Are You A True Comrade?

The left talk about comradeship and solidarity as if that is what the left is built on. But as soon as we disagree, people often get nasty, aggressive or patronising. I’m seeing this again over The Unite General Secretary election.

The left is not a homogenous group and we will inevitably back different candidates. There is an understandable body of opinion that only one candidate from the broader left should run to reduce the risk of a Coyne win. The people of this view are growing increasingly frustrated with Howard Beckett supporters who want their man in the race. Beckett supporters, myself included, are energised with hope and optimism. We still believe in political upsets and know nothing would upset the establishment more than a Beckett victory.

Maybe we should be more pragmatic. Be sensible. Stuff our hope and optimism back down and support someone else. After all, they are all good candidates. Yes, maybe we should. But shouting at us to do that won’t work. Telling us to get some sense won’t work. And likewise, Beckett supporters need to be conscious of the fact other candidates have good left credentials. They might not put the fear of God into the establishment in quite the way Beckett does, but they will fight for their members and they are not Coyne.

What I’m trying to say is this – until the left learn to debate and disagree in a comradely way, and I include myself in this, they should stop using the word comrade. They should stop brandishing the word solidarity as if that’s that the left is built on. After every disagreement, we should come out stronger, not weaker and more divided.

Beckett supporters should not be shamed for being optimists who believe in change from taking risks, and the one candidate advocates should not be shamed for being pragmatic and feeling anxious a divided left slate could herald a Coyne win. Tell people why you feel a certain way. By all means make your case as strongly as you can muster. Just don’t shame or belittle others for not agreeing.

A dog is not just for Christmas and a Comrade is not just for when we are all on the same page.