Saturday, 30 January 2016

Local Council By-Elections January 2016

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
+/-  Dec

* There was one by-election in Scotland
** There were no by-elections in Wales
*** There was only one Independent clash
**** Others this month consisted of Christian People's Alliance (12), and All-People's Party (38)

Overall, 11,567 votes were cast over nine local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. Three council seats changed hands in total. For comparison with December's results, see here.

January is always a quiet month, and so it proved here. Two seats in total changed hands, with an Independent taking one off Labour and Labour gaining another at the expense of UKIP. Regular watchers of this monthly round up will also note this is the first time since Jeremy became leader that Labour has won the local by-election popular vote tally. Not that it means a great deal, seeing as the seats were tilted slightly in our party's favour. That said, it remains an annoyance that despite being the largest party by a country mile, the Tories on the whole manage to dig deep and contest nearly every seat that comes up. Getting out-organised by a hedge funds and tumbleweed outfit, it's embarrassing.

As the number of contests were low, there's not a great deal that can be said. Except, again noting in defiance of the polls, the LibDems again out-polling UKIP. This trend stretches all the way back to just after the election, so something is going on here. And in the three-quarters year since, the consistency of the result cannot be put down to geographical quirks. If people are used to voting LibDem again, then their standing in the coming locals might come as a surprise to those glued to the polls.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Labour's Prospects in the Local Elections

Is it too early to write about this? Seeing as everyone is talking about how this year's contest is a test for Jeremy, I'd like to briefly visit three push-me-pull-you factors that could have an impact.

Local elections, local politics
In the equivalent elections in 2012, we were just coming off the back of Osborne's celebrated omnishambles budget. Try as the Tories might, even they couldn't talk down the huge gains Labour made that year. However, that was something of an abnormality. Local council contests usually turn out the hardest of hardcore voters, and in the main they vote on the basis of local issues. The other parties will try their damnedest to make this set of elections a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn, but it's quite possible the Oldham effect could kick in. Voters zoned out the anti-Jeremy bile and gave Labour a thumping result. The lesson drawn by many a Local Campaign Forum might be, with Corbers plumbing the polls, that hiding him under a bushel and going all out on pot holes and unfair council cuts might capture a higher than projected vote share. It could work.

Local politics, local records
There is a big but of Sir Mix-A-Lot proportions that could blunt this strategy. Labour isn't entering this round of contests "fresh". We're defending from a position of town hall strength whose defence involves records of four years in local government. On the whole, I think Labour councils have done a good job playing their hand when the Tories always has the best cards. Others might not think that way and punish our local government people at the polls for misdemeanors, perceived money wasting, and not having the bins emptied on time. It's a dilemma. Hide Jeremy and one's record comes into sharp focus. Don't hide Jeremy, and we'll be gambling on what the polls are telling us.

Think global, act local
Well, not quite global. Our opponents and enemies are going to put the boot in to Jeremy anyway. Whether he goes on the literature or not, he's a factor. But as these are second order elections, another bloc of voters might come into play. Recall 2013 and 2014, UKIP did very well in local contests. Now, many of those administrations aren't up on this occasion but there is an uneven spread of anti-politics voters. As the press ramp up their attacks, no doubt aided by the likes of "friends" who'll say anything to get in the papers, there is a possibility they could be drawn to vote Labour as the anti-Westminster choice. Or, rather, voting Labour as a means of keeping Jeremy in situ to annoy the political establishment. So talking Jeremy up might not have the deleterious effects some folks are worried about.

Whatever happens in May, there will be folks from all wings of politics scrabbling around for easy answers to understand what happens. I'm afraid there won't be any. Complexity is the order of the day.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Pet Shop Boys - Inner Sanctum

Well knock me down with a pointy hat and a Welsh male choir, the Pet Shop Boys have done it again by releasing a confounding but brilliant dance track. It's not very 'Pet-Shop-Boysy', is it? Not that their first two decades were dud by any means, but if the new single, Inner Sanctum is representative of the forthcoming album, it's going to be a must-listen for any dance fan. What I love about this are the clear 90s trance influences. One moment you can hear Age of Love's Age of Love working its way through, and then it starts tugging at Cafe del Mar. As a trance head, how can I not love such a beastie? It looks like we have a strong early entry in the top 10 of 2016 ...

Monday, 25 January 2016

Is the Labour Party Middle Class?

The key to "professional" success in the land of comment is to never let the facts get in the way of a good narrative. If hard numbers and social realities are inconvenient, one can safely shove them aside in the assured knowledge they won't come back to haunt the writer. Especially if one is a star columnist in a newspaper with broadly the same politics. On this occasion, it's Janan Ganesh writing in the FT about Jeremy Corbyn, class, and UKIP. And yes, it's rubbish. Here, Janan had given his own spin to the political meme doing the rounds - that the Labour Party has got taken over by the middle class.

As it happens, there are numbers - not consulted in Janan's piece - that bear out this analysis, but only to a degree. Published by The Graun last week, the party has attracted disproportionate numbers of home-owning inner city yuppie/hipster-types. They account for something like four per cent of the general population, while they're a mahoosive 11.2% of our party's membership. 10% of members are in "prestige positions", as against nine per cent of the population. Meanwhile, rural workers and the less well-off are underrepresented. So for one, talk of a middle class take over is somewhat overstated. It's an issue, certainly, but represents a little over one-in-five members and, anecdotally, appears to be geographically concentrated in the big cities. My own sunny Stoke constituency party remains as working class as it was back before the membership surge, for example. And while we're at it, show me a party that is more demographically balanced than the Labour Party. Many low paid workers in the Tories, do you think? Are numbers of students in the LibDems proportionate? Is UKIP rammed with working class supporters?

Ah, well yes, if you follow the narrative. Apparently, it is white working class voters who are most susceptible to UKIP's dubious charms. Locally here in North Staffordshire, the purples have given us most grief in solidly working class districts that were at one time Labour-loyal. Silverdale in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Abbey Hulton and Bentilee - the last two former bases of the late and unlamented BNP - have returned kipper councillors, or came within a whisker of doing so. Yet the studies looking at UKIP support tell another story. Prior to last May, the British Election Survey found working class voters were only a little more likely to support UKIP. Of more significance was the disproportionate support of middle class professionals and small business people. As anyone with a dim awareness of radical right and fascist parties in Western Europe will tell you, such a composition is par the course for parties of UKIP's character. And, yes, the same was true of the BNP's core support as well. Of course, what the NRS measure of social class used to bolster these kinds of analyses neglect to mention is that the 'E' class at the bottom of the scale - itinerant workers, the unemployed, etc. - have traditionally been the fodder of reactionary movements, as even Marx noted in his day. Lumping in the lumpens, who are also present in disproportionate numbers, lends the radical right a working class appearance when, in fact, it's the middling, small business, and declassed elements who predominate.

This isn't to say Labour should be chillaxed about such things. Neglecting UKIP in the context of a Tory campaign characterised by nationalist fear-mongering was fatal for Labour, and the jury remains out on whether sufficient numbers of working class voters can be won back by Jeremy's leadership. But Janan should beware smugging his way through the situation Labour finds itself in. In the first place, he betrays no understanding of different gradations and substantive experience of class. The idea working class jobs are confined to manual occupations is complete nonsense. Changing technology, the deskilling of occupations, the rise of part-time working, and the spread of temporary and zero hour contracts has effectively proletarianised what were traditionally regarded as middle class occupations. This 'new working class', if you like, is inchoate, disorganised, and largely atomised. But it's big and it's growing, and sooner or later the multiple frustrations it faces will find political expression. I hope it will be by recruiting millions of these people to the labour movement. Yet there is a chance the Tories could exploit their insecurities and ride them back into Downing Street. Or anti-politics and "apathy" could rule the day. Or Jeremy Corbyn's message about equality and life chances could cut its way through. It's possible.

The second problem for Janan is his revisionism. He argues that New Labour was no middle class take over of the party (though the demographic composition of the PLP accelerated in this direction during the Blair years). He says "by hardening its line on crime and defence, by cloaking it unsqueamishly in the British flag, by taking school standards and welfare abuse seriously, Tony Blair returned a party captured by the whims of the Brahmin left to actual working people." That's funny, because at the time (what a wonderful thing memory is), all of these moves were justified by the need to pitch to the middle ground, which has always been code for nice middle class people in nice middle class marginals. The other problem with Janan's assertion is whatever one thinks of Blair's strategy and policies, a number of previously Labour-loyal working class voters started flirting with and then voting for alternatives. Labour got wiped out in Scotland in 2015, but the ruin dates back much earlier. The BNP and UKIP grew strongly under St Tony too. The political consequences of tough talk on immigration and of repeating scrounger narratives was to prepare the ground for right wing parties with simple populist "policies" we could never hope to compete with.

The truth of the matter is Labour has never been a working class party, as such. It was founded to represent the interests of people who have to sell their labour power for a living in the British political system. It's a proletarian party, which is a key difference. That category is vast, ranging from well-remunerated professionals with qualifications spilling out of their hats to "traditional" workers to the low paid and the destitute. It is now as it was then an alliance between different categories of occupation, and the party's strength lies in these links it has to these organised interests of the vast majority of working people, blue collar and white collar. Sure, Jeremy's leadership presents the party with a series of tough challenges, but if his leadership continue to hammer home issues that can speak to our people, it's not without opportunities either.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Poulantzas on Studying the State

Be afraid. There is a strong possibility State, Power, Socialism by Nicos Poulantzas is going to get the Lukacs/Mill/Gramsci blogging treatment. Consider yourselves warned. In the mean time, here's one of Poulantzas's notes on studying the state.
... [capitalist] relations constitute the initial scaffolding of the state's institutional materiality and of the relative separation from the economy that stamps its framework as an apparatus: they are the only possible starting point for analysis of the state's relationship with classes and class struggle. Changes in the state themselves refer above all to the struggles of social classes. These constitute the framework of modification in the role and economic activities of the state, each of which has particular effects upon the state.
- Nicos Poulantzas 1980, p.53

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Sectarianism, TUSC, and Jeremy Corbyn

I read with interest that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have decided to stand aside at a February council by-election in the Lower Stoke ward of Coventry. According to the Cov Telegraph, TUSC are seeking talks with Jeremy Corbyn about a merger between TUSC and Labour, and an alliance to fight the next round of local government cuts the Tories are due to impose on councils. Speaking for TUSC, Dave Nellist (who else?) said "Unfortunately TUSC hasn’t yet had the opportunity to sit down with Jeremy to discuss what he can do to get Labour councillors, in Coventry and elsewhere, to refuse to implement Tory cuts ... So, on this occasion, the Socialist Party has agreed not to stand a candidate, so that there is no artificial obstacle to having that discussion with Jeremy and his supporters ..." Dave goes on to say that TUSC are happy to have conversations with Jeremy supporters "serious about fighting the cuts." But if nothing is forthcoming, "any politician who votes for cuts cannot expect to have a free run at the ballot box, no matter what party label they wear."

You've got to admire the chutzpah. For one, TUSC is but a minnow set against the Greens, let alone Labour - and that was before the Corbyn surge had taken place. We're talking no more than 2,000 people here on paper as against Labour's 380,000-odd. Second, TUSC as such doesn't exist. It's a banner the Socialist Party and a smattering of SWP candidates and independent lefts choose to use at election time, and apart from a conference here and there and placards on demonstrations, it has no independent dynamic of its own. The fact Dave himself interchangeably uses SP and TUSC to refer to the same entity suggests this assessment is shared by the (nominal) leader of this still-born project. And thirdly, their election results are almost universally embarrassing. Of the 257 local council by-elections in 2015, it could only muster challenges in 15 seats and accumulate a grand total of 878 votes between them. I would say TUSC is in Elvis Bus Pass Party territory, if it wasn't for the fact he routinely beats them at the polls.

Okay, let's cut the crap. Rolf Harris has a greater chance of resurrecting his national treasure status than the SP "merging" with the Labour Party. You, me, even the old bloke from the John Lewis Christmas campaign knows this. And, yes, that wouldn't have slipped the notice of Dave and the SP executive committee either. What is going on? Is this a genuine offer to unite against the cuts, or is there more afoot?

Whatever one thinks of the SP, they are committed socialists. Their strategy might be less that optimal and counter-productive to the interests of the labour movement on occasion, but it is sincerely held. That, of course, doesn't rule out the use of cynical tactics to advance one's agenda. Anyone and everyone active in politics will have done so at some point, be it a little white fib on the doorstep, the use of petitions that were never meant to get delivered, or shafting someone for the greater good. I'm afraid to say this alliance-talk is also a transparently cynical move.

Since 1992, coincidentally coinciding with the abandonment of Labour Party entryism by Militant, the SP have held that it is a "capitalist party" and the chief political objective of the labour movement is to set up a new workers' party that can represent the interests of our class. This view is based on an understanding of Labour bequeathed to the communist movement by jolly old Lenners' speech to the 2nd Congress of the 3rd International. Though not a phrase of Lenin's, 'bourgeois workers party' is a formulation routinely used in far left circles. It describes how Labour is a contradictory fusion of a pro-capitalist leadership and a mass of proletarians whose interests ultimately lie in an antagonistic direction. While right at a superficial level, it's a touch more complex than that. As far as the SP were concerned, entering Labour and recruiting to their undercover revolutionary outfit was justified because that's where the workers were. After 1992, those workers were abandoning the party and so reasoned that pickings would be juicier on the outside. But in so doing, they argued that Labour had become a straight party of capital no different in qualitative terms to the Tories and LibDems. The rise of Blair and the diminution of member-led (in reality, constituency-led) democracy, and subsequent over-friendliness to business confirmed their position. Of course, an actual analysis of what was going on in the Labour Party would have located Blair's hegemony in the weakness of the labour movement as a whole, which thanks to its formal/bureaucratic and multiple, substantive informal links and interdependencies with the party, saw this weakness reflected in the party's composition and policy orientation. Unfortunately for the SP and its theoreticians, analysis made way for exercises in Marxist box ticking. Because Labour under Blair, Brown, and Ed Miliband didn't conform to their ideal type of what a workers' party should look like, not only did it justify their own independent existence but also provided their own derisory election results.

Fast forward to summer 2015 and Jezmania is sweeping politics. The media are fixated with the prospect of a Labour leadership being taken, for the first time since the 1930s, by someone decidedly on the left. An exciting time for some, a depressing one for others. Plenty of people who analyse politics to inform activity were confused. Some of us were even honest about it. The SP, however, reacted to a complete collapse of its perspectives by maintaining they were right all along. What Jeremy Corbyn and the movement he inspired are doing are creating a new workers' party. Certainly, Labour is very much a new party thanks to the tidal wave of members, yet the SP are at a loss to explain why if the Labour Party was over for the purpose of socialist politics why this "founding" was taking place ... inside the Labour Party. Rather than address the yawning deficit in their analysis (and understanding of the Marxist method for that matter), they have retreated into a theoretical bunker.

Since Jeremy's election as leader, whole sections of the far left have collapsed into the Labour Party. Some of it has been organised, other have just seen a drift. Left Unity, for instance, has practically disintegrated as members have simply upped sticks and followed the radicalised tens of thousands into the party. Lots of comrades caught up in last year's Green Surge have decamped, and not a few "independent" TUSC'ers have drawn the same conclusion. It is increasingly tenuous to maintain a revolutionary socialist outfit independently when the ideal audience are now Labour Party members. How then to stop the SP from getting eroded by the currents streaming towards Labour? By setting up a narrative to insulate its supporters from the allure of mass radical politics.

It goes something like this. Jeremy's election is a welcome step forward for the working class in Britain. Yet he now has to work to deselect "Blairite MPs" (i.e. anyone not on the far left). He has to restore the sovereign decision-making powers of conference. He must work to restore Clause IV, committing Labour once again to public ownership. And he has to be consistent with his anti-austerity rhetoric and order Labour councils to refuse to pass on Tory cuts, thereby forcing a confrontation with the government. As we know, most Labour MPs are facing compulsory reselection anyway thanks to the coming boundary gerrymander. Conference and NEC changes are being muted. Clause IV, if changed, is more likely to reflect radical cooperative principles than the SP's nostalgia for 70s Keynesianism, and there is no prospect whatsoever of local authorities revisiting the ill-fated experience of the 1983-7 Liverpool City Council. Yet what this allows the SP to do is draw a line between Labour and themselves, and tell their members that there remains a clear red line between us and them, between ourselves as tough class fighters and them as shilly-shallying reformists and Blairites.

It is in this context that Dave's proposal for an alliance should be received. It has no prospect of getting taken up, but the refusal of Labour to even acknowledge the hand of the SP's hardened anti-austerity crew plays well at the branch meetings and regional conferences. The proposed joining of forces is all about shoring up the SP, of remaining the keepers of spotless anti-cuts banner matters more than anything else. I believe it was Marx who said that the very definition of a sectarian organisation is one that puts its own interests before that of its class. By placing its shibboleths out there to inoculate members against contamination by what's happening in the Labour Party, the SP, for once, is conforming to one of Marx's analyses.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Labour's Economic Radicalism

This is more like it. From the BBC:
The Tories have offered a Right to Buy, Labour would seek to better this. We'd be creating a new Right to Own," he [John McDonnell] said in a speech in Manchester.

He said the "biggest hurdle" facing co-ops and other small businesses was getting initial funding from high street banks.

"No other major developed economy has just five banks providing 80% of loans. We'd look to break up these monopolies, introducing real competition and choice.

"Regional and local banks, prudently run and with a public service mandate, have to be part of the solution here."

Mr McDonnell is also considering adopting the Italian government's policy of offering funding to help employee-owned enterprises to get off the ground.

"With consortium co-operatives providing an effective means for new businesses to share and reduce costs, we'd look to support these at a local level, working with local authorities, businesses and trade unions," he said.
This is excellent. It was frustrating that the 2010 and, to a lesser extent, 2015 manifestos paid lip service to the radical potential of the cooperative movement, but did effectively nothing with it. To put it front and centre in our critique of Tory economic policy makes them difficult to pigeonhole the party as fans of state-owned industries. As Greg Hands put it in his response to John's speech, "Now we know the truth: Labour is planning another debt-fuelled spending spree and a huge tax bombshell on the businesses that have helped to drive Britain's recovery from the economic mess they left behind." A complete non-response in other words.

I hope over the coming months this is rammed home as much as possible. 'Right to own' has a nice ring to it, and as we can see above the Tories have no real reply.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Jeremy Corbyn's Party Political Broadcast

Okay, it's Labour's party political broadcast:

I perhaps wouldn't have included the Saudi prisons issue on the grounds it's not particularly well-known among the public, but the rest of it was fine. It was clear, set out an alternative to what the government's doing, focused on matters of everyday concern, and did a good job of positioning Jeremy as a man with a coherent view and obvious sense of direction. As a Corbyn sceptic, I thought it was very good.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Jeremy Corbyn and the Beckett Report

It's been so extensively trailed, people who care about the prospects of and campaign for the Labour Party might give the full version of Margaret Beckett's report into last year's election defeat a miss. As many of the conclusions have been hashed and rehashed, much of it is next to common sense. Or at least should be. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to revisit areas one knows well.

Overall, I couldn't find much to quibble with. I was particularly happy to see Margaret pour cold water over the 'aspiration' theory of defeat early leadership candidates clung to like a whiffy old comfort blanket. And I think her conclusions about coherent narratives, consistent messaging, long-campaigning, social problem-focused policy, should be pretty uncontroversial. She notes that the "road to re-election is a marathon, not a sprint". Yes. Still, one might observe that Jeremy has not so much taken up position on the starting blocks, but is standing around arguing with his support staff.

A large number of comrades, including me, have expressed frustration with Jeremy's leadership because of his focus on matters that do not chime with the public. Whatever one thinks of Britain's nuclear arsenal, it's not an issue oft-encountered on the doorstep. Though it might be now the debate has reopened. The determination of the Falklands' future, a matter hardly at the forefront of people's minds, could well be thanks to comments made over the weekend. Picking fights with the BBC doesn't have much in the way of issue salience either. In fact, in a rare moment of concordance, yesterday's Daily Politics saw Dan Hodges and Owen Jones agree that Labour has to focus where it is a) strong, and b) unified, and that's on the front of domestic politics. As the Tories are doing appalling things, there are plenty of attack lines Labour has that could resonate if we stuck with them instead of returning to issues not helpful for our electoral prospects.

Is this incompetence on Jeremy's part, as a number of attendees at the Labour First conference thought, or is there something else going on? I think there might be something else. I'm not saying Jeremy has a secret master plan or anything like that, but he has been around the Parliamentary block a few times. He knows the problems faced by working people. He took them up enough as a backbencher and now, to a mixed reception, at PMQs. What Jeremy, and to a similar extent Ken Livingstone, are doing is using their new found prominence to cast light on what were previously self-evident truths under the "old politics". As all wings of the party have shifted away from market fundamentalism, the unquestioned axioms remaining are all around military spending and foreign affairs. By questioning the unquestioning acceptance of nuclear weapons, of America's leadership of Western foreign policy, of the status of the Falklands, etc. Jeremy and co. are gambling on shifting this ground to the left just as politics in general has so shifted - perhaps best exemplified by the Tories' pinching of Labour's election manifesto. With the Tory commitment to austerity sitting uneasily with a semi-Keynesian infrastructure plan, one can identify an opportunity to turn their rhetoric against them and raise questions about expensive military/overseas commitments.

I doubt the viability of this path for all kinds of reasons, but it does make strategic sense if your project is about changing the terms of permitted politics. Jeremy, by accident or by design, is not following the Beckett road to electoral success. Instead, he's got out the bulldozers and diggers and is attempting to build his own.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Remembering Ellen Meiksins Wood

The Marxist theorist and historian, Ellen Meiksins Wood, died last Thursday. Always writing in a clear and accessible style, Ellen's Marxism was fundamentally open and creative. She made contributions to understanding the transition from feudalism to capitalism, emphasising the latter's specificity as a unique mode of production radically discontinuous from what went before, and rose to prominence in a series of devastating critiques of postmodern/post-structuralist/post-Marxist thinking in the pages of the New Left Review. These interventions are collected together in her The Retreat from Class, which remains one of the best radical responses to the liberalism of PoMo identity politics.

Ellen was also a very important influence on my own intellectual development. I've written before about the long bath I took in PoMo social theory as an undergrad, but Ellen's Retreat from Class (among others) helped dry me off. She was able to demonstrate that the conception of class, historical materialism, and the idea post-Marxists - such as the celebrated Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy fame - had of them were caricatures that bordered on bad faith. Using the trusted-but-busted method of quote chopping out of context, Laclau and Mouffe argued that Marx possessed a clunky, mechanical, determinist understanding of what class was. Worse still, reading off these positions one could extrapolate a socialist/communist future more or less guaranteed by the blind operation of history. They argued that Lenin and Gramsci progressively modified this mechanical outlook by allowing for the play of accident and politics. Both argued that the party, as the expression of proletarian class interests, would have to forge its own hegemony to counter that of capital and the ruling class and pull in its train the other popular classes, the peasants, the petit bourgeoisie, the lumpens and the middling elements, to win and maintain power. However, as far as Laclau and Mouffe were concerned Lenin and Gramsci still operated with "economistic" notions of the working class and believed there was an unproblematic correspondence between (schematically-arrived at) working class interests and socialism. They argued there was no such thing. Instead, hegemony has to be liberated from a Marxist approach to politics and be used for drawing together disparate groups of oppressed people somehow "beyond class" to change the world.

Ellen destroyed this argument. In the first place, anyone with a passing acquaintance of the Communist Manifesto, let alone Marx's Capital knows that capitalism is a dynamic system constantly seething with creativity, destruction, promise, and conflict. This fluid social environment is more than just an effect of competition between capitals as they duke it out for markets, it's because the whole system teeters on an antagonism between two broad categories - classes - of people: those who own capital, and those who do not. Both these groups enter into an interdependent social compact of sorts. To accumulate capital and stay in business, labour power has to be hired to make stuff or dispense services for the firm. To make a living, one has to sell one's capacity to labour for a set number of hours to an employer in return for a wage, or salary. On the surface, it looks like an exchange between equal parties. Both have what the other wants. In reality, the mechanism of the wage relation hides the fact that those selling their labour power are not receiving the full value of the goods or services they produce. The gap between what the worker receives and what accrues to the employer renders the relationship a fundamentally exploitative one that is a focus of sometimes hidden, sometimes open social conflict. The employer has a clear interest in increasing the amount of value they appropriate from the workers' labour time, and this can be done by extending working hours without a proportional rise in pay, or by intensifying the labour process through the introduction of methods designed to boost productivity. Workers on the other hand have a clear interest in ensuring the value they make stays with them, as well as resisting measures that increase the working day, reduces their control over their work, and threatens jobs as increased productivity renders certain roles obsolete.

The problem for post-Marxism, as far as Ellen was concerned, is they treat this as a free-floating schematic argument, of "class essentialism". In one sense, of course it is. But as Louis Althusser once observed, philosophy is the class struggle in theory. Marx's view of capitalism, of the source of profit in surplus value and that in the difference between what a worker makes and receives was based on observation of how the system worked and innumerable protests, strikes, and machine-breaking. Class is a concept derived from studying how a dynamic, antagonistic worked and one that ultimately explained it. Therefore, it follows that the organs of class struggle developed by workers - the co-ops, the trade unions, the mass workers parties, and the revolutionary parties suggest there might be something to the notion of class struggle, class interest, and the organisational forms that broadly correspond to them. It followed from this that socialism was more than just a nice idea, but the culmination of a set of interests present in and engendered by the daily operation of capitalism. It's a real potential waiting to be realised by collective action, made possible by generations of collective action. "Socialism was ... viewed ... in the sense that the objectives of socialism was seen as real historical possibilities, growing out of existing social forces, interests, and struggles" (p.90). There is no essentialism or schematism here. Marx's views and the concept of hegemony used by Lenin and Gramsci, whatever one thinks of them, were the accomplishment of real social forces and were used to effect social change. Contrast this with the post-Marxist approach and hegemony is nothing but an empty concept lacking social weight and radical political purchase. It's a needless, especially when the experience of class even today provides opportunities for unity across diverse social locations.

I am therefore saddened that, in Ellen, our movement has lost one of its best brains. But that doesn't mean her contribution is at an end. Not only will her Marxist historiography continue to be read decades from now, her restatement of class remains pertinent at a time when too many radically-minded people are drawn to zero-sum identity politics, or woolly "values politics" that smacks more of consumerism than collective action. The greatest tribute to Ellen is to introduce new audiences to her work.