Owen Jones, author of the bestselling Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, and contributor to Pluto’s own What We Are Fighting For: A Radical Collective Manifesto (Pluto, 2012) has written a piece for the Independent this week, calling for a new, networked movement of the Left in the post-SWP era.
In a (perhaps) divisive proposal, Jones writes:
so long as trade unions ensure Labour is linked to millions of supermarket checkout assistants, call centre workers and factory workers, there is a battle to be won in compelling the party to fight for working people. It is a strategy passionately rejected by others taking on austerity, and I respect that. But it is absurd that – as we live through a Great Reverse of living standards and hard-won rights – the opponents of austerity are scattered and fragmented. Even as their poison drives up debt, poverty and long-term unemployment alike, the High Priests of Austerity remain perversely united.
In addressing this dire, familiar tableaux of left-wing disunity, he calls for ‘a broad network that unites progressive opponents of the Coalition. That means those in Labour who want a proper alternative to Tory austerity, Greens, independent lefties, but also those who would not otherwise identify as political, but who are furious and frustrated.’
We’ve reproduced the last few paragraphs as en extract below. What are your thoughts? Is Labour the answer? We certainly believe that the books we publish at Pluto have a number of credible ideas – not least in the collection Jones has contributed towards. For more details go to our website: www.plutobooks.com
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[I]f we could agree on some key principles, and avoid creating a new battleground for ultra-left sects, we could give the angry and the frustrated a home. We could link together workers facing falling wages while their tax credits are cut; unemployed people demonised by a cynical media and political establishment; crusaders against the mass tax avoidance of the wealthy; sick and disabled people having basic support stripped away; campaigners against crippling cuts to our public services; young people facing a future of debt, joblessness and falling living standards; and trade unions standing their ground in the onslaught against workers’ rights.
Such a network would push real alternatives to the failure of austerity that would have to be listened to; and create political space for policies that otherwise does not exist. Faced with a more courageous, coherent challenge to the Tory project, the Labour leadership would face pressure that would not – for a change – come from the right.
It is easier to discuss such an idea in a newspaper than put it into practice, but it is a mystery that such a network does not already exist. Though fraught with difficulties – never underestimate the ability of the left to miss an opportunity – the appetite is certainly there. Our country’s greatest movement consists of those screaming with exasperation at their TV sets. Time to break the isolation of those who want an alternative to the bleak future currently on offer. The era of the SWP and its kind is over; a new movement is waiting to be born.
A Radical Collective Manifesto
Edited by Federico Campagna and Emanuele Campiglio
Visions of a different society run in the interests of the 99%. Leading activist voices answer the question the media loves to ask the protesters.
“Here are the first flowers of spring: the beginning of an epochal dialogue about the human future. Inspired by the Occupy movements across the world, What We Are Fighting For should inspire all of us to join the conversation.” – Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and City of Quartz
“This collection provides a rallying point for all those who resist the dogmas of contemporary politics and seek a fresh set of alternatives. What We Are Fighting For is a manifesto full of urgent, articulate responses to the current situation.” – Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School, New York, and author of The Faith of the Faithless (2012).