Looking Outwards


“In May 2015 I had the opportunity to visit Ljubljana, as guest of the Institute of Labour Studies (successor to the Workers’ and Punks’ University). Invited to speak on my book, Against Austerity, I offered a breezy, general summary of the book’s themes – the reorganisation of social classes, political power and ideology under neoliberalism, and the dual crises of capitalism and of the Left – and sat back. After some polite questions, a member of the audience finally said: ‘Excuse me, but, I may be a little cheeky here, but… we already know all this.’

More than familiar with the Althusserian and Poulantzian problematics I’d brought to bear, and unencumbered by the dogmas of revolutionary leftism in the UK, these activists found themselves inhabiting an advanced stage of the political crisis, one in which the general problems and questions posed by Against Austerity required concretisation. They had succeeded in building a political organisation that was articulated with social movements and trade unions, that had occupied a space in the state apparatuses, and that had a very successful media strategy, without being politically subordinate to mainstream media narratives. Indeed, they were, if anything, alarmed at the prospect that they might actually win a parliamentary election, have to take control of the ministries and try to govern, despite their inexperience at running state apparatuses and the inevitable resistance they would face upon trying to implement a socialist policy.

It struck me that they didn’t need to hear from British socialists, but that the British Left urgently needed to hear from them. Not because I expect all of their answers to convince everyone, and allay all doubts. They are conspicuously in the process of developing their outlook, learning from experience and building on their theory. The British Left needs to hear from them because they are posing the correct questions.


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