Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Do They Mean Us? #20

I don't know. You try and quietly retire a label on the blog, and google alert pops up and bites you on the arse for your trouble.

In today's Scotsman, the ex-Labour MP Brian Wilson raises as a smile with his passing reference to the old days of the SPGB in Glasgow in an article about the monarchy and those opposed to it:
Somewhere between Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, I was trying to define my attitude towards monarchy and my thoughts turned, improbably, to the old Socialist Party of Great Britain who used to put up a candidate in Partick and get about 80 votes.
The SPGB were defined as the “impossibilists” of the British Left. Their considered view was that aspiring to social reform in one country was a waste of time which would only delay the revolution. Socialism could only prevail when 51 per cent of the world’s people were prepared to vote for it.
Since there was no immediate prospect of this happening, they could get on with their lives undisturbed while observing the frailties of humanity from their lofty ideological peak. The great advantage of impossibilism was that it allowed its adherents to feel intellectually superior without the requirement to actually do anything. In fact, doing anything would be counter-productive.

It occurred to me that my attitude to monarchy has morphed into the impossibilist tradition – I’m against it, but since not a lot of other people are, there isn’t really much point in worrying about it until they change their minds. On the basis of this week’s evidence, that is not going to be any time soon. So chill out, watch the concert and have a G & T.
I know I'm supposed to be programmed to be worked up into a lather about Wilson's nonsense about the SPGB's supposed position being that social reform delays the revolution, but what actually immediately struck me when reading the excerpt is that Wilson is probably in that last generation of Labour Party politicians who can even make a passing reference to the SPGB. That's not a dig at the SPGB and its lower profile amongst the British Left but more a realisation that the days of Labour politicians being immersed in that world of politics which dealt with such ideas as the radical transformation of society has long since disappeared.

When did it disappear? I can't place a date on it, but I'd peg it somewhere between Kinnock screeching 'Alright' at the infamous rally in Sheffield in '92 and the second verse of 'Things Can Only Get Better' kicking in '97 . . . and I know I'm being overly generous when siting it in the 90s.

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