By Thomas Judge
GRACE Blakeley, Tribune writer and author of ‘Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation‘, brings together voices from across the Left to reflect on its bitter UK defeat, and speculate about its future in the context of the coronavirus, in ‘Futures of Socialism‘.
There are essays from 28 contributors which encompass a vast range of background and disciplines which, in many ways, is emblematic of what the Corbyn movement came to be – a wide range of activists and disparate movements coming together in a united project.
Blakeley told Redaction Politics what inspired her to put the collection together.
“With the defeat of Corbynism in the UK and the Sanders project in the US, followed swiftly by a pandemic that starkly demonstrated the deep contradictions of modern capitalism, the last year has been an unsteadying time for the left,” she said.
“Without the ability to gather together, discuss events and develop a collective understanding of them, it was more important than ever to bring together thinkers from across the left to reflect on this historical juncture. ‘Futures of Socialism‘ was my attempt to do just this.
“The book is by no means all-encompassing, and we were all struggling to make sense of events as they were happening, but it was well worth bringing together these brilliant writers to kick off a much wider discussion.”
Included are reflections on loss, the limits of success, international solidarity, environmentalism, feminism, race, work, economics, Scotland, and culture in the book, which in no way covers the scope of the essays collected.
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There is something in ‘Futures of Socialism’ for everyone, whether it be expanding thoughts on issues dear to any reader, or broadening horizons of anyone coming to the collection with an open mind.
It is also incredibly contemporaneous, having been published last September.
As well as some analysis of what the Covid-19 pandemic will mean for our socio-political outlook, there is also analysis of the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests and the US Democratic Primaries, which saw fellow leftist Bernie Sanders lose the presidential nomination to Joe Biden.
Although primarily centred on UK politics, the book is also outward-looking. Lesson from what happens when a left platform wins, based on the PSOE in Spain going into government, which may be particularly salient going forward.
The chapter ‘Where Next for the Transatlantic Left’ galvanised thoughts on the losses in both the UK and the US and reminded readers that Corbyn and Sanders were shortcuts to left programs, and now the movement may have to go a long way around to make changes.
The book’s only conscious divide is between the first and second part, ‘foundations’ and ‘futures’, which could have been left out as headings, but equally, it highlights the two things this book does.
Despite having numerous reflections on loss, much of the book, as Blakeley remarks in her introduction, is very hopeful.
Perhaps this is because so many of its contributors describe not what was lost, but what was built over the last five years, be it momentum and a sizeable activist base, or a growing left-wing media – from Novara to Tribune to Redaction and everything in between.
Blakeley’s one hope for the future of the Left is simple. She told Redaction Politics: “One thing that has become very clear to me through putting the book together is that while the recent revival of socialist thinking and organising has been an incredible interruption to the neoliberal common sense of the last several decades, we still have a very long way to go – as individuals and as a collective – before that interruption can become a real rupture with the status quo.
“The foundations are, however, very much in place – and I hope that the post-pandemic era sees an upsurge in organising, whether in the labour movement, the environmental movement, or the movement for racial justice.”
The book ends with a summary of the last five years by James Schneider, an insider to the movement from the very beginning, and co-founder of Momentum.
As he goes through the first successful leadership contest and failed attempt to oust Corbyn and the 2017 election success, it hammers home how much as been developed by the movement, which did not expect to win the leadership of the Labour Party, and began with very little five years ago.
The book acts as both an ending, and a beginning. It is the ending of the Corbyn era of politics, and the beginning of what comes next.
There are so many contributions that seek to explain how the left can build back, be it by advocating and advancing progressive policy, becoming involved in a Trade Union, or supporting left-wing alternate media.
The past and the present may look bleak, but the book offers a tentatively hopeful vision of the future.
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