This article picks up a thread from Peter Lomas’ post The Common Weal Syriza Debate – Beginning of a new Europe? and develops it further from a personal perspective.
This week, I’ve seen two similar criticism’s made of Common Weal. One came from NUS President, Gordon Maloney, during the Common Weal debate about Greece and Syriza in Edinburgh on Wednesday evening, posed (at least to some degree, I think) as a challenge. The other came from Philip Stott, of Socialist Party Scotland, in an article in Scottish Left Review. Though slightly different in tone and detail, both questioned CW’s accommodation with the capitalist system and particularly trying to find common interest with those of business. As someone who has a great deal of respect for the two individuals concerned, I hope they receive this response in the spirit of comradeliness with which it is intended.
The criticisms some some level are valid and have substance but, I would argue, are based on a misunderstanding of what Common Weal is – it is not a political party with a fully developed and coherent programme. It is an arena for thinking about things afresh, free from much of the baggage that has dogged left politics for so long. It is a place where people can get involved and be active and not have to endorse one particular orthodoxy or another up front. That is not to say that theory and intellectual rigour are absent – far from it. However without an umbrella under which these can be debated constructively, they become an alternative to action, rather than the basis for it.
As someone who cut my political teeth in the Militant Tendency and Scottish Socialist Party, I see no contradiction with embracing the Common Weal today. I still consider myself a Marxist in outlook but am far more aware of common cause with others who may not be. We are all looking towards the same destination but are discussing which route(s) are viable to get there.
As to the issue of finding common cause with business, let’s pull that apart a bit. I see no suggestion that we need to find any common cause with Tesco, Amazon, Ineos or any other corporate giants that feeds vampire-like off us. However the self-employed plumber, the local baker in the High Street with two employees, these people live in our communities an their existence can be easily as precarious as the rest of us. The left has too often lumped both in together and we really need be a bit cleverer.
The Common Weal will become what those involved in it decide it should be. At its heart is the prime motive of taking politics back to the people. To me that’s what ‘all of us first’ is about. How we actually do it has still to be written.