[Marxism] Hilary Wainwright and left parties

Paul Flewers trusscott.foundation at blueyonder.co.uk
Sat Dec 15 05:57:20 MST 2012

Phil Ferguson wrote: 'But in what sense are these parties 'social
democratic' these days?'

In Britain, Labour is not in government, but it can hardly be considered as
being in opposition to the Tory austerity government, because it hardly
opposes anything the government does, and when it does demur it is merely
to quibble about the degree of public expenditure cuts and reductions to
sick, unemployment and other benefits. It completely accepts the argument
that cuts and austerity are necessary, and has done nothing to say that it
will reverse the Tories' cuts should it get elected in 2015.

Old-fashioned social-democracy did promise and at times actually deliver
reforms that benefitted the working class, albeit within the confines of
capitalist limitations; social-democracy today are the palest pink
imitations of openly bourgeois parties, and do not offer meaningful
reforms. Indeed, when the Blair Labour governments here proposed 'reforms'
they were nothing other than privatisation schemes under another name.

Under the current leader Ed Miliband (sadly, the colourless, dismal son of
Marxist Ralph Miliband; the elder son David is even worse), there are no
proposals whatsoever to reverse privatisation even though Britain's railway
system would be less costly and more efficient under state ownership, or to
stop and reverse the steady privatisation of the National Health Service,
which would also be cheaper and more efficient if run publicly.

This is not to endorse old-fashioned nationalisation in and of itself as a
socialist measure, but to show that Labour has bitten so deeply into the
'private = good, public = bad' ethos to the degree that it will refuse to
reinstate key industries and institutions into the state sector, or prevent
their further privatisation, even when it makes capitalist economist sense,
irrespective of the social benefits involved.

Organisationally, the Labour Party has over the last 20 years become much
more bureaucratised, with the annual conference being more of a rally to
hear the leaders speak and for the audience to cheer them. There is little
debate, and little possibility of local branches getting critical motions
on to the conference agenda. Not surprisingly, at a local level, many
Labour Party branches are moribund.

When Hilary Wainwright says that 'the forces of renewal' in these parties
'are negligible or very weak' she is quite right. Labour councils are
busily implementing cuts. In Hackney, a traditional working-class
Labour-held area in London, of 60 or more Labour councillors only two could
be found who would not vote in favour of cuts. In other places, Labour
councillors have been threatened with disciplinary action if they don't
vote for cuts. Party members grumble, but there doesn't seem to be any real
forces around to challenge the current ethos.

There is a lot of anger in Britain today at the way things are going, and
there have been several large demonstrations against Tory austerity. But I
can't see any fightback getting on its way via the Labour Party at either a
national or local level.

Paul F

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