First I was a Liberal.
I wanted the world to be fairer and people to treat each other humanely.
But I hated David Steel and the way their party were like the other politicians
Then I became a Communist.
I’d read Marx’s manifesto and agreed 100%.
But General Jaruzelski and the butchers of Afghanistan made my friends think me a wannabe-dictator.
So I became a Trotskyist
We were true to Marx without being tainted by dictatorship.
But “Trot” sounded nuts, plus too many varieties of Trot to choose or confuse. And many varieties were nuts!
So we’ll claim the word Socialist
Its the name of my paper and Party and everyone’s heard of it.
But its in the name of that failed lie, the “USSR”. And claimed by Kinnock and Callaghan and every useless back-stabbing Labour Party in the world.
I sympathised with the Republicans
The six counties uprising against my enemy,
And the overthrow of the monarchy.
But Reagan claimed that word and, well, Ronald Reagan…..
And surely I was a Democrat.
Socialism from Below, The People’s Will, “….the act of the working class itself” etc etc
But Carter & Clinton & slave-owners and the People’s Democracies and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Sometimes I was called an Anarchist
I guess I loved creativity, DIY-politics and I had an attitude problem regarding authority.
But my colleagues and friends would think I wanted chaos, or to be like too many individualistic ego-heads.
Perhaps I could be a Syndicalist
Something else I’ve been called a few times for always going on about workplace organisation.
But politics and parties and parliaments are facts of life and arenas of struggle that cannot be wished away.
Anyway, I don’t want a label that 99% of the 99% would need an explanation attached.
People sometimes call me a Green.
I guess I cycle everywhere & joined critical mass & reclaim the streets & felt that all politics will be pointless if we let the planet fry.
But Green Tories, moralistic snobs, general cluelessness……. – and that was before the Greens took over my city.
Marx and Lenin were Social -Democrats.
It sums up our stance.
But the gang-of-four twits ruined that word for ever.
So what the hell’s left?
The Left Party? This name explains noting except maybe we’re off somewhere. Respect? It explains very little beyond a vague ideal sentiment most share.( Though at least those who came up with these names were, for whatever other faults they had, trying to grasp with our real identity/label crisis.)
Cliffite/Schatmanite/State-Capitalist/Council-Communist/Marxist-Humanist/Libertarian-Communist/Bureaucratic-Collectivist/Revolutionary Communist/Tusk/No2EU – aaaargh.
They sound nuts to normal people or require torturous explanation.
So went a late night inebriated conversation with a friend in Sheffield many years ago.
It seemed we’d had all our names stolen from us leading us either looking like wannabe-dictators, weirdoes, or desperate to give a long explanation of what our ologies & theories weren’t.
The next morning I thought about what was central to my socialism/communism/anarchism.
I thought about the Chartists, and how one of their most important demands has been written out of history in the version where the enlightened British elite gave them the democracy they politely asked for.
The demand they never got was “Annual Parliaments”.
This may sound like tedium, parliamentary cretinism even. But what the Chartists meant was a general election every year so your MP and the government could be held to account. A government couldn’t get into office promising to transform your life in unimaginable ways, shit on us for four and a half years when Yogic Flying and all the other promises turned out to be lies, then hand out a few sweets in the 3 month pre-election discussion period.
Wanted : Extreme Democracy
In fact accountability is a central part of democracy in most work based organisations. This is because the most powerful weapon our side has is the action of the majority. To be truly effective in resisting capitalism we need the majority actively on board. And the idea that we could create a society where people have genuine control over their own lives without the very same people actively taking that control for themselves is surely nuts.
The former MP Tony Benn asks the following questions of those in power:
“What power do you have?”
“Who gave it to you?”
“In whose interests do you exercise it?”
“How can we get rid of you?”
For those of us interested in revolutionary change, the questions of “who gave you power” and “how can we get rid of you?” are central. The majority taking control of their lives means all of having a genuine input in decisions about our lives. Not just an election every five years, but an equal say about what’s produced, who the manager is or whether you need a manager at all, what your town should look like, how transport, schooling etc should work and so on.
In order to achieve such an extreme version of democracy, our methods too must be extremely democratic. Our organisations – unions, political parties and campaign groups – must be transparent and controlled by the majority, with no place for self-perpetuating leadership cliques. Robert Michels may well have proved an “Iron Law of Oligarchy” 103 years ago, with the SWP seemingly backing him up last year. But anyone who’s been part of any grass roots struggle will testify to the immensely powerful feeling most people have for genuine democracy
Perhaps as animals with a very strong social gene, we instinctively love democracy.
The average person, especially young people, are far closer to the kind of “anti-capitalism” that seemed like fringe politics in the early 1980s. Sure, back then people could join the Labour Party Young Socialists or cheer on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Today, the word socialist is used far less. But the strengths and passions of millions of people’s opinions and feelings across the world believing that another world is necessary and possibly possible are far greater.
They want many diverse things, but the call for more democracy, more votes, more say in how we run all areas of our lives, more power to vote out lying politicians, bullying employers, murderous generals and the like is something anybody can understand.
To engage with this movement, perhaps there is a name that is both self-explanatory and not tainted by 100 years of hijacked political movements.
That name is “Extreme Democrat”.
I am proud to be an Extreme Democrat.
Who else is up for Extreme Democracy?