Aberystwyth Transitions Reading Group Blog

The Kilburn Manifesto


It’s fairly easy to contribute to the reading group discussion of the Kilburn Manifesto in my absence. Having read Chapter 1, I wholly agree with the analysis: Neoliberalism has imploded, time for radical rethinking about what constitutes a good scociety; ‘The market has become the model of social relations, exchange value the only value’ (p.9). I am also inspired by the aspiration of the manifesto so far: to open a debate that goes beyond the constraints of electoral feasibility and market acceptance – ‘a fundamental break with pragmatic calculations which disfigure current political thinking.

The authors of the manifesto are brave enough not simply to advocate rekindling ‘the spirit of 45’ and restoring the post-war welfare state settlement. They spot the fundamental flaw in the relation between the market and the state in that.

Where I would be cautious in welcoming the manifesto stems from experience of what happens when the traditional left get into movements like the world social forum and when the traditional left doesn’t join with new social movements. The traditional left still tend to hierarchical organisation and it has a problem with conceiving progress in terms other than modernity, industrialisation and (full) employment. In the Guardian article that accompanies the launch of the manifesto, Stuart hall implies that the reason new social movements have not come together with the organisations of the working class is somehow to do with the political naivety of the former. I think it’s more to do with the culture and vested interests of the latter (perhaps I’m projecting here). Despite the collapse of neoliberalism, enough of the members of the organisations of the traditional left are still doing – and hoping against hope to continue doing – quite well thank you. To break away from the short-term self-interest of labour – jobs – to form alliances with new social movements will take some doing for the traditional organisations. On which side will the voice of the unions be heard if the expansion of Heathrow Airport means jobs, for example?

There is, though, a palpable change in the political landscape with Plaid Cymru, for instance, following up on its Greenprint for the Valleys with a radical take on economy. And there’s an idea I just got into – Co-Production (google ‘no more throwaway people’) which is inspiring… Not forgetting Participatory Economy (Paracon) which we read about/around on at least a couple of occasions… Happy discussing! (I will be drinking Guiness in Galway)

Author: masonk4

Academic, activist, clown, rebel, insurgent...

2 thoughts on “The Kilburn Manifesto

  1. Plaid Cymru’s ‘Plan C’ is a bit of an ideological mash-up maybe, but does, I think, indicate a transition taking hold in progressive party politics http://www.partyofwales.org/uploads/Final_Plan_C_Saesneg.pdf Here’s the bullet-point summary

    1. Support full implementation of the Silk Commission Part 1 recommendations according to the
    Commission’s timetable to give a future Welsh Government greater tools

    2. Start a ‘buy local’ campaign, including legislation to improve public procurement, as well as
    improving opportunities for Welsh based business within the procurement chain to create
    50,000 new jobs

    3. A Business bank for Wales to support SMEs and with promotion of the Welsh economy as a

    4. A Green New Deal, supporting the green economy, including a Green Skills Technical College

    5. Support new infrastructure projects which create jobs now and increase connectivity, such as
    the Valleys Metro, and special purpose investment vehicles such as Build 4 Wales

    6. Make the most of our talents. Create apprenticeships and job opportunities by investing in
    training and working with both large and SME businesses and training providers to ensure that
    young people have market-ready skills. Tackle under-employment by supporting people into
    work, supporting higher value jobs, flexible working patterns and childcare assistance.

    7. Promote co-operative and mutual forms of business, including social enterprises, to develop
    and improve business and entrepreneurial skills in our communities

  2. Thanks for this Kelvin, and the subsequent comments from Soundings and Stuart Hall. We had an interesting discussion of the piece, centered mainly around the issues you highlight here and that we have discussed before, the lack of coherent unity among the left, fragmentation and diversity of movements, identity politics as the new politics of the left, replacing traditional Marxist perspectives. I think it became fairly clear that there couldn’t be complete unity of purpose or a coherent and perhaps dogmatic approach to ‘being on the left’ and that instead it inevitably involved picking and choosing activities and movements to be involved in, much like the anarchist reading we did previously suggested.

    However, in my view this fragmented approach is positive (and resilient?) and really has only one significant downfall, and that is in terms of party politics, an issue which is rather difficult to reconcile with those who are dedicated believers in anarchism and therefore opposed to party politics as a form of hierarchical governing. I suppose a threat of disunity among the left means, perhaps, an increase in supposedly left-leaning parties each trying to appeal to various segments of the left, and an increase in abstention from voting altogether on the part of anarchist lefties. The problem with this is that in a first-past-the-post voting system, we are likely to get more right-wing political leaders. And with every best intention on the ground, it’s pretty hard to undo the damage that can be caused by a few powerful right-wing leaders. On the plus side however, a bit of competition over who can be more lefty is probably no bad thing for party politics and we’re quite lucky to have Plaid as an option in Wales. Given the situation of the left at present, electoral reform would seem a very pertinent option, a move to a representative system would perhaps be beneficial (although worth keeping in mind that under such a system, we also run the risk of far right parties gaining seats in Parliament).

    I have to admit, I haven’t really engaged probably with the suggestions in the Kilburn Manifesto yet, due to the pressures of being an academic! But I will do, and we did discuss reading the rest of it for the group. We haven’t set up the next meeting yet, so something to think about.

    In other news, I saw some interesting talks at the Hay on Earth forum at the Hay Festival, including Rob Hopkins on the Power of Just Doing Stuff, as well as Molly Scott-Cato and Polly Higgins, and Simon Fairlie in discussion with some very businessy young farmers on the Future of Farming in Britain. If I manage to find time I’ll try and write a blog post about some of this.

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