One of the main perks of being Irish is the ability to shrug off whatever’s going on across the pond with a cynical laugh and a James Connolly misquote. I’ve always held irrationally low expectations when it comes to the UK – outside of Mark Fisher, old men who make electronic music in tracksuits, Spartacists with scarily verbose signs, and irony podcasters, all the UK really has to offer us is just bass-boosted evidence as to why we’re all doomed and why you should never respect people who write down their opinions on a regular basis. Joining the ranks of that one Giles Coren documentary in offering us a nearly comical glimpse into how soulless ghouls operate is the recently leaked internal report on Labour’s handling of antisemitism accusations. According to a report in The Guardian by Rowena Mason, the document claimed that it “had found no evidence of antisemitism complaints being treated differently to other forms of complaint” but instead found “abundant evidence of a hyper-factional atmosphere prevailing in party HQ” – in other words, we learned more about the ratfucking (an international pastime at this point) of Corbyn than anything relating to how bigotry is handled within the Labour party. And trust me, there’s more than a fair share of ratfucking clearly laid out within this report – to the point where I’ll barely even touch upon the surface of it within this blog post. Some “highlights” of the dickery include some arsehole passing on the fact that Diane Abbott was crying in the bathrooms over racist abuse to a Channel 4 journalist, notorious milkman and continual failure Mike Gapes helping to get a lad suspended from the party over reporting Islamaphobic harassment he was receiving, and the fact that half of all the antisemitism complaints arrived from one person who seems to get off by being an arsehole over the phone.
Now let’s be honest, none of these “revelations” should be actually shocking to anyone (after all nearly everyone on the left has had a decent idea of what was going on for years). However, the leaking of this report offers us the perfect opportunity to analyze what I’m going to ironically refer to here as “the caretaker class” – soulless careerists willing to use any tactic and break any norm in order to maintain their commitment to doing (and standing for) fuck all. Think of your “West Wing” LARPers, your youth politics centrists, and your irrelevant local TD that somehow survived the last election. It’d be wrong to say that these people stand so vehemently against grassroots movements such as Momentum, Bernie’s campaign, and Right2Water out of an active ideological opposition to their aims (although that opposition does exist), but instead out of a subconscious, instinctive combination of class interest and a fundamental hatred of tangible change. These people aren’t interested in making things either better or worse for the average person – they just want to show up, make a few references to “The Thick of It” in the Dáil canteen every now and then, and occupy positions of power for the sake of occupying positions of power. These people thrive when politics remains a spectator sport for people too uncool to follow actual spectator sports, if anything their only real goal is to ensure that our political process resembles RB Leipzig at all costs. People who didn’t go to private schools (or just have actual jobs and hobbies) serve as an existential threat to the caretaker class, anything resembling a mass movement has to be sabotaged and snuffed out at all costs – even if that ensures electoral oblivion or their personal loss of power. These people would much rather face utter collapse than deal with unruly poors outside of election season and will use any means necessary to reach that point.
One of the funniest things about the caretaker class is the utter lack of imagination inherent to their worldview. This is probably best personified through the new Irish and British Labour party leaders and how utterly uninspiring they are. In Ireland we’re stuck with Alan Kelly, a self-described power-addict mainly known for being a massive apologist for Labour’s ill-fated coalition with right wingers Fine Gael (leading to the party going from thirty-seven seats in 2011 to just seven in 2016), and literally being the face of said coalition’s disastrous attempt to introduce water changes to the country (one of the most unpopular government policies in recent memory, with over 70% of Irish households refusing to pay up). When faced with its worst-ever election results this year (retaining six of their seats, apparently not the worst outcome they expected) the party’s main response has seemingly just been the lack of one. Their aim seems to be business as usual until all their well-meaning activists get burned out on politics and all their TDs slowly (and rightfully) lose their “safe” seats. Keir Starmer’s Labour seems intent on doing something similar, slowly choking out any semblance of radicalism (or even just ambition) within their ranks to ensure electoral oblivion. The caretaker class are fundamentally suicidal, to them losing an election is perfectly grand as long as it means the annoying Corbynistas or Bernie Bros will stop interrupting their badly-orchestrated Nando’s dinners. These people are terminally incapable of winning elections or keeping their organizations alive, and perhaps that’s the only good thing about them.
When I refer to these people as fundamentally suicidal I’m not being hyperbolic – these careerist attitudes have killed parties in the past for dumb reasons and will continue to do so for even dumber ones if we refuse to challenge them. To further illustrate this point let’s look at the Northern Irish Labour Party (or NILP), who were perfectly bollocked in Peter Hadden’s somewhat controversial history of the North, “Common History, Common Struggle”. According to Hadden, the NILP served as a possible vector to introduce anti-sectarian socialist policies to Ulster and held an active grassroots but was handicapped by the role of its parliamentary leadership. In an oddly comical example, Hadden argues that “[t]owards the end of 1964 an issue emerged which opened a deep division within the party. This was neither a constitutional nor an economic issue. Rather it was around the seemingly secondary question of whether play-grounds in Belfast should be open on Sundays”. The grassroots within the Belfast Municipal Labour Party supported the motion to open these play-centres yet “of the six NILP councillors, three voted for, two voted against and one abstained. […] In the event the motion was defeated by one vote. Thanks to Labour the centres stayed closed.”. In Hadden’s words “this division was an indication of much deeper divisions in the Party on more fundamental questions” between the careerists who sat in Stormont and the people who made up the bulk of the party. As is now illustrated with this leaked report, when the grassroots go up against the arseholes with titles, the arseholes with titles generally win out and kill the party in the process. The NILP lost any relevance over the next few years, any idea of cross-community unity died off for a generation, and the party were finally killed off in 1987. But hey, the playgrounds weren’t open on Sundays for a while so I guess it was worth it.
Now I hold no illusions about my ability to offer practical organizing advice to burnt-out Bernie supporters, the three sound people in Labour Youth, or the British left – however giving these people the rope to hang themselves with seems like the only real option when dealing with political caretakers. Obviously the chances of an effective third party arising in Yankland or Tanland are fairly slim, but doing anything other than just going “good luck to ye” and then promptly cutting all ties just leads to a stupid amount of time and effort being wasted to keep this caretaker class in power. If a left organization will (somehow) bring about socialism through the ballot box it’ll require a leadership that consists of (or at least actually listens to) the active, local grassroots. As Corbyn’s time in power and Bernie’s campaign showed, an effective grassroots is sadly no match for a bunch of suicidal centrists who cry in the DMs of young journalists and playing nice with these people never ends amicably. We must remember that these people can and will burn organizations to the ground – let’s try and avoid getting burnt again during this new decade. Sure we may end up facing some short-term losses and growing pains as a result of breaking away from these careerist freaks but hey, at least it’ll lead to more funny Change UK headlines surfacing and let’s be honest, that’s more important than learning off the lyrics to the Alan Kelly rap. These politicians are hated by the average person (just at how many seats Change UK have), perhaps we should let them find that out first-hand.