radical

With Labour in open revolt against Corbyn, I’m sticking with the Greens

Originally published on the Norwich Radical

It’s now three months since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party. For Greens, it’s posed some interesting questions.

For a start, Greens didn’t really know how to respond to the new political context. The party positioned itself as the left party for so long (and rightly), but few had thought about what might happen if the Labour Party actually turned left. Suddenly, the political space for the Greens appeared to shrink dramatically. And for a while, there was silence.

But when the time came, Greens welcomed the election of Corbyn – albeit in varying terms. Both Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas praised his election as a boost for progressive politics. Members were cautiously pleased.

There remain, though, some crucial distinctions. While membership fell back slightly, most Green Party members have thus far stuck around. Why?

  1. Greens are in it for the long game. It says something that it’s a truism, but few in the Labour Party think Corbyn will last the full five years. Even many in Corbyn’s camp think he’ll be out before 2020. The Greens are pretty solid on their feet – it’s serious business being in a party, and it’s a choice people don’t make lightly. Many in the Greens are adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to ostensibly left-wing Labour. It seems like a wise move. Years of the Greens being socialist won’t be undermined by a few trembling months of a progressive Labour Party under Corbyn.
  2. Only the Greens are pushing hard on issues like democratic reform and environmental action. Labour has thus far remained silent on policies such as reforming the House of Lords, introducing proportional representation or keeping 80% of fossil fuels in the ground, as is effectively mandated by the science if we are to keep below catastrophic levels of global warming. Given these are policies that few in Labour – including Corbyn – appear to feel strongly about – and that they are policies Greens feel very strongly about – the lack of overlap is clear.
  3. The Labour Party machine appears un-reformable. Any attempts to deselect right-wing MPs will be struck down before they get off the ground. The 91% non-/anti-Corbynite Parliamentary Labour Party remains the most influential part of the Labour machine – after all, it is they who vote on our laws. So a shift there looks unlikely anytime soon. Just last week, the Labour right triumphed in the influential backbench committees of the PLP. They are not going anywhere. Talks of a coup are not even behind the scenes – Labour are in open revolt against their own left flank – and the potential upcoming vote on Syria will bring the crisis to the fore.
  4. Westminster Labour is not Labour in Brighton, Glasgow, Manchester or Cardiff – council chambers are, needless to say, not echoing with Corbynite speeches across the country. Politics, for most people, is not party conferences. It is the local. And at the local level, Labour has a lot of answer for, if you’re services are being outsourced in Hull or your housing estate is being sold off in Lambeth.
  5. Political traditions matter a lot in politics. And the Greens have a fundamentally different approach to politics. In next May’s devolved (and proportional!) elections in London, Wales and Scotland, it will be the Greens pushing for radical grassroots democracy, for real public engagement, for direct action against housing evictions and climate change, and for a new way of doing things.

The Greens aren’t blowing in all directions like a weathervane – and they certainly aren’t going anywhere.

The Labour Party is in a period of flux, and the Greens are still navigating a new and confusing political terrain. But there remains a place in British politics to praise the good and challenge the bad from outside the Labour Party. The Greens aren’t blowing in all directions like a weathervane – and they certainly aren’t going anywhere.

What it comes down to one is thing: Labour is far too broad a church to remain a consistently left-wing party. Under First Past the Post, it is a party of both neoliberals and Marxists – a contradiction that can’t be reconciled.

All the best to socialists in Labour, but my place is in a party that’s comfortable with being radical.

Advertisements

Support radical acoustic music – crowdfund this EP

OK, I’ve got some big and exciting news: I have just started crowdfunding for my first proper, EP, Luddite Ballads – a collection of acoustic songs, some of which are political, which will be funded collectively.

I want it to be good. I want to get some acoustic, politically-aware music out there. More importantly, Rack Mount Records – the York label I’m signed to – really think it can work and are going to put everything into pushing the EP if I can raise £3000 in the next 37 days.

It’s a big ask, but I really want to do it, and get some radical folk into the public sphere. Please be a part of it!

So yeah. Please chip in a tenner or whatever you can to get a copy of Luddite Ballads, and to make sure we can get it national – on the radio, at festivals and everything in between.

Let’s do this!

All the best, and solidarity,
https://www.crowdshed.com/project/josiah-mortimer—new-ep-luddite-ballads

Josiah

(PS please share this post, repost it on your blogs and sites, share the link on social media – anything to get some socially-conscious music out there. I’ll make sure you get a thank-you, whether on the Rack Mount site, my own blog, and/or FB/Twitter. Thanks a million!)


https://soundcloud.com/josiah-mortimer
0745 439 7816
josiahmortimer@yahoo.co.uk
twitter.com/josiahmortimer

New songs, albums and radio stuff, plus a big move…

Some updates on my acoustic singer-songwriter side of life. Because you asked*.

I’ve got some new songs (you can have ’em for free)

As usual, they’re home recordings, i.e. I’ve stuck my phone on a random surface and hoped it came out OK. Most of the time it vaguely works. I think…

1. A cover of Defiance Ohio‘s brilliant rallying cry against modern society:

2. An instrumental piece inspired by Cornwall and the summer:

A new ‘album’

I’ve stuck together a collection of my recent demos in a free compilation thing called Luddite Ballads. Which I might use as the title of my actual new EP thing coming out soon from Rack Mount Records. More on that in a mo.

Actual new album thing

The proper EP I’ve been recording over the past year (feels like forever!) is finally coming out soon on iTunes and Spotify and all that stuff, so I’ll have something official for once. Which will be great. Keep your eye out! Just being mastered etc. at the moment I think so I’ll wack it on the blog when it’s all done.

On t’ Radio

I did a BBC Introducing session the other week with Radio York, as part of their York and North Yorkshire Introducing programme to get up and coming artists heard. You can still listen to it here. I’m 43:30ish in so listen out.

I play three of my own tracks, two of my favourite artists (Bragg and Guthrie) and have a general chat/interview about life, politics and music. It was good fun. Hope you enjoy it too.

On me travels

And with that, I’m off to Belgium to live for six months, working as a (paid!) intern with the Green European Foundation, a think tank linked with the Greens in the European Parliament. It should be exciting and a nice chance to live abroad (despite my lack of French/Flemish). I’ll keep the blog going and will keep strumming. See you soon.

—-

* That may or may not be true.

New Songs and Stuff

Just a quick update on the musical side of life. Since publishing my last post here I’ve recorded three new songs – all covers, for a change. As usual, free to hear/download/pirate/destroy/share/generally defame.

The first I recorded for St Piran’s Day – the Cornish ‘national’ day – and the song is the Cornish anthem Trelawney (or Song of the Western Men). Gets the patriotic blood flowing. Not that I’m in to patriotism generally, but Cornwall is pretty great so I don’t really mind.

The next is a cover of Bob Dylan’s beautiful Song to Woody, an ode to Woody Guthrie, the early 19thC socialist folk hero of America. Hope I’ve done it justice. If not, well, soz.

Finally, another Guthrie-related tune, This Land is Your Land, written by the great man himself. I’ve tried to ‘angry’ it up a bit. The lyrics are brilliant, and still very relevent.

The new EP is coming along slowly and should be released with a launch gig over the next month or so, and I’ve got a gig lined up at the Sage in Gateshead on the 29th April, as well as a couple of other speculative gigs lined up. Everything’s up in the air with the end of my degree, but music is a nice distraction.

Anyway, that’s all, folks.

PS don’t forget to visit my SoundCloud page where all my stuff resides/goes to die – soundcloud.com/josiah-mortimer. I’m also, inevitably, on Facebook. Have a gander, and ‘like’ that shiz.

Latest Songs from Josiah Mortimer Acoustic

For the past few months I’ve been busy with uni work, writing, deciding what to do with my life after university, and recording my new EP with Rack Mount Records (a new little independent label based in York). I’ve continued to record from home though and have a few new tracks, two of them political and one of them just, you know, about life. (The new EP by the way may be coming in two parts over the next few months – keep your eyes peeled).

The latest is ‘The Ballad of a New Luddite’, a message to abandon the superficiality and technological-dependence of the modern age. I’m as guilty as the rest of us, but hopefully it still rings true.

Next is my first attempt at writing a vaguely amusing tune, called ‘No Laughing Matter’. The topic should be pretty obvious – namely the government’s outright privatisation agenda. Hope you like.

Finally, another call to arms – ‘Hell in a Handcart’. Rough recording, but you get the picture.

In terms of gigs, make sure to come to the launch party of Rack Mount Records on the 18th January. Should be a cracking night at Gibsons in York. I’ll also be holding a launch gig for my new EP when its out. Watch this space.

If you missed my last post about new songs, you can still view it here – wp.me/p1b7Z1-b3, and don’t forget to visit my SoundCloud page with all my stuff on to hear and download for free – soundcloud.com/josiah-mortimer. I’m also, inevitably, on Facebook. Have a gander/like.

9 Thoughts on Left Unity and its Founding Conference

Saturday saw the launch of a new left-wing political party in Britain – Left Unity. I won’t attempt to report on it, as I wasn’t there (nor did I want especially want to be). I just want to lay down a few thoughts on its implications for the wider left, particularly the Greens – speaking as someone who was initially positive (I signed up to the launch appeal) but who is growing increasingly sceptical.

Just under 500 officially attended* the inaugural conference of Left Unity, the project set up by socialist film maker Ken Loach and backed by leading left figures such as Kate Hudson, Richard Seymour and others.

Here’s 9 points from a loyal-but-concerned Green Party activist on the founding gathering of the initiative.

  1. There is clearly demand for Left Unity – more than 10,000 people have registered as supporters, and over 1200 people have formally joined since membership launched just a few months ago. A third of those attended last weekend’s conference. Explaining the demand for a new project is partly down to disillusionment with Labour, and the many sects to its left (not to mention their behaviour – the SWP’s Comrade Delta scandal e.g.). But it also has to be put down to something the Greens are doing, or not doing. The party’s actions in Brighton – i.e. passing austerity budgets – is obviously a major factor. We only have to look to the stream of Greens who have joined Left Unity in recent months – most/all of whom put their defection down to Brighton Council.
  2. At the same time however, there are arguably already more than enough left-wing parties in the UK (of which Labour is clearly not one). Of them, the Greens are the largest and have the most representation at all elected levels (and unelected levels, if our first peer for some years, Jenny Jones, is included). TUSC, Respect, the Greens and now Left Unity reflect the electoral mish-mash of British leftist politics now – not to mention the vast array of tiny groups which don’t generally contest elections.
  3. The party already seems to have overcome some of the stereotypes of the far-left. Far from resembling the misogyny of the SWP, it adopted a 50%+ female-leadership quota. It also saw its dogmatic communist arm routed in a conference vote on which platform to back – the more mainstream Left Party Platform easily winning over the Socialist and Communist Platforms. This comes with caveats, however. The conference provided no crèche, was mostly white male-dominated and refused to allow extra time for safe spaces policy to be discussed. A mixed start, then.
  4. If Left Unity is to mean anything, it has to mean genuine unity. Partly that means there has to be a serious reduction in the number of random socialist parties – something that is only marginally currently happening (with the mooted merger of the ex-SWP International Socialist Network, the ex-Workers’ Power Anti-Capitalist Network and the [eco-]Socialist Resistance).
  5. The whole project puts Greens in a dilemma. For a start, the party is almost certain to contest the next bunch of elections – definitely in 2015, at any rate. This means they will in many cases be standing against Greens. Do the Greens simply try to shrug them off, or do we attempt to engage? Clearly we can no longer do that from within Left Unity, as it is now a separate membership organisation and an electoral party. Instead, there have to be serious talks at local and national levels about pacts – lest the Greens be wiped out under our already-hostile electoral system as another group joins the fray. It doesn’t look like Left Unity is planning to start such a debate – a large number of its members are actively hostile to the Green Party (Loach himself is sympathetic to the Greens but argues we can never become a mass party of the un/organised working-class). We thus need to make the first move.
  6. If Caroline Lucas loses her seat in 2015, many Greens are, sadly, likely to leave the party – possibly towards Left Unity. Already, a number of left-wing Green councillors in Brighton are thinking of defecting. If Caroline loses, this number will undoubtedly rise – both in Brighton and across the country. I’ve spoken to a large number of Greens – many of them young and active – for whom this is the case. Such an outpouring of elected councillors and members will be a huge boost to Left Unity after its first electoral showing – potentially pitching it as the second ‘major’ left-wing party of England (if not Britain).
  7. At this time, many on the independent left are adopting a ‘wait and see’ policy about Left Unity – if it doesn’t quickly descend into factional bickering (as I’ve heard it has in some branches already), they will jump aboard.
  8. However, for the Greens there are few genuinely good potential outcomes of Left Unity – if it succeeds, the Greens may be decimated and replaced by a less ecologically-focused old-school left project. If it fails, a massive swathe of the left will likely drift (again, in many cases) into inaction and despair – as in the past with the Socialist Alliance.
  9. The best outcome is for a decent working relationship with the Green Party – some form of electoral pact, as I’ve argued elsewhere. This will require hard work and mutual engagement. At the moment, such a prospect seems unlikely. But if Left Unity isn’t to become a slightly-bigger version of TUSC, it’s essential. What’s more, it’s also important for the survival of the Greens: without cooperation, Greens will face a choice. With an insurgent socialist force emerging as a serious left-challenge to our party and the political system, many will be asking themselves – ‘should I stay or should I go?’ Some have already made their mind up. After the next elections, which offer uncertain chances for the Greens in Brighton and nationally, many more may follow.

————————————————–

*Most observers put attendance at 400, out of nearly 700 who registered to come, but that’s neither here nor there.

The spirit of youth discontent wasn’t dead, just resting

This was first published here at OpenDemocracy

Student radicalism is making a come-back. About time, I might add.

It’s now nearly three years since the infamous riot at Milbank Tower, Conservative Party HQ, at the height of student unrest in November 2010. Mention Milbank to a student – or ex-student – leftist today and you will hear a sigh of nostalgia. It’s no wonder – there hasn’t been anything like it since.

You always know a movement is soon to wane when you hear the desperate cry: ‘this is just the beginning’. It’s usually just the end. I heard the phrase repeatedly in the winter of 2010 as a naïve, but increasingly angry, college student. A month or so after ‘Demolition’ – the 50,000 strong NUS-backed protest in London, a bunch of my friends organised a protest against the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance. Just a dozen turned up – mostly ageing socialist sect members we’d asked to help mobilise the protest, actually. We blamed the weather and exams. Possible factors, true. Either way though, our movement was dying, abandoned by the NUS amid the age-old accusations of ‘mindless violence’ (i.e. property damage). Needless to say, most of the actual physical violence, as Alfie Meadows and others learned, was from the riot-geared and mounted Met police.

Yet it was followed by an upsurge of worker action over pensions and cuts – a mutually reinforcing cycle that built solidarity among the public sector and those in education. Once the strikes had ended however, the whole edifice of activism did too.

2011’s anniversary protest of Milbank, though spirited, was a damp quib, despite the best efforts of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Police estimate 2,000 marched, organisers reckoned 15,000. The reality was obviously somewhere in between. Kettling, pre-arrests and the lack of a mobilising issue – since the tuition fee vote had long passed – all played their part in putting youngsters off. On top of the fact that the NUS’ backing of the march was only nominal.

‘Demo 2012’ crushed spirits even further, a stage-managed A-to-B walk through London’s remote corners in the rain. Liam Burns bore the brunt of the blame, heckled as a traitor to the cause and careerist. It was a funeral march, the speeches mere eulogies for a lost battle. For many, it marked the end. I came home that day, on the long coach journey back up to York, mourning.

But, another year on, we have a spark. October marked the start of a wave of industrial action in the education sector – starting with the NUT/NASUWT school strikes on the 17th that saw nearly 3,5000 schools closed or partially closed in a regional warm up to an upcoming one-day national walkout before Christmas. Young people joined rallies and marches in their thousands, defending their teachers pay, pensions and jobs.

Two weeks on, Britain sees its first ever joint UK-wide strike by Higher Education unions over the pathetic 1% pay rise on offer. Both academic and non-academic staff will refuse to work, and uni students are planning to join them. Take a look at the support statement here. It’s time to rekindle that forgotten solidarity.

All this comes at a time when the government has confirmed its plans to privatise the student loan book – to literally flog off all student debt (under the Student Loans Company) to big business. Students haven’t been quiet – despite the little known nature of the plans – blocking (and in some cases occupying) a number of Liberal Democrat MPs offices just last week, including Vince Cable and Simon Hughes. Young Greens led a protest outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the same day – it looks like Cable can’t hide. The NUS, as usual, has been weak. But pressure has also already forced over 30 MPs to sign an Early Day Motion in Parliament condemning the sell-off.

These are just a couple of trends building up, alongside a flurry of radical student conferences, from Student Fightback to the Student Assembly Against Austerity on November 2nd in London, Shared Planet on the 2nd and 3rd and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts conference on the 23rd and 24th of November, hundreds are already expected to attend events which could kick-start a hitherto moribund movement, just days before a country-wide postal workers’ strike and the People’s Assembly’s all-day ‘Bonfire of Austerity’. Expect creative action in every major city – from bank occupations to road blocking.

There’s something in the air. The next few weeks could be pivotal in revitalising the radical student movement and bringing back that nostalgic spirit of passion, anger – and most importantly, solidarity. I won’t jinx it and say ‘this is just the beginning’ – I’ve learnt my lesson. But if we seize the moment, something interesting might at last be on the rise again.