Books,  The Left,  Trots

Optimism of the Will

I must admit to enjoying Mark Steel’s book ‘What’s Going On?’ penned recently to salvage a few laughs and raise a quid or two from his otherwise unpleasant mid-life crisis.

The poor guy split up with his partner and mother of his kids at exactly the same time as the scales fell from his eyes about the true nature of the Socialist Workers Party which he’d been a member of since 1978.

Readers will have to decide for themselves whether they think its worth wading through the depths of his still – to my mind – simplistic politics to get to the frequent observational gems which stud the text.

Here he is on the SWP’s ‘headless chicken’ organisational analysis as it approached its most self-deluded phase over the last few years:

“During the years of New Labour this honest accounting seemed to evaporate. Everything was proclaimed as an indicator of booming opportunities. There’d be excited pronouncements revealing new strategies with names such as ‘Action Programme’. Rallies were called, the urgency of the situation proclaimed, then everything would disappear with no explanation. It was like having a friend who announced he was getting married, held a huge stag party, then never mentioned the wedding or the woman again, but a few weeks later said ‘Guess what, I’m getting married’, and started all over again.”

According to Steel a lot of the less bovine long-term members are fully aware that things have been in terminal decline for over a decade but they’re too browbeaten to even think about doing something other than parrot the official line ie that they’re  collectively on the verge of great, but unspecified political opportunities.

Take this young feller-me-lad from the comments box at Lenin’s Tomb posting yesterday about his trip to Marxism 2009:

I went to John Rees’s meeting on ‘Lukacs and Lenin’. It was absolutely fantastic. He explained how, at the core of both Lenin and Lukacs’s thought was the idea of the ‘totality’, and how this ‘totality’ created conjunctures that don’t last very long, and so revolutionary parties have to get a bit of a nip on and show initiative in case they miss their main chance. Basically, at the core of Marxist politics – and this is what Lenin and Lukacs were both trying to say as the very essence of their philosophy – is that socialists should “strike while the iron is hot”. This is something that bourgeois philosophy simply cannot grasp.recent disagreements could be entirely subsumed by such an overpowering spirit of unity. It really gave me hope for the future.

Everyone seemed full of vim and enthusiasm. There were no real arguments or disagreements of any kind, due to the tremendous consensus that exists at the moment. It was really uplifting to see John, Lindsey German, Chris Nineham and Chris Bambery together, full of confidence despite recent setbacks (based on what I saw today I’m now confident that these will prove to be only temporary.) I believe that it’s a sign of the essential health of the tradition they belong to that

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