Strange Days Indeed

Most of the coverage of the SWP’s travails has made me want to cry.  Mark Steel’s blog  at least made me laugh.  As with the best comedy, it has a ring of truth and sadness, but I take issue with him on a couple of important points.  First, I’m getting a bit tired of people telling me how numerically and politically insignificant the SWP is – and then devoting considerable time and energy examining its entrails.  Years ago, when I was a paid-up supporter of the Militant Tendency, I recall its leader (Peter Taaffe) being interviewed by Brian Walden and being asked, in a snotty-nosed way, ‘Isn’t your organisation irrelevant?’ and Taaffe replying ‘If it is, you and your television programme must be too’.  It was the perfect response and links to my second point.  Like many before and since, Walden used the labour movement to advance a career in the media.  When I read Mark Steel’s proto-alternative to the SWP it appears to rely heavily on replacing the alleged cult of Marxism with a cult of the media personality, in the form of a few leftie-luvies with books and blogs to promote, tour tickets to sell and hoping to get on ‘Question Time’.  To the extent that I share some of the criticisms being made of the SWP, in my view it is partly the result of the organisation being far too easily seduced by the mythical powers of the ‘important’ person who embodies our hopes of change.  As a former disciple of George Galloway, I know how this works and where it leads.  If we are to create a new style of left-wing politics, let it be without the literal and metaphorical image of the pedestal politician.  I’m sick of going to meetings where there’s one platform speaker for every two members of the audience, with each competing to enjoy the sound of his/her own voice for longest.  While we’re at it, let’s rethink the role of political meetings: they should be a means to an end, not an end in themselves and they should never last longer than a game of football.  I’m firmly with Oscar Wilde on this: ‘The problem with socialism is it takes up too many evenings’.  This is a more important point than Wilde probably intended.  Another feature of the machinations of the left (and here I agree with Mark Steel) is that they’re oblivious to the realities and interests of most people’s lives, on the subject of which, I’m going to post something soon about the Bedroom Tax, before it’s too late.

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