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We need a Socialist Campaign for Labour Victory

There is no doubt that Owen Jones’s column in the Independent is an asset for the left, reaching a wide audience. His latest proposal is modest but correctly calibrated I think. After reflecting on the seemingly terminal crisis in the far left group, the SWP, Owen suggests that the era of the Leninist sects is over, and the need for a new networked form of politics is clear:

If we could agree on some key principles, and avoid creating a new battleground for ultra-left sects, we could give the angry and the frustrated a home. We could link together workers facing falling wages while their tax credits are cut; unemployed people demonised by a cynical media and political establishment; crusaders against the mass tax avoidance of the wealthy; sick and disabled people having basic support stripped away; campaigners against crippling cuts to our public services; young people facing a future of debt, joblessness and falling living standards; and trade unions standing their ground in the onslaught against workers’ rights.

Such a network would push real alternatives to the failure of austerity that would have to be listened to; and create political space for policies that otherwise does not exist. Faced with a more courageous, coherent challenge to the Tory project, the Labour leadership would face pressure that would not – for a change – come from the right.

It is easier to discuss such an idea in a newspaper than put it into practice, but it is a mystery that such a network does not already exist. Though fraught with difficulties – never underestimate the ability of the left to miss an opportunity – the appetite is certainly there. Our country’s greatest movement consists of those screaming with exasperation at their TV sets. Time to break the isolation of those who want an alternative to the bleak future currently on offer. The era of the SWP and its kind is over; a new movement is waiting to be born.

Within a few days, over 800 people hit the “strongly agree” button with a further 100 plus agreeing, it was tweeted 360 times and recommended 1700 times of Facebook. The potential is there.

The Internet certainly provides a mechanism for reaching a wide audience, my fellow Socialist Unity blogger, John Wight, has received over 8000 people clicking “like” on his excellent recent article about Tory attacks on the unemployed on Huffington Post. Tens of thousands of people read the debate which took place on Socialist Unity after the scandal of the SWP’s handling of a rape complaint was revealed.

But how do we go beyond the limitations of the Internet? The think tank CLASS is obviously a heavyweight addition to the left’s capacity to generate policy and ideas, backed as it is by UNITE and GMB; but it provides little opportunity for engagement by grassroots activists.

Ideas are not themselves enough unless linked with effective political activism that leads to social change. However, activism requires a shared political project. The political landscape is dominated by the fact that the only credible alternative government in Westminster is Labour; however the Labour Party no longer commands the authority that it used to among social-justice activists. Indeed, the so far inability or reluctance by Labour’s front bench to effectively oppose the austerity narrative, and propose an alternative economic policy for growth is highly problematic. The left in the party needs to have an organisational counterwieght to Progress, which needs a footprint in the PLP and in the shadow cabinent, and of course backing from unions. Those raw ingredients do exist. But it also requires a structure that individual party members can join, and we need to make it actually happen.

The election cannot be ignored, because Labour Party members cannot engage with any political network that will directly lead to electoral challenges to Labour. The paradox though is that Labour is likely to fight the election on a manifesto that will not inspire the activist left.

The important argument to win is that the formation of a Labour government is necessary, and should be campaigned for even by those with no particular alliegance to Labour, because it will provide a much better political context for the left, and also will be more favourable to working people, and the unions.

However, a political campaign by the left for a Labour government need not be limited to the policies of the Labour manifesto. What is needed, as has happened in the past when Labour is in opposition, is bold thinking about what a Labour government could do. How we can recast British society to be more fair, just and sustainable.

What we need is a socialist campaign for a Labour victory.

29 Comments

  1. treborc says:

    Well sadly when labour has been in opposition before it had the same problem it has now, the Tories have to be the worse in living history and the leader of labour has to be charismatic, sadly when that happens we end up with of course Blair.

    Kinnock blew it and now we are back with another Kinnock, and if Miliband does not want to be sitting on the back benches as his brother laughs out loud, then he has to prove he has the answers.

    Jim Murphy showed up labour problems to day, arguing about the redundancies of the Military he was asked, what would you do today if you were in power.

    I do not know what I would do, says it all really

  2. john reid says:

    Blimey 8,000 clicks on huffington post, and even trebor doens’t diclike Ed, well Andy you were right to leave Socialist wrokers and rejoin labour, like you owned it,

    For this,

  3. Andy Newman says:

    “you were right to leave Socialist wrokers ”

    I left them ten years ago!

  4. treborc says:

    That why John said it, he’s about ten years behind the rest of the country.

  5. David Ellis says:

    `“you were right to leave Socialist wrokers ”

    I left them ten years ago!’

    Politically but not mentally.

    It is of course correct to campaign for a workers govermnent with a socialist programme and I have been arguing for this for some time. It is theoretically possible that the Labour Party will be the vehicle for realising such a workers’ government and it would be unneccessarily sectarian to rule it out in advance. However, I suspect that most people will not agree that an eclectic mixture of Gramsican Stalinist ideology, Chinese Communist Party Police methodology and Churchillian hero worship drenched in warmed over Keynesian hog wash would represent a socialist campaign for a labour or any other victory.

    Any chance of you outlining some of the programmatic demands of this socialist campaign for a labour victory? I suspect the cupboard is bare when it comes to going beyond the abstract principle.

  6. David Ellis says:

    For my own part a socialist campaign for a workers government labour or otherwise would consist of the following programmatic demands:

    1. Full defence of all necessary and desirable public services and welfare that effect working people and the raising of sufficient income tax to pay for them and balance the budget.

    2. Reversal of all privatisations of public services.

    3. An immediate regime of full employment by sharing the available productive work with the minimum of a living wage for all. Young people and the unemployed should not give any politician a second thought if they do not stand for this.

    4. Democratisation and socialisation of the property of the cash-hoarding, asset-stripping, job slashing monoplies. Worker elected managers and social ownership of the means of production and social surpluses of these profiteers.

    5. Nothing can be achieved without ending the bail out of Britain’s bankrupt banks. The balance sheet of the state is being ruined and centuries of accumulated wealth is being liquidated to make good the debts of the bankers to their billionaire creditors following the collapse of their 30-year credit bubble turned Ponzie Scheme. Let the bankrupt banks go bankrupt and take their estates, staff and deposits into administration to form a People’s Bank with a monopoly of credit lending at base rate to small business and facilitating social investment such as the greening of the infrastructure.

    6. For a federation of sovereign British nations and for the renegotiation of the founding treaties of the EU in accordance with socialist principles.

  7. treborc says:

    1. Full defence of all necessary and desirable public services and welfare that effect working people and the raising of sufficient income tax to pay for them and balance the budget.

    Well OK so working people, not working class,

    So do not be born disabled or become disabled until you have worked.

    How about changing from working people to working class….

    welfare is a catch net to ensure nobody in the UK or the EU lives without some sort of life, otherwise socialism become nationalism and Hitler seen as a hero.

  8. David Ellis says:

    I do find it amusing that there are so many ex-SWPers floating about who spent years in that organisation disrupting the effective functioning of the left, bullying fellow comrades and others and then when they’ve decided they’ve had enough bailing out and blaming not themselves but `Leninism’ as if the SWP’s methods had anything in common with Leninism. Just a way of escapting the blame or facing up to their own crappy instincts.

  9. David Ellis says:

    treborc: bit of sectarian nit-picking there and I mentioned the defence of welfare so what you are blathering about I’m not sure.

  10. Laban says:

    All this nagombi about new parties or reforming existing ones, given the enormous structural disadvantages (not least a vast reserve army of labour, welcomed and encouraged by the UK left) faced by the UK working class, is about as much use as poor old Boxer’s motto in Animal Farm.

    “I must work harder!”

    It’s not left structures or organisation that have made the difference between the situation of the working class in 1945 or 1975 and their situation today.

    It’s left policies – or more precisely the results of them.

  11. Laban says:

    PS – agree with Ellis’s #6 re the banks. But Mr Newman’s beloved Labour Party bailed them out with our money, our children’s money, and our unborn grandchildren’s money.

  12. treborc says:

    Well Dave mate if you do not know the difference.

  13. David Ellis says:

    What about my number six treborc? It suddenly seems extremely relevant given Cameroon’s speech this morning. How will Ed respond I wonder?

  14. David Ellis says:

    By the way just for your benefit terborc I will change #1 to `the working class’.

  15. treborc says:

    Words and the way we use them are important, I see labour to day as being the party of the Squeezed middle class and the hard working, strivers not skivers.

    sadly it’s New labour

  16. treborc says:

    (6)

    yes it would be great if we could get all of the EU under a socialist banner, but that’s as likely as being a lottery winner three times.

    At the moment all the people who I think are socialist tend to be telling me I cannot expect to keep my benefits, when the country is in crises, Labour talks about upping the top tax band to 50p phew 5p more, yet not to long ago the lowest paid lost under labour the 10p tax band.

    I’m not sure socialism to this labour party is the same socialism you or I would mean

  17. David Ellis says:

    `yes it would be great if we could get all of the EU under a socialist banner, but that’s as likely as being a lottery winner three times’

    The only way it can happen is if workers’ governments came to power across Europe and between them renegotiated the EU’s founding treaties to represent the interests of workers rather than capitalists. Less like a lottery win and more like what we, as socialists, are supposed to be fighting for. Don’t be so disheartened. Socialism is an objective necessity not just a nice idea.

  18. Dave says:

    David E: “the only way it can happen is if workers’ governments came to power ”

    Does that mean you’ll be voting for Ed or do you have your own personal political party?

  19. David Ellis says:

    I want a workers’ government. I think I made that clear but not to you apparently. I will be campaigning for Labour and others to stand on the above programme. Where that programme doesn’t have specific candidates standing on it or other credible non Labour candidates I will calling for a vote for New Labour to topple the coalition in solidarity with the millions of workers who will be doing the same. I will not however not cease from pointing out that the next Labour government can only be the forerunner to a fascist counter-revolution if it isn’t the forerunner of a socialist revolution.

    I don’t appreciate your trolling tone and methodology by the way.

  20. David Ellis says:

    Dave instead of being a troll why don’t you engage with the discussion.

    Tell me, what should the Labour Party be on Europe running up to the General Election now that Cameron is pledging an in out referendum after having negotiated the end of Human Rights, Working Time Directive, Health and Safety etc? Those German capitalists might actually concede that.

    I think Milliband the Vacuum should be pledging not an in out referendum but to find new partners in Europe with whom Labour can re-negotiate the founding treaties of the EU in accordance with socialist principles and the interests of the working class. In the meantime he should pledge when in government not to impelement EU directives that are detrimental to our class.

    Come on try and be positive instead of trolling otherwise we’ll all start `yawning’.

  21. Peter Rowlands says:

    I’m afraid I don’t think much of the normally insightful Owen Jones’s article. To conclude that Leninism is not a way forward is hardly revelatory – I came to this conclusion in 1975 when I left the International Socialists, as the SWP was then called.I was, incidentally, involved in something called the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory in 78 – 9 before it was taken over by a trot sect, the ICL I think. But Owen’s central point is wrong. We do not need a network. We are networked up to the hilt. We can instantly comment on political developments and share our views with fellow left wingers. No, it is Andy Newman who is right, we need new grouping within the Labour Party to represent the centre left and counter Progress and the Blairite right. Until recently CLPD, Compass and the LRC in their different ways to some extent fulfilled this function, but this is no longer the case. Compass has gone of in search of a rainbow coalition ( somewhere over the rainbow) while divisions within and between LRC and CLPD render neither capable at the moment of representing and co-ordinating the centre-left in the Labour Party.This is what we need.

  22. Dave says:

    @David E

    Sorry to be a troll – must have been my exasperation at the castles in the sky approach.

    In my view Miliband should deal with the matter on the table and put forward positive arguments in favour of EU membership, referencing the social chapter etc. Opposing a referendum isn’t a good move. Particularly as the ‘uncertainty’ he’s predicting may well be considered an acceptable temporary cost in view of the deregulation and City of London opt-outs that will most likely follow Cameron’s negotiations.

    If you’re expecting the L.P. to lead a “socialist revolution” then you’re going to be disappointed. That’s just fantasy stuff. Like it or not, the name of the game for Labour is managing capitalism. And, in all honesty, I’d much prefer that to the nonsense served up by of the UK’s undemocratic ‘revolutionary’ parties.

  23. Dave says:

    @ David E.

    And as for the “fascist counter-revolution” outcome, while my crystal ball isn’t as clear as yours, I’d say a form of technocratic hyper-capitalism, presided over by a cloned Blairite cyborg, is much more likely.

  24. David Ellis says:

    Peter ROwlands: `I’m afraid I don’t think much of the normally insightful Owen Jones’s article. To conclude that Leninism is not a way forward is hardly revelatory – I came to this conclusion in 1975 when I left the International Socialists, as the SWP was then called.’

    To conclude that the IS or SWP was Leninist is where the stupidity lies.

  25. David Ellis says:

    `If you’re expecting the L.P. to lead a “socialist revolution” then you’re going to be disappointed.’

    I don’t so I won’t be.

    In your view the imperialist EU lash up is worthy of working class support. I guess that’s all we need to know about your New Labour outlook.

    As for your last comment, I guess unable to make a serious point you just can’t help yourself.

  26. David Ellis says:

    So the `castle’s in the sky’ quip is because you think I believe Labour will lead as socialist revolution and yet at no point have I said anything remotely like that. You are clearly only out to disrupt discussion.

  27. Andy Newman says:

    Well what this discussion does do is vindicate the decision of my own blog http://www.socialistunity.com to ban David Ellis from commenting.

    Otherwise the whole discussion starts to revolve around him

  28. Rob the crip says:

    Banning people of course that’s is up to you on your own blog, but we have seen labour who banned people and look what we ended up with Blair and Brown, and now Cameron.

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