Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back to the future in Kilburn

It really is like going back to the 80s! First Thatcher is all over the news and then along comes a wordy, insightful and - in large part - persuasive analysis co-authored by Stuart Hall (The Kilburn Manifesto -

Hall, and his fellow authors, argue that neo-liberalism has, over the 40 years since Pinochet's coup led to free market experimentation in Chile, established an (albeit incomplete and contested) global ideological hegemony, which means that the left is failing to turn the current economic crisis into a political challenge to the status quo.

They argue that; "This phase of free-market capitalism has now entered a serious economic crisis from which it cannot easily engineer an exit. But the shape of the crisis remains 'economic'."

This is evident, and provides a firm foundation for the following commentary on our Party; " Labour, the official opposition, is in serious diffculties. It leads in the polls but it is not yet winning hearts and minds. It shuttles between conficting ways forward. It seems afraid of its own (left) shadow, in hock to the old Blairite rump and a belief in the conservatism of the electorate, trapped in parliamentary rituals, mesmerised by electoral politics. It has been rendered speechless by the charge that it opened the door through which the Coalition is triumphantly marching."

There is much to applaud in the insights of the authors of this "Kilburn manifesto" including an accurate identification of our adversaries (the global ruling class) and an analysis of the articulation of class with other structures of oppression which could usefully inform current debates - and which leads to the plausible assertion that "Mobilising resistance requires alliances of a sort which only a multi-focused political strategy can hope to construct.".

If there's one thing I'm uncomfortable with (as I was in the 80s come to think of it) it's the weight given to what I was taught to call "the dominant ideology thesis."

Whilst it's clearly true that "every social settlement, in order to establish itself, is crucially founded on embedding as common sense a whole bundle of beliefs - ideas beyond question, assumptions so deep that the very fact that they are assumptions is only rarely brought to light", the authors are also right to concede that "there are legitimate differences of view about the causal emphasis that should be allotted to ideological, political and material factors." I tend to think it has been our material defeats which have paved the way for their ideological triumphs and that it is to the rebuilding of our movement that we need to pay the greatest attention.

That minor quibble aside, this is a refreshing contribution to the thinking the left needs to do and I look forward to the publication of further chapters.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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