[Marxism] British Labour

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Fri Nov 24 16:24:19 MST 2017

As always thanks for posting this, Lou. What immediately strikes me about
it, now, is that none of this apples to the Democratic Party in the
States.  By that I mean that if I lived in the UK I would be in Momentum.
That would be a decision taken without illusions. But I would never, not
ever, join the Democratic Party.

Will post more on this.



On Sat, Nov 25, 2017 at 7:13 AM, Louis Proyect via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> It is the internal dynamic of this socialism which constitutes the second
> basic problem of the Labourist movement. We have already seen the elements
> found within it, and their relationship. In the Labour Party, Fabianism
> became the dominant, right-wing leadership tradition, the source of the
> ideas governing most of the action of the party. Its leaders were all to be
> either avowed Fabians (Attlee, Gaitskell) or implicit Fabians, whatever
> their apparent background and orientation (Macdonald, Henderson, Lansbury).
> The Independent Labour Party became the Labour left wing, in chronic
> instinctive protest against the leadership but intellectually subordinated
> to it and incapable of effectively replacing it. Labourism, therefore,
> acquired from the beginning a peculiarly weak left. This is, in a sense,
> the intimate tragedy of Labourism—for the left has always expressed the
> most vital working-class elements, the most active and genuine socialist
> forces potentially able to develop their own hegemony over party and State.
> But expressing them in the fashion and under the conditions indicated, the
> Labour left has really completely frustrated these forces, putting them at
> the disposition of the right-wing reformists. It has been unable even to
> seriously influence the leadership, except under rare circumstances and
> momentarily. Hence, the Fabian-inspired leadership tradition, permanently
> supported by the trade unions, could acquire a great stability and
> continuity—a kind of dynasty, in fact, with its own characteristic internal
> procedures of recruitment and co-ordination, almost independent of the
> party in general. And this permanent, organic power in its turn of course
> obstructed any farther real evolution of the left wing—it is as if the
> Independent Labour Party tradition, which was apparently the beginning of a
> real British mass socialist party, was paralysed by entry into the matrix
> of Labourism and the conditions it found therein. Hardie and the other ILP
> leaders anticipated that they would be able to rapidly convert the Labour
> Party to socialism, their socialism. Instead, the conditions of Labourism,
> and their own weakness, transformed them into a mere permanent opposition,
> always urging the Labour Party to move left and always unable to make it
> move, only half conscious of their own position and its true meaning,
> unable to act within Labourism but unable to see any alternative to
> Labourism, oppressed by Fabian triviality and timidity but with no workable
> alternative to offer—such was the result of the ‘short cut’ to socialism
> which Labourism had seemed to represent. Such was the paradox of
> Labourism—the distinctive form of socialism which arose out of British
> conditions, and in effect prevented any farther socialist evolution from
> taking place.
> Tom Nairn, "The Nature of the British Labour Party part 1", NLR Sept.-Oct.
> 1964
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