Norman Harding: December 2006
A hundred years ago hundreds of thousands of workers joined and campaigned for the Labour Party. But when “their party” came to power it let them down. It let them down in 1926 when it betrayed the General Strike. When the workers came back from the war in 1945-6-7 the Labour Party once again let them down. This is a very important period to study to get an understanding of what the Labour Party represents.
In 1945 the workers in uniform came back to Britain and joined hands with the growing militancy of the working class. This unity brought about demands for change – ‘No return to the hungry thirties!’ The politicians recognised this development and decided that some concessions were necessary in order to put a brake on this growing demand for change.
The employing class needed changes to be made in order to develop their industries and the Labour Party needed to get the working class off their backs. This led to the nationalisation of the coal mines and the railways.
Both sides recognised the importance of making the coal mines and transportation more efficient and safety conscious. Private enterprise by its very nature could not do this. So it was agreed, behind closed doors of course, that public money had to be used and that using public money for private profit would not be tolerated.
Nationalisation had to be the answer. What has to be understood and explained is that the Labour Government was only able to nationalise the coal mines and the railways with the agreement of the ruling class and their representatives in parliament. The deal was done by promising huge compensation payments to the old owners which they continued to receive for decades.
The National Health Service was also introduced as a sop to the workers and not because the Labour Party had any desire to do this in the name of socialism. Once the pride of the working class the NHS is now being smashed before the altar of private profit by Blair and Brown’s ‘New’ Labour Government with its relationship between the capitalist state, and the Labour Government.
As the crisis of capitalism becomes deeper and hits the world’s governments, even the ‘crumbs from the rich man’s table’ aren’t there any more for the Labour Party to dispense to the workers. The Labour Party is still fully committed to defend and support world capitalism and its continual need for greater profits and world domination.
The Labour Government is doing nothing different from what a Tory government would do. For capitalism it is now necessary for them to claw back from the people all the reforms won in the past. So now it has to attack the working class, handing over to private enterprise our care, health, homes, and education along with all community institutions that are the requirements for everyday living. The defence of these community institutions and drawing them into a united whole is essential to the aim of building a genuine socialist welfare state.
Anyone in the Labour Party with an ounce of socialist principle in them, and there are many, has to fight Blair, Brown or whoever takes over in defence of the realm and world capital.
It is now a serious case of ‘stand up and be counted, speak up and fight for socialism’. I know that there are socialist rank-and-file members in the Labour Party who will join the fight back. This will mean openly taking on the Labour Government so that the public can see you and hear you. This applies also to those who are in some position of leadership in the Labour Party: councillors, MPs, local party officers etc.
This will of course bring down the wrath of all parties on those daring and principled enough to take them on. Expulsion can be the result but that will open the opportunity to take part in the struggle for socialism WITH the working class, free from the shackles of the anti-socialist Labour Party.
Those who are leaving the Conservative Party to join the Labour Party are doing so because they believe that their conservative principles are better represented by the Labour Party: on this point they are absolutely right. Such Tories are welcomed by New Labour and can be ‘parachuted’ into constituencies where a ready-made career may be waiting for them. If such a Blairite is nominated in any area and is opposed by the local members the constituency concerned can be closed down or threatened with closure, as when Liz Davies was witch-hunted in North-East Leeds. This resulted in closure and expulsions.
No longer in any sense socialist, the Labour Party has ceased to be a party of the working class. The role of the Labour Party now is to take over from the Conservative Party as the party of capital and private enterprise. And all that it does is done within this context.
I have been told there are genuine socialists in the Labour Party. Where was the opposition to Blair when on behalf of the Tories he quite happily pulled Clause 4 out of the constitution of the Labour Party.? It is worth reminding ourselves of what Clause 4 stated:
“To secure for all the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry of service.”
For those self-appointed ‘socialists’ in New Labour it is now well past the sell-by date. Let us have a demand to re-introduce Clause 4 around which the Labour Party was founded. And then when you are expelled do not cry into your beer, come out and work amongst the working class and work in the community’s defending the attacks that are being made on all fronts of our welfare.
And leave the rest to rot with their anti-socialist alliance in the house of money lenders, rogues and vagabonds that is owned by the banks, big business, stock exchange, and above all serves the needs of international finance, capitalism and the capitalists who have the built-in need for profit. Such hidden alliances can be associated with the problems that we are witnessing all over the world.
Postscript, June 2012
Since this short piece was written, apart from the global debt crisis that unfolded in 2007-8 and is in the process of ripping apart the capitalist European Union and its currency, politically nothing has changed in Britain. Instead of a New Labour Government there is a Coalition of Tories and Lib-Dems, and many people find it hard to tell the difference except in a few nuances of dialogue yelled across the Commons: certainly not in policies. The 1997-2010 New Labour Government set the agenda that the ‘Boys’ Campbell, Osborne and Clegg are now following through seamlessly. Defeat for New Labour in 2010 inevitably meant a change in its leadership, fought through between the Brothers Miliband and Ed Balls. New Labour’s Opposition Front Bench is now apparently led on the basis that ‘two Eds are better than one’, with not a shred of real socialist policy, despite Ed Miliband’s having been touted as ‘the choice of the Left and the Unions’.
For socialists still in the Labour Party it is clearly time for a shake-up, even if it leads to their being shaken out. Those who show real principle and commitment will find a warm welcome in the growing community organisations needed to defend the gains of the past and fight for those of the future.