A bit more Ralph Miliband blogging

I did some Ralph Miliband blogging a couple of weeks ago. Here’s some more, from my back-cover notes.

The chapter on “The Politics of Survival” is quite possibly more use as a playbook for the opposition than anything else and I even suspect that US and French rightwingers might have done so. Delay everything, get and stay hypermobilised, don’t worry too much about trying to win or being consistent. Get up in their faces and take advantage of any leeway the police give you. The 2000 fuel blockaders are a notable example too.

A really important point is constructing institutions resistant to reversal. If you imagine the future society as a democracy, you’ve got to assume that you won’t always win the elections. Policy planning has to look at creating institutions that can’t be easily rolled back and that take on a life of their own.

In the light of the first point, it’s especially important to worry about things like the European Central Bank, the IMF, and such because they tend to come into play in crises, they have a lot of power, and there aren’t many obvious ways to influence or act on them. RM was quite a left-eurosceptic.

We can probably pause here to look at a case study – Francois Hollande’s government in France, endlessly fighting a salon de thé minority movement of political Catholics, pinned economically by the requirements of the ECB. A big point is that you better serve the people with the people’s currency early.

On a broad question of strategy, RM argues that it’s critical to construct an economic majority, a political majority defined in economic terms as wage earners. There’s an important difference between a numerical majority and a political majority, a point he is good on. A political majority is defined by its unity, by its degree of mobilisation, and by its ability to project its status as a majority.

I’ve seen RM quotes that are very sharp about notions of one nation, or we’re all in this together, etc, but I’ve not read the books they live in yet. A really important point that struck me out of this one is that for RM, the distinction is quite a subtle one.

Defining an economic majority is absolutely critical for any socialist or social democratic party. As a Marxist, RM despised appeals to nationalism or anything like “hardworking families”, but he certainly agrees with the need to come up with some way of expressing an economic majority as a political majority. That given, you’ve got to talk about work and do so in some way that lets people who aren’t convinced feel addressed.

We don’t really have a recognisable language/aesthetic/sound for the people EM needs to convince yet. Nobody has started a club called the Call Centre, and anyway you can’t dance on raised-floor carpet tiles. (Contact Centre has a nice Pina Bausch touch, though.) Neither is there a good vocabulary of hate – they’re too normal, and most of the hate sounds snobbish. Approaching them through the unions is slow and anyway the official WorkSMART page for “information technology” tells you they just don’t know.

So, perhaps going after the privatised think-of-a-number utilities and the landlords and maybe even the RBS small business collections team makes a lot more sense than you think, even looking through Ralph Miliband’s zombie eyes.

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