Taking on the system
Mark Perryman has an article on Comment is Free which will have a lot of Guardian readers nodding along. It's about how he had such high hopes for Labour in 1997, but he's been let down by how Labour in government has been hardly any better than the Tories.
Perryman writes that "Blair and Brown have executed a historic defeat of the left. When 2 million people marched against the impending Iraq war in 2003 we thought we were on the verge of stopping it. But we failed, and with that failure came demobilisation. If 2 million couldn't stop this rotten government what could?"
To help answer that question, I highly recommend 'Taking on the System' by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the Daily Kos website. It's written for an American audience, but the lessons are generally applicable. Much of the book is about how to use t'internet for campaigning and organising for change, and it is extremely entertaining and well written.
But one of the themes of the book which is very refreshing is that Markos has no problem at all with telling us lefties some harsh but fair home truths. And the traditional leftie demo is one which he points out is not very effective, with its plethora of messages rather than single, disciplined message which everyone sticks to, and the fact that it is often the culmination of a campaign rather than being integrated into a wider strategy of actions. He is even more rude about the leftie pastime of meetings-for-the-sake-of-meetings.
Not all campaigning or organising techniques were which developed in the 1960s are now obsolete, but some are, and the sense of entitlement implicit in the idea that if only you get enough people along to your demo, that is in some way sufficient to achieve change is part of the problem. It's easy to blame every defeat, set back and missed opportunity on our leaders (while taking every achievement for granted), but to help build the progressive future we need to evolve new ways of organising for change and learning from what didn't work, rather than repeating the same old tactics over and over. And that's something all of us lefties can learn to do.