't possibly be right:

Unsurprisingly, the Socialist Alliance was riven by political disagreements, mostly concerning the behaviour of the Socialist Workers Party, which was by far the largest group participating in the Alliance, and which many felt dominated it.
Keir

The argument against demcen is similar to the caucus problem one, right? I.e, if we have a left-wing Party, and they have five members, three of whom are in the Left faction and all vote together, then the decisions made by the Left faction will inevitably end up being the decisions made the by Party, even if they are only supported by two of the faction. You can see why this would become demoralising to the rest of the Party. The option in that case then become either the dissolution of the party, or the faction negotiating compromises.

chris y

One point that needs to be borne in mind is that the best demcen within the experience of anybody here is an already semi-Stalinised version of how the Bolsheviks originally went on. Before the Civil War, debates were held in the full glare of publicityin the pages of Pravda, and it was only after a course of action was decided that people were expected to act on the majority position. They could then critique the outcome, in public, as much as they liked.

The notorious "ban on factions", which LDT retrospectively liked to represent as a temporary expedient in conditions when the revolution was fighting for its life, was a ban on public factions, not groups of like minded comrades meeting in pubs, although the history of the British left is rife with just that kind of clampdown.

I'm not aware of a single influential group on the British left since 1945 which has tolerated the level of open debate that the Lenin of 1914 would have taken for granted. I assume it's because almost every such current has emerged late from the CP and its leadership have never really known any different regime. The partial exception to that generalisation is the SWP, but to me they therefore have even less excuse.

john b

"It seems fairly obvious to me that when you're talking about a British socialist - somebody well to the left of anyone active in US politics - bracketing him with somebody well over towards the right-wing edge of the US political spectrum might seem to suggest some scepticism as to that person's socialist bona fides"

I think this is probably a disconnect between "what people active in far-left politics think", and "what everyone else thinks". I can see that, if socialism/control-of-means-of-production/etc are your primary concerns, there's no relevant similarity between GG and Santorum.

But if you're looking at things more broadly, two characters who use religion and social conservatism as a tool to attract working class voters, who are both explicitly opposed to currently prevailing models of capitalism favoured by governing elites (Santorum has spoken up against TARP, Wall Street, free trade, NAFTA and so on, while obviously not being a socialist), clearly have some relevant similarities.

Phil

two characters who use religion and social conservatism as a tool to attract working class voters

But we're going round in circles. Why do you hate Galloway? "Because he's a religious reactionary." Where's the evidence that he's a religious reactionary? "Look at all the parallels with Santorum." What's the connection with Santorum? "He's a religious reactionary, just like Galloway."

I really am not Galloway's number one fan. He's got some socially conservative views, and he fights dirty; it seems to have been Labour that played the "vote for the Muslim candidate" card in Bradford, but Galloway wasn't shy about taking it off them. But he didn't campaign by going to the elders and getting the mosque vote out (that would be Labour) and he didn't run on a reactionary platform. It's all very well saying there's much more to Respect than supporting Old Labour policies and opposing the war, but it does look as if a lot of people in Bradford voted for the party for those reasons.

Phil

convince one of the borg the comrades, and the rest will fall into line, like automata

Alas, as I understand it things aren't quite so simple: ground-level comrades have to persuade the next level up, and so on up the organisation until you reach the dizzy heights of the CC. (And, to give an added "Grandmother's footsteps" frisson to the whole thing, they have to do all of this without being expelled for factionalism.)

Guano

Original post.

"Now, if a Labour Party leader had done that he might be in power now."

Could that have happened? Could a mainstream UK politician have told the US Senate the ugly truth about the invasion of Iraq? What would have happened if he/she had done that?

(NB I'm not asking "should it have happened?" I'm asking "could it have happened" What are the constraints in UK politics to facing up to, and saying out loud, the ugly truth about the invasion of Iraq?)

Cian

But if you're looking at things more broadly, two characters who use religion and social conservatism as a tool to attract working class voters

Just for the record, what seems to be meant by working class in this context in the US is somebody who has not completed a four year degree. The working class Republican includes a lot of small business owners, for example; as well as petty managers at various levels.

Tom Frank's thesis has been pretty comprehensively analysed by this point, and his premise doesn't hold up. On the whole, a person's voting habits in the US are as determined by money, class, aspirations, as they are in the UK (There are plenty of working class Tories); and to a lesser degree social factors (army people are way more likely to vote Republican). Yes religion plays a part in some places, as it does in many other countries, but its only one factor. Its simply that the Religious Right are very well organised and funded, much as the Catholic Right are in a number of European countries. The other factor in the US is race, and quite often 'religion' can run cover for more racial ways of looking at the world.

But if you're looking at things more broadly, two characters who use religion and social conservatism as a tool to attract working class voters, who are both explicitly opposed to currently prevailing models of capitalism favoured by governing elites (Santorum has spoken up against TARP, Wall Street, free trade, NAFTA and so on, while obviously not being a socialist), clearly have some relevant similarities.

TARP and Wall Street are very unpopular with Tea Party types, who are also not wild about Free Trade (Buy American/China is stealing our vital fluids). Despite what the pundits would have us believe, the Tea Party is a middle class/elderly phenomenon. There are lots of objections to free trade, and one of them is a right wing/patriotic objection. Though Santorum's alleged objection to NAFTA is largely an anti-immigrant thing - and in a twisted way he's kind of right in his analysis.

Incidentally the idea that the path to victory in the primaries is through appealing to the working class voter is an, um, interesting one.

Martin Wisse

I think replace "minority communities & wonks" with 'Asian British and graduates holding university degrees' and you've got a pretty close description of the 2 million who marched in London in 2003.

You just cannot get a two million strong demonstration with only "Asian British and graduates holding university degrees", as various anti-education cuts have shown in the last few years.

Anecdatically, having been involved in the antiwar campaign in Plymouth in the runup to the war, never a hotbed of socialism or pacifism, it was quite clear that even there if not a majority, a large minority of people disapproved of the war.

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