Friday, November 16, 2007

Ignore the 'fundis'

Dave Osler is on the Liberal Conspiracy (sorry, I can't help sniggering about that one - a bit like the preposterous and vaguely hubristic choice of 'Lenin' as a blogger identity) discussing the possibility of choosing The Green Party as the vehicle of destiny for ideologically ambitious lefties.

While I agree with Dave's conclusion ('stick with Labour'), his post contains a paragraph that sums up everything that makes me despair of most of the left.

Firstly, let me summarise what I'd regard as a sensible neo-Kautskyite ('ark at me!) position:
  • Economic democracy will only be achieved by the maturation of liberal democracy
  • When there is a tension between those who assert a general liberal position, and those who assert a democratic one, democratic socialists should should always side with the latter - secure in the knowledge that the democrats' illiberality is always overestimated
  • Representative democracy is the highest form of liberal democracy. Any improvement towards this particular Burkean ideal deserves unreserved support. Any retreat from it should be opposed with every fibre.
With me so far? OK. Here is Dave's offending para:
"...historical experience shows that where Green parties do take off, they leave their radicalism well behind. The Realos take over from the Fundis, and the one-time soixante-huitard peaceniks end up cheerleading Nato bombing campaigns from the comfort of their ministerial limos."
The problem Dave seems to find is that the 'Realos' grow up. The Nato bombing campaigns (I suspect that he's objecting to the endorsement of some European Green big-wigs for the liberation of Kosovo?) could be shorthand for any compromise. They could be shorthand for the kind of compromises that anyone who has been elected has to make in order to represent the interests of the nation as a whole.

I would argue that - in order to defend liberties and to promote economic democracy - it is essential that political representatives should abandon the sloganeering and posturing that is designed for their own supporters and embrace the need to prove the quality of their judgement by addressing immediate problems. The individual issues are less important that the requirement that every democratic socialist has to be - first and foremost - a democrat.

More importantly, no democrat can ever chose to perform for the gallery of their activist base over the general public. Knocking on doors does not - in itself - entitle one to influence. The problem with the Green Party is not that the 'Realos' will always get into arguments with their purists. It is that purists are given house room at all in The Green Party.

Thankfully, there is a political logic that supports this. Parties that aren't able to ignore their activists suffer electorally as a consequence. In the 1980s, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy - with its attempts at mandating MPs and making them directly accountable to the swivel-eyed fruitcakes that turn up to every CLP meeting (and encouraging them to ignore those that didn't) - brought the party to the brink of destruction.

The Ulster Unionist Party was similarly traduced a few years ago by the constant recall of it's representatives by it's most obsessive activists. John Major's government found itself in a cleft-stick between it's need to run the country and appease the demands of Theresa Gorman in the mid-1990s. And - thankfully - the Tories must be starting to get worried about it's bloggertarians for similar reasons today.

Direct democracy kills political parties.

And when Dave cites the example of economic liberals regrouping in the 1950s to give birth to Thatcherism a quarter of a century later (he quite rightly approves of their strategy, if not their success) he argues that the left should go on a similar long march, promoting individual policies and values.

The Tory right didn't bang on about specific demands for all of that time though. They recognised that strategic value that reactionaries would draw from the advancement of economic liberalism. There are economic liberals who aren't reactionaries - but that didn't matter. The result was socially regressive.

Similarly, we on the left should recognise the instrumental value of advancing the highest principles of liberal democracy - particularly, the non-negotiable primacy of representative democracy. There are plenty of democrats that aren't socialists. But that doesn't matter. They are our allies. The result will be socially progressive.

The left will not succeed by promoting worker control or environmental prescriptions. We don't know how to apply the former with any success and we don't have any joint positions on the latter. If we want socialistic policies, we should simply promote democracy for now. The rest will fall into place of its own accord.

3 comments:

Will said...

"There are plenty of democrats that aren't socialists. But that doesn't matter. They are our allies. The result will be socially progressive."

Absolute rubbish.

Liberals speak in the language of cultural codes. Nothing 'left' at all from the fuckwit's pens, keyboards or mouths.

'liberal values' = 'thought' separated from lived experience. An escape into academic mysticism and incoherent, maladjusted cynicism. Passivity in place of struggle. Acceptence of the acceptence of fragmentation based on pseudo-biology (blood and soil) that human beings submit themselves to. The liberal is not a demanding political force. Enemies are not to be politically defeated -- they are to be abstractly moralised out of existence by lectures.

Cowards basically.

Paulie said...

I didn't say "There are plenty of liberals that aren't socialists...." etc, did I? I said 'democrats'.

I'm sure that you wouldn't agree with a social democrat line that democracy implicitly has all of the forces needed to bring about progressive change. But that's a different matter.

Democracies don't 'reason' with their opponents. They overcome them wherever they can.

Will said...

By the word 'democrat' you meant 'liberal'. Don't deny you meant otherwise.

It would be foolish.

I'm correct -- you are wrong.

Int the intertubes great?