Just watched Billy Bragg on Democracy Now (repeated September 5, 2011):-
I first came across Billy Bragg at the time the Socialist Workers’ Party was messing around with schools. Throughout the late 70s and early 80s the SWP intentionally disrupted schools – as a supposed strategy for bringing about revolution. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? That intelligent people could think that disrupting schools would do anything other than disrupt the education of these Inner City kids – as if they didn’t have enough disruption in their lives. In my own school there were a small group of SWP activists who intimidated other members so for a branch of 30 members a vote for action would be carried 11 to 8, In other words 4/5 activists and 5/6 people voting for a holiday closed a school. I suspect something similar went on elsewhere. Eventually the situation righted itself as the branch was required to have a majority of members, but by that time I was totally alienated and had left the union. (I rejoined the union when I went to Hove and realised why a union was needed).
This first-hand experience of activists who were riding on the backs of the under-privileged tainted my early awareness of politics, but for me these people effectively brought down the trade union movement in the UK. Now I know that the corporatocracy is the real enemy but at that time I was still sorting through the disinformation, so this conflict with unreasonable people registered high on my immature more emotional stance. I remember one woman who I found particularly distasteful. The branch organised a steering committee and I joined – me and 4 Trots. She told me that she would vote against anything I put forward. I remember asking her once why she had a particular policy, she said she didn’t know – ask the leader. At least the leader who I disagreed with could formulate his policy. This sheep was always voting to close the school, and couldn’t say why.
It was this level of political ignorance that was key in the failure of the miner’s strike, and the miner’s strike was the turning point in British politics and Thatcherism. I don’t know whether Scargill was of the same ilk as these people – I think he wasn’t, but the strike ballot was not a majority. I suspect government provocateurs engineered this vote to happen. He went ahead with the strike. He did not have the support of the establishment part of the trade union movement, and this gave these job-seekers an excuse not to give support. So the rank-and-file support was primarily Trots. In the end I was donating, but to be honest I wasn’t clear in my mind. I wish I had given more support because when the miners failed UK politics went downhill into the pockets of the corporatocracy. By the time I was aware the damage had been done. When people speak of Trots causing alienation I know exactly what they mean.
Listening to Billy Bragg brought all that back. But I mostly want to describe my impressions of Billy Bragg. The man was completely at ease, and was totally comfortable with himself. In his life he was doing what he wanted to do – isn’t that the Path? Maybe the guy could do more with Insight Meditation but when you listen to this you can see someone who is living comfortably on his journey. Isn’t that what it is all about?