Labour still the same as always?!!!??

Steve Wallis S.Wallis at mmu.ac.uk
Mon Aug 19 11:23:12 MDT 1996


Adam Rose wrote:

> You can't mean what you appear to be saying here.

I do!

> Are you saying that most of the Labour party leadership want to break
> the links with the unions BEFORE they attack the working class ? Surely
> the case is the complete opposite : they want to USE their links with
> the union in order to carry out those attacks successfully ? That
> precisely WHEN they attack workers, this is when the links with the
> TU leaders is the MOST IMPORTANT to a Labour government ?

Your view of the formal links with the trade unions is one-sided.
In reality they are a double-edged sword.  Yes, the Labour leadership
can use them to try to hold workers back.  But on the other hand,
ordinary trade union members can use them to exert pressure on the
Labour leadership.

Similarly, Labour used to pretend to be socialist.  This suited the
Labour leadership in that Labour attracted workers who would otherwise
join more radical parties.  But, on the other hand, this presented
possibilities for revolutionaries to use the strategy of entrism in
order to win over some of the best workers in the LP, influence
policy, and potentially create a mass revolutionary wing within the
LP.

Basically there is a change of strategy by the Labour leadership.
Blair and most of the other Labour leaders probably think that the
disadvantages of the formal links outweigh the advantages (as far as
they are concerned).  This is similar to the decisions that these
Labour leaders have already taken to openly advocate capitalism and
the "free market", and completely distance themselves from the ideas
of socialism.

Of course Labour's influence over the trade unions won't disappear
overnight; most trade union leaders will still be Blairites and LP
members.  Similarly, there are still some layers of the working class
who have not yet come to the conclusion that Labour is a capitalist
party.



Your failure to understand this leads to you overplaying the
importance of glimmers of conflict within the LP.  For example:

> Clair short comes third in the shadow cabinet
> elections. John Prescott "has to be scraped off the wall" from time to time.
> Roy Hattersly has not been witchhunted ( yet ! ).

You fail to mention that Clare Short has been one of the most loyal
Blairites in recent years, for example in the way she launched a
vitriolic attack on Liz Davies (the person who was undemocratically
prevented from being an MP because of her mildly socialist views).
You also fail to mention that after her recent outburst she said she
has no policy differences with Tony Blair.

Prescott doesn't get on personally with some of Blair's clique but he
too has been extremely loyal to Blair since becoming deputy leader,
for example in pushing through the abolition of Clause IV.

I think it might have been Hattersley himself who said something like
"the way to become a left-winger in the Labour Party these days is to
join as a right-winger and stay still for a few years."

> Trends in the working class have always been reflected in the Labour Party,
> because it is a Workers Party. These trends have always been reflected in
> a distorted way, because it is a Capitalist Party.

The operative words are "have always been".  The point is that Labour
has changed qualitatively and things that were true in the past are
not necessarily true in the present and probably won't be true in the
future.



Onto the question of voting:

> Most people in Britain will NOT have an SLP or SSA candidate. They WILL have
> a Labour candidate. Should they vote for them or not ? If you answer yes,
> surely Labour is a still a workers party ? If you answer no, surely this is
> an abstention, or worse, a vote for a nationalist party ?

I already said that we, in Militant Labour/the CWI, don't completely
rule out advocating a vote for a completely capitalist party.  Did the
SWP support an ANC election victory in South Africa?

If somebody asked me a straight question of who they should vote for
then I would ask them where they live.  If they live in a constituency
with a socialist candidate to the left of Labour, e.g. Militant
Labour, SLP or Socialist Alliance, then I'd argue they should vote for
that candidate.  If not and they live in a solid Labour constituency
(as most are in the big cities of Britain), then I'd say it's up to
them because it won't make any difference anyway.  However, if they
live somewhere where voting Labour may influence the election result,
then I see no problem with suggesting that they vote Labour.  I think
that is perfectly consistent with the following:

> > On balance, I still think that a Labour victory will
> > be preferable for the working class than the Tories getting in again,
> > if only because it will enable the few illusions that some workers
> > still have in Labour to be shattered.

Now onto the discussion of slogans (which I agree is rather
hair-splitting):

> > The slogan that Militant used at the last election "Labour to power on
> > a socialist programme" is no longer applicable, since it is obvious
> > that there is no chance of Labour adopting a socialist programme.
>
> It is NEVER applicable, because there is never any chance of Labour
> implementing a socialist program even if it adopted one. So "Labour
> to power on a socialist programme" always creates illusions in Labour,
> under any circumstances.

Well, it could be argued that calling for a vote for Labour in any way
or form creates illusions to some degree or other in Labour.  If you
think that it would be a step forward for the working class if Labour
adopted a socialist programme (which would only happen if it was
forced to by pressure from below), and there is some possibility of
this happening, then that's a perfectly good reason for using this
slogan as far as I'm concerned.

> "Kick the Tories Out ! [ Vote Labour - build the socialist alternative ]".

There's actually an obvious reason why Militant Labour won't use this
slogan - we'll probably sell most of our papers and put up most of our
posters in constituencies in which there are Militant Labour or
socialist alliance candidates.

Will the SWP really use this slogan again?  I thought you said you'd
support candidates to the left of Labour...

Steve.



P.S.  On a completely different subject:

> And how was the skiing ( kids make a cheapish skiing holiday a bit of a waste
> of time for me . . . ) ?

It was great fun (if rather a long time ago); I much preferred it to
lazing on a beach.  It was actually in Canada, not Australia, which
due to the "wonders" of world capitalism worked out cheaper than
Europe (and the snow was much more powdery)...



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   /----------+ Centre for Policy Modelling,         Email: S.Wallis at mmu.ac.uk
   \/\  Steve | Manchester Metropolitan University,    Tel: (+44) 161 247 3884
\    / Wallis | Aytoun Building, Aytoun St.,           Fax: (+44) 161 247 6802
 \/\/---------+ Manchester M1 3GH, England.   http://www.fmb.mmu.ac.uk/~stevew


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