If I had a penny for every time I heard that seeing a united Left is impossible, a naive thought of political ingénues, an utopia…
But what exactly renders this objective as mere wishful thinking seems to be unclear. Explanations are lost in mumbling cynicism, raging sectarianism, and muddled with prejudiced judgements about “differences in language”, “x group’s obsession with the fall of the Soviet Union”, “y collective’s stance on Kronstadt”, and so on.
Now, it is obvious that political differences on the Left do exist, and it would be disingenuous to deny them. However, in times like these, when things that most of us hold dear – things like the NHS, free education and social security – are under conspicuous threat from both neoliberal ideology and incumbent governments, the divisions between progressive forces are thwarting all efforts to resists right-wing attacks. It is keeping us all in our own isolated worlds, marching together in demonstrations, but still apart in all other, possibly more effective, actions. What is worst, our rifts, splits and incapacity to unite in struggle are keeping the wider layers of society away from radical progressive politics. In a society where your average Joe is disenchanted with politics, we do our cause a disfavour by portraying the Left as an irreconcilable Medusa.
Truth is, nothing prevents us from trying. And that is what Up the Anti is all about.
A one-day conference of discussion and debate between different people, from several different political backgrounds, to talk about our ideas, our differences and our similarities in a time of austerity.
Its inception stays true to this intent, having been co-organised by networks and publications as different as New Left Project, Ceasefire, Occupied Times, Anticapitalist Initiative, Red Pepper, Globalise Resistance, and Pluto Press.
It is a small, but hopefully significant, step towards a new way of working, a way in which none of the involved groups and individuals monopolises discussion, but rather in which all interact in equal form. We certainly strive for it to be a day in which all participants feel like they have been heard, maybe learnt something new too. A day in which, hopefully, the idea that “a united Left will never be” can be turned around.
For that purpose Up the Anti will host workshops with small or no panels, facilitated by some well-known speakers, but focusing on the participation from the audience. It is about what you have to say and how your experience of politics has left you to believe is the right way to move forward. And this is to be applied on the more pragmatic sessions around the housing crisis, The City and It’s Houses, as well as on those concerning perhaps less immediate issues, like Internationalism and Politics, or Beyond Capitalism?.
Pluto itself is contributing with a presentation of its new book What We Are Fighting For, in which Federico Campagna, Mark Fisher and a member from the new International Organisation for a Participatory Society, will speak on the future of activism and how we reimagine and fight for the alternatives to capitalism.
The day will be closed with Stand Up… Against the Government, a post-conference gig at the Queen Mary University Drapers Bar, promoting, once again, the versatility of progressive politics and how it can and should be applied to other media beyond newspapers and pamphlets. It will feature blues musician extraordinaire, Sean Taylor, and the left-wing comedians Kate Smurthwaite and Chris Coltrane.
As a left-wing activist I could not be more excited. Here lays our chance to pass the peace pipe and welcome a time of united actions, collective struggle and joint opposition to the right-wing agenda. Maybe it is naive to think it is all possible, but, as Tennessee Williams put it, “Revolution only needs good dreamers who remember their dreams.”
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