THe Politics Of Relationships
At the recent annual Tawney Dialogue*, guest speaker Lord Maurice Glasman, gave an enlightening speech on the work that must be done by the CSM and people of faith in order to transform the Labour Party into a movement that makes a difference to the nation through relationships rather than through abstract concepts such as progressive politics and social justice.
Lord Glasman began his talk by stating the importance of the CSM having a “more robust, intense and engaged role in the renewal of the Labour Party and the Labour movement in the years ahead”.
Drawing from Tawney’s theories, Glasman states that in order to reclaim the Labour Party, relationships must be at the centre of its doctrine. We must take inspiration from the Christian tradition and place long-term, loving, stable relationships at the heart of the Labour Movement. We must focus on how we relate to one another in the party and the movement in order to achieve the ideal political structure. Lord Glasman believes that relationships will be the area in which the CSM will make the biggest contribution to the Labour movement.
Though there has previously been much focus on the abstract notions of progressive politics and social justice, these will not be the paths through which the Labour Party is transformed. The problem with progressive politics is that there is a continual hope in a future moment where everything will be good, which will never arrive. A march is carried out, then participants feel depressed the next day about what will happen in the future. We should soberly reflect what will be the result of the march? In addition, social justice focuses on rights whereas Christianity and socialism are about the good. The Labour movement cannot be transformed by these abstract concepts which do not incite change.
A politics that is built on relationships values the virtues that Tawney writes of, virtues of fidelity, love, courage, work and hard work. These relationships are necessary for living in a good society and these virtues must be put at the centre of the Labour movement. Glasman believes that it is time for change and for a move from a liberal agenda to a social agenda and also from a secular agenda to a Christian agenda.
Glasman stresses that the most important person in the Labour movement, more important than Tawney, is Jesus. This is because Jesus has given hope to the working class people; hope that the dignity of labour will be respected, that a better world is possible and that through association we can build a better world together. To build this new society, people of the Christian faith must do two things: assert the love, truth and relationality that are involved in a disenchanted, Weberian world and choose to live a life based on either morality or rationality. Glasman claims that
“the problems of New Labour can be reduced to this: it was rationalist, materialist and ultimately quite empty. It was all about material distribution and it didn’t concentrate on the relationships, it didn’t concentrate on giving people power, it was ultimately managerial. “
The choice society now faces is: Jesus versus Weber. Glasman summaries the choice as:
“It’s whether we live in an enchanted world, a world of relationships, a world of love, a world of beauty, a world of transformation which is also of course a world of grief, a world of disappointment, a very difficult world to live in – or whether we assign power, progress and status to scientific, rational, progressive, managerial people who know better.”
We must move away from conspiracies, from what Glasman supposes is snobbery in the Labour Party of the educated towards the uneducated to genuine association through which we can propel change within the Labour movement. Glasman believes that “Tawney more than anybody made this point in building a common life between the secular and the religious”. In British cities, a common life, a bridge was built between the Catholics and the Protestants, a notion unheard of and unprecedented. Alone in Europe, the Labour movement had a working class which did not sway to either Communism or Fascism but stayed straight with Labour, with tolerance and justice and democracy. This was not done through progressive politics or social justice but through a politics of relationships. The achievement was a “politics that understood that capitalism had to be democratically resisted, through association and action, and through working class people being more powerful”.
In my work at Wimbledon Labour Party I have seen and experienced the party at its grass roots best. Every success that is achieved has been achieved because the local party is founded on strong relationships between members. As Councillors, staff and interns come and go; the heart of the party remains unchanging. Through their relations with one another members are able to make waves in the community, whether it be campaigning for safer crossings or an increase in primary school places, this is all achieved by the support members have for the party. Members make every effort to fundraise by making food, giving their time and using their contacts, both personal and business, to help in whatever way they can.
Relationships are at the heart of Glasman’s doctrine of change in the Labour Party. It is through association that we can take on Cameron’s notion of the ‘Big Society’. To do this we must put into practice our Christian heritage and propel a change in the movement through loving relationships that cannot easily be broken. It is through the virtues of loyalty and love that society can be transformed.
Glasman declares that: “This is a great time to be a Christian and a great time to be a socialist. It is time to sing a bit, to engage a bit, to not apologise for being a person of faith”. He states that it was Christian communities that mobilised and helped in the dark times when he campaigned for the living wage in London Citizens.
Glasman stresses that there must be an understanding that this change, the action that is envisioned is not done on the web or through the signing of petitions but through association; through bearing witness together that transformation is present and possible. Glasman recalls
“I’ve seen in every church on a Sunday where people turn up and come together and pray; there is a transformation. That is a lesson to the Labour movement that we’ve forgotten and you need to teach once more. “
To listen to a recording of the Tawney Dialogue please visit - http://bit.ly/tawney
* ‘Creating the Good Society – “How then shall we live?” - The Tawney Dialogue took place at Westminster Central Hall on 30 March. The guest speakers were Lord Maurice Glasman, Rev Lucy Winkett (Vicar of St James Piccadilly) and Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP (Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice).
(Author: Stephanie Owusu
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