Friday, December 3, 2010

Socialism Not Isolationism (by Ken Curran)

Parliament In The Dark

Monday' Opposition Day Debate in the Commons on the Coalition's massive cuts which are planned in central grants to local authorities over the next four years, provides an opportunity for Labour to point out the global nature of the current financial crisis. For it is the overall economic climate which is used by the Government to attack public spending.

It is time, however, for Labour to tell some home truths. The economic crisis arose thanks to an ignorance in economic and financial affairs by politicians of all political parties. Not just in Britain but world wide. The role of the banks was the stimulus in creating the crisis. A sign of blindness and ignorance at the size of the gathering storm.

Labour should look seriously at itself afresh, for at one time it believed that capitalism had the potential to lead us into just such an economic and social disaster. To ignore the history of the part played by the banks over the 1920s and 30s beggars belief. We have to admit that Labour played a major part in creating the crisis. Whilst Gordon Brown eventually took steps to try and avoid a total collapse of world trade, we still remain in a position of great uncertainty.

Politicians of different shades appear to behave as if they understand the nature of the beast they are attempting to tame, yet increasing numbers of the general public are beginning to doubt whether any of them know what they are talking about. Public doubts about the quality and nature of our democracy are not surprising given the nature of the performance of many of our MPs in recent years. It will take more than one election to erase the memories of the expenses scandal. There is the disgrace of the recent behaviour of Nick Clegg over the question of Student Fees in his signing the Student's Petition whilst at the same time his colleague Danny Alexander was in secret talks with the Tories about the possibility of going into coalition with them if a hung parliament arose. Clegg and his colleagues deceived a generation of young people, many of them voting for the first time. Clegg has done an enormous damage to politicians and the concept of democracy as well as to his own Party.

Acting alone the Labour Party can not substantially alter the performance of the global market even to fulfil its own modest demands. Labour and other Democratic Socialist Parties need to act in concert in order to mount the maximum pressure upon the world's financial system. It is misleading the electorate to claim that the practices of the global market can be dealt with in isolation.

I see political isolationism as the great fault line in Social Democratic thinking. It is the biggest obstacle to creating a stable economic economy. This is perhaps the reason why Social Democrats fail to maintain and sustain electoral success.

The decline in the influence of Social Democratic and Democratic Socialist Parties across the world is due to the lack of a collective vision and a collective message. These parties continually sing from different hymn sheets. It is hardly the best way to sell an alternative message. It gives the electorate the impression that we know what we are against, but not what we are for.

I accept that in the course of political debate differences of approach and opinion will emerge. All of us have a duty to conduct ourselves in a responsible manner. Unfortunately in the recent past some who are (or have been regarded themselves) as leading members of the Labour Party have only been too keen to speak to the media as though they were the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom in our movement.
The preview by the Guardian of Ed Miliband's address to the National Policy Forum as he unveils his Policy Enquiries pointed out that he would warn that the same old stance will not restore trust in the Party. He promises that the Party will engage in what he describes as a million conversations to reconnect to a disillusioned public. Perhaps there is the chance of a Renaissance of Labour. New Labour led us into what eventually turned into a minefield. Our leaders disregarded our Party Values. Some even indulged themselves in behaviour unbecoming to a Party of high ideals. Let us hope that we emerge from the morass, some of which has been our own doing. We can learn from our past mistakes and still build on the ideals of Keir Hardie (photo above, addressing a rally at Trafalgar Square), Clem Attlee, Nye Bevan, Barbara Castle, Robin Cooke and many more. They all had their faults, but none of them would have advocated CASINOS as a means of improving society.

Ken Curran, Sheffield District Labour Party, Chair Sheffield Branch of the Co-op Party.

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