Thursday, September 30, 2010

If I Was Labour's Leader...

If I were Labour's newly elected leader in addition to seeing the need to rebuild the Labour Party to become a mass party with wide support in society, I would at the same time seek to internationalise the debate on what democratic socialism means and get beyond our domestic scene.

Trying to tame or regulate capitalism from our own perspective is not possible. Nor is it possible to influence changes in public behaviour sufficiently over climate change, future famines and shortages of water and raw materials unless we seek to internationalise the debate. This is why we need to start a wide debate with fellow democratic socialists in order to develop an international strategy.

In a blog item at Labour List which I otherwise identify with, there is no mention by Jon Wilson of "Labour Values" of the need for an international dialogue on either the banking crisis or climate change and its attendant problems such as drought and famine. Whilst unlike George Monbiot (the Guardian's Climate Change Correspondent) who accepts the inevitability of being unable to sufficiently influence world opinion on these matters, I believe that as socialists we can and must continue to pursue the long term objective of defeating ignorance, famine and poverty.
The last phase of the Climate Change debate in Copenhagen ended in failure due to the influences of capitalist doctrines. We must combine together with as many men and women as possible of political goodwill across the globe to confront the forces of greed, which regrettably the banks and many other institutions across the globe have come to represent. Unfortunately the Social Democrats and Socialists have lost political power in many countries across Europe. I believe that this is largely due to them losing their way in the same manner as New Labour.

Democratic Socialism and Global Capitalism are not natural bedfellows. Capitalism is the antithesis of Democratic Socialism. This is not my being doctrinaire, but genuinely stating a fact. In the same way science tells us that oil and water don't mix, you cannot get socialism and capitalism to blend. But one can exercise controls over the other.

So even if we accept that capitalism has produced technical advances which have at times benefited temporally privileged groups of people, then we have to finds ways to see that such benefits go to all people throughout the world. Substantial controls, restraints, redirection and transformation have to be placed on the writ of capitalism if we are to start to save the world and make it safer for future generations. Changes that we will have to work on continuously to produce a situation that enables us to develop a world which is finally free from the dominance of capitalism's greed and exploitation.

We all have our own histories and cultures, but the thing we now have and share in common is the currently uncontrollable behaviour of global capitalism. If we don't find solutions to control that behaviour, then I do fear the worst for humanity.

We can't, however, just depend on one set of regulations to control global capitalism. As John Kay said in the Financial Times on September 14th this year -"Serious reform must begin with a realistic assessment of what regulations can achieve. Regulations can observe compliance with prescribed procedures - and that is really what they mostly do - but have a very limited ability or opportunity to assess what behaviour is prudent." Only eternal vigilance and understanding can shape what regulations are needed when.

The new generation of politicians which Ed Miliband speaks of have some enormous challenges that require their urgent attention. For humanities sake they must not fail. Room for manoeuvre in today's world is very limited. I repeat my earlier warning in Dronfield Blather, Global Capitalism left to its own devices has the potential to kill the human race.

Ken Curran, Chair Sheffield Co-operative Party and Sheffield District Labour Party.

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