Saturday, April 30, 2005

Red Pepper 130 May 2005

Red Pepper arrives slightly early this month. The cover features a photo of Tom Keys and falling rose blossoms as a way into the mag's Election 2005 features. This starts with Hilary Wainwright giving her strategic perspectives: translating Feb 2003 into a challenge at the ballot box and aiming at denting Labour's majority so that the faction bound to the US can't get it way. Strategic voting needs to produce a New Labour government dependent on Labour rebel votes - and Lib Dems, radical nationalists and others, including Respect and Reg Keys. Such a government would have to make key concessions. The success of Italian anti-war parties is taken as an indication - but the vibrancy and maturity of the Italian is acknowledged. Detailed guidance is offered at the Red Pepper/Socialist Unity co-operative election map.

The election feature also includes material by Reg Keys and Brian Eno about Sedgefield. This blogs' 'Wisdom of the Psephologists' (also available at Socialist Unity) is also there under the title 'All over bar the counting?', but of greater interest is John Harris's 'Revenge of the beards' taking up his So Now Who Do We Vote For? arguments and web-site. John raises the possibility that, even if the Tories can't win, there is a sufficient Tory gain to contribute to a Tory revival. John does refer to 'totemic seats' where a victory will bring delight, including George Galloway beating Oona King.

Not in the magazine, but on the web-site is a review of the Respect manifesto by Jame O'Nions, 'Do voters need Respect?'
To quote: "The twelve election priorities are inevitably headed by a call for an end to the occupation of Iraq, whilst the introduction is titled ‘against war and privatisation’. The other priorities are exactly those which left activists have been campaigning on for the last few years. This is not, then, as Nick Cohen and the Alliance for Workers Liberty would have us believe, the manifesto of an unholy alliance between a part of the far left and some vaguely defined current of ‘Islamo-fascists’. From the evidence of this manifesto, it is rather that a significant proportion of Muslim opinion has for the first time decided to identify itself with what can only be described as a far left project. We should welcome that step.

The devil, of course, is in the detail."

James goes on to discuss the relatinoship between this document and the People Not Profit manifesto of the Socialist Alliance of 2001, finding a great deal of similarity, but some omissions. And he concludes:
"East Ham candidate Abdul Khaliq has said that he sees Respect not as a radical party, but as a democratic one. Perhaps he wasn’t aware of what was to be included in the Manifesto, as Respect certainly is a radical party in the context of Britain to day. When Khaliq says it’s democratic, though, he inadvertently raises that other issue which has left a substantial section of left activists cold when it comes to Respect – its internal democracy. Cautious after the experience of the Socialist Alliance, and certainly not reassured by reports of Respect’s first proper conference, such activists would certainly see some irony in the Respect manifesto’s call for society to be organised ‘in the most open, democratic, participative and accountable way’.

"In certain areas Respect have managed to achieve the kind of reach that represents the best progress for the radical left in a long while. On the evidence of this manifesto, they seem to have done so without dropping too much of the radicalism. But unless they can start to command the electoral loyalty of a bigger section of leftwing opinion, in the way that Rifondazione Comunista does in Italy, it may not look so rosy after the election. And in order to do that, they have to make a real (and humble) effort to show they can be ‘open, democratic, participative and accountable’. On that challenge, this manifesto has no answers."

There is more on the election, but the other article I want to highlight is Jeremy Gilbert's very useful account of Hardt and Negri's Multitude, a book he thinks will become central to future radical debates. He situates the argument in a context of interdependent international capitalism. Hardt and Negri focus on the possibility of a democracy ('the rule of everyone by everyone') that involves fully shared sovereignty and complete autonomy. Gilbert contrasts this to Laclau and Mouffe and the logic of representation in an age of 'post-modern difference'. But although the writing is inspirational and poetic for Gilbert it is weak about strategies and coalitions, going little further than the call for 'planetary humanism' by Paul Gilroy. Gilbert sees a 'new field of enquiry - one concerned with rethinking collectivity in the post-modern context', but criticises Hardt and Negri for ignoring the existing debate and in the end sees them as both simplistic and a genuine 'resource of hope'.


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