In the context of an article discussing the supposed ‘resurgence’ of Respect, Sunny Hundal on Liberal Conspiracy yesterday pointed out an interesting debate on Twitter (yes, there are interesting debates on Twitter apparently…..) between Salma Yaqoob/various Labour leftwingers and Labour councillor Luke Akehurst. The gist of the debate was that many of the Labour lefties found more common ground with Respect than their “comrades” in the Labour Party. Akehurst commented thus:
“Digusted by sectarianism I am reading of alleged Lab members preferring Respect to their own party comrades. Shocking. Sick……….Labour left should be as hostile to Respect as loyalist Labour right was to SDP. SDP and Respect both scab parties.”
(I’ve had a quick look at Akehurst’s twitter feed and blog and he seems to belong to the ‘modernising’ wing of the party. That is to say he seems to want to return working class politics to a pre-LRC state. So not very modern really. But anyway….)
Akehurst seems to be the embodiment of the brainless, apolitical tribalism that dominates so much of the right wing of the Labour Party. And that’s me being charitable. If I’m being really honest I think that most of them are just fucking Tories in the wrong party.
He’s right that the SDP were dogshit, but to condemn Labour left-wingers for being more sympathetic to the written policies of Galloway’s party and to describe Respect as a ‘scab party’ is quite extraordinary hyperbole of the sort you normally only ever find on this blog, and highlights the flaws in his thinking.
Let me make a few observations at this juncture that are probably going to prove controversial to Akehurst but are nevertheless true:
- Who is this “loyalist Labour right”? The loyalists who were prepared to spend the 80s attacking the socialists in the party and ‘decontaminating’ the Labour brand so it now accepted Thatcherite economics wholesale? Who followed the political agenda of those who jumped ship to form the SDP almost to the letter? Who were happy to deliberately undermine the campaigns of left-wing Labour parliamentary candidates and councillors? Are those people ‘comrades’ of the left? And what kind of ‘loyalism’ is that?
- We have a Labour leadership which pointedly refuses to repudiate the savage, pointless austerity being meted out by the government. Respect, on paper at least, have an agenda way to the left of that and explicitly oppose the cuts. Why wouldn’t Labour lefties find more political common ground with those people?
- When right-wing Labour members come out with the sort of unfiltered anti-union shit I discussed a few days ago is it really a surprise that left-wingers are turned off from official Labour politics?
- I have no time for Respect, Galloway or Yaqoob, and little for any of the anti-Labour electoral challenges for that matter, but that is largely because they aren’t having any impact and won’t for the foreseeable future (and the rather dodgy politics of Respect, but that subject has been done to death). Right now I see no alternative to fighting in the existing Labour and union structures. I understand however why people who had years of disillusionment in the Labour Party have walked away from it, disillusionment at the hands of the cynical, treacherous bastards that Akehurst now lionises. It’s a perfectly understandable response to years of desperate disappointment, witch-hunts and wholly unprincipled policy shifts. I have more time for them than many of the tossers currently determining Labour Party policy. People on the left of Labour should be working with those people who felt they couldn’t remain in the party to oppose the government’s austerity and privatization agenda, not dismissing them blithely as ‘scabs’ (a word Akehurst clearly doesn’t really understand)
- As I suggested earlier Akehurst seems to have bad case of tribalism. Political parties are a means to an end, not the political equivalent of a football team, who one supports come what may. In the case of Labour supporters, the aim is a fairer, more just society where no one is left behind. That’s why most people join the party, isn’t it? If some other party delivers on those aims I would transfer my support to them in an instant (they won’t, which is why I grudgingly remain committed to Labour). It is Akehurst in fact who is the ‘sectarian’- another word he clearly misunderstands the meaning of.
One thing that Galloway’s victory has achieved is in highlighting the number of people in many parts of the country that are sick of a political class all committed to the same basic, Thatcherite ideas. (Labour won 8.5 million votes in 1983 standing on radical socialist programme that the leadership did its best to undermine at every turn, lest we forget) There are people looking for an alternative or at least thinking about it, and that is the important issue in this debate, not which party the people creating or offering that alternative happen to hail from.
Akehurst’s politics stem from disorientation, myopia and intellectual bankruptcy, and the Labour Party is in serious trouble indeed if his ideas are pre-eminent right now. His vitriolic ranting yesterday was disgraceful.
A starting point in any useful debate about the future of Labour needs to be that the ‘modernisers’ in the 80s and 90s were reactionary troglodytes and utterly wrong. History has provided ample demonstration of this and there needs to be radical reassessment of the shibboleths that many in Labour Party still desperately cling to.
(NB: More on Akehurst being a silly dickhead here.)