Chapter 6 - Oppositional possibilities

Submitted by posi on October 12, 2010

None of the people we talked to in chapter 1 were involved in any particularly dramatic forms of class conflict, yet each was able to identify some space within the conditions of their relationship with the state in which they could resist or challenge the forms of relations imposed on them. Sometimes they suspected the possibility was there but had not known how to use it, or had felt the costs too great or that they did not have sufficient support from others.

From the experience of these people, as well as from our own experience as 'clients' and workers in the state, and from the stories of others we have talked to or read about, we can begin to piece together some examples of oppositional action which illustrate the variety of ways in which the 'state form' encompasses us and ways in which we can begin to resist it.

We realise that these struggles, in themselves are not enough. They are often small, fragmented and isolated. We use them to illustrate possible tactics to challenge the state form of relations, not as an overall strategy for superceding capitalism. They and a growing network of struggles like them are essential, but their significance depends on the extent to which they are integrated into the general struggle for socialism.

Overcoming individualisation. The state tends to individualise us, to diminish our awareness of having a class interest. We can only reassert our class identity therefore by collective struggle. Often it is the most productive course of action too.

The teachers we talked to, particularly Mary, had found that when they organised collectively it was possible to give each other support to work in a way which challenged prevailing attitudes in the school. Teachers of different subjects started using their free periods to sit in the classroom for each other's lessons, so that they could discuss problems together afterwards. This was done without the knowledge of the school authorities. The arrangement helped the teachers to develop socialist ideas about their work and to combat the isolation they otherwise felt.

Mary also worked in a department with a number of other socialist teachers. Collective commitment to certain activities like showing films against racism enabled them to widen the scope of what they were able to do. 'Because the whole department decide to do something, there is no way they can stop us doing it.'

Simply to refuse to act individualistically and to insist on collective organisation can be clearly threatening to state institutions that are themselves bureaucratically arranged.

The law centre workers told us: 'We have ten workers. Originally there were official appointments: so many typists, so many receptionists, a book-keeper, a community worker and a number of solicitors. Although we tried to run it collectively even then, the collective discussions were really only about administration, how to give the clients a better service. That was the way the original group had planned it. Now it is different. We have really shared things out more equally. The typists have begun to do the same work as everyone else. Everyone shares the typing and reception work, the chores.

There has been official criticism of this. They think each centre like ours ought to have a director, and there should be a central management committee. Collective running upsets them. They want one person in control so that they can contact that person regularly and make them responsible, sack them if necessary. There has been a whole lot of discussion among the workers about whether we should co-operate in this, do it the way the sponsors want us to. Some of us say "No, we've got to be anarchic, fuck them up every which way we can, so that they take notice that we're here".'

So often, we are asked to compete with each other as individuals or families. Sometimes people see through this trap and find another way of doing things.

Tenants at Sporle Court, an unhealthy block of flats in Battersea, were all hoping for transfers to better estates. With help from the local Peoples Aid and Action Centre, they employed a doctor to interview and examine all the people living there, seventeen families in all. A report resulted which demonstrated that every one of them required rehousing on medical and medico-psychological grounds on account of their housing condition, and they were able to use this in support of their transfer campaign.

Perhaps the private corner into which the state and capital has driven us most relentlessly is in the household of the nuclear family. So it is from there that every little step outwards towards a deprivatising, a social sharing both of functions like dealing with Social Security, but also a spreading of the burdens and rewards of care, can be a challenge not only to 'state form' but to one. of the foundations of capitalist organisation.

Rejecting misleading categories. The state habitually addresses us according to categories which, though not entirely false, in that they do reflect an aspect of our real situation, are nonetheless misleading and (as with individualisation) tend to obscure the reality of our identity.

It is impossible altogether to reject these categories, since they refer to part of our experience. But we can in our struggles try to supercede them and act on more widely shared interests. This has often been recognised by people involved in 'community action', who have tried, for instance, to forge working links between council tenants and direct labour building workers, or to bring owner-occupiers and tenants into joint action over housing improvement. Officially-preferred categories so often confuse and set us against each other. Some groups have successfully resisted this divide-and-rule tactic.

One Active Pensioners group, for example, are unusual in defining 'pensioner' as anyone in receipt of a state pension. So as well as elderly people, disabled younger people can be members of their group and their special problems included in campaigns.

The category of 'community' is itself ambiguous. In so far as capitalism tends, with its brusque processes of development, redevelopment and decline, to ignore and trample on people's attempts to forge a sense of belonging, community is something to fight for. But it is a concept often used in official discourse apparently to localise consciousness, to minimise any sense of class, by fomenting rivalry and parochialism.

The Home Office Community Development Project was an interesting example of a state programme, whose intention in this respect was diverted by the workers in it. Many were socialists, and many more became so as a result of what they learned during the course of the project. They were appointed to twelve different local authorities around the country, mainly, though not exclusively, in areas of inner city decline.

They were expected to study and analyse the problems within their respective communities and try to develop community self-help to overcome them. Instead, they rejected the definition of 'community' proposed by the state and its implied boundaries, and compiled joint reports, comparing and analysing on a national level so that the problem of each area came to be seen for what it was - a product not of misfortune or fecklessness, but of capitalism.

Defining ourselves in class terms. The reality that is obscured by individualisation and the misleading categories preferred by the state is that of class. The aim of socialists in the state is therefore to reveal the class nature of society and the state and to find material ways of expressing this class awareness in their struggle.

In 1976 the West Yorkshire Transport Executive announced cuts of £50,000 in the bus budget. This was accepted by the local branch of the T & GWU on assurance that neither jobs nor earnings would be affected. Neither was any initiative to be taken against the cuts by the Leeds Trades Council or political parties.

The Leeds Campaign Against the Cuts approached 'Platform', a small rank-and-file group of bus workers in the city. All agreed that the proposed cuts would affect both bus workers and community. There would be loss of jobs, cuts in take-home pay and that half of the population entirely dependent on public transport would suffer as services deteriorated. It became clear that public transport was an issue on which strong links between workers and consumers were needed. A joint Public Transport Group was set up on which they would work together.

Bus workers found that public protest about inadequate services helped them to put pressure on union officials to consider more militant action against the cuts. They also found that, as they were able to point to inadequate staffing, lack of spare parts for buses, bus users began to understand the connection between government cuts and why 'No Number 86 turned up the other night'. Organising a campaign together they later prevented fare increases of 24 per cent and plan in future to use the tactic of refusal to collect fares, in which they feel the combined class strength of bus workers and users can best be applied.

Especially for 'professional' state workers, to identify the class structure of the conflict is not enough. It is also a question of deciding personally which side you are on in the struggle and making it material by what you do. This has occurred in many different incidents, as when state social workers have reinforced tenants' barricades against state force; or when probation officers have refused to give court reports on squatters.

The class-conscious choice of tactics must surely be extended to strikes in the big public sector manual workers' unions. The tactic of dealing 'only with emergencies' is not always feasible. It is difficult to distinguish emergency cases from routine cases. Everyone in receipt of meals-on-wheels will suffer without them, each one is an emergency. It is because of this that so many state workers in caring jobs, such as home helps, refuse to strike at all. A strategy of continuing to provide resources while refusing to impose the 'state form' on them may be far more threatening to the state than withdrawing labour. It will involve non-cooperation with management, refusal to recognise hierarchies and orders, the introduction of collective decision-making and new kinds of relationship with 'clients'.

Defining our problem our way. The state, as we've seen, tends to define things we experience as a problem in terms which we don't recognise. When we complain, the finger is pointed back at us. We have to insist on defining our problem our way and refusing to shoulder the blame when it rests not with us but with capitalist ways of producing, and capitalist social relations.

How often, when we are ill, we are made to feel guilty. 'I am at risk of lung cancer because I'm addicted to cigarettes; I have liver disease because I can't resist drink.'

Area Health Authorities have a 'health education' budget allocated for teaching the public about self-help, about self-discipline in diet, drink and smoking.

The Community Health Council workers we talked to said ‘At first we thought that health education was liberal nonsense. But then we saw that it is possible to use these resources instead for alerting people to the true causes of illnesses and addictions. Through official "health education" it has been possible to explain to people the environmental sources of cancer. They've seen how the stress of work and worry caused by capitalist relations can cause mental illness. And that a lot of over-eating is encouraged by advertising. As a collective activity, identifying the true causes of ill-health is one of the most consciousness-raising things there can be.'

When children regularly refuse to attend school, the education authorities seek the cause and put the blame on the child and the family.

A group of Educational Welfare Officers fought first for the right to have meetings alone, without superiors present, to discuss their work collectively. Out of these meetings and the shared experience of similar problems, they came to understand that truancy is not a problem that arises in the home or in the child, so much as being a problem for the school, created by the school. In doing so they made a choice as to whose side they were on. The next step was to try to develop more appropriate responses to truancy.

In housing, when the council tenant complains to the council of dampness in a flat or house, frequently he or she meets with the response 'It's your own fault.'

Group of tenants in Glasgow and Edinburgh insisted on rejecting the council's definition of their problem and insisting on their own. In Glasgow they organised a demonstration outside the council's show house on the estate and threatened to open up one of the damp, inhabited houses as an alternative show house. They carried rotting materials into the council chamber. In Edinburgh, where dampness had been prevalent in many council flats, causing sodden walls, fungus and ruined clothing as well as ill-health, the council blamed the lifestyle of the tenants. They instructed them to heat their homes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and to leave their windows open at the same time. Joint Damp Action Groups formed to bring tenants together from a number of estates. They compared notes with the Glasgow tenants. They tried for three years all the normal procedures of letter writing, lobbying arid deputations. Then they organised a mass complain-in, designed to bring the housing maintenance section to a standstill. They occupied the Housing Committee and threatened a rent strike.

In Glasgow and Edinburgh, although they have not yet won the struggle for damp-free houses, these groups have made their definition of the problem stick. Glasgow did award rate rebates, even though they were small ones. Edinburgh has allocated approximately £250,000 to treat damp houses - not enough, but an admission of responsibility.

Stepping outside the brief. The state fragments responsibilities in such a way that different people and different official bodies have the job of dealing with one part and only that part of our problems. Poor housing and poor health are defined and treated as separate problems, even though we know how closely they are related. These divisions of competence mean that the underlying cause of many of our problems, the capitalist social relation, is obscured. We ourselves often fail to see and respond to the problem as a whole. As state workers somehow we have to find ways in our struggle of rejecting these arbitrary divisions and organising in such a way as to bring the totality into view.

CHC workers said: 'We are meant to be attending to the NHS. But we feel there is little to be done about health through the NHS. Health problems arise through low income and poor living conditions and hazardous work. A CHC should say 'Stuff the NHS, we are going to work on questions of health and safety. We believe that exposing and understanding what is making people ill in this community is more important than helping the management to run the NHS.'

They stepped outside their brief, identifying a certain factory as a source of health hazard. A doctor was employed to visit the factory, where the workers were struggling for union recognition. The doctor was asked by the women workers to examine them. She made a report for their use in their struggle, showing the extent among them of skin disease and other illnesses due to working conditions.

Refusing official procedure. By the ritualised practices in which it involves us, the state tends to prevent any direct disruptive expression of our needs. This dampening process seems to be the result of' representation', of committee procedure, of the formula of 'the right to speak' or to participate, confidentiality. Many productive struggles against the state seem to include a refusal of such state procedures. The process of choosing a representative and giving over to her or him the power to negotiate, excludes the majority from taking a full share in decision-making, and it distances and co-opts the representative.

CHC workers and Council shifted from proper observance of state procedure to direct action, with good effect. The Area Health Authority announced the closure of a local hospital. 'First we forced the Area Health Authority to consult local people. We had to take them to court over it. But finally, after all the consultation, the Minister did confirm the closure. So we saw that consultation had not worked. The Minister had turned us down. But everyone was angry. We said to ourselves – instead of going through these fruitless procedures of consultation we should make it clear to the AHA just how strongly people feel. We must stop writing letters to the Minister, calling meetings, discussing documents. Instead we will set up a campaign.'

CHC workers contrasted their experience of campaigning with the demoralisation of endless correspondence and negotiation. 'There is so much to be gained by breaking out of the mould. Being on a picket line, on a demonstration gives you a feeling of solidarity, and a better awareness of your own power.'

The experience of many law centre workers of using legal resources offered by the state has led them to conclude that the law, as a promise of equality, is a sham. Besides, the procedures often tie people up and slow them down.

Law centre workers we talked to were advising a group of tenants fighting a redevelopment scheme. Faced with a choice of continuing to play along with the legal process for small returns, or to expose the fraud, they decided the best course of action was to abandon hopes of legal appeal and instead to physically face the bulldozer in passive resistance with the tenants. They chose this course both as a way of dramatising and strengthening working-class action, and exposing the limitations of the view that justice can be secured by legal procedures.

Rejecting managerial priorities. The state is a hierarchy - or more accurately a system of hierarchies. People working in the state often find that there are rules about sticking to the correct level. Councillors are frequently not allowed access to lower officials and vice versa. The contact between councillors and the bureaucracy is often kept to a high level, where it can be controlled. Likewise, in schools, we saw that in some cases the rules prevent classroom teachers having direct contact with parents.

Councillors and people working in the state have sometimes found therefore that an effective challenge to 'state form' and a necessary step in organising is to find material ways of breaking with hierarchical relations, by making contact above and below level, and across departmental boundaries, and to insist on the right to meet without superiors present.

Within the hierarchies, the way to power over decisions is achieved by climbing upward. Social-democratic parties use this ladder to get to the strategic heights from which they hope to influence things in favour of the working class. But we saw earlier how they take on management responsibilities as they climb, and are soon required to abandon the working class, or at best to become unreliable allies. The struggle within and against the state is not a gradualist game using managerial discretion.

The talks we had with backbench Labour councillors and their friends and supporters in the Labour Party, led us to think that there was a clear distinction to be made between oppositional and managerial space. There was a certain amount of useful opportunity-value in being in the Council, but this lay in the chance of dramatising the current situation from a public platform. It was possible (just) to promote or pass resolutions condemning the government's policy of public expenditure cuts, calling on the Council to restore services and defy the government audit. They could make statements about need, rather than resources. But they were limited to rhetorical, rather than material struggle in this respect. Because the Council leadership alone had the power to make material decisions – and for them, it seems likely that the one occasion on which they would choose to act oppositionally would be their last.

The backbenchers, recognising its limitations, still felt that their best role was to dramatise the difference between oppositional and managerial priorities in council affairs. Here and there opportunities arose where an oppositional form could be built into council procedure and achieve a certain durability. An example was the appointment of race relations advisers to certain directorates _ black officers whose role was to monitor and challenge the normal managerial process.

In the history of local government, a handful of moments stand out as times when the passing of the management buck stopped dead.

In Poplar in 1921, George Lansbury and other councillors refused to accept the instruction of central government to reduce benefit payable to the already starving unemployed. They went to gaol for their decision.

Half a century later, in Clay Cross, Labour councillors, with full support from a working-class area, refused to implement the rent increases imposed under the 1972 Housing Finance Act. They submitted after a long struggle to personal surcharge and were dismissed by the central state and replaced by an appointed Commissioner.

Labour left councillors in the old London borough of St. Pancras in 1956 lowered council rents, had the Whip withdrawn by their own Party and were surcharged personally in the amount of the deficit their action caused in the council books of account.

More recently, the Area Health Authority in Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark has refused to implement public expenditure cuts in local health service. As a result they have been sacked and the Secretary of State has appointed special Commissioners to make the cuts.

As socialists inside the state, or having a particular concern with the state, we are a long way from knowing clearly what our expectations of elected members on the left should be. What is a left oppositional strategy for elected members? Where and when does opposition fade into managerialism? What should be the minimum conditions of our support for social-democratic candidates? If we do not know clearly what we mean by an oppositional strategy and are not ready to give them support in it, we cannot expect elected members to make a class-conscious choice and act oppositionally.

Alternative organisation in struggle. Counter-organisation must be creative. Given some energy and imagination, the way in which our struggle is organised and fought can not only be an opportunity to test and develop socialist ways of doing things, but can in itself challenge capitalist social relations and therefore pose an important threat to the stability of capitalism.

The 'work-in' (as an alternative to the strike, or to accepting redundancies) has been a response to the withdrawal of capital from firms, the closure of factories and public offices. In the public sector, as cuts begin to affect whole units, the kinds of work-in organised at Plaistow, Hounslow, the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and other hospitals, will become a relevant form of action.

In Hounslow, a 66-bed general hospital was threatened with closure in 1976. It began a campaign that year. It developed as a work-in during 1977, and the hospital managed to continue in operation until past the closure date. In October, however, the hospital was raided by the authorities in the night, private ambulances hired by the state came and stole away the patients, and beds and furniture were left overturned. After the raid, the hospital was occupied for a further year until the AHA finally agreed to admit to the inadequacies of their current services and the need for a community hospital on the site.

The work-in at the EGA women's hospital started in November 1976, not only keeping the hospital (threatened with closure) open for the use of women, but defending the choice of better social relations within it. Workers and patients asserted the right of women to be treated by women if they so choose, and have attempted to develop alternatives such as the 'Well Woman Clinic' there. Now the Government have agreed to continue to provide some services for women at the hospital.

Common threads

These examples, then, fragmentary and inconclusive as they are, are nonetheless illustrations of counter-organisation in opposition to the 'state form'. In their way they are all oppositional- they reflect an understanding of the daily experience of disappointment in reformism and gradualism. They are all based on an awareness of class conflict, and take class sides. They are material, rather than limited to exhortations and resolutions. They are material in another sense too, in that they avoid idealism: they are based on first-hand experience of predicaments, not on the altruistic effort of some politicised people to help others. The struggles described here all challenge the capital relation and its state form, and they do so by prefiguring socialist organisation within the struggle itself, so far as this is possible.

The need for new strategies

As we saw in Chapters 1 and 2, our relationship with the state is always contradictory. We are always liable to lose something. The basic contradiction is that as 'clients' we need the resources the state offers and that in satisfying this need we are necessarily held into the state form of relations. It is no good discussing struggle as though we were fighting from a well-provisioned, well-armed position. It is precisely because we are not that we are organising struggle at all. Capital may be in crisis, but often we are in poverty too. So what we can afford to lose will always be limited, and will have to be calculated against what we can hope to gain.

As state workers, we are often in control of material things that other people need, (health care, housing allocations, SS benefits, transport). In choosing how to act to challenge the state we are limited by the hurt we may inflict on other working-class people by doing so. We are limited too, by the fact that we need our jobs, and that any action which poses any real threat to the state will probably lead to attempts to get rid of us.

The balance of choice will not always (or ever) be decided, though, from our individual situation alone. The scope for localised, limited struggles, the extent to which oppositional space can be identified and exploited, depends to a large extent on the class forces more generally. It is different at one historical moment from another, and history is made day by day and week by week, not a century at a time. Our struggles are part of the process of making history and at the same time the form and content of struggles and their degree of success are determined by history. So it is essential that we be aware of what is going on around us, internationally, nationally and in the next department. The same position in the state structure will have different possibilities at different moments in time. An individual's or group's power to bring about change toward socialism does not depend just upon their position and actions, but on the balance of class forces at any given time.

Many marxists, for instance, in the upsurge of the student revolt in Germany in 1968, were swept to the position of professor in universities, where they had the power to develop socialist education. As the socialist tide retreated, people in lesser posts lost their jobs. The professors, with security of tenure, remained, high and dry. They still held the heights but their power to bring about change had been curtailed by the retreat of the struggle around them. So our actions are important for other people too. We may think we are acting on our own behalf, but what we do changes the balance of class forces for others.

The ideas we have developed about struggle within the state have come out of our experience over the last ten years: a decade characterised especially in the first five years by apparently liberal, if contradictory, state initiatives. In the early seventies many of the new developments, from community work to intermediate treatment, were stabs in the dark on the part of the state. These early experiments in new forms of integration and co-option were in many ways fringe initiatives and the abundant oppositional space they offered has been widely documented.

In recent years, as the state has been able to offer less and less by way of concrete resources to the working class to maintain the capital relation, the flood of initiatives reflecting the changed mode of domination has increased and become more main-stream. Learning from its early experiments, the new forms in the state, from devolution and consumer councils to workers' participation in industry and school community managers, are much more sophisticated and highly controlled. Our oppositional opportunities are contracted.

Now we have a Tory government which at the same time as promising unprecedented cuts in welfare spending has increased spending on the state's repressive activities. In this situation, have the things we have learned from the struggles against the state in the last decade any relevance? How appropriate are the ideas we have set out here to the coming period?

One of the first consequences of a Tory electoral victory has been the demise of many 'quangos'. Public expenditure cuts have provided the rationale for an attack on law centres and advice centres. Socialist research will be made more difficult. Pockets of oppositional activity are being threatened as the initiatives that were tried out by the state in the foregoing period are abandoned the Home Office Community Development Project and community development in other boroughs such as Wandsworth, are examples. In this situation we may have to defend 'participatory' mechanisms however ambiguous they are, if they offer better opportunities for opposition than autocratic and secretive processes of management. There is a new danger in our situation though, that of appearing to endorse, as we struggle for the retention of certain state services, the state itself. We may become caught up in a defence of the 'state form' as well as of state provision. We may find ourselves driven into defending forms of management and decision-making which we rightly feel ambivalent about, just because they are preferable to forms about which we feel even worse.

It seems important that where oppositional space is threatened we seek oppositional ways to defend it wherever we can. A university teacher whose women's studies course comes under attack, for instance, faces a choice. She can write a letter to the professor justifying her activities on the grounds that this is a 'specialist option'. Or she can organise a collective response from students and other teachers asserting their right to be offered the course they want. So often when threatened with cuts or closures we rush to justify ourselves in terms of our usefulness to the state. How often community projects, advice centres or other experimental projects plead 'Don't close us down. We save you money by promoting self-help, we keep people off the streets. We are no trouble really!' And how often has this strategy not only failed but led to demoralisation too.

To defend our activities on the basis that they are wanted and needed by working-class people rather than that they fulfil the state's needs and expectations may seem at first sight much more risky. But we may receive more organised support this way, as well as making our politics - our analysis of the state - very clear through our actions. We must defend the provision we want to have in a way that strengthens rather than undermines the alternative ways of relating to each other and to the state - which we are trying to develop.

It would be a mistake, however, to imagine that Tory rule will mean an end to oppositional space generated by changes in the mode of domination in the earlier period. If the Tory cuts are not to bring about an immediate political crisis, they will have to be accompanied by many more sleights of hand of the variety of the Great Debate in education and the Supplementary Benefit Review. In the coming years, oppositional activity may prove more difficult to organise, but if the Tories carry out their public expenditure plans they may well find themselves in difficulty in continuing to ensure the effective imposition of the 'state form'. Through counter-organisation we may be able to make it even more difficult for them. In altering the mode of domination - decreasing the allocation of resources to 'participatory' and 'community' bodies and increasing it to the police and the armed forces - the Tories are taking a risk. They are shifting weight from one foot to the other, which may mean that we have a chance to catch them off-balance.

An important component of the Tories' ideological attack has been their view that there has been too much state intervention and too much 'socialism'. The popular support in the working class that helped to bring the Tories to power in the 1979 election is built on a profound dislike of the state. People are reasonably angry with the state. They are angry not only at the niggardly nature of its provision but above all at the oppressive and tedious form of relations it involves them in. They place their anger alongside and in alliance with the quite different distaste for these 'welfare' aspects of the state felt by the bourgeoisie. If we as socialists simply defend the state, as provider of services, rather than opposing it for the relations it represents, we will be failing in dialectic as well as failing to respect the good judgment of working-class people based on a wealth of daily experience.

While reactionary, Tory Government policies are also radical. They appear to offer a way out of the stalemate of the last few years. They are explicitly opposed to centralised bureaucracy and state control, both of which the Tories have cleverly associated with 'socialism'. These policies are attractive to working-class people because they speak to their experience of the state.

By contrast, the Labour Party and the labour movement appear to take a much less radical stand, focusing on a defense of the welfare state. Groups to the left of the Labour Party, while pushing for more militant action do not differ fundamentally from this approach. Think of the slogans: 'Save our hospitals', 'Defend jobs and services'. While many labour movement activists have an historic attachment to the welfare state which they see as a major victory, the mass of people are aware that they are not 'our' hospitals or 'our' services. These are not our institutions but theirs.

A socialist movement which responds to the Tory attack on the welfare state by taking a defensive stand will not get mass support. Effective socialist opposition to Tory policies must involve helping people grasp what socialist forms of organisation might be like. As we fight back, we need to clearly distinguish what we want from what we have had in the past: the 'socialism' of the welfare state. However horrible Tory policies, people will not join in the struggle unless they feel that they are part of a movement for something different. Wherever there is resistance we need to look for practical ways of giving our struggle a socialist content and a class basis: insisting on our needs, defining things our way, spelling out how we would like it to be.

We recognise that we are arguing for a new approach to socialist politics and that it leaves many urgent questions of political practice still to be answered. What is clear is that if a mass, class-based movement for socialism is to emerge we need new strategies which do not divide us from ourselves and in practical ways embody a socialist vision in opposition to the capitalist state.