Saturday, 19 March 2011

Destroying the myth of Labourism is integral to building effective class struggle

Joe Anderson, Liverpool's council leader, has given four Sure Start centres in Liverpool a 12-month reprieve from closure. This comes after Ed Miliband told the Federation of Small Businesses that Anderson "is doing a fantastic job in trying to protect against the impact of public sector cuts." Miliband is wrong, and it remains true that unity with people like Anderson would choke the life out of effective class struggle.

The reason that the Labour Party leader singled out Anderson for such (undeserved) praise was to head off criticism by David Cameron. The Prime Minister accused Anderson and Liverpool City Council of "politically motivated" cuts, claiming that they had imposed more drastic cuts than necessary to undermine his government.

Whilst Cameron accusing anyone else making cuts of being politically motivated is more than a bit rich, there is also a degree of truth to it. After all, Anderson reacted with fury when Liverpool's Lib Dem contingent tabled an amendment to the city's budget that would have reduced the cuts by £1 million. This was hardly a radical move when the cuts would still have totalled £90m, and was almost certainly a play for electoral credibility. But responding to a proposal to save Sure Start centres and moderate care for the elderly by claiming it is based on "Alice in Wonderland" maths is not the act of an anti-cuts champion.

When you add in that the Lib Dems' reasoning for the amendment was that they "could not support the budget as it stood with the proposed closure of four Surestart children’s centres in West Derby, Hunts Cross, Childwall and Allerton," Anderson's cynicism becomes more apparent. They are, after all, the same four centres he has just granted a 12-month lifeline to.

Of course, it goes without saying that this reprieve is to be welcomed. Those struggling to save the centres deserve our solidarity in their fight and I sincerely hope that they succeed in keeping them open.

However, to believe this chance they have been given comes from the City Council's good will, or anything other than a calculated slice of realpolitik with local elections coming up in May, is guilty of the most staggering naivety.

That said, it remains a fact that illusions in the Labour Party are amongst the most significant hurdles to building effective working class militancy. For example, LabourList reports that "since the general election, Young Labour membership in the North West has risen by over a thousand." More and more young people are buying the fairy tale that "the Labour Party is still fighting for them," and "nowhere is this more evident than in the North West."

This can only be seen as a significant failure of the radical, libertarian left. More and more young people are waking up to the attacks that we all face, and the importance of class solidarity. Yet we are just watching as that spirit, that potential, is led down the blind alley of Labourism.

There needs to be a much greater effort, not only to put forward the argument against this approach, but also to present a viable alternative. Online and in books, there is plenty of material arguing in favour of an anarchist worldview for those who go looking for it. But those willing to do that are nearly always already won over to the cause. In the case of everyone else, we should be out there looking for them.

To be fair, this does happen to a significant extent. Liverpool SolFed, certainly, have always tried to produce materials advocating anarcho-syndicalist aims and methods (PDF) to distribute to people, whilst our comrades in Brighton have even gone so far as to hunt out unorganised workplaces to inform workers of their rights and how to fight for them. Certainly, of late, anarchists have been far more effective and active in spreading our ideas than we've been perceived to be in the past.

But much more still needs to be done. Joe Anderson is only the most visible and obvious face of the Labour Party's duplicity, and there needs to be a push to make sure more people are aware of what they really stand for. This includes those at a rank-and-file level who have already fallen for the con and thrown their lot in with Labour.