9 Necessities for a Popular Left
Does popularity entail populism? What would it mean for the left to be truly popular? Here Jeremy Gilbert offers nine things the left needs to do if progressive ideas are to occupy the mainstream.
By Jeremy Gilbert / wire.novaramedia.com

1. Break decisively with neoliberalism.

As Jon Trickett has argued, no progressive project today can offer a convincing or coherent narrative which does not accept that the past 30 years have been very bad in many ways, and in ways which did not amount to a set of random accidents.

Neoliberalism has been a thing – a project, a programme – and its purpose was to restore capitalist profitability even at the expense of democracy and social equality. There is no getting away from this.

Most British journalists still treat ‘neoliberalism’ as too long a word for the British public to get their ears around. Find another word for it then. But don’t pretend it hasn’t happened, or that anybody asked for it.

Lurking at the back of New Labour’s narrative was always the tacit acknowledgment that neoliberalism and the history leading up to it had been inevitable and desirable. The implication was always that it had probably been, after all, a good thing that Thatcher beat the miners in 1984. It wasn’t.

Much of what New Labour did was justifiable given how weak a position the left was in at the time. But the fact that the left became that weak was a disaster.

Not even a mildly progressive project will never be taken seriously by the public until it can state this matter clearly, proposing a route out of the resultant mess that marks a clear break with the neoliberal project.

2. Name the enemy.

Whether we call it ‘capitalism’, ‘profit’, ’corporate greed’ or ‘arsehole bankers’, the fact that a distinct set of interests has driven the neoliberal project and continues to benefit from it, however much others may suffer, cannot be finessed.

Radicals take note – Ed Miliband has had a go at this. Give him credit where it’s due. Unfortunately, he hasn’t found a voice in which to say it which doesn’t sound ridiculous. He tried to convince the public that he was awkward but relatable – an ordinary geek. Instead he should have come clean about his own extraordinarily privileged upbringing, and the systemic problems it revealed about Britain. Too late now?

3. Talk about material interests.

We don’t need to oppose neoliberalism, defend the environment, attack corporate power and build up countervailing social forces just because we’re nice and the bankers are nasty. We need to do it because our own material survival ultimately depends on it. They’ll kill us if they have to and pauper us if they can. That’s why we have to stop them. That’s what an effective populist left would be saying today.

4. Rebuild democracy from the ground up.

Not just because that’s a good thing to do, but because nothing else will enable us to realise our interests.

The nice man in Westminster won’t sort it out for us. Representative democracy is dead. It’s not just a bit poorly. It doesn’t just need a nice cup of tea and some voter-registration drives.

It was never very efficient at the best of times, but in the era of highly mobile global capital, it is both too weak and too sluggish to keep up. Socialists around the world are realising that only radical, participatory alternatives to broken representative democracy are actually capable of realising the collective power that people need, to challenge the organisational capacity of cybernetic capital.

5. Reject the Daily Mail narrative about what English people are like.

We’re not inherently conservative, racist, small-state bigots. We’re just not. The evidence is everywhere. Challenge the anti-immigrant, anti-welfare bullshit with some effective common-sense slogans of our own (like, maybe… ‘You can’t run a country on a shoestring’, ‘The Cuts Don’t Work’…you get the idea).

6. Popularise a critique of neoliberal norms.

Reject at every opportunity the implicit claim that being a nasty, selfish, competitive little shit is the natural human condition for anyone who doesn’t work in the City or television. This is exactly what carried the day rhetorically in Scotland with Common Weal’s brilliant slogan: ‘All of Us First’. Be fair – Ed had a go in his ‘Together’ speech. Didn’t work for him: see point 2.

7. Be contemporary.

Let’s look like we belong to the 21st century, and work to connect with emergent forms of radical culture. We may not even know what they are yet, but when they appear, let’s not ignore them like the mainstream left did with rave, with the festival scene of the 80s, with most of the counterculture of the 60s or 70s. Ignoring/attacking them was supposed to make the labour movement mainstream popular with ‘ordinary people’. How did that work out for us?

8. Be strategically pluralist.

‘Creative direct action is the only thing that achieves anything,’ says Russell Brand.

‘Just vote Labour,’ says Labour.

No. No. No.

We got the NHS because the South Wales miners wanted it and they were the best-organised section of the British working class, and because we had a majority Labour government. Without either of them, we’d have got nothing.

9. Build new institutions of knowledge-production.

Capital will not let us have the universities or the broadcast media back any time soon. Projects like Novara are only the beginning. We need a 1000 Novaras, and a new Workers Education Association (or maybe a revival of the old one) for the international 21st century precariat.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 19,242 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 12,501 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 12,437 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
10 Stunning Images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award
Natural History Museum · 11,260 views today · These incredible images are a selection from of the 25 shortlisted by The Natural History Museum for the People's Choice Award from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the...
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 5,047 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
Forget Air Force One, Pentagon Wastes Billions and Billions Every Month
Nadia Prupis · 4,653 views today · President-elect Donald Trump's focus on single Boeing contract ignores enormous waste of bloated Pentagon budget
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 2,485 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
The Most Powerful Algorithm in the World
Joe Brewer · 2,414 views today · After the insanity of the U.S. election, a lot of people are blaming Facebook for its algorithms that parse us into ideological bubbles and spread “fake news” and other kinds...
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 1,719 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
Amanda Abbington Introduces iAnimal - 42 Days in the Life of Chickens
4 min · 1,323 views today · Shot undercover in British factory farms and slaughterhouses, this immersive 360° video gives you a birds-eye view of what happens to chicken from farm to plate.
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 1,322 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 1,252 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,103 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,024 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
Sean Carroll - The Meaning of Life
7 min · 961 views today · The world keeps happening in accordance with its rules; it's up to us to make sense of it and give it value. Sean Carroll Music: Moby - God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 933 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 886 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 851 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 813 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 768 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
9 Necessities for a Popular Left