This is a very good piece by Holly Rigby on Novara Media.
I have to admit I am one of those on the left of the LP who is in despair. The right of the party have given the lie to the ‘broad church’ conception of the LP by insisting that democratic socialists have no place in the party and launching numerous profoundly cynical and dishonest campaigns against them.
This by the way is in a party that states unequivocally in Clause 4 of the current rule book that “The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party.”
I’ve posted elsewhere that the vitriol with which the right has fought for the centrist, liberal, values of New Labour has once more exposed the contradiction which has been at the at the heart of the LP since it was founded, i.e. that the left and right of the party are NOT on the same political side.
Democratic socialists don’t simply want to oppose the Tories; we want to fundamentally challenge the logic of free-market capitalism and corporate globalisation, both of which are profoundly undemocratic because they seek to replace political democracy with the ‘democracy’ of the market place.
New Labour accepted, if not embraced, the logic of Thatcherism and corporate globalisation and merely sought to ameliorate the worst effects of capitalism by providing minimum welfare to the most disadvantaged.
Since WW2 this centrist, liberal, political ground has been held by the LibDems. But New Labour purposefully sought to occupy this territory and to do so moved so far to the right that by the 2010 election the manifesto of the LibDems was further to the left than the LP. So much so that Billy Bragg, of all people, urged people to vote for the LibDems as the only genuine left opposition to the Tories!**
I am a democratic socialist and Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson are NOT my political allies, they are my political enemies. New Labour was NOT a democratic socialist party. Indeed, Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson constantly told everyone it wasn’t! They embraced ‘business’ and international ruling elite institutions such as Davos and Bilderberg, and purposefully ended any pretence that New Labour represented the interests of the working class or challenged capitalism in any meaningful way.
A ‘broad church’ that attempts to reconcile the ideology of centrist, liberals like Blair with the aspirations of democratic socialism is simply not sustainable and the history of the LP shows us that it perhaps never has been.
Increasingly my own view is that UK politics needs a massive realignment and a permanent end to the two/three party system. I argue that to properly represent the UK electorate we need at least 4 national parties fighting general elections:
Nationalist Conservative Party – These would be ‘proper’ conservatives i.e. resisting change. Founded in a respect for social position and inherited privilege. Confirmed monarchists, patriots and unionists who are opposed to the EU and to disruptions to existing (white British) community and tradition – even when those disruptions are due to free markets. Opposed in principle to multi-culturalism and the resulting ethnic pluralism and instead committed to the cultural integration of immigrants into white British culture.
Capitalist Tory Party – The Tory party of David Cameron. Belief in meritocracy. Pro-EU, socially liberal and committed to ‘progress’ through neoliberal free-market ideology. Committed to reducing the size of the state and privatising what remains of the post WW2 welfare state. Committed to reducing the role and scope of the welfare state to the bare minimum. Committed to disrupting the power bases of traditional expert professional elites such as civil servants, lawyers, academics, teachers, doctors etc and replacing these with the ‘power’ of markets.
Centrist Liberal Party – New Labour merged with LibDems. Belief in meritocracy. Pro-EU. Fiscally conservative and pro-capitalist but socially liberal. No real ideological difference between these and a Capitalist Conservative Party but a genuine difference in emphasis and priorities including a commitment to the maintenance of a sustainably funded welfare system and a faith in expert professional elites such as civil servants, lawyers, academics, teachers, doctors etc.
Democratic Socialist Party – Old Labour. Belief in equal rights. Committed to a neo-Keynsian challenge to free-market capitalism. Committed to significant wealth redistribution through a welfare state funded generously through general taxation. Committed to the democratic state as a counter-balance to the power of global corporations. Committed to the public ownership of essential services including (but not limited to) power, water and rail. Committed to international solidarity – rather than to formal institutions of global capitalism.
Such a realignment would result in far more hung parliaments and coalitions but paradoxically it could reduce the toxic atmosphere of much contemporary political debate.
Much of the toxicity of contemporary debate arises from the internal struggles within the monoliths of the Conservative and Labour Parties to reconcile irreconcilable ideological differences. To acknowledge these differences and to form parties that more accurately reflect the underlying ideological distinctions could allow political parties to function with less internal acrimony and allow them all to be much more open and honest with the electorate and thus reduce the self-defeating internal political compromises that, for example, led David Cameron to call the Brexit referendum in the first place.
Is it possible that Brexit could result in a political trauma of significant magnitude to bring about such a realignment? I really do hope so but to be honest history suggests maybe not.
In terms of the Labour Party twice in our history we have split along this ideological rift between liberals and socialists. In the 1930’s Ramsey Macdonald split with the party to lead an effectively Tory government. In the 1980’s the Gang Of Four tried and ultimately failed, to form a new centrist liberal party, the SDP. The Conservatives on the other hand haven’t split since the mid 19th century but since 1979 have been trying to reconcile the inevitable social and cultural disruptions caused by free markets (including free movements of labour) with the rural and suburban social conservatism of many of their voters.
Some commentators fear a realignment of UK politics but I personally would welcome it.
[** But of course when push-comes-to-shove middle-class, centrist, liberals will always support the interests of capital over the interests of people and an instant after the election the LibDems sold their manifesto down the river in exchange for the illusion of power in the ConDem coalition.]