Labour Part of the Problem Not Solution
Its rhetoric may be softer than the Tories', but the Labour puts profit before people.
By Ken Loach
March 28, 2014 "Information Clearing House - Every day the Guardian publishes accounts of desperate poverty and attacks on welfare provision. We know of the food banks, the plight of disabled people and the housing crisis that affects so many. We know of the propaganda to make the poorest people scapegoats for economic failure. We recognise the hypocrisy of Cameron's "moral mission".
We know that housing support goes to rich landlords, that benefits for the working poor subsidise employers who pay poverty wages. We read that benefit fraud is a tiny fraction of the overall welfare budget, far less than unclaimed benefits, and is nothing compared to the amount lost through tax dodging. But as we rail against the injustice and hypocrisy, we fail to ask one big question. Where is our political fightback? It should be led by the Labour party but therein lies the problem.
The coalition parties proclaim the importance of the market economy. So does Labour. The coalition cuts back on public enterprise and prioritises the interests of big corporations and private companies. So did the last Labour government. Whenever workers organise to defend jobs, wages or conditions, who supports them? Not Ed Miliband or other Labour leaders. An open letter to Miliband from Labourite "intellectuals" published in the Guardian this week is as peripheral is it is self-important.
The demands of the competitive market are remorseless: reduce the cost of labour; privatise everything; remove protection from working people, and maintain a pool of unemployed to discipline those lucky enough to have a job. Trade unions are to be obstructed while the wealthy are courted in the hope that they will find a pliant, flexible workforce that is easy to exploit.
We see the consequences not only in the workplace but in our health service, in education, in all aspects of social care that mark a civilised society. We see it in the disregard for the environment, as in the current push to start fracking for shale gas, regardless of its impact. We have seen it in the illegal wars and imperialist invasions of recent governments. None of this is new. But where is our political representation?
Labour's rhetoric may be softer than the Tories', but its fundamental stance is limited by the same imperative: profit comes before all else. Can the Labour party be reclaimed? Or, rather, made anew into one that will represent the interests of the people?
History suggests it cannot. The high-water mark of 1945 is long gone. The many great achievements of that government have largely been dismantled, either with the collusion of Labour or directly by the party when it has been in power. The Labour left has all but disappeared, and even Tony Benn's voice is now sadly silent. A Miliband government will not reverse any of the privatisations in the health service or elsewhere. It will not take the railways back into public ownership – despite the popularity of such a move – or even reclaim Royal Mail.
The Labour party is part of the problem, not the solution. The Greens have many admirable policies, but we look in vain for a thoroughgoing analysis for fundamental change. We need a new voice, a new movement – a new party.
There are many thousands of campaigns for worthy causes – against hospital closures, to support the homeless, against environmental destruction, to protect the disabled, for human rights and civil liberties, to help those in need – the list is endless. Trade unions still represent millions of working people. There is a unity of interest among all these groups. Imagine what could be achieved if we all acted together.
Left Unity was formed a few months ago to work towards such co-operation. The task is considerable. We are used to working and campaigning within our own small organisations. The proliferation of radical newspapers is witness to that. But the need is urgent. If we don't act together, the poverty, exploitation and alienation will get worse. Where is the rage, asks David Hare. It's there, alright. People are certainly angry enough. But they need political leadership to give them hope.
Labour has taken as its slogan "one nation" – coined by a 19th-century Tory, Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli had no intention of bringing about the changes to make that a reality. Neither does today's Labour leadership, wedded to a capitalist economy that creates class division. The Labour manifesto of 1945 would be a better inspiration. It promised "a socialist party and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose … is the establishment of the socialist commonwealth, free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organised in the service of the … people".
The Labour government of '45 chose not to be that party or realise that ambition. Its reforms were to provide an infrastructure for a capitalist economy, not to change society. The task is now to turn the words of the manifesto into a reality. Assert the public good against private greed. Do we have the ability to make it happen?
A new party must be democratic, principled and properly organised. It needs an analysis of contemporary politics with a set of immediate demands: an industrial strategy to create green jobs, a statutory living wage, a public housing programme and a cap on private rents, an end to all privatisation in the health service.
It is a list many can compile; but without political representation it is a futile exercise. Who will put it into effect?
Building a democratic party with volunteer activists is a daunting task. But if we leave the sidelines and, finally, work together, it might just be possible.
• Left Unity has a conference in Manchester on Saturday (29 March). Visit www.leftunity.org
Irish Labour Fucked
Support for the Labour Party in Ireland is at a historic low, as they continue a leading role in the implementation of austerity measures with right-wing Fine Gael.Their collapse has led to several high-profile resignations and growing concern that Labour will be wiped out in 2015.
European Parliament (MEP) Nessa Childers resigned from the party, being the seventh member to have left the parliamentary Labour Party since the coalition of February 2011.Phil Prendergast, warned that Labour was in danger of “writing its own obituary.”
On April 20, at a charity event in Dublin, Labour’s social affairs minister, Joan Burton, noted in a speech that she felt the population had reached the “limit” of tolerance of austerity measures. She added that such policies could only be continued for so long without generating opposition.Labour has taken the lead in wielding the axe to public spending. The austerity measures initiated by the Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition were vastly expanded under Labour and Fine Gael.
Labour have led some of the most brutal attacks on working people. Labour’s Brendan Howlin made harsh cuts to social services and workers’ wages. Labour has used its links to the unions to ensure austerity measures are implemented. The unions continue to enforce cuts leading to billions of euros reduction in public sector employment of 10 percent. Labour have led demands for even deeper cuts to pay for the bailout of the banks. None of those raising concerns about Labour’s declining support have in any way repudiated the party’s role in imposing these policies and when confronted with mounting public opposition the unions are increasingly unable to control.
Gilmore has warned against any attempt to slacken the pace of austerity, noting the deep crisis still facing Ireland. “What kind of conditions do people think would be attached? What kind of money do people think would be available? Do people want this period of austerity to continue for another 10 years, another 20?” he commented to the Irish Times .
In reality, Gilmore knows full well that the deals struck by the current government will ensure the continuation of austerity for decades to come with repayments stretching over the next 40 years. The extension of the timetable for the rest of the €85 billion bailout for an extra seven years will secure the full repayment of these funds with interest to the financial elite.
Gilmore is typical of Labour Party leadership whose roots are in the pseudo-left of Irish politics. He began his career in the Workers Party in the 1980s, which sought to exploit Marxist phraseology to promote his fake brand of Irish republicanism. He played a leading role in the right-wing split in 1992 to form Democratic Left with Howlin facilitating the merger with Labour, creating the conditions for the integration of a number of formerly “left” radical figures into the highest echelons of Irish politics.
The task before Irish workers, is to break from these politically corrupt organisations, the pseudo-left groups and mafia Unions that give them support.