No one, at least no one with even a semi-functioning intelligence, is under any illusions that the Labour party offers any substantive alternative to the Coalition’s unconditional class war; we know all too well exactly what kind of unprincipled, unscrupulous spivs dominate the party. Underneath them, though, are the hand-wringers, hypocrites and bleaters. You know the sort; they’ll tell you they’re as left as you are, that they’re socialist as well, comrade. Oh, they’re disgusted with Blue Labour. Of course they are. And they oppose the machine hacks with their hands on the party’s levers. Of course they do; sincere, committed and principled worthies, one and all. They can’t actually do too much, though, to rock the boat because, horror of horrors, why, that might let the Tories back in!
To even a quarter-wit, it’s plain that, for the first time in history, it genuinely, really, literally doesn’t matter whether the Tories get in or not. When both Blue Labour and the Tories are committed to the same polices, and more importantly, utterly wedded to neoliberalism as the only game in town, it doesn’t matter what name each party has, it’s a purely cosmetic matter. Where it counts, in terms of what these people do, well, that’s where it does matter. After all, if the Tories suddenly committed to overthrowing capitalism and ushering in a new dawn based upon a genuinely democratically planned economy, I’d vote for them. So would you if you’re any kind of a socialist. After all, what’s in a name, eh?
Equally, when a Labour Party wages imperialist war at America’s behest, introduces PFI, welfare ‘reforms’ that would have Thatch weeping with jealousy, deregulates the City, attacks strikers and, the latest shameful stunt, sits on their hands while the Tories introduce retrospective legislation to hammer the poor still further, well the reverse applies; I wouldn’t vote for such a party nor be a member of it. Why would you, if you have any sort of vaguely left pretensions?
Well Owen Jones has an argument as to why you should. You can read it here. If you can’t be bothered I’ll summarise for you. Owen, who I genuinely like, by the way, expounds his thesis with his usual passion and erudition but, ultimately, it boils down to this:-
1. Labour are marginally less worse than the Tories.
2. The extra-Labour left are a squabbling rag-tag of ultra-left sects dominated by warring sectarian nutters who couldn’t organise a revolution if the ruling class left the keys to Buckingham Palace at the reception of Transport House before they all fled the country.
3. Every attempt at building an alternative to Labour has failed therefore any future attempts will always fail.
4. Given that Labour already exists, then it’s easier and better trying to change that from within than starting from scratch outside.
5. It is organically linked to the working class via the trades unions.
1. Is simply untrue.
2. Is spot-on.
3. Is nonsense and ridiculous logic.
4. This has actually been an even bigger failure than the far left’s attempts to build an alternative! While every initiative has ultimately crashed and burned, there have been brief moments of great success and real, concrete achievements. You laugh? OK, the Anti-Poll Tax Federation that lead to the Scottish Socialist Party forming and having six MSPs. While Labour councils were jailing the poor for not paying Thatcher’s hated tax, Militant, along with others outside Labour, built the backbone of a working class movement that smashed it to pieces.
Labour, on the other hand, saw a million marching against Iraq and their ineffectual left still couldn’t pull their party leftwards with all that anger and popular support behind them (ironically, as I pointed out to Owen, all his own achievements in raising the standard of pro-working class politics have been achieved outside the Labour party. His membership has played no part whatsoever in his rehabilitation of socialist ideas).
5. Is it, though? Is it really? In any meaningful sense anymore? I’d argue not. Trade union membership at an all-time low and a tiny island of clued-in, switched-on activists in an ocean of ripped-off, stitched-up, under-paid, disenfranchised, cynical, alienated, atomised workers most of whom don’t know and couldn’t care less that the sumptuously salaried bureaucrats who sell them out on a daily basis shovel tons of cash into the Labour Party’s coffers. That’s your ‘organic link.’ A link that is at breaking point, anyway, and lets be honest; the majority of trade union leaders are hand-in-glove with the Labour party leadership anyway. After all, they have their privileged life-styles to maintain.
Added to all that, though, is the matter of individual principle and personal responsibility. I stand by the premise that while ever you are a member of the Labour party, while ever you pay dues then you have no right to bleat to the rest of us about the actions of your party. They are your actions, too. You are part of the problem, not part of the solution. No organisation can exist without the support, even passive, of its members and every so-called socialist that stays inside the party, whether they like it or not, must bear some responsibility for what their party does to the rest of us. Let us be clear; the choice between Labour and the Tories is the choice between a bullet between the eyes or slow death by suffocation while the murderer weeps over the pillow he’s holding down on your face, all the while weeping that he’s sorry but, just like Thatcher, there is no alternative.
The absence of a viable alternative outside of Labour is no excuse for aiding and abetting the Tories which, as we all know, is what Labour does and, by logical extension, is what you do, too. We used to call this class treachery but it seems the rules are different if Labour’s doing the betraying.
If you stood by your much-vaunted socialist principles, you’d join us and help build that alternative. Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Independent Socialist Network, Peoples’ Assemblies, Scottish Socialist Party and any number of other grassroots initiatives. Flawed, yes. Imperfect and undoubtedly weak but not all, in any way, dominated by cranky warring Trots but filled with people who are sick to the back teeth of being trodden on. The people your party claims to represent but, instead, actively betrays.
Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution. Join us. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick but we have to start somewhere. Join us and be able to look your kids in the eye when they ask, “What did you do in the class war, mum and dad?”
“I’d rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don’t want, and get it”
– Eugene Debs