Labour’s Ultra-Right Chuka Their Toys Out The Pram

lab ultra right Labour has always contained a remarkably, probably impractically wide spread of political opinion. For twenty years, the leadership has been monopolised by the very rightmost bit of that spread of opinion – individuals whose views put them further to the right than some moderate Tories, and on the opposite side of the spectrum completely from the vast majority of Labour members and supporters.

Aggressively defending positions of power in the party from anyone who dared think differently, Labour’s ultra-right has hardened into a sort of grim, entitled political aristocracy – barely acknowledging the existence of, let alone consulting, the foot-soldiers who deliver the leaflets and drive old ladies to polling stations, and instead allying with big business, the corporate media, and obsessing over the swing-seat Tories who, in their eyes at least, offer the most sure-fire route to lucrative cabinet jobs.

Unfortunately for them, it now looks like Jeremy Corbyn, way out on the left of the Labour spectrum, might win the leadership election. They’ve reacted spectacularly badly, slurring Corbyn-supporting party members as nostalgic, stupid and extreme, and doing their utmost to make a Corbyn win look as apocalyptic as possible. Continue reading

Tolpuddlin’

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For the second time ever, and the second year in a row, the Bemolution went to Tolpuddle on the free Sunday. It was basically the same as last year, but we’re reliably informed it’s basically the same every year. And there’s value in that consistency – it’s a respite weekend/networking event for socialists in neoliberal society, and it does it very well.

Essentially a sort of far-left Alan Partridge, we can take or leave the chanting and the speeches and the fist-pumping renditions of “There Is Power In A Union”. But what we particularly appreciated this year was the dedication shown by the staff and organisers – from the hi-vis-jacketed stewards spending literally hours in the sun making sure lemming-like festival-goers weren’t mown down trying to cross a main road, to the boundingly enthusiastic volunteer chuggers collecting spare change to help pay for it all (hello Sophie from Bromley Unite).

It’s a huge undertaking, and the TUC runs and pays for it every year, at a loss. Veteran Tolpuddler Dave Chapple, quite possibly Somerset’s most dedicated and active socialist trade unionist, was telling us that by the early ‘90s the festival had become a bit rubbish – a toothless, mainstream jolly for old-style trade union bosses, with tea and cake provided by ‘the wives’. Tony Blair even came. Then current South West TUC regional secretary Nigel Costley took it over, and turned it into the vibrant, egalitarian, subversive event it is today. Continue reading

Seven Marx Out of Ten: Cherry-Picking From The Left’s Favourite Thinker (Modern Socialism #3)

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One of the main reasons this blog, this series of posts, and the thing we’re for the minute calling Modern Socialism all exist is because we think the Left needs to abandon its obsessive fixation with Marx. Rather than trying to desperately crowbar Marxism into contemporary relevance, we need to cherry-pick its best insights and work them into a new, accessible, modern manifestation of radical socialism. And then, with all that’s worth preserving safely extracted from the stifling dogma, we need to leave the old symbols and the old jargon and the old near-theological splits and squabbles behind.

That’s what this post is going to have a go at. Separating the delicious, nutritious, mind-expanding socialist wheat from the variously discredited, irrelevant and just-wrong-in-the-first-place dogmatic chaff. Examining Marx. Then providing a sound barrier-breakingly fast (and necessarily selective) whistle-stop tour of Marxism after Marx. For socialism, for equality, and for great justice.

Karl Marx was a very clever man, and having spent considerable time studying history, politics, and economics, he decided he’d figured out a grand theory of everything. He called it dialectical materialism. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Spectrums

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Something we’ve been trying and failing to clearly and concisely articulate for a while – and something that stubbornly keeps being relevant. The media, the political mainstream, and people in general talk about ‘left’ and ‘right’ as if there’s absolutely no debate about what those labels mean, and who they should be attached to. But there is. Or at least there should be.

The political spectrum is a concept that allows us to represent different political positions in relation to one another – usually by determining how ‘left’, or committed to equality, or ‘right’, committed to defending inequality and social hierarchy, someone or something is. 

But there are actually two versions of that spectrum in use, even if most of us don’t realise it – one you might call the classic spectrum, and one you might call the relative spectrum.

The classic spectrum is the one everyone knows. It’s also the one everyone assumes is the only one. Full-blown communism sits at the leftmost end, out-and-out capitalism at the rightmost end, and everything else sits somewhere in between, with left-wingers and right-wingers posing substantially different ideas about how societies should be organised. Continue reading

Sleep Dirt (Frank Zapp)

It’s probably hard for most people to fathom how anyone could describe spuddling guitar excursions as ‘emotional’, but if you’re sufficiently attuned, and actually willing to be exposed to mind-altering Zappa rays, you can be walloped by raw, unadulterated feeling. On numb and dreamy “Sleep Dirt”, an uncharacteristically lo-fi cut from his 1979 album of the same name, Zappa wrings devastation from his six-stringed plank of wood. It’s very sad, and perfect accompaniment to brooding over five years of Tory majority government.