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The demolition of Maurice Glasman

Last night on the subject of Blue Labour, Helen Goodman MP (with a bit of help from Comrade Paxman) had the better of Maurice Glasman (or as Paxman had it “Goldman…sorry Grassman”). You can judge for your self here or read this transcript:

Paxman to Glasman
“How would you describe it?”

Glasman
“It’s traditional Labour. It puts friendship, neighbourliness, hard work, a real commitment to the care of your family at the heart of the political agenda.”

Paxman to Goodman
“What’s your problem with it?”

Goodman
“I think it’s ok as far as it goes, but I think we know we need a lot more than neighbourliness and a commitment between our family. And I think the rejection of 1945 is a really big mistake. I’ll give you one example…”

Paxman
“Well we’d better explain the rejection of 1945. You’re saying the fact that the 1945 Labour government, which many in the movement consider to be the greatest Labour government of all time, actually wasn’t a Blue Labour thing at all?”

Goodman
“No. That’s Maurice’s point. Maurice is going right back to the beginning, to the 1890s. And I’m saying well, the 1890s, there were some valuable things, the co-op movement for example very strong, but I think there was a lot that was really positive in 1945 and I think that most people in Britain that have family stories that reinforce that.”

Paxman to Glasman
“What was wrong with 1945?”

Glasman
“There were great things about 1945 and I haven’t said another thing, but the problem with 1945 was in the nationalisation model. Was that workers were completely subordinate, there was no role for trade unions, there was no role for workers in the nationalised industries. So very scientific, administrative, technocratic…”

Paxman
“This is the NHS. Was that a mistake?”

Glasman
“No, the NHS was the decommodification of medicine. It was a wonderful thing. I’m saying that moving to the state exclusively as the provider, very central things about responsibility, about the movement, and particularly about the role of workers and work in the economy were neglected and we need to reinstate that.”

Paxman to Goodman
“You suggest it is anti-women?”

Goodman
“It is quite anti-women, there are essays in The Politics of Paradox that blame the breakdown in social order on the independence of women. I think most women are quite pleased we’ve got an equal pay act.”

Paxman
“You also suggest it is jingoistic.”

Goodman
“It is jingoistic, not Maurice but one of the other authors, there’s a sentence that says the social disorder has been caused by the loss of men’s entitlement, as if white men were entitled to the fruits of black people in the colonies and the exploitation that went on in the colonies. I mean this is an extraordinary document.”

Glasman
“Well I think this is all a little ungenerous. There are a variety of voices in the book. I think the idea that this is anti-women is just wrong.”

Paxman to Glasman
“You will, I’m sure you will agree, it is sometimes quite hard to understand precisely what it is. This interview that you gave to this Italian magazine…”

Glasman
“Which I wrote in Italian…”

Paxman
“You wrote it in Italian – well maybe that explains something. [Quotes] ‘There is a sense of bravery and tragedy in our position and that is one meaning of the word blue that links Miles Davis with Picass and Aristotle.’ I mean what is this about?”

Glasman
“So, there’s many meanings to the word blue and one is ‘the blues’ which you may or may not have listened to. Another one is Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’. It’s to get away from this naive optimism that things can only get better. That all you have to do is vote Labour and the world becomes a better place. People have to take some responsibility. There will be struggles ahead. There will be defeats as well. I mean you have to have a really durable concept of the good, we really have to build trust with each other in order to have a transformative Labour government that we all want.”

Paxman
“Would it be a good idea for Labour to go into the next government election saying things can only get worse?”

Glasman
“Well that’s the sort of dualistic idiocy that the media thrives on but I don’t think you should characterise the Labour conversation. Things can get worse, they can get better.

Goodman
“Well I would say things have got better with Labour governments. Maurice has criticised nationalisation. My mother-in-law came from a mining village, when she was a child she’d frequently she’d go to the pit when there was an accident. How many people were being killed in the pits? Horrible things were happening. Once you’ve got nationalisation you’ve got massive improvements in health and safety standards, massive improvements in people’s standards of living. Or my own grandmother, between the wars she was collecting subs for a voluntary ambulance scheme and great in terms of community building which is what Maurice is talking about, but actually people prefer to dial 999.”

Glasman
“Yeah but if you look at the German social market which didn’t go to nationalisation but co-determination. That is workers representatives on the board, a strong commitment to vocational training and apprenticeship, and the representation of workers in the actual management of firms, they developed a far more durable model, far less inequality, and really a higher modern economy, so really i’m not talking about nationalisation, i’m talking about the sovereignty of people who did PPE at Oxford who would govern the Treasury, pull the right levers, but we’ve got to get democratic governance in the economy.”

Paxman
“Well we’ll leave aside that reference to Ed Miliband. In the Blue Labour world, would the state be smaller?”

Glasman
“The state wouldn’t be smaller but it would be embedded in a set of relationships. What I’m arguing for example is there should be split for example in schools, that there should be a split between parents, teachers and the state in the governance of schools and that should also characterise the economy.”

Paxman to Goodman
“You also have an anxiety about immigration?”

Goodman
“About what he says? Yes I do. I have an anxiety that the white working class somehow is privileged in Maurice’s picture of British history and that seems to me actually to misunderstand British history, because British history is about empire. We’re a multicultural country because we had a big empire and actually one of the very successful things we’ve done, much more successfully than other European countries, is build those multicultural communities so we have much higher levels of tolerance in our country.”

Glasman
“Well I would argue the great beneficiaries of imperialism were the City of London, were the owners, and the movement was a massive struggle to get recognition for local workers who were themselves dispossessed through the enclosure movement and had to fight to get recognition in the political system, the right to vote, democratic entitlements. So this idea that there is a privilege for that is not so. We’ve lived through an unprecedented period of immigration, I work with London Citizens on the living wage and I saw where the race to the bottom took effect. There was competition between local workers and new workers and its necessary to re-engage with the common good, the politics of the common good, that can do what the labour movement always did, bring together immigrants and locals, working class and middle class, and engage in a genuine politics that can make the country better.”

Paxman to Goodman
“Whats your anxiety if Blue Labour continues to gain ground in the leadership of the party?”

Goodman
“I’ve got two anxieties. One is that it ignores the internationalisation agenda and the world. So it’s all very well to have the things that Maurice talks about, co-ops and industrial democracy, and I’m in favour of those things, but we’ve got to attract foreign investment from abroad, so you’ve got to have government taking a role on that. And then I come back to the issue about the welfare state. The welfare state may be inefficient, maybe we may need to address the bureaucracy, but on the other hand, it gives people security and equal opportunities.”

Hat tip: Ben Folley

3 Comments

  1. oldpolitics says:

    Looks to me, sadly, like Helen didn’t trouble to understand what Blue Labour is, and decided it would be easier simply to criticise something she had imagined it to be.

  2. Mick Hall says:

    Having just watched the clip, sadly I see no evidence of any demolition of Maurice Glasman. The major fault with Helen was she had little understanding of her brief. Take her attempt to challenge Glasman over the Labour government of 1945. Understandably, as that is his game he critiqued the nationalisations.

    Saying workers were excluded democratically from these industries, maybe true at first, but that government began the process of democratising much of the UK’s societal infrastructure. NHS boards, employment tribunals etc, the very things NL and now the coalition fought so hard to roll back.

    Helen was good on the mines, but failed to even mention the railways, if anything the one industry in which blue labours view of working class people actually existed. Workers were proud to be railwaymen, and proud of their industry, etc.

    But hey in todays world LP MPs are afraid to mention the word nationalization let alone defend it.

    As to Paxman he was his usual hopeless self centered self.

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