Red Ken outrage

M A Jones jones118 at
Fri May 12 01:26:51 MDT 2000

Russell wrote:
> I have absolutely no sympathy with what you term the "the
> 0.0006% (s+t) faction".  But what kind of gain for local democracy is
> represented by Livingstone turning the London Assembly into another
> Ireland Assembly-style all-party circus with almost every party given a
> portfolio?  Surely you don't go along with the current vogue for
> non-confrontational consensus politics?  In short, what's the point of a
> Livingstone variant of the third way

Russell, do you think that confrontational politics, Westminster-style, is
better, less bourgeois etc than continental-style consensus-seeking PR-type

I'm sure you don't. But are you then opposed to all forms of bourgeois
bourgeois renewal? So this must mean  that in Ireland, Sinn
Fein should abandon their present politics, leave the Assembly and
presumably resume armed struggle. And in London (Scotland? Wales?)
Livingstone and others should leave the Assembly and, what, join the SWP or
the LSA or some other (t+s) alfabetti-spaghetti? Take up arms themselves?
What should Livingstone be doing?

What we must surely be doing is to find points of contact with people
struggle and help solidify and massify struggles and give them focus and
politically educate the participants, and be educated BY them (at the moment
they are educating us, mostly). History is full of contradiction.
Bourgeois renewal in Ireland has made a modern (postmodern) secular society
out of what even 30 years ago was still an obscurantist backwater, the most
Catholic province in Europe apart from Poland, run by the Church
and full of clerical reaction.

Irish young people I meet are mostly very glad of the
modernisation process that has swept over Ireland since its immersion in
Euroland. Their per capita incomes exceed Ulster's. I think they exceed
Britain's Nowadays the obscurantism is all north of the border, and the
Unionists themselves know it and bitterly rue their fate; meanwhile a former
IRA Chief of Staff is Education Minister in the Ulster Assembly and a
regular visitor both in Washington and at No 10. In 1975 such things would
have seemed science fiction; but you dismiss it as a 'vogue' etc. It is more
than that. The entire terms of the struggle have completely changed. The
struggle over the Six Counties has to be seen in the larger context of the
dissolution of national forms and the subordination of the national
enterprise, histporically speaking, into larger global process, in the
courses of which nation-states are subsumed into larger regional wholes and
state power overdetermined by the very supranational institutes of power
(WTO etc) which HAVE become the locus of oposition and struggle. Is it
anything other than INEVITABLE that the 'peace process' should have taken
the form it has, and given that is the case, why should bourgeois renewal in
Ireland go the route of (18th century) Westminster-style parliamentary
democracy and not of more 'modern' European states, with their
consensus-speaking, PR-based governments and roundhouse assemblies? What
kind of Canute like act of defiance of historical processes did you expect
from Sinn Fein, for example?

We have to start from where we are. I know of certain fools who miss the old
'Ra and blather fondly on about the 'Real IRA', 'Continuity IRA' etc. They
long for bombs. They are the obscurantists. They yearn for the
vicarious excitement of harbouring Irish folks
and daubing graffiti and posing as Irish nationalists at one remove (not
'Dining for Ireland' but 'Drinking for Ireland', while listening to the
Dubliners at North London socials).Marxists above all must have no truck
with that kind of nonsense;
we are not terrorists. It would be simply to mock  both contemporary,
hopeful, Irish realities, and of the horrific events and desperate struggles
of the past, not to acknowledge and base ourselves on the given facts of
bourgeois renewal.

Anyway, there is no connection whatever between Irish realities and the
accession to power of a new London mayor. If I lived in Ireland and had to
raise a family there, then I would support Adams, Blair, the process of
'conflict-resolution' and consensus seeking. What would you do? This has
nothing whatever to do with World Revolution, and Ireland will never be the
Paris Commune, let alone the USSR. But struggling against WTO, against
terminator-seed technology, against the Narmada dams, against the neoliberal
order, and doing so right here in London, and getting elected to high office
in the process: that is important. Whether or not Ken is an opportunist,
rat, chauvinist etc, is less important than how he got where he is. He got
where he is because around a million mostly young people and proportionately
more workers, women and blacks, believe passionately in something political,
and are even surprised to find their oh-so-cynical selves believing anything
beyond everyday solipsism. And what they, inchoately, but sincerely, believe
in, (if you talk to them)
are the kinds of things that in disparate, inarticulate, fudged and
sometimes scary ways, Ken also believes in: that capitalism is bad, that it
kills more people than Hitler; that brotherly love must be inculcated in the
police, and other impossible dreams; that life can be better if we walk the
streets together and reclaim them together; that London is beautiful because
of its 7 million mostly proletarian people, not despite them, and because of
its storied, colourful history which is the history of those people (the
first black communities in England were in London in the 17th century
(Africans) and Liverpool 200 years later (Polynesians)).

Ken is a populist, not a revolutionary. A Father Gapon, not a Stalin. We
must work with him and breathe a strong wind into his sails because without
us he is completely isolated; this is his strength, and ours.

Mark Jones

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