Over the summer it has been quite common for the left to rail against David Cameron and the Conservatives for being hypocrites.
The Socialist, the newspaper of the Socialist Party (formerly Militant) on June 22 headlined its front page Hypocrites! Tories Bash Benefits, Rich Let Off The Hook.
On August 29 it did the same with Con-Dems Win Gold For Hypocrisy!
In similar terms, Socialist Worker, the newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party, declared on August 4 that the Tories had a gold medal for hypocrisy, and had earlier branded Cameron a hypocrite on June 30.
Such headlines and the perspectives underlying them cast an interesting light on the issue of how people regard the Tories and what it says about their consciousness - or at least, how parts of the left thinks people see the Tories.
At first sight, nobody with any minimal critical perspective - let alone any sense of working-class or socialist consciousness - would have any problem with calling the Tories hypocrites.
It seems a righteous way of expressing anger and disgust at what the Tories do, namely, to put the interests of a particular section of the population first and foremost.
These people are, of course, those that own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange.
This group of people - and their hired helps of executives, senior managers and advisers - maybe comprise 5 per cent of the population in Britain.
But just saying this shows what the rub is. To identify what the Tories do and who they do it for is not so much to unmask them as to just state that they do what it says on the tin.
By contrast, the common definition of hypocrisy is to say one thing and knowingly do the opposite. Essentially, this means lying, cheating and deceiving.
So the Tories are not really hypocrites and it is doubtful if people really do believe them to be hypocrites. Rather, they are quite naked and venal in what they do and who they do it for.
None of this is changed by Cameron's attempt to make the Tories cuddly in the run-up to the 2010 general election nor his mantra - which has now been dropped - that in the age of austerity we are "all in it together."
Indeed, there is wider perception that all politicians are only there to look after themselves.
While this clashes with the idea that the Tories represent a certain stratum of society, it does nonetheless mean that politicians are seen as being naked and venal as well.
Why then claim the Tories are hypocrites? And what does this say about the left?
The first thing would seem to be the notion of revealing the true nature of the Tories to people in some sort of epiphany or "eureka" moment.
It's almost as if, with the blinkers taken off, people will suddenly realise that they must then fight back together against the Tories.
It's almost as if there is nothing other than the lack of this realisation that holds people back.
But there are many factors that prevent a fightback from happening, not least people's lack of collective confidence and lack of collective organisation.
Collective confidence comes from collective struggle, and particularly successful struggle.
In the course of collective struggle people change so that they look at themselves and others differently. In the case of workers, the possibility exists that they move from being a class in themselves to become a class for themselves.
There's also a sense that there are shortcuts to getting people to struggle for their rights and interests.
Collective struggle goes up and down in ebbs and flows. We are not living through a period of widespread, rising or successful struggle. Consequently, there is an impatience to jump from where we are to where we want to be in terms of the struggle for social justice and socialism.
And there's a belief that if the correct leadership is provided to workers then this will be the magic missing ingredient that will suddenly make them struggle in the way they should.
All this is understandable but nonetheless wrong and misguided.
There is no substitute for mass struggle and the way it can transform those that take part in it.
For socialists, it represents something of a chicken-and-egg situation. But patience and perspective are virtues here. The struggle is long and winding.
Within it, it must be recognised that effective leadership emerges organically from within workers themselves. This does not mean that "outside" groups have no role to play. It does, however, mean that they be embedded within workers' struggles.
Gregor Gall is professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire. firstname.lastname@example.org
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