LEADERSHIP AND THE MYTH OF APATHY

Copied from Libcom/Phil’s Blog:

“Why aren’t we rising up? Whether the ‘we’ in question is young people, the British people, or the poor, this is a question asked an awful lot by both mainstream and leftist commentators. Austerity, job cuts, pay freezes, workfare, poverty, food banks, police brutality, political corruption – it’s all the rage, so why aren’t we all enraged?

There are two standard answers on the left: apathy and the lack of leadership. Either people are too engrossed in their own little world of X Factor, I’m a Celebrity and ‘I’m alright Jack,’ or they just don’t have the right hero to lead them into battle. The left wing rabble rousers of the past are dead and gone and we need people to replace them and rally the workers.

The trouble is, both of these answers are wrong. Moreover, they play into a convenient myth that helps the pale, stale males of the authoritarian left sustain themselves while doing nothing at all to stop the world around us decaying into shit.

PEOPLE ARE NOT APATHETIC

Well, sure, some are. Everyone knows at least one person who’s aggressively and proudly apolitical. They ‘don’t want none of that’ if anything halfway substantial comes up in conversation, yet it always turns out that they’ve internalised the narratives of the right wing press on how immigrants and scroungers are to blame for everything.

These people do exist, but to tout them as an archetype for the public-at-large and that’s just wrong.

There’s a level of truth, as with any stereotype. But when the world’s full of problems and there’s no effective counter to the dominant narrative (we’ll get to that) then of course you take the answers available. Even if they’re racist, classist and built on a foundation of lies.

But speak to the vast majority of people, and they’re not apathetic. They have opinions on political issues. A great many have a fairly solid unconscious understanding of class and their lot in life. Where they have internalised ruling class ideology, they’re smart enough to realise and change their mind if you engage with them and talk to them.

This goes against the labels thrown around, particularly by crackerjack hacktivists such as Anonymous and batshit conspiracy theorists but also by some on the left, such as ‘sheeple’ and suggestions that everyone not already out on the streets protesting is brainwashed. In fact, they’re alienated, exploited and oppressed under capitalism and this kind of activist mentality is toxic and does nothing to advance the class struggle.

SO WHAT ABOUT THE SUPPOSED ‘NEED’ FOR LEADERS?

Resistance doesn’t happen spontaneously. It happens when people organise, make conscious decisions and act upon them. This requires people to take the initiative, the sharing out of roles and responsibilities, and not a bit of education and agitation.

But while this could be considered a type of leadership – a ‘leadership of ideas,’ for want of a better term – it’s not leadership in the sense that most on the left mean it.

When the left’s kind of leadership emerges it’s easy to recognise – it involves representation by prominent spokespeople instead of empowering people to act for themselves. It involves executive power concentrated in the hands of a few. It involves a division of labour between ‘activists’ and ‘intellectuals.’ It involves a clear hierarchy with activity directed from above and disagreement of any kind condemned as ‘divisive’ or ‘sectarian.’

By and large, people don’t want this. When this kind of leadership emerges, if it fills a vacuum then it will attract people – at first. The vast majority of people will tire of being directed like pawns, treated as an expendable resource and having little to no say in decision making. This is not only why the leftist confessional sects such as the Socialist Party, SWP and so on have such a high turnover of membership, their cadres a minorrity next to their paper membership, but also why the fronts they set up lose momentum once the formulaic authoritarianism loses its novelty.

It’s also why movements which have arisen in the wake of the crisis have lacked this kind of hierarchical structure. UK Uncut and Occupy being the most commonly cited examples. In the fight against the Bedroom Tax, local groups acted for themselves and built up horizontal federations while the Trot fronts seeking to capitalise on the struggle floundered on the sidelines.

But there’s still a gap that needs filling. The Occupys of this world have their own flaws, the ‘tyranny of structureless‘ meaning that invisible hierarchies tend to emerge and those who seek to ‘represent’ others by imposing their own views on the collective don’t have to deal with formal representative democracy.

We need organisation and democracy, but it should be non-hierarchical organisation and direct democracy. Organisers should seek to give people the confidence to act for themselves, not merely to follow the organiser and keep them in their position for a long time to come. Officers should be mandated delegates with limited tenure, no executive power and the ability to be recalled by the mass. Democracy should mean making the decisions for ourselves, as in a strike ballot, rather than electing someone else to make decisions for us, as in a general election.

People as a broader whole are not apathetic, nor are they waiting for a leader. If we are led, then the destination is never freedom but a different kind of domination. If we want an uprising, then it requires hard work, patience, agitation and most importantly a desire to organise so that we can all fight for ourselves rather than being chewed up and spat out by any one of the myriad, toxic would-be leaderships that the authoritarian left has to offer.”

bnr3

THATCHER IS STILL DEAD, BUT THATCHERISM LIVES ON

Cut ‘n’ pasted from Bristol Afed‘s page, with the original article appearing on the 8th April:

Margaret Thatcher's death divides opinion across the UK

“Exactly one year ago today the working classes of Britain woke up to some of the best news of the year. The Iron Lady has finally bitten the dust! Margaret Thatcher was dead! Jubilant scenes were witnessed across the country as the people celebrated the passing of one of the most despised Prime Ministers in living memory. People literally danced in the streets with joy and despite the right-wing media’s attempts to demonise the revelers nobody with half an ounce of decency could fault them.

In Bristol a street party on Chelsea Road in Easton attracted hundreds of people and lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The celebrations were cut short however when the Avon & Somerset Police decided to turn up in riot gear without warning and beat the party-goers down the street, sparking a mini-riot that lasted for several hours.

Those involved in the riot claimed that this was: ‘one more battle in the ongoing class war that Thatcher escalated. It won’t be the last,’ according to the Bristol Post who spoke to two of them anonymous in an article published a couple of days after the event.

And heeding the decade old call from Class War for a ‘Party in Trafalgar Square, Saturday after Margaret Thatcher Dies’ thousands more descended on the square, the scene of the Poll Tax Riots in 1990, to celebrate despite the rain.

Goldthorpe fake funeral Thatcher effigy procession

Probably the most impressive display was in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire. A former mining town, devastated by pit closures, the hatred for Maggie was strong. An effigy of Thatcher was paraded through the town in a coffin before being burned on a bonfire. Former miners turned out National Coal Board clothing and celebrated the death of the person responsible for the demise of the mining industry in Britain, and with it the livelihoods of thousands of people.

We cannot let the death of Thatcher be confused with the death of Thatcherism though. Several of her policies are still alive and well today and we still suffer the consequences of her neo-liberal regime. Maggie may be long gone but she lives on through her spiritual successors like Cameron and Osborne who are more than happy to carry the torch for their lost hero.

The working class communities decimated by Thatcherism are still under attack through austerity and the cuts; workfare and benefit sanctions; privitisation of the NHS and Royal Mail; rising living costs and stagnant wages; increased policing and the gradual eroding of our rights. And with UKIP’s recent success in the polls pushing the political discourse to the right, we are likely to see a string of policies so bad they’d make the Milk Snatcher herself blush.

What is the solution? Get organised! Only through the collective action of the working class can we hope to make life better for ourselves and each other. Life under capitalism will only get worse unless we stand up and say otherwise. But don’t just ask for reforms, don’t settle for a slice of the pie, demand the whole damn bakery!

By working together we can bring down this whole corrupt system and finally put Thatcherism where it belongs: in the ground with the rest of the neo-liberal ideologies. Its time to build a new world, a better world, built on the foundations of community, mutual aid and solidarity. We’re already working towards that world every day, why don’t you join us?

Rust In Pieces Maggie Thatcher
13th October 1925 – 8th April 2013

Just remember, only the good die young!”

bnr3