Socialism has never been about division and exclusion, yet there are some that have rigid ideas about who and what can properly be labelled “socialist.”
I call this elitist perspective “narxism,” as protagonists, drawn from several scattered, disparate camps, tend to be perpetually disgruntled, often aggressive and they don’t half nark a lot. Narxists tend to have a highly selective, limited and unsophisticated grasp of what Marxism entails. They tend to use nasty personal insults and call you a “class traitor” in discussions, which is a tactic aimed at closing down debate.
Included under this rubric are some of the neomilitants, Trotskyists, nationalists, some of the more nihilistic anarchist revolutionaries, some of the Greens and the “none of the above” group. (NOTA, who advocate voting for no-one in order to register “protest” but end up helping the Tories back into office.)
Robert Livingstone compiled a list of some of the various fringe parties, each claiming left-wing status: Behold, the united Left.
Oh, and there’s The People’s Front of Judea.
We certainly don’t need any more new parties of the Left: what we do need is people that are willing to get behind Labour, to contribute and to take some responsibility by having a positive input – to engage in democratic dialogue with the Party – rather than expecting some silent and spontaneous process of political osmosis to happen.
A Labour government would be only a starting point for us to build a strong movement, not an end to our effort. They are certainly not the best we can do, but they are currently the most viable challenge to the Conservatives that we have, and their policies would make things easier for many people currently struggling under the authoritarians. Not ideal, but an improvement on what we have now. For the moment, we only have an available route comprised of small steps.
Meanwhile, we can contribute to setting a policy agenda and shaping priorities. Democracy doesn’t just happen to us: it is an ongoing process that requires our responsibility-taking and active participation.
There are some people amongst the various fragmentary fringe groups that state plainly they would rather see another Tory government than see the Labour Party in Office, some believe that this will “speed up the revolution”, others think that another Tory term will push Labour far left, sufficiently enough to fulfil their own personal wish list of limited, undemocratic, identity politics; reflecting undemocratic, cherry-picked ideals and an aggressive, highly circumscribed kind of socialist perfection.
Over the last five years, we’ve seen the public view shift rightwards though the Overton window. Many welcomed the welfare “reforms”, for example. If the Tories get back in office again this year, it will be almost impossible to get them out by 2020. There’s already a big gap opened up between electoralism and ideological integrity. Meanwhile, the Right only push further rightwards. That process will continue to factionalise the Left. It will continue to polarise the moderates and the socialists. It will ultimately fragment the Labour movement.
Narxists don’t like to be inclusive, they tend to see socialism as some kind of exclusive, highly idealised, olden-days “working class” club with a membership of people that use a distinctive and adapted language, incorporating heavily utilised and negative terms such “blue labour,” “red tories,” “new labour,” “tory lites,” and they also have a penchant for endless unforgiving discussion of both Clause 4 and “Tony Blair” (Blair blah blah…). Sure some things should change, but we need to take responsibility for making that change, instead of simply bleating about all that’s wrong.
Narxists tend to spread a lot of propaganda and outright lies, which they often parade as “criticism.” Narxists can become very aggressive and personal when their continually repeated soundbites are effectively challenged with solid evidence. That gets us nowhere fast. And it’s not very genuinely socialist either.
There is an identifiable strand of classist anti-intellectualism amongst the narxists, too: an inverted elitism. It’s something of an irony to hear that Labour are “no longer the party of the working class”, when you consider that Marx, who is quoted quite often by such ideological purists, wasn’t remotely “working class”, nor was Engels, for that matter. Or Kropotkin and Bakunin, whose family owned 500 serfs. Most academic neo-marxist theorists were terribly middle-class, too, you know.
Narxists claim to be “real socialists.” Yet in their insistence on orthodoxy and their quest for a kind of socialist supremacy, the claim to being “principled” does not generally extend to those foundational socialist values of collectivism, cooperation, organisation and unity. Instead we see a mandatory ideological purism, monocratic perfectionism and bellicose individualism rather than collectivism, that simply divides the Left into competitive factions, which serve only to dilute and disempower us, ultimately.
Narxists seem to have no awareness that the world is populated by others, and it really has moved on. Nor do they seem to pay heed to the more pressing circumstances we currently face. Sick and disabled people are being persecuted by our current Tory-led Government, and many have died as a consequence of this Government’s welfare “reforms.” Many are suffering distress and hardship, and that must stop.
For the record, I hate party politics. My own political inclinations lie somewhere along an anarcho-socialist axis. However, I’m a realist, for the moment the only viable means we have of improving social conditions is to vote, whilst organising, awareness-raising, agitating and promoting progressive ideas for positive change.
Who we choose to vote for has profound implications for everyone else, too. This is the most important general election of our lifetime: the outcome will have historic ramfications. It will affect generations to come. If we allow the Tories another unforgiving (and unforgivable) five years, our once progressive and civilised society will be reduced to a neo-feudalist hinterland, where market forces maintain serfdom and increase pauperisation for the majority and the government of aristocrats select who lives and dies.
Remarkably, narxists prefer to endlessly criticise Tony Blair, who left the building some years back, rather than address and oppose the atrocities of the current government. We have an authoritarian government that are unravelling the very fabric of our once civilised society, dismantling democratic process, abusing human rights and destroying lives. People really are suffering and dying because of Tory policies. The typified, dogmatic response from Narxists everywhere? “Yeah, yeah, but I won’t vote for Labour, because that Tony Blair was a tory lite….” or “Yeah, but they’re all the same…” Ad nauseam.
The only viable means currently available to us of preventing another five years of Tory dystopic vision being realised and the destruction of all that reflects the very best of our society – the blueprint of which is our post-war settlement – is a collective act: a Labour vote. The electoral system is the way that it is – we don’t have proportional representation – nonetheless, we have to use what we have intelligently , strategically and conscientiously. For now. Small steps.
I didn’t like Tony Blair either. I am strongly opposed to neoliberalism more generally, and felt he betrayed the working-class by advocating an economic system that invariably creates social hierarchies of wealth. Some of his social policies were okay. But this isn’t about dogma: it’s about doing the very best we can, acknowledging our circumstances. There is so very much at stake. The Tories want to completely destroy our NHS, public services and support provisions. They want to repeal our Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention. Many of us won’t survive another Tory term. Unfortunately, I don’t see a revolution on the horizon. I do see a very fragmented, disillusioned, apathetic, disengaged and indifferent population.
We need to be responsive to our current situation – in the here and now, and clinging to tired and past-their-usefulness doctrines isn’t going to achieve that. The world has moved on, we have to adapt, respond and move with it.
Let’s try for some genuine solidarity, let’s unite in our common aims, let’s recognise our basic similarities as fellow humans with the same fundamental basic needs, and fight the real enemy, instead of bickering about what socialism is or ought to be about, and what our only current hope – the Labour party – ought to adopt as its brand and mantle. We don’t have a choice, we have to be strategic and tactical at the present. It sucks, but that’s how it is.
Socialism isn’t about what we think and say: it’s about what we DO. Collectively, and for each other.
I’m not a Blairite, but I’m no “Narxist” either. Socialism isn’t about ideological purity, it isn’t about what you think or say, or even what you want: it’s what you DO. It’s about how you relate to others and how you view community and society. It’s about solidarity, cooperation, mutual aid and all of those other values that we should practice instead of just preaching. It’s not ever about competitiveness and exclusivity.
The hardline “real socialists” have damaged our movement every bit as much as “blue labour” have, in their advocacy of factionism.
Without cooperation, solidarity and unity, the Labour movement will die. That must not happen.
Upwards and onwards.