Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1019/28312

From The Socialist newspaper, 21 November 2018

Non-fiction: Spirit of Britain, purpose of Labour

Nothing to offer from the Blairites

Awkward: Blairite Stephen Kinnock, still from The Summer That Changed Everything/BBC

Awkward: Blairite Stephen Kinnock, still from The Summer That Changed Everything/BBC   (Click to enlarge)

Dave Reid

Labour's right wing is attempting to regroup.

They have been reeling from a succession of hammer blows since 2015: Jeremy Corbyn's landslide victory for the Labour leadership; the Brexit vote in the referendum; and in 2017, to the amazement of the right wingers, Corbyn's left manifesto gained the biggest increase of the vote for Labour at a general election since 1945.

The image that most eloquently conveyed the dismay of the right wing at Corbyn's success in the general election was the picture of a stunned Stephen Kinnock watching the result of the exit poll in the BBC programme 'Labour - the summer that changed everything'.

One of the biggest obstacles that the Blairites have faced is their own policies. Who among working-class people looking towards the Labour Party to offer an alternative would support more austerity, higher tuition fees, a rock-bottom 7.50 minimum wage and so on?

One of the biggest condemnations of Ed Miliband's manifesto in the 2015 election is that the Tory government has actually implemented some of it.

Now Kinnock and a section of right wingers are regrouping from the devastating blow of Corbyn's programme performing well in the election. 'Spirit of Britain, purpose of Labour' is a collection of articles by 14 Blairites attempting to pull together some kind of manifesto - a 'new' ideology and programme, with a capital 'N'.

This book feels like they have woken up from the nightmare and are attempting to come to terms with the new reality. But they only have a dim view of the reality that has slapped them in the face.

Weak policies

The authors are all establishment figures on Labour's right. The painfully weak polices they offer underline the weakness of their position.

The book illustrates that Blairism has nothing to offer working people post-2008.

Prior to the capitalist economic crisis it was possible for them, despite privatisation and neoliberalism, to allow a few crumbs from the overflowing capitalist table to fall to working-class people. That era is over forever and now there are not even crumbs on offer.

They are scratching around trying to reorder the chaos of the market, staying within the confines of a diseased and corrupt capitalist system. The book tries to be innovative and 'modern' but it ends up with familiar ideas to rejuvenate capitalism - investment in infrastructure, a wealth tax, community banks, new models of ownership - without ending the power over the economy of the top 100 or so banks and monopolies.

Kinnock's touching faith in capitalism is revealed when he attacks the 'hard left': "in practice the desire to end markets altogether shows a complete lack of confidence in the nation state's ability to shape markets for the common good." If Kinnock can show an example of nation states shaping markets for the common good I would like to see it.

Their programme is limited to things like adult education funds for people who don't go to university, government-funded training days for workers, a decentralised national curriculum for schools in England, and baby boxes - already introduced in Scotland.

Nothing shows the anaemia of their policies better than housing. Faced with the record homelessness, sky-high rents and hundreds of thousands of empty properties, the group propose... wait for it... restrictions on foreign ownership and an overhaul of the land market.

They do propose a suspension of the right-to-buy scheme - which has already happened in Wales and Scotland - but they do not have any plan for mass council-house building, hoping that private developers can be persuaded to build new homes.

Just as you are beginning to doze off and think you are having a dream about Miliband and the 2015 general election, the reader comes across a genuinely 'radical' policy - devaluation of the pound by one third, proposed by millionaire donor to New Labour, Jim Mills.

This would increase prices and slash real wages at a stroke. Mill says the intention is to achieve parity with the dollar, dramatically improve the competitiveness of British goods and revive the manufacturing industry.

Devaluation

But the shot in the arm to British manufacturing that Mills hopes for would be blunted by the blinkered approach of British capitalists who would see this as a chance to make quick, short-term profits, rather than expand production to win new markets. And the standard of living for working people would suffer yet another hit.

The main thing that these Blairites took from the Brexit vote is that Labour has to be 'patriotic' now - as though the desire of working-class Leave voters for more control over society is the same thing as the flag waving of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

This stereotypical analysis leads to such gems as "it must never be forgotten that the communitarians' worldview centres on and revolves around the nation state: it is the primary source of democracy, legitimacy and identity."

I suppose we should acknowledge that Kinnock and co have moved on from the Blairite habit of just calling working-class Leave voters "racist". Now the buzz word is 'communitarian'.

Arising from the false idea that politics is now dominated by cultural politics instead of class politics, Kinnock has divided Britain into two tribes - communitarians and 'cosmopolitans'.

Communitarians are people in 'conservative' working-class communities in the 'left behind' areas of the north and Wales which voted Leave. Cosmopolitans are 'liberal individualists' in the cities.

Having just discovered the working class in his own Aberavon constituency, Kinnock is attempting to find ways of attracting communitarians by appealing to their patriotism and sense of social solidarity - although if he genuinely believes that communitarians of Aberavon sing 'god save the queen', then he has not learnt much.

His dichotomy is false.

It is true that older workers in working-class communities - affected by the media campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and vicious attacks by Kinnock and other Blairites - are more wary of the Labour leadership. But the idea that they have separate interests from younger workers in urban areas is utterly false.

Kinnock believes that public-sector pay rises and benefits are unpopular to communitarians. But communitarian communities in south Wales have much higher proportions of public-sector workers and benefit recipients than cosmospolitan areas in the south east of England.

Blunted programme

The problem is that Corbyn's anti-austerity programme has been blunted by the Blairites and Kinnock himself, blurring the message brought to areas devastated by neoliberalism and austerity.

So long as Corbyn supports Labour local authorities carrying out cuts there will be a suspicion that he will not really follow through and really attack austerity in government. But the Kinnockites have no answer themselves on these issues.

Incredibly, in the chapter on public services, not once are the cuts or austerity even mentioned. It is not so surprising when you discover that the author, Steve Reed, was leader of Lambeth Council.

Reed carried through brutal cuts to care services, libraries and children's services, while championing co-ops and mutuals so that council workers could be given the job of cutting their own pay and conditions. To the Blairites, cutbacks and austerity are a given that cannot be challenged.

Kinnock and co have done their best to find a way out of their nightmare, but to quote the Roman poet Horace - the mountain has laboured and brought forth a mouse, or rather a group of little mice.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 21 November 2018:


What we think

Tories Out! General election Now!

May's government limps on... Corbyn and unions must call urgent, mass action


International socialist news and analysis

How can Trump be defeated?

Spanish state: Over one million students strike against sexism and for inclusive sex education

Political turmoil in Sri Lanka


News

Even UN slams Tory poorhouse Britain

Housing arrears double, suicide risk soars - scrap Universal Credit!

75,000 kids in foster care - and counting: end cuts and for-profit care

Them & Us

What we saw


Workplace news

Save the high street: public ownership, not ghost malls

'Worker's death could happen again' at Leicester plastic factory

Arriva Rail North under pressure after nineteenth Saturday strike

Indefinite dinner ladies' and teaching assistants' strike

Hamilton posties walk out against bullying

Tube strike solid against victimisation


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Save our NHS - oust the Tory wreckers!

Solidarity with Irish rape trial protests

Thousands march against racism - now Corbyn and unions must take lead

Mansfield council must step in to save miners' park

Stop Nottingham Labour's cuts to disabled travel!

Step up fundraising for the Xmas Collectathon!


Opinion

Nothing to offer from the Blairites

The Socialist inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 21 November 2018   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Blairites:

triangleGovernment limps on... Corbyn and unions must call urgent, mass action

triangleBlairites plan to expand their very own academy chain

triangleSocialist Party campaigns against the Blairites at Labour conference

Labour:

triangleCorbyn supporter wins Welsh Labour leadership

triangleJohn Maclean - revolutionary fighter of the working class

triangleTory chaos reaches fever pitch

triangleFight Cardiff Council's school cuts

Britain:

triangleEven UN slams Tory poorhouse Britain

triangleThe Socialist inbox

trianglePeterloo: "If the people were to rise and smite their enemies, was not this the time?" Samuel Bamford, demonstrator

Austerity:

triangleWomen's Lives Matter national meeting - a determination to fight cuts to domestic violence services

triangleNorthamptonshire council crisis continues

Working-class:

triangleWe need system change to halt climate change

Cuts:

triangleTories' NHS cash insult - mass action can save our NHS

General election:

triangleSocialist Party members and supporters outside parliament demanding a general election, 11.12.18 , photo by Ra Ragavan

Labour leadership:

triangleHaringey 'Corbyn council': end the secrecy and confusion - lead a fight against the cuts

Jeremy Corbyn:

triangleFight for a general election to kick out the Tories

South Wales:

triangleObituary - Beth Roper (1990-2018) - comrade, friend and fighter

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

12/12/18

The Socialist

The Socialist quiz of 2018

12/12/18

Obituary

Obituary - Beth Roper (1990-2018) - comrade, friend and fighter

28/11/18

Trump

Trump is capricious and dangerous - but is he really in charge?

28/11/18

Theatre

Wonderful socialist play finds Edwardian poverty not in past

28/11/18

Poverty

End "poverty, ill health and despair":a benefits adviser speaks out against the cuts

21/11/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

21/11/18

Blairites

Nothing to offer from the Blairites

14/11/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

14/11/18

Theatre

Theatre: The Last Seam - a lasting tribute to Mary Jackson

14/11/18

Jeremy Corbyn

Engaging book about Corbyn's rise doesn't provide answers on how to change Labour

7/11/18

Film

Nae Pasaran: a film about working-class solidarity

7/11/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

31/10/18

Lucas Aerospace

'Lucas Plan' film tells story of workers who set out alternative to job losses

31/10/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

24/10/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


December 2018

November 2018

October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999