Recently there have been signs of few promising red shoots in the generally barren garden that is the anglo-saxon left.
In the UK a “People’s Assembly” to oppose austerity was attended by 4000 delegates in June and it had the enthusiastic support of left leaders of the union movement. It has given a boost to the resistance movement to the Tory governments plan for permanent austerity.
This development has been in part a factor in a deep-going crisis inside the British SWP that is producing a sophisticated discussion on the relationship between reform and revolution that I have real sympathy with.
Unite Union General Secretary Len McCluskey is publicly challenging Labour Leader Ed Milliband to reject “austerity-lite” or “he’ll be defeated and he’ll be cast into the dustbin of history.” With 1.4 million members Unite is Britain’s biggest union and represents one in 5 unionists in the UK. Whilst I don’t hold out much hope for his campaign to “reclaim Labour” for the working class of the UK he seems deadly serious about pursuing it and the consequences will be fascinating to watch.
British comedian Russell Brand edited special edition of New Statesman and condemned the entire political system in the UK as corrupt servants of the rich and powerful and defended the need for revolutionary change. His subsequent interview with veteran BBC reporter Jeremy Paxham went viral on youtube with millions viewing his defense of his pro-socialist views.
Whilst I don’t accept Brand’s argument that we shouldn’t bother to vote I have a lot of sympathy for where he is coming from. A big reason why many people have stopped voting is that they have experience after experience of governments (of either the traditional right or left) which carry out policies that seem only designed to protect the rich and screw the rest of us. Often they carry out policies that are the opposite of what they campaigned on.
The British population’s views on most questions are radically further to the left than either of the major parties. A horrified report in the International Business Times was headed “Public far to the left of Labour Party finds poll”. Two thirds of the public support the nationalisation of the railways and energy companies and even a majority of Tory voters oppose the recent privatisation of Royal Mail. Another right wing commentator drew the obvious conclusion: “Supporters of a market economy have a very big problem. Unless they address the concerns of the public, they will be annihilated.”
In the USA recently there was poll which found that 60% of the population believe neither major party represents them and wanted a third party choice. Just last week an open socialist was elected to the Seattle City Council against a Democratic Party incumbent – the first in 100 years. She is a migrant from India who played a leading role in “Occupy Seattle” and made the union campaign for $15 an hour minimum wage a major campaign issue.
In Australia there have also been several socialists elected at a local council level as well but the Labour Party machine seems to have a death grip on the union movement that has prevented any challenge to the pro-capitalist course that produced the disgusting spectacle of the Labour Party trying to compete at refugee bashing to get votes.
In Aotearoa New Zealand we have the Mana Movement with an elected MP and the probability that in the Maori seats at least there will be a serious left challenge to Labour for the allegiance of working people. The 5% vote for John Minto for mayor of Auckland was also a small but hopeful sign that Mana may be able to reach out beyond being seen only a “Maori” Party. Mana has also played an important role in triggering a massive resistance movement in Auckland’s Mangere suburb against the planned motorway system. It is a victory for left wing politics to have a movement rooted in the working class communities that gives voice to the type of radical solutions that are needed which are able in the words of Mana’s leader Hone Harawira to meet the needs of the poor and dispossessed and be able to meet the challenges this system is bringing down on our heads.