My hopes for a more inclusive movement

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Natalie Langford sent her thoughts on the launch of the new initiative

 

The energy within the room at the first meeting of the new Anti-Capitalist Initiative was exhilarating and made me realise that there are many others on the Left who share not just my anxieties , but also my hopes for a more inclusive and cooperative movement. I wanted to write a brief piece about my thoughts and to share my experiences of activism up to this point.

I think that the main concern for the Left is the obvious failure to attract people into the movement. Having found my own experiences of the organised Left to have been negative, I now feel particularly motivated to see a more inclusive and effective movement. It is important that individual activists can feel secure and work alongside those who have a group or union membership without feeling excluded.

Naturally, there are many philosophical and strategic conflicts which emerge within an initiative of this kind; from “What does it mean to be an Anti-Capitalist?” though to confusions about the aims of the ACI. Are we a party, a coalition or something much looser? Interestingly some people (already in a party) were keen on the ACI becoming the next revolutionary party but others saw this as being far too presumptuous and unrealistic. I would argue that the aims and structure of the initiative will become clearer as more people join. It is those future members which will get to decide alongside everyone else what the agenda is. Some people seemed confused when they asked which organisation I was from, and I replied that I wasn’t in one.

During my time in London, the groups that I became familiar with tended to focus on intense discussions related to the obscurer points of Trotskyism. As someone who was drawn in through direct action, I found the conversations to be both irrelevant and ineffectual in terms of relating to wider society. Of course, I would hate to deny individuals the opportunity to discuss Russian history till their heart’s content but they invited to me to these meetings primarily to discuss activism and I didn’t see a lot of that happening. However, this is only one element of the Left and I don’t wish to generalise about all the energetic and successful activists who originate from many different backgrounds. However, the fact that the left is so diverse- and this means that all activists will have to step outside of their own shells to respect and work alongside others, without bringing Leninist agitation (for example) into the conversation. It’s a big turn-off for some of us. Especially those of us for haven’t had the time or inclination to read all the complex literature. It doesn’t make individuals less effective at protesting, or less able to understand the widespread issues such affect every working person today. This is mainly because we are working people ourselves!

I hope that we will discuss the importance of diversity in the ACI. No-one can deny that Leftist principles tend to be pro-feminist, anti-racist and progressive but that is a far-cry from building a movement that actually reflects these values! Is no-one else disconcerted listening to privileged white men sitting around in a room talking about working-class struggle? I’m not saying that this is wrong as such; just problematic. I think that everyone has something to offer, but there needs to be more of an awareness of position and privilege in relation to others. Part of the solution comes from learning to listen, and being less dominating. I would also like to point out that some socialist ideologies are incredibly Western in origin.

The role of these activists in the Anti-Capitalist Initiative should be much more outward looking and focus on the immediate needs of a fighting Left. I would argue that unification around issue-based campaigning is the most effective way of creating a broader and more inclusive movement. Resolution 3 at the first meeting was based around a campaign on the NHS. The sweeping privatisation across our country is something which unites the majority of the UK public, and if the Left can effectively campaign and take direct action around this topic then we will have make a good start.

It is action, not politics that is needed right now because every day people are experiencing hardship and suffering under Capitalist systems. I may be more realistic than idealistic, but planning for revolution should not be where our energy is directed. For the left to grow, we need to show a strong, unified voice that achieves victory through action. Working on specific issues and making a difference will radicalise others who have lost their voice and confidence. Revolution may seem a little closer once we have achieved this.

I am excited about the future, and I look forward to being a part of the Anti-Capitalist Initiative.

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3 Comments

  1. Sam
    May 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm · Reply

    It sounds like the meeting was really positive and I’m sure many people will feel similarly to yourself in regards to some of your criticisms of the organised left.
    I feel like the Anti-Capitalist Initiative could and should be the chance for the left to turn a huge corner, instead of our differences of opinion allowing the bosses to divide and rule.

  2. May 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm · Reply

    Here’s the problem. The left is littered with projects that bent over backwards to be more diverse, ‘inclusive’ and so on. They encounter the same issues over and over again: viz, if you for instance tiptoe around women’s issues and ‘reserve’ them for women only to speak about, then normally the women concerned just end up flaking off into the perfunctory liberal feminism that actually dominates that line of thought (SWP circa Womens Voice, the political development of the SSP, etc). This has the same bottom line – the operative politics are *still* decided by ‘privileged white men’. Alternatively, you can bend over so far backwards that you just collapse (eg, 70s libertarian current Big Flame).

    The objective side to this is that society is set up in such a way that it appears ‘natural’ that well spoken blokes should run things, although very few people would actually defend it in those terms. The way to combat this is not to shut the white boys up, but to encourage and develop people into educated cadres – that is, to get the women etc pipe up and give us a slap, and get everyone on as level a playing field as objectively possible.

    The subjective side: the left develops almost *nobody* into thinking cadres *at all*, so the soft power heirarchies reassert themselves within the groups. Unfortunately, you’re slipping into the same mire here when you say: “It is action, not politics that is needed right now because every day people are experiencing hardship and suffering under Capitalist systems.” Action is inseparable from politics, and serves politics whether you like it or not. Campaigning to save the NHS or whatever on a single-issue basis is fine and all, but who benefits *really*? The Labour Party, pretty much (look how angry people are with this Tory government, and how out of touch David Cameron is with ordinary working people, vote Ed!) – and a fine bunch of white blokes are in charge there!

    Action will not solve the diversity ‘problem’ (for further evidence: every Trot group since the 60s at least has been obsessed with building ‘action’, yet they are all just as white bloke dominated as they ever were), but politics *could*. And learning about politics – to the level of nous required to overcome the soft heirarchies of capitalist society – is, I’m sorry to say, in large part a matter of arguing in small rooms.

    As for socialist ideologies being western: well, we in the west got capitalism first, as it happened, so we got the critiques in first as well. It’s the same capitalism all around the world, so it’s the same socialism. There it is.

  3. May 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm · Reply

    The last thing people need to be discussing these days is Trotskyism and Russia. I think there is a huge number of people who think and feel about these issues the same way Langford does, who have come around through some campaign/struggle and then drifted away due to unnecessary sectarianism and infighting that are little more than turf wars between rival sects.

    Demarty is right that left history is littered with these projects but many them were launched by sects that were constitutionally incapable of seeing them through successfully to the end. The British SWP and Respect are a good example of this; the accumulation of mistakes and tensions within Respect eventually tore the SWP apart. I think this initiative has a better chance because it’s not controlled in any way, shape, or form by an existing group.

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