If Liverpool is to have any claim of being a “socialist city”, we must relearn the lessons of its radical past. The left needs to abandon electoral politics, including Labour and Joanne Anderson, and return to the path towards revolution, towards liberation.
On Friday 7th May, Joanne Anderson became mayor of Liverpool with 38.51% of the vote. Could she be a new beacon of hope for socialism in Liverpool?
Back in March, Max Caller delivered a damning report on the corruption and mismanagement of the city by the previous administration. This includes a lack of proper tendering processes for large building contracts, the destruction of documents relating to deals made with property developers and evidence of corruption at every level of local government. Former mayor Joe Anderson (no relation) was arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation and bribery; he strongly denies any wrongdoing.
The Tory commissioners brought in as a result of the report’s recommendations have major power over huge policy areas including regeneration, property management and highways. But the Tories have no more interest in stopping “corruption” than Labour do, as can be seen in the fact that the man making the decision to bring in the commissioners, Robert Jenrick, is a man so deep in the pockets of housing developers that he’s a part of the stitching. The interests of the Tories in Liverpool is in ensuring that the contracts go to their own mates rather than Labour’s, and likely in keeping an eye on developments around the newly implemented Freeport on Liverpool docks, which will mean companies can buy up surrounding land with the benefit of tax relief.
Regardless of her promises or her benevolent intention, Joanne Anderson will simply not have the power to deliver on her manifesto pledges. As to who does is not entirely clear. Rarely are policy decisions made in isolation and only affect one policy area, the grey area where these intersect will be a huge battleground for local policymakers. One cannot possibly hope to navigate the labyrinthian corridors of power, and that is entirely the point. There are huge questions and grey areas over who will be able to have the final say – between the metro mayor Steve Rotheram, the councillors, and the commissioners. There will be ‘interesting times’ ahead for the new mayor.
“It disgusts me when so-called socialists act out of greed.”
– Joanne Anderson, so-called socialist.
In her manifesto, Anderson describes herself as “working class” and a “social entrepreneur” in the same sentence. Clearly she does not understand the inherent contradiction between those two statements, nor of the contradiction between workers and business owners. It is a zero sum game, Anderson cannot represent both sides, and will most likely be used as a pacifier of the working class when these contradictions flare up. She has also promised to increase the size of the intermediate labour market (ILM). This largely consists of pushing the long-term unemployed into low paying, dead end jobs until they have removed the stain of an employment gap on their CV and are deemed worthy to rejoin the real workforce, i.e. worthy of further exploitation by employers. This should be considered deeply harmful to some of society’s most vulnerable people. It is a scheme which supplies employers with cheap labour and in a nutshell exemplifies and exposes Anderson’s true class position as a protector of the interests of the ruling class.
Anderson will most likely have to deliver on a regeneration plan that is already set out by “Regenerating Liverpool”, an initiative run by the council. Their goal is explicitly to “Unlock the City’s Capital” by courting private investment. Included in this plan are plans for the council to create a company which would act as a large scale private landlord, aiming to own 10,000 housing stock within 10 years. All the while crowing about their socialist values, the council sell the city to investors, who seek to parasitically extract a profit out of the working class via rent.
Red Fightback has already outlined in a previous article the thoroughly bourgeois nature of the Labour party. Their dominance in Liverpool has done untold damage to the proletarian movement and set it back several decades, with Liverpool now being one of the most stunted cities in Britain in regards to the strength of its labour movement. This is in sharp contrast to the history of the city, where we can look back to the transport strike of 1911 when Churchill famously sent in gunboats to break up the strike. Workers in Liverpool carried this experience with them into the general strike of 1926, and further on in 1949 the Attlee government took a page out of Churchill’s book by sending in the military to break up the dockers strikes. We have also seen examples of great resistance in the 14 month long Kirkby rent strike beginning in 1973, which involved 3000 tenants boycotting rent.
The 80s were a time of upheaval in Liverpool as well as in Britain. The country’s trade becoming more focused on Europe meant that Liverpool’s position as the main Westward facing port, the position that built its dominance as a slave port, was no longer as vital as it once was. This led the Thatcher government to pursue its project of managed decline, a catalyst for what was to be seen in the following decade. It started out with a bang with the 1981 Toxteth “riots” in response to Police racism and violence that had been further legitimated through the ‘sus’ laws, the parallel of which we can see today in the PCSC bill. In 1983, Liverpool council was taken over by the Militant tendency on the basis that they would refuse to implement the Tories’ cuts. Resisting the cuts was correct, but Militant’s downfall was ultimately its own internal chauvinism. Any successes of this movement came as a result not of parliamentary democracy or weddedness to the Labour Party, but through the fact that Liverpool’s workers were out on the streets at every opportunity, organised both in workplaces and communities. When the tragedy of the Hillsborough disaster hit in 1989 it was not the Labour Party that organised the citywide and still successful boycott of the S*n, but the people themselves and the groups through which they were organised.
In the years since we have seen the dockers strike of the 90s, again opposed by the Labour Party, but we have also seen Labour hegemony in the cities councils and constituencies. This hegemony has not continued socialism within Liverpool but has killed it. The people who were out on the streets organising Liverpool’s masses in the 80s have been thrown in jail or kicked out of the city. The organising knowledge has not been passed down but instead monopolised by the local Labour bureaucracy, only ever utilised when the Labour Party needs it, and of course never in opposition to Labour. It means that Liverpool has become one of the most striking examples we can think of to evidence the fact that Labour is a black hole for radicalism.
“We are a socialist city. We see this every day, whether that is a young Scouser helping a vulnerable adult with shopping, the social projects supporting our homeless, or residents caring for their neighbours and communities.”
– Joanne Anderson
Socialism is when you carry someones weekly shop.
If Liverpool is to have any claim of being a “socialist city”, we must relearn the lessons of its radical past. The left needs to abandon electoral politics, including Labour and Joanne Anderson, and return to the path towards revolution, towards liberation. We must organise in our communities and in our workplaces, we must resist all further attempts to carve up the city for profit, and we must create a radical grassroots movement that can win. This is not merely a call to join our party, but to join any of the great grassroots organisations in Liverpool. These include ACORN, Liverpool Sisterhood, Liverpool Migrant Solidarity Network(etc.), If none of these take your fancy then join any of the many great groups that are sadly lacking local branches such as Sisters Uncut, No More Exclusions, IWW, IWGB (etc.) who will establish branches with enough members. The first task to a socialist revolution is to rebuild the foundations of one. Together we can build proletarian structures in our communities that rely only on the people who have built them, not on agents of the state, no matter whether their tie is red or blue.