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)