Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tories fall back in the polls posted by Richard Seymour
Perhaps this illustrates a point which the late Paul Foot used to insist on: Labour generally does better when 'our side' is stronger. It is not an iron law, but it is a trend that when the working class is more organised, more cohesive, and more combative, it gives even the most degenerate, bland, conformist Labour Party a new lease of life, because its organised base in the organised labour movement is full of fight. I believe he made this point just as the poll tax riots had driven Labour's support above 50% for the first time in decades. You may find this regrettable. Labour's leadership may find it embarrassing, but it is unavoidably the case, and it means that the coming insurgency will do more for Labour's standing than Ed Miliband's doe-eyed moderation.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that Labour's nearly cataclysmic slide in the polls between the credit crunch and the election was matched by a complete knock out for the employers in the class struggle. They shed jobs, they cut wages, and the degraded conditions more or less with impunity. New Labour governance had a lot to do with this, of course. The working class was disoriented and dazed by the recession, not immediately spurred to militancy except in a few enclaves. The labour movement was timid, fatalistic, and conservative. The right set the narrative on the deficit, and Brown and Mandelson, following the logic of their neoliberal commitments, acquiesced. Labour's base was shattered, disoriented, and largely disinclined to vote. Out of sheer urgency, a core vote mobilised that was bigger than anticipated. But Labour's base was still, as the famous Mister Ed has acknowledged, 5 million working class people short of what it could have been.
Gradually, there has been a sense of an urgent need to pull the finger out, a campaign emerging, the first sign in a long time of union assertiveness within the Labour Party itself, the flicker of grassroots dissidence forcing union bosses to retreat on having Cameron at conference and forcing the issue of joint industrial action onto the agenda, the local anti-cuts groups forming, the marches, some small, but some very big, and now the opening shot of a potentially powerful students movement. Even as Miliband goes to extravagant lengths to distance himself from the trade unions, to oppose militancy, to denounce this and condemn that, if an anti-cuts movement really takes off in this country, then he will be the ungrateful beneficiary of the revival and reconstitution of the very social forces that keep Labourism on the life support. However, if such a movement does not take off, or if it goes down to historic defeat, then Labourism may well disappear as a distinctive political formation. Its organised base would be shattered, and the remaining shreds of the party would be easy meat for a further round of Whig 'reform' that would basically turn it into a vulgar, populist adjunct of the Liberals.
So, I'm just saying, this poll result illustrates the perversity of Labourism, its dependence on social forces that it routinely attacks, and its inability to act in the interests of its own perseverance as a political force. That's all, like.