Posts Tagged ‘Invasion of the Factories’

Are the Blairites Trying to Discredit Parliamentary Democracy?

July 12, 2016

To the revolutionary far left, parliamentary politics are a corrupt sham. The parliamentary system, and the parties represented in it, always represent the interests of the capitalists, the industrials and aristocrats, against the peasants and the working class. Despite major disagreements in doctrine and tactics, this is the attitude that unites Anarchists, Anarcho-Syndicalists and Communists. Although not an advocate of the revolutionary overthrow of existing society, P.J. Proudhon, one of the founders of Anarchism, described democracy as the process by which the people elect their jailers.

The same hostility also extends to moderate, reformist Socialist parties and their leaders. Moderate socialist parties, like the Labour party in Britain, the Social Democrats in Germany and Austria, and their reformist and gradualist counterparts in France, Italy and elsewhere were despised by the revolutionary Left for betraying the working class, as they saw it, to capitalism and the bosses. Revolutionary Anarchists, Syndicalists and Communists bitterly denounced mainstream Socialists for calling an end to strikes and clamping down on working class militancy in order to preserve, as they saw it, their position of leadership in the working class movement. The great Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci, bitterly reproached the Italian Socialist party for ending the occupation of the factory, and thus ending a period working class militancy that could have resulted in a revolution similar to that of the Soviet Union.

In most cases, the analysis is wrong. By and large, there has been little support for the ultra-left and revolutionary organisations and parties in western Europe, and they have always been a minority. However, I’m starting to wonder if the Blairites in the Labour party are trying to prove the hard-left critique of parliamentary democracy true. Jeremy Corbyn is immensely popular with the Labour rank-and-file. He is certainly not a Communist, despite the ranting of the right-wing press and media. Standing for the renationalisation of the railways, free, state education and healthcare, does not make anyone even remotely like Lenin. But to the Blairites, this is all too much. They are trying to destroy Corbyn’s leadership and smear both him and his supporters. And they do represent the interests of the bosses.

Blair was impressed by Margaret Thatcher, neo-liberal economics, and the rich. One of the first things he did in Downing Street was invited Margaret Thatcher round for tea. She reciprocated by proclaiming ‘New Labour’ her greatest achievement. He went even further in privatising Britain’s industries, including the NHS, than the Tories. He also reduced the welfare state even further. It was Blair that introduced the infamous work capability tests, which has seen severely disabled people unfairly thrown off benefits after they’ve been judged ‘fit to work’. He also introduced workfare, which effectively operates as a form of cheap, subsidised labour for big business. He appointed some of the most grasping, exploitative, and sheer murderous businessmen to government departments, and declared that ‘this government is extremely relaxed about getting rich’. But if there’s one thing he disliked and distrusted, it was the unions. Despite having got into politics through being sponsored by one of them, he also threatened to cut the Labour party’s ties with them. As they were founding, constituent elements of the Labour party, which was established partly to defend their interests, this was a major attack on the party itself.

And Blair and his coteries have been amply rewarded. Private industry donated vast sums to the party, sponsoring conferences and all manner of other events. And when he retired, Blair went off on very lucrative speaking tours, and got himself a job as ‘peace envoy’ to the Middle East. Which sounds like a very, very sick joke.

The result of this for ordinary people has been the removal of workers’ rights, wages cut to a minimum, and the threat of poverty and unemployment through zero hours contracts and welfare cuts. And all so that the party could win the votes of middle class voters in swing marginals.

Meanwhile, the working class became increasingly alienated and disenfranchised. New Labour took them for granted, and expected to continue having their support, regardless of what they did. But they didn’t. Between 1997 and 2008 or so, Labour lost five million votes. Many people have said repeatedly that they don’t vote, because there’s no difference between the parties. A few years ago the press reported on how there was a mood in this country of angry disenfranchisement.

This appears to be what Angela Eagle, Tristram Hunt and co all want to bring back. A Labour party that is just a pale imitation of the Tories, that has no interest in doing anything for the working poor beyond a few, minimal policies. A party that sees itself as pursuing the policies of rich industrialists. And in doing so, a party that appears to corroborate everything the revolutionary Left has ever said about the failure and corruption of parliamentary politics.

In my view, only Jeremy Corbyn stands for genuinely creating a real alternative to the Tories, and reinvigorating not just the Labour party, but the moribund, cynical state of parliamentary politics itself.

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The NAFF Origins of the Tory Claim the BNP are ‘Socialist’

March 31, 2014

Daniel Hannan

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan – claims BNP are Socialist, while wanting to privatise the NHS.

I’ve blogged before on the Tory claim that Fascism, Nazism and, in Britain, the BNP, are forms of Socialism. There is indeed a perfectly respectable academic debate about how revolutionary the various European Fascist movements were. Mussolini started out as an extreme Left-wing Socialist, who broke with the Italian Socialist party in his demands that Italy should enter the First World War. He then moved increasingly and opportunistically to join the Italian Right, and in the red scare following the invasion of the factories by radical Italian workers promoted Fascism was a force, which would defend private property and the middle class against the threat of socialist revolution. The Nazi party in Germany also contained several Socialist demands in its 1926 political programme, such as profit-sharing and the confiscation of excessive profits from the War. These were also ignored, with the exception of a half-hearted attempt by Hitler to nationalise the department stores, when the Nazis finally came to power. Again, this was partly achieved through Hitler appealing to the middle classes, offering to defend them from Socialism and the organised working class on the way hand, and big business on the other.

The allegation that Fascism is a form of Socialism re-emerged a few years ago with the Republicans in America at about the same time Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism was published. It’s an attempt to smear Socialism or an kind of progressive politics, which can be linked to socialism, like welfare provision or greater state regulation of the economy through a simple process of guilt by association and by suggesting some kind of equivalence. The argument is roughly that if Fascism is a form of Socialism, so, therefore, Socialism is also a threat to freedom and human life, like Fascism. Good American citizens should therefore reject Socialism, or anything that looks even remotely like it, such as Obamacare, and should vote for small-state Republicans instead. The most extreme example of this attitude was the extreme Right-wing American TV presenter, Glenn Beck. After Anders Breivik committed his horrific massacre of the children attending a summer camp run by the Norwegian Socialist party’s youth organisation, Beck went on to describe them as like the Hitler Youth in Germany. The reason for this vile accusation was that the Norwegian Socialists had criticised Israel for its policies towards the Palestinians. Beck saw this as demonstrating that the Socialists were anti-Semites, and therefore exactly like the Nazi party.

Over here the accusation that Fascism is a form of Socialism has been repeatedly made by the Tory MEP for Dorset and Telegraph columnist, Daniel Hannan. Guy Debord’s Cat has produced a detailed refutation of one of one of his columns making this argument, which I’ve also reblogged. As far as I’ve been able to make out so far, the accusation was first made in the context of modern Tory politics by the Libertarian wing of the Conservative party in 1977. The group Aims of Industry published an attack by Stephen Ayres with the title The National Front is a Socialist Front. Ayres was an activist for NAFF, the National Association For Freedom, which later became the Freedom Association. The National Front rejected the accusation, and in return criticised the NAFF in the pages of its journal, Spearhead, for ‘simply echoing the voice of the new Toryism by emphasising the freedoms and rights that the individual should possess vis-à-vis the state but is afraid to mention the duties that the individual should hold towards the State and Nation.’ (See Larry O’Hara, ‘Notes from the Underground: British Fascism 1974-92, Part 1, 1974-83’, in Lobster 23: 15-20 (16, n. 30, 19). lobster’s editor, Robin Ramsay, has suggested that Thatcherism was based on Libertarianism, rather than the authoritarian Fascism of the BNP/ NF Right, as it seemed at the time. This seems to be true. Thatcher was strongly influenced by von Hayek and the monetarism of the Chicago School. As this has now become the dominant ideology within British Conservatism and the Republicans in America, so the Libertarian accusation that Fascism is somehow a form of Socialism continues to be made.

In fact, Libertarians also have a history of backing extremely Right-wing, illiberal movements. Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out that von Hayek himself served in the government of the Austro-Fascist, Vollmar Dollfuss. Dollfuss banned the Austrian Socialist party from the fear that they were organising a Revolution, and established a Corporate state like that of Mussolini’s Italy following the theories of Othmar Spann. Fascist Austria was more tolerant than Nazi Germany. A range of political opinions were permitted with the exception of Socialism. Nevertheless, it was still a Fascist state. After the War, von Hayek went to Chile to view the operation of the monetarist policies put in place by General Pinochet’s military dictatorship. And Libertarianism elsewhere also had a history of supporting murderous extreme Right-wing dictatorships. I distinctly remember the accusation that one of the Central American dictatorships and its death squads was also supported by the Freedom Association.

While Fascism did contain left-wing elements, in practice it allied itself with the Right as the defender of property and private industry. The accusation that it, and its British forms, the NF and now the BNP, is really a form of Socialism, was rejected by the NF itself, and comes from the Libertarians, who have themselves supported brutal Right-wing dictatorships. The claim has been made to present the Tory party as the only authentic party representing and defending freedom. As has been shown recently by the authoritarian stance of successive Conservative administrations, including Maggie Thatcher and her policy of the strong state, this simply isn’t the case. Moreover, it supports the economic freedoms of industry against the welfare of the working and lower middle class majority, leaving them exploited by their social and political superiors. They support freedom, but only for a very narrow, select, and extremely wealthy few. For everyone else, it’s wage slavery.