Thursday, May 22, 2014
The Labour Party, of which I have been a member for thirty five years, is a miserable shadow of what it once was and less than a shadow of what it might (and ought to) be.
In 1945, led by a leader who would never have risen in these times of shallow celebrity, Labour (pushed by a population determined not to go back to the 1930s) created a welfare state at a time when the economy was in every way in a far worse state than it ever has been since.
During the longest continuous period of Labour government we have ever had (and perhaps ever will have), Labour refused to legislate to remove from the trade unions (who created and have always sustained the Party) legal shackles more onerous than those imposed in any other advanced capitalist country.
Last year, under a (less worse) leader elected with union support, the Party began to move to fracture fundamentally the relationship between the Party and the unions. At the same time, whenever a handful of brave socialists dare to question the complicity of Labour local authorities with Tory austerity they are rewarded with disciplinary sanctions.
And yet today I voted Labour without question. So should all trade unionists who want to engage with the real (and horrendous) politics of our country in 2014.
We face a Government which (whilst it may all to often be “marching over bridges New Labour built”) has done social damage of which Thatcher and Major could only have dreamed.
As it has devastated the remnants of the post-war settlement, so the political support for social democracy which rested upon those remnants has withered. Today, in the European elections, the Coalition parties will gain fewer votes than a Poujadiste protest party which stands clearly to their right.
The Sainsbury-funded (and misnamed) “Progress” faction and the weird “Blue Labour” types will conclude that Labour should chase right-wing voters with coded racism and authoritarian social policies.
Against this defeatist nonsense we will try to rally the good people in the Party around the demand that Labour pose a radical alternative to austerity – as those candidates who advocated rail renationalisation did so well recently.
I hate that this is where politics is in my middle-age.
I hate that my children are growing up in a more reactionary country than the one I saw in my teenage years.
I hate that all we can do is to try to nudge leftwards a Parliamentary Labour Party so far removed from the people we ought to represent.
But, comrades, this is where we are.
Vote Labour. Join Labour. Fight for real Labour.