Friday, May 11, 2007

Jon Cruddas on race, class and New Labour


It was noticeable that Labour Party deputy leader candidate Jon Cruddas was almost the only politician to address the recent demonstration by immigrant workers in London, organised by the “Strangers into Citizens” campaign, that seeks to give a path to citizenship for those without legal immigration status.

On Jon’s website there is a very interesting essay that he recently published on the subject of migration.

It is a substantivce argument, and one worth reading in full. It is interesting that he attributes part of the success of the BNP to the fact that "New Labour has quite consciously removed class as an economic or political category."

The following are some extracts:


Race, Class and Migration: Tackling the Far Right

Over the last few years, many of our communities have experienced extraordinary rates of change – primarily driven by mass migration, changing patterns in the demand for labour and the dynamics of the housing market. The policy issues thrown up by these forces have been diffi cult for the state to comprehend; not least because many of the people affected by the changes do not show up in the census and therefore do not exist for the purposes of public policy making.

Moreover, the communities undergoing these rapid demographic changes are often the most poorly equipped to do so, and maintain high levels of poverty, social immobility and poor public services. Poorer, low-cost housing areas, primarily in urban settings, are taking the strain in managing migration flows. The impact of migration on the labour and housing markets has triggered tensions and threatened community cohesion. In particular communities, the local population grows at a faster rate than the state's refinancing of public services, as decisions on funding are based on an out-of date formula for resource allocation.

Yet the configuration of the electoral system pushes politicians into dangerous territory when addressing race and migration. The preferences and the prejudices of the swing voter in the marginal constituency retain a disproportionate influence within our political system. As such, the modern politician seeks to neutralise – or triangulate around – difficult political terrain. There is no better example of this terrain than the current debates around race and demographic change.

Those negatively affected by migration perceive government efforts to tackle immigration as being woefully inadequate, as the issues which concern them are not sufficiently reported in the media and therefore are not commonly understood. This underreporting, combined with the strain placed on existing services by the recent expansion in migration, has led to disillusionment and caused voters to seek populist answers.

One of the key factors behind the emergence of the extreme right is this breach between the formal state perception of the borough and the day to day dynamics at work within the locality. The incremental investment in public services by the state on the basis of out of date population statistics cannot begin to deal with concerns that demographic change is occurring whilst resources are becoming scarcer.

Therefore, this has helped to form the perception that these changes are actually reducing the social wage. This perception could be expressed in terms of growing health inequalities, or reduced access to social housing or even declining hourly wage rates as the dynamic of migration triggers a race to the bottom of working conditions. As such, issues of resource allocation are seen by many as issues of race - which becomes the prism through which, for example, health, housing and wage inequalities are viewed. The most acute politicisation of resources concerns housing. Yet it is considered to be driven by race rather than systematic failure to provide low rent social housing units. It is here that the issue of working class disenfranchisement comes into play. New Labour has quite consciously removed class as an economic or political category.

It has specifically calibrated a science of political organisation – and indeed an ideology – to camp out in middle England with unarguable electoral successes. Yet the question remains as to whether the policy mix developed to dominate a specific part of the British electoral map actually compounds problems in other communities with different histories and contemporary economic and social profiles. It is not just about social housing, although this is the most concrete manifestation of the core problem. It is about the ability of the state to anticipate and invest in the poor urban communities that take the strain of rapid demographic change.


neprimerimye said...

Cruddas campaign has been far more interesting and substantial in its arguments than that of McNobody. The latter has concentrated on rallying the same tired third rate losers on the same old tired third rate loser program the Labour Left always pushes.

Cruddas by contrast entered the campaign as a former Blairite insider alert to the decline of grass roots Labour. that and the impact of the BNP vote in his East London fiefdom has obviously rattled the man and to some degree radicalised him. Which makes him interesting in contrast to the loser lefts.

But there are very real limitations to his radicalisation and he actually represents very little on the ground. Take for example his position on immigrants who he rightly defends. That position differs not at all with that of the Citizens Organising Forum which sponsors the Strangers into Citizens campaign. The problem is twofold in that the campaign is limited in its aims and is led by deeply reactionary forces.

Or we could look at his links with the trade unions which cannot but be limited to a section of the union bureaucracy and as a result cannot go further than they permit if he wishes to build on that alliance. Moreover his general ideology is not attactive to new and emerging layers of activists as it, except in relation to migration, offers them nothing of substance. His dream of reviving Labours grassroots is then just that a dream.

AN said...

BUt at the current time Mike the key divide within the unions is not between the bureacracy and the grass roots, so much as between the unions who are breaking from partnership and returning to what they call an "organising" model, as oppossed to what the call the "service" model.

That is - some of the trade union leaders are currently recongnising that lack of rank and file organisation and militancy is against their interests and are willing to encourage it. We need to work with and encourage that as much as possible.

The advantage of Cruddas's campaign (and I agree but would put it more diplomatically than you) compared to McD, is that Cruddas's campaign does potentially tap into the argument within the unions at the moment. What is more, there does seem to be an emerging but currently febrile realtionship between the unions who are seeing their role as more traditional class stuglle unions (the FBU, RMT and GMB), as opposed to partner ship unions. Now any way we can get them to express that also as a politicall opposition to neo-liberalism, can only help class consciousness, and backing one of the left canddates for leader or deputy is a way of distancing thr union a litle from identification with the Labour government and its Browite leadershipp. Again a good thing in terms of gradually winning an argumnent that the way to deal with new labour is to treat them as the enemy.

Whereas McD is the same old same old. And is frankly too left wing to appeal to the centre and break the labour party centre away from the Blair/Brown right.

Much of the Labour left seem to utterly fail to undertand that the real powerhouse of opposition to new labour is in the unions not their empty shells of CLPs.

neprimerimye said...

We can agree that I'm no diplomat. But we do not agree that the powerhouse of opposition to New Labour is the unions.

On the contrary I'm firmly of the opinion that the union bureaucracies are a barrier to workers struggles and not a part of the solution to them. Sadly the union bureaucracies control and will continue to control the unions for the foreseeable future. Indeed, as you have pointed out in the past, they are even to the 'left' of the rank and file in many unions.

The truth, in my opinion, is that the union bureaucracies including those to the left of the New Labour project are still far to wedded to the social partnership model to properly understand that a class struggle unionism must be based not in the unions ability to negotiate but in the workplaces and hard struggle.

Certainly the Cruddas campaign has cleverly tapped ino the discontent of layers within the unions but as his and their support for the Strangers into Citizens campaign shows is far to timid to make any real difference. Indeed if we look at the deeply reactionary leadership of that campaign it is observable that it is based on a 19th Century doctrine, to which Cruddas may be assumed to subscribe, that opposes the very notion of class struggle! It has the appearence of struggle, to the superficial observer, but is in fact nothing but an exercise in begging the great and the good for crumbs.

AN said...

On the contrary I'm firmly of the opinion that the union bureaucracies are a barrier to workers struggles and not a part of the solution to them.

This raises the question of the tension between the bureaucracy and the rank and file from being an ever present tendency into an ahistorical iron law .

The fundamental class antagonism is obvioulsy between the boss class and the working class, and the institutiona that our class has grown does have a tendency woards bureaucratisation, but sometimes the structure can act to promote class confidence, sometimes it can retard it.

Incidently, there has been some debate about this, and although she expresses it in more academic language Sheila Cohen effectively adopts a similar poistion to you in her recent book.

I think fundamentally it isn;t of huge consequence, it still leads to the conclusioon that socialists should be active trade unionsists, and the real source of our power is organised labour in the worksplace.

neprimerimye said...

It is certainly true that union bureaucracies can be in advance of the rank and file in periods characterised by a low level of struggle. On that we can agree.

But once struggle revives it is damn near an iron law that the bureaucracy as a whole, some individuals may buck the general trend, will inhibit struggle by various means.

My own view is that this is of hugh importance as it indicates that socialists will, as struggle revives, need to organise outside the union structures and sometimes against those structures if victories are to be won again.

I've not yet read Cohens book btw but look forward to doing so.

neprimerimye said...

I would like to clarify my use of the word reactionary in a post above. It was noted that cruddas can fairly be taken to subscribe to a doctrine which opposes the waging of the class struggle by both bourgeoisie and proletariat. It is the contention of scientific socialists that only the proletariat by succesfully waging a revolutionary class struggle can overcome the alienation that is at the heart of class society. Therefore any political tendency that opposes the recognition of the class struggle and argues for class peace is deemed to be reactionary.

It is for tha above reasons that all reformist tendencies, both within and without the ranks of the workers movement, are considered reactionary. A point that holds true of Stalinoid, Social Democratic, Populist and Christian tendencies alike.

ABC stuff, huh!

AN said...

ABC indeed, but perhaps we are better off using the whole alphabet from ABC right the way through to XYZ.

The question here is recognicsing what is the actual state of the class struggle, level of confidence and organisation, and using any means we can to improve the situation.

Given our current dire state, then the trade union organisations, within which there is a growing realisation of the need to a) encurage shopflor organisation, and b) ideologically oppose new-liberalism, needs to be supported in these two objectives.

As part of that, whatever his limitations, Jon Cruddas is an advance on the current position of new Labour of prostrating themselves utterly to the maret and the rich and powerful, and the unions should be encouraged to timidly poke their toe into the water of opposing Gordon brown.

Thus, and no farther, support I Jon Cruddas.

neprimerimye said...

And XYZ my dear Daddy said will be writ on the street barricades. And amen to that!

In the meantime I leave encouraging union bureaucrats to others prefering to point out that it is revolutionaries who must take the lead in organising in the workplaces if the bureaucrats are not to betray us at a later stage.

As for Cruddas i note that he has nothing to say as to workplace organising. Nor shall he given that his appeal is not to workers but to union bureaucrats. Hell he's not at all concerned about the anti-union laws and neo-liberalism. Its his electoral base he's worried about.

AN said...

Excpet that isn't true. Jon Cruddas has been one of the main supporters of the Trade Union Freedom Bill, aiming to roll back the Tory anti-trade unions laws.

neprimerimye said...

One small statement. Hardly a picture of consistent support for the principle of free collective bargaining is it?

That said I accept that I was in error. I also accept that you are clearly more attuned to the Labour fakirs than I.