wise words

“…the bitterness and betrayal felt by thousands of radicals after Labour’s ‘sell out’ was one of the most important influences in the exodus from conventional politics to community activism. In a similar way, radicals were frustrated by the conservatism of the trade unions, evidenced in their frequent hostility towards community struggles and their pursuit of a narrow wages strategy rather than one which included political and moral campaigning.

Although disillusionment with political parties is not new, the novelty of this period was the extension of that disillusionment to a rejection, not merely of the parties, but of the system of politics they operated. That system was exposed as elitist and unwilling to involve the mass of people in shaping the decisions which affected their lives. Moreover, Parliament was seen to have become a mere puppet of capitalism, bureaucracy and technocracy. Representative democracy has been replaced by a system operating outside of the reach of democratic accountability, and based on bargains struck between various cabals and interest groups. One only has to look at the relative impotence of modern governments, and their basic similarity whichever party is in office, to appreciate that real power is not vested in parliamentary government. At local levels, councils operate in the same rigid and reactionary way, regardless of which party has control.

To bring about the changes so desperately needed, it became obvious that radicals would have to turn away from the political machines and towards the people. Hence community action, with its reliance on popular participation, action rather than words and its aim of ‘power to the people’.”

Peter Hain, “The Future of Community Politics” in Community Politics (John Calder, 1976)

Shame he signed to a major a year later.