I have supported Labour all my adult life and have been a party member for over 30 years. Although my parents were graduates, my family is rooted in working class South Wales, mainly in mining. I was brought up to be proud of those roots.
I am very conscious of what Labour has done for workers, the NHS in particular is still a source of pride to me. The difference its foundation made to the lives of working people was phenomenal, we too easily forget this.
For many years the Party structure gave workers a chance to contribute to politics by putting forward motions for Conference. This allowed working class concerns to reach the highest levels. Our MPs mostly came from working class backgrounds and understood the people they represented.
But today there are few working class MPs and the only role left for the ordinary member is to deliver leaflets. More important, Labour’s claim to be a Socialist party has been compromised by the removal of the old Clause IV All this resulted in a party that is now completely out of touch with its core voters. The policies that have been pursued have not addressed the problems they face, particularly in the present economic crisis.
Why did this happen? This article explains the events since the 70’s, that has brought the party to where it is today. The Labour Party, always an uneasy alliance between left and right, has always attempted to manage capitalism and in these circumstances can only go as far as capital will allow. This has never been more true than it is today.
The present government reflects this in its slavish support for US foreign policy and the absence of any attempt to make real improvements in the lives of working people. Instead they pursue policies based on identity politics. . As a Marxist I support all oppressed groups. What I cannot do is see Women, Muslims, Blacks or Gays as classes. Policies that single out any of those groups for special treatment result in dividing the working class and become another example of that old ruler’s standby ‘divide and rule’. They also tend to benefit middle class members of those groups. Such policies can never improve working class lives. Genuine social change can only begin when all working class people are united. Identity politics has divided the class just when it needs to be strong.
Many of the feminist articles on Cif make this mistake. An article found here shows how in the end men and women need to unite to create “the social conditions… for the establishment of real human relations between men and women. But unless and until the proletariat overthrows capitalism and lays the conditions for the achievement of a classless society, no genuine emancipation of women is possible.”
This does not mean that women should ‘wait until after the revolution’ before they can struggle for equality. We should all challenge the corrosive attitudes of misogyny and sexism. The same is true for challenging racism, homophobia Islamophobia etc. After all we don’t ‘wait for the revolution’ before taking action to defend jobs do we?’
When policies discriminate against or ignore men, the government divides men and women from each other. This causes a backlash and prevents progress.
Its not ‘men’ or ‘women’ its class society that corrupts our relationships. When you consider how consumer society makes so many of us succumb to the rat race its no wonder.
So what do we do? Many have suggested that Labour is ‘finished’, that we should all leave it and create a ‘New workers party’. I would disagree with this. Anger at the nature of the present crisis is building and workers are moving into action.
Today(11 Sept) Union leaders will meet Brown at chequers –it seems it wont be a cosy chat!
100 years ago the Unions formed the labour party to speak for them in Parliament. It is time once again to make Labour the voice of working people.