In total, the Oxford Left Review has two editors and nine associated editors, which means that in the most recent edition, editors outnumber articles. As far as I can tell, none of those editors takes the time to properly check the references of the articles in the OLR, because in the most recent issue, my column on George Galloway’s victory in Bradford West is being cited as an example of something it in fact doesn’t do, which suggests that the word ‘editor’ is being misused almost as badly as my article is.
In the snappily-titled The Utopian Dimension of Global Protest and The Crisis of Liberal Democracy, Chris Barrie – an associate editor of the Oxford Left Review, of course! – argues for “the principle of hope, the utopian drive, the very impulse to move beyond the decathected surfaces of political reality”, or, in English, the importance of a left-wing politics that seeks to create a new economics and a new society, not just one which seeks to work within the existing framework of the world in 2012.
Barrie argues that the endemic problem of centre-left thought is an “spirit-sapping, insipid brand of capitalist realism” that fails to sufficiently challenge the status quo. When parties of the extreme left do win, the result is what Barrie terms “blunt disavowal” to shut down radical, paradigm-shifting thought, which is apparently the intention behind my piece of April 3rd. Says Barrie:
Stephen Bush argues, ‘Respect is simply the most electorally successful variant of British fascism’ and so ‘there is very little for anyone to learn’ from a defeat to such a party in a recessional season.
Now, I have a couple of problems with this. The first, most trivially, is that I’m not sure that disavowal can be anything other than blunt. If you disavow something partially or in code, you haven’t, by definition, disavowed it. The second is that Barrie appropriates some of my phrases as his own, although I think this is accidental (maybe the OLR should get one of the associate editors on it). The third, most importantly, is that I’m not arguing for an unquestioning acceptance of the status quo, or even a return to the status quo ante the Coalition. As I concluded in the same piece:
Bradford West’s social ills didn’t spring into being when Cameron and Clegg stood together in the Rose Garden; a free-spending big state also failed to remedy Bradford’s ills. Galloway’s victory is a reminder of the challenges the next Labour government will face, not just in its Tory inheritance, but from its own unfinished business.
That can be taken to mean many things, but I don’t think it can reasonably be taken as an endorsement of the status quo or an argument against radical thinking. Do you know what I think can be reasonably taken as an argument against radical thinking on the British Left? Sniping at everything the biggest left-wing party in the country has done since the 1990s, while calling everyone else out for being insufficiently radical while offering the sum total of no new ideas yourself.