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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 9. 9 May 1972

Charisma Miasma

Charisma Miasma

But in its attempt to win it will use and thereby expose another strain in the Labour Party that must be opposed by any socialist. I am speaking of the "market researchy - trendy - charisma" approach. The recent history of charisma (a la J.F.K.), in the Labour Party is an interesting one. It took on advertising, market research types to "sell the product" to the people as the jargon goes. Ironically enough, it now seems that we're getting landed with a party full of these trendies. Hand in hand with this have gone the gains made by the pseudo-concept of "charisma". The party now appears to believe that it may be able to pull off a swifty whereby innovative clothing (i.e. trendy gear) and innovative "packaging" may be adequate substitutes for innovative thought. The drive for "charisma" entails another, more serious danger to those in the Party who believe that social change is more important than "pop politics". And that is that rank and file members, particularly younger and more impatient ones, who are only too ready to seize on anything that will replace their feelings of frustration with a sense of positive contribution, will quickly latch on to a figure who, by possessing certain personal characteristics, seems to hold some sway. As Erich Fromm puts it in Heart of Man, people try to reject their impotence by attempting "....to restore their capacity to act. But can [they] and how? One way is to submit to and identify with a person or group having power. By this symbolic participation in another person's life, [men have] the illusion of acting, when in reality [they] only submit to and become a part of those who act." Radicals on the outer fringe of the party, or outside of it altogether, who are considering throwing their efforts behind candidates who convey the illusion referred to by Fromm, should carefully consider the motives for their intended participation. All those within the Labour Party should join with the Farm Road Branch in attempting to show the Labour Party that market research is not sociology.

Finally could it not be suggested that the Party use its close contacts with the media men to investigate the reestablishment of a Labour Party newspaper. The difficulties would, of course, be immense. But without this the long-term education and persuasion of public opinion towards socialism remains a dream and it is dreams we are attempting to eliminate.

Hopefully it will be clear by this stage that what is wrong with the Labour Party will not be corrected by electing its candidates to Parliament. There is much more basic work to be done in the fields of communication and education between party and society. The party's parliamentarianism, its belief that getting one-up' in the House is significant, and its electorialism, its devotion of all its energies to the moment of the vote, are both serious; impedements to the creation of a party which can take part in and even lead ongoing political activity in society at large. The party's inability to do so at present, its insensitivity to what is alive and moving in society is reflected in its failure to respond in any way at all to the radicalism of youth in particular.