Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Cause of Labour is the Hope of the World

Whilst I have been busy doing other things, regular readers (Sid and Doris Blogger) may have been unsettled by news of my doings published elsewhere!

This is, I fear, what comes of believing anonymous comments. I learned online that I was supposedly considering my Labour Party membership (just ahead of the thirtieth anniversary of my first meeting of the Labour Party Young Socialists).

Labourism – the specific British expression of European social democracy – has always had significant limitations (follow that last link for a good analysis of some of them). The Labour Party has been hobbled by nationalism, deference and the self-denying ordinance of the trade union leaders who are permanently unwilling to mobilise the strength of millions of our members to pursue our interests through the Party-Union link.

These well-established limitations cannot logically provide a reason to leave the Labour Party now if they did not do so twenty (or thirty) years ago, since they were as pronounced then as they are now. There remains a case to be made for socialist engagement in the Labour Party.

There are some excellent progressive political activists who have left the Party, and Geoff Martin is a recent addition to the roll call of those expelled (I am thinking not only of recent victims but also of the many good comrades in Lambeth Labour Party who were witch hunted in the early 1990s).

I first decided to leave the Labour Party if it ever abandoned the policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. When that happened I realised that the point of the Labour Party is not what it says it believes in (since no Labour Government has ever followed through on much of this). The point of the Labour Party is what it has been (and to some extent still is) – the political wing of the Labour movement.

The combined effect of three factors may now have brought us close to a turning point. First, the global political implications of the defeat of the only available alternative to world capitalism has worked itself out now for about twenty years. Secondly, three terms of Labour Government in the UK have failed effectively to reverse the decline in the power of our movement achieved by the Thatcher and Major Governments. Thirdly, the immediate political crisis has put electoral reform on the agenda in a way in which it has never been before.

These developments may presage the end of the Labour Party as attempt to unite the left and centre-left around a political agenda rooted in the workers’ movement. It is a cliché to observe that the two great electoral triumphs of the Party (1945 and 1997) depended upon that unity.

I would regret the loss of the possibility of repeating this unity within the institutional form of one political party. If however this is to be lost, then (whilst I can see why those outside the Party are exploring their options) I cannot see why the majority of Party members who vote for socialism should abandon the Party to the majority of Cabinet members (who would not know what socialism was if it bit them).

I don’t want to leave the Labour Party. I want to see the expulsion of hypocrites who persecute the poor whilst stuffing their pockets (not to mention war criminals).

I do want to support good socialist Members of Parliament.


Peacenik said...

I'm not sure why you think your membership of the 'Labour' Party is a matter of public interest? Unless of course, like me, readers are curious about the elasticity of your political principles? You mention that you shrugged off the 'Labour' Party's abandonment of unilateralism. But if this Government actually launched nuclear weapoms would that trouble your conscience and make you think twice about propping up the organisation that puts such war criminals into power? I ask because since 1997 we have witnessed the active gung ho participation of a Labour Government in illegal NATO led wars in former Yugoslavia and Iraq with hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. Just where do socialists like yourself, who subordinate their principles to share party membership with such warmongering forces of reaction, draw the line?

www.lawatwork.blogspot.com said...

Good to hear that you are not leaving the Labour party Jon. You need to explain the law of metaphysics in an easy to understand way though otherwise Doris and Tracey (or whoever you think reads your blog) may get bored and not make it after the first paragraph? I always find that reading your NEC reports makes me sleep though so maybe am wrong.. only joking. Have a good break!

Nick Venedi

Peacenik said...

Ha, pragmatism. Part of the DNA of reformists and social democrats the world over. However, my question had nothing to do with moral judgements. The question related to political principles and ideology. Why choose to be part of a political organisation led by reactionaries with whom you have next to nothing in common and with no prospect of transforming it into an organisation which stands for radical political change? Is there a breaking point, a sine qua non? (OMOV; scrapping of clause 4; Iraq invasion; erosion of internal party democracy etc.)

Anonymous said...

James is of course correct.

Jon Rogers said...

Anon, I have no idea who Peacenik (apart from obviously being very principled!)

Peacenik, the only important question (always) is "what is to be done" and that is a question that can only be answered in practice.

It would be great fun to be in an organisation consisting exclusively of like minded socialists but it might not achieve much. (If I wanted to be in the sort of organisation that can hold meetings in telephone boxes there are plenty of options on the left of course...)

Anonymous said...

Peacenik aka JC is right you should know that as he is in your branch.

Anonymous said...

Yes Jon you got it right for once. I hear that permanent revulsion booked their agm in a caravan but asked for a refund coz they only used half of the available space. Is that true?

Anonymous said...

Check out the June issue of Briefing to read Alice Mahon's answer to the 'breaking point' question.