There’s been some shock and outrage expressed in the last few days over Ed Milliband’s decision to U-turn on opposition to the Tory cuts. This really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Labour party have not been on the side of the working class for a long time before Blair or even the 1970′s and 80′s that are seen by some as a golden age of the party.
Of political parties claiming socialism to be their aim, the Labour Party has always been one of the most dogmatic – not about socialism, but about the parliamentary system.
Empirical and flexible about all else, its leaders have always made devotion to that system their fixed point of reference and the conditioning factor of their political behaviour. This is not simply to say that the Labour Party has never been a party of revolution: such parties have normally been quite willing to use the opportunities the parliamentary system offered as one means of furthering their aims. It is rather that the leaders of the Labour Party have always rejected any kind of political action (such as industrial action for political purposes) which fell, or which appeared to them to fall, outside the framework and conventions of the parliamentary system. The Labour Party has not only been a parliamentary party; it has been a party deeply imbued by parliamentarism. And in this respect, there is no distinction to be made between Labour’s political and its industrial leaders. Both have been equally determined that the Labour Party should not stray from the narrow path of parliamentary politics.
The Labour Party remains, in practice, what it has always been- a party of modest social reform in a capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted.
The above quote is from the introduction to Ralph Milliband’s Parliamentary Socialism: A Study of the Politics of Labour published in 1961. The reality is that the Labour party has been beyond the control of it’s rank and file members and unions since it first gained MP’s in the 1920′s. The latest move is no more of a surprise today than Neil Kinnock’s failure to support the miners in 1984 or to even attempt to effectively resist the de-industrualisation of Britian, the smashing of communities and the financialisation of the economy that was Thatcherism.
Ed Milliband and the Labour party are (re)abandoning the working class now at a time of open conflict. They’ve chosen the parliamentary system, the law of the rich and the bosses. It’s who they are, as Ed’s father said in 1961 – everything is flexible except for the goal parliamentary power.
This time though things are different, it’s not the 1980′s. In the 1980′s the Tories reinvented Britain, created the conditions by liberalising capital markets to allow capital to redeploy production to countries with cheap ununionised labour and attacked the working class organisations at home. They also sold a vision. A vision of home ownership for all, a stake in the corporations they sold off. It was pure deceit, there’s nothing empowering about a mortgage and being able to buy shares in a business you already owned as a citizen before it was sold off by the state is willingly participating in your own robbery. It worked though, 18 years of power and the completion of a project that lasted 10 more years under Labour. In 1998 John Major said of Blair’s government “they have good policies, they’re our policies”.
There’s no vision today though, it’s a straight up fight. They can’t sell council houses off cheap because they’ve already sold them. There’s no BT share issue for us to get excited over or British Gas shares to tell Sid about because they’ve already sold them. The vision of the Tories today is “The Big Society” which translates to “We’re not taking tax off the rich to pay for services so do it yourself”.
Unlike the 80′s the Labour party have got out of the way early doors. Less than 2 years in and they’re hand is nakedly declared. There’s no handwringing over whether a miners ballot was quite as it should be to excuse not providing unequivocal support for working class people fighting for their jobs. Ed Milliband isn’t even pretending to be on your side.
The unions are crying about this, as though this is some kind of revelation to them. It’s not. It might be the time they turn, when Unite along with Unison and the GMB etc. follows the RMT and disaffiliates from Labour That’s up to you though. If you’re a member, fight for it and for love of sanity make sure you opt out of your unions political fund and make it clear you’re doing so because of Labour Party affiliation.
The fight now is who pays for the disaster of the 1980′s de-industrialisation and the fiancialisation of the economy. Do we as the working class pay for it though redundancy and pay cuts? Do the disabled and vulnerable pay for it through service and benefit cuts? If you think that’s what should happen, you don’t need to do anything. Vote Labour in 2015.
It’s up to us, it’s never been more clear that all we have is each other. The Labour Party aren’t going to help us, forget them.