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We’re all socialists now. But what does it mean?

An early work (1825) by a Ricardian Socialist

An early work (1825) by a Ricardian Socialist

After a year of left leadership the word “socialist” is in vogue again. Not so long ago even the word “equality” had become suspect. Few now would be “intensely relaxed” about people getting “filthy rich so long as they pay their taxes” (Peter Mandelson, 1998). Nearly everyone agrees that massive inequality reveals a deep social fault line. Now “socialism” is once again part of Labour rhetoric.

We expect it from the left. Jeremy Corbyn promised Conference 2016 a “socialism for the 21st century”. John McDonnell added that we no longer have to whisper the word “socialist”. But now everyone’s at it – well nearly everyone, some still find the “s” word difficult to pronounce.

Owen Smith went so far as to speak of “socialist revolution” during his leadership bid. Luke Akehurst has even claimed that socialist talk is nothing new. He says of the Labour Party twenty years ago (i.e. with the rise of Tony Blair to leadership):

It took its socialism very seriously. For a year we held big meetings round the country where we earnestly debated what it meant to be a democratic socialist in the modern age, examined the ideas of Gramsci, Marx, Robert Owen, and how these might be applied to the challenges Britain faced. … [we] came up with a new constitution which for the first time included the “s” word and stated that we were a “democratic socialist party… [that] believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create … for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few …

Keir Hardie argued for public ownership of capital and land.

Keir Hardie argued for public ownership of capital and land.

In 2011 when there was media chatter about Chuka Umunna as a potential Party leader he said that he “prefers not to be called a socialist”. The impression given was reinforced in 2014 when he told The House Magazine that he was “intensely relaxed” about being compared to Peter Mandelson. But in 2016 he warmed to the word. In September he wrote that the problems of the Labour Party were no reason to junk “our social democratic and democratic socialist ideals”.

So, we are all socialists now

But what does it mean? Confusion abounds. “Reform”/“revolution” and “revolutionary socialism”/“democratic socialism” are generally assumed to be mutually exclusive. Socialism based on “values” is posed against socialism based on historical analysis just as “pragmatic socialism” is opposed to “doctrinaire socialism” (i.e. anything explicitly theoretical). Lack of knowledge of the interaction of these traditions in their real development allows them to be presented in the form of opposing mantras.

Anthony Crosland (1956) claimed that Britain was no longer a capitalist society

Anthony Crosland (1956) claimed that Britain was no longer a capitalist society

Broadly, in the Labour Party tradition the right (which always designates itself as “centrist”), favours “pragmatic socialism” and claims to go for “what works”. The left appeals to Labour’s alleged founding principles and to the moral superiority of social (as opposed to private) solutions to social problems. Both are equally inarticulate when it comes to analysis of the concepts (implicit or explicit) on which their views are based. There is virtually no debate between these views – just shouting when the other side is on the pitch.

This problem is well illustrated by the current phase of Labour Politics. A left-wing party leader was elected in 2015 and his position was reinforced in the election forced by the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 2016. But the large-scale support for Jeremy Corbyn does not come from people convinced by his view of socialism. Rather it comes from a general sense that Labour had lost its way, that the old leadership had become part of the establishment furniture. Corbyn is supported by people who want a break from that.

The surprise elevation of Jeremy Corbyn to party leader provided a great opportunity for promoting and developing socialist ideas. We need to recognise, however, that so far this has not happened. The materials produced by Labour’s Policy Commissions as a basis for feedback to the National Policy Forum were weak beyond belief and offered no basis for debating contending viewpoints.

The reality is that the contending ideologies in Labour currently are left wing social democracy (Corbynism), right wing social democracy (the soft left) and Blairism which is a form of liberalism. There is no serious advocacy of even a pale or timid socialism that maps out a credible transition to a socialist society.

What are the contending views?

Tony Blair explained his concept of socialism in 1994

Tony Blair explained his concept of socialism in 1994

Socialism has come to mean for some no more than a more humane form of capitalism. It means a society clearly based on the private ownership of the great bulk of society’s productive, distributive and communicative capacities. According to this approach the profit motive is the driving force of a dynamic society but its destructive tendencies need to be held in check by government. Also, government’s role is to skim off some of the surplus generated by capitalism for provision of such things as social services. Socialism on this view is humanely managed capitalism through the offices of government.

For others socialism means a qualitatively different type of social organisation. On this view, managing capitalism, while often desirable in the short term, will never overcome the problems of capitalist instability and its constant pressure to generate inequality. It also fails to tackle the problem of a social ethos in which the drive for personal gain is seen as the most reliable motivator. Socialists of this stripe believe that socialism is a system that should replace capitalism and that dominant forms of the sources of society’s wealth should eventually come under democratic control to ensure that the satisfaction of needs takes precedence over the pursuit of private profit.

Alec Nove's proposals (1991) have been little discussed

Alec Nove’s proposals (1991) have been little discussed

These incompatible views lie behind the civil war in the Labour Party. The first view is that of traditional social democracy. It had its hay day in the long boom of the post WWII period in conditions never to be repeated. It is now an ideology without a historical basis, which is why it is floundering all over Europe.

The second view of socialism is still more of a dream than a set of policies, or even clear objectives. It may lie behind the views of the Party leadership but it is not actually reflected in anything that is advocated. Its policies, where they exist at all, do not go beyond those of traditional social democracy and in many respects are to the right of that tradition.

A proposal

Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015 it has often been said that the main objective is to put party members in charge of the party. The clear message was that there was to be an end to manipulation, control freakery and opaque methods. I voted (twice) for him on that basis. Those things all still remain a promise rather than a reality. Labour doesn’t have a culture of informed debate but now we desperately need to create one. It is time resolve differences where they clearly lead to entirely different and incompatible policies. Labour can no longer survive in its traditional way by fudging the issues. They must be met head on.

We need a series of ‘great debates’ throughout the party on the major issues. That will not be possible without good quality information about the contending views. Different issues need to be dealt with in a systematic way throughout the party in a way that engages all active party members and connects their views to policy alternatives placed before the National Policy Forum.

There is no way of resolving differences on the scale described here without the fullest possible informed debate about the contending views. Luke Akehurst’s claim that this has already happened is unconvincing. Perhaps he really believes that “For a year we held big meetings round the country where we earnestly debated … the ideas of Gramsci, Marx, Robert Owen”. I suspect that he confuses passing references to these people as an “earnest debate” about what they actually wrote. I doubt that there are many takers for his view.

My proposal is that the party should set up a magazine for debate to be made available to all members. In it, people representing alternative views and approaches to all the main topics should be invited to lay out their ideas as clearly as possible. This should be linked to a programme for discussion of different topics tying the magazine contents to National Policy Forum deliberations in time for branches to discuss the issues presented in the magazine in order to feed through to the NPF (possibly through Constituency Labour Parties). This proposal goes far beyond the feeble attempts of the NPF to stimulate discussion with one-sided and totally inadequate documents. I can see no other way in which a meaningful debate aimed at generating policies debated by the members in an informed way could be produced.

I would be interested in the views of others on this proposal. Should it be something that we all start pressing for?

55 Comments

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    hmm were does one start but untill those who like that model of blairism are deselected then more trouble for this party it may have a middleman of the rd corbyn incharge but the right cant or will not adhere to his rule then they need to go the people have spoken greed has had its day its now to be labour or not but greed nay

    1. David Pavett says:

      I don’t see what this has to do with anything that I wrote.

  2. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I edit David Pavett’s conclusions to make my point,
    “My proposal is that the party should set up a magazine for debate ……In it, people representing alternative views and approaches to all the main topics should be invited to lay out their ideas as clearly as possible. This should be linked to a programme for discussion of different topics …… to National Policy Forum deliberations ……….in order to feed through to the NPF (possibly through Constituency Labour Parties). This proposal goes far beyond the feeble attempts of the NPF to stimulate discussion with one-sided and totally inadequate documents. I can see no other way in which a meaningful debate aimed at generating policies debated by the members in an informed way could be produced.”
    Debate, discuss, propose, inform, what?
    You can have as many magazines, forums, documents, as you like David but what exactly is it that you want to discuss? Have you an opinion on anything at all?

    1. David Pavett says:

      I assumed, obviously incorrectly, that it would be clear to Left Futures readers that (1) putting members in control of the party would required general agreement on a series of key issues, that (2) reaching agreement would require well organised discussion, (3) that such a debate, though promised has not yet taken place and finally (4) that a discussion magazine could greatly facilitate such a debate by putting good quality materials in the hands of all members.

      As to issues I again assumed that it would be clear that their are unresolved difference and/or a complete absence any policy detail on a range of issues such as (1) our school system, faith schools, existing grammar schools, private schools (2) economic policy, scale of borrowing, QE, wealth tax (3) Trident and defence policy more widely, (4) managing immigration, (5) regional policy, (6) policy w.r.t. to international corporations, (7) basis for discussion with other left parties in Europe, (8) What we understand by “socialism” and how we make the transition to it if it is a radically different form of society, (9) our short, medium and long term objectives in each policy area ….

      Do I have opinions? A cursory glance through the 80 or so articles I have written for Left Futures and my many contributions to discussion should reveal that I have quite a few and that I try to give reasons for them.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Your number (8) issue to be resolved is “What we understand by “socialism” and how we make the transition to it if it is a radically different form of society,” and it sums up far better than I can just how lost you are David.
        You admit here that you don’t know what your vision of ‘socialism’ is or how you get there or ‘transition to it’ as you prefer.
        What is the point of lengthy articles if you don’t know what you want in the first place?

        1. David Pavett says:

          Groan.

  3. Miramarmora says:

    Thanks Dave and I think your article is quite clear. As I understand you: The bottom line is (and should always be) democracy and inclusion.

    There is one huge problem though, connected with establishing a magazine: There would have to be an editor. Imagine the fight! Who would have the last word in selecting the editor? Whoa, just imagine the NEC on that one.

    The real problem will not go away easily, and I’m afraid a magazine wouldn’t really help. The real problem is rather huge amounts of party officials with substantial power relentlessly bashing the upcoming democracy movement. Underneath this: Eternal fight between “moderates” and the “left”. It just won’t go away with debates and discussions. It’s too ideological.

  4. Giles Wynne says:

    “Socialist” is in vogue now” What rubbish this website supports. Socialism had not gone but the Labour Party went on with Pink blinkers.
    Never heard of the Socialist Labour Party or Socialist Party or British Road to Socialism. Trying to make Capitalism work clouded the PLP and still does which is why they are destined for the rubbish bin of history. The last fight let us face – Onward Comrades !

    1. David Pavett says:

      Sorry that you felt my piece is “rubbish” but you must be almost alone in not noticing the collapse of socialist and communist parties across the world from the 1980s onwards. You didn’t notice either that the Labour Party, never clear about its socialism, talked about it less and less from that time. If you have a clear idea about how socialist society would work and how to make the transition to it then please share it with the rest of us.

      1. Giles Wynne says:

        Thanks for the opportunity David. Just go to http://www.rightsandwrongs.co.uk

        1. Giles Wynne says:

          We’re All Socialists Now …hmmmmmm…

          Political Economy
          Karl Marx never described how Socialism would emerge from a Capitalist society but just as Primitive Communism where communities shared in common lasted for two and a half thousand years when agricultural advances led to a surplus of commodities and the advent of private property, as Engels describes, when the producers no longer directly consumed their produce, but let it go out of their hands they lost control of it, and the product might be turned against the producer, used as as a means of exploiting and oppresing them then a Slave Civilisation could develop which in turn was was broken up in the Ancient World and replaced by a Feudal one because the Roman Empire not only ran out of slaves, but was shaken by periodical slave revolts.
          Rotten by internal decay the Roman Empire was finally destroyed by invasion and the Teutons and serfdoms emerged on great agricultural estates leading to warrior aristocracies and the slave was replaced by the serf.

          David Pavett may also read all about it in http://www.peopleinhistory.co.uk

          A serf stood half way between the slave and the free man …..

          This Feudal society was constantly changing into a new form of society.
          Marx was the first to reveal that the underlying cause of these social changes in the forces of production, which are twofold in character, that is instruments used and the people who use them.

          This is the reason and cause of social revolution. The key to scientific understanding of history.

          As the forces of production change, Marx said, they are restricted and come into conflict with social relations, within which they are developing, the old society holds back the new, the class that is rising to power comes into conflict with the class that holds power.

          The hampering of development of the exploited class becomes apparent in more open and more violent clashes of class forces.

          Only by revolution and the new social relations that it brings into being can the new forces be freed.

          “Then comes the period of social revolution”

          CAPITALISM
          Three main features give capitalism its essential character:-

          Wealth concentrated in the hands of a few – capitalist
          Wide masses of the people having no means of getting a living except by selling their power to work for wages – proletariat
          Virtually all production is not for the personal use of the producer, but for exchange, for sale, on the market. Goods produced for exchange are termed…. commodities or ….commodity production.

          The Commodity – ” The Seed of Capitalism”
          Use Values
          Commodities-are products of Labour
          Exchange values – determined by Labour
          The Common property is Labour
          Marxist economic theory of Value
          How the Law of Value works – Supply and Demand
          Value Appears in Exchange
          Money – A Generally Exchangeable Value
          Why precious Metals came into use as Money
          Abstract and Concrete Labour
          Skilled and Unskilled Labour
          Price and Value
          Causes of Price Change
          The Process of Circulation
          Money as a S tore of Value
          Money as Capital
          Token Money
          Money as a Means of Payment
          Gold as World Money
          Hoarding
          Capitalism as a successor to Feudalism
          Exploitation – Profit
          Capital and Accumulation
          Distribution of Surplus Value
          Rent and Capitalism in Agriculture
          Reproduction of Capital and Crisis
          Imperialism
          The National Product and its Distribution
          Stagnation of capitalism

          The neglect of change and development
          Capitalists speak of capitalist conditions as though they were true of all time, that they had always existed and must always exist.
          History shows change and development of nature as the result of opposed forces in nature

          Dialectical Materialism
          the Marxist theory (adopted as the official philosophy of the Soviet communists) that political and historical events result from the conflict of social forces and are interpretable as a series of contradictions and their solutions.

          The conflict is seen as caused by material needs.

          Political Economy – The Law of motion of society

          Marxist theory serves only as a guide to actions of the Working Class to overthrow capitalism

          It does not merely explain that class struggle is the agent of of social change; it arms the working class for action to change society, it arms the political leaders of the working class with resolute conviction based on scientific knowledge; it enables the working class to advance in its struggle to wrest power from the capitalist class.

          In the first volume of Das Capital he said ” This, without doubt, is the most terrific shell that has ever been fired at the head of the bourgeoisie”.

          The Study of Marxist theory is therefore essential to fight for socialism

          What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all , are its own grave- diggers.

          Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.

          SOCIALISM –
          The British Road to Socialism
          Transition from Capitalism to Socialism
          Socialism as a planned economy
          The Machinery of planning
          The Economic Laws of Socialist Production
          The Application of the Law of Value
          Wages in a Socialist Society
          Money in a Socialist Society
          Agriculture
          Socialist Accumulation
          Town and Country
          The second Stage of Socialism – is Communism

          Extracts from John Eaton ( A Marxist Textbook )

          http://www.rightsandwrongs.co.uk

          1. David Pavett says:

            Debate means connecting with what has been said.

          2. Giles Wynne says:

            David
            We all agree that debate is essential to arrive at a consensus and that takes time, but at some stage democratic discussion must end in agreed action and for that we rely on leadership and followers. Do you know any potential great leaders here in Britain that could carry forward an inclusive Socialist programme ?

          3. David Pavett says:

            Again, this doesn’t connect with my point. I won’t respond again because this is pointless.

  5. C MacMackin says:

    Very good article David. Saying that “socialism” just means wanting a more humane form of capitalism for a lot of people these days might be giving them too much credit–I think a lot of Corbynites don’t even have a clear definition. I’d certainly support a magazine of the sort you discuss. Are there any mechanisms which could be used to try to get the party to make it happen? Alternatively, if we make no headway there, is there something Momentum could do on this? (Given the general lack of accountability and democratic participation there, I’m not optimistic.)

    Incidentally, I haven’t given up on working on my online discussion project, in case you were wondering. I have doen a bit more work on it, but have been very busy with the start of term lately and, after a day programming in my office, my brain isn’t in a place where I can go home and write code. I do plan to improve it, though and try to launch it properly on social media.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Thanks. I spoke to John McDonnell about the magazine idea at a Labour event last night. He seemed to think it would be a good thing. I said that I would write to him about it. At the same time a intend to put a motion calling on the party to launch a magazine, for the purposes described above, through my LP branch, and maybe get members of my Momentum group to do the same. If others reading my piece agree then I hope that they would do that too.

      I will have a loik at your project website and see if I can contribute something. Thanks for the reminder about it. Sorry that I haven’t looked at it for a while.

      1. C MacMackin says:

        It’s probably best that you don’t add anything to that website at this time. The improvements I’ve been making to it (which will make it considerably more participatory) may require that I delete all previous content and start fresh. Obviously that’s not something I want to do, but best not spend your time there in case that happening.

        1. David Pavett says:

          Okay.

          1. John Penney says:

            Good article, and a very useful proposal, David.

            The paucity of theoretical AND related detailed practical thinking on the Left, from the Far Left , to the radical reformist “Corbynist” Left , today is quite astonishing.

            It would be easy to dismiss the constant semi-religious re-statings of the established “truths” by the largely non Labour Far Left as irrelevant, yet, their collective confusions and sloganized assumptions, on everything from what “Imperialism” is, to recently acquired shibboleths like “complete freedom of movement of all people, to largely unstated, but very real widespread sentimental affection for the old Soviet empire and all its grim works, still has a massive impact on the Labour Left. Indeed, Jeremy’s recent speaking turn at the deeply politically dodgy Stop the War Coalition Conference, and the SWP front event the same day, shows how trapped Corbyn himself, and his circle ( worst of all being the unapologetic stalinist, toff, Seamus Milne) is in the “politics as impotent . liberal, moralistic posturing, plus a dose of Soviet era geopolitical assumptions” dead end that 30 years of neoliberal political hegemony has reduced the Labour Left.

            Whilst the tiny, and diminishing, Far Left will undoubtedly continue to simply posture their empty ultimatist demands, until the last ultraleft group finally runs out of gullible new cult recruits, and the Labour Right fails dismally to find anything from their neoliberal catechism with mass appeal, the radical Labour Left desperately needs to rediscover a comprehensive , state interventionist socialist vision for the systemic , planned, regeneration of the UK economy, in alliance with sister parties and movements across Europe .

            Some of this ideological task requires
            simply Re-discovering (and freeing from its “Command Planning” Soviet era stalinist caricature) the vital role of the radical left government-led mixed economy state, in carrying out the wide range of transformative measures necessary to start our economy and society on the road to at least being a society “in transition” to a socialist society.

            I’ll leave theorising about the nature of the fully “socialist” society beyond this transitional stage, to others. Unless we can work out a credible gameplan and operational model for a progressive Left government led society , run in the interests of the 99%, the nature of the socialist future – “beyond the capitalist market” , is irrelevant.

  6. Mervyn Hyde says:

    Policy forums are just a means of top down debate, in reality properly functioning local parties should spend more time debating issues and sending motions to conference with delegates mandated to support things like the NHS reinstatement bill and the return of Devomanc back into the NHS. Naturally including social care and mental health, all of which has been dismantled by Thatcher and have caused all the problems we suffer today.

    1. David Pavett says:

      There is no one thing called a “forum” which could justify the claim that it is “just a means of top-down debate”. A forum is what you want to make it by your method of organisation i.e. the rules which apply.

      Conference cannot possibly deal with all the complex issues on which the Party has to resolve. We need a body into which branches and CLPs can feed ideas and in which delegates elected by the members will debate and resolve on the issues – with conference having the final say. We have a body that could do that with the right leadership and with some reorganisation: the National Policy Forum. It doesn’t have to function as the anodyne outfit that it was under Angela Eagles Chairing.

      There is no provision for mandating in Labour Party rules. Instead members need to elect delegates whom they trust. Mandating is an instruction not to listen to the arguments of other representatives. On that basis Conferences could be replaced by mandating bodies sending their votes by email.

      Do you approve/disapprove of the proposal to set up a magazine for party debates? It is not clear from what you write.

  7. In a service economy like the UK’s where more than 80 per cent produce intangibles, value is exclusively created through constructive interaction at the level of the individual in the home, community and workplace. This is an inherently decentralised process in which outcomes can only be subjectively evaluated. It is therefore impossible to define the right policy: there’s always going to be at least a degree of disagreement even among those with similar views. The focus should therefore not be on abstract theorising but on constructive action at the local/ward level. Each Labour ward party needs a dynamic community website supporting video, FB, Twitter etc that is open to all about how the party, its voters and its sympathisers are supporting value-creation within families, communities, local institutions/businesses and the environment. A magazine distilling these experiences and activities will be a useful supporting tool. National policy should focus on how the physical and social infrastructure might be developed to facilitate constructive value-creating activities. This should encompass defence, transport and energy plus the organisation and funding of the NHS and education system. Socialism is about how people work together for the greater good of all and how the state (local and national) can best support them.

    1. John Penney says:

      You seem remarkably content with the current economic sectoral “mix” of the UK, in your pile of feel good waffle, Edmund ! Even though a services sector dominated economy is largely one employing a low skilled, badly organised (“precariat” of “Uberised” ) workforce. And a huge parasitic financial sector, paying huge salaries and bonuses at the top end, but essentially sucking talented people out of more productive and socially useful work (not just in relation to the UK but the wider global economy preyed on by casino banking speculators), systematically asset stripping productive industry for short term “shareholder gain” , and also periodically plunging the entire economy into crisis – as with the 2008 Crash.

      This current economic model , which you are so complacent about, is leaving entire communities, particularly outside of the overheated , property-led bubble economy of the South East of England around London, doomed to a future of low paid, precariat, jobs.

      So no, we don’t need your laid back, no doubt personally very well off from our service sector dominated economy, jargonised “localism agenda” . We need a national UK Economic Plan, that will aim to regenerate regions and communities left behind by the growth of our current highly unbalanced Financial sector/service sector bubble economy, by fundamentally rebalancing our sectoral mix, re-empowering the trades unions, supporting high growth potential SME’s as against the big multinationals, nationalising vulnerable sectors, like steel, and emerging green industries, required as part of a balanced economy.

      All a bit “interventionist” , Edmund ? Compared to your laid back, localist, liberal neo-anarchism – Yes indeed! That is the point and methodology of socialism – to confront and tackle the untrammeled power of the Market, with transformational plans and systematic mass and governmental action, to benefit the living standards of the mass of the population, rather than just the owners of major wealth

      1. The transformation of capitalism from one based on tangible capital and tangible good production to one where intangible capital rules and the majority works in services is a revolution in the mode of production that deserves closer attention. The shift from tangible capital (factories, machines) to intangible capital (financial instruments, goodwill, intellectual capital) has happened because the rate of return on capital employed in services is higher than in manufacturing. Service workers are only worse paid than industrial workers because they are more intensively exploited. Banking is so dominant because it’s more profitable and its employees are more exploited. Dealing with that requires a reversal in the process that has allowed owners of tangible capital to convert it into intangible capital. Ending the dominance of intangible capital — which is what makes tax havens including London so viable — will automatically benefit service workers, the self-employed, small businesses and everyone working outside metropolitan centres.

        1. John Penney says:

          Every statement in your post is total , jargon-filled, nonsense, Edmund. Banking does not produce any value at all, none. The banking system is essential for capitalism to function, but the surplus value it distributes to its few hugely rewarded executives is all produced by the other, actual value producing , sectors of the economy, in the UK and globally. Beyond its necessary role in facilitating the circulation of money, and the allocation of resources that involves, banking is a parasitic sector, and the utterly out of control banking system of today is actually more akin to a tumorous growth than a healthy component of the overall capitalist system. Bankers are NOT “more exploited “than workers in other sectors. Indeed most general “bank workers” are just poorly paid office workers. The “superprofits” of banking, apparently justifying mega salaries and bonuses in the higher echelons of finance, are not an indication at all of the “exploitation” of these privileged elite bankers, but evidence of their special parasitic function within the system.

          Poorly paid service industry workers are not paid buttons only because they are “more exploited”, but because most service sectors, hotels, restaurants, delivery businesses, etc, are relatively poor generators of surplus value, being in hyper competitive sectors, and only hyper exploitation makes them capitalistically viable.

          You seem to want to separate out the particular , post industrial, highly advanced , heavily financialised, UK economy, as if it is a model for the global economy. In fact our service/financial services dominated model is very unusual – a result of centuries of Britain’s imperial past, and a subsequent global division of capitalist functions which derives most surplus value for our capitalist class. All the very real, solid, goods we today consume, from cars to computes to our food, are still produced by real, smoke-stack factories and farms – but largely in places like China and India, etc. Your ridiculous belief that, as a global system , capitalism isn’t still fundamentally based on the production of real, solid, value, and surplus value, and capital reified as factories and machines, is just a reflection of the delusion of a comfortable middle class white collar worker that the sanitised “capitalism” they experience in their comfortable, jargon-filled, middle class world, is the reality beyond your warm safe, online office.

          1. Economics is about understanding what value is and how it’s created. In economies dominated by tangible good production (farming and manufacturing), this happens in a value-added process beginning with raw material and labour and ending with capital and consumer goods in the hands of final consumers. In services like education and health, value-creation is the result of constructive interaction between the participants in a service transaction. There are no tangible outputs but value has been created. The mode of production is different to that in tangible good production, but exploitation continues, only in a different way. Given that more than 80 per cent of workers in the UK are employed in services, it seems reasonable that this revolution (the shift from tangible to intangible good and capital creation) should be taken into account in any discussion about the future of socialism. And you don’t have to be poor, weak and exploited to stand up for the poor, weak and exploited!!!

    2. David Pavett says:

      The subjective theory of value is not new and it is not a specific feature of a service dominated economy. The main lines of a subjectivist approach were worked out in detail by Böhm Bawerk in his Capital and Interest (3 vols) published between 1884 and 1889. He argued that the value of Capital arose from subjective time preference.

      You state your belief in a subjective theory here as if it were a statement of fact. It isn’t. It is a theory. Moreover it is one with a very long lineage and one that has been heavily criticised and rejected by many economists. Therefore it is a classic example of the need for theoretical debate contrary to what you assert.

      We have many problems to deal with which require clear views about such things as the nature of learning and educability, the percentage of GDP that should go to scientific research, what to do about the international corporations and so on. You proposal to reduce everything to the level of local activity simply ignores all these issues which frame our whole lives. As has been well said “Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if you raise chickens”.

      You have convinced me even more of the need for a good quality debating magazine for the Labour Party.

      1. The theory that value created in service industries is intangible and therefore only subjectively perceptible is the result of logical reasoning. A service — education, financial advice, home management — is an intangible and physically non-existent. It can’t be objectively measured and therefore can only be comprehended subjectively. If it was a tangible, then it could be seen, touched, tasted,smelt or heard. All this becomes interesting when you consider how a tangible is produced and exchanged. Unlike tangibles, which are the result of a linear value-adding process beginning with raw materials and labour and ends with a finished produced in the hands of a final consumer, intangible value is created through a constructive interaction at the level of the individual. There is no way of objectively valuing intangibles. Markets in services not only fail, they don’t exist. The best way to promote value-creation and employment in service industries is to allow participants in service interactions the highest possible degree of freedom. The physical and social infrastructure, on the other hand, should be freely available, preferably on a non-profit basis. The rise of services has radical implications for businesses and government. But the relevant action point is at the most decentralised level. Central planning and markets will fail to deliver social and technical efficiency in services and a better way of managing the UK economy is needed. But local action beats centralised direction every time.

        1. David Pavett says:

          You show no awareness of the obvious contrary ideas to what you assert. That makes discussion impossible. You seem to be against a discussion journal on the grounds that only direct local action is meaningful. I have already answered that and I won’t reply again if you repeat your debating point that a national debating magazine is not required.

          The rise of the Service industries and the consequences for Socialist action have been argued through by an economist specialising in that sector: La Révolution de notre temps by Jean-Claude Delaunay. He has very different views to you.

          P.S. Purely local action would never have produced the computer on which you are writing your contributions. But then I suppose you might argue that computers are not needed for raising your own chickens.

          1. The argument is in favour of a magazine complementing online communications that echo and report on local action. I have considered Delaunay’s work.

  8. Karl Stewart says:

    Thanks for writing this article DavidP.

    My initial thoughts on it are mixed to be honest.

    Yes, some fundamental discussion about what we actually mean by ‘socialism’ in terms of practical, policy ideas for today would be extremely valuable.

    But why not do it here, now, on this site?

    Why not, for example, write a critique of the previous article on the single market?

    A new Labour Party magazine might or might not happen. Personally I doubt it, there is already the Tribune and the New Statesman which, arguably, fulfil the role of stimulating detailed discussion of ideas – would another magazine, an ‘official’ magazine, actually do that better?

    Also, why wait for the long process that would inevitably take place before an ‘official’ publication could even get started?

    I’d say, by all means put forward the case for a new publication, but in the meantime, develop your ideas here and now.

    Write that critique DavidP.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that we should be developing our critiques now and on sites like this. I thought that was what I tried to do – and it is my intention to do more of it. However only a tiny percentage of party members look at this site.

      Left Futures also has its debating limitations. I once had a piece refused on the grounds that it conflicted with CLPD policy and that a counter-article would be required from that organisation. No counter article was provided so my article (on proportional representation) never appeared. A party magazine can’t be run on that sort of basis. No, the party needs an official debating magazine which is made available and advertised to all party members – at least that’s my view.

      1. peter willsman says:

        DP,an anti PR article is on the CLPD website.Pro PR stuff is on the Progress website.What we need to discuss is practical and urgent issues,eg how do we stop the Labour First/Progress campaign to get control of the NEC and then use this to undermine JC.Also their campaign to win a majority among CLP delegates at Confce.and to control the NCC.Also their efforts to control the NPF and thus the JPC and use this to undermine JC.Also their campaign to win over TUs eg GMB. This is what we must address,not faffing about with PR,which anyway would prevent a majority Lab.Govt.

        1. David Pavett says:

          Peter, where there are differences it is not for one side, especially the side happy with the status quo, to decree that an issue should not be discussed. The best of both sides should be heard.

          I looked for the article you mention. Is this it?

        2. C MacMackin says:

          Your implication that discussing policy is a waste of time (also seen in your latest post on Momentum’s first anniversary), or at least not an optimal use of time, suggests that you have become focused solely on winning power within the party and don’t seem to consider what you would actually do with it. Power is an end in itself. (Remind you of anyone?) While the steps you outline are important, they are useless if we (and by this I mean the general Corbynite membership, not the rump of the CLPD) don’t know what we actually want to do with power, either in terms of policy or internal party reform.

          More importantly, power can only be won securely by the Left if we elect people standing on actual left-wing positions. To date we don’t seem to get the chance to do that (with the exception of the leader)–we are just told who to vote for by people such as yourself and Jon Lansman, on the assurance that they are good candidates. Well, one of those candidates for the NEC voted to suspend branch meetings for several months in a blatant attack on party democracy! Worse, if members begin to disengage or stop listening to you, you could easily lose all of those gains. Convincing the party membership of left-wing policy, in a field of open debate and after critical thinking, is the only way we can possibly hope to win the party to socialism for the long haul.

          1. peter willsman says:

            DP,the article is on the CLPD website on the home page.
            CMac,comrades are for ever discussing policy,there are more Left mags. than I’ve had hot dinners.We now have the most left wing Leader we have ever had,or ever likely to have.JC is under constant attack;what I am asking for is a bit of action/practice as well as talk/theory.

          2. C MacMackin says:

            Could you please link me to examples of concrete discussions of policy? I haven’t been able to find much of it, save for a few precious examples which are insufficient to build a manifesto on. Even these discussions haven’t been popularised among the general membership.

            There are various left-wing magazine, certainly, but they tend to focus on analysing what has already happened and on strategy (occasionally tactics). When they do discuss policy, they more often talk about what they oppose. I have not seen any detailed discussion of, for example: defense policy (save for opposition to Trident and NATO), education policy (save for opposition to grammar schools and mandatory academisation), transport policy (save for a desire to renationalise the railways, with little thought put into how they should then be organised), how to achieve full employment (save for a desire to somehow do it), averting climate change (other than wanting to build more renewable energy infrastructure, without considering how much will be needed, issues around storage, how to approach home-heating, how to address increasing electricity demand with the introduction of electric vehicles, etc.), how to approach Brexit and the single market, what we want in public ownership (ignoring the fact that Corbyn seems to have ruled out nationalising the utilities and ignoring the obstacles to nationalisation presented by single-market membership), how members can become more involved in running the party, accounting for how the new social services which Corbyn has proposed will actually be paid for…

            Yes, there may be proposals out there for some of these items. However, most Labour members are not aware of them and their politics have thus not moved beyond a vague sense that we need to do things differently. Furthermore, they do not appear even to have informed the policy coming from the leadership, which displays a shocking lack of attention to detail. Even if the Left maintains control of the party and wins a general election, if this continues then we don’t stand a chance of actually effecting change in society.

          3. David Pavett says:

            @peter willsman (October 17, 2016 at 10:43 pm).

            Thanks for the reference which is I think to an article by Sam Pallis on Labourlist. I have now read it. I thought its arguments were weak and will look for stronger anti-PR arguments before updating the piece that I offered to Left Futures a while back.

  9. Eleanor Firman says:

    I’m pleased to report that yesterday, my union branch (East London Unite Community) held a successful policy discussion on ‘Universal Basic Income. What is it? and how could it impact jobs, services and benefits?’
    It went very well so I was happy today to report back my gratitude to all participants for their commitment to a grassroots policy debate that supported contrasting perspectives to be aired and respectfully questioned.

    1. John Penney says:

      Hopefully, Eleanor, your branch grasped through debate just what a diversionary red herring the various formulations of “Universal Basic Income” are – compared to defending, and rebuilding , through mass political action, a progressive, universal, provision based on need, Welfare State ?

      That John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn have now apparently fallen into the ideological trap of thinking this concept – which has bled across from the extreme individualist , anti tax, Libertarian Right , masquerading as a faux Left policy, has anything to offer us on the Left, is tragic. Can the adoption of the “Funny Money/ non fractional reserve banking” eccentricities lurking on the fringes of the “Left” , as a topic “worth exploring” be far behind ?

      1. Mervyn Hyde says:

        John, I thought I would take issue with you relating to your bias against Money Creation.

        1. First could you explain as you appear to know so much about it, how does money enter the economy?

        2. Did you know that Banking does not operate fractional reserves anymore, this is what the Bank of England says:

        “Another common misconception is that the central bank determines the quantity of loans and deposits in the economy by controlling the quantity of central bank money — the so-called ‘money multiplier’ approach. In that view, central banks implement monetary policy by choosing a quantity of reserves. And, because there is assumed to be a constant ratio of broad money to base money, these reserves are then ‘multiplied up’ to a much greater change in bank loans and deposits.

        For the theory to hold, the amount of reserves must be a binding constraint on lending, and the central bank must directly determine the amount of reserves. While the money multiplier theory can be a useful way of introducing money and banking in economic textbooks, it is not an accurate description of how money is created in reality. Rather than controlling the quantity of reserves, central banks today typically implement monetary policy by setting the price of reserves — that is, interest rates.”
        So you see there is no such thing as fractional reserve banking, just lending controlled by interest rates. The above is an extract taken from The Bank of England’s regular Bulletins.

        What is clear to me is there are many like you who fail to understand the relationship between how money enters the economy and how money is earned.

        To use Thatcher’s kitchen sink analogy, she said the government couldn’t spend more than it earned- that meant we had to raise taxation before we spend in the economy or public services.

        In reality that has never been the case, as the bank of England explains, the government through the bank of England is the issuer of our currency, it is not like you or I a user of the currency, it is the creator of it.

        Essentially it issues the money into the economy every time someone or business takes out a loan from a private bank, that is and always has been the case, new money that did not exist before. The Bank of England states emphatically that 97% of all money in circulation was created in this way and the other 3% is issued to the private banks in notes and coins for use in cash ATMs etc., all the money you own in your personal bank account was borrowed into existence by a business or someone else.

        That has always been the case and is why when you talk of funny money, you really miss the whole point, we should stop issuing money as debt and use it to create real jobs paying real wages and funding public expenditure, such as the NHS.

        Some people like to refer to this idea as QE for the people, I prefer to call it spending directly into the economy, when and where it is needed at any given time, spending for the needs of people, rather than supporting corporate greed.

        We can create industries and research areas that directly benefit people, the logic means we can extend our horizons beyond the restrictions of a capitalist society that feeds off poverty and chains people into a life of penury.

        1. John Penney says:

          It is quite true that the Bank of England’s recent demolition of the traditional academic explanation ( which I myself taught to many, many A level economics students over the years, and was taught myself as “the truth” ) as to how money is “created by the banking sector” ( the ” inverted pyramid of loans created on the basis of a much smaller depositor base”) was a very belated recognition of the great freedom the banking sector , have had for many many generations to “create money out of thin air” to a degree much greater than my always disbelieving students being confronted with even the traditional “fractional reserve” explanation, would have imagined.

          However , to then suppose that , as a number of your older posts suggest, there is essentially “no upper limit” for money creation by either individual banks, or the Central bank, for an economy with a sovereign currency, could not be further from the truth. If an economy, not shackled by a monetary straightjacket like the Euro, increases its money supply beyond the point where the money markets has confidence in its value relative to all other key international currencies, then the exchange rate of that currency will fall (as Sterling is today) and all imported goods and raw materials will become more expensive (in £pound terms). If the process of money supply increase continues beyond a certain point in which the currency no longer has a reasonably close correlation to the value (or more accurately the Market’s opinion of its value) , then the currency’s worth in a globalised market economy will plummet to the point of hyperinflation – potentially of a Weimar Republic or Zimbabwean dimension.

          In this the Labour Right are formally correct in the abstract. But in fact in the specific situation of the UK economy today, with almost nil real inflation, domestically, and internationally, and huge underutilised domestic labour resources (despite the bogus statistics ), there is plenty of economic “headroom” for a Left government’s programme of both straight borrowing from the money markets, AND money creation (via “People’s Quantitative easing”) to fund major productive infrastructure/social housing projects.

          But I must emphasise that the ability of a government (or banks) to engage in money creation is strictly finite, and limited to the non inflationary “headroom” at any particular time. Although it is true that the commercial banks can create money, and do constantly, governments do not let this proceed without any checks at all. Forcing banks to retain larger capital reserves was one means by which the EU states have attempted to rein in the ability of modern globalised banking to create money unbacked by any real assets or reserves. And of course central banks constantly juggle their (lender of last resort) interest rates so as to try and control the activity of the wider financial sector

          Looking to change the way banks operate, as the “positive money” enthusiasts do, but still within a laisse faire capitalist system,is simply a distraction from the need to bring the entire banking sector under government control, to function as a mechanism for money circulation and allocation of desirable investment allocations, without the constant high risk speculation.

          The positive money proposal is an essentially utopian radical liberal proposal to transform the way capitalism works, but without changing the fundamental wealth and power inequalities which shape and drive that system.

          1. Mervyn Hyde says:

            “However , to then suppose that , as a number of your older posts suggest, there is essentially “no upper limit” for money creation by either individual banks, or the Central bank, for an economy with a sovereign currency, could not be further from the truth”

            Here is what Alan Greespan says:

            “National Bank of Belgium
            Let me begin with the fundamental observation, that a nation’s sovereign credit rating lies at the base of its current fiscal, monetary, and, indirectly, regulatory policy. When there is confidence in the integrity of government, monetary authorities–the central bank and the finance ministry–can issue unlimited claims denominated in their own currencies and can guarantee or stand ready to guarantee the obligations of private issuers as they see fit. This power has profound implications for both good and ill for our economies.

            Central banks can issue currency, a non-interest-bearing claim on the government, effectively without limit. They can discount loans and other assets of banks or other private depository institutions, thereby converting potentially illiquid private assets into riskless claims on the government in the form of deposits at the central bank.

            That all of these claims on government are readily accepted reflects the fact that a government cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations in its own currency. A fiat money system, like the ones we have today, can produce such claims without limit. To be sure, if a central bank produces too many, inflation will inexorably rise as will interest rates, and economic activity will inevitably be constrained by the misallocation of resources induced by inflation. If it produces too few, the economy’s expansion also will presumably be constrained by a shortage of the necessary lubricant for transactions. Authorities must struggle continuously to find the proper balance.”

            What he is saying is accepted generally throughout the Fiat Money world we live in, basically there is no limit to a government like ours spending in the economy, but if inflation starts to get out of control then interest rates are raised to shrink the money supply.

            Most radical economists would say, that the only limits on the economy are Raw Materials and People, if either of these become a problem, i.e. in short supply then inflation can become a problem.

            Finally I agree entirely that the real solution would be to nationalise the whole banking system.

            If we are not in control of how money enters the economy, then we can’t possibly control the economy.

            The Bankers understand that, that is the way they want to keep it.

          2. John Penney says:

            Greenspan’s disastrous former complacency about the US Dollar, and lack of controls on the US banking sector was based on the fact that the US government was and still is in the extremely fortunate position as leading global hegemon on having a currency, the Dollar, which every economy wants to hold and use. The US can therefore get the rest of the world economy support its budget deficits in a way the UK nowadays cannot with Sterling. Although in the 19th century sterling was the “world currency” because Great Britain was the leading economic/military power.

            In the UK’s modern case, there are very real structural , rather than legal, limits on the ability of commercial banks to make loans , and thereby “create money”. Surely the 2008 Crash should illustrate this to you ? The commercial banks created loans on a huge scale , particularly to poor people buying houses in the US, who were incapable of ever repaying them (“NINJA Loans”). The loans were then bogusly “bundled up” and sold on across the globe. Banks/Building Societies did the same in the UK. Eventually the “fictitious nature” of these loans came back to crash the entire financial system.

            The entire investment/speculation by the financial system in the derivatives market, is another example of the banks “creating money” that the system cannot absorb profitably. It is a complete fiction to suppose that either the commercial banks can simply “create money” at their whim – with no dire economic consequences if this money creation doesn’t relate over time to corresponding real value creation, and surplus value returns to the money creators.

            Banking is essentially a very complex form of “Ponzi Scheme”, even when the economy is in robust health. It is true, as Greenspan complacently said, that as long as the Market believes that a particular economy its sound then that government can issue pretty much as much of its currency as it wants, and receive real goods and services back from other economies in return. BUT , surely you can see , Mervyn, that this “market confidence” is strictly finite, and there does come a point where other economies downgrade the value of a currency being issued without limit – and Zimbabwean type hyperinflation results.

            You are so attached to the utter fantasy that, in a globalised economy, a government can “create money without limit”, and thereby rebuild its economy using goods and services generously donated by the rest of the world in return for its unlimited “bits of paper”, that you have lost a sensible perspective on the role of money supply and the limits on growth implicit on this economic growth tactic. No , “Most radical economists” do not think that “the only limits on the economy are Raw Materials and People”. This is utter , fantasy economics, nonsense in the case of an economy fully integrated into a global economy – and could only be true for a global , planned, fully socialist economy (with the vital extra condition of “global environmental sustainability” added).

            You are looking for a single “magic bullet” economic nostrum to regenerate our economy, Mervyn. There isn’t one. Money creation is just one, limited , technique, to be deployed by a socialist government as part of a nationalisation-rich, highly interventionist , planned, economic strategy.

            And by the way, Alan Greenspan has proven to be an economic idiot, and creature of the capitalist elite, whose long term irresponsibe financial policies led directly to the 2008 Great Crash.

  10. Peter Rowlands says:

    A very good article and proposal. It is vital that we improve the level of internal debate within the LP, which a journal could be an important means of doing. But that is only part of the task of challenging neo liberal hegemony, something that must be done at various levels if the socialist project is to succeed, just as was done for neo liberalism, as set out in the excellent’Inventing the Future’ by Srnicek and Williams.
    John Penney makes some good points in his contributions, the most important on the role of a radical Labour government, which cannot introduce socialism, but can lay the basis for the transition to it ( alongside, necessarily in my view, whatever happens to Brexit, most other EU states. There is no road to a purely British socialism.) As John says, it is this that is crucial. The contours of a socialist state, in terms of types of social ownership or the existence of markets is less our concern than how we get there.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      How can we plot a course to a socialist society if we don’t have some idea what it will look like? Obviously we can’t map out every single little detail, but unless we at least have some broad objectives for what an initial socialist society would look like then we won’t know what policies can lay the basis for that transition. For example, if we think that a market-socialist society is desireable then the logical policy implication would be the encouragement of co-operative enterprise and relative autonomy of nationalised industries. If we want a planned economy then we should start to integrate a computer system into any nationalised industries which would be capable of pulling this off. We should also think about what sorts of mechanisms there would be for democratic participation in a socialist state and start to build them now.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        Sorry, I perhaps expressed myself badly, I wasn’t meaning that the shape of a future socialist society is unimportant, and I have read some of the relevant literature, including the recent ‘Alternatives to Capitalism’ by Hahnel and Wright.( Verso).However,while as you say the policies pursued by a left government would be based on some idea of how they would turn out any such exercise would be to a large extent a leap into the unknown, and intense debate would no doubt continue as to the shape of a socialist society, as it does today.
        But it is how we get a radical, transition orientated government elected and succeeding that must be our prime concern, or if not, and less comfortably, the extent to which Labour might be prepared to compromise through membership of some form of coalition. This cannot in my view be ruled out, but at the moment we are far from either situation.

  11. Bazza says:

    I’ve read much of Marx and thought he was a genius but I do wonder if some of the left seem to think that the owners of capital were passive and oblivious concerning what could have been coming?
    They will have studied or rather paid people well to read his works for them so they could offer reforms etc. to manage any potential threat from below from the masses.
    We still today globally collectively create the wealth and make societies work and every day the rich and powerful must pray that working people will turn up for work tomorrow and we only need to wake people up once.
    But I feel the early ‘socialist’ Leaders were bourgeois socialists who took the power for themselves and I have argued there are 2 battles to be won in Labour – one against the top down Right and one against the old top down left (who may not be used to a new way of working) until we get left wing democratic socialist grassroots, bottom up, policy and decision making from below.
    I also add in a peaceful transformation too.
    Perhaps this is how socialism was always meant to be?
    Socialism WITH and not Socialism FOR.
    And I won’t outline an exact blueprint for radical change (although I have tons of ideas to throw in the pot myself) but we should be confident enough to work this out TOGETHER.
    So if a magazine will help this then great but perhaps Momentum and Labour CLPs etc could also be discussing Jeremy Corbyn’s ten policy statements too as JC said to build on them.
    Why then when we have a rigorous set of ideas on each area such as Housing etc. CLPs etc. could host Open Meetings in their areas on these topics where the wider community could be invited to attend.
    It could be quite exciting and I have outlined how people could be split into smaller groups to comment (only the most confident may speak in a large gathering) and on on- line comments could be invited and printed off plus circulated at the Open Meetings.
    We could have these say every 3-6 months or so up to the 2020 General Election?
    Just some food for thought.
    Solidarity.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Glad you think a discussion magazine could be uesful.

      Who are the “early socialists” you refer to? I am not sure what period you have in mind.

      Jeremy Corbyn’s ten pledges are some way from constituting policy. For example “We will build a new National Education Service, open to all throughout their lives”. What does this tell you about Labour’s approach to our school system? Yes these headlines need to be given substance and we should all try to contribute to that. It is, nevertheless, alarming that a political leader should advances policy ideas that are so bereft of any practical detail. Even as general aims some of them are hard to fathom. I would hope that in a discussion magazine Jeremy C, or one of his team would give us more than 65 words on, for examole, education. Currently I still don’t know what Labour policy is on gramnar schools. It seems to oppose new ones but to say nothing about existing ones I.e. exactly the same policy as under Blair, Brown and Miliband.

      You are keen on replacing top-down with bottom-up. In reality both are required in a democratic process. We need leaders to lead but to do so in a way the requires and encourages member engagement and initiative.

      P.S. I didn’t understand your first two sentences. What did you mean?

  12. Roger Hill says:

    Excellent article. Locally we have just established a “Clause 4” group to discuss socialism historically. Essential to that is understanding the nature of capitalism now. We are also involved in local campaigns. The local labour party is clearly not engaged in local issues. This will change we hope.

  13. reg choired says:

    Have worked in large NGOs in publications.
    This is possible
    Agree with membership magazine(s) – from the party itself, monthly (10 per year) beyond “available” to members – but posted to, with , say, at least quarterly “heavy stuff” issues – discussing / signposting to big, moderated informed web debates with prioritised or highlighted ngo/”expert” input chosen by our elected leadership – akin to giving our “economic adviser” types the space to explain , then talk about popularising, explaining, campaigning – AS WELL AS progressing, disagreeing, but crucially WHAT THAT MEANS in govt, ministry by ministry – practically civil service job by job – with input from people who have done those jobs, lessons from past or elsewhere . . . .
    possible also to have regional/ national / even local input – 4 page inserts within the mailouts , say, alt quarterly – if we really mean to allow our membership to be a movement strong enough to get around the press barons or “Westminster-bubbled” herdthink-corrupted media instead of merely a fundraising base. . . .
    lastly/mostly a twice a year, then seasonal, (then possibly more) mass-distribution – members, groups, branches etc specifying numbers they commit to give out – even paying “cost” – that out-tabloids the tabloids with humour, style, etc – WITHOUT insulting its readership or assuming a left-sympathetic background – but deliberately beginning with a “what-the-papers-say” / “who the press barons are” attitude (assoc-headquarters-in -Bermuda (!)- for-tax-purposes, foxski ‘s “floating nationality” (ditto) , craggy-telegraph islands, etc ) – – – – so that people are able to do some of THEIR OWN “rebuttal” the rest of the year – as well as, naturally, slightly better explaining the “decency reset” we need – the “1945-type” 2020 vision -with practical details . . . . why these better , bigger steps are needed, workable, DO-able … just to get out of dystopia – in time to avert far worse disasters – but also that could include , ADD TO THE LIVES of those who think they are currently the “winners” in these mean times of a zero-sum game world
    you get my drift.
    we have to mean it
    power to your imaginations – then your elbows!

  14. Verity says:

    Although the election of Corbyn has done much to give confidence to socialists for. at least, another type of labour challenge I suspect that it has done little to advance the understanding of socialism amongst those newly recruited to political activity. Indeed and ironically it may have advanced a humanitarian libertarianism as a distinct form of a ‘socialist’ message. There is little or often nothing being done to advance that understanding or any dialogue that engages people beyond their existing prejudices. In that context the offer of a magazine that attempts to fill some of the gap would be valuable. Although I have never seen a copy I imagine that is what Progress magazine does for liberal-social democracy.

    The decision to offer a magazine though is not without further design considerations. One of these is the level at which discussions are intended to take place. Taking this site as an example, sometimes we loose focus because the level of discussion moves from the theoretical, to the politically strategic to the general and specific policy level and then to the operational and then sometimes just as emotional/reactive and oppositional. If the discussions are to advance our thinking we do need some strong editorial lead. In attempting to control contributions there are then bound to become people who feel censured, disenfranchised or excluded. With a Party the size of Labour we ought really to have five magazines that attempts all those levels in each of several publications.But perhaps we should stick to one for the time being.

    The second area of challenge is with the establishment of the editorial board/editor and the means for its creation and perhaps more importantly replacements over time.

    A third area to consider is the scope of topics to be addressed. With so many different areas we need to address over the next four years there are so many areas of pressure demanding attention and where to begin is a hard one to establish, given that the first half a dozen issues will affect its prospects thereafter.

    Having said that, it would mark a tremendous step forward to be left with all those challenges to have to address. I find it really difficult to grasp some of the negative and luke warm comment, especially the one about being diverted from supporting Corbyn – as if such a thing could occur amongst those committed to the project.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Thanks for the comments. Yes, there would be a number of issues to resolve if it were agreed to set up a magazine along the lines proposed (and it is for now no more than a proposal and not a “decision”).

      It would not be sensible to try to specify criteria for the level of the article but I think that this would tend to be set by their length (I have in mind 1500 to 4000 words), a requirement to provide reference for claims made and for sources of ideas.

      There should, in my view be a balance of theoretical and directly political material. In both cases an effort should be made to offer a platform to the main contending positions in the Labour Party. Even where a view is very much a minority one (e.g. David Lammy’s support for selective education) I would want to have the issues given a full airing.

      In other the magazine would require a strong editorial lead only in the sense that it should require a genuine commitment to a full hearing for the main contending ideas on each issue. It would be good practice where articles are commissioned for contending views to ask the authors to exchange initial drafts and to add a short endnote when final versions are completed and exchanged. This would maximise real engagement and would keep the editor(s) busy. There should be little ground for feeling excluded and debate open to all should continue on line with the proviso that contributers are required to make an effort to stay on-topic.

      Some real effort would be required in selecting the editor(s) who would need to be committed to the spirit of open debate. Labour has no tradition of such debate and that’s a problem but I think that people willing to work in that way coukd be found.

      I don’t feel that it would be difficult decide on the policy themes to be covered. These could (should) cluster round the Party’s Policy Commisions and the pressing issues they are all facing. The magazine could thus offer really useful background to draft policy formation by the Commision (which would, of course, require that those Commisions become much more open about their current deliberations and their programmes of work). This would greatly facilitate discussion throughout the Party and put members in the position of making contributiins in an informed way.

      The online discussion stimulated by the magazine could take place on the Labour Policy Forum website (previously Your Britain) where it could replace the current near pointless uncoordinated and unthemed publication of more or less random contributions. The website would need to be rethought to accommodate this.

      All of the above could help a reorganised National Policy Forum to be a really effective means of developing party policy to be submitted to Conference.

  15. Bazza says:

    So where are we now?
    JC re-elected with an increased percentage so the majority of members want an anti-austerity Labour Party, and state-led public investment to grow the economy out of recession as wanting to build the homes that are badly needed plus to seriously challenge poverty.
    The left in Labour and Soft Left should get behind JC but the BlairitesProgress just won’t give up (they want their top down control back and elite careers back) and it is still a concern that some CLPs are still suspended.
    I am a left wing democratic socialist and believe that in friendship Labour members should discuss ideas and let democracy decide (and not procedural manoeuvres).
    But having attended Momentum meetings for a while and talking to other members I think it is time to reflect on the last year.
    I still find Momentum meetings a bit top down as if others are in control; in the meetings I am always suggesting things to empower myself and all attendees, and trying to build a good Momentum practice.
    At one meeting a left winger criticised his soft left wing MP for “sitting on the fence” but this MP had voted against the Iraq War (and told Blair to his face he was wrong) plus voted against the Invasion of Afghanistan,and voted against bombing Libya and Syria. He also voted against Tory Welfare Cuts and didn’t abstain like the Blairites/Progress.
    There was also someone else at a Momentum meeting who said we need to work with other parties (then I remembered she had been a Green candidate).
    Then someone at a rally (a local councillor) gave a good pro-Corbyn speech then I remembered he had been kicked out of the Lib Dems and all he cares about is himself and radical change perhaps always produces opportunists (another right wing Labour councillor was also posting a video on a Momentum Facebook discussion page on how he was a big Corbyn supporter although in private he had threatened to “walk” and cross the floor) opportunists indeed who see which way the wind is blowing to benefit their own interests.
    I also have a friend who is a Labour councillor, he supports JC but is fiercely independently minded and fears he will be de-selected by the new younger members (who barely lift a finger in local election campaigns).
    He is a very good working class campaigner for a very poor area.
    He also says a number of Labour councillors are thinking of standing down; they stood to fight for local working people and have just had enough of Labour’s internal infighting.
    So we seriously need to get back to fighting the Tories and by the way if those anti-Corbyn MPs don’t get it the Witney by-election had a clearly stated anti-Corbyn Labour candidate badly beaten by the arch opportunists -the Lib Dems so perhaps if we return to their perspective and stand for nothing you get nothing!
    But I do feel inspired after reading latest New Left Review – re the development of capitalism “there have been only two leaders; the UK, from 1820 to 1913, and the US from World War 1 to the present” (Aglieta) and Mason on the history of workers’ movement “from rebellion (1900s) and repression (1930s) to co-existence (1950s)” before unions were crushed to help facilitate Neo-Liberalism and the financialisation of capitalism (loyal only to shareholders and hence the lack of investment).
    I liked Mason’s talk of new techology giving us all a voice and the potential of networks (as long as we perhaps can get public control of technology to benefit working humanity) and I would argue that this would all fit in with a demand for a 20 hour working week with good pay plus may also help with Nancy Fraser’s arguments abouut social reproduction – giving time poor working humanity more time for this and emancipating working humanity at the same time.
    Fraser is also good on the 3 stages of capitalism – the first the 19thC regime of liberal capitalism, the second regime is the state-managed capitalism of the 20thC (with reforms won by workers) and the third the globalising financialized capitalism of the present era.
    So with a strong mainly generally progressive membership this is where we are and this is where the World is.
    Now is the time to unite behind the direction set by JC and to try to smash the Tories!

    1. David Pavett says:

      Not sure what this has to do with my article and my proposal.

      Also, as I have said before, there needs to be a judicious mix of top-down and bottom-up in any complex organisation. Posing them as mutually exclusive doesn’t, in my view, make much sense.

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