ConDemed? The fightback begins
This is a guest post by Aled Fisher, also posted at his own blog.
ConDem is here, or so it seems. Either way, Labour have thrown in the towel with regards the possibility of a Lib-Lab deal, or a so-called ‘progressive’ coalition – and they would have been crazy to do anything else.
The immediate future of British politics has therefore been framed – the ConDems, or the Tories alone, will cut like crazy and it is up to the rest of us to stop them.
The definition of ‘progressive’ has taken a bit of a bashing over the past few days, and we should expect that trend to continue. The spectre of seeing arch New Labour lackeys claiming to stand up for ‘progressive’ policies against ConDem cuts will be galling – precisely because these are exactly the kind of cuts Labour was promising, just a little later than the more bloodthirsty Tories and Liberals. Labour cannot be trusted to put up any kind of ‘progressive’ bulwark to the ConDems – and it is up for other voices to expose this.
Of course, truly progressive voices are somewhat difficult to find in parliament. Caroline Lucas gets a tick, as do some of the excellent Labour Left backbenchers of McDonnell’s and Corbyn’s ilk. And it’s only fair to say that, comparatively speaking, Plaid, the SNP and the SDLP can also be counted on to fight cuts that are likely to disproportionately hurt the nations. But, go beyond that, and you really are scraping the grottiest barrel imaginable.
Parliamentary figures do have a role in fighting ConDem – I expect to see the likes of Caroline Lucas leading the charge in parliament, putting up a dignified challenge to the neoliberal agenda that many Labour MPs are likely to support in name of the ‘national interest’. But the true role for progressives in parliament is to be the loudspeakers at the tip on the iceberg that is the progressive movement – the real vehicle for making change.
That movement is weak, but nowhere near dead. The trade unions are a vital part of this movement as the collective vehicles for the workers who are going to be on the end of savage cuts. But we now need to see other progressive organisations rise up and join the fight – the environmental NGO movement, for example, and, of course, the student movement. So often these movements focus in on their own peculiar interest without reference to the wider narrative that affects all progressive issues; I have been shocked at how many Students’ Unionist refuse to protest cuts at their own institutions, even going as far as backing management and opposing industrial action. Getting organisations so accustomed to carving out whatever concessions they can to join together in action will be difficult, but it is the model that has worked in other countries and successful campaigns. Bringing Citizens UK and the other, newer community organising movements on board will be an absolute must to ensuring a truly mass movement is formed.
The biggest problem is if all of these groups, particularly the labour movement for obvious reasons, actually buy Labour’s rhetorical shift to the left. This is what many in the Union hierarchy will want and, despite recent attempts by grassroots activists to bring down these bureaucrats, there aren’t a lot of big Union leaders who are going to remind their members of what it was like under ‘Labour’ for the past 13 years.
Whatever happens, we cannot let Labour claim the banner for the movement against ConDem – they will only betray it again. Many in the Labour leadership, including its likely future leader, would be quite happy sitting on the front bench of any of the major parties. If they had won power, they would be making the cuts that we must now oppose. It would be disastrous if the progressive movement did not organise independently from Labour; we need to be ruthless about reminding people of what the Labour Party has become.
So how can Labour be usurped? It’s time for the Greens and the other true progressives to step up, and create the biggest protest movement this generation has ever seen.