This month the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), the organisation which publishes Solidarity, is starting a project of seeking conversations with working-class activists about what one or two demands each of them would most like to see the labour movement focused on winning from the next government after 2015.
There is widespread dissatisfaction in the labour movement with the Labour leaders’ line of continuing with cuts and a public sector pay freeze.
However, there is no focused, coherent push by the labour movement to press a compact, well-known set of positive demands on the next government. Low expectations, defeatism, and union leaders’ would-be clever tactics are combining to shape things so that a new Labour government, if we get it, would face few sharp demands.
Where there has been a relatively focused, coherent push by the labour movement, on bedroom tax and the Health and Social Care Act, it has produced results, i.e. public commitments by the Labour leaders to repeal which provide a measuring-rod for their actions in government and a lever for the movement to use if the Labour leaders renege.
We as AWL have our own ideas about what wider demands we’d want, which we expound week after week in Solidarity and in pamphlets like A Workers’ Plan for the Crisis.
We will continue to argue those ideas. But we know that some of them are for now minority views. We are also interested in finding out what more limited selection of demands has enough grip that a real labour-movement campaign to enforce them is a short-term possibility.
We heed Trotsky’s advice: “Agitation is not only the means of communicating to the masses this or that slogan, calling the masses to action, etc. For a party, agitation is also a means of lending an ear to the masses, of sounding out its moods and thoughts, and reaching this or another decision in accordance with the results.
“Only the Stalinists have transformed agitation into a noisy monologue. For the Marxists, the Leninists, agitation is always a dialogue with the masses”.
We are not strong enough, yet, that we can pretend to have a real “dialogue with the masses” outside individual workplaces and struggles. But it is within our power to undertake a dialogue with a selection of working-class activists much wider than our membership. We hope you will join the conversation.