Overcoming distrust

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We left; and we were right to leave. We left behind the fiction of a party, the members nostalgic, the leaders held together by their part in covering up a crime. On leaving; we went different ways. We had a large majority of the young, the writers, the activists. We did not cohere. We split into two main groups, several hundred of us joined neither, and each group has shaved fractions since. We intended to remake the whole left. A year later, we have barely begun. Within all our parts, we are weakened by distrust.

This lack of solidarity, this isolation, this fog of inactivity – is not our natural state. When we became socialists, each of us did so optimistic that the rich and the rulers could all be swept away. But it was debilitating to be for years in a group where politics was slowly hollowed out, where tasks were chosen instrumentally and cynically. We were made less also by having to argue – within the group and unsuccessfully – for a return to the ideas which the group had claimed were its mission. We have not been healed by any upturn in the struggle – by new generations turning against war or austerity. There has been no spike in the lull of the struggle. Yet we cannot split down again and again until there are just two people left hoping that they will not disagree with each other. We have to learn to bind people together.

We can begin again by sinking roots in the working-class areas for which the left is intended to exist. We can praise other people where another group’s organising, not ours, has produced victories. We can learn another lesson of the last year, that the left is a whole – every pettiness is a collective defeat, each small victory, rare as they now feel, grows the totality. We can break from the habit of the British left to speak of socialism and yet to postpone to the indefinite future anything which might make it real. And we can try – the ambition is easy, but it counts for nothing unless we actually do what we have promised – to organise with integrity.

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