Tue Aug 3rd, 2010 at 06:40:47 PM EST
(Inevitably, of course, the same will be proposed by Obama a few days after the November elections, so Americans should follow the debate on this and learn.)
Well, let's be clear, the defeatist way of stating the title is "resisting the cuts agenda." Just asking, but why does 'realism' on this matter require pessimism? In any case, there are two aspects to the problem, what to do immediately and where, and then a 'makes sense' alternative proposed by those resisting. First on the immediate, Richard Seymour (of The Meaning of David Cameron) proposes:
As I see it, the Left has no choice but to look to and work in the trade unions for the agencies that will resist the cuts agenda. This poses some difficulties. It has taken a while for the traditional institutions of the labour movement to grasp the severity of the situation. Inertia, tactical conservatism, loyalty to the Parliamentary Labour Party's leadership, and the fear of risk-taking after years of declining union density, will tend to restrain the trade union leadership from reacting in a proportionate fashion to the scale of the assault. It is the job of the Left to alert people to the exigencies of the cuts agenda, and to the urgent need for militancy beyond the traditional policies of the trade union leadership. This does not involve treating trade union leaders as an `enemy' to be ritually denounced. We should seek to work with them where possible. But we should not be constrained by their limits.
The Left should also . . .
. . . seek to unite those constituencies - centrally public sector workers - who are best placed to resist the cuts into some form of united organisation. There should be no sectarianism about this. Many on the Left are justly disgusted by New Labour, and understandably want nothing to do with the Labour Party. But the people who will be most affected by these cuts will be Labour voters, and affiliates. The industrial battles that ensue in the coming year will play out inside the Labour Party because, for all that the Blairites may have wished otherwise, the party remains rooted in the organised working class. Those links have been weakening for more than a decade, but in the 2010 election, many working class voters in flooded back to the Labour Party, and this deprived the Tories of an outright majority. So it is important not to under-estimate the party's ability to renew its working class support, especially as the Liberals sink to 15% in the polls. What is needed, I would suggest, is a multi-party, multi-organisation, trade union-based united front, the sole criterion for unity within it being agreement on the objective of preventing the cuts and advancing alternatives. If we can achieve this much unity, and obstruct the cuts agenda, we will also create a crisis for the government that will throw wide open the debate about the real alternatives to the defunct policies of the last thirty years.
Seymour proposes the following as among the options that will appeal to and be supported by those fighting the cuts (links in original):
It is not as if there are no alternatives to the neoliberal policy mix. On the right and centre, I expect that national protectionists will increasingly come to the fore, not as outright opponents of neoliberalism, but as a faction wanting to contain some of the effects of `globalisation' both by managing financial flows and further restricting immigration. On the centre-left, solutions offered by critics of neoliberalism like Krugman and Stiglitz, who vehemently oppose the cuts agenda, will have more influence, especially if the cuts backfire as drastically as they are predicting. They offer what Andrew Gamble calls a `regulatory liberalism', with free markets checked by regulation of the banking sector and some modest redistribution. The more radical left will be interested in the left-wing Keynesian solutions offered by the likes of Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson, not to mention Tim Bending in this very forum.
This author is more sympathetic to the anticapitalists, such as David Harvey and Alex Callinicos, who argue that in the long run it will be necessary to transcend capitalist social relations. However, I would modestly suggest that the debate on the Left as to the best long-term alternative is not likely to be resolved in time for us to face up to the immediate task of stopping the cuts. It should be enough for us to agree that the cuts aren't necessary, that they are being imposed as part of a political project to reduce the size of the welfare state, and that the only reason why the plethora of alternatives are not being explored is because of a lack of political will among the groups dominant in the British state.
Hopefully people of all of the following persuasions will be MADE TO FEEL WELCOME within the anti-cuts movement. No? Not that first group? Oh well, priorities, priorities (we see similar problems in the U.S. antiwar movement, so I'm not optimistic cuts resistance will avoid being sectarian and exclusionist.) Oh, and mebbe we've found the key to why realism requires pessimism.