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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Note to the Editor of The Guardian: Politics is Not Just About Lobbying

I get my News from three main sources: The Financial Times (my first choice), The Guardian and The Independent. The latter two both employ numerous columnists to comment on current affairs and to argue for positions. Increasingly, I skip these columns. Too often, they interpret their task as that of advancing some sectional interest.

Recently, I was talking to someone about  the International Workers of the World (the IWW - the Wobblies), the American-based and (historically) anarchist-leaning trades union. In contrast to most unions, which based themselves in one industry or trade - rather as if they were successors to craft guilds - the Wobblies sought to recruit all workers into its organisation. This wasn't megalomania. It was a strategy to avoid sectionalism and factionalism; to avoid the situation in which unions advanced the causes of their own members without too much regard to the legitimate interests and needs of other groups. In other words, they were opposed to people who were only interested in their own backyard. Britain's self-destruct National Union of Mineworkers was a good example of what the Wobblies were against (the Wobblies still exist, but "were" is probably more accurate than "are").

Guardian  and Independent columnists don't advance the backyard interests of miners or typesetters or panel beaters. They concentrate on women or  blacks or Muslims or gays or cyclists or the disabled or dog lovers (the last I include because of a recent Independent piece urging dog owners to use the power of the Hound Pound to force department stores to allow their pooches through the doors). More often than not, columnists focus on sub-sections of sections of society: gay Muslims, female cyclists. Sometimes the backyards are even smaller than that.

From a Wobbly perspective, this is all wrong. It places what differentiates people at the forefront instead of what they have in common. At worst, it is about pushing the case for Jobs for the Girls as a variant on Jobs for the Boys. But what is really needed is a robust sense of equal rights in general, not particular rights for some group or other. Those rights follow on from the general commitment, they don't precede it or create it.

This is not to deny that some people have legitimate grievances and that they need advocates, vigorous and noisy ones. But the danger at present is that if you take your line from The Guardian or The Independent you will end up thinking that politics is only about lobbying, advocacy and backyards. It isn't.

1 comment:

  1. Like it or not, politics is about lobbying, advocacy and backyards. It has ever been thus.