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Never Mind the Ballots, Create the Resistance

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Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
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Dec 15 2019 17:51
Never Mind the Ballots, Create the Resistance

As we said when we were still in the Anarchist Federation back in 2015, “Grassroots groups and organisations emerging around housing and opposition to austerity must maintain their grassroots outlook and their horizontal organisation. The alternative is distraction from their vital action by the Corbyn circus and its left-wing cheerleaders; a path which only leads to disappointment and betrayal.” And indeed, the path has led to disappointment, with a massive Tory majority.

The Left reacted with horror to the results, Richard Seymour writing for Novara Media that “Disaster nationalism has just cut through the Labour heartlands, and there is no obvious solution. The seat losses may be reversible; as Momentum suggests in an email to its supporters, the margins of Tory victory being small. But the swings were huge, and the breach is historic. To rebuild any kind of Left in these constituencies, after decades of neglect and local Labour rule being pretty useless, will sadly require more than a six-week election cycle and a passionate campaign run by heroic volunteers. It’s no consolation that we probably have ten years of vicious Conservative government in which to do that rebuilding.”

The Socialist Party, for its part, bleated that we must “Refound Labour as a mass democratic workers' party with socialist policies.” Paul Mason tweeted, “I think Labour can go to a million members if we learn from this defeat and stay positive, internationalist and left. Tell your friends: I just joined the Labour Party, will you too?” Elsewhere he wrote: “we need a new leader of the opposition. They have to be a person of stature and experience to withstand what’s coming. They have to be someone who can unite the Labour centre and the left.” David Broder writing in Jacobin magazine whined that “I’m Crying, You’re Crying. But Our Day Will Come… But by way of consolation, at least now we have more comrades to cry with, more comrades whose pain is our own and more comrades who will win, some bright, future day.” This range of reactions from deep gloom-Seymour-to blinkered optimism-Mason, the Socialist Party - to cringeworthy blubbing-Broder- reveals the bankruptcy of all of these pundits in their foisting of illusions in Labourism and social democracy.

As we wrote in Open Letter to Plan C: “For us, the key question in all of this is the autonomy of the social movements… We must argue the case that the new grassroots groups and organisations emerging around housing and opposition to austerity must maintain that grassroots outlook and horizontal organisation and not be distracted by the Corbyn circus and its left cheerleaders. It’s not a question of ‘in, against, and beyond’ the Labour Party, as one Plan C statement suggests, but realising that any real social movement that has as its goals the achievement of libertarian communism must be outside and against the Labour Party which has always been the enemy of real social change, has always been the social fire brigade when the fires of unrest flare up.”

Corbyn - defibrillator of Labour
In fact, the phenomenon of Corbynism revived a body that was in terminal decay. It was an episode in the decline of Labour, a decline which will now continue. In the process Labour was able to establish itself as the largest political party in Western Europe, hitting a figure of 564,443 members in 2017 (but falling to 518,659 by 2018). The development of the grassroots organisations that had developed around housing and against austerity, as mentioned above, were indeed, adversely affected by Corbynism, with the moving of some activists to Momentum and other Labour organisations. At the same time, very few of these new Labour activists were to lend support to these grassroots organisations, concentrating instead on long, boring party branch meetings where they attempted to wrest power from the Blairite/Brownite right, and on canvassing. They were seldom to be seen engaged in activism in the neighbourhood and on the streets. Indeed, the tempo of housing struggles has slowed considerably in London, and the Radical Housing Network, once a promising development that sought to unite housing struggles, is a shadow of its former self. Only in the sphere of environmental action has grassroots organisation developed with the climate strikes and the Extinction Rebellion mobilisations, although there is much to criticise in the politics of the latter.

The coming to power of an ever more right wing Tory administration will mean direct assaults on the NHS, further austerity measures, increasing moves to a police state, and a widening gap between the super-rich and the mass of the population. They will wage class war against us and we must respond with the strengthening of our networks of mutual aid and solidarity, with the growing of social movements, independent from political parties, based on mass assemblies and mandating of delegates. We must develop activity in the workplace, among tenants and renters, with anti-eviction actions, with migrant solidarity with mobilisations against deportations, to protect our services, whether the NHS or local services under threat from councils.

Remember, in France, a vast strike movement has developed under the Macron regime. Like Johnson, Macron has launched ferocious austerity measures against the working class and anger against his rule is on the rise. Alongside and intimately connected to these social movements, must be the development of a culture of resistance, of inclusive social centres and food networks. We have seen the power of the billionaire press in the last month or so, as well as the blatant bias of the BBC. We must develop our own media - that means, not just our social media, which can often operate in a bubble, but the development of street agitation with the production of widely distributed newssheets and other printed propaganda.

The new Johnson administration seems powerful and now deeply entrenched. But remember, the British ruling class is divided like never before. On one hand we have social democratic nationalists like Plaid Cymru and the SNP looking towards exit from the United Kingdom, increasing problems in Northern Ireland, and a Conservative Party seriously damaged by Brexit. As well as this, there are continuing problems for the monarchy, a cornerstone of the system. Not only has Labourite social democracy been hit below the waterline, but the project by factions within the ruling class to construct a new centrist party made up of the LibDems, ‘One Nation’ Tories, and the Labour right and centre, has ended up wrecked on the reefs. In this scenario, we should look towards developing a response in the spheres mentioned above. This will not be an easy fix, but will require determined action and propaganda over the coming months and years.

Source: Anarchist Communist Group

Dyjbas
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Dec 15 2019 19:06

Serge, you should make this a blog post or a library entry rather than a forum post.

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cantdocartwheels
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Jan 2 2020 17:20

the first half of this just comes across as needlessly sneering and 'i-told-you-so'' ish; to me. shame coz the rest of it when you start talking about stuff outside of personal gripes is good

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Jan 2 2020 17:48
cantdocartwheels wrote:
the first half of this just comes across as needlessly sneering and 'i-told-you-so'' ish; to me. shame coz the rest of it when you start talking about stuff outside of personal gripes is good

Personal taste I guess, for me the sneering doesn’t go far enough. I’ll let our splendid comrade, Martin, make good the deficit...

https://youtu.be/qjgw7nb6uag

Battlescarred
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Jan 2 2020 19:06

It's not a question of "personal gripes" it's a question of a rigorous critique of those enablers of social-democracy like Mason and Novara, who've been let off the hook by too many confused anarchists.

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Jan 2 2020 21:22
Battlescarred wrote:
It's not a question of "personal gripes" it's a question of a rigorous critique of those enablers of social-democracy like Mason and Novara, who've been let off the hook by too many confused anarchists.

The problem goes much further than that anyway - many of those that have swallowed this liberal shit have taken it on themselves to close down conversations that question the pro Labour line, both online and in real life, essentially using bullying tactics to do so. This needs to be called out now and be remembered because have no doubt, the phenomenon will be back in force in five years time and especially in ten years time when Labour May just have a chance of being elected.

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Jan 3 2020 15:34
Battlescarred wrote:
It's not a question of "personal gripes" it's a question of a rigorous critique of those enablers of social-democracy like Mason and Novara, who've been let off the hook by too many confused anarchists.

how is going on about them in a sneering fashion like that article does going to appeal to anyone outside of the anarcho millieu? i'm in the anarcho-millieu or perhaps right now i should say was because i'm about as active as a dodo atm by my pwn admission, and it doesn;t even appeal to me. I mean if you want to win people over from social demcracy, i can;t see how this kick em while they're down stuff is going to work.

I mean this is ed's piece. http://libcom.org/blog/every-challenge-can-be-overcome-6-ideas-getting-s... i thought it was good hres solfeds one http://solfed.org.uk/manchester/what-next-after-labours-defeat i just think the tone of the first half of these is so much better.
Again it's a shame coz the event itself and the second half of the article is good, i just think now is really not the time for 'i told you so's'

Also tbh i'm not a fan of this sort of stuff

Quote:
The development of the grassroots organisations that had developed around housing and against austerity, as mentioned above, were indeed, adversely affected by Corbynism, with the moving of some activists to Momentum and other Labour organisation

The student protests and strike wave pretty much collapsed in 2013 and the wave of other radicalism inculding anti-austerity actions also fizzled out or died down a bit at that point too as it failed to make many concrete gains and/or face down a wave of reaction after the riots.
I can remember this, claiming this was all the fault of corbyn or corbynism just doesn;t add up to me there was clearly a 2 year gap here. Trying to retrospectively blame it all on social democratic co-option seems to me to sort of absolve the libertarian left of it's own failures and lessons to be learnt from that period no? I mean it wasn;t the fault of social democracy that made occupy and the meetings around it so shite and unproductive..

Spikymike
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Jan 3 2020 17:16

cantdocartwheels, Your last point may have some validity but frankly your 2 recommended 'better' texts make too many concessions in their opening paragraphs to those who actively canvassed and worked for the Labour Party on a kind of false ... '..we are all part of the left, just with different strategy and tactics, who spend our time differently, common political identity...' beyond just being mostly fellow workers.

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Jan 3 2020 17:33
Noah wrote:
Personal taste I guess, for me the sneering doesn’t go far enough. I’ll let our splendid comrade, Martin, make good the deficit...

https://youtu.be/qjgw7nb6uag

Though he did advocate voting for Scottish independence in that referendum for similar reasons to the left.

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Jan 3 2020 17:47

Red Marriott. Did he really? What are those reasons?

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Jan 3 2020 18:48
Spikymike wrote:
cantdocartwheels, Your last point may have some validity but frankly your 2 recommended 'better' texts make too many concessions in their opening paragraphs to those who actively canvassed and worked for the Labour Party on a kind of false ... '..we are all part of the left, just with different strategy and tactics, who spend our time differently, common political identity...' beyond just being mostly fellow workers.

given the rather small size of the libertarian left, and the tens if not hundreds thousands of people who canvassed for labour including a fair number of my and presumably your mates/workmates etc surely it's logical to make some sort of concession if you are attempting to get people to see your point of view.
I mean if you were in the middle of some mass militant strike and labour had just lost there'd be some internal logic to using that type of invective but the libertarian left is hardly arguing from a position of strength atm.

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Jan 4 2020 11:19

Think I'm with cartwheels here - I'm all in favour of a rigorous critique, like I think it'd be great if someone wrote a detailed reply to something like Cant's NFB piece, or even that Seymour article, actually engaging with the arguments they make and showing how the electoral/party-form is always going to be in conflict with working-class self-organisation or whatever. But those opening paragraphs don't really do that, they just quote a bunch of people saying lots of different things and say "well, all of these people are wrong".

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Jan 4 2020 12:56

But I did enjoy this quote, it really did make me laugh!

Quote:
I’m Crying, You’re Crying. But Our Day Will Come… But by way of consolation, at least now we have more comrades to cry with, more comrades whose pain is our own and more comrades who will win, some bright, future day.

David Broder.

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R Totale
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Jan 4 2020 15:06

If it'd been coming from someone else I might have had a lot more sympathy for that quote, because I generally feel communists could do with being better at talking about feelings and that, but considering how much the recent new wave of British Stalinism has gone in for macho hardman "facts not feelings", "lol triggered"-type posturing, seeing one of their top intellectuals coming out with that is undeniably pretty funny, yeah.

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Jan 4 2020 17:58
Noah wrote:
Red Marriott. Did he really? What are those reasons?

Basically cos that classless entity "the Scottish people" by voting yes would shake up/weaken the UK establishment and supposedly provoke rebellion in the south; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNchQf09WA8

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Jan 4 2020 20:08

In a couple of weeks, the ACG will be hosting a public meeting at The May Day Rooms on Fleet Street.

It'll be on Sunday the 19th of January at 2 pm.
There'll be speakers from the ACG, Angry Workers of the World and South Essex Radical Media.

Public Meeting: Never Mind The Ballots, Create the Resistance.

Owentiffie
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Jan 7 2020 18:20
Quote:
"It'll be on Sunday the 19th of January at 2 pm."

Well, at least that's something to look forward to.

Dannny
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Jan 7 2020 21:51
cantdocartwheels wrote:

Also tbh i'm not a fan of this sort of stuff

Quote:
The development of the grassroots organisations that had developed around housing and against austerity, as mentioned above, were indeed, adversely affected by Corbynism, with the moving of some activists to Momentum and other Labour organisation

The student protests and strike wave pretty much collapsed in 2013 and the wave of other radicalism inculding anti-austerity actions also fizzled out or died down a bit at that point too as it failed to make many concrete gains and/or face down a wave of reaction after the riots.
I can remember this, claiming this was all the fault of corbyn or corbynism just doesn;t add up to me there was clearly a 2 year gap here. Trying to retrospectively blame it all on social democratic co-option seems to me to sort of absolve the libertarian left of it's own failures and lessons to be learnt from that period no? I mean it wasn;t the fault of social democracy that made occupy and the meetings around it so shite and unproductive..

I agree the libertarian left should reflect on the period 2010-2013 and consider how the opportunities of that time might have been approached better. However the point above refers to the grassroots organisations - probably groups would be a more realistic word - that persisted beyond the fizzling out of the 'occupy moment' and which were adversely affected by the Corbynist turn. The post makes specific reference to the Radical Housing Network in London. I don't know about this case but it chimes with my own experience in Leeds and also with what friends in Spain have said about how housing and migrant solidarity groups were impacted by the allure of Podemos. A general survey of how such groups have been affected by the move towards parliamentary politics might be a useful endeavour since the above is clearly anecdotal.
Of course, some element of self-criticism would be helpful here also, but the basic point that Corbynism has contributed to a drain on the resources and numbers involved in groups doing small but often effective direct-action oriented work outside of formal politics seems both worth making and a useful starting point in trying to win people over.

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Jan 7 2020 23:20
Dannny wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:

Also tbh i'm not a fan of this sort of stuff

Quote:
The development of the grassroots organisations that had developed around housing and against austerity, as mentioned above, were indeed, adversely affected by Corbynism, with the moving of some activists to Momentum and other Labour organisation

The student protests and strike wave pretty much collapsed in 2013 and the wave of other radicalism inculding anti-austerity actions also fizzled out or died down a bit at that point too as it failed to make many concrete gains and/or face down a wave of reaction after the riots.
I can remember this, claiming this was all the fault of corbyn or corbynism just doesn;t add up to me there was clearly a 2 year gap here. Trying to retrospectively blame it all on social democratic co-option seems to me to sort of absolve the libertarian left of it's own failures and lessons to be learnt from that period no? I mean it wasn;t the fault of social democracy that made occupy and the meetings around it so shite and unproductive..

I agree the libertarian left should reflect on the period 2010-2013 and consider how the opportunities of that time might have been approached better. However the point above refers to the grassroots organisations - probably groups would be a more realistic word - that persisted beyond the fizzling out of the 'occupy moment' and which were adversely affected by the Corbynist turn. The post makes specific reference to the Radical Housing Network in London. I don't know about this case but it chimes with my own experience in Leeds and also with what friends in Spain have said about how housing and migrant solidarity groups were impacted by the allure of Podemos. A general survey of how such groups have been affected by the move towards parliamentary politics might be a useful endeavour since the above is clearly anecdotal.
Of course, some element of self-criticism would be helpful here also, but the basic point that Corbynism has contributed to a drain on the resources and numbers involved in groups doing small but often effective direct-action oriented work outside of formal politics seems both worth making and a useful starting point in trying to win people over.

I know what you mean I was just saying that a mass movement had definitely died out well before Corbynism came along.The students/ema protests had lost, the strike wave died out, the riots lead to a wave of reaction, anti-austerity stuff largely went back to being the usual suspects, appetite for radicalism declined, left libertarian groups that had grown shrunk back or dissapeared and occupy etc faltered.
I don;t doubt electoral politics overall has an affect on anti-parliamentary radicaism as a whole, i just don't like the 'we were making leaps and bounds then along came corbyn' thing that some anarchos are keen on doing these days, which definitely doesn't ring true to how I remember it.

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Serge Forward
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Jan 8 2020 01:04

The article doesn't mention any 'leaps and bounds' undermined by Corbyn. You're stretching things a bit there.

Battlescarred
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Jan 8 2020 06:51

Yes, you are. Nothing about leaps and bounds. Just an acknowledgement of the modest but important developments around housing struggles that were affected by Corbynism.

Spikymike
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Jan 9 2020 17:07

These contributions from the AWW also attending the ACG meeting might be relevant;
https://libcom.org/blog/labour-defeat-thoughts-democratic-socialism-2112... and
https://libcom.org/blog/short-report-uk-06012020
meant to reference these as well in the discussion with Ivysyn on her blog about the Collapse of Corbynism.

Dyjbas
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Jan 10 2020 23:09

And this from the CWO-ICT: Fear and Loathing: Electoral Politics in a Capitalist Crisis