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Yesterday once more

by Helen Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 06:13:59 AM EST

Since last year's rejection at the polls, the British Labour Party have been in a gradual (glacially slow) process of re-invention and re-evalution. They have a new leader and now every policy stance is up for discussion, after all, with the coalition in popularity-freefall the future of the country is theirs to grab. Labour has broken its traditional habit of responding to defeat with introspection and division. Partly spurred on by the common purpose of its coalition opponents, a sort of unity has broken out in the party.

Paradoxically, while contributing to the party's current poll lead, this sense of unity may also be related to the perception of many voters that they don't quite know what Labour stands for. Although this carries obvious risks, in the short term party unity creates the space for constructive argument through which political definition can be forged. So now in furious bursts of activity various groups are coalescing around differeing themes for this argument, all neatly colour coded; there's Maurice Glasman's Blue Labour, there's Compass's Purple Book Labour and..  and.. well err, that's it.

Yes, one year on and there's only two significant groups discussing where Labour goes next and both seem to be, well a little bit backward looking.

front-paged by afew


This article on Labour List announcing the Purple book should cause a shudder to run down the spine of any progressive ;-

this seems to be an attempt not only to rebrand New Labour ideas without Blair attached to them, but also to reframe New Labour for the 21st century. The key passage of Sylvester's article (behind Murdoch paywall) is this:

    ""Purple was the colour of new Labour," says one of those involved. "It's what you get if you combine red and blue. It symbolises the need to stay on the centre ground."

So, if Purple Book Labour is an attempt to re-brand and update New Labour, does that necessarily mean it will descend into the apparatchnik machine politics of NuLab ? Maybe we should re-visit New Labour's positive aspect;-

Its emblematic concepts and themes were modernity, progress, globalisation, mobility, flexibility, individual rights and universal values. Its orientation was for Labour to modernise Britain through an accommodation with capitalism and the pursuit of social justice via the state.

The Purple Book isn't published until later this year, so it may seem premature to criticise but from the interviews I've seen this seems to be more an attempt to re-imagine the past as a still-glorious future than an attempt to consider how to move Britain from the shattered economy NuLab created into something likely to create a semblance of full gainful employment for the majority of the population. There is something of 30's Futurism about the earnest bright-shiny future these people are promising; it has a sepia-toned and cream coloured air to it. It smells a bit funny too, as if Blair peed behind the sofa and they can't get the stain out. Or maybe Harriet Harman just looks too air-brushed to be truthful.

Or, as Liberal Conpiracy wrote;-

A few years ago, these guys were the dominant faction in a party which won successive landslide elections. Now they are reduced to using handouts from multi millionaires (Lord Sainsbury) to try to follow in the footsteps of right wing Liberal Democrats. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh."

So does Blue Labour hold a different approach ? Again a capsule commentary could say their approach was;-

They want to resuscitate the Labour movement's concern for family, faith, flag, a sense of place, the dignity of work and the value of ordinary life and common institutions that make us human. They are critical of New Labour's naivety about capitalism and over-reliance on the state, arguing that these combined to undermine relationships and turn people into commodities. They want Labour's project to be about creating the conditions for ordinary people to lead decent lives together - by constraining capitalism, strengthening associations, and decentralising power.

And at first brush you could feel relieved that they recognise that Capital is a problem, that it does not serve the needs of the country nor of its population; it needs heavy regulation.

Such comments as these are indeed hopeful;-

'Blue can also remind new that it came to power emphasising individual responsibility and the dignity of labour but that these themes vanished in a blizzard of targets and controls. New Labour people were naive, say the blue Labour people, about the managerial proficiency of the State.

'Blue Labour has a solid economic critique. Concentrated market power can break the ties that bind communities. The 2008 crash was a crisis of corporate governance, in which power was concentrated in all the wrong places. Anyone sensitive to the volatility of capitalism would never have declared that boom and bust had been abolished. When you add in the blue criticism that new Labour regulated ineptly and spent freely, you have the basis of the confession without which Labour will struggle to be heard.

But, embarrassed by the collision of values when Gordon Brown met Gillian Duffy, Blue Labour seems to now be advocating that Labour should shed its allegedly "metropolitan elite liberal values" in favour of the more "robust" social conservatism of the white working class championed by the English Defence League

Maurice Glasman wiki

In April 2011, Glasman called on the Labour Party to establish a dialogue with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), in order "to build a party that brokers a common good, that involves those people who support the EDL within our party

As Lynsey Hanley witheringly noted in The Guardian

From direct and felt experience I appreciate that the repeated experience of unwelcome change is important to understanding aspects of a collective working-class outlook - if we can pin down such a thing. But you can't treat the symptoms of dispossession as though they're inherently worthy of preservation. Class solidarity ought to mean standing with anyone in the same social and economic position as you, but, particularly in the last period of full employment, it has tended to mean anyone who looks and thinks like you.

In their various attempts to get down with the voters, all three party leaders talk about middle-class forms of social buffeting and exclusion: sharp elbows, tennis clubs and all that. But what about its working-class form - silently or violently rejecting anyone who is different, or who expresses a different opinion to that of the crowd? That's what social conservatism means to me, unfortunately: a conformism that is created and kept going within communities, not imposed from without.

Anyone who believes that racist sentiment among working-class people was non-existent until the most recent wave of immigration must remind themselves of the dockworkers' marches in support of Enoch Powell, of support for the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s and for the National Front in the 70s. It's a form of dirty protest with a long history, and which, alas, has yet to die. To say it was created by New Labour gives the previous government too much credit.

As Peter Kellner, the pollster, has noted, Labour, as a unifying force for all those in society who are at the mercy of Capital, not just the dispossessed, but also the working and middle classes, even small business leaders, Labour cannot afford to pay lip-service to such tribal loyalties anymore. The petty racism, misogyny, homophobia and the sundry other small prejudices incubated in communities under pressure should find themselves challenged by any unity project led by a left-leaning Party intending National Government. Labour should be smashing the walls that divide us, not reinforcing them.

Blue Labour has a point when it talks of how Capital manipulates local conditions to enact low wages and insecurity, but it is the job of government to challenge this at National level, not capitulate at local.

So, if Purple Labour are trying to resurrect the 90s, Blue Labour are reaching back to the 70s or even earlier. So much for re-invention. Maybe we can have a different sort of Labour Party which combines the best of New, Blue and Purple, but without the soft surrenders to finance, religion or bigotry. Let's call it Red Labour : Of the people, for the People, by the people.

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Until Labour rejects Neo-Classical Economics thus the policies, laws, and regulations that stems from that political-economic ideology electing a Labour government is re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  

In an ideal world Labour would also simultaneously conclude putting sociopaths in charge of Public Business is a Bad Thing.

(Ah!  To dream the impossible!)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 01:33:15 PM EST
Yes, choosing between 3 parties with the same economic approach is no choice at all. We're simply turkeys choosing which abattoir to visit at Xmas

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 01:53:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said on another topic:
--------
I have received great idea by e-mail (from Serbia where people are sick and tired of all political players).When voting we should have a new tick box on the ballot paper saying "I am not voting for any party on this list". If more than 50% of voters tick this box election should be repeated but none of the parties from the list cannot participate. Wouldn't it be great! That would make them think harder next time...or disappear from political scene. Also we may get some new players on political field as for now we are locked with those idiots. And I think this idea is great on planetary political fields. I can keep dreaming...
---------

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Apr 27th, 2011 at 07:11:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it's a great dream. Since in the US the independents now comprise a larger number of voters than either party, it would be a tremendously powerful stick there.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 06:42:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They want to resuscitate the Labour movement's concern for family, faith, flag, a sense of place, the dignity of work and the value of ordinary life and common institutions that make us human.

So roughly 1890? Somewhat earlier?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 03:44:41 PM EST
The middle classes aren't so much at the mercy of Capital, that's the point about the middle class.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 03:46:25 PM EST
Depends on your definition of middle class, but I think we are reaching the point where even the owners of small and medium sized businesses need look over their shoulders.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 04:15:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, small and medium-sized business doesn't need to fear capital nearly as much as it needs to fear the City.

I really wish this would be drummed into people's heads until they get it: Making money and creating value are not the same thing, and in modern Britain they are only tangentially connected, if at all. So deep should it be instilled when stuffed shirts whine about "the most productive" people of the country being "taxed to death," the instinctive reaction is "yeah, yeah, but what do they actually produce if they're so 'productive'?"

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 06:46:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS for EP.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 02:56:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"It [purple] symbolises the need to stay on the centre ground."

What I don't get is why the parties on the left are so insistent on the need to take the middle ground, while the parties on the right are running towards their wing as fast as possible. Something is missing on the left, namely, a left wing. Where is it?

(Question applies globally.)

by asdf on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 10:29:11 PM EST
The problem I think is of identifying which left we're talking about. Certainly in the UK the soft marxist-derived union-identified socialist left systematically destroyed the older co-operativist left who are, imo, the best way forward.

so Co-operativism has largely left the Labour party as a philosophy and is now is more identified with DFH Green politics, which are inherently resisted as Government level.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 06:28:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sigh.

The petty racism, misogyny, homophobia and the sundry other small prejudices incubated in communities under pressure should find themselves challenged by any unity project led by a left-leaning Party intending National Government. Labour should be smashing the walls that divide us, not reinforcing them.

Hear, hear. And at the same time, their German counterparts proved incapable of throwing a well-heeled best-selling racist from the party (Sarrazin).

Maybe we can have a different sort of Labour Party which combines the best of New, Blue and Purple, but without the soft surrenders to finance, religion or bigotry. Let's call it Red Labour : Of the people, for the People, by the people.

Well said. The problem is that at least in England, Bliar more or less purged Red Labour from the party leadership (directly) and the base (by driving away committed party members). Those who remain just can't reinvent themselves.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 03:01:20 AM EST
DoDo:
Sigh.

The petty racism, misogyny, homophobia and the sundry other small prejudices incubated in communities under pressure should find themselves challenged by any unity project led by a left-leaning Party intending National Government. Labour should be smashing the walls that divide us, not reinforcing them.

Hear, hear.

People "under pressure" want to feel validated, not lectured. Which is probably why the BNP was famously seen as a threat to labour in certain areas.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 05:46:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no and no !!!

I know I've quoted this before and, even tho' it's about the USA and stuff that nobody over there gives a rats about anymore, but this, from The American President, is the absolute kernel of how you defend liberal values;-

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I've been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren't you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago. America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free". I've known Bob Rumson for years, and I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it.

The trouble is, as one of the other characters says;-

People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.

Right now, the BNP have an open field. You're right, Labour leaders shouldn't talk down to people as if they're ignorant peasants who don't know any better, but equally they shouldn't offer any patronizing compromise on haggling about values. Of course, you don't tell racists they're wrong, but in the wider community you can demonstrate to those who might be influenced that they are wrong. By showing the value of the wider community. By defusing the idea that other people are allies and helpers to be welcomed rather than threats to be resisted.

I have long argued that the issue of immigration in the UK is more about housing than it is about jobs. Yes, there is something of a small truth in the perception that it is about jobs, but a left leaning party whose primary concern is to maximise constructive job opportunities amongst the majority shouldn't have that problem. It's when "leftish" parties abandon the State's power of "persuasion" and leave maximising employment to a market we know is rigged against such ideas that problems come.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 06:20:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen:
By defusing the idea that other people are allies and helpers to be welcomed rather than threats to be resisted.
Nitpick: is defuse the right word for the meaning there? Should it be diffuse? You don't want to deactivate the idea that others are allies, you want to spread it.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 06:40:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, the problem of writing a sentence and then re-writing it and moving on without reading the result.

I'd say that "promoting" or "extolling" are probably closest to what I meant

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 07:23:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen:
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it.
The trouble is, as one of the other characters says
People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.
The thing is, making people scared and pointing out a scapegoat does appear as leadership to a lot of people.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 06:44:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As he says "They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 07:24:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen:

The trouble is, as one of the other characters says;-

People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.

Right now, the BNP have an open field. You're right, Labour leaders shouldn't talk down to people as if they're ignorant peasants who don't know any better, but equally they shouldn't offer any patronizing compromise on haggling about values. Of course, you don't tell racists they're wrong, but in the wider community you can demonstrate to those who might be influenced that they are wrong. By showing the value of the wider community. By defusing the idea that other people are allies and helpers to be welcomed rather than threats to be resisted.

I have long argued that the issue of immigration in the UK is more about housing than it is about jobs. Yes, there is something of a small truth in the perception that it is about jobs, but a left leaning party whose primary concern is to maximise constructive job opportunities amongst the majority shouldn't have that problem. It's when "leftish" parties abandon the State's power of "persuasion" and leave maximising employment to a market we know is rigged against such ideas that problems come.

Exactly. If you throw away peoples basic needs like a place to live, worthy participation in society and the means to maintain social standing and raise a family, then you create a vacuum that will be filled by somebody blaming some appropriate group for the problems. The answer is not to join the blamers, it is to present a credible probelm to restore the basic needs and then propaganda, propaganda, propaganda (if media does not carry the message, buy the media).

It is not like there is a lack of things to do. I have visited Britain and most houses need some insulation. And what is the deal with single-glass windows - sponsoring russian gas industry for fun? Speaking of which: windpower, windpower, windpower. And a working railway system for all. And more personel in health care, education and care for senior citizens.

If this is not enough to get rid of involontary unemployment, there could always be a program to raise ponies. I hear they are popular.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 07:32:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Amen to all that. I have no idea how I came to live in a country where all of that sensible stuff is considered unpossible

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 08:04:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the potential saving graces for the National Labour party is the project that seems to be happening under the radar in Wales.

It's why I regret we hear so little from our own local correspondent while she is too busy running around earning a living

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 05:52:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One wonders whether the right-wing dictatorships in the 1930s were just a small-scale trial run.
by asdf on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 09:08:22 PM EST
this time it's corporate

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Apr 27th, 2011 at 07:05:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the outside I have not seen much sign of new thinking from the Labour Party. Of course it does take time to move new thinking into actionable policy, but I am not sure either of the projects mentioned in this diary are very promising.

I would suggest that if Labour is to remain remotely credible it needs to start by acknowledging past mistakes. I would nominate Private Finance Initiatives - a crazy way of funding public building projects by sweeping the liability off the public balance sheet in the short term at the cost of crippling added costs paid to private companies in the long term. Another area of concern should be the chilling streak of authoritarianism which New Labour was so keen on.

With some lessons learned from the past, the party can move on to ask what goals it wants to promote in the future. When it has some goals the next step is to formulate plans to move towards the goals.

One of the historic problems with British Labour, when it was a socialist party, was that it had a great critique of current evils and a vague vision of a utopian future but tended not to have a credible strategy to move from the present to the desired future. After the socialist era the party seems to have declined into a grouping of technocrats and managers with no real vision of the future.

I have been fairly negative in this post, but it is welcome to see any sign of renewed intellectual activity associated with what is one of the major parties in Great Britain. Hopefully this process will continue and broaden over time, so the party can find a new approach and not just reinvent an (arguably) better past.

by Gary J on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 07:43:22 PM EST
Red Blooded Labour would be better, fighting for a Brawny Recovery earned through smart design and hard work.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 07:21:58 PM EST


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