Do we have to agree?
You may not agree with my blogs, and if you don't like them, why the fuck are you wasting your time reading them? You may not agree with the reasons I put them out- but it is silly to think we are in an age that any "movement" or organisation can control narrative. Even the US Government can no longer do that in totality. They can only watch and manage. And a blog is not a newspaper column. Those who read my blog are not in the tens of thousands.
Having said that- if things are above board, transparently democratic, I am a loyal member, as I was of the left alliance that was the SSP. Democracy has of course not been the case re the left over the past few years- culminating in the silly stuff post indyref.
The SSP is no longer a left unity party, nor would I argue was it democratic for quite a few years- though to be honest, with no real alternatives for the feminist left, it's deformed democracy in which Colin Fox filled EC rooms with people chosen almost at random by him (young, easily manipulated and naive people, usually) was the only place my branch of local activists could really go.
I've been contacted by quite a few people who were new to the left last year (at least to party politics) and could not see the problems that some of us were highlighting at the time, but who now realise that what was allowed to happen, and indeed promoted by "leaders," was destructive, as we had predicted, and a huge step backwards. An example of the self aggrandisement and terrible assumption of primacy this week were Cat Boyd talking about "the defeat of socialism" in Scotland. She has riled a lot of people with that one statement. Socialism is far from defeated when there are actually more socialists in Holyrood now than there has ever been, even Bearsden has a republican socialist Green!). This is just one example- the dreadful condemnatory language of the Rise social media conversation over the past few months has killed much support within SSP.
Intolerant self righteousness...
The SSP and Rise will die with the continued active participation of some of the "old guard." Some of those supposedly espousing "radical education" are in actual fact, wanting to fill halls and have the enraptured activists listen to their analysis- an approach to "education" they have attempted repeatedly over the years. Radical education is actually about allowing people room to think, talk, argue, debate, make mistakes and also educate others as to their point of view and perspective. The supposed educators smashing around social media condemning socialists and feminists as sexist, misogynist, racist, heteronormative etc are only educating people on how intolerant, self righteous and purist they are. They, and others really have no clue about the new world of communication. They find it weird; insulting almost, that before they know something, or publish their analysis, 20 others have already done so and been read across the country. Their reaction is to condemn bloggers and those giving different points of view across social media.
"Stop!" They cry. "Our analysis is the most valuable- we'll tell you how to think!"
But, the many voiced Interweb horse has bolted. Quite rightly, the "faces" of the movement are becoming obsolete. It is the mixture of voices across the net that are now important. The civil discussion, sometimes not that civil, is happening in bedrooms, toilets, in front of the telly, at break times and lunch times and few are talking in the controlled public meetings of the faces and microphone grabbers.
The "problem" with the Internet, is it is a resource open to everyone to share their opinion from politics through to cafe reviews and communicate when ever and with whoever they want to. That won't stop. Plugging fingers into ears and refusing to read some views, yet condemning them, does not stop others from reading them. And that is a good thing.
Nowadays, the views of people on the left are not filtered through the undemocratically (or democratically) placed paid "leaders" of the movement. Nowadays the members and supporters dissect, argue, discuss and come to agreement, conclusions and move forwards well before leaders have sieved events through their filters. And to be honest, the dialogue and argument and discussion now on the net, although at times negative, or just fucking dreadful, teaches ME more than a piece of propaganda spread across pages of a lefty newspaper written by people who have other reasons to write, ie, self promotion; filtering out previous mistakes; memory hole left politics and numbers games with other left sects. The responses and arguments of Team Rise has certainly educated many about it as an organisation over the past few months.
Who is in control?
Where organisations such as Rise or the SSP or the SNP or the Tories are concerned, they have to have control of those sharing opinion on their behalf. Beinn is sharing HIS opinion. Mhairi is sharing hers. Neil is sharing his. They are enriching the movement (whether you agree with them or not). But, those with twibbons advertising a particular party, or call themselves leaders or "Team Rise," are speaking on behalf of the organisation they are advertising- whether they like it or not.
The identification with a party, as parties are totally different than movements, can be damaging when people argue a point of view or dismiss other's. Arguments without connection to organisations are splashes in oceans. Arguments on behalf of organisations effect that organisations image- whether the person arguing has the moral high ground or not. Tone, language and power matter. Perceived power, or having a voice in the press or media profile effects how your reply or dismissal of a plan is perceived. The damage isn't being done by Beinn, Mhairi, Neil or others criticising- it is being done by those seen to represent the organisations themselves who shout and rant at those in a less privileged position with different views than them.
Take the recent sarcastic and petulant and Agincourt salute illustrated Twitter remarks of those who don't like what blogger GA Ponsonby said about Rise. It just looks bad for the organisation they represent. GA Ponsonby will continue and now have more fuel to criticise their amateur hour -and they more than Beinn, Mhairi, Jeanette or Neil are supposedly representatives of the left. Loki, Boyd and others are public faces and public representatives of the left and in fact the organisation they promoted (and were promoted by)- they put themselves into that position. They were promoted as leaders by a gang of impersonators and fans for months, and now they are acting like they are Johnny Lydon 1977 (who was a rebellious, working class teenager at the time- not a thirty something degree educated, middle class would be politician). GA Ponsonby is not damaged by their vickies; Rise is. The problem does not lie with Beinn, Jeanette, Rikki, Mhairi, Tommy, Michelle or Neil expressing a view on what they've witnessed. It lies with what the public and the left are witnessing being pumped out by self proclaimed representatives of the left. And it is not very "uniting." Nor is it edifying for the activists they represent.
I am someone who has worked his Arse off, loyally, for the SSP and for "left unity" for years- I'm not unique in that. When this process began, I had questions on why we needed this "thing" at this juncture; on the democratic failings during its coming together and on the attacks on socialists and feminists during its formation -which continued right the way through its election "campaign."
The SSP leadership are now trundling out weird analysis, blaming people who left the SSP on Rise's failure and blaming critics of Rise for its failure. There is no analysis of why people left. No analysis of the criticism. No analysis of Rise's "violence" across social media.
The Sheridan crap was one thing - as some hid their part in the creation of the thing they have now happily allowed to become the devil incarnate to the feminist left.
However, this year was a total disgrace on another level- some in the leadership showing their true nature by arguing that what they did was democratic.
These wise men and women don't like to be called out.
Yes, their contribution to the movement pre -"free" access to the most amazing communication tool in existence was superb. They built movements and forced left groups into alliances. Their Machiavellian and secretive and word twisting ways now really just make them look ignorant. Anachronisms. Out of time. During their "negotiations," the speed people were getting information about deals and approaches and meetings and agreements (sometimes as the secret meetings took place) really was outside their ken.
And the "new cadre" to continue in their ways is beyond silly.
For the SSP leadership to tell people who have been involved in politics for years, that decisions made at an AGM meeting where the National Secretary chose who spoke, how long for and in what order on a motion that said the party would explore talkswas democratic; and for a small meeting to decide the party was then in an alliance was also democratic, is like the kind of fibs six year olds tell me in my class in school. It gives me the same feeling of disbelief- I see a child stealing another child's sweets and with bag in hand, she says," I didn't do it."
Yes you did- you screwed with democracy in full view- but the fools really were those of us who at the time, went along with the ruse- we let them plunge their hands in our sweetie packet and scoff the lot and we said nothing for the sake of peace- or out of disbelief that their dishonesty could be so obvious.
The new observers last year -ie the new members who were persuaded by "reluctant" yes voters, now see how they were also treated as stupid (though some are still, for some odd reason, flailing around social media defending the decimation of the principled left they were fooled into taking part in).
It will be interesting to see how honest the SSP/Rise leadership are forced to become.
There are people who could ensure that happens... A new more modern and savvy leadership- But not those who have been in Labour EC's and involved in the Sheridan disaster etc. And, nor it seems, the ex SWP ISG people who expected to manipulate their way into position as the new cadre.
Honesty - a new diktat...
The new world of the Internet- one that no is longer about directing people to fancy front page websites, but one on which reviews, views, arguments, and 140 character slogans can make or break reputations of corporations, tv personalities, books and bed and breakfasts, cafes and theatre shows, is catching the old guard by surprise. It is a new world where honesty with at the very least, comrades, MUST happen. Or the left will become disparate and rudderless. Blogs and social media comments and discussion are important. But, allowing comment, criticism and disagreement as a movement is imperative. Parties need to ensure the conversation coming from their representatives stay positive and their followers and supporters are well defined as such.
And they need to ensure that they do things democratically and above board. Information passes from person to person in nanoseconds. A closed meeting in a cafe in Edinburgh is no longer secret whispering and an unknown meeting before a meeting.
Rise and the SSP did not treat the electorate as equals. The would be voters were talked at, shouted at and lecturing calls sneered and spat at. And it was Rise /SSP that suffered, not the voters or the movement, thank the big red feminist socialist republican stars.