Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Radical rituals ?

For the first time for many years I found myself on the May Day demonstration from Clerkenwell to Trafalgar Square. I know it's a great slice of radical heritage - but I can't help thinking that essentially it has become something of a hollow ritual.

Setting aside the always impressive contingents from Latin American, Turkish and Kurdish Left organisations for whom the May Day tradition is still very much alive - if you based it in the rest of the contingents, you'd come away with a fairly depressing picture of the a picture of the British Left. 

Old Stalinsists, a rainbow of ever more obscure Trotskyist and Maoist sects and a smattering of a younger demographic Occupy types. 

The elephant in the corner notable by its absence was the working class.

Of course you could say the same of many Labour movement events. But the particularly grating aspect of May Day is the sight of trade union leaders' making a succession of stirring speeches calling for the overthrow of capitalism utterly out of sync with what they do or so for the other 364 days of the year. I'm thinking in particular of the leader of my own union (not for much longer though) Len McCluskey.  The great hope of the Left in the unions that never quite

It puts me in mind of some Church Of England clergymen who  are otherwise essentially agnostic playing along with the rituals of belief for the sake of appearances.

I have a hearty respect for radical tradition - probably more than most - but I have to ask if these rituals still help the cause ?

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