British Labour Party (Mr Grange)

Martin Spellman mspellman at
Sun Jan 5 07:57:16 MST 2003

	I was for a few years an unhappy member of the Labour Party, which I left
after the 1997 General Election. While a member I was in a list on my ISP of
other LP members most of which were of Mr Grange's ilk -- smug,
self-satisfied, middle-class types with hatred and fear of the working
class. They would have instantly concurred with old Walter Bagehot "An
organisation of the working class, as such and for its own ends is an evil
of the first magnitude".

	I tried, while there, to get a decent debate going and get away from the
mindless wibble. I even posted articles from the 'Dear Leader' himself so at
least we could discuss what he actually said rather than what people thought
he said or might say or should say (you know the problem). Waste of time.
Such people would not know real debate if they fell over one. That is not
what they are there for. "They've killed politics -- the bastards!" (South
Park) Maybe they see 'debate' the way George Bush sees it: a question about
whether someone should be hanged or shot -- they will be just as dead but
which is more interesting for the executioner?

	It reminded me of an interesting observation Palmiro Togliatti made in his
'Lectures on Fascism' that (to paraphrase) 'in the Fascist Party HQ no
political discussions take place'. I'm not saying that Labour is a fascist
party, of course, but the point Togliatti was making was that that was not
what the fascist party was for or about. Labour is now a pro-business party
and business makes the decisions and knows what's good for itself. Politics
could only be a dangerous distraction.

	As I asked Mr Grange who are you going to debate with and at what forum?
The whole labour movement culture of discussion at meetings has been thrown
out. The leadership does not engage with anyone. What they did was have
events like some TV show: an INVITED audience sits and listens and asks
questions. No motions or votes. Even then some opposition got through but
what chance does it stand? Nor are there publications in which debates could
take place. Kinnock wound up 'Labour Weekly', an innocuous,
social-democratic paper but which at least had a good letters page and had
some discussion and argument. Problem was Kinnock was so useless that even
that would prove an embarrassment -- so why have it?

	People like Grange are anti-communist to their toenails. There is no
consensus or common point to be reached with them. He just looked in for a
peek/scoff at the Marxists for his Christmas fun. But they are not even
needed by Blair, who has other means of support.

	As for the Labour Party here is what Ralph Miliband had to say in his 1972
postcript to his 1961 book 'Parliamentary Socialism - A Study in the
Politics of Labour' (Merlin Press, 085036 135 4)

"What this means is the Labour Party will not be transformed into a party
seriously concerned with socialist change. Its leaders may have to respond
with radical-sounding noises to the pressures and demands of their
activists. Even so, they will see to it that the Labour Party remains in
practice, what it always has been - a party of modest social reform in a
capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now
irrevocably rooted. THat system badly needs such a party, since it plays a
major role in the management of discontent and helps to keep it within safe
bounds; and the fact that the Labour Party proclaims itself at least once
every five years but much more often as well to be commited not merely to
the modest amelioration of capitalist society but to its wholesale
transformation, to a just social order, to a classless society, to a new
Britain, and what ever not, does not make it less but more useful in the
preservation of the existing social order.

	"It is very likely that the Labour Party will be able to play this highly
'functional' role for some time to come, given its overwhelming
preponderance as 'the party of the left' in the British political system.
There is at present no party or grouping which is capable of providing an
effective challenge to that preponderance; and this helps to explain why so
many socialists in the Constituency Labour Parties, in the trade unions (and
for that matter in the Communist Party) cling to the belief that the Labour
Party will eventually be radically transformed. But the absence of a viable
socialist alternative is no reason for resigned acceptance of re the
perpetuation of hopes which have no basis in political reality. On the
contrary, what it requires is preparing the ground for the coming into being
of such an alternative: and one of the indispensable elements of that
process is the dissipation of paralysing illusions about the true purpose
and role of the Labour Party."

	That was 30 years ago -- much has changed. The end of the 'long boom', the
onset of prolonged crisis. The failure of Bennism. The hollowing out of what
vitality there was in the LP by Kinnock: himself one of the key reasons for
Thatcher's long endurance. The collapse of the 'socialist camp'. Finally
Blair's almost effortless transformation in the 90s of the social-democratic
into an open neo-liberal, anti-working class party (despite its TU
affiliation, rump membership and electoral support).

	The mistake, I think, continues to be in either hoping 1) to transform the
LP from within into the vehicle for political socialist revolution or 2) to
use it as a source of members for your own leftist sect, or a combination of
both. Ted Grant's 'Socialist Appeal' believe that there has been no
fundamental change in the LP and that transformation is still on the agenda.
The Socialist Labour Party (Arthur Scargill) hoped they could provide an
alternative: this was the most promising failure in my view -- had it worked
we might have been considerably better off now. Then there is the 'Socialist
Alliance': shortly before Liz Davies left (over claims of financial
irregularities [by someone else not her] she was still appealing for LP
members to join the SA.

	There were always those, like Ralph Miliband, who were sceptical of Labour
as a socialist vehicle but today we have this massive peace movement which
shows there are literally hundreds of thousands of politically aware people,
hostile to New Labour. The time-worn solution is to harass them on the demo
to join you particular socialist sect. But the very fact of their awareness
means they are highly suspicious of and even antagonistic to such moves and
sects. How we can take the good politics that there is towards the necessity
for socialist revolution is today's problem.

	Another book people may find interesting is Donovan Pedelty's 'The Rape of
Socialism: How Labour lost the Millenium (Prometheus Books, 1997) This
brings the story up to date and covers a lot of potentially very boring
material in a lively and interesting way.

	Tonight (Sunday 5) on Channel 4, British TV, Rory Bremner is doing an hour
(8 - 90 on Blair's war with Iraq. Problem with Bremner is that he is more a
caricature of Blair than Blair is himself. He's got his appearance,
mannerisms, style and content off so well it's just like listening to the
man himself so after about 15 minutes you say 'yeah, right' and turn off.

Yes, and a 'soldier's farewell' to you Mr Grange.

Martin Spellman

> "Yes, I thought as much and given so -- what on earth are you
> doing on this
> list? Stop wasting peoples' time and shove off."
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----------
> Ouch! No happy new year for me then, it's off to the gulag, Stalinism
> lives, clearly you have learnt nothing since the fall of the USSR!
> M.S., you can do better than that. At least Gary, David and Einde made a
> case as far as Iraq goes and I respect their positions even if I can't
> agree..
> My original intervention was to attempt to clear up in regard to the
> Labour Party  what I saw as inadequate repsonses as far as the topic goes.
> Iraq, I realise I'm in a minority on this site but many on the left feel
> as I do. Saddam Hussein and his clique have tortured and butchered
>  socialists, communists and progressive democrats, I cannot and will not
> do anything that comforts his regime, oil or no oil.
> Now, I must return to work, vacate this spot and leave you all.

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