I’ve not had time to write much of late, but I just wanted to highlight this article that’s appeared in the Occupied Times, and particularly the practical suggestions it makes:
I don’t want to do a whole “this is what ‘the left’ needs to do” spiel so instead I’d like to make two comradely suggestions to those in and/or joining Momentum and getting actively involved in the Labour Party.
Firstly, if you don’t like what the PLP have done and plan on moving towards a process of deselecting MPs you should also be targeting local Labour council administrations being tirelessly fought by the likes of Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth, Haringey Housing Action Group and Focus E15 in Newham. This organising that is focused on material needs and confronts the state locally and directly has gained significant wins and represents a far better way to bring people together than ‘activism’. Links of solidarity and genuine support should be made to exert pressure on Labour councils (and all councils) using and abusing homelessness laws, and heinous bureaucratic violence and abuse to evict people from their homes and communities, socially cleansing London in the process. This organising is actually more crucial than ever because the danger becomes greater that in people’s desire to support Corbyn’s Labour people will then be more likely to at best only pay lip service to what the Party’s councils are doing or at worst ignore or dismiss them as an inconvenient truth. Whether or not Corbyn survives, this work remains just as important.
Secondly, the primary way to combat racialised violence – something that is a constant in society and most comprehensively administered by the state – is not through electoral means but through strong communities of solidarity and mutual aid. Even the most common form of antifascist mobilising (confronting organised fascist groups in the streets) is, whilst necessary, still inadequate. The spike in abuse and violence against migrants (or those perceived to be so) following the referendum result is taking place on public transport and in public places which means it requires strangers to intervene on the side of those being abused so that they are not alone or outnumbered. If migrants or people of colour defend themselves using “violence” or likewise others do so on their behalf, such actions should be rhetorically and institutionally defended across this “new New Left” converging around support for Corbyn. Likewise solidarity should be extended towards those who block, prevent and defend against the state’s immigration raids, legally or not.
I think that such solidarity is unlikely but I think it’s absolutely necessary and I’d be glad to be proven wrong. When I interviewed Joshua Bloom, a historian of the Black Panther Party, he spoke of how crucial it was to the growth and strength of the Party that there was a measure of cooperation between the Panthers – who believed in armed self-defence and were willing to fight back against the white supremacist state – and more moderate black groups and leaders. Bloom said of these alliances: “if you think about moderate black political leaders […] think about the kinds of people that supported the Panthers in San Francisco like Willie Brown, who was an assemblyman in California, or Cecil Williams who had a big black church, or think about people like…even Whitney Young, the head of the Urban League – I mean you don’t get much more moderate than that, in terms of black politics at that time – these were the people who led the charge against the most vicious repression of the Party […] these were the same people who, when push came to shove, felt like the Party was representing at least whatever effort there was on the part of young black people.”
I feel no sense of judgement seeing comrades joining Labour to vote for and support Corbyn – these are strange and desperate times and people are acting as they see fit – but I maintain the right to remain skeptical about investing time and energy into this. I do strongly believe that, generally speaking, the answer is not for everyone to stop what they’re doing, join Labour and become active in their CLP. Though as people are doing this, it seems clear that relationships between those trying to change the Labour party and those working outside of it could be very important over the next few years. And I can only hope that grassroots party members will extend solidarity to those proletarians contesting the power of the state more directly.