Gaining ground: Socialist Movement-Building for the New Decade
by Nolan MacGregor (@Nolan_MacGregor) on December 22, 2019



The destiny of the country for the next five years has been decided. A Tory party which for almost ten years has presided over nothing less than a regime of social murder will retain power, and the suffering of the people will continue intensify. Needless to say, the failure of the socialist left to secure victory this time necessitates serious reflection on our part. Incidentally, just a couple weeks after election night it will also be my thirtieth birthday: another good occasion for reflection. I’ve been a die-hard socialist since I was 14, and in the often strange 16 years since then, which saw me move across the United States and back again and ultimately to settle down across the ocean in London with my wife, my one constant has been a resolute belief in the power of collective organising to reshape the world. That belief remains unshaken.

The leadership and policy decisions that led to this defeat can be analysed elsewhere. For now, it is enough to say that the duty of the Labour movement is to facilitate mass resistance to the onslaught of social cleansing and disaster capitalism that Johnson’s doubling-down on the Thatcher legacy will unleash. The Labour left has long made the case for greater reliance on a militant mass movement of the whole working class, with greater participation of the grassroots base. This demand has become existential. But it’s not enough to keep making it. The question is: what concrete steps can we take to guarantee that socialist movements and organisations grow their active membership in proportion with the wider growth of general sympathy towards left-wing ideas? That is to say, how can socialists get outside familiar activist spaces and ensure that the left becomes more and more genuinely representative of the working class in all its diversity? Without party organisations that match the size, strength and militancy of the class, socialist politics in Westminster will be toothless.

In my experiences with socialist activism over that time, I’ve seen the American, British and Austrian lefts repeat the right strategies and the wrong ones often enough to feel confident in making two strategic recommendations to the socialist movement for the new decade. To be sure, part of this will involve doubling down on the kind of excellent work already being done by groups like Momentum (especially by the innovative comrades in Manchester Momentum), by The World Transformed, and perhaps most excitingly, by Labour’s Community Organising Unit, whose By The Many campaigns have led to exactly the kind of bottom-up mobilisations that we need to see a lot more of. I’ve been proud to play a small role in the COU’s amazing work during the election, and afterwards, it appears that its work had an electoral impact beyond their far-reaching social implications. In seats where the COU was active, Labour saw a 2% smaller loss of vote share relative to the national average, In seats in Yorkshire this shot up to a 7% decrease in loss than the regional average. The launch of Labour Transformed on December 14th may also represent a step in the right direction. However, even our best efforts have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible and necessary.

This isn’t just a question of ensuring emancipatory political movements live up to their universalist ethics more fully, though for what I’m proposing, morals do rhyme with practice. The vital organisational questions that need answering are ultimately about socialism’s survival. To be truly prepared for the future, whatever it may bring, we’ll need to broaden and deepen the base of our movements in profound ways. A socialist Labour government in the UK (or a democratic socialist presidential administration in the US) will face precisely the kind of tooth-and-claw resistance described in insightful works like Christine Berry and Joe Guinan’s People Get Ready! or Chris Nineham’s The British State: A Warning. The intransigence of the establishment, vividly on display during this election campaign, and sure to intensify if Labour comes to power, can only be overcome by mass mobilisation on an unprecedented scale. Building strong party, trade union and community organisations is on one level distinctly socialist work, since our goal is an emancipated society with autonomy and self-determination for all. On another level, building strong organisations is value-neutral. Whatever one’s particular interpretations of left politics, without militant mass movements, it will ultimately be right-wing nationalists ruling the land. We can take steps to overpower them.

I: More socialist media is a must, but it needs to be geared towards new audiences

Mainstream media coverage during the 2019 election has proved one thing: the left really cannot count on a fair hearing in the national media. During this campaign, senior journalists at major outlets have gotten away with gross acts of right-wing bias (and incompetence). A chorus of left voices are therefore now calling for greater investment of time, money and energy in building genuine alternatives to the corporate media. This requires an acute sensitivity to the need not just for new voices, but for new political approaches that can go beyond stereotypical answers to classic problems. Back in June, I wrote a piece for this publication about the need for more comprehensive political education in the context of left internationalism. The issue is now more pressing than ever.

What would a left media platform adequate to our needs really look like? If all it took to build vibrant political communities were an online platform where socialist views could be aired freely, wouldn’t we already have the problem solved? The difficulty lies in the fact that we don’t just need left media: we need a certain kind of left media. We need to do more than double down on the journalistic capacity the left already has. Most of all, we need a media that does more than simply go on the offensive against establishment media. We must lead by example. We need platforms from which we can communicate ideas to everyone, not just those who have already accepted the frames and points of reference that make arriving at left conclusions on given issues a no-brainer to us. All too often, English-language left media serves to reinforce a sense of in-group identity within pre-existing filter bubbles rather than broadening the horizon of access to socialist analysis. Alongside relatively small sites like Novara Media and New Socialist, the work of larger left-wing magazines like Jacobin and Tribune should not be underestimated, but it should also be kept in mind that these latter two are magazines, and therefore not comparable to the kind of full-scale news and opinion platforms enjoyed by liberals and the right.

In an interview with Richard Hoggart for the inaugural issue of New Left Review, Welsh Marxist theoretician Raymond Williams said:

The fact is that communication is the basic problem of our society … But it’s no answer to go about it as they’re now doing: ‘how can we put this which we want to say, or have done, in communicable forms that even the simplest person can take?’ … I believe that communication cannot be effective if it is thought of as simply transmission. It depends, if it is to be real—between people rather than just units in production or consumers on a market—depends on real community of experience, and the channels open, so that we are all involved. Not selling a line, but sharing real experience.

Williams was getting at something important here. A “community” isn’t just something that feels nice to be a part of. Communities emerge out of shared experiences and frames of reference: mutually agreed-upon definitions of words and concepts, interpretations of historical events, and so on. Such points of commonality are, crucially, not just an outcome of community life but also its precondition. A vibrant media landscape can help create the preconditions in which communities can grow. This is precisely the function that interlocking networks of political media have historically served for the left. Today, the right mostly possesses these kind of networks, while left media platforms largely stand alone, uncoordinated, offering analysis and insight but little in the way of a comprehensive worldview. This has not not always the case.

Crucially, without such communities of experience, effective communication between individuals is impossible, except perhaps in the most top-down, one-directional form. This is important, most of all, for mass movements of the left: any members-led party or group needs to be able to facilitate effective group communications in order to live up to its democratic aspirations. We must therefore find ways to cultivate socialist communities of experience, or face political extinction. Our socialist media, already much stronger than it was a decade ago, will have an important role to play in this process provided it continues to evolve.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. The party, the trade unions and the activist base will need to come together to make possible what would be impossible if they acted alone. This is crucial, because the operative word here is scale. What we need is less LabourList, more The Daily Herald. Once one of the UK’s most widely-read dailies, the Herald was for most of its existence an official organ of the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party, with rank-and-file activists having a say in its operations through a network of grassroots Daily Herald League branches. It provided a platform by which to bring socialist ideas to the masses in the form of daily news, that is, by relating socialism in concrete ways to the specific current events which impacted daily life, rather than from the more abstract perspective of party theorists or insiders’ political gossip. TUC and Labour grandee Ernest Bevin himself said of the Herald: “We may be certain that there is such a growing working-class consciousness that a large clientele is awaiting serious literature. Labour’s press must be a real educational factor, provoking thought and stimulating ideas.” Indeed.

In the 1960s, the Herald began to lose readership to the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror and was eventually sold to a company that, with malicious irony, wound up being bought by The Sun. While the Mirror remains sympathetic to Labour, we need a vehicle by which to conduct sustained, systematic agitation and education campaigns. For this, magazines like Tribune will not suffice on their own: we desperately need another Daily Herald today.
That’s not to say that we need to recreate the model of 20th-century print journalism. Instead the operation of new news platforms like Vox should be a more direct inspiration. Their model of ‘explanatory journalism’ perfectly encapsulates our needs. Rather than treating each piece of news coverage in isolation and expecting the uninitiated to make connections between countless disparate events, people, places and concepts, Vox started from the assumption that people were curious about their world but that not everyone arrived at this curiosity with equal knowledge. Vox therefore takes pains to detail the context in which events are occurring, their historical background, and definitions of key concepts in all its coverage. Vox’s explanatory model has made it one of the most popular, profitable news websites in America, and nothing less than an unofficial ‘party organ’ of Democratic Party left-liberalism. Their approach is extremely effective at creating an overarching liberal worldview among their audience, relatable not just to the inside-the-Beltway politics of Washington, DC, but to culture, science and technology issues as well.

Closer to home politically, the Labour movement should also take cues from the Social Democratic Party of Austria’s (SPÖ) Kontrast news platform, which like Vox features short-form explanatory content with a focus on video, designed to lower the barriers to entry which stand between less politically-active people and participation in socialist discourse. Activists from the SPÖ and Kontrast, along with many others from 7 countries, have been in the UK during this election season working in solidarity to help the Labour Party and Momentum campaign for a socialist Labour government (During their visit, I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce the Kontrast editorial team to my Labour comrades). Instead of treating socialist conclusions as inevitable, Kontrast prioritises coverage that draws connections between current events and broader trends, makes economic and political language transparent, and educates people without dumbing things down.

As Austria’s fifth-largest news platform and by far its largest left-wing website, Kontrast’s model helps create a shared universe of language, concepts and facts that the Austrian public can draw on. While progressive forces in Austria face a formidable challenge in the country’s rising far-right, the left is holding the line there precisely because they well understand how to keep themselves open to the world. The Kontrast project is not just a propaganda arm of the SPÖ: it is an essential mechanism by which the Austrian left builds its broader political community.

What’s at stake here is ultimately the question of political education, thrown into disastrous relief by this election. Many have remarked on how arbitrary and confusing many of Labour’s flagship Manifesto commitments seemed to voters on the doorstep. Kate Proctor writing in The Guardian quoted one Labour activist source as saying:

It wasn’t that people didn’t like the policies, [but] people thought there [were] too many of them. The free broadband was really unpopular. We hadn’t spent two years making the case for it and we just dumped it on them … so people thought ‘this is a weird luxury, why on earth are we being offered this?

These kinds of reactions to transformative policies show one thing clearly: it’s not enough to have arrived at compelling conclusions about the best way to move forward as a society. Politicians, activists and perhaps most of all our media need to start treating political education less as a synonym for political communication and more like a process of gradual, systematic consciousness-raising over time.

To understand this, it’s worth thinking about the common habits of mind that often get in the way of effective dialogues between activists and potential new members and supporters. A large body of economic and psychological research sheds light on common cognitive biases that professional teachers and educators face. One of the most common biases is the ‘curse of knowledge’, a concept introduced by Camerer, Loewenstein, and Weber in a 1989 article for the Journal of Political Economy. Studies of the curse’s effects have been replicated in many other contexts. In Elizabeth Newton’s famous ‘tappers and listeners’ experiment, one set of subjects, the ‘tappers’, were instructed to tap out the tunes of popular, easily-identifiable songs to a second group of ‘listeners’. Tappers were told the names of the songs ahead of time, and listeners were instructed to identify the tune. Out of 120 songs tapped out, listeners only identified 3 correctly. Crucially, before the test, individual tappers were asked to predict how likely their partner listener was to get it right. Tappers thought their listeners would identify the song 50% of the time, overestimating by a factor of 20. Science writers Chip and Dan Heath summarised the experiment this way:

The problem is that tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge. When they’re tapping, they can’t imagine what it’s like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song. This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it … And it becomes difficult or us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.

Individuals with a high degree of knowledge are ‘cursed’ with the inability to reconstruct the mental state of someone who lacks that knowledge. What this means is that we take for granted all the associations we’ve made, all the inferences we’ve come to draw, and all the crucial frames of reference which have become second nature to us on the various paths we’ve taken to arriving at a socialist consciousness. People forget all too easily how much of their knowledge is ‘tacit’ as opposed to explicit; and socialist beliefs, as much as they may rest on ethical convictions, are also a form of knowledge about the world. Political education is education. We cannot overlook the significance of the curse of knowledge in our own communicative practices.

People on the left all too often assume that to be persuasive, all we need to do is proclaim our views and our values as widely as possible, when in fact, ‘circulation’ of left views is only half the battle. When we unconsciously take for granted the implicit beliefs and frames which lead us to explicit conclusions (i.e. our Manifesto commitments), we fail to realise that in order for proclamation to translate into persuasion, a lot of mental groundwork needs to be laid first. That’s what political education is really for: laying foundations.

In practice, this cannot be a “dumbing-down” of our ideas. Impactful journalism - the kind that people actually read - is popular because it doesn’t appear to talk down to people, no matter what ideological baggage it may be carrying. Socialist media of the future will need to leave behind all its associations with shallowness, conspiratorial thinking, gossip, and general unprofessionalism.

Effective political educational media will challenge the common, and indeed worryingly often also our own, assumptions about what “ordinary” people are interested in. The experience of Kontrast, Vox and even The Daily Herald have all shown that appetite for deep knowledge of history and ideas really exists among the people and that such “background knowledge” is a prerequisite to making firmer political commitments, but that for people to get there, they need a clear pathway from point A to point B. What we need is to create media that does a kind of “reconstructive” work, creating a network of factual knowledge and then drawing those connections that add up to wisdom. Socialist media for the many should work backwards from knowledge and clear a road by which people can approach socialist consciousness in a step-by-step fashion, just as we ourselves all did at one point or another. With a stronger network of socialist media as well as a deeper commitment to long-term political education, we can help the movement develop a healthier dialogue with itself and with the public, in which political commitments such as the Manifesto more fittingly anticipate and develop the demands of the masses. That is why we need left media by but not entirely for the left.

II: Creating accessible social spaces is an essential part of growing the left

Robert Putnam’s landmark survey of American public life in the late 20th century, Bowling Alone, showed how the period of high neoliberalism (roughly the 1980s to the 2000s) ran alongside the collapse of the social institutions and community networks by which Americans had previously oriented themselves in the world. Under economic, technological and ideological pressure, voluntary associations, community groups, political associations and social clubs all fell apart amid the rush to individualise and marketise every part of the human subject. And the same story can be told everywhere in the world.

Today, chronic social isolation and alienation are still on the rise, with 22% of Millennials reporting they have ‘no friends’ according to one study. It’s worth keeping in mind that the collapse of political party membership rates, which Labour has so far only been able to partially slow down, as well as the crushing of the trade union movement, are part of the larger story about the collapse of social-institutional ties. Reports that social media have had a negative effect on our ability to engage with each other meaningfully are not entirely exaggerated, at least in some circumstances. This means our job is much harder than it may have been in the past, when it was possible to imagine taking existing institutions of collective life and orienting them towards the building of socialism. Today, it is no exaggeration to say that for millions of people, institutions of community life simply no longer exist: community centres, public space, and affordable cultural institutions have all vanished. They will have to be built from scratch. This is a humanitarian demand, but also a political one.

First and foremost, the left needs to create vibrant social spaces: more reading groups, film clubs, community sporting events, cultural outings, music nights, games clubs. This is because most people do not join, much less become full participants in political movements on purely intellectual grounds. In a world where social trust is a precious rarity, people are going to be suspicious of any attempt to draw them directly into partisan politics. People rightly feel they need to be able to trust their peers in order to work with them, especially in the context of deliberative democratic politics as practiced by the emancipatory left. It is shameful the extent to which the Labour Party currently relies on spaces as detrimental to interpersonal trust as constituency party meetings as the main venue by which new members are expected to meet and get to know their comrades. No social space is going to be perfect - the clique mentality must always be militated against - but diversifying the range of options available to new people looking for access is still essential.

And what’s at stake here isn’t just a question of the physical size of the Labour Party or the amount of membership dues it brings in. Communities of experience as Raymond Williams described them are, again, a field in which communicative action can take place. They are venues for joining-up disparate experiences, making connections, sharing ideas, and increasing knowledge.

This is why the work of Manchester Momentum, mentioned earlier, is so inspiring. These activists have discovered the truth that organising social space isn’t just about fun, it’s also an essential way of building collective power which is not optional but mandatory for parties serious about waging and winning class struggle. Manchester Momentum have organised football matches, hikes, disco nights, music gigs, and a whole roster of cultural and educational events which, in their own words, “helped win trust and respect, especially in quarters previously hostile or ambivalent to Labour” and “provided an easy route for people inspired by our work to get involved and get to know our organisers.” Our Manchester comrades have created a model for the whole movement to emulate as a starting point. This is precisely the kind of work that gives people a chance to enter socialist spaces without taking the whole plunge, to decide whether socialists as people are worthy of their trust before offering it. We need many, many more of these moments of “collective joy”.

In fact, the strength of left cultural institutions has always been a way of measuring the political strength of left parties in the more classical sense. There is a long history of left-wing cultural organising to draw on. The Black Panther Party’s commitment to community organising through food provision, free clinics, and other “Survival Programs” is well-known. Almost as famously, the pre-WWI German Social Democratic Party built an entire “alternative society” with the active participation of the German working class. They held massive “forest celebrations”, supported performing arts, gymnastics associations, cycling clubs, workers’ choirs and more. They built youth associations, maintained libraries and dozens of newspapers, and kept political education in the forefront, with constant lectures, seminars, trainings, and even at one point a popular party university with Rosa Luxemburg as chief lecturer. Even the little things were vitally important: the regular Zahlabend or “pay-up night” was an important venue for members new and old to get to know their local comrades and discuss issues simply by going to the pub at a set time every month. In The German Social Democratic Party as a Political Model, Peter Nettl called the Zahlabend “[T]he most important social institution of Social Democracy at the grass roots.”

As Adam Sacks wrote:

This comprehensive lifeworld represented an attempt to construct solidarity and community in the here and now, enriching workers’ lives as they collectively built a movement for a better world.

This was about much more than keeping workers entertained. It created a parallel society, a counterpower ranged against the official society of emperors and capitalists, which gave what was at the time the world’s largest socialist party the scope for any kind of political action, whether reformist or revolutionary. The only way to bring people into a movement at that scale, let alone give them the community of experience necessary for any kind of durable individual identification with the group, is to offer more than procedural meetings dedicated to making resolutions and interpreting the rulebook. Furthermore, those meetings themselves will be made far more substantive and enjoyable if the people in the room have had the chance to get to know each other outside it. This is the real meaning of culture: not just an aggregation of all the cultural products created, but a set of institutions in which community life can be collectively lived.

Without strong community spaces, social fabric tends to unravel. Those with the foresight to move quickly into that gap can attain very real political advantages. This is why organising on the cultural front isn’t just urgent for reasons of our own political accessibility: it’s also a matter, as always, of political survival. Why? Because the forces of extreme right-wing nationalism understand the importance of creating vibrant social spaces much better than we do.

Examples abound across Europe and the United States. Germany’s far-right Alternativ für Deutschland isn’t just a party: it’s a movement with a political wing which stands atop a network of newspapers, magazines (for various levels of readership), think tanks, and community-level street organisations which binds the AfD as a party together and helps propel its growth. The AfD learned many of its lessons about this kind of organising from the US neoconservative movement, which long ago mastered the art of creating accessible intellectual front organisations for young academics.

The most chilling example I can cite, however, comes from India. The ruling ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, of which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leader, is itself only the political wing of something much larger: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or National Patriotic Organisation, which claims the title of the world’s largest non-governmental organisation at over five million members. The RSS operates India’s largest network of privately-run schools, maintains professional organisations for dozens of occupations, a massive student wing, a rural development arm, a string of social services and charitable organisations, and of course a network of newspapers, magazines and think tanks.

But it’s not just an aggregation of all these disparate parts. The ‘shop front’ of the RSS, without which there would be no BJP and no Narendra Modi, is the shakha or branch. In a 2015 count, over 51,000 shakhas existed across India. According to the RSS,

The shakhas conduct various activities for volunteers such as physical fitness through yoga, exercises, and games, and activities that encourage civic awareness, social service, community living, and patriotism. Volunteers are trained in first aid and in rescue and rehabilitation operations, and are encouraged to become involved in community development.

This colossal organisation exists for one purpose: to imprint the minds of millions of members and tens of millions of other Indians in their orbit with the ultra-nationalist Hindutva “way of life”. And they’ve been stupendously successful, in part because they understand how important it is to create entry points for new supporters at every level of their organisation and in every corner of society.

We can’t afford to neglect this kind of work ourselves. If we fail to make inroads into communities via social space organising on a massive, nationwide scale, organisations like the RSS, AfD, and the Azov Battalion and even the CasaPound ‘social centres’ movement will have continued to pioneer their model on the extreme right. In such a scenario, before too long we may wake up to find ourselves entirely outnumbered by militant far-right organisations with memberships in the millions. This is already happening all over the world.

Britain won’t be an exception forever: we know far-right organisational techniques have a remarkable capacity to cross borders. This is precisely the point of the millions of dollars in dark money that pours into European far-right parties from American fundamentalist Christians. In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party closely mimics its German equivalent in organisational technique, and this has made the FPÖ a powerful electoral force. Right-wing forces in the UK are on track to wake up to these realities before we do.

Once again, we can look to our German-speaking sister parties for some guidance, particularly their youth wings, the German SPD’s JUSOS organisation and the SPÖ-affiliated Socialist Youth of Austria (SJÖ). What makes them powerful - in JUSOS’ case, powerful enough to help drive their mother party’s recent shift to the left - is their commitment to building broad socialist communities of experience. JUSOS and the SJÖ maintain a century-long commitment to broad-base political education and social space organising, treating their members and interested prospective members to engaging talks, antifascism seminars, weekend retreats in lakeside resorts, music, hiking, games, physical activity (shout out to Vienna’s Roter Körper athletic club) and much more.

These organisations aren’t just for fun; their programme of political education is detailed and serious, with participatory workshops constantly on offer during major events as well as in regular local sessions at branch offices. Subjects include everything from Marxism to feminism to anti-racist and anti-fascist organising, to economics, world-systems theory, parliamentary procedure, and even things as simple as how to run effective meetings or speak confidently in public. The SJÖ in particular is in my experience a model of how to guarantee that accessibility in this context really is not just a buzzword. The SJÖ’s powerful Womens’ Political Commission and its representative group for gender non-binary comrades have led the way in ensuring that everyone in the organisation has equal chance to be fully present and to make their voices heard across the SJÖ’s space.

These youth organisations make their mother parties strong, and provide an important source of left-wing pressure on party leaderships. This is of course largely due to the groups’ long traditions of organising and the passionate commitment of JUSOS and SJÖ members. But it also comes down to money. The SPD and SPÖ take their youth organisations very seriously, because they know that without strong youth movements parties cannot survive in the long run. Therefore, they provide the youth wings with resources and infrastructure to ensure that these organisations are not forced to compete for inconsistent access to space in pubs and independent community centres, as comrades must often do in the UK. The Socialist Youth of Vienna has an office in every district of the city, ready to be used for workshops, skill-sharing events, meetings, co-working, trainings, political education classes or whatever else. It’s impossible to understate how important it is to have a strong physical infrastructure underpinning social space, to which access is guaranteed to be consistent over time. If the Labour Party and the trade unions want to take movement-building seriously, they must help to make more physical space available to the kind of members-led community projects described here.

Given the scale of what we need to accomplish, it’s important to stress that meeting these challenges is going to require substantial commitments from the party and trade union leaderships. I’m making the case for an engaged membership, but as it stands today the Labour movement only exists as a relationship between its members and its leaders. Right now that relationship is top-heavy, slanted towards a leadership on which far too much depends.

Unfortunately, in that situation only the leadership can create the conditions in which a broadening and deepening of our base can take place. This is because doing the work involved at the scale required will require real resources. What small groups like Manchester Momentum are able to do on their own shoestring budgets is essentially offer a proof of concept: inspiring, but by virtue of being inspiring, necessarily not enough. In sponsoring efforts like the Community Organising Unit and by bringing members into the policymaking process as for instance in this summer’s International Social Forum, our leadership has proven its commitment to capacity-building at the base. But the next step involves going beyond changing the dynamics of existing spaces and communities: it requires nothing less than building a true socialist counterculture.

Conclusion

In an age where the politics of the mass party are coming into vogue again, I’m as convinced as ever that in order to win, to keep, and to exercise power in an age of existential planet-wide emergency; we need our parties and we need them to be true movements representative of and constituted by the active participation of our class. Labour is fortunate enough to count some half a million members: but for the coming decade we need to see this double and triple. This is the scale at which political struggles are already coming to be fought. Liberal rhetoric in the ‘post-historical’ 1990s and the pre-crash 2000s was able to smuggle the idea of politics as a purely elite vocation into our common sense under cover of ideological darkness. But if we look back at the great historic conjunctures of the 19th and 20th centuries, when the pitch of class struggle was high enough that the destinies of generations were really decided, we see that millions and tens of millions of people were cast into the passionate furnace of party life, at a scale difficult to imagine in “peacetime”.

Boris Johnson’s clinging to power for another five years doesn’t change what’s fundamentally at stake in this age of intensifying class struggle. Make no mistake: the 2020s will be a decade of decision just as the 1920s were in their time. At this planetary fork in the road, with climate catastrophe already ravaging the world, we must not fail to imagine a much bigger, bolder, more dangerous kind of politics. No matter what, i’ll look to the coming decade with hope and enthusiasm, because in the aftermath of this election it’s become clearer than ever to me that the Labour movement is becoming more and more vibrant by the day. From the moment the exit poll came I saw enough displays of resilience to know that the bonds of solidarity built in the course of socialism’s upsurge of the last few years aren’t going anywhere. I know we will make the right choices and continue to strengthen the community bonds we’re already building. I know I’ll be seeing many new socialist faces on the streets, under the banners and in the meeting halls in the years to come. Whatever happens now, it’s a thrilling time to be alive.


author

Nolan MacGregor (@Nolan_MacGregor)

Nolan MacGregor is a political data analyst and Labour activist. He writes about philosophy and politics.

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