nt to be
This blog is not in any way meant to be a concise history, it is more of a potted and potentially flawed one. It is only written so I can gather and put my thoughts in order. To clarify and put my support for the current Labour leadership into some kind of coherent sense.
It has more to do with convincing myself that supporting Labour at this moment in time, is in fact, the only viable option for the working class. It also serves to reinforce my belief that a Labour Government on its own, working only through Parliament, is doomed to failure and there needs to be a real movement out with parliamentary politics to ensure that this current Labour party can achieve the change it has laid out in its manifesto.
I begin with Keir Hardie’s book From Serfdom to Socialism. “Socialism is much more than either a political creed or an economic dogma. It presents to the modern world a new conception of society and a new basis upon which to build up the life of the individual and of the state.”
He also mentions one of my political heroes, “as Kropotkin has shown, the weakest and most inoffensive of lower animals are able to hold their own against the strongest and most ferocious by congregating together in societies.”
The Labour Party have been in Government;
- 1924 – nine months
- 1929 – 1931
- 1945 – 1951
- 1964 – 1970
- 1974 – 1979
- 1997 – 2010
As a very rough guide Labour have been in power approximately one third of the time since their beginning. With over a third of that spent as “New Labour”. During most of these moments of power they were minority Governments who actually pursued and implemented many advances for the working class. They have also presided over and administered austerity, attacked Union/workers rights and collaborated with the ruling class during their short history, all “in the national interest” of course.
When they had three terms of majority Government at the end of this period they pursued centre right neo-liberal policies and reneged on pursuing any real working-class advances. “Things can only get better” was the mantra. Throughout this period, they failed to undo any of the attacks on working class organisation. They pursued a centralisation of democracy and actually perpetuated Thatcher’s neo-liberal ideology and the fixation with the city of London and protecting global finance and privatisation.
Labour probably achieved more for the working class, when they were in minority Governments, than the times where they actually had a majority.
This Labour Party was born at the turn of the 20th century from a long history of struggle from Robert Owen, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, Marx and Engels, the first international, Keir Hardie himself and the organised working class within the Trade Union movement.
The start of the 1900’s was awash with left wing groups and Socialists of many colours all over the world. Syndicalism was spreading its wings, Social Democratic parties and groups who were once revolutionary organisations are now turning into the class collaborationist Social Democrats of today.
Lenin was writing What is to be done, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Social Revolution. Kropotkin was writing Modern Science and Anarchism, The Development of Trade Unionism, Communism and Anarchy, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. Revolutionary pamphlets, newspapers and publications were being produced in huge numbers all over the world, not just by intellectuals but by the working class themselves.
There were Revolutionary Marxist’s, Anarchist-Communists, Anarcho-syndicalists, Socialists who became Social Democrats and groups like the Fabian Society who only wanted to tame capitalism and the Trade Unions themselves.
The whole world was at a cross road. Where the ruling class was under continual attack and the working class were educating and organising in huge numbers. This is the world that the Trade Union and Socialist movements in Britain found themselves. The rank and file working class were caught between the collaborationist side of the unions and the anti-revolutionary Socialists on the one hand and revolutionary Marxist and Anarchist organisations on the other. With the ruling class in full control of Parliament. This has always been the case, radical rank and file workers pitted against a reactionary and reformist leadership both within the unions and the political class that is supposed to represent them. (This is the conundrum I find myself. Can a Corbyn Government move beyond a simple parliamentary entity into a mass movement for real change. Or will it end up another reactionary and ultimately an opportunistic construct, that bows to the pressure from the ruling class. Can any parliamentary party really take fight to and confront the ruling class or will it merely try to tame capitalism? A ploy that has failed continually since 1904.)
In the early 1900’s the TUC cooperated with the Independent Labour Party to establish the Labour Representation Committee, this was created to bring together, the Independent Labour Party, the Social Democratic Federation, the Fabian Society and Trade Unions, under one umbrella. This was designed to coordinate support for MPs sponsored by trade unions to represent the working-class population. The Social Democratic Federation were a Marxist organisation, the Fabians and the ILP were in reality reformists and interested in parliamentary actions only.
Keir Hardie’s motion at the conference was to create “a distinct Labour group in Parliament, who shall have their own whips, and agree upon their policy, which must embrace a readiness to cooperate with any party which for the time being may be engaged in promoting legislation in the direct interests of labour.”
This Labour Representation Committee included two members from the Social Democratic Federation and the Independent Labour Party, one member of the Fabian Society, and seven trade unionists. It would eventually evolve into the Labour Party in 1906, although many members of the LRC were uncomfortable with the Marxism of the SDF. (Possibly the start of a recurring theme in the Labour Party)
Where time and time again the leadership of Labour would, to coin the new phrase, put the “the national interest” before working class interests. How many times have we heard, we are doing this as “it is in the national interest”. It is a recurring theme with the Labour party to this day.
The Labour party that is always held up, as the mass party of the working class, created from the Unions and the working class, was in fact no more than the embryo of what has become the modern-day reformist and class collaboration organisations of bourgeois Social Democracy. It was a creation of the Unions yes. It was also a creation of the centrist, parliamentary non-revolutionary elements from the left in Britain at the time.
This early working-class Labour party forgot, that in the words of the Bible “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other”.
In the 1906 election they won 29 seats, helped by a secret pact between Ramsay MacDonald and the Liberal’s, that aimed to avoid splitting the opposition vote between Labour and Liberal candidates in the interest of removing the Conservatives from office.
The 1910 election saw 42 Labour MP’s elected. They were also making ground in Council and local Municipal elections.
Right up to the War there was widespread militant action being carried out within Industry and Transport throughout the country. The rank and file within the unions were far more militant than even their leadership or the fledgling Labour party. It saw the creation of the Triple Alliance of Miners, Rail and Transport workers and greater organisation and more militant actions being taken throughout the country.
The Labour Party, who were affiliated to the second International and were, until the declaration of war, opposed to war. Were pulled along by the jingoistic patriotism throughout the country, and then fell in behind and fully supported the Government. The Trade Union leadership at the time followed this exact same anti-war and then “patriotic” pro war stance. There were notable exceptions of course, both in the Labour party and the Unions.
Below is a report Lenin produced about the Labour party in 1913. Published in Pravda No. 30, February 6, 1913. Source: Lenin Collected Works
“The Thirteenth Conference of the British Labour Party was held in London from January 29 to 31. It was attended by 500 delegates. The Conference passed a resolution against war, and by a considerable majority passed another resolution calling on the Party’s representatives in Parliament to vote against any electoral reform Bill that does not extend the franchise to women.
The British Labour Party, which exists side by side with the opportunist Independent Labour Party and the Social-Democratic British Socialist Party, is something in the nature of a broad labour party. It is a compromise between a socialist party and non-socialist trade unions. This compromise resulted from the peculiarities of British history and the segregation of the labour aristocracy in non-socialist, liberal trade unions. These unions have begun to turn towards socialism, and this gives rise to a host of intermediate, confused situations.
On Party discipline, for example, a resolution was adopted threatening expulsion from the Party for violation of the decisions of the Party or of the Parliamentary group. Disputes arose that would be impossible in any other country—as to whether this resolution is directed against the Liberals or against the Socialists?
The fact is that out of forty Labour M.P.s, 27 are non-Socialists!! In opposing the resolution, the Socialist Will Thorne said they wanted to tie the hands of the thirteen Socialists by subordinating them to the non-Socialists. Even Bruce Glasier, of the I.L.P., while supporting the resolution, admitted that there are about a dozen Labour M.P.s whose place is among the Conservatives.
The majority at the Conference consisted of non-Socialists and extremely bad Socialists. But definite voices were heard indicating that the mass of the workers are dissatisfied with such a party and they demand that their M.P.s should do less playing at legislation and more socialist propaganda.”
Even this early in its history the party was ridden with right wing “moderate” members and MP’s. Even now it appears that there was an internal struggle between Socialists and “moderates”.
The War saw Labour’s fortunes start to rise and the Liberals start to decline. The 1918 Representation of the People Act extended the electoral franchise to males aged 21 or older and to some women aged 30 or older. This gave a huge amount of young working-class men the vote for the first time. Young working-class woman would of course have to wait until 1928.
In 1918 the Labour party reconstituted itself as a Socialist party with a democratic constitution and a national structure.
They produced this short and very worthy document; Labour and the New Social Order. This set out 9 priorities or principles. (Read the full pamphlet I have linked. I have listed the key points below.)
- The Universal Enforcement of the National Minimum; “is the securing to every member of the community, in good times and bad alike (and not only to the strong and able, the well-born or the fortunate), of all the requisites of healthy life and worthy citizenship.”
- The Legislative Regulation of Employment
- Securing Employment for all
- Social Insurance against Unemployment
- The Democratic Control of Industry
- Immediate Nationalisation
- Control of Capitalist Industry
- Local Government; “The Labour Party is alive to the evils of centralisation and the drawbacks of bureaucracy. To counteract these disadvantages it intends that the fullest possible scope shall be given, in all branches of social reconstruction, to the democratically elected local governing bodies………..”
- The Revolution in National Finance
- The Surplus Wealth for the Common Good
- The Street of Tomorrow
They also introduced the famous Clause iv into their constitution;
“To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”
This was revolutionary in Britain at the time. This wee manifesto was in reality, the direct result of the October Revolution in Russia. It was a call to arms. It was at the time a turning point in Labour history. It was to be expanded in the 1930’s and enacted to some extent in 1945, then side-lined and rejected by subsequent Labour administrations until now. Much of today’s Labour manifesto is actually contained with that document.
The experience of Labour ministers during the war, made them feel more confident of the party’s ability to use the “machinery of state” as the only means to bring about social change. This encouraged the party leadership to resist at all costs, policies of direct action that was being urged by local Soviets (Councils of Actions), that were very prevalent across the country at the time, and the then fledgling Communist Party of Great Britain.
I revert to Marx here, “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.”
After the war, the workers returning from the trenches did not find “a land of milk and honey”. They returned to unemployment and attacks on wages and terms and conditions. Someone had to pay for the war and it wasn’t going to be the ruling class.
This resulted in widespread unrest throughout all working-class areas. Clyde Workers Committee, mutinies in the army, police strikes, dock strikes, Mine and railway strikes.
The Secretary of State for Scotland in 1919; “It is a misnomer to call the situation in Glasgow a Strike – this is a Bolshevist uprising.”
The TUC, STUC and the Labour Party did fight back during this time to end the British involvement against the new Soviet Russia. When the British Government were on the eve of declaring war against Soviet Russia, the whole labour movement that was now controlled by the left created Councils of Action all over the country. There were mass demonstrations against war and an end to British involvement with the counter revolutionary forces in Russia. This was a high point in history for the Labour Party. (perhaps a blog on this is also required)
There was so much unrest and widespread direct action all over Britain, during the War and right through to the General strike, that even the Labour party feared and were complicit in resisting a “Communist revolution”. The infant Communist Party to them represented a huge danger. To stifle it was essential. They went from ignoring its existence to calling on all Labour organisations to hunt down and expel any members of the Communist Party. (Expulsions in the Labour party never?)
“First of all, I should like to mention a slight inaccuracy on the part of Comrade McLaine, which cannot be agreed to. He called the Labour Party the political organisation of the trade union movement, and later repeated the statement when he said that the Labour Party is ‘the political expression of the workers organised in trade unions’. I have met the same view several times in the paper of the British Socialist Party. It is erroneous, and is partly the cause of the opposition, fully justified in some measure, coming from the British revolutionary workers. Indeed, the concepts ‘political department of the trade unions’ or ‘political expression’ of the trade union movement, are erroneous. Of course, most of the Labour Party’s members are workingmen. However, whether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only this latter determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat. Regarded from this, the only correct, point of view, the Labour Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie. It is an organisation of the bourgeoisie, which exists to systematically dupe the workers with the aid of the British Noskes and Scheidemanns.”
During this time the Coalition Government implemented The Emergency Powers Act 1920. This Act made permanent the powers of the war-time Defence of the Realm Acts.
“any action that has been taken or is immediately threatened by any persons or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, or light, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life”
This was designed to give any Government the right to break strikes by force of arms. The Government feared the organised extra parliamentary movement and set itself in readiness for the class war that was to come.
With the Liberal party in decline the Labour party became the only Parliamentary option for these displaced Liberals. This was a further extension of the “broad-church” within Labour. I would argue, that even at their very beginning the Labour party was diluted by centrists and liberals from outside and within the trade unions themselves. This dilution has continued to the present day. (Both Progress and Labour First remaining the bastions of this Liberal broad-church ideology, that is forcing Labour continually to the centre/centre right.)
All this at once defined what the Labour party was. A parliamentary “broad-church” Social Democratic organisation and no more. Where the ballot box was the supreme leveller and direct action would be fought against tooth and nail by this “mass party of the working class”.
By 1922 Labour had supplanted the Liberal Party as the official opposition to the ruling Conservative Party. They won 142 seats, whilst the Liberals were split into 2 opposing parties.
1923 saw Labour win 191 seats, with the Liberals now one party again on 153. The Tories still had the most seats but did not have a majority. This resulted in the first, short lived, Labour Government in 1924. When the Tories relinquished power, with Labour who were supported by the Liberals, Ramsay Mac Donald formed a Government that only lasted 9 months. This Government resisted all militant direct action.
This Government did enact some minor policies aimed at redressing the inequalities so inherent at the time, but it was not in any way a Socialist Government. This is in part due to them having to rely on the Liberals for support, but there was also a reluctance within the leadership to push their own radical manifesto. They were more concerned to prove that Labour could govern “in the national interest” and be a responsible pair of hands in power.
The downfall of this first Labour government was in part the fear of an alleged Communist revolutionary threat. The Tories and the press were quick to point out any Communist influence within the Labour party. (Nothing much changes)
The Communist J. R. Campbell had been prosecuted by the government for publishing an article calling on troops not to fire on strikers. When Labour withdrew the prosecution, Asquith called for the appointment of a committee of inquiry. MacDonald would not allow it. He said that if MPs voted in favour of the inquiry, then the government would resign. They consequently voted for the inquiry with a large majority, then MacDonald announced that the Labour government would resign.
There was also the Zinoviev letter that appeared just before the 1924 General election, that has become part of Labour Party mythology. The Daily Mail published a letter apparently written by Zinoviev, the head of the Commitern, which asked supporters to prepare for an imminent revolution. It is now known that the letter was a fake. (Fake news is not such a new phenomenon after all.)
In the subsequent 1924 election the Labour party were reduced to 152 seats and the Liberals who colluded with the Tories were reduced to 40.
During the 1926 General Strike, Ramsay MacDonald continued with his policy of opposing any direct action, including the General Strike, arguing that the best and only way to achieve social reforms was through the ballot box. The leadership were still afraid of the revolutionary element within the unions and the wider labour movement. They were focused on pursuing a vision of Labour as a Parliamentary force only.
(This is my main concern even now with the Labour party. A Government elected to pursue even a Social Democratic manifesto, will need a mass movement of people out with Parliament, based in the workplace and community to support and help implement these policies. The Labour party have always resisted any form of extra parliamentary action. They hold on blindly to the failed idea that the ballot box is the only option for the working-class. Corbyn will need more than the PLP and the Labour Party machine and membership, to implement even half of the current manifesto policies.)
The Government had been preparing for the strike over the nine months it had provided a subsidy to the mine owners, to prevent mass industrial action in1925. During this time, it created the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies and prepared to break any industrial action with the full force of the state.
They rallied support by emphasising the revolutionary nature of the strike. They used the armed forces and scab workers to try and maintain basic services. It used the Emergency Powers Act 1920 throughout.
The Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies was a Government creation of strike-breakers, from the middle and upper classes and the British Fascists. They were put in place in every city and area in the country. After the strike, these strike breakers were even issued with medals.
A wee interesting fact from the time; The East Fife Council of Action (Soviet) had set up its own workers’ defense militia with 700 members, and regularly battled with the scabs and police. The Fife miners held out longer than all other regions.
Medals given to scabs, For service in a National Emergency 1926. This only proves that a class war was and still is waging.
Of course the strike ended in failure. Both the TUC and the Labour party sold out the working-class. Both of these organisations, who at the time were no more than class collaborators, held onto the belief that only the ballot box was the answer for the working class. Both feared and in the end, resisted a revolutionary change. (I might at some point do a blog on the General Strike, using the research I did for my talk on R. Page Arnott, so I will leave this subject here.)
The election of 1929 saw Labour win 287 seats, the Tories 260 and the Liberals 59. So once again Labour relied on the Liberals to hold onto power. This majority for Labour was in part due to young working-class women now getting the vote in 1928.
This second Labour Government took control as Wall Street crashed and sent the world into the great depression. This caused a huge rift within the Labour party, between those who advocated cuts to wages, jobs and social relief on the one side and those who were firmly against any cuts. (Austerity was alive and well in the 1930’s and implemented by a Labour Government. It is also worth noting that the Government included a certain Oswald Mosley.)
The exact same process that has been with us for 7 years, was with us and enacted in the 30’s. Just as now, some within the Labour party agreed with this austerity and implemented the same policies of austerity and cuts.
In 1931 MacDonald, along with others in the party, resigned and went into coalition with the Tories. This split the Labour party into two factions, MacDonald formed the National Labour party. In the 1931 election Labour won only 52 seats and National Labour under MacDonald won 13. The Tories had a landslide victory. A further split in 1932 happened when the Independent Labour Party disaffiliated. Labour were side-lined until 1945.
During the 30’s the Labour party did develop the party’s programme “For Socialism and Peace” adopted in 1934, which committed the party to nationalisation of land, banking, coal, iron and steel, transport, power and water supply, as well as the setting up of a National Investment Board to plan industrial development.
Then we have the glorious 1945 election with a Labour landslide and 393 MP’s. The NHS, Social Security, Nationalisation, mass house building all began here. This was all done when the country was bankrupt. The Labour party, rightly hold this up as a defining moment in British working-class history. The fact that the Tories and the ruling class fully supported most of this is always missing from people’s memories. The capitalists are always happy for the state to intervene and take over when industry and finance are bankrupt. That was the case then and is the case now. Capitalism will always allow the bailing out and state control of failing industries and finance. They will then work to take back control once the crisis has passed and profits are on the horizon.
Where on the one hand they were creating all these great social changes, the Atlee Government in 48-49 also used the Emergency Powers Act 1920, twice to proclaim a state of emergency and used soldiers as strike-breakers by getting them to unload boats in London, Liverpool and Avonmouth. In 1948 the Labour chancellor introduced a wage freeze and told the TUC congress, “There is only a certain sized cake. If a lot of people want a larger slice they can only get it by taking it from others.”
They also initiated the embryo of NATO. A mutual defense agreement in early 1948 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom, that led to the creation of the Western European Union’s Defense Organization later in 1948. British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin, stated that the best way to prevent another Soviet expansion such as in Czechoslovakia was to create a joint Western military strategy. He got a receptive hearing in the United States. This was the precursor to NATO. The NATO that was created to prevent Soviet expansion, prevent nationalist militarism again in Europe and developing European political integration. (The embryo of the EU was created here)
Although there is much to commend the 1945 Government, there is also the inherent class contradictions that have always plagued Labour Governments. Where their desire to merely tame Capitalism results in a failure to fully progress the Socialist policies, they aspire to.
The 1950 General election saw labours majority reduced to just 5 MP’s, with 315 elected. Then in 1951 even though Labour actually had a greater share of the vote, they received less seats than the Tories. This resulted in Labour being out of power for 13 years and the “we’ve never had it so good” Tory period.
1964 saw Labour again in power under Harold Wilson. Who lowered the voting age to 18, The Equal Pay Act, introduced the Open University, Polytechnics and a move to Comprehensive education, improved Social Security, more house building, the National Insurance Act, Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act, Asbestos Regulations, Employer’s Liability (Defective Equipment), National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, Coal Industry Act, Race Relations Act, and many more changes to the benefit of working people.
To counter this, we have the increase in dental charges, ending free milk in secondary schools, prescription charges, increased national insurance contributions, reduction in tax allowances, changes to social security payments, terminating benefits for single men under the age of 45 and the start of attacks against workers’/Union rights.
1974 saw another Labour Minority Government. This was again at a time of recession and inflation was in double digits when they took power. By 1976, Britain faced a financial crisis. The Government was forced to apply to the IMF for a loan. The IMF insisted on deep cuts to the public expenditure, which greatly affected the social policy of the Labour Government.
Labour implemented wage curbs. Pay increases were held well under the rate of inflation, so living standards were falling. At first Labour had introduced a £6 limit on wage rises. The £6 was about 10% of average wages. Inflation at the time was 24%. A second stage of incomes policy in August 1976 brought in a 4.5 percent limit on wage rises, when inflation was approximately 16%. At the same time they were under pressure from corporate and financial power and were reducing business taxes.
During this time Labour did introduce some social reforms that benefited the working class; a 25% increase in the state pension. Council house rents were frozen. Council house building continued but with a greater emphasis on modernising older properties, national insurance benefits were increased by 13%, Housing Rents and Subsidies Act, the introduction of an Invalid Care Allowance, a Mobility Allowance, a Non-Contributory Invalidity Pension, SERPS was introduced, Statutory Maternity Leave, Health and Safety at Work act 1974, Sex Discrimination Act, supplementary Benefits Act and many other welcome changes.
Once again the contradictions of some social reform coupled with attacks on workers and pandering to corporate power to stay in power.
Labour had to form the Lib-Lab pact in March 1977 and this remained in place for 16 months. It managed to stay in power with unofficial deals with the Ulster Unionist Party and Scottish National Party.
By late 1978, economic growth had begun to re-establish and inflation was falling below 10%. Many thought that Callaghan, the new leader, should have called an election as Labour were riding high in the polls. He didn’t and was then forced to call an election in 1979 after what was called the “winter of discontent”. This discontent was due to the wage caps and issues stated above.
This Government was brought down by one vote in Parliament with the SNP voting with the Tories against the Labour Government. This of course ushered in the Thatcher years.
The 80’s was a defining decade for the Labour party. This was the Bennite and Foot era and saw the most Socialist Manifesto Labour had produced. This of course resulted in another split and saw some of the right wing leave and form the Social Democratic Party.
I give you this from the Progress web site How the Unions Saved Labour;
“Some brave MPs fought against this leftward march which they believed made the party un-electable. But others began to think the party could not be saved and, the day after the Wembley conference which gave the biggest share of the electoral college (40 per cent) to the unions, they signed the Limehouse declaration which would lead to the Social Democratic party and the defection of a dozen Labour MPs.
That was all in the public domain. What was not known was the reaction of a group of long-standing, moderate, brave and far-sighted trade union leaders who believed that the party could not fulfill its role of getting trade unionists into parliament if it became un-electable. They decided to use their block votes to change the composition of the hard-left NEC as a precondition for ‘saving’ the Labour party and making it an electoral force again.
No sooner had they begun to plan, however, then Tony Benn – taking advantage of the new electoral college which gave MPs 30 per cent instead of 100 per cent of the votes – decided to challenge Healey for the deputy leadership at the 1981 party conference.
The fledgling, secret, trade union gathering – named the St Ermin’s Group after the hotel where it met – knew that it had to defeat this challenge, or risk a greater defection of MPs to the SDP which was riding high in the polls.
Nifty, intelligent footwork not only saw Healey re-elected, albeit by a tiny margin, but also saw moderates gain five NEC seats, the unions controlling the women’s seats in addition to the union places. This was only the start. Each year, seat by seat, a moderate majority was created on the NEC so that after Kinnock’s election as leader in 1983 he had an executive committee which backed rather than opposed his changes and, in particular, stood solid behind him during his 1985 Bournemouth speech in which he attacked Militant.
Trade Union leaders and right-wing Labour MP’s and member’s colluded to end the leftward trajectory of the party. They succeeded and after the 1983 crushing defeat, Foot stood down and Kinnock became leader. The right wing was now in ascendancy. The red flag was ditched in favour of the red rose and a purge of the left that had begun at the start of the decade was accelerated. (There was much wrong with how Militant worked within the party and would need an entire blog to do justice to that one topic.)
Social Democracy and reformism was now so deeply entrenched, along with full support for European integration. This still did not bring electoral power as they lost the elections of 87 and 92. Between then and the Blair years Smith also carried on the struggle against the left within the party and reduced the unions influence even more.
The Blair years need no explanation. This was the final nail in the coffin of Socialism within the Labour party was hammered in and “Things Can Only Better”. The red flags were folded, clause iv was history and apparently there was much to admire from Thatcher.
At least that is what we all probably thought.
It is amazing how quickly things can and do change. What started in some Labour circles as a bit of a joke, by getting that left wing loony Corbyn to stand in the leadership election, ended up setting in motion a real mass movement both within the party and out on the streets. The result of their miscalculation was that a Socialist was elected by a landslide as leader.
Who then faced an onslaught of insults and backstabbing from his own MP’s and large swathes of the party machine. Where and unprecedented and vicious media campaign was waged against him, then won another leadership election on an even bigger vote. Who has inspired young people to enter politics for the first time, re-invigorated older people who have given up and has a movement in Momentum that is still actively campaigning on the streets even now.
A leader who is engaging with the Trade Unions in a positive way. Who is for putting democracy back into communities and the workplace where it belongs. A leader who you can believe is for the many, not the few. A breath of fresh political air, in fact.
But there are still inherent dangers within the Labour party. With the right-wing of Labour First and Progress. What a conundrum that is. Labour First and Progress have absolutely nothing to do with what the wider Labour movement wants or needs. They are in reality the very same as all the reformists, centrists and liberal infiltrators from the early days of Labour at the start of the 1900’s through the 1920’s, 30’s and beyond.
These people are prepared to destroy the Labour party in order for them to take control, to protect and preserve the ruling class.
This is the inherent and eternal struggle within any Parliamentary party that hopes to gain power for and on behalf of the working class. The “moderates” of Progress and Labour First are no more than infiltrators of the ruling class. They do not represent the wider labour and working class movement. They come directly from the ruling class to represent the needs wishes of the ruling class.
The Labour party and the wider working-class movement is at a cross road. Either Corbyn and his support win or they, the “moderates” will once again take control and destroy the Labour party once and for all.
Here is the point that Labour and all other Social Democratic parties fail to acknowledge. To be the true representative of the working class you can only serve that one class. But social Democracy only ever placates the working class whilst promoting and enhancing the ruling class first and foremost.
The Labour party was formed from a Socialist movement to be a Socialist party. But it became no more than a bourgeois Social Democratic entity. It must have Socialism as its aim or for ever be confined to the history books.
Now is the time for the Labour party to show its true colours. Now is the time for the Labour party to fully represent the class that it says it comes from and that it represents. The time has come to tackle global capitalism head on. Capitalism cannot be tinkered with or reformed for the benefit of the working class. Capitalism will always benefit capital and the ruling class. Until the workers become the ruling class then capitalism will always win and Social Democrats will only ever gain crumbs from the table of capital.
But it will take more than just winning in Parliament. To win that Parliament and to hold that power. To implement Socialist policies will take more than winning a majority in Westminster. It needs a mass movement within the Trade Unions, the workplace and the community to ensure that these policies are supported and to see they are implemented.
We have an opportunity to make real gains for the working class. But we need to get this Labour party into Government first. No policies can be implemented from the opposition benches.
But the Labour party needs to prove once and for all that it is the mass party of the working class and is capable of fully representing that class.
This blog might come across as a wee bit anti Labour, but it is not intended too. It is a critique of the past and warning for the future only.
The current Labour leadership team are our only hope at this moment time, but they will need more than just the Labour party to succeed.
They will need the full organisation and mobilisation of the Unions and people in workplaces and communities throughout Britain to take power and hold onto it.
This Labour party will be attacked by all the forces of capitalism, the state and the ruling class. It will need more than just a parliamentary majority to not only succeed, but to remain in power.
All Power to the Soviets 🙂