Fracture Within The British Left-Wing

 I’ve floated around the left-wing of politics for as long as I can remember. Even during times of childish innocence, the Left has always been more attractive to me and it shall hopefully remain attractive to all decent people. For the last few years, I’ve tried to find my place amongst a group on the Left, with little success. Although the Labour Party is still traditionally associated with the left-wing of British politics and remains constantly in the public eye, a string of useless party leaders and poor policies has left me and many others dissatisfied that Labour pretends to be the voice of the British Left in the eyes of the public. In fact, I doubt Labour would have any support if it weren’t for the few partisans remaining and those who are unenlightened about other parties that make up the left-wing.

This is not to say that Labour are the only party that appears inept at vocalising and mobilising the British Left. Not long ago, I attended a meeting of ‘socialists’ in Nottingham, who had more in common with a parish knitting circle than the staunch revolutionaries I craved. Their promotion of socialism began and ended with distributing leaflets (that hadn’t appeared to change since the Stop the War Coalition days) in community centres. Not the most exciting form of distribution, we all must admit.

I came to the conclusion that part of the reason it is so difficult to find solace in the many parties that make up the British Left, is because there are far to many nuances between the groups, fracturing the Left for no reason, when these differencees actually contribute very little when it comes to supporting and promoting the working class, which still makes up the vast majority and Britain and the world, which is what the Left should be setting out to do. Despite their many differences, one thing the British Left still seems in agreement about, in my experience, is the words of Karl Marx. One particular line in the Communist Manifesto springs to mind, that the Left at large ought to consider; ‘In the various stage of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.’

Although the ‘they’ in the quote refers to communists in Marx’s writing, perhaps we should consider the ‘they’ to mean the entirety of the British Left, which in my opinion should aspire to promote communism whenever they can. Despite being discoloured by years of propaganda, the term ‘communist’ shouldn’t be a dirty thing, but something people are proud to be associated with, as it demonstrates true dedication to the working class. Marx developed on this more fully in Manifesto, a book which should be standard reading for anyone who claims to sit on the Left.

So what is to be done? I’ve established my distaste for the factions of the British Left, so I propose the following to solve the problem of the left-wing. In my mind, the only assured way I can see the interests of the working class being at the forefront of British politics is through political participation. Time and time again, people’s movements have failed and I worry that apathy is too great to lend these movements the force and numbers they need to be successful. That is why I believe we should not be afraid to exploit the established method of political participation, through political activism leading to parliamentary representation. The dislike of governments only comes from the fact that they are not made up of working people, but the elite few. If a government is made up of members from the many, then it simply becomes an extension of the people’s power, not an alien body, sent to oppress and restrict. I’m completely aware that apathy affects political activity to a great extent in Britain, but I put this down to the indistinguishable differences between the Big Three that make up the vast majority of British politics. If Labour re-aligns itself to the true Left, then perhaps this feeling of indifference can be removed.

So I propose this. Rather than be split between the casual ‘occasional Guardian reader’ Lefty and the hard-liners who won’t be satisfied until the UK is taken back 50 years and renamed the USSR, the British Left needs to put aside its petty quarrels and take a united stand, no matter how broad it may seem. If that stand is as simple as supporting the needs of the many that make up the British working class, such as healthcare, education and adequate jobs, then perhaps the left-wing can be a force to be reckoned with.

Now imagine that we achieve this united front on the Left. Who will be at the forefront of political expression? The way I see it, there are two options for the Left if it chooses to pursue its goals through political participation. Either Labour re-aligns itself as a true working class party, like the one it was intended to be upon its founding or a new working class party will have to rise up and take Labour’s place as the main voice of the left-wing in Parliament. Who this new party would be, I’m not too sure. But it must support the broad principles outlined by writers such as Marx, Lenin and many others, as these principles will lead to the dominance of the working class as a power and ultimately make life better for all of us.

Perhaps it may be more realistic for Labour to turnabout and assume its mantle as a true workers’ party. The foundations are set due to Labour’s long establishment as a party, all that needs gutting is its useless leadership and its Tory-lite policies and then perhaps we might see a beneficial change for the working class. I’m sure many would agree that once the Miliband and his impossible dullness are dumped, then that would be a step in the right direction.

If this hypothetical workers’ party does eventually come to power, then we must remember this. Apathy is the root of many problems today and I single it out as one of the main reasons working class movements, or indeed people’s movements in general, have fizzled out in the last few years. If we are to combat apathy as a group then we need to build a country for the future, not just for the short term, with a government that makes decisions that are beneficial to the entirety or the working class. Any government that is to be supportive of workers also has to supportive of youth, as they will be the workers of tomorrow. If you can get youth on-board with your ideas, then everything else will follow naturally. By putting workers and the youth first, I cannot foresee many problems arising.

If the British Left can find this common ground of workers’ needs then perhaps we can move forward in combating austerity, putting ownership of our NHS back in our hands and stopping the Conservative Party’s systematic extermination of the working class. The needs of the workers are the needs of the common people and the majority, which is why they should be pursued at all costs. One day soon, I hope we can look upon a united Left and then eventually move towards a British government made up by the many, who champion the needs of the many.

Ben Mapletoft

August 2013