by Jonathan Todd
“Prince Andrew thought of the insignificance of greatness, the unimportance of life which no one could understand, and the still greater unimportance of death, the meaning of which no one alive could understand or explain.”
Carne Ross cites these words from War and Peace in the conclusion to his The Leadership Revolution, How Ordinary People will take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century.
Prince Andrew thinks these things as he looks upon Napoleon, the “great man” that he had once so admired. In coming to doubt the capacity of such man, rather than the foot soldiers that they nominally control, to shape events, the experiences and views of Prince Andrew reflect the anarchist views of Tolstoy, according to Ross.
Such views are now propounded by Ross, who, after a 15 year career as a British diplomat, has come to doubt the capacities of our supposed leaders as completely as Prince Andrew. He writes:
“The revolution is as profound as it is simple. Evidence and research are now suggesting that the most important agent of change is us ourselves. At a stroke, the prevailing notion that the individual is impotent in the face of the world’s complex and manifold problems is turned on its head. Instead, the individual is revealed as a powerful motor of change, offering the prospect of immense consequences for politics and the world, and, no less, for themselves.”
The ideas of active equality and pro-social behaviour are not based upon any such prevailing notion. They may even have been inspired by the same evidence and research that Ross appeals to. In other words, some of the ideas that I see as most exciting and vital to Labour’s continued revival see the individual as Ross sees the individual, as a powerful motor of change.
But Labour, of course, is not an anarchist party. We have challenged unjustified privilege throughout our history. Nonetheless, we accept some forms of hierarchy as necessary, at least in mass societies, and the legitimacy of states. As I understand it, neither of these things is accepted by anarchists – with the venal hypocrisy of Julian Assange testament to where this lack of acceptance can lead.
What should matter to Labour is whether the hierarchies, including the offices and structures of the state itself, are organised on principles of equality and justice. While we accept that all cannot be generals, we should want those who are to have fairly and squarely ascended to these stations.