Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will
There are some political slogans that act as useful reminders of what we are about-
United we stand. Divided we fall.
We are many. They are Few!
Another concept that surely meets the need for our times is one from Antonio Gramsci when he talked about the need to have Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will.
I take this to mean we need to be entirely hard headed and realistic in our assessment of the political task ahead but optimistic we can achieve success.
Our task, of course, is to achieve electoral power for the many not the few. But we are, unhelpfully, a movement divided. It seems to me, it is a divide that is ideological driven. I know as a Local Authority Councillor that even from that uncomfortable space as opposition Councillors we can and do make a difference to people’s lives. We are often successful getting the streets cleaned up, housing issues resolved, trees trimmed, benefit claims met, children into school, the hungry fed.
What we can’t do in opposition is change the reasons why people need us to do those things in the first place. To do that we need to be in power. My first inkling that this is true was when as a young women I did some research into why so many women I knew in the East end of London at that time had miscarriages. The numbers were disproportionate compared to national figures. The reason was related to the postcode lottery of poverty, disadvantage and its relationship to health.
For me that meant everything we could do to take families out of poverty, to improve ante natal care, to improve locally accessed health services was a priority. It needed to be done then. It needs to be done now. A divided movement, with an element of the movement more focused on being oppositional than making gains for ordinary families leaves me feeling profoundly pessimistic.
However, I am optimistic that the grass roots activists among us, can demonstrate that with community engagement, putting forward creative and do-able solutions to our serious problems can win the day and put Labour back where it belongs- in the Town Halls and in Government.