Posts Tagged ‘Social-Democratic Federation’

Vox Political: Neil Kinnock Due to Attack Corbyn on Panorama Tomorrow

September 18, 2016

Mike today has also put up a piece commenting on an article from BBC News that Neil Kinnock has warned that the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader would be disaster for the party. He is quoted as saying “Unless things change radically, and rapidly, it’s very doubtful I’ll see another Labour government in my lifetime.” He calls the current situation the ‘greatest crisis’ in the history of the party. Mike pointedly asks whether he’s referring to the possibility of having a real socialist in charge of the Labour party, or genuine democracy in the party, and states, ‘Methinks he doth protest too much.’

Lord Kinnock warns against Jeremy Corbyn re-election (again – at length)

I don’t take Kinnock’s comments seriously for a variety of reasons. Firstly, as some of the commenters point out, he rapidly changed his ideological tune after losing two elections. Pjay Mac, Pablo N and Nanma Vanda make the point that Kinnock entered the House of Lords after years of violently opposing it, and that he’s speaking now as a member of that very privileged group. After he left office in Britain, Kinnock also went off to the EU to accept a very well paid post there as a Commissioner, all paid for by the European taxpayer, of course. And yes, it is precisely the type of unelected office that UKIP made much of in their pronouncements about the anti-democratic nature of the EU.

What hasn’t been mentioned yet, but should, is that Kinnock is directly responsible for New Labour. A few years ago Lobster published a little piece arguing that Kinnock was right in his 1986 book, Making Our Way (Oxford: Basil Blackwell). This was when he was still a socialist. The former Labour leader realised, quite correctly, that British manufacturing had suffered from underinvestment due to the concentration of Thatcher’s government in promoting the financial sector and the City of London. Then Kinnock lost the 1987 election, and began the process of ‘modernising’ the party in line with Thatcherism and the perceived ascendancy of free market neoliberalism. It was Kinnock, not John Smith, who began the process of abandoning manufacturing industry, embracing privatisation, and crucially the winning the support of the City of London through promising them that a future Labour government would deregulate the sector and govern with a ‘light touch’. As part of his campaign, he launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’, in which Gordon Brown and Mo Mowlam dined with leading bankers and financiers.

He is the politician ultimately responsible for the creation of New Labour and Tony Blair. As such, he is hardly likely to give his backing to an old fashioned socialist like Jeremy Corbyn. This would mean effectively writing off three decades and more of ideological change, and recognising that he has led the party up a social and economic dead end. Just as Thatcherism has done to the politics of not just this, but many other nations around the world.

As he is very definitely not going to do that, his opinion simply has no validity.

It’s not even historically true. The Labour party has suffered a series of profound crises in its long career. It has split several times. The ILP and Social Democratic Federation left in the 1920s and 30s. It was also divided over the question of forming a coalition government in the ’30s. The party’s defeat in the 1951 general election also led to a reformulation of what it stood for, in which Hugh Gaitskell tried to drop Clause 4, and Tony Crosland argue instead that the party should abandon any attempt at further nationalisation, and concentrate instead for ‘taming’ capitalism so as to provide better wages and conditions, not just for the workers, but for everyone. The infighting that breaks out within the Labour party has been so regular, that a BBC commenter way back in the 1980s or 1990s one remarked that every generation has seen a battle for the party’s soul.

I think there is one difference, in that the infighting this time is particularly bitter as the Labour Right – the Blairites are so right-wing and have effectively stopped being members of the Labour party in terms of ideology and policy. They have little in common with traditional socialists, like Corbyn, who are actually centre-left, let alone the real far Left, despite the guff spouted by Kinnock and the other neoliberal cheerleaders.

Kinnock is wrong about Corbyn, and definitely wrong about the wonders of privatisation, the unregulated free market and cutting welfare. He is simply another Tory chattering voice attacking the real socialists and Labour members supporting Corbyn. Treat him as such.

Gun Rights, the Second Amendment and Early 20th Century Preparations for Revolution in Britain

March 6, 2016

One of the major issues that concerns the Republicans, and particularly the extreme right-wing of that party, is gun rights. They point to the Second Amendment in the Constitution guaranteeing American citizens the right to bear arms, which they view as one of the key democratic freedoms in America. They see it as the article in the Constitution that enables Americans to fight back against a tyrannical government. Hence the hysterical rage amongst the NRA and people like the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, at the mere mention of gun legislation. This is always greeted with cries of ‘They’re coming for our guns!’ and the defiant snarl that they’ll only be able to take the weapon, ‘from my cold, dead hand’.

I’ve also seen a quotation from George Orwell trotted out to support gun rights. I can’t remember the exact quotation, but it’s something like the household gun on the wall being the mark of the free worker. Now Orwell’s quote could be a remark on many things. In the 19th century the poaching laws introduced by the wealthy farmers during the Napoleonic Wars were bitterly resented, because many agricultural workers believed they had the right to poach rabbits on their employer’s land as part of the perks of the job. And this became more important as the economic situation deteriorated and poverty and starvation more common.

It was also an attitude shared by the Social Democratic Federation, an early British Socialist party, which was one of the organisations that formed the Labour party. The SDF was Marxist, although its founder, Hyndeman, had fallen out with Marx himself as he had not credited Marx with the party’s programme. Pelling in his ‘Short History of the Labour Party’ notes that in period running up to the First World War and the debate about rearmament, several members of the SDF, most notably Will Thorne, believed

in a form of conscription known as ‘the citizen army’, which was based on the idea that a revolution could best be effected when all members of the working class had some training in the use of arms. (p. 29).

Now I’ve no doubt that the idea of radical, working-class Marxists bearing arms ready to start the revolution is something that scares the right witless. Gun rights are all right for right-wing Whites, but when Blacks and the radical Left get them, it’s a major threat to decent American society. The Young Turks and Secular Talk have pointed out that the authorities in America suddenly became interested in limiting access to guns after the Black Panthers started walking around with them. The Panthers had read the Constitution, and found that nowhere in it did it say that only Whites could carry firearms. And so even before they started shooting people the American government got very alarmed, and started passing laws to limit gun ownership.

Back in the 1990s parts of the Survivalist movement grew so concerned about what they saw as the new Communist threat and the imminent collapse of society, that they started forming informal ‘militias’. Somehow I doubt very much that the same people, who formed and joined these, would be comfortable knowing that their opponents on the radical left back in the very beginning of the 20th century, shared their ideas and desire to acquire firearms training to overthrow a tyrannical government. The only difference being that it was a right-wing, economically conservative government that they viewed as oppressive. I can’t see them being terribly enthusiastic about that little episode of British history at all.

Ernest Bevin’s Reforms for the Disabled

May 10, 2014

Ernest Bevin pic

Yesterday I managed to get hold of Francis Williams’ biography of the great trade unionist and Labour politician, Ernest Bevin, Bevin was born in Winsford in Somerset, and started his political career in Bristol, where he joined the Bristol Socialist Society, a branch of Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, and founded the T.G.W.U. with Harry Gosling. He later became foreign minister under Clement Attlee.

Among his achievements was legislation compelling firms to employ the disabled, and setting up the Disabled Person’s Employment Corporation to promote factories for them. Williams describes this work as follows:

This constant feeling for men and women as human beings came out strongly in the training schemes he set up to try to make sure that as far as war conditions allowed people were fitted into the sort of job they would do well and feel successful at. And it showed particularly in his anxiety to give disabled men and women the best possible chance to establish themselves in the community. One of his dearest ambitions found its expression in the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act which established a register of disabled persons – not those disabled in war service only but all disabled over sixteen – and made it compulsory for firms with over twenty persons to engage a percentage of employees from this register. He set up a Disabled Persons’ Employment Corporation to start factories for those unlikely to obtain work on their own account and launched vocational training and industrial rehabilitation courses, including a residential rehabilitation centre, to help the disabled to master new skills. In all this he emphasized that what must be kept in mind was not only that it was important for the nation to be able to command all the labour resources possible but even more the effect upon a disabled man’s own sense of status, of his feeling of being needed and of having a place in the community, if he could master new skills. Feeling so strongly about this he put this side of his Ministry’s work directly in charge of his Parliamentary Under Secretary George Tomlinson, later Minister of Education, because ” George cares for people’. (Ernest Bevin: Portrait of A Great Englishman (London: Hutchinson 1952) 224).

The contrast with the present administration is striking. Instead of caring for people, it has put the departments supposedly supporting the most vulnerable under petty sadists and tyrants, like Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey. Instead of empowering the disabled and unemployed and supporting their feelings of self-worth, they have done the exact opposite. And instead of actively supporting the employment of the disabled in workshops set up specifically for them, they have done the opposite and closed Remploy’s workshops down.

IDS touted his Universal Credit and welfare reforms as the greatest since the abolition of slavery. This spiteful and malicious individual is massively deluded. The real reformers were Bevin and his fellows. IDS, McVey and their cronies have done nothing but destroy their legacy of equality and empowerment.