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.