The Socialist 5 June 2013 |
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Continued deterioration of the Labour Party
The Labour Party, having blatantly accepted capitalism and the need for cuts, is incapable of even pretending to be in opposition. These articles show two examples of the party's continued deterioration.
On the one hand Labour is as embroiled as any of the other capitalist parties with corruption and dishonest lobbying practices.
On the other, the Labour leadership seems to have decided that the way to prepare for the general election in 2015 is to work hard at convincing us all they would be just as vicious as Cameron, Osborne et al.
We need to build a new mass, working class political alternative that genuinely stands up for ordinary people and our interests.
Peer caught with nose in the trough
The ex-Labour minister Lord Jack Cunningham, one of the latest batch of parliamentarians caught selling their services to the highest bidder, is no stranger to corruption.
Nearly 40 years ago his father, Andy Cunningham, was jailed for his part in the Poulson corruption scandal that rocked both the Labour Party in north east England and the then Tory government.
Andy Cunningham was not just another corrupt local politician, he was a prominent right winger in the trade unions and Labour Party.
The older Cunningham was leader of the General and Municipal Workers' Union (now GMB) northern region, as well as Chair of the Northern Region Labour Party and a member of the Labour Party's National Executive.
As well as corruptly lining his pockets Cunningham senior played a key role in parachuting right wingers into (then) safe Labour parliamentary seats.
The young Cunningham also worked for the General and Municipal Workers' Union before being elected as an MP in 1970 for a north-east England seat.
Liverpool City Council
In the mid-1980s, when Liverpool City Council, led by supporters of the Militant tendency (today the Socialist Party), struggled against cuts and to secure extra funding from the Thatcher government, Cunningham played a key role in helping to ultimately isolate and defeat the Liverpool council.
In 1985 he strove to prevent any deal that helped Liverpool because the Labour Party leaders did not want to give credence to Militant's and Liverpool council's strategy of mass mobilisation to prevent cuts.
The Times explained that an agreement was "being sabotaged by the Labour front bench", reporting that leader Kinnock and Jack Cunningham "want to delay any attempts to save the council" and instead "leave Militant to hang themselves" (October 19, 1985).
Clearly for Cunningham the plight of the people of Liverpool was of no concern in his fight against the Militant.
How different it is when it's a question of his personal gain as the latest revelations show that Lord Cunningham has no reservations about grabbing as much loot as he can, in this case an extra £144,000 a year by selling himself.
This incident shows that elements like the Cunninghams, who spent their political lives fighting to make the Labour movement safe for capitalism in the end, like George Orwell's pigs, turned into capitalists themselves.
It shows the utter hypocrisy of the Labour right wing who claimed they 'saved' the Labour party by expelling Militant supporters, purging the left and moving the party to an unashamedly pro-capitalist position.
Cunningham's greed stands in complete contrast with the policies and actions of the Militant activists he attacked.
When three Militant supporters were in parliament during the 1980s, alongside fighting for socialist policies they rejected joining the gravy train, lived on a worker's wage and donated the rest of their parliamentary salaries to the labour movement.
This is the tradition that needs to be a hallmark of a new political voice of the working class, not the rotten family tradition of Andy and Jack Cunningham.
No cuts from Labour? No hope!
On 3 June Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls made a speech to his shadow cabinet in which he laid out his intention to fully accept the draconian austerity inaugurated by the Con-Dems.
It is clear that Labour has now given up any pretence of being an opposition, buying wholesale into the logic of a neoliberal austerity which forces ordinary people to pay for the gigantic mistakes of the reckless super-rich.
One of the most perfidious cuts outlined by Balls in his speech is the means-testing of the winter fuel allowance.
But surely the rich should not be given benefits that they 'don't need'? This reaction is understandable, but misguided - universal benefits have an extremely important function in society.
We have to resist all attacks on the welfare state - a cut for the better off quickly can become a cut for all.
When tens of thousands of elderly people die from the cold every winter, society has a responsibility to contribute to their heating costs.
Universality makes sure that the welfare state doesn't simply become minimal 'poor relief'.
And at the end of the day, the amount of money saved by means-testing universal benefits is around £100 million - a drop in the ocean compared to the £120 billion which goes avoided, evaded or uncollected in tax in the UK every year.
The response of socialists to this most recent in the long line of Labour's shifts to the right must be clear - the majority of working people have no faith that a Labour government would be able to solve the crisis we are in.
We need a new mass party of working people, based around the trade unions and community groups, which is able to clearly put the case for a socialist alternative to cuts and crisis.