A penny for your thoughts; the challenges for radical politics…

In a book I read recently, there was an interesting discussion regarding the causal problems of radical political action. In other words, how do you change consciousness to assist political activity if political socialisation agents such as the media and education act as obstacles? There is an issue of mediation, as you could argue that it will change once in the new political structures but then conscious change needed to have already happened for the political arrangements to radically break with the existing political system.

On a related aside, Ed Miliband was busy criticising the government for failing to introduce ‘new politics’. Labour have also launched a campaign to recruit younger people to their party; a party that brought in tuition fees, initiated the Browne Review and hasn’t got a clue what they would replace tuition fees with (well there is the graduate tax, but it’s basically the same). I saw some tweets by Labour folk, criticising the Green Party’s response. Sadly, we can’t just wipe away the past – if Labour had really taken a radical break with what it used to stand for then I feel it would be easier for Greens to positivity endorses their politics (if you flick back to my earlier blogs when Ed Miliband just got in, I was a lot more positive). But as it stands, they still advocate the ‘necessity’ for immensely damaging cuts, whilst cherry picking the cuts they can make a political issue with (hence the reluctance to comment on the problems with bringing in ESA, for example) with a leader who has yet to assert his authority.

Thus, the answer to my orignal question is based on alternative outside development of political institutions to counteract the power of the existing system. I received a few comments on my Vince Cable blog re the importance of the internet for political protest and undermining the dominance media conglomerates such as Murdoch hold. This is true. But I feel we need something more. There needs to be an encouragement of community/civic based action, creatively oriented if possible, so it poses a more direct threat to the mainstream – by all means, linked through the internet (many eco-villages have linked up successfully through the internet). I have also talked about the importance cooperatives in the fashion of creative arrangements, so music for example, can have politically. However, it is much broader than that. The whole political arrangements needs to change through independent structural challenges (something I have said before, so I wont repeat).

Free education is essential for challenging the political dogmas that undermine the prevailing social, political and economics relations. We know the stories of the rubbish Oxbridge admittance re students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We know that private schools are the primarily used by the middle/upper classes. We know that Gove is reinstating discipline and obedience at a time the state is beginning to look weak. These things aren’t disconnected and only through new political movements and relations will we challenge this.

Labour are courting people who are frankly cheesed off (for want of a better word) with this government, but many of these people are joining for strategic reasons. Strategic reasons shaped by the system we live in. I know people who are much better suited to parties such as the Greens, but they feel it be a waste of time and that Labour is better than nothing when it comes to stopping the coalition. I understand and respect that logic. But all the 1p members in the world doesn’t change the effects existing governmental structures will have if Labour get back into power. It is hard for a political party to remain radical within the existing system. It is hard to actually be honest, a lot of people lie and bend to pressure in order keep to their job.

If Ed Miliband really wants to bring in a new politics it is going to take a bit more than rhetorical sound bites, he is going to have to challenge the very system that we preside in. But I am wasting my breath. This is a guy that thinks 1ps buy trust and erases Labour’s past re student policies, whilst hardly breaking from their legacy. Whilst I am a member of the Green Party, I am increasingly becoming disillusioned with exclusively fighting within the existing system to only reform it so it is slightly less crap. The student protests illustrate the way forward, a movement outside all political parties.

So political party struggles, I understand are important to an extent. I am in a political party. But we must concentrate on outside political party movements if we are to undermine the system that promotes inadequate reformism, and reflects a few powerful vested interests.


13 thoughts on “A penny for your thoughts; the challenges for radical politics…

  1. Great post! You touch on many points I feel strongly about myself. I think you’re right in saying that radical, systemic change has to come from without. Through being the change that we want to see within our local communities, social groups, voluntary organisations etc. we can build the foundations to grow such ideas on a larger scale.

    Through my own experience, when people witness and participate themselves in such alternatives (like consensus decision making) it can be inspiring and invigorating. Such radical ideas have the strength of engaging people in politics where staid and traditional methods have not.

    I say this as both a self-confessed radical and a member of the Labour party myself. I went against my radical principles to join the party following the election, in what I considered a pragmatic decision to best put a stop to the coalition government by trying to inspire a wee bit of radicalism in the grassroots party. But there seems to be little activity at all and the scenes of recent weeks have restored my faith in radical action to grasp the popular imagination to the point where I’m on the verge of cancelling my membership.

    The point is: Why would young people want to join Labour while they’re making great strides forward through their spontaneous actions in universities and colleges across the country?

    (Similarly, in relation to your comment about the internet, when using digital media we definitely need to consider the system and environments it exists within: http://jamiepotter.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/real-versus-virtual-protest/)

  2. Hey, thanks for the comment, glad that you liked the post:)

    I totally agree with your additional points, civic action is important for framing wider political change.

    Are you a supporter of consensus decision making? I did a blog post about the problems of that regarding our political system the other day.

    I totally understand your decision to join Labour and now your eventual dismay. When Ed got leadership I really thought it bring something different; but sadly, it increasingly appears as that our main line of action is to fight outside the system. I think however, it isn’t contradictory to do both, as political fights within the system are important (such as stopping these welfare cuts) – but it involves radical outside action as well; so for the moment, there needs to be a cross over.

    Thanks a lot for sharing your blog; i really like it and agree with much of what is said. I have had a good lot of people say just shut up about the politics on facebook please; but still, I have noticed some influence. Anyway, I have subscribed to your blog now!

  3. I am a supporter of consensus decision making and I did read your previous post; I’m still digesting it though! The type of consensus decision I’ve taken part in has been on a much smaller scale, and nature, than that nationally. That’s where my ‘pragmatic’ approach to radicalism comes from, because I think in order to put into effect such attitudes and processes on a larger scale, a wider consciousness needs to exist. Everybody needs to roughly be singing from the same hymn sheet, so to speak. And the way to lead up to that is from the bottom up.

    That’s also in part why I joined Labour – I thought fighting from the inside may try and affect change, though I now wonder whether that’s the best place to do it. Hmmm.

    And thank you for the kind comment about my blog!

  4. Well fair enough; but I think Bookchin brings up some real problems with consensus decisions. Also, he agrees with smaller scaled consensus decision thinking. I agree with you in terms of a larger consciousness movement, but consensus decisions often undermine minority views that could potentially positively influence the larger movement.

    Well I can see advantages of sticking within Labour whilst fighting for an outside movement as well.

    And np!

  5. Hey,

    I’m a Labour Party member, I joined about a month ago I think. I didn’t support Ed for the leadership (Andy ftw! =P) and even when I joined I felt he wasn’t doing the best of jobs, but ultimately I still think it was the best choice. I live in one of the most Tory dominated areas of the country, and my school’s constituency used to vote for Ann Widdecombe- the Green Party has a tendency to do about as well as the National Front around here, unfortunately.

    Yes, maybe it’s a pragmatic surrendering of principles, but I reckon it’s best that all the liberals and radicals joining Labour seek to try to move it back to truly progressive politics. I have a lot of respect for the Green Party, but I feel it lacks the history and broad basis necessary to be successful outside of university towns. Don’t get me wrong, I wish it the very best, but it always has seemed to me to be the party for intellectuals.

    When I look at my favourite Green policies- and indeed your ideological basis- I see little that Labour did not once support. I think Labour did a very good job under Attlee and Wilson, and I believe that sort of progressive energy will have to be resurrected if Labour is to have electoral success!

    But the most important thing is confronting the cuts. The Maidstone Coalition of Resistance is seeking to unite the Greens and the Labour Party with the trade unions and other local organisations.

    Sorry for the rather long rambly comment! Do check out my blog if you are unconvinced of my radical credentials :p


  6. Dan,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I am interested, but what were your reasons for supporting Andy? That is a shame where you live in Tory dominated, must be frustrating.

    I understand what you are saying regarding Labours past; that is something people i know have told me as they are joining to reconnect with the labour movement and its history – I also can see why the Greens look a bit like a bunch of middle class intellectuals but that would be wrong as there is a great deal of diversity in the party. The thing is, I think it is important for each of us to try and work within party structures as you are in Labour, but for us to also work outside of it, as we have got to the point where party politics in general are being undermined by the system we are trying to work within. It is a shame that Labour isn’t more connected to its labour roots as well, and sadly Ed doesn’t look as though he is trying to move it any closer either.

    That sounds like an interesting coalition, I am glad to hear it. The sad thing is, Labour nationally still advocate for a great deal of cuts – that is something I think needs to change, as it turns many of those (such as me sometimes) who would be more supportive off.

    Np! Thankyou for the comment, my reply was rather long too. I will have a look, and don’t be daft – there are people in Labour who should be in the communist party or something; but i understand your reasons:D

  7. I supported Andy for several reasons. He strikes me as someone most people in the country are unaware of, and thus he is untainted by the Blair (and I suppose Brown) years. He comes across as an honest person from an ordinary background. He also advocated a Land Value Tax, and anyone who raises awareness about that is in my good books!

    I agree with you. I simply feel that Labour already has a large number of loyal activists with networks which can be more readily communicated through- the Green Party has done a good job, but if we can convert Labour then that saves us the hassle of building a movement from scratch!

    Yeah, I suspect that the local parties are much more opposed to cuts- although I feel very sorry for those in power in councils, and that includes Greens I suspect- who are having to organise cuts that ideologically they oppose. The national party IMO is speaking out against a lot of cuts, but would be better off framing exactly which they oppose and why. I think we might both agree on certain cuts- Trident being one? 😉

    The Labour Party is a very broad grouping, and that’s something that attracted me to it. It brings together trade unionists, Christian socialists, pseudo-Marxists and (perhaps regretfully) Blairite loyalists. Certainly makes for interesting politics!

  8. Fair enough, I have to admit Andy had some good points but I didn’t like his emphasis upon law and order and he had a poor record on homosexual rights.

    I don’t know how you intend to convert Labour though? The leadership is simply not listening. That’s the problem.

    Yes, I think it might come down to some councils actually refusing to cut and going over their budget or borrowing as they have been given those powers back. Yes, Trident is important – but that is more an ideological reason, than a financial one.

    And exactly! A broad range of perspectives within it!

  9. When I checked what he was saying on homosexual rights, I didn’t think it was too bad- he essentially said homosexual adoption and wotnot is fine, but there should be a figure of the opposite sex in the kids’ lives? Essentially just a godmother/father, which seems sensible to me. Not sure about law and order, didn’t come across anything too bad…

    I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but hopefully this Fresh Ideas thing will produce some new perspectives. And I’ve got a long time to work on them, and the majority of the party (and the potential future leaders I’m keeping my eye on…) seem to the left of the leadership =]

    Perhaps, but thus far that hasn’t been the case… If councils set an illegal budget now, it just means the Tory government will take direct control. So that’s not exactly desirable!

    And I can think of a few more good ideological cuts =P Bankers bonuses 😉

  10. Fair enough, we all have different views regarding it but I did a critical assessment of his manifesto if you fancy a read:


    it will stop me repeating myself anyway.

    And yes, that is true. The sad thing is that Ed keeps closing debates before they even begin; such as the drugs debate. And that is true, you have some good talent coming through.

    Yes, but they can now start borrowing as well – there are ways around it, anyway.

    Yes! That is true. Also, funding nuclear arms would be another.

  11. From the title I did hope this was your response to the scandalous affair de Laurie Penny, which I take to be the lightning strike that illuminates the landscape of radical politics with sudden intensity. Would be interested in your take on the whole debate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s