English patriotism and the left – a political conundrum

This is a tough one and potentially controversial and I’m still trying to work out if I really think what I really really think I think about this.

A very noticeable shift in rhetoric of Starmer’s LP is towards an attempt to co-opt English ‘patriotism’ to the Labour cause. The way it is being done is pathetically and transparently politically empty and will convince no one, but, though it pains me to say it, I have to say that I think any LP, under any leader, that wishes to regain the ‘Labour Wall’ is going to have address the issue of how the left engages with patriotism and nationalism.

Many of the old school, old Labour, working class activists I met in the 80’s had served in WW2 are were very patriotic. Indeed, ‘patriotism’ is a very important working class value. Proportionally many more working class young people join the military than average and being English or Scottish, Welsh or Irish is a source of pride for many millions. Yet we on the left seem to despise our own birthright… especially if we are English. This arises of course from the left wing values of peace and anti-imperialism. Yet this pacifist, anti-imperialism is often read by working class people as a sort of hypocritical self-hatred and dismissing ‘patriotism’ as a sign of ignorance and stupidity has been a big mistake of  left rhetoric since the mid 60’s. Continue reading

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The new Reclaim Party and the ‘culture wars’ – the incoherence of our two party system and the failure of liberalism

The execrable Toby Young is giving Laurence Fox his full support for the toff-actor’s new political party Reclaim. With Andrew Neil setting up the UK’s own Fox News called GB News, the UK is lurching further and further to the right. For a country that has led the way with neoliberal capitalism since 1979, voted for Brexit, elected Boris Johnson just a few months ago and in which ‘the left’ has had no real political power or even influence since the mid 80’s, moving further to the right might seem impossible!

Yet the emergence of Reclaim, or at least the possibility of a Reclaim type party, is encouraging if you think, like I do, that a realignment of the British party system is urgently needed. Continue reading

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An alternative to the Labour Party?

I’m afraid the last five years have confirmed my previously held suspicion that in terms of challenging neoliberalism, the Labour Party is part of the problem rather than the solution.

I am now convinced that for the left social democratic and socialist left to stay in the LP is to waste our political energies on fighting a perpetual and never-ending, internal civil war.


UPDATE: 3rd October 2020

The execrable Toby Young made some interesting points relevant to this article and my previous article Left, Right and Centre? Who the f**k is who? in his Spectator piece on Laurence Fox’s new political party Reclaim.

In the opinion piece Young states that “Reclaim doesn’t have to win anywhere in order to make a difference. Ukip only managed to win a single parliamentary seat, yet it achieved its main political objective. All Laurence needs to do is persuade the Conservative party that if it doesn’t become more robust on culture war issues it will lose votes to him in Red Wall seats. Not enough for Reclaim to win, but enough for Labour to come up through the middle.”

This is exactly my argument in this piece about a new democratic socialist party – it doesn’t have to win overall majorities and govern, it only needs to take enough votes from Labour to push the LP to the left. New Labour orthodoxy claims that the LP can only ever win a GE by appealing to Tory voters, it assumes leftist voters will always vote Labour because there is no alternative. This was never true and in fact led to millions not voting at all because none of the three mainstream parties reflected their views. But a new left social democratic party, a UKIP of the left, could change that dynamic and mean that in order to win elections the LP would need to appeal to leftist voters.


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Left, Right and Centre? Who the f**k is who?

Saw this on Facebook today and read the comments underneath and it made me realise that in the UK we cannot even agree about definitions anymore, let alone strategy, tactics, policy or even our common aims and objectives!

The argument in the comments was about whether the description on the left is of Democratic Socialism or of Social Democracy. This might seem an arcane argument to some but it actually indicates an argument of some substance that is at the core of much of the political confusion of the last 5-10 years.

For the last 100 years to be ‘left wing’ was to be anti- capitalist, or at the very least critical of capitalism. ‘Left-wingers’ are anti-capitalist because they believe that all humanity is part of one family and that we are all born equal with a mutual responsibility to each other and that capitalism inevitably creates a privileged elite who become unjustly wealthy by exploiting the labour of others. Whether you are a Communist, Socialist, Anarchist, Social Democrat, Democratic Socialist, Revolutionary Socialist or  Libertarian Socialist, the one thing you have in common is that you are anti-capitalist… or at the very least critical of capitalism.

Liberalism on the other hand, is the belief that capitalist markets are the only route to ‘freedom’ and prosperity for all; that unregulated markets provide a genuine equality of opportunity that interfering, inefficient, governments never can. Liberals often share with the left a believe in our common humanity and a desire for equality of opportunity but they believe that capitalism and free markets are the route to achieving those ends.

For many liberals equality before the law IS equality and as a result we often end up in the liberal world of Identity Politics, which is the idea that progress will be achieved by each identity group fighting for its own liberation… within the current capitalist system.

This is a profoundly liberal rather than a ‘leftist’ project yet with the profound shift to the right of UK and US politics in the 90’s, liberal identity politics is what many now regard as ‘being left wing’, although in and of itself it really isn’t because although the freedom for women, homosexuals and people of colour to be equally exploited by capitalists is progress of a kind, it is not what socialists are fighting for.

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What is to be gained by democratic socialists staying in the LP?

In the light of the end of the Corbyn era in the Labour Party, some on the left say that left social democrats and democratic socialists (as opposed to the revolutionary socialists) MUST stay in the LP and continue to fight for our values. I think this is profoundly wrong.

I am not optimistic myself that there is currently any viable alternative to the LP or indeed, a clear route to how such an alternative would arise, but I am also certain that to condemn ourselves to fighting perpetual ideological civil wars within the LP is a sure way to ensure that an alternative never arises! Continue reading

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The myth of the Labour right’s concern with ‘electability’

The LP leaked report shows conclusively that in 2017 it was the Labour right who purposefully enabled the Tories.

Despite the constant attempts by the PLP and the party machine in collaboration with the likes of the Daily Mail, to dislodge Corbyn and smearing the party as being institutionally antisemitic to do so, he very nearly got an overall majority!

Is it possible that with the full support, or even frankly simply the silence, of the PLP and Party bureaucracy he might have got that overall majority!? Continue reading

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