Labour’s future isn’t working: notes from October 20th

So, the latest lefty Big Day Out has come and gone. These kinds of events are always contradictory: simultaneously a gathering of huge numbers of workers who want to take some kind of action to stop their lives getting worse, and a display of support for the TUC’s dead-end strategy and Labour’s policy of slightly different cuts implemented over a slightly longer time frame. Comparing last Saturday to the huge demo last spring, the lengthy period of inaction and the abandonment of the pensions dispute have clearly decreased the TUC’s ability to mobilise people; on the direct action side, I found it hard to judge how many people were participating, but the property damage that marked the black bloc last year didn’t seem to have happened this time round. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since direct action doesn’t have to involve broken windows – certainly, the official SolFed write-up claims that numbers on the anarchist breakaway were larger than the last time around. I can’t personally say how true that is, since I got to Oxford Square slightly late and then had to spend all my time chasing after the coppers who were chasing after the bloc, so I never really got to see it up close. UK Uncut certainly seemed a lot less noticeable, which is a shame since they’d played a really positive role last time round in creating a space for people who weren’t ready to join in with the black bloc to still take some kind of action more direct than standing around in Hyde Park. On the other hand, the Disabled People Against Cuts road blockade was a very welcome development, not least because being static made it a lot easier to find and join in with.
I also felt in two minds about the amount of “pleb”-based sloganeering on the march. On one hand, the anger at Andrew Mitchell’s comments is a sign of class consciousness and resentment; on the other, it’s very troubling if people actually do think that cops are just plebs like the rest of us, considering how much of their job revolves around keeping us in line. I don’t care about what happens to the cops, so I can’t honestly claim to be that outraged about the fact that a tory was rude to them; a view of class politics based around culture and identity may be a lot better than thinking we’re all in it together, but it won’t get us that far if, a few years down the line, we just end up with a Labour government containing a few token people with Northern accents enforcing austerity on us, and sending “PC Pleb” to beat the shit out of anyone who refuses to go along with it.
Overall, I think the day was inevitably going to be a bit of an anticlimax. No matter how big or how angry they are, Saturday afternoon marches round the same tired old route are never going to cause a serious political crisis by themselves, and after the unions had managed to build up a bit of momentum last winter and then completely derailed the pensions dispute, they were always going to have a hard time motivating people to march back up to the top of the hill once again. Personally, I find it hard to be too negative, because I spent the whole day in the company of friends old and new and so had quite a nice time, but then I could have had quite a nice day if I’d just spent the whole day lying in bed with my partner, eating Bacon Frazzles and watching old episodes of the Simpsons, and I don’t think that’s a workable strategy to defeat austerity either. It’s clear that the remnants of the old left aren’t going to roll over and die just yet, but there’s no sign they’ll offer anything new, exciting, or effective in the foreseeable future either. The key question is whether the direct action tactics currently being used by some workfare and disability campaigners will be taken up by enough people to cause a serious headache for the government; judging by last Saturday’s evidence, that question still remains unresolved.

About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
This entry was posted in Activism, Disability, Protests, The left and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Labour’s future isn’t working: notes from October 20th

  1. Annos says:

    Labour’s past didn’t work either: notes from 1922

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