A couple of people posting recently in the comments boxes of this site have brought up the question of why Harry and I continue posting stories on organisations like the Socialist Workers Party and other groups like them. Surely such groups are irrelevent and marginal they ask? It’s a question which requires an answer.
Anyone who has attended a British University in the last 30 years will know that these types of groups are very active and visible in student politics and campaigns and have a not inconsiderable intellectual appeal beyond their official membership to young people who are open to ideas about improving the world they live in. They are part of the furniture of academic life, whether we like it or not. They are not completely irrelevent in some sections of the Trades Union movement either and played a major role in organising the recent anti-war marches which brought people onto the streets of London to protest about US/Western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. They’re a minority to be sure but not an insignificant one.
Personally I find the many of the arguments raised by the Leninist groups relatively easy to meet but I am a thirtysomething lawyer with a lot of experience of detecting bad arguments. For a twenty year old who wants to change the world their ideas might not seem as full of holes and it is to that type of person the Leninist groups principally appeal.
Principally but not wholly. There are those who would not dream of joining the SWP but are to some extent taken-in by their ideas. Such people might believe that the intervention of Western Governments in Afghanistan is an example of aggressive Western Imperialism rather than an attempt to make the world a safer place. That’s the official SWP line but sadly a lot of other people believe it aswell. A lot more people than would appear sensible but a lot of people nontheless.
Harry Hatchett and Friends is a left-of-centre site and I think it is appropriate that the contributors take part in the battle for ideas among the Left. Of course I can’t speak on behalf of Harry or Gene because that’s not the way we operate but my feeling is that there is a large “consensus” of thought amongst people who would describe themselves as being on the left (but certainly not members of the SWP) that actions by western Governments in other countries are neccessarily imperialist and therefore morally wrong. I disagree with that position very strongly. It is important to recognise that such ideas have a source in and are amplified and disseminated by people like the SWP but find an audience among all sorts of people who would never join them. I personally want to challenge that sort of idea because I think it’s extremely important to do so if the Left isn’t to collapse into something which fails to recognise the benefits of and is able to defend the achievements of our method of government, way of life etc. Actually, I’d probably go further and say that the issue of Western intervention in the war against terror is the most important issue in politics today and will have ramifications which extend way beyond the future of the Left.
I realise that not everyone might be interested in this particular battle for ideas or where we target our arguments but the idea behind blogging is that you write about what interests you not what an editor/proprietor/the readers want you to write about.
The same people who raised the question I have attempted to answer above also made the point that, in their view, there isn’t enough debate about mainstream politics on this site. I would repeat my comments above on the nature of blogging above and add that it would be great if the contributors to Harry’s Place were able to take on all the ideas we disagreed with from The Telegraph to the Guardian but I strongly suspect there probably isn’t enough time to turn Harry’s Place into the Official Voice of The Left with a worked-out position on every single event.
It’s fun contributing to this site and I hope our contributions make people think. I know I’ve reconsidered some of my ideas after reading the generally high level of debate on the site but it’s important to remember we have real limitations if we’re going to make a living as well as contributing to the blogosphere.