Vox Political on the Labourist Owen Smith on Newsnight

Mike the other day also put up a piece on Owen Smith’s performance on BBC’s Newsnight. Mike and a number of other opponents of Blairite neoliberalism found it a cheering experience. It wasn’t quite a car crash, but, according to Mike, there were still some heavy swerves. He also observed that although Smudger mostly managed to control himself over Corbyn, he still felt constrained to sneer at him for his perceived lack of patriotism, and claimed that Corbyn had only had just over half the votes in the election, far underestimating the amount of support Corbyn had and has.

What I found particularly telling was the way Smiffy refused to use the word ‘Socialism’. He instead used the term ‘Labourism’ instead, to the manifest incredulity of the interviewer. In actual fact, historians of the Labour party and political scientists have for a long time made a distinction between ‘socialism’ and ‘labourism’. Socialism means the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. It can take many different forms, from co-operatives through to state ownership, or collective ownership by trade unions, as in Syndicalism. It may also involve different degrees, from complete nationalism, as in the former Soviet Union, to a mixed economy, as in Britain and most other western European countries before Thatcher and the Neoliberal devastation of our public life.

Labourism, on the other hand, simply means anything that benefits organised labour. For a couple of decades after its foundation, there was a tension in the Labour party between the trade unions, or some of the elements in the trade unions, and the various Socialist bodies. Some of the trade union members wanted the Labour party to concentrate on protecting union rights, such as the right to strike and picket, and fighting to obtain better wages for working people. Furthermore, under Lloyd George’s introduction of the first, preliminary foundations of the welfare state, trade unions could serve as the official bodies for the administration of the social security and healthcare schemes, along with private insurance companies. This has been described as a ‘labourist’ policy, as it was designed to help working people, but was not a socialist measure in that it did not involve the state or collective ownership.

I was also told by a friend last week that the Labour party has removed the term ‘Socialism’ from its constitution. I’m not surprised. Blair was not a Socialist by any stretch of the imagination. He got rid of Clause 4, the clause in the Labour party’s constitution that pledged the party to nationalisation and collective ownership. I’m not surprised that New Labour, in order to endear itself to all those darling swing voters and the aspirant middle classes, as well as rich donors, dropped the ‘socialist’ label as well.

But Smudger isn’t a labourist, either. Blair and New Labour hated and distrusted the trade unions, and have done everything they can to deny them any effective power to oppose the increasingly punitive and exploitative employment legislation. Legislation introduced not just by the Tories, but by the Labour right. Blair and Brown talked rubbish about the need to support flexible labour market policies as well as social justice. In practice, the Warmonger and his grumpy sidekick jettisoned social justice, as again, swing voters, the aspirant middle class, and the media barons, like Murdoch, all had the vapours when faced with it.

So Smiff isn’t a Socialist, nor proper labour. He didn’t oppose the Tory welfare cuts, and I doubt very much that he wants to anything about the employment legislation that is driving people in this country into poverty – the zero hours and short employment contracts, the proliferation of unpaid internships, workfare and all the rest of the vile schemes designed to make working people as poor and as desperate as possible.

He and the rest of New Labour – Progress, Saving Labour and the rest, are bog-standard Tories, and nothing else. They should leave the party and cross the floor to their true political home.

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One Response to “Vox Political on the Labourist Owen Smith on Newsnight”

  1. Florence Says:

    Very few understand the historical and correct use if the term Labourism. Yours is one if the best succinct summaries I have seen. Smiffy has yet again demonstrated his inadequate understanding of, well, just about everything. Except ‘doing’ P R, and he’s actually not as good as he thinks he is there,too. Every such piece of exposure just reveals the shallow little man he is.

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