The Left

The only thing that is constant…

Reading the minutes of the recent meeting of neo-New Labour pressure group/think-tank Compass on The Thinker, I couldn’t help but be struck by the language used.

OK, I know that most of the left has long since rejected the language of vanguardism and primitive workerism and that no one wants to go back to the days of Militant Tendency slogans, but really, is it so difficult to talk about left politics without descending into such pretentious jibberish, corny cliche and vacuous nonsense?

Take a look:

Happiness discourse i.e., the breakdown between growth and happiness – is now reasonably well established but needs to be popularised.

There is a gap in the market for intellectual leadership.

Labour no longer has a narrative – so decisions cannot be justified.

The left needs challenging ideas in the space between the politics of fantasy and reality.

and then, with a straight face it seems:

Compass has to use a language that the Party can understand.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the idea of Compass and having spent plenty of time complaining about the lack of direction and socialist values in the Labour Party it would be wrong to be dismissive of them and that last phrase, while rather amusing in the context, does at least offer some signs of hope for the future.

But fellow stakeholders, how exactly are we going to popularise the happiness discourse?

Having spent a brief amount of time among the ranks of the Communist Party in the days when it was dominated by the Marxism Today crowd this is all rather familar.

Anyone remember Facing Up to the Future? Manifesto For New Times? Or even the hilarious foundation documents of the Democratic Left (RIP)?

I remember during our plotting against the likes of Martin Jacques, Nina Temple and the rest of the Chelsea Garden Party faction, we young oppositionists drew up a list of words which should be banned from the language of the left. It has long since been lost but I recall nurturing, empowering and sustainable were on it for sure. I also think we were not in favour of ’embracing’ anything or ‘enabling’ much either.

We could make an effort at another such prohibited list. We should certainly add ‘Happiness Discourse’ to it right away.

Time for an open-ended and inclusive discourse and narrative on this one comrades.

Update: On the happiness theme, Norm has an item on the ‘measurement of joy’.

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