This weekend I find myself attending a get-together called Socialism 2005, in the resolutely grotty surroundings of ULU. The bulk of the event is a forum whereby campaigners and activists of a particular left-leaning persuasion can share experiences and ideas (and, for the lucky, maybe fluids) with the aim of forging a powerful alternative to the pisspoor state of mainstream politics. There would be, you might think, more that unites the diverse factions on the left-wing than divides them. Can greens and reds work together, in a new workers' party capable of seizing the popular imagination? Given the confrontational tone of some speakers today, I fear that, although two into one may go, its only chance is at the cost of much deeply-entrenched ideological pride. And as certain recent political vanity projects sadly remind us, pride can be a stronger political motivator than reason. A united party of the left may provide the public with a coherent name on the ballot sheet as opposed to the rag-bag choice they are currently faced with; but how long before it tears itself apart through infighting? Compromise, as a wiser man once quipped, is a stalling between two fools. Any foolishness in this case, it seems to me, stems to a great extent from this dogged adherence to ideology. But what do I know? I've not even read Marx. Maybe I'm missing out on a perfectly logical and workable grand scheme. I just know that the system ain't going away any time soon, no matter what some may hope. The Socialists and the Greens would obviously fare better under a system of Proportional Representation. But that's clearly not on the agenda either. A pooling of resources could be just the ticket, in my humble late-night opinion. And with the global environmental meltdown in mind, the left had better get it together soon, or their ideology will count for very little.
That's not meant to sound patronising. My contribution to the political struggle thus far has mainly consisted of singing pro-NHS diatribes to the already converted. There's no inscription on my guitar proclaiming "This Machine Kills Fascists". But I like to think I have a little socialism of the heart, at least.
Of course, if you want to hear that phrase set to music, you should probably grab the warm and wise LP William Bloke by Billy Bragg, which is available from Amazon UK here... and you'd be helping sustain this band in the process. Hurrah!