Friday, 17 June 2011

Cosiness isn't the alternative to sectarianism

I was at a local meeting the other night to support the action of UCU members at the local FE college. It was celebrating an all too rare but (partial) success for once. A ballot with overwhelming support for strike action had persuaded management to climb down over a vicious cuts package that targeted most of the leading union activists for redundancy. The meeting was dominated by the SWP. And I couldn't argue with that - they have a number of activists at the college and appear to have led the movement there - they also lead the local Trades Council in whose name the meeting was called. What I was surprised at was their attitude to our local Labour MP - David -'pull up the ladder behind me' - Lammy.

An invitation to attend the meeting I can understand -t's  a chance to put him on the spot  for his record whilst higher education minister in the previous government and  now as  shadow education minister. But there were no questions about whether a future Labour government would restore EMA  - a massive issue in our area - or what would be done about student fees. And this was a meeting where the forthcoming public sector strikes on the 30th June, and the events in Spain and Greece, were greeted as virtually the start of a revolutionary situation in  Europe. But Lammy wasn't even asked if he supported the strikes or if he would be coming to visit local picket lines on the day. 

In fact he was only politely thanked for lending his support to the campaign at the college: Of course in the forum of a public meeting none of these awkward questions could or should have been put in a personally aggressive or sectarian way - but they need to be asked nonetheless. If we're being doctrinaire about it (although I'd rather not)  you could say doing so is  a classic 'transitional' approach. It's fair enough to proclaim 'one solution - revolution' but it really does wear a bit thin when over-used - and it becomes a ritual if it's not linked to the day-to-day. 

Strangely the SWP  sometimes remind me of my happily brief time in the CPGB in the 1980's. Whilst feeling a smug 'more-revolutionary than thou' glow, in practical terms  the CPGB could amicably co-exist with the dreaded 'social democrats'  of the Labour Party as some sort of pressure group / custodian of the socialist conscience of the movement, and so enjoy a place in the Lefts' great and good. The political vocabulary of the SWP is obviously different -  but the similarities in the social and psychological cosiness are striking.

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