What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “socialism”

ED,WHAT ARE YOU THINKING????

Much toss is being written and spoken about Maurice Glassman’s  “Blue Labour” witterings, and he seems to have Ed’s ear at the moment…

Clem is all for a bit of Labour nostalgia – how could I not be? Just look at the site name. But Glassman has made some pretty fundamental errors in his analisys of pre-1945 Labour, and has also made a very stupid error in political judgement…

Last year, it was all about the “Red Tory”- Philip Blond’s supposed re-jigging of One-Nation Toryism. I see very little of this in evidence as The Coalition rips the heart from the NHS, attacks minorities and pursues its Monetarist economic agenda with uncommon zeal.

Glassmans response – under the title “Blue Labour” looks for all the world like nothing so much as a pale imitation of failed Policy-Wonkage on the right – never a good move. In fact, it looks suspiciously similar to “The Project” launched in the early nineties by Mandleson, Blair and Brown, now thankfully over, or so we thought…

In truth, the “statism” that Glassman attributes to the 1945 Labour Government was far more complex and subtle than he portrays. And the “golden age” he finds before this date includes most of the major figures of Labours greatest Government. To whit:

” Given the choice between Liberty and Equality, I would choose Liberty every time.” – Ernest Bevin, a major figure in the TUC who pressed for support of the Spanish Republican Government, whilst fighting against stalinist influence withing the TGWU and wider Labour Movement.

Herbert Morrison – as Labour Leader of the London County Council, oversaw the great slum clearances of the 1930s improving Londoners lives for the better, working with Local Authorities, and often in the teeth of Central Government opposition. As a Labour minister, worked with Nye Bevan to create the NHS, which was initially modeled on  locally accountable provision for local needs – Bevan’s ideas for its growth envisaged the Health Centre at the heart of the community, and Community Health Councils – an extension of Municipal Socialism.

Major Attlees own brand of Socialism, rooted in his experiences in the East End and influenced by the Guild school of thought was also deeply patriotic – this man took  Turkish Bullet for goodness sake!  And was one of the two last men off the beach at Suvla Bay.The mainstream of Labour opinion has never, unlike the far Left, been unpatriotic – without Attlee in 1940, Churchill may never have become Leader. Without Bevin, there may very well have been no Attlee. Attlees own conservatism on constitutional issues may be decried now, but you cannot deny his love of Crown and Country, as unaffected and honest as Churchills.

To the end of his days, even an “inveterate peace monger” such as Micheal Foot remained intensely patriotic, and in 1982 his speech calling for war with fascist Argentina was declared the best in the debate – unsurprising from the author of “The Guilty Men” really…

In reality, the 1945 Government had to use the means at its disposal in very tough times to rebuild Britain. The war left us broke and devastated. The economy was already pretty much centrally controlled, and had been for six years, out of necessity. In most legislation in the social sphere, although centrally planned, services were planned to be locally administered and accountable. And it is difficult to question the patriotism of a Government that stood up to Stalin, developed a nuclear deterrent, helped form NATO, fought communism in Greece and Korea, whilst overseeing a massive retreat from Empire, with little help, if any, from our allies, the USA. 

Oh, and there was a Royal Wedding too…

So lets have no more jabber about “Blue Labour”, instead let us revive something that “informed opinion” has long derided – Red Patriotism.

 

Left Foot Forward, Or A Right Load Of Old Cobblers?

A post left on Will Straws’ site Left Foot Forward has opened a debate on where we are going in the Labour Party, and predictably it focuses attention on not moving too far left.

Forgive this post, it will be erratic, as its now six in the morning, and I am just going to read up a little and get some shut-eye….(06.00hrs). Ah, that’s better…

The article – “Labour Must Speak Not Only For Organised Labour” by Rob Marchant, starts off in a reasonable tone, yet ends up, like the deply popular and loved Tessa Jowell, pressing in effect for a shift to the right.

Rob starts off identifying Labours two historic constituencies, Public and Private sector Organised Labour, and asks whether we are ignoring the growing numbers of Private sector workers with no Trades Union. As one of these, I suppose I should respond.

Mr Marchant writes of the “genius” of New Labour (a good indication of where he is going) in reaching out to these workers. In this, like some others, he has rewritten history to suit his ends. Under Clement Attlee in 1945, Wilson in 1966 and Blair in 1997, Labour won by connecting with significant numbers outside of our heartlands, this is nothing new. a brief look at the period between 1992 and 1997 shows that we would have won in’97 with the late John Smith – our most mourned leader never to be PM. It hardly took genius to beat John Major in 1997,but it takes chutzpah to forget that. It is also a feat of selective memory not to recall both the loss of two million votes between 2001 and 2005, and the utter unpopularity of Tony Blair by the time of his exit.

Mr Marchant also seemingly discounts the “grey vote”, which is odd, since it is proven that there is a direct correlation between voting and age…

In response, Darrell Goodliffe at Left Futures is no less strident – indeed his article is the very model of  polemical passion. For Darrell, the centre ground of politics is a fantasy comparable to The Tooth Fairy. My nephew will be disturbed to find out that The Tooth Fairy is a fantasy, but no matter. As far as Mr Goodliffe is concerned, it only exists in the mind of idealogues who wish to push Labour ever rightwards.

He makes the point ignored by Rob that real wages are falling across the board, and that this is comparable to the 1920s, to quote the Mervyn King. This is important – very few non-unionised private sector workers probably have any sympathy with the huge bonuses in the City, nor do they see any benefit for them in their bosses continued pay rises. At the same time, they see cuts in services that they use and need.

At this point, Mr Goodliffe becomes almost a parody of the kind of writing that can be found in any copy of Socialist Worker, or worse, an old copy of Militant, circa 1988.  Darrell wants to see “a trenchant critique of a capitalist system which has failed not just the poorest … but also failed the hopes & dreams of anybody who is not a member of the super-rich elite.”

Fine stuff, although unlikely to encourage anyone not already versed in left wing politics to join in is it?

In response to both these articles I say the following – yes, the centre ground is vitally important in politics, and the point of political parties is to shift it.

The Economic Crash has shaken the certainties of the post-1974 monetarist consensus. this takes time to feed into the political system, but the signs are there. Non-Unionised private sector workers, such as myself, are scared, and have seen wage cut and redundancies. we see a Government of Millionaires warning us not to “price ourselves out of a job”, whilst watching our bosses and bankers trouser huge bonuses. We want fair taxation, and that means more bands at the higher levels of pay. We want an end to tax avoidance, and to the corruption in the higher levels of the state. we would like meaningful rights to join a Union, where we could be ensured that we won’t be blacklisted, particularly in hospitality. We like the minimum wage, and we love the NHS.

We are the people that both Marchant and Goodliffe should be campaigning and organising to get to the March 26th TUC Demo.

Mr

Noes To The Left…

Two recent articles on the Referendum on Electoral Reform (no, please wait, its not that dull…) by decent leftwingers against change have got me thinking. Nick Cohen in The Spectator today, and Darrell Goodliffe at Left Futures (links on your right) both have it in for AV and Nick Clegg. As a Democrat and a Socialist, I have to disagree with my no-doubt honourable opponents here, and this is why…

Nicks article is mainly a sustained diatribe against celebrity endorsements of the Yes campaign, and, to a certain extent I have to agree – certainly I do not believe that any campaign or issue is “good” on the say-so of an actor, singer, poet or model. Often I find myself taking a reverse opinion, wondering where on earth you could find Fois Gras in Asda, or eat swans stuffed with owls whilst wearing only cruelty guaranteed fur and blood diamonds. But this is simply the reaction of someone who doesn’t like to be hectored at by those richer, safer and more powerful than himself. In the case of Electoral Reform, surely anyone who has the vote in the UK is entitled to their opinion? The charge Nick makes is that we in the yes campaign are hiding Nick Clegg behind the skirts of Helena Bonham Carter.

Now for those of a Liberal Democrat persuasion, there may be some truth in this, but the fact remains that the Yes campaign is much broader based than that. I really have little sympathy for Little Nicky and his Orange Book groupies, but the case for reform of our voting system is much more important than any one party. Mr Cohen and Mr Goodliffe decry the only option on the table for change – that of the Alternative Vote (AV). I understand the misgivings, and the arguments against it, but is it not better to get some change, rather than none? The Royal Commission under Lord Jenkins proposed a system incorporating AV plus an element of proportionality – AV plus, which could be introduced early on if Labour commits to it fully, and we win in 2015. And heres the rub, whatever the Lords have managed to squeeze out of the Coalition in concessions, we still lose 50 MPs and constituencies before 2015. The majority of these will be Labour, in a staggering move more suited to Al Capone than a democratic government. Without a change in the voting system, Labour face the prospect of being gerrymandered out of office for at least a decade. What on earth will be left to save in 2025? Will we have to start all over again? Can we?

For Labour, there is also a tactical consideration here. We oppose the Coalition on pretty much everything they are doing, and that means laying into the Lib Dems. This is no bad thing at all, but we may very well have to form some kind of alliance with them at some stage to win back power. To do this, we must prove ourselves to be willing to make changes, and to live up to the “Democratic” part of Democratic Socialism. We may also see a growing number of Lib dem activists from the Social Democratic wing come over to our side… Yet No campaigners within Labour, honest though they may be, are proving themselves just as tribal as Clegg, and as wedded to the old Tory “No reform” policy as Ham-Face Cameron… Think again Please…

Egypt – A Festival Of The Oppressed

The events unfolding across the whole of the Middle East should give heart to anyone who believes in Democracy and Liberty across the world.

In Cairo, in Lebanon, in in Tunisia,In Jordan, in Yemen, in Iran, the pressure has been building over the past few years, and has erupted into the streets, with demands from ordinary people for reforms and the downfall of the ruling cliques of kleptocrats and dictators.

Who on earth will shed a tear for Hosni Mubarrak? Other than the State Department, I cannot find anyone comes to mind…

Yet his party, the National Democratic Party, remains a member of The Socialist international – why??? In the name of all we hold dear, this bunch of crooks are in no way Democratic, neither are they Socialist. Expulsion is the only correct policy in this case.

They are however nominally secular, although the state they own still persecutes religious and atheist minorities with enthusiasm.

There are worries that their downfall will see the implementation of an Islamic State – one which would take a much harsher line on Israel, and lead to Islamic reaction gaining another base, along with Iran. This is a definite possibility, as the persecution of The Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk has given them much support amongst the poor. The Brotherhood have so far been pretty absent from the streets, as have the fractured opposition parties. This looks like a genuine people power movement.

However, given the fact that the people facing rubber bullets and tear gas in Cairo today want Mubbarak out, and price reform, along with freedom of expression and democratic reforms, I doubt that the radical Islamists can hold this movement in their hands.

This uprising is inspired by events in Tunisia, in Jordan, in Lebanon, and also by events a few years back in Iran. No leader in the Middle East is safe, the decades of tyranny that followed colonial rule may very well be coming to an end – if this is so, then it is our duty to support the people against the state, against dictators, against torture and oppression.

Once again, I state that this fight is our fight. We must stand on the side of the people facing corrupt police brutality.

Solidarity is a concept that is at the very heart of our movement, our history, our ideas. Now is the time to show it.

Contact The Foreign and Commonwealth Office at http://fco.gov.uk/      fill out the feedback form in the contact pages, showing your support for those fighting for their rights across the Arab World


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