Sunday, July 30, 2006

Echoes of the past

As someone who normally has little time for nostalgia, certain stories in the last few days have forced me to cast my mind back to times past.
The death was announced last week of Ted Grant (,,1831179,00.html ). This obituary, penned by Bob Wade, whom I vaguely recall, is a sympathetic, &, at times, fawning portrait of Grant.
Wade is on strong ground when recounting the facts: "By the 1970s [entryism] began to pay dividends. Within a decade the Militant Tendency was a household name, with 8,000 members, three MPs, a seat on the TUC, control of Labour's youth section, effective control of Liverpool council and more full-time organisers than the Labour party."
All of which is true. It was a high watermark for revolutionary socialism in the U.K. Hatton was the de facto leader of Liverpool City Council (John Hamilton, the nominal leader, was tolerated, even benignly indulged, by the organisation; as long as the real position of power & responsibility lay with Hatton, no one cared about official titles). Similarly, in the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS), the youth section was the best possible recruiting vehicle for those in their late teens & early 20s from working class estates throughout the Thatcher years.
Wade's obit then takes a more partisan turn: "Grant...was beginning to see the writing on the wall from the Soviet Union, in that there would not be a 'political revolution' as he had previously predicted, following the collapse of Stalinism, but instead a triumphant West and an ideological counter-revolution."
This little bit of revisionism needs nipping in the bud. The fact is that Grant & his entourage left the organisation in the early 90s because they refused to accept the analysis of people like Peter Taafe that capitalism was, indeed, returning to Russia. I readily recall many a speech & article by Grant as late as the early 90s to this effect (one Grant peroration at a London conference, I remember, included the words, "Capitalism will never return to Russia!", the word "never" being roared, not just spoken).

At the time of the "split" the Tories were pushing ahead with the poll tax, using Scotland as a dry run for its introduction in the rest of Britain. Tommy Sheridan emerged as a natural leader & spokesman in the anti-poll tax movement. For all his political sincerity, a not altogether healthy entourage began to follow in his wake. Having seen a near identical pattern in Liverpool with Hatton, I treated Sheridan cautiously. The libel case he's been fighting with the "News Of The World" in a Glasgow court this month reaches its conclusion this coming week. I make no comment on the allegations which have been at the heart of the case, not just for legal reasons, but because none of the protagonists on both sides emerge with credit & dignity from this episode. (,,1833385,00.html ).

Here's something I don't like to admit, but Tony Blair made a valid point this week. Not over Iraq or Lebanon (still scampering & panting around Bush at the Washington press conference on Thursday).
No, the reasonable point he made concerned the rise of what are, let's be honest, self-inflicted ailments which doctors, nurses & GPs are being asked to treat: (,,1830606,00.html ).
I'm becoming incresingly exasperated with parents I see in public, taking their, sometimes frighteningly young, offspring into fast food emporia as a "treat". Ignorance is no longer a defence. Enough has been established by now to convince parents that giving young children fast food as a substitute for a proper meal amounts to a form of child abuse.

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