Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Labour : What Is To Be Done?

1931 Labour Poster
The next discussion meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party on September 13th will be an open debate with the above title.

Below I give my own contribution to this topic as a means of opening up the debate. It is, of course, my personal viewpoint and emerges from a democratic socialist perspective; although many fellow democratic socialists are likely to disagree with me.

To join in the debate via our comment box, you don't have to be a visitor to our discussion meetings. Contributions will be both worthwhile in their own right and as preparation for our eventual discussions.


MY ANALYSIS.

1. Labour is heading for a drubbing at the General Election.

2. There is no way to avoid this via a change of leadership, for there can be no smooth change of leader in the current circumstances.

3. We, therefore, need to prepare our minds now for the dramatic situation which will emerge immediately after the General Election. Remembering that New Labour will still hold a firm majority of the remaining Labour seats.

4. In the meantime we should work via the Labour Party to try to limit the scope of the coming electoral defeat, so that democratic socialists have a base to work through for the future.

5. This requires democratic socialists to be inside the Labour Party, working to hold onto whatever they can of Labour's traditional working class support.

6. We need to press for feasible programmes which are directed to tackling unemployment, poverty and communal deprivation. This involves stressing the importance of matters which the Labour Government are already pursuing in these areas.

7. Whilst such an approach is both correct in moral and economic terms, it is also necessary in electoral terms to enable Labour to hold onto as many seats as possible. It is, therefore, a position which is also likely to have a short-term appeal to elements of New Labour.

8. The moral and economic relevance of such an approach will also have significance after the coming electoral defeat as New Labour will be on the back foot after the election, as its overall approach will be in tatters.

9. The development of further feasible proposals for democratic and social advance will be easier in the above circumstances.

10. Democratic socialists need to operate in the above ways or we will be subject to the following judgement which was made about our predecessors from the time of the 1931 slump - "Socialism explained the past and promised the future; it had nothing of consequence to offer the present". The fact that the quote comes from Robert Skidelsky, does not mean that it is an an incorrect assessment of what occurred. It is imperative that we do not repeat past failures. Although on the plus side, it must be remembered that it only took 14 years from Labour's collapse in 1931 for it to achieve the triumph of 1945 for the best Labour Government in our history. So perhaps I can look forward to my 87th birthday.

21 comments:

  1. I have just been reading Peter Kellner's analysis of the recent elections. He says "Overall, 63% of the British public think Labour used to care about their concerns – and only 19% think it does today".
    If this is true its going to be a long road back! You can see the full article here http://www.yougov.co.uk/extranets/yguk/content/kellnerMain.asp?jID=3&aId=6633

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  2. Here is a comparison of the opinion poll in today's Independent and the 1983 Election Results. Independent : Tories 42% (gives 401 seats), Labour 24% (178 seats), Lib Dems 16% (41 seats). 1983 Election : Tories 42% (376 and Thatcher's high water mark), Labour 28% (209),Lib Dems & SDP 25% (23). On top of this there are the problems of a likely low turn out and the attractions of 4th Parties and Independents (Kellner's analysis on the reasons for BNP support is important). Amongst the three main parties, the anti-Labour vote is going to the Tories and isn't being split by some going to the Lib-Dems. The County Council, EU and the Norwich Elections all showed swings away from Labour to abstentions, 4th Parties, Independents and the Tories. All of these indicators shape my analysis. All we can do is to work to stem as much as we can of the tide and do it in ways which prepare us for the future. On the Independent Opinion poll, we hold onto NE Derbyshire narrowly. See - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-on-course-for-majority-of-152-seats-at-next-election-1764012.html

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  3. Hi Labour supporters; I'm not within your ranks, but here's my comment anyway.

    Put pressure upon your leadership and get the voting system changed to STV before the next general election.

    Now, I suspect this suggestion will not be popular. Something Labour share with the Tories is the desire to attain overall control of the power structure, hence the support for a disproportional voting system. But it's a two edged sword, which will cut very deeply if the Tories get in with the sort of majority estimated above. Give it up, and take your rightful place as one of the largest minorities.

    Yes, I know, this will let a couple of BNP members into the house. There, they can be properly debated, and their policies torn to shreds as they should be; they'll be shown up for what they are. Besides, a couple of BNP representatives is a small price to pay to avert the catastrophe of such a huge Tory landslide.

    Best wishes all,
    Clark Killick

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  4. Clark Killick : STV within the present single-member system would be an easy reform to introduce, unlike many other electoral reform proposals. I don't think that its consquences would be all that dramatic in England at the next election. As votes get redistributed from the bottom of the ballot paper upwards, I would expect them to end up with the three main parties, but with the Lib Dems getting the main benefit. Nationalism and Unionism would alter the pattern outside of England. It might even help to clip the Tories wings. But the case for it should be on democratic grounds.

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  5. Harry: I changed the links at my blog, to reflect the present situation. I linked to this blog.

    I think the slump on Labour is temporary. It's still the party of labor, and the first place the working class looks to politically in time of crisis.

    Atleast in the UK you have a labor party.

    My browser doesn't work with this comment box. I'm using someone else's computer now.

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  6. Yes I've left Labour after 44 years, and to be honest I can see no reason what so ever to now even bother thinking of voting Labour.

    Today comes the news that NHS hospital have been selling free organs to overseas patients from Grease Turkey, while our own people die. money it seems makes the world go around.

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  7. Renegade Eye : As with "threescoreyearsandten" your contributions will always be welcome.

    Robert and Regengade Eye : You both have a different approach to each other. But this is the case I put to both of you.

    The slump in Labour support is serious as seen in recent election results, opinion polls and listening to people. Furthermore the media has got its teeth into us and will not let go. But there can be a plus side to this for democratic socialists and labour activists (who should now combine). Labour needs its traditional working class support as much as ever. Under New Labour this support was taken for granted and they went for the Middle England vote instead. But even New Labour is beginning to understand that the Labour Party's future survival rests upon efforts to hold on to what it can of its traditional vote. This will be even clearer after the coming electoral drubbing.

    It starts to put Labourites and not New Labour in a position to shape the agenda. A swing to labourism gives scope for democratic socialism. This is something that Robert must have always pushed for over his 44 years, during for instance the short interlude under John Smith - who at least was a labourite. It is the time for democratic socialists to join the Labour Party and not leave it, or how do we begin to end the culture that produced the latest NHS disgrace?

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  8. Sorry you get rid of New labour and I might come back, but I doubt it very very much.

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  9. Harry Barnes: I think you could be surprised just how many more people might bother to vote if they felt there was a chance of electing someone other than from the Big Three. Lots of people aren't voting as they see ours as a system designed to return either Labour or Tory, who've come to look almost identical. People really believe "if voting could change anything it would be illegal".

    Renegade Eye: My Firefox 2 in Win98 works the comment box OK... I think the "working class" may be feeling a bit desperate because Labour seem to have created this crisis. So as things are, they won't vote, 'cos they won't vote Tory, and a vote for anyone else is a wasted vote, of course.

    Clark

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  10. Robert : If Democratic Socialists resign from the Labour Party, it makes it much more difficult for those who remain to move beyond New Labourism. What are your views about the value of the Labour Party Disabled Members Group ? See here -
    http://www.labour.org.uk/disabilityaccess

    Clark : For now, we can only work via the electoral system we have. If it benefits the three main parties (especially Tories and Labour), then we are unlikely to see dramatic changes unless fourth parties brake into the magic circle. So for democratic socialists it is either working via Labour or deciding upon an alternative fourth party. But there is no clear front runner, unless you think that the Green's fit the bill.

    On your comment to Renegade Eye; many of the working class are acting as you say, but others remain with Labour and are the basis of the seats we will hold at the next election such as Easington and Bolsover. If democratic socialists join in we might be able to push the total up to 200 or so as in 1983. I feel that that would be circumstances where Labourism (and thus an opening for democratic socialists) would be back the agenda - depending upon how many democratic socialists grab this current opportunity.

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  11. Dear Harry,

    What is to be done? Structural changes and how policy is made in the Labour Party are much needed. Anybody with a reasonable grasp of politics can predict they will lose the next General Election. The Tories will win by default or apathy.

    Since Labour has been in power there has been many good achievements, but we can also lament many awful decisions made e.g. the Iraq War and not made e.g. lack of accountability in the City leading to the Credit Crunch.

    The premise is how to keep Labour relevant to the majority in England, traditionally conservative in view, whilst still being a democratic socialist party for the whole of the UK.

    “New Labour” sold its soul to get elected in 97 to the City and Private Finance (with ruinous involvement in the public sector) it has led this country down a path of self-interest and irresponsibility. The Government has been morally corrupt, lacking any sense of common sense when formulating policies, and allowing the so-called “Establishment” to govern by proxy. One could almost say this country is a one party state run by big business, gentrified people with land and property.

    It’s quite significant when Obama looks back in history to FDR, who still has relevance today. From Franklin Roosevelt’s Oval Office in 1934 these few words give a sense of where the Labour Party should be heading,

    “Americans must forswear that conception of the acquisition of wealth which, through excessive profits, creates undue private power over private affairs and, to our misfortune, over public affairs as well. In building toward this end we do not destroy ambition… but we do assert that the ambition of the individual to obtain a proper security, a reasonable leisure, and a decent living throughout life is an ambition to be preferred to the appetite for great wealth and great power.”

    Open debate at the Party Conference has been stifled for fear of lurid headlines from biased right wing media empires. Party members ideas are stifled and sanatised at regional level before being lost in a myriad of committees, partnerships, forums and commissions. All this far too complex for local members to understand and comprehend.

    We should allow local party members the chance to speak openly and make decisions at Conference, the NEC and or the Joint Policy Committee without fear of sanction. Lets not be timid about what we believe and not be ashamed to promote our ideas / discussions to the general public at a national or local level.

    Jon Williams

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  12. Hi Jon : In 1977 the Dronfield Labour Party submitted a resolution to the North East Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party which was adopted and placed on the agenda of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party. A simple procedure. It faced tough opposition at Conference from the National Executive Committee and the Conference Arrangements Committee. But after a week of campaigning at Conference and using the available procedures to the full, we forced the motion onto the agenda at the last minute. In the words of the official record the Chair said "That resolution is overwhelmingly carried (Applause)".

    The resolution sort to assist Councillors from the Clay Cross Urban District who had been surcharged and debarred from office for refusing to implement the 1972 Tories Housing Finance Act which hit at their Council House tenants. Whilst the Labour Government did not act on the resolution, it aided our campaigning. We raised thousands to pay off surcharges and showed the tenants in Clay Cross that we were doing our best to help those who had done their best to help them.

    At the minimum we need procedures like these to be able to operate democratically.

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  13. Harry I can accept what you saying sadly I was really active within labours disability group, it's been non active now for eighteen months after Brown stated it was not needed although the MP's who were on it are still seen as being part of it, when I contacted them eighteen months ago they told me it's in name only and no further meeting would be held.

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  14. Robert : A postal ballot is currently taking place for the position of General Secretary of the Labour Party Disabled Members Group in a contest between Dave Allen and David Worthington. Perhaps the group will become active again.

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  15. Robert is a troy troll - please ignore all his comments. He is not Labour and never has been.

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  16. Interesting blog. Please take a look at my blog when you get a chance @ http://amte.wordpress.com If you're interested, we should link to each other.

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  17. Icruz : This blog's adminstrator is "Blogger Brader" who has the first comment to this item. I am his team member and started this thread, so I will place a link to your blog on my own blog which is entitled "Three Score Years And Ten" at http://threescoreyearsandten.blogspot.com/

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  18. Icruz again: Comments from a "proletarian revolutionary" are always welcome.

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  19. At one time, you could get aresolution from a local party debated at the GMC. Then it stood a chance of getting to conference and being carried - as with the '77 Clay Cross resolution. However with the advent of New Labour this is no longer possible. I recall Patricia Hewitt - at the 99 conference - saying that even though there had been an overwhelming majority of delegates wanting more left wing policies, the government didn't have to take any notice of these wishes. So why bother discussing issues that won't get aired at conference?

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  20. The following comment is from KEN TURTON -

    "Many thanks for your latest Dronfield Blather with your "What is to be done" question. As far as I can see what needed doing has been deliberately overlooked by the Labour Party for some 70 years or more and to ask the question now appears academic.

    What Brown has done is to allow the banks to continue in the same old way allowing them to achieve the same results at some future date.

    The cash he has handed out to the banks should have been handed to industry which would have needed to be controlled with a large element from below. Ordinary people have been thrown onto the scrap heap to make their way without proper resources to help them. This is folly of the highest order and to continue in this way after so many failures is then the worst of follies.

    I do not yet have the same opinion as you that all is lost now. But what needs to be done is to retract the banks assistance and let them see to themselves, leaving them to scratch a living out of the mess they are leaving us with. It will only be worsened if your assessment is correct and the Tories get hold, for we will have to pick up the bill without a shadow of a doubt and our situation will worsen considerably.

    The answer for now is to make certain that workers are offered job security by ending dole queues. We should put resources into increasing job prospects and where this is resisted (as it will be) to take over the industry and invest in it; abandon PFI and other private investment; build more council houses; lower the investment into private house building whilst making alternative council housing cheaper; and take over road haulage along with other transport industries including their large flying clubs such as Virgin and airports such as Heathrow and East Midlands.

    Let us invest into the development of our industrial muscle and to do it now, thereby giving a lead and a sign to the voting Labour supporter of a policy they can really have confidence in which will alter the political scenario for ever more.

    We should make the Tories dance to our tune as opposed to us dancing to theirs, for with Labour we have done this far too often.

    Without a much more radical policy which will attract the honest Labour voter, then I do not see the Labour Party having a future and the danger in that will then be the BNP which is vicious and unhealthy. Although they will not have influence for too long as they have nothing to offer the working class."

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