Are the masses all just sheeple?

Via Socialist Unity. George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, on Obama being elected.

For there are two mistaken reactions to the political earthquake that has struck the US.

The first, not one that most people on the left in Britain are likely to make, would be to shut up shop and place all our hopes in the new administration.

The second mistaken reaction is a kind of defeatist, pessimistic cynicism masquerading as hyperradicalism.

Nothing will change, say the sages, just you wait, it’ll be business as usual. Despite appearances, there’s nothing radical about this message at all. What it says is that the Wall Street interests, the Pentagon and the US elite are not merely powerful – anyone with any sense would recognise that – but are all-powerful, capable of corralling any opposition.

If they were all-powerful, they wouldn’t have cratered their own financial system. Oh, of course (slapping forehead), that’s just part of their Fiendish Plan, isn’t it?. Along blowing up the World Trade Center so they could have a war they are currently losing. Right.

Not only is that a counsel of despair, it also leads to its own form of elitism. The masses who voted for Obama, whose vote was higher among the working class than the middle class, are treated as dupes who, unlike the savants of the left, were unable to see the true futility and impotence of their actions.

These are the same masses that ultraleftists claim to represent yet appear to hold in contempt. You can’t have it both ways. Perhaps the problem isn’t that people are sheeple but that the Left has marginalized itself so completely that it no longer has a compelling message that the masses are interested in. It’s not that the message isn’t compelling but that it’s being delivered wrong.

No movement has ever achieved anything with an attitude like that. And it’s striking that it is the most out of touch and esoteric parts of the organised left that have adopted that kind of tone.

In part that’s because ultraleftists can be more interested in recruiting for their little grouplet than in organizing the masses – perhaps because they’ve given up trying to do so. Which is a shame. Many of them are committed, tireless organizers. But too often, they’ve marginalized themselves into a corner.

Dave Riley, in comments to a previous post on this topic, sees a different part of the elephant.

Our argument here is that it is unity in action that rules the roost and it is better to do rather than talk. Inasmuch as the rest of us in the Socialist Alliance  could hold a half dozen far left groups together in the one formation for a few years, unity in action does indeed work until such time as these groups get anxious that their identity and political patent may be dissolving — “liquidating” — into a generic project.

This is a massive tragedy but all groups will suffer from the curse primarily because it is so hard to navigate a radical agenda in capitalist society.That takes a political toll you see and rather than recognize the trap, most groups embrace it as a identity badge and settle into it as a comfort zone.

The T shirt slogan should be : I love my bunker.

But it’s difficult to get much accomplished in a bunker.

By contrast, there is a much healthier and more widespread response among what you might call the social left, those people who are not in any organised relationship with socialists or left-wing politicos, but whose values and sentiments are on the left.

Large numbers of such people are not oblivious to the central meaning, the truly radical message, of Obama’s victory – things can change.

Hey lefties, you can come out of the bunkers now. The incoming barrages have ceased, at least for now. Let’s take advantage of it.

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