One of the joys of the blogosphere is being able to earwig on intelligent people you don't necessarily agree with. I use the word 'earwig' because I recognise each individual blogger - including me - exists in their own ideological comfort zone, and when one comes into that zone from outside, as it were, one is somehow 'crashing' a party. A degree of courtesy and understanding is required. But anyone who doesn't recognise there is much to be learned from earwigging is a fool.
Today, I've earwigged on two bloggers from polar opposite ends of what we once called 'the Labour Movement': Snowflake 5 and A Very Public Sociologist (AVPS). Snowflake seems to be a New Labour loyalist, AVPS is the academic face of the Socialist Party (nee Militant Tendency). Snowflake is concerned all the 'gains' (I'd call them defeats in the main) of New Labour may be being lost by an 'irresponsible' left returning to the behaviour patterns of the early 1980s. AVPS is grappling with the concept of social enterprise, and how it relates to his Leninist struggle for socialism.
Well, I was politically active on the Left in the early 1980s and I formed a view - coloured by the experiences of GLC funding and reading Marxism Today - on the role of social enterprise. So I could wax lyrical on either matter - and I could express at some length my disagreement with both parties. But that would be rude - an earwigger should listen rather than lecture. So what interests me at this precise point is not to distinguish my views from either of these people but simple to note that:
- Snowflake is returning to the New Labour 'origin myth': Labour was unelectable in 1983 and rejected by the mass of the country so everything had to change - lets not put that at risk again, let's keep the 'aspirational' middle classes on board. Her/his tone is one of warning of the dangers of the past, not sketching out a future. Any one who has ever been political active in any political tradition has had this experience - being unable to argue except by reference to past problems avoided. It's a sign of the intellectual exhaustion, however temporary, of any given political trend. I don't want this to sound aggressive - after all, I've been through this big time, when the old CPGB fell apart. But I do take Snowflake's post as a sign of New Labour's inability to fully comprehend that the Thatcherite settlement with which they made their peace in order to get elected is falling apart.
- AVPS is trying to expand the confines of his theory and grapple with reality. He is some way off a clear focus, at least in my view, but he is looking outside his comfort zone and trying to make sense of a world in which not all radicals (for want of a better word) self consciously identify with the Labour and Trade Union Movement, nor even with 'party-political' endeavour per se.He's looking to the future.
But what do I know? I'm just earwigging from a neighbouring table, somewhere between them...