Flogging the stain in the road

Not been a horse for a very long time

Flogging the stain in the road

The Laziness of the Status Quo

The politics of blame while sitting on your hands

Before the Corbyn surge I said that supporting and working within the Labour party was like the proverb flogging a dead horse, except the poor thing was removed and the street cleaned so long ago that you weren't even flogging a stain in the street any more, there was nothing there, you were flogging a paving stone in the street no other purpose than maybe getting some exercise. Personally I've never been able to bring myself to join the party that gave us the atom bomb, sold arms to Pinochet after he established his brutal regime in Chile, trailed around the world giving credence to whatever war mongering lunacy the USA was involved in, used sanctions to contribute to the death of half a million children - the list is endless. The party has always been party of the imperial core and funded and fought its wars with gusto. Blair's support for the Iraq war was not an aberration, it was very much what the party has always been.

In short, Labour may have done great things domestically, but it has always quietly pursued and backed imperialist rapine and mayhem abroad. It sent the troops in to Northern Ireland, Britain's first and last salt water colony, initially to defend Nationalist communities from the Loyalist paramilitary police force, but it soon degenerated into a military occupation. While patting the head of their home working class the other hand is covered in the blood from the racist imperialist project othering poor and usually brown people far away and turning them into money. This is Labour's dirty secret, and it never gets discussed. It's also why the recent revelations of outright racism in the senior ranks of the party aren't even a little surprising.

Constitutionally, in the unwritten mess that the UK has that passes for a constitution, Parliament was always meant to only really deal with domestic issues, while the executive controlled by the Prime Minister dealt with foreign policy. We had the great changes at the end of the Second World War that resulted in the founding of the NHS, the broadening of education provision, and the building of some houses to replace the slums that had been bombed, but at the same time Labour ministers carried on doing brutal things to brown people far away that never really gets discussed. The modern Tories, of course, have now brought that suffering home too after running out of brown people easily robbed and murdered, and that has fuelled a lot of populist racist nationalism that the current Labour leadership are quick to ape.

I went to the Labour for Labour meeting at the World Transformed conference, there were about 500 people in the room, the speakers were great, inspiring even. This did not remove a scintilla of doubt from my mind. That number of people in a meeting in Liverpool looked great but actually only 500 people representing a nationwide need for a socialist platform is nothing. In the Labour Party itself, the socialist campaign group only has about 15% of actual Labour MPs in it. I admire these people for standing up for the working class, but the thesis discussed later of left as a lightning rod is well proven here. Tony Benn called it a party with socialists in it and the ongoing fantasy that they will be allowed or expected to do anything but follow on behind the lying leadership is at best panglossian, at worst a sad betrayal.

Broad Church fantasies

It has been said the Labour Party is a broad church, in that many different views are tolerated but in the end they all pull together to make the world a better place once the party is in power. The establishment types claim their pragmatic approach getting power at any cost means that things everybody wants will get done.

If this approach worked, and you have no principles, what is the point? What would you be fighting for?

What we have seen historically is that it's only a broad church if the establishment faction of the party are in control. If the people who want change are in control it has been demonstrated incontrovertibly that they will be lied about, expelled on bogus pretexts, and have their views suppressed. The party has always been like this, this is nothing new, it's just far more blatant than it used to be.

Left as a lightning rod

The Labour left were allowed to exist historically because they were something people who wanted change could rally around. The intention was always to keep these aspirations under control and stop things tipping over to creating institutions and methods that broke with the establishment way of doing things.

For example, we have the fantastic achievements of the post-war Labour government that everyone tries to own as theirs. However, the officer class who were in charge of the party at the time may have created these amazing and much needed institutions but they did not do so in a way that meant they were controlled democratically. It's true that before the recent Tory reforms of the NHS there were local councillors in institutions that were part of the oversight of the NHS but the core way of working was hierarchical and centrally controlled.

Again, the national economy was in a mess and infrastructure like railways and steel weren't working together well so they were nationalised. It could have looked like the beginnings of a programme where there would be a gradual socialist transformation of the country, or it could have been a pragmatic way to get the economy moving again. If you look how those organisations were run, with boards of civil servants and and little direct union representation it becomes obvious which it was.

The working class gained a lot in that period, but they lost their ability to lead themselves. They were taught that their betters would look after them from the cradle to the grave. Now we have a working class that is having to learn to fight for itself all over again, by electing trades union leaders who will stand with them and begin the process of trying to regain some of the losses of the last 15 years. The last thing we need is people to run to the party that abandoned them to compete with their enemies over which group of sharp suits is better at managing the recirculation of wealth into the hands of the already obscenely rich. Instead we need people who will fight their class corner.

Kier Starmer's Labour have moved the party back to the bland sound bite makers in suits and expelled a lot of the people who wanted change. As a friend of mine said recently, after listing ten or fifteen socialist fighters he admires, if these people aren't welcome in the party then neither am I.

The problem of entryism

Trotsky advised his defeated followers to join or enter the Labour Party and similar mass working class organisations in order to do what organising they could after things went wrong for his followers. They were to join and work inside mainstream parties, looking for the people who wanted change and revolution and build up support within the membership of the large parties. There is a long tradition of people entering the Labour Party for just this purpose and many of them make up what you might call the Labour Left.

The problem is, if you go into a party that supports establishment war mongering and capitalist extraction you end up at least paying lip service to those things yourself, you could certainly end up campaigning for them, or people whose policies embody them. This starts you down the road to what people call the lesser evil where people are encouraged to vote tactically for the party that will do people the least harm. Thus, an independent voice that might present coherent alternatives to the war mongering and rapine ends up supporting it, at least by keeping quiet.

In the 1950s all the way up to the 1980s some organisations had great success building inside the mass parties, but of course the establishment running those parties aren't stupid and many were thrown out. The folks that advocate this still, in 2022, after what happened to the relatively mild socialism of Jeremy Corbyn and is still happening to the few socialists left in the Party, need to think about whether lending their voices to people whose actions are so despicable is something moral or defensible. If Starmer wins the next election what power will you actually have? Unless there is a powerful working class movement keeping him honest, none. We will have a more competent than the Tories Tony Blair clone. Blair at least put a lot of money into the NHS and education before his murderous war, but instead it will be Austerity Blairism led by bunch of cardboard cut outs in suits with painted on looks of concern.

You also have the bizarre phenomenon where polling the voters indicates absolutely solid opposition to things like privatisation of the NHS and strong demands for renationalising natural monopolies like rail, water and power that no party advocates because our owners, who also own the media, don't want that to happen because it would stop the gravy train. If your organisation had more radical views and was campaigning for them at least people would have a choice. If you're supporting the left wing of the establishment don't be surprised if people laugh at you and get upset when they realise there's no-one they can vote for because you were too busying hiding in a party you don't actually agree with.

US voters have the same problem. A large majority want something like the NHS, and less war mongering. Neither establishment party will give it to them. The Democrats are the lesser evil, but enough senators are in the pockets of the people who make money out of health misery that they can never pass any legislation that might give people what they want. Only things that benefit the war mongers and thieves can get through. It's the same rubbish on a different continent.

So, what next?

The working class in this country, and around the world, needs a voice. Things like the Enough is Enough campaign are a good start, and it has the advantage of not being a front for the Labour Party but by the more direct needs of working class people represented by their trades unions. This is a good thing and we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by arguments about the Labour Party. We need to unite around defending our class from the cold and hunger that is coming, and channelling the awakening anger into places and forms of protest that will create conditions where things can change. This means doing things and not worrying about who has won whatever vote in whatever committee in the Labour Party - our enemies want us to worry about that stuff, and it's crap. Our class needs us to join in its defence.

I support the eco socialist and internationalist party Left Unity and you can join here. I have joined the Enough is Enough campaign too. If you can afford it I would suggest giving some money to the Trussel Trust.

Solidarity, dear friends.