Labour’s Blues #3 – a coherent ‘anti-theory’ theory that must be challenged

jon cruddas with question markIn Labour’s Blues #1, I attempted an overview of the recent book Blue Labour – Forging a New Politics . This was followed by Labour’s Blues #2 in which I questioned the values of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) which  receives high praise in Blue Labour. In this last piece I return to the arguments of Blue Labour as a whole.

Blue Labour politics is presented as “grounded” i.e. starting out from where people are. There is a strong insistence on developing relationships with others through joint activity and on “subsidiarity” (making decisions at the lowest appropriate level). From this basic standpoint a critique is developed of both neo-liberalism, seen as sacrificing our humanity to the logic of a narrowly conceived market-place, and statism, seen as excluding our humanity through a web of technocratic management. Continue reading

Labour’s Blues #2 – Catholic doctrine and defence of the existing social order

BlueLabourCoverIn Labour’s Blues – anti-secular, anti-rational, more radical conservative than socialist?, I pointed out that the recent book Blue Labour – Forging a New Politics is marked by an anti-secular and anti-rationalist theme running throughout its pages. Further, it claims great importance for religious insights in general and of Catholic Social Thought (CST) in particular as a source of its ideas. Now I want to look a little closer at CST.

Given the limited space I will focus on a key Papal encyclical: Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII (1891). The reason for considering this document from the end of the 19th century is because it is central to CST. It is specifically mentioned four times in Blue Labour and it has been celebrated in a series of subsequent Catholic Encyclicals right up to and including Caritas in Veritate by Benedict XVI in 2009. Its centenary was celebrated by Pope Pope John Paul II in his Centesimus Annus of 1991. What is more Jon Cruddas has made a point in previous work of claiming that Labour could learn much from “19th century Catholic social thought”. The choice is therefore not arbitrary. Continue reading

Labour’s Blues – anti-secular, anti-rational, more radical conservative than socialist?

BlueLabourCoverWith the 2015 general election almost upon us everyone knows that, even with the boosting effect (for the big parties) of our first past the post system, Labour is unlikely to win a majority of seats. The outcome of the election is especially unpredictable due to the decline of the major parties and the rise of the SNP, the Greens and UKIP. We don’t know what the political landscape will look like on 8 May.

Speculation is rife as to the consequences for Labour of various outcomes of the election. These will not be discussed here. But what can be said is that the battle for Labour’s soul is clearly under way and the recently published Blue Labour – Forging a New Politics (publisher I.B. Tauris) is a major statement of position in this process. Continue reading

There is nothing radical about little Englandism

village cricketI’m not an avid follower of Paul Kingsnorth’s work, but I do remember his One No, Many Yeses. This was a contribution – some may say cash-in – to the burgeoning library on the internationalist, anti-capitalist, and fashionably networky movement of sundry NGOs, anarchists and occasional Trots of the early part of the last decade. As something of a radical travelogue, our Paul flitted from country to country giving us the low down on the Zapatistas (of course), the G8 summit in Genoa, hung out with gold miners in New Guinea, and all other kinds of things. It was an uncritical celebration of this most rooted of rootless movements, an advert for the New Way of Doing Things. The book stuck in my mind because it helped fill an adventure of my own – a bus trip from Stoke to Telford. Continue reading

Fight austerity not migrants

Ed ending austerityLast week’s local and European elections, alongside opinion polls, suggest Labour should win next year’s General Election, but only if the decline in its support since late 2012 is halted at this point.

Labour’s share of the European election vote was 25 per cent and its national equivalent vote (NEV) share of the local election vote (Rallings & Thrasher) was 31 per cent. Both figures put it one per cent ahead of the Tories. Although tiny, if this lead is maintained it would result in Labour becoming the largest party in Parliament next year. Continue reading