Why I signed Ken’s appeal

adam rodenI’m sick of feeling unrepresented, says Adam Roden. I’m sick of my only choice being Labour, a party that maybe once, long ago, would have been the right choice. I’m sick of the Right-wing parties of this country having all the drive, all the ideas, all the tub-thumping, crowd pleasing rhetoric (however much I might disagree with their ideas and rhetoric, I’m jealous of their unity). I’m sick of seeing our political parties divide us, driving wedges between virtually indistinguishable groups.

I want to feel I’m contributing to something. I want to start being able to bump into people in the street and know we share positive common ground, rather than the current common ground we share, which is that we’re all being shafted in some vague, indefinable way.

I’m sick of seeing Jolly-Hockey-Stick Tories throwing their misinformation out on Question Time while whichever Labour representative has been ordered on this week just sits there and sucks it up – never countering, never arguing… focusing on the boring facts, while the audience laps up the rhetoric of their attackers. Labour have given up, they meekly follow the money, thinking that if they frown while they do it we’ll still think they represent us…

We used to have a Labour office here in our village of Llanfairfechan. It’s gone now… so where do I turn instead?

I want there to be a version of UKIP that appeals to my political inclinations. I’ll be honest, like most people, I know little of the various factions of the left, know very little Marxist or Leninist theory… my gut tells me the left is my home, instinct tells me we’re better working together, and that capitalism and consumerism are destroying what we’re best at. I don’t just not know about the details of left wing ideas and history, I don’t care. I don’t mean that in any dismissive sense, it’s just… down here, in our houses and communities, we have enough to worry about and be angry about – it’ll be the job of whatever party forms from this to listen to that anger and those worries, and give us all something to be positive about.

Am I worried? Yes, part of me thinks it’s doomed to failure. Look at the comment threads on the articles you’ve posted about this: bickering, semantic squabbling… it’s all a bit ‘Life of Brian’: Popular People’s Front, People’s Popular Front, “Splitter!”, fighting for your theoretical right, as a man, to have a baby despite what the Roman Oppressors might say…

Well, where’s the foetus gonna gestate – are you gonna keep it in a box?

What did UKIP do? They picked one thing, and ran with it… ebullience, showmanship, rhetoric. We need that, in order to fight squarely. Have you seen The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp? The gist of the whole film is that you can’t fight fairly, like a gentleman, against an enemy who is prepared to fight unfairly. You will lose. And if this movement spends too much time arguing amongst itself about the best way forward, about the best way to represent the most amount of views, about how to fight fairly… well, we’ll lose, because they will have won long before our ‘reports’ have been submitted and minutes recorded.

Take austerity… maybe there will never be growth in the economy ever again – this may well be the new normal, a system-wide automatic rebalancing. In which case, how the hell do we deal with debts and deficits? How can you sort that out without crippling austerity measures affecting the worse off? How would UKIP approach that? Write the debts off… completely impractical, probably deeply unachievable, but it’s something to get behind…

I’m not saying that’s the answer, just a badly thought through example. But look, over there, on the other side of London, I spy another attempt to unify the left… something called the Coalition of Resistance. People are starting to move on this, and we need to stitch ourselves together. Forget differences, this needs to be a grouping of the entire ‘spiritual’ left – anyone who isn’t to the right, whatever their particular colour or flavour of leftism. Anarchists, Marxists, Bolsheviks, Unionists, Independents, Liberals, Greens, and the Not-Quite-Sures. As the rhetoric of the Right keep telling us, we’re facing a National Emergency, so let’s react as such, with an Emergency Coalition of the Left…

This is why I signed up… in the hope that this may happen, and I can feel confident enough to put my efforts behind it. Austerity I can take, as long as it genuinely feels like I’m doing this with the like-minded, and that there’s the possibility of having a drink and a dance at the end of the evening…


25 responses to “Why I signed Ken’s appeal”

  1. Shirl says:

    What a thoughtful, informative and thought-provoking message there. I’d vote for you any time ;)

  2. Phil says:

    We should nickname you “The Hammer” ’cause you hit every nail on the head there mate. I particularly like the last comment about drinking and dancing because nothing builds socialism like socialising.

  3. Left Unity Manchester says:

    Heh heh. Loving this. Adam you are a rockstar. I don’t think there’s much distance between Left Unity and the Coalition of Resistance. They’re the action. We’re the political bit. Note the same colour pallet. If this was body language it would be a serious case of mirroring. They’re bound to snogging each other’s faces off before too long. I for one will be entirely disappointed if they’re not already playing footsie under the table.

  4. Bec says:

    You’ve absolutely got it. I read all the comments on some of the posts here and lie back and think of Brian too. But I too want to do something other than get angry and growl at the TV. I want to be able to say that at the very least I went down fighting this horrible dismantling of everything except private business. But what I’d really want to be able to say, when my son asks me the questions in 10 years time when he can vote, is that: “Yes. We stopped it. They didn’t get to dismantle it all. Enough people came together and cared enough to stop it.”

    • Left Unity Manchester says:

      I love that sentiment Bec.

      • Zetharagon says:

        Me too Bec, me too – I want to look my three children in the eye and say, yes, I did something and Left Unity makes me believe I can, whereas before I didn’t believe this.

  5. julie lowe says:

    Well said Adam. We also need one inclusive Union of Workers, properly staffed and with professional lawyers fighting Employment Cases. That Union could start NOW and provide the funding for this which is currently lacking. Labour is still New Labour whatever they tell you. They create and promote their policies through Progress.

  6. Thomas MacGregor says:

    I’m in. Let’s get on with it!

  7. jason palmer says:

    awesome !

  8. Nell says:

    Well said. I agree that we need a banner under which the left can unite. I would like something along the lines of Back to Work – Government guarantee of full time jobs for all who want them at a living wage. And by government guarantee, I mean that if the private sector cannot provide enough jobs to satisfy demand, the government will provide the jobs. There is plenty that needs doing and plenty that is worth paying for. And don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. If the UK declared war on the rest of the world tomorrow, we’d all find ourselves in government paid jobs at the drop of a hat.

    • Lee says:

      Here here! I think re-nationalising the railways would be a good first step in creating these jobs. Having private companies running train services does not provide a true market: I do not have a choice who I travel with for most journeys.

  9. Oliver Mars says:

    I sympathize with your contentions, but a few things. If we don’t analyze our history, then we will surely make the same mistakes again. We have to see where we have succeeded and emulate those practices and see where we have failed and avoided those things. A Left mass worker’s party is needed for people like yourself that want to fight, knowing that Labour is dead.
    Existing Left groups should unite if it’s on the correct basis, and not just an attempt for one group to amalgamate the others, or to water down our politics. There are HUGE difference amongst Left groups today. The difference between whether you believe the Soviet Union was A. a Utopia, B. a Degenerated Worker’s State, or C. a State Capitalist country, is pretty damn large. Same thing with views on other countries China, Vietnam, Cuba and Venezuela. Whether or not Capitalism can be made ‘nicer’, Reform vs Revolution, these questions cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, unity be made upon agreements, while allowing separate groups to carry out their own political beliefs and discussing/debating these differences inside the wider organization.

    The only we’ll know how to defend the NHS, how to run a strike properly, how to hold a picket line, how to occupy a building, how to fend of cops, how to convince people to join, how to fight Capitalism, how to win over the worker’s of the country, can ONLY be achieved by knowing the history and coming to the correct objective conclusions.

    Solidarity XXX

    • Adam Roden says:

      Believe it or not, I agree… there’s a saying I can only half remember, but it’s something along the lines of “Someone with one eye on the past is blind in one eye, but someone with no eyes on the past is blind in BOTH eyes”.

      I’m not saying that we should ignore the past, nor ignore differences (I have plenty of differences of my own, and would be bloody annoyed if they weren’t taken into account by somebody somewhere!), all I’m saying is that, in order to get this movement of the ground (and not alienate the recently politicised with references they neither know nor – at this moment – care about) we need to focus on the similarities and viewpoints we share, and recognise we have a common enemy (and to remember that we have a huge left wing culture of music, humour and art which we can utilise). Political education, and variations of Left Unity that recognise which frequency of the left we each broadcast on can come as we progress…
      As for the liberals and Greens… part of me thinks they don’t figure, they’ve shown their true colours and I don’t like them! However, personally I do believe the environment needs to be a huge part of what we fight for, and having the Liberals and Greens on side in the short term is a necessary compromise we have to make. Soft-left and centre-left are still left, and that’s the only point I was trying to make… hopefully instead of them watering down this movement we can, erm, thicken up(?!) their ideas!
      Cheers, and yes, Solidarity.

  10. Oliver Mars says:

    And just with the Liberals and the Greens you mentioned, unless we can bring them over to our ideas, having them in the same organization would be destructive. Soft left, centre-left attitudes have eroded the wider Left movements. Those ideas are apart the problem, making capitalism ‘nicer’, doing a ‘little bit of austerity’. No. We can’t have the problem inside our movement.

  11. Zetharagon says:

    Am I allowed to say that all the factions on the left confuse me? Finally here is something that sounds big and bold so Left Unity gets my vote.

  12. Wit says:

    I think austerity must be fought – that is, not only the withdrawal of funding from, and marketisation of, welfare institutions and services by government, but also attempts to increase exploitation in the workplace.

    Therefore, it’s exciting to see Left Unity emerging. I will certainly be taking myself down to a meeting with friends, as soon as possible and hope to be at the People’s Assembly, too.

    A few comments emerging from this article, though.

    What does Left Unity really stand for? It’s really not clear, sorry. A blaze of advertising has just gone out, and lots of rhetoric. But, even the broad basis of opposition to austerity looks shakey on the back of Roden’s comments, which range from ‘Write the debts off… completely impractical, probably deeply unachievable, but it’s something to get behind’ to ‘Austerity I can take, as long as it genuinely feels like I’m doing this with the like-minded’.

    For me, Roden – and hence Left Unity – a) isn’t offering a clear understanding of what austerity IS; b) nor stating a clear opposition to it; c) nor a coherent alternative strategy. All things in their own time, of course. We don’t need to lay the program out in advance. Indeed, I agree that Left Unity must be shaped by listening to – and, more than listening, by recruiting the participation of – those who are most effected by austerity. But, what is the basis for this much trumpeted unity? Indeed, what is the basis of our leftism, (as opposed to that, say, of Labour)? A clear sense of the form of our opposition to austerity must be laid out, I think, as the keystone of this unity. But I don’t see that here.

    What does come across is a desire to put on a good show with UKIP as the model of a single-issue, out-of-the-margins, protest party ‘playing dirty’ with rhetorical finesse – and of little substance. This worries me because, frankly, I don’t want to be part of an organisation that values stunts over meaningful action, nor one which will tell me anything in order get me to join, even if it’s not something the organisation actually values or proposes to act upon.

    On this note, the ‘protest party’ UKIP model suggests LU is about pressuring Labour in the same way as UKIP is pressuring the Tories, rather than genuinely building alternative political institutions. If this is to be the tactic, then let’s be open about it rather than claiming to be one thing whilst doing something very different. But, the two different objectives require different strategies. Is this about pressuring Labour or about building a new party? Even Salman Shaheen’s more trenchant article seems to equivocate, finally appearing to suggest that the function of building a new party is to reclaim Labour from the Blairites:

    “Of course the left in Labour should be supported, and I wish them well in their quest to reclaim their party. But the best way to do that is to show the Labour leadership that it cannot depend on the unwavering loyalty of the working classes no matter how many times it betrays them, how many neoconservative wars it backs, or neoliberal cuts it supinely acquiesces to.”

    In short, even the most solid poles of Left Unity – opposition to austerity and building a new left party – appear equivocal. How can Left Unity build an alternative if it remains a chimera?

    • Adam Roden says:

      Hi Wit,
      I’m just a ‘normal’ person, who signed up because I can’t stand back and do nothing anymore. This article was a response to an email I received from Left Unity asking why I signed up. It’s not a plan, and I’m pretty sure I don’t speak for the whole of LU in it… these were the thoughts I had as I sat and composed a reply.
      Since writing it… well, I’m learning a lot from the (much more well-researched) articles and links I’m now seeing from being part of Left Unity. Only recently politicised, I’ve spent years knowing what I was against, but have never really given much time to what I was for – the language of some of the left alienates me, and there’s always the fear of just being dismissed as a ‘lefty-loony’. A lack of political education has made the whole thing seem very distant to me… groups like this, which can pull everyone in and give them the feeling that they can speak without being dismissed as ill-informed are vital, and once people engage once again they can, like me, learn from those who know more. But that can only happen once people are engaged – so maybe my article was a little tub-thumpy and light, but I wanted to use this opportunity to pull people like me in!

      I too want to see concrete things emerge from this. I want to see a party that I am confident I can vote for, and that stands up for the majority in this country. I don’t want this to just be a protest group, but I do want protest to be a part of it – Labour have done far too little protesting on our behalf, so I guess we do have to do that ourselves.

      Maybe my comments about UKIP (and a left response to UKIP) were a little overblown and rhetorical, but overblown rhetoric seems to be the Right’s most consistent weapon of late, so I’d like to reclaim a little of it for ourselves!

      I don’t claim to have all the answers – in fact, at this point, I probably don’t have any of them. My hope is that groups like LU and the Coalition of Resistance can start to form the answers, so that people like me can be represented in our political system once again, and so that we can feel our participation in that system is meaningful and needed.
      In other words, what David talks about in his response: a rebirth.

      • Wit says:

        Thanks for your response Adam! I guess we will have to see where things take us.

        Best –

  13. David Stoker says:

    Thoughtful response Wit. My take is, we don’t need to worry so much about details at this moment. Details will lead to alienating people too early, and the urge to get into theory is too strong for some. What I recognise in left wing politics at present, is that there are all these small parties talking their own language to their own members. I want to like them, because they seem to care about poor people, but feel like I’ve missed out on the kool aid. And about three degrees’ worth of political theory. It’s confusing, dusty, and weird.

    As you say “We don’t need to lay the program out in advance. Indeed, I agree that Left Unity must be shaped by listening to – and, more than listening, by recruiting the participation of – those who are most effected by austerity.”

    To answer your next immediate question, “But, what is the basis for this much trumpeted unity? ” I think people who feel “left wing” know who they are, albeit with a fear that this labels them as commie nutjobs by regular people. I’m young (25) and couldn’t care less about the language of left wing history. It’s baggage, plain and simple.

    What am I after? In one word, a rebirth. Unlike countless people of my generation I’m not giving in to the politics of apathy and I’m sick of what Labour have become. A “rebranding” might be better word given the age we live in. I want to be part of a discussion that 1) listens to people, and 2) talks their language.

    So what next? Get as many like-minded people together as possible and define our new language. Reframe the debates that are rumbling through politics to be more humane, sane and, well, “good”. Then use some ambition, rhetoric to shift the debate.

  14. vaughan jones says:

    society is like a stew.every so often it needs stirring,or all the scum will rise to the top….

  15. vaughan jones says:

    society is like a stew.every so often it needs stirring,or all the scum rises to the top….

  16. Christopher says:

    Well put.

  17. Andy Sneddon says:

    Adam makes a whole lot of sense to someone like me who has become “reborn” politically. To make something happen, we need to tap into the younger and newly “politicised” left thinking folk, many of whom probably didn’t even realise they were political, nor left. What we mustn’t do is alienate them with too much detail before the train has even left the station. Keep it realitively broad and simple initially to get people on board and thinking in the right direction. The deeper detail can follow.

    Recent actions of the government has stirred many into the sort of response Adam alludes to: “bollocks to this, I’m not taking this lying down” is a common theme and it will become moreso as more and more “ordinary” people get sucked into the mire that the coalition are creating.

    For years people have been sold the illusion of improved status, ie that they are further up the pecking order than they think and that the likes of the ConDems are talking to them. The reality is different; they are only looking after their own interests and those of the 1% at the top who call the tune financially. People have becomed disheartened and disinterested because of “career” politicians, who pander only to varying different shades of the right wing media. It’s a self serving system, feed the masses scandal and half truths, their disinterest will mean they swallow it rather than question it and off we go for another 5 years of a nice salery and seemingly limitless expenses.

    As I speak to people through the course of my job it’s really interesting to see how many people have half an idea that “we’re being shafted by the elite” but have little idea as to exactly how it’s being achieved. Once some of the details are filled in you find very few who will side with the Government. From little acorns and all that.

    Get the message out there and educate people and changing people’s perceptions is very much possible, especially when times are tough.

    I’m no political deep thinker but I care about my family, my community and the world we live in and will be leaving behind for our kids and grandkids.

    Doing nothing is not an option.

  18. Peter Burrows says:

    Blending the left & its various strands could be seen as the political equivalent of eating vinegar with fork .
    The left in its various forms & shades of opinion can take a few options ,first being allow the status quo to prevail ,all go off to our respective branches ,conferences pass good radical motions ,all of which receive acclaim ,but in the cold light of day ,will they change anything in both the short ,medium or long term probably not .

    Or do as many as possible come together knowing that the political stakes are exceedingly high ,given the daily ,weekly ,monthly attacks upon working people within their communities ,in their place of work ,in our hospitals ,education,civil liberties ,social justice (i could go on).

    Do we simply beat our political chest & be a splintered voice ,or is there to be a Left Unity that becomes a bottom up community based movement that can embody the radicalism that currently sits stagnant awaiting those with the political will to ignite it as a new vibrant progressive organisation ,that has its roots within the community ,that in turn can be both a political home for many & the instigator of change at the grassroots level ,working alongside individuals, community groups ,tenant/resident association ,women/faith groups .local trade union branches .

    Its a bottom up community approach ,that in my view would be well received by many up & down the country be it attracts them politically or they support the community based support & are happy to work in partnership to achieve both empowerment for their local people & have a political movement they see will work both for & with working people a concept that occurs (so far) only when the establishment parties want their vote & afterwards disappear like ships in the night ,whereas i believe our community engagement should be on going & not the false veneer shown by others .

    I set my viewpoints down for discussion.


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