Thursday, February 14, 2008


Last year on Feb 14th I wrote a post on the need for love in politics. I know, it doesn't sound like me, but I meant every word.

For 2008's Feb 14 I thought I'd write about what I love about the left. I think that sometimes we can become too obsessed with our differences, or too focused on those areas that are frustrating us - occasionally verging on packing it in or getting drawn into factionalism when we should be uniting together. In that spirit I shall leave aside my gripes for a day and give my top three reasons of why I love the left.

Firstly, the left understands that there are social forces. Instead of being sucked into this or that treaty, or the personality of the Queen the left understands that history is made by people together - it is not a process that simply happens to us, nor that is done by the great men and women of the Earth.

This is really important. If you simply want to replace the existing rulers with yourself and your mates then you don't need to know this - in fact it is a positive disadvantage. If you want a whole class of people to begin to have real say over their own lives then you need to see them as a collective force, capable of change and of advancement.

The left understands that the people can be free only when they free themselves - and that as part of the people we can both lead and take part in that struggle in a way that challenges the ideas of leaders who are better than us doing our thinking for us.

Secondly, the left has a concept of a world that works in a different way. It doesn't simply say we want a better NHS, a better pension scheme or a better transport system (although it may say these things on occasion) the thinking left at least tries to grapple with what these things mean, and challenge their assumptions.

Yes, the left challenges the way the state relates to crime or educations and says this can be improved - but it challenges the notions of what education is, and even the existance of the state itself. It sees these institutions that support the exisiting state of affairs not as forces of benign stability but institutions that lock us in a system that is unsustainable and unjust.

The left takes on these questions, advancing improvements today but most importantly trying to rethink how we do things in their entirity.

Thirdly, the left fights an uphill battle against the respectable elements of society and keeps on fighting, knowing that there will never be a knighthood or a fat salary at the end of it. We fight because we want a society that treats the vast majority of ordinary people with respect - not contempt - that gives people more say over their lives than the occasional tick in the box for someone to misrepresent us. We take part in a battle for a world where working class people are in the saddle - and unlike our opponents we aren't getting a pay off at the same time.

That deserves respect and it deserves love. Whilst we may not agree on so many things we do understand that the left, even when its losing, plays an important role defending the conditions of the most vulnerable and presenting a vision of a future where the inequities of the world are finally dead and gone.

Love, kisses and hugs to you all.

Incidently, it is more than likely that the posting here will be slow over the next few days. That's because I'll be at the Green Party conference in Reading - but I'm sure they'll be some posts over at the Red Pepper blog especially set up to monitor events there

You might also be interested in Caucus, a discussion paper launched at conference with voices from both inside and outside of the Green Party.


weggis said...

Please explain why the characteristics you describe are the prerogative of the Left.

Jim Jay said...

Weggs I don't know how you write love letters but I don't generally say things like "you have beautiful eyes, but hey - so do lots of people." it would take the edge of the intimacy I think.

More seriously, please tell me who outside of the left combines all three of these qualities... I can't think of anyone off hand.

weggis said...

You’ve forgotten ME! I’m upset.

But seriously. I can’t give you any names of well known politicos, although I do see signs of those characteristics in quite a few of them, some quite surprising like Keith Joseph. [I’ll pause here for you to get up off the floor.] We have to remember that these people are constrained by marketing and spinning the party line. Political pundits too, often take a position to sell their product whilst not necessarily believing in that position. I read on a blog comment somewhere that Jeremy Clarkson is one such but I couldn’t say.

This is simply because I don’t know them. We can only really speak about people we know, and that in turn is defined by the circles we move in and who we choose to be our friends. What I’m taking about is people we have discussed things with directly, via a blog, in person, in the pub…. Or people that are free to say what they feel.

At last years Redbridge Green Fair a Conservative councillor who I know very well popped into the Green Party tent and spoke to Ashley Gunstock, Steve Lambert and Mark Dawes. He probably would not have done so had I not been there. Ashley remarked afterwards that we have more in common with that type of Conservative than some would care to realise.

Barkingside 21 is a non-party political Agenda 21 environment group. It has a membership and supporter base from across the political spectrum but not as far as I am aware the extremes of either side. Although I have sat in the pub talking to a BNP councillor for which I was berated by a Labour Councillor. I wanted to know what made him tick and take the opportunity to explain green politics to him.

Barkingside is predominantly a conservative area. There are many local people, including councillors and ex-councillors [but by no means all of them, some of them are shits] whom I would say fall into your characteristic set. Some more than others, but I’m working on it. You have to start somewhere. From acorns…..

Back to Greens. I would not classify Ashley Gunstock, Darren Johnson, Sue Luxton or Rupert Read as “left”. I would say they are Green. Maybe I’m wrong, what do you think? Or what do they think?

Here’s a question for you. If the Green Party didn’t exist and you wanted to be politically active which party would you join, vote for, align with? It’s a question that can be modified for any party member, supporter, voter and it is one that I like to ask.

Jim Jay said...

I think I would describe all those people (apart from possibly Ashley) as left - certainly not anti-capitalist but coming from an excellent left reformist tradition with a new radical green bent if you will.

They all oppose war, the worst excesses of neo-liberalism (sorry for the short hand jargon), support trade union rights, women's rights etc. They're on the left.

All four of them are lovely people no matter what their political description would be though of course.

If I wasn't in the Green Party I'd be an independent activist just as I was before I joined and as I still partially am. I'd be quite happy to join a broad left formation should one arise although the current two versions of Respect are not to my taste.

To be honest - electoral activity is not my primary area of political work most of the time.