A brief response to the issues raised by AWL member, Daniel Randall, in his article (4 Reasons Working Class Radicals Should Vote Labour) that was recently posted on the Novara Media website….
If the title of the article didn’t have me reaching for my blunderbuss, the introduction describing the author as a member of the ‘Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory’ certainly did…
Rather than write an extended piece I have responded on a point by point basis.
1. We need to get rid of the Tories.
Five more years of Tory rule will mean new restrictions on workers’ rights to organise, the continued carve-up and privatisation of the NHS, renewed attacks on benefits, concessions to UKIP around an EU referendum and probably on immigration policy, cuts to local services, and more.
Get rid of the Tories? I could not agree more. However, I have no desire to replace one set on parasitic anti-working class shit-heels with another. Five more years or Tory rule may well lead to further attacks on trade union rights, but Labour would not repeal them, just as they didn’t repeal Thatcher’s trade union legislation during 13 years of rule.
The carving up and privatisation of the NHS gathered speed under the last Labour administration, not to mention the disgusting use of PFI that has saddled the NHS with £300 billion of debt over 30 years. The extra money that Labour has promised the NHS will barely cover the annual PFI repayments, never mind make a dent in improving health outcomes.
Renewed attacks on benefits – What do you think the Labour Party are going to do, increase benefits?
In my opinion UKIP will be lucky to hang on to the two seats the already have, so I cannot see how the Tories will have or need to give them any concessions. Personally I couldn’t care less about an EU referendum, but it seems to be what a lot of people want, so I’m not sure what the issue is.
Immigration policy? You must have missed Labour’s immigration pledge & their revolting mug.
Cuts to local services – you mean the cuts that have been gleefully rubber stamped by all Labour run councils? Are you suggesting there won’t be any cuts to local services under a Labour government?
Labour’s policies on all of those things are not the same as the Tories. In some areas, they are only a little different. In others, more substantially so. Whether Labour can be forced to keep their promises is a different question, but to decide in advance that they can’t be is to abandon hope of the broader labour movement exerting any political and social pressure on the government.
Can Labour be forced to keep their promises? Er, no, of course they can’t. They aren’t recallable delegates! Every government since the first one took office has reneged on their promises, and very little has been (or indeed can be) done about it….
There’s no doubt that Labour’s policy is based on maintaining the framework of neoliberal austerity, and on issues like immigration it has not only failed to challenge, but substantially gone along with, racist narratives peddled by UKIP, the Tories, and the right-wing press.
And you think that ‘Radicals’ should vote for that?
On those issues, Labour’s policy needs to be fought (in government or in opposition). But a left which sees no difference in government by a party committed, for example, to continuing the Bedroom Tax, and one committed to abolishing it, is a left disconnected from the realities of working-class life.
The bedroom tax is going to be abolished by the Labour Party for no other reason than it’s an election gimmick. They certainly had no intention of abolishing it up until 2 years ago, and interestingly this horrible pernicious tax is based on similar measures that the Labour Party implemented in the private sector…. Furthermore, 47 Labour MP’s abstained on the Bedroom Tax vote, effectively siding with the Tories!
As Ed Miliband is hell bent on ‘Balancing the Books™’ what he gives with one hand he has to take back with the other. So while he may repeal the Bedroom Tax, be in no doubt there will be something else equally as nasty, just around the corner.
Labour councils employ thousands on zero-hour contracts. Whilst Labour claim they will legislate against ‘exploitative’ it’s pretty clear that what they actually mean is that they will re-define ‘zero-hours’ and tweak some of the conditions, but be under no illusions they are getting rid of zero-hour contracts. Labour councils rabidly purse 25 year old Poll Tax arrears. Liverpool City Council has used bailiffs on over 100,000 times in the last few years, bringing in more than £1million from people without a ‘pot to piss in’. So whilst I welcome the abolition of the bedroom tax, let’s not pretend that everything in the Labour garden is rosy….
2. Labour is structurally linked to workers’ fundamental organisations: trade unions.
It would be massively overstating things to talk about Labour as ‘the party of the working class’.
No, it would be a bare faced lie.
It has never straightforwardly represented working-class interests in politics, and as such cannot be ‘reclaimed’ for socialism. To imagine that Labour is necessarily ‘the party of the working class’ would also write out of the picture the millions of workers who aren’t members of unions, including unemployed workers and many migrant workers.
But trade unions are the only genuinely mass movement in British society. And around half of all organised workers in Britain are members of unions which are affiliated to the Labour Party. Even many unions which aren’t affiliated to Labour – such as the RMT – maintain substantial links to the party; the RMT’s Parliamentary Group is chaired by a Labour MP (John McDonnell) and is made up almost exclusively of Labour MPs, and the union is backing dozens of Labour candidates across the country.
Talking shop that allows phoney left wing MP’s to jerk off and pretend they are socialists whilst standing on racist and anti-working class manifestos
Unions represent workers’ organisation in the place where capitalism most fundamentally ‘happens': the workplace. Even the most right-wing-led, bureaucratised union is structurally locked into class struggle.
No, they are structurally linked to neutering the workers and maintaining the status quo.
If the unions themselves are sites of struggle, then the party to which the majority of them are still linked is a site of struggle as well.
No, the only interest the Labour Party has in trade unions is a financial one. As long as the unions continue to spunk millions into Labour’s coffers, they will continue to pretend to represent working people. When then money is stopped – watch Labour run!
Labour’s link to the unions still represents a means by which working-class people can attempt to pressure and subvert Labour MPs and councillors. That successive Labour leaderships have attempted to reform that link out of practical existence, rendering the Labour Party much more like the US Democrats (partially funded by organised labour but with no structural link to it), shows that the link could still be used to threaten their power.
Pressure and subvert? When has that happened or been successful? As I said, the link is purely a financial one.
3. The left-of-Labour electoral efforts aren’t up to much.
From any radical point of view, the political landscape in Britain is woefully inadequate.
So surely the answer to that situation is to try and build radical alternatives, not to continue to prop-up and validate the Labour Party….
A ‘British Syriza’ – a broad coalition of the working-class left with real weight in workplaces and communities that could side-line the old ‘official’ social democratic party.
Side-lining the old ‘official’ social democratic party is all well and good unless you give it ‘Bertie Big Bollocks’ before the election about how you are anti-capitalist and you will rid Greece of the parasites on its back, only to get into power (joining up with fascists btw) and admit that there isn’t much you can do…..
But that’s not where we are, and we won’t get there by declaring this or that organisation or electoral project to be either of those things in embryo. Neither Syriza, nor mass revolutionary parties (such as the German SDP, until the First World War), had their roots anything even remotely resembling, for example, TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) or Left Unity.
I cannot imagine a mass revolutionary party coming from repeatedly voting for the Labour Party… Can you?
Here and there, where individual TUSC or Left Unity candidacies have real roots in a local labour movement, and run campaigns in an open, democratic, non-sectarian way that makes them organising centres for the local class-struggle left, they might do some good. But those initiatives don’t address the fundamental question posed by the election: who governs?
Who governs? The government governs. It has two groups that take it in turns to govern.
In response to that question, the radical left can either say “we don’t care” (as TUSC has, by irresponsibly deciding to stand in some marginal seats), or we can conclude that organising through the unions to put concerted political pressure on a Labour government is positively preferable to five more years of Tory rule.
Concerted political pressure on a labour government? Remember how that worked out with the last Labour government?
4. If we want to change the balance of class power in this country, that means going through our existing organisations, not around them.
Did you earlier not say that the Labour Party could not be reclaimed? Existing organisations such as the TUC and the Labour Party both have a century long history of inaction, betrayal, and the corralling of workers to dampen down any militancy. They are tools of the ruling class. We should not go through them, we should smash them!.... The Einstein quote about continuing to do the same thing whilst expecting different results, springs to mind.
If we want politics to be more than an atomised, individual process of five-yearly passive support for parties, or candidates, with which we have no permanent or structural engagement; if we want politics to be an ongoing, collective process of mass social and economic self-assertion of working-class people, then this requires the thoroughgoing, top-to-bottom transformation of the entire working-class movement as it currently exists.
Voting in a representative democracy is passive by its very nature! We need a “top-to-bottom transformation of the entire working-class movement?” Therein lies the main difference between us. I would like a bottom-to-top transformation!
Fight in your union for it to take on Labour, to demand it keeps, and goes beyond, its promises where its policy is more progressive than the Tories, and push it back on those issues, such as immigration, where its policy is reactionary. Fight to hold the union leaders, who have, in large part, facilitated the Blairite takeover of the Labour party, to account. Fight to force your union to assert itself within and against the Labour party. Fight to transform your union, to make it more democratic and radical. If you’re not in a workplace, engage with the broad labour movement through working-class community campaigns, and work with trade unionists to demand that Labour reflects working-class demands.
This paragraph could have been written prior to any election over the past 80 years… The Einstein quote is coming to me again. Blairite takeover? Ah yes, the oft peddled myth that the Labour Party were good old Socialists until he came along… Demonstrably utter bollocks
If done right, this would almost certainly explode the relationship between organised labour and the Labour party. It would almost certainly cause a split, perhaps with the Blairite MPs hiving off to fuse with the Lib Dems or even the Tories – or (more likely, given the current balance of forces), the Blairites in the Labour leadership would rush through measures to sever the Labour-union link, with a few left-wing MPs and maybe some dissident Constituency Labour Parties going with the unions.
Yeah, and I once met the tooth fairy……
Bring it on. That is a much longer-term perspective, that requires much more patient, hard work than the more superficially-conscionable, keeping-our-hands-clean options offered by much of the left in this election (i.e. vote Green/TUSC/Left Unity/SNP, or don’t vote). But if we want to transform our movement, that’s the fight we have to have. The momentum generated by such a fight would be an infinitely more favourable platform for the development of radical working-class politics in this country than attempting to duck it.
“Keep your hands clean” – you mean don’t vote for policies that are racist and attack the working class.?
Just my opinion, but if you vote for the Labour Party then you are not a radical!
“This is the fucking Labour Party in 2015. Every bit as intent on punishing the poorest as the Tories. If the Labour Party wins next month then don’t be ordinary, don’t be young, don’t fall ill and don’t be old. Because Ed Miliband could not give anymore of a shit about the poor than Iain Duncan Smith.” - Johnny Void