Different categories of left-wing activists


by Sunny
9th February, 2011 at 8:25 pm    

There is a spectrum of groupings on the left and I think its worth trying at least to point them out as fairly distinct identities. These are my definitions and this is how I see people – others are under no obligation to adopt them.

There is not only overlap, but they also vary on the liberal-authoritarian spectrum. So its not an exact science.

Labour Right: The the most rightward end of the spectrum. Represented primarily by the Progress faction. Mostly social liberal and economically centrist, though contain some socially conservative people too, such as Tom Harris and Frank Field.

Soft Left: Slap-bang in the middle within Labour; represented primarily by the likes of Compass and Jon Cruddas. I’m somewhere here, though less statist than many of my peers.

Labour Left: Primarily represented by the Labour Representation Committe. Most hardcore socialists within Labour identify with this faction.

Non-aligned liberal left: People who would normally vote Labour but can’t bring themselves to, thanks to its unwillingess to tackle inequality properly, the Iraq war and rhetoric on issues such as immigration. Includes many who voted Libdem or are within the Green party. They are closest to the LRC or Compass within the Labour party.

Non-aligned hard left Your assortment of SWP, communist types. There’s little point in trying to split the difference here to be honest, and its beyond my pay grade to do that. I find some highly engaging and passionate and idealistic. In most cases however, I find them incredibly annoying and destructive to any campaign / movement.

Update: Alex points out that the SWP are a political grouping in themselves, so why do I refer to them as ‘non-aligned’? Good question. I suppose when I say aligned, I mean to the main political parties (in the Parliamentary sense) that includes the Greens. Though I can see some sense in separating out the SWP from other non-aligned hard left, there are far too many minor categories there for me to start dissecting. But I suppose his point stands.

update 2 To clarify, I’m not that big a fan of Labour Right positions or their own brand of sectarianism either


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  1. sunny hundal

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  2. Chris Paul

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  6. Miles Weaver

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  8. Lisa Ansell

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  9. Lisa Ansell

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  10. Kate B

    RT @sdv_duras: RT @sunny_hundal Blogged: : Different categories of left-wing activists http://bit.ly/hMnwbE … [this is priceless]


  11. Anthony Painter

    RT @lisaansell: RT @sunny_hundal: Different categories of left-wing activists http://bit.ly/hMnwbE < I'm not in any of these categories….


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  13. bee hive

    RT @sdv_duras: RT @sunny_hundal Blogged: : Different categories of left-wing activists http://bit.ly/hMnwbE … [this is priceless]


  14. Julian Swainson

    RT @sdv_duras: RT @sunny_hundal Blogged: : Different categories of left-wing activists http://bit.ly/hMnwbE … [this is priceless]


  15. Tamsin Dunedain

    RT @sdv_duras: RT @sunny_hundal Blogged: : Different categories of left-wing activists http://bit.ly/hMnwbE … [this is priceless]


  16. Richard Horton

    RT @sunny_hundal: Different categories of left-wing activists http://bit.ly/hMnwbE < Think the right of the "left spectrum" is more devided.


  17. Jill Hayward

    RT @hangbitch: RT @sdv_duras: RT @sunny_hundal Blogged: : Different categories of left-wing activists http://bit.ly/hMnwbE … [this is …


  18. sunny hundal

    @NishmaDoshi @joshfg @misselliemae http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/11748 – 'non aligned hard left'




  1. Old Holborn — on 9th February, 2011 at 8:27 pm  

    and where are the Libertarians?

  2. Sunny — on 9th February, 2011 at 8:28 pm  

    Oh yeah, the left-libertarians.

    Think its hard to categorise them since they straddle a lot of the different categories.

  3. Carl — on 9th February, 2011 at 8:31 pm  

    This comments thread is now going to be host to some of the strangest word-sets and ill-defined leftist political ideologies one could ever dream of by contrarians who refuse to be “pigeon-holed” or at least refuse to conform to rather precise definitions as stated by Sunny above. The first person to define their political beliefs as paleo-green-anarcho-autonomists gets a cigar from me!

  4. KB Player — on 9th February, 2011 at 8:32 pm  

    Sunny – you’ve got a strong green tinge. Do you think that some bands that you list here are greener than others, or is greenness equally represented across them all i.e. it depends on the individual.

  5. Scudderite — on 9th February, 2011 at 8:33 pm  

    I’m definitely Non-aligned liberal left – I haven’t voted Labour since the Iraq war. Previous to that I was a member of the Labour Party since I was 15 years old and was very active.

    The, as you call it, “rhetoric” on immigration is one of the main reasons why I could never vote Labour in its present incarnation. I find the Party either racist or trying to appeal to racists.

    I voted Green at the last election, and I vote variously Green or Socialist Party or Respect.

    I feel very sad at the way the Labour Party has gone – after being a real believer and activist for 25 years, Blair betrayed me and those who believed for so long. We no longer have a major party of the left, just 2 parties of the right.

    I think the issues of immigration, racism and Islamaphobia have destroyed any humanity that was in the Labour Party – in it desperation to grab votes, it now tries to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

  6. Rupert Read — on 9th February, 2011 at 8:40 pm  

    “Non-aligned liberal left: People who would normally vote Labour but can’t bring themselves to, thanks to its unwillingess to tackle inequality properly, the Iraq war and rhetoric on issues such as immigration. Includes many who voted Libdem or are within the Green party.” This is rather silly, in the way that (in standard tribal Labour fashion) it assumes that by default everyone on the Left would be in Labour. Whereas actually Labour _fundamentally_ fails to address issues of equality and ecology.
    Labour is a very British institution, and has absolutely no right to assume that it ought to have the allegiance of anyone who really cares about ecology, or equality (or peace, or… I could go on).

  7. Jon — on 9th February, 2011 at 8:48 pm  

    This list seems to label anyone who is a socialist and outside of the Labour Party as “hard left”…

    I’m not sure it’s a helpful or particularly aware breakdown of the dynamics of the movement. For example, the socialist left has far more links with the likes of the LRC than liberals ever have or probably ever will. Members of the 57 varieties tend to switch between working inside and outside the Labour Party with some regularity.

    Really more than anything this just seems like an excuse to record the opinion that the socialist left is ruining the anti cuts movement. Which rather ironically will probably do as much to damage the movement as anything anyone from that faction has actually done.

  8. Sam — on 9th February, 2011 at 9:01 pm  

    I agree with Jon on this one. It seems like yet another way for Sunny to deride anyone further left than himself and accuse them of splitting [x, y or z] movement. Rather than embracing the new emergence of grassroots activism, instead Sunny turns to the old institutions and wails in horror when people don’t find value in conforming to them.

  9. AbuF — on 9th February, 2011 at 9:05 pm  

    Sam

    An interesting comment in the light of the demonstrated power of such grassroots activism in Tunisia and now Egypt.

    It is a source of alternating amusement and frustration to watch the world’s satellite TV news media unable to collectively get their heads around the fact that “leaders”/”big men”, the whole politics of leaders and led, patrons and clients, are exactly a central target of the Egyptian people in their present Lotus Revolution.

  10. unionworkeruk — on 9th February, 2011 at 10:03 pm  

    Hard Left:
    a.Parliamentary Road Marxists: Communist Party. Socialist Labour Party. Bob Crow etc.
    b. Revolutionary Marxists: SWP, SP etc.
    c. Libertarian Left. Sydicalists, Anarchists, Libertarian Communists

  11. BenSix — on 9th February, 2011 at 10:09 pm  

    What about these liberal fascist fellers I’ve heard so much about?

  12. jeff — on 9th February, 2011 at 10:23 pm  

    Defining the political left in Labour terms is a bit superficial, back-to-front and cheeky if you ask me. Furthermore, to suggest those who vote Green and Lib Dem are “non-aligned” is surely more than a little bit blinkered?

    Nonetheless, it’s a decent list and people on that side of the political spectrum won’t struggle to identify where they sit. Me, for example, I’m a non-aligned Green.

  13. jim jepps — on 9th February, 2011 at 10:34 pm  

    Interesting attempt…

    I think there are two groups you are missing. One is the anarchist influenced left – and I’d include in that the climate camp, RTS style kids. They definately don’t fit any of the headings and are part of the political scene.

    The second is I think Green people on the left are more distinct than simply fitting into a kind of ‘indy’ catagory. I do think it’s fine to say the Green Party is not one flavour, in a way that you could with the SWP for instance, but still… you can’t call them non-aligned.

  14. Sunny — on 10th February, 2011 at 12:03 am  

    Carl – ain’t that the truth brotha!

    KB player – I’d say the green tinge can go across the board. Though its most popular with the non-aligned liberal left.

    Rupert, Jim, Jeff and others – yes, I’ve put anyone who is not aligned to the Labour party as ‘non-aligned’. My apologies for not being clearer on this, but its not because I want to dismiss you, or have an ideological debate, but because this list comes from a very Labour party perspective.

    For example, people outside Labour frequently generalise about Labour too and the people within it, because they don’t know of or want to understand the dynamics. I’m focusing from a Labour perspective, hence ‘non-aligned’.

    Though I accept your point is also correct.

    This list seems to label anyone who is a socialist and outside of the Labour Party as “hard left”…

    Not true – there is the non-aligned liberal (soft) left, which I was part of until recently.

    It seems like yet another way for Sunny to deride anyone further left than himself and accuse them of splitting [x, y or z] movement

    Jeez, can some of you get a new record? I’m just writing out loud my own categories of lefties… if you don’t like it, write your own.

  15. earwicga — on 10th February, 2011 at 12:58 am  

    ‘people outside Labour frequently generalise about Labour too and the people within it, because they don’t know of or want to understand the dynamics.’

    Or perhaps they understand the power dynamics within the Labour Party all to well. It’s only fair that the LP is generalised as the policies/ideas/etc. on offer from the leadership.

  16. Rumbold — on 10th February, 2011 at 9:10 am  

    You forgot this group:

    The Left with good ideas

    Oh wait, you didn’t.

  17. skidmarx — on 10th February, 2011 at 11:01 am  

    Rumbold – good comment…oh wait

  18. Rumbold — on 10th February, 2011 at 11:38 am  

    Heh.

  19. sceptic — on 10th February, 2011 at 1:55 pm  

    Of course most of this is simplistic nonsense but, as it represents part of Sunny’s very slow but public education in the world of politics, it should be welcomed.

  20. meatpie — on 10th February, 2011 at 2:36 pm  

    There is a cultural war going on as well. It might be skindeep and sliaghty banal but it gos like this. Left/Liberal guardian readers/well off/put on proletarian accents/pro-multiculturalism/benevolence to Islam above other religions/laurie pennys bowel/Hamas etc etc.
    EDL/working class whites/hollie clobber/anti-islam/distracted anti left wingism/robbos orange skin.

  21. Jemmy Hope — on 10th February, 2011 at 2:38 pm  

    Then there’s the non-masochist left, who won’t vote for the Global Capitalism Party, under any label, under any circumstances.

  22. Sunny — on 10th February, 2011 at 3:09 pm  

    Several point ouf that the right of the spectrum is also more divided – which is also a good point.

    But this is my list dammit. Make your own if you want to expand on others.

  23. boyo — on 10th February, 2011 at 3:45 pm  

    Hm. I believe in:

    No private health. No private schools. Complete separation of state and religion, and the enforcement of all of the above (ie, no religious schools either, and no private health/ education by the back door).

    Freedom of speech but not freedom of ownership of the media (ie no monopolies). Nationalisation of basic utilities.

    In the absence of a workable fully socialist economic system, as a democratic socialist (PR) i believe in enforcing economic equality as much as possible (as per above) but also acknowledge this does not mean cultural equality because I believe the above values are superior to those of others, be they corporate-capitalists, “liberals” (ie bourgeois), or religious groups.

    I would say this places me on the far left, yet I suspect Sunny would say I am on the right. But i think I stand for “real things” while much of what the “progressive” left stands for is just stuff that makes them feel cool or good about themselves. I’d find it helpful to know where I was going wrong ;-)

  24. greensen — on 10th February, 2011 at 3:54 pm  

    “I am a socialist with a small s, a liberal with a small l, a green with a small g and a Democrat with a capital D.”

  25. damon — on 10th February, 2011 at 3:57 pm  

    Where does someone like Kenan Malik fit in? Any kind of left?

    I heard him on Radio 4′s ‘Moral Maze’ programme last night, embarassing Douglas Murray over Multi-culturalism.

  26. mirrorsandstuff — on 10th February, 2011 at 6:48 pm  

    Sunny, m’dear, this is rather simplistic in the extreme. I find it far easier to assess people on their own merits than to attempt to (incorrectly) box them to categories.

    Massive ommision are the environmental lobby, but if we were counting omissions – dependent on the granularity – we’d be here all year.

    Such a one dimensional view of politics is a bit… poor really. Tabloid stuff.

    *Typo on committee*

  27. mirrorsandstuff — on 10th February, 2011 at 6:49 pm  

    Oooh – I made a typo. Alas for my days as a grammar nazi leftie. They’ll throw me out and demand my membership card.

  28. Sunny — on 10th February, 2011 at 8:06 pm  

    FFS – I said these are my damn definitions and its not an exact science.

    Its quite funny to watch the usual idiots get all heated up but its also absurd to pretend lefties don’t like labels.

    If you disagree, make your own list.

  29. MaidMarian — on 10th February, 2011 at 9:23 pm  

    Sunny – If you were to try this exercise with right wing activists the list would be cut by about two thirds by volume. There is a lesson there.

  30. douglas clark — on 10th February, 2011 at 11:22 pm  

    Sunny,

    There is also another species. They are known as the scottish hypocrite tendancy of the Labour Party. That hides under an umbrella of socialism, who are just, well, shits. They are called the Labour Party in Scotland and specifically and exactly it’s Labour SMP’s and any of their friends such as Gordon Brown. Iain Grey, never heard of him? Well he is a hypocrite one way or another for your newly beloved party of liars.

    Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi.

    London changes it’s mind. Jack baby sees prospects in Lybia, money to be made. Jack sees a problem with the aforesaid Mo A Al-Megraghai. What to do? Well we could change our London-centric brain dead opposition to his release to an exciting new concept. Lets get him out!

    And what would that be exactly? Who wants to get into bed with these heros’? A reasonable bit of realpolitik or what?

    Maybe so.

    But Brown kept shtum on his new fangled policy, didn’t he? It was a state secret that Labour wanted him out as much as the Lybians did. And the Americans did not.

    And it came to pass that cypher man for Pan-Am Flight 103 – the aforesaid guilty party, who would have probably not have been found guilt in front of a jury rather than the – in my view and others – political trial that happened at Camp Zeist where he was indeed found guilty, and probably wasn’t.

    Anyway, it came to pass that (SNP Justice Minister) takes a decision based on compassionate grounds to release a dying man.

    And so the aforesaid nonentity Iain Grey creates a stushie. Iain Grey – leader, ha ha – of the Labour Party in Scotland says the decision was woeful. It was wrong. And so does most of America.

    It is done and dusted.

    Well it isn’t Sunny. Because the UK government were up to their necks in trying to get him released, and yet they were such complete utter hypocrites that when Kenny MacAskill finally released him, they attacked him locally and fell completely silent nationally. In a vicious and the solely disgusting manner that only labour is capable of.

    This is the case against your party membership:

    Well, we completely change our mind. And lie through our teeth or remain silent when it suits us. We could not tell the truth if the truth smacked us in the face. We lie because that is what we do.

    ________________________________________

    “Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation.”

    And I see myself as much as a socialist as you. How could you have sold you soul so cheaply to a bunch of cheapskates?

    ‘Cause that’s what you’ve done.

  31. Boyo — on 10th February, 2011 at 11:45 pm  

    “If you disagree, make your own list.”

    Authentic Left – as per my definition above (well, i would say that). Outlook based on class analysis and faith in Enlightenment values. Ironically the majority of ordinary working people tend to subscribe to this outlook, but it is found least among those who claim to be their champions on the Left, who tend instead to regard them with contempt (chavs, prols, etc). Hence an alternative name – the Old Contemptibles.

    Right Left – Embodied by Tony Blair, HP and the Labour Party, it remains somewhat faithful to the analysis of the OC’s but has fundamentally given up any real hope of an alternative to capitalism, so has largely embraced it and its values (banks, PFI, etc). It instead channelled its idealism in to nation-building with tragic results.

    Left Behind – an ironic name for self-styled progressives but, having abandoned their economic/ class foundations post-1989 (ie, having given up on socialism) they sought to replace this core with peripheral issues, eg race, gender, human rights, etc, which were all very well but were not, fundamentally, the point. On the other hand, ironically this served their (bourgeois) class purpose (because there were few actual working class people among them) by diverting attention from the real power struggles and thereby shoring up their own position as self-appointed elite.

    Liberal Democrats – the second party of Capital, with more gays and less CCTV.

  32. douglas clark — on 11th February, 2011 at 12:21 am  

    boyo,

    Liberal Democrats – the second party of Capital, with more gays and less CCTV.

    :-)

  33. AbuF — on 11th February, 2011 at 9:32 am  

    Can anyone translate whatever dougie wrote above from the mangled car-wreck I survey into something approaching a reasonable or even – dare I ask – rational political argument?

  34. douglas clark — on 12th February, 2011 at 11:31 pm  

    AbuF,

    Please, continue your celebrations in Egypt. Best wishes…

    I really don’t expect you to have a clue about the failures of the Labour Party in Scotland, it would be like you assuming I should understand the muslim brotherhoods’ position on the Sinai Desert.

    I do, however, expect Sunny to at least be aware of the issues, whether he agrees with me or not.

  35. dave bones — on 13th February, 2011 at 10:57 am  

    hahahaha very good. You forgot the radical third way ists.

  36. fugstar — on 14th February, 2011 at 10:34 pm  

    what brought this on?

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