Labour’s limited radicalism – Socialist Resistance editorial

CoverThe new issue of Socialist Resistance is out this week. This is the editorial.

“Under our compulsory jobs guarantee if you refuse that job you forgo your benefits”. Landlord checks on prospective tenants to make sure they aren’t illegal immigrants are “sensible in principle”.

Who is coming out with this reactionary drivel? Nigel Farage, Ian Duncan-Smith  or Theresa May? No. Rachel Reeve, Duncan-Smith’s shadow in the Labour Party is stealing his claimant bashing rhetoric, adding for good measure that “nobody should be under any illusion that they are going to be able to live a life on benefits under a Labour government”. Theresa May’s policy ideas, though considered an attack on civil liberties by the UKIP leader are embraced by her Labour shadow Yvette Cooper.

The general election may be well over a year away but the campaigning has already started. Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour conference was his party’s opening salvo and, as we explore in this issue, it signified a modest but perceptible leftward shift and was welcomed as such across the labour movement. Len McCluskey, the Unite leader was quick to endorse Miliband saying in a TV interview “the Labour Party is still our party remember, it’s the party of organised labour and we want to make certain that it’s well funded in order to fight the next elections.

Neither McCluskey nor Miliband want to draw the real conclusion from the reaction to the conference speech which was that a radical challenge to the deepening impoverishment of millions of people is a vote winner. Instead Miliband instructs his lieutenants to get out the message that the party is as committed to key aspects of neo-liberalism and austerity as it was under Blair and Brown. Moreover, as Cooper demonstrates, ideas which were once  found only in the most obscure and unpleasant right wing think tanks are now “sensible in principle”.

It’s looking increasingly likely that Labour will win the next general election, or more accurately, the Tories will lose it as the majority of voters will be in the region of 15% poorer in real terms than they were when the coalition was elected. Millions of working class people may not share McCluskey’s illusion that Miliband, Cooper and Reeves see themselves as representing organised labour but they will vote for the party if they see it as offering a marginal protection against the all out class warfare John Lister describes in his article.

Socialist Resistance is encouraging its supporters and readers to become active in Left Unity. In particular we are endorsing the vision for the organisation set out in the Left Party Platform which we reprint in this issue. We may not like the concept of a “UKIP of the left”, but it’s clear that Farage’s outfit has had an ideological impact on the Tories. From our point of view it’s an entirely negative one. No such pressure is being exerted on Labour from the left. The handful of MPs who are willing to take a clear stand in defence of working people are lost in a morass of time servers and gutless wonders. Left Unity has shown in the short time it has existed that it resonates with the political consciousness of significant numbers of newly radicalising people and individuals with experience of the labour movement.

Elections are only one terrain of class struggle but they are sometimes a significant one. Many of us will have no choice but to vote Labour next year and the year after. In some areas there will be credible left or Green candidates. We have to take the opportunity opened up by Miliband’s rhetorical shift by arguing that the only political solution to austerity is one that is willing to absolutely reject it. Labour won’t. We can build Left Unity into the party that will.

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