the Disillusioned kid: What's Black and White and Red?
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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

What's Black and White and Red?

Someone who shall remain nameless - although they know who they are - has been pestering me for sometime, encouraging me to write to newspapers and try and get some of my opinions into print. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these efforts have met with limited success. But wait, it's not been a complete failure: I've got a letter printed in the Socialist Worker!

For those not familiar with the intricacies of the British Left, the Socialist Worker (hereafter SW) is the weekly organ of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The SWP is the largest group on the "revolutionary" left and has something like 10,000 members on paper. However the readership of the SW is more or less the same. Given that it is unlikely, particularly considering the efforts some members go to to sell the thing (much to many people's irritation), that the paper is read exclusively by people who are already members, this seems to confirm what many have suspected for sometime, that the active membership is actually far smaller. Long story short: Not many people are going to read what I have to say (although probably more than read my blog). But that's enough red-baiting for now.

The letter, which you can read here, was written in response to an article in the paper on leaflets dealing with asylum and law and order distributed in the run-up to the Hodge-Hill by-election. What they finally printed is surprisingly close to what I actually wrote. I had expected them to edit it much more heavily (or not to print it at all). For those of you interested in making comparisons, here's the full text of my original letter:
I read your article on Labour's recent election leaflets with interest.

If the comments you attribute to them about asylum seekers are accurate then things are worse and Labour has shifted even further to the right than I had realised. You treat such comments with the contempt they properly deserve.

Nonetheless I would like to take issue with your comments on the material's statements on law and order. You seem to dismiss action against gangs as reactionary. In my opinion this is a serious mistake.

The Left has traditionally been seen as weak on crime and this has damaged its support and, as a result, electoral prospects in working-class areas. We should not confuse opposition to reactionary responses to anti-social behaviour with inaction on that same behaviour. Instead we should stand shoulder to shoulder with those in working-class communities being torn asunder by anti-social elements.

We should encourage communities to take back control of the areas where they live and support them in efforts against anti-social elements. This is not a reactionary position. Working class rule for working class areas (to steal the Independent Working Class Association's slogan) could form the basis for some form of dual power and perhaps move us towards the transcendence of the status quo.

The failure to face up to these very serious issues will see the Left regarded as irrelevant by those in working-class communities. Those who must deal with these problems on a daily basis and who may again form the Left's natural constituency if we take steps towards dealing with them.
Interesting to note they took out the reference to the IWCA, perhaps because they represent a potential political challenger to the SWP's current electoral vehicle, George Galloway's Respect Coalition. More intriguing is their removal of the talk of "dual power" and "transcendence of the status quo". Perhaps my choice of terminology was not helpful, but that's my way of talking about what they'd call "revolution" which, at least according to their political programme, is something they are very keen on.
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