Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Getting involved.

Noam Chomsky, passim, sets up as a general principle that first and foremost, people should get involved. Go out, be a part of political discussion, agitation and action. The mere presence of people in the political discourse changes it: the aim of the elite and the right is to minimise involvement, or destroy its independence (a la the mobilised totalitarian states with mandatory involvement - Germany, USSR, China, Cuba, etc.).

It is the independent involvement of the broadest sections of the community that provides for the prospect of progress. In the UK, political democracy has destroyed the Conservative party - not as a vote grabbing bureaucracy, but as it's former incarnation of a gentleman’s club filled with natural rulers - whither the High Tories now? The difficulty of the British state in fighting the Iraq war was due in no small part to the need to get the population on board - as the growing tide of the Downing Street memo scandel attests.

In South America - particularly at the moment in Bolivia, Ecuador and even Venezuela (The link is to certain critical voices complaining about the top-down approach of Chavez - my opinion, incidentally, is that he should resign to show that the revolution there is a movement not a man, that would be interesting, and commendable). Are all undergoing popular protests and struggles.

Not just there, obviously, in Yurp we had the referendums, and clearly, the results went against what the political elite in cosy consultation had agreed among themselves.

None of this goes against my own impossiblism. Obviously, I would prefer the banner of conscious socialism to be unfurled. I would prefer a working class armed with concise political science negotiating under terms of a clear understanding of the class struggle. But failing that, I understand the class struggle is there, is being fought, being waged, whether people know or want it.

The effect of people being involved in politics is to affirm and advance their own interests - and they're going to do this merely by breathing and eating. They have no need for leaders to get them into struggle, nor of followers urging them on to glorious battle.

The strength of the Socialist Party case is that the Party clearly and unambiguously does not want to get into and control these types of struggle - housing association struggles are for housing associations. Union struggles are for unions. The Party isn't mother isn't father, to misquote Babylon 5. I am a trade unionist, an activist (of sorts), I don't see, say, our struggle to stop the privatisation of the College Cafeteria as being incompatible with socialism (I couldn't care less about ownership titles, but these deals are an attack on the union and on working conditions).

Impossiblism is not standing on the sidelines, it's getting involved and getting dirty, practically, not out of some vain glorious Romanticism that sees leftists cheering any strike and all strikes rather than weighing them up tactically. The organisation for the capture and conversion of political machinery into an agent of emancipation is also involvement.

We are living in an age of revolutions, the idea of revolt in the streets is spreading, the boring work of dealing with life after the street battles is becoming part of the accumulated wisdom of the human species.

The late Maurice Brinton even managed to find positive aspects of the Ulster General Strike back in the ‘70s. Nice try, but occaisionally the popular is reactionary, viz the referendums in US states that have constitutionally banned Gay rights legislation.

Demanding the impossible means raising the standard of hope, and affirming your own principles, not slavishly looking for yet another battle to join.


Blogger John said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:22 PM  
Blogger John said...

Hi Bill--

In defence of Brinton, it wasn't like he agreed with the politics of the UWC; he was drawing attention to the enormous power of grassroots activism when properly coordinated and organized (and there's also the very useful and topical lesson to be drawn that just because an organization contains the words "workers" or "councils" or even "socialist" in its title, it doesn't automatically qualify as progressive)

Excellent posting all the same, especially the concluding sentence. Couldn't agree more.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Lo John,

agreed, like I said, he was trying to find something positive in what was a reactionary use of working class power, and that was the power bit, really. For those who see any strike as a possible source of revolution, it stands as a stark reminder - the working class have the power, and can use it for good or ill - hence, to re-iterate, the importance of clear political consciousness...

8:12 AM  

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