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Lest we forget… September 21, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.

It’s easy to forget the panic that possessed the financial markets and private sector in 2008. Here’s a short extract from Steve Richards excellent “Whatever It Take: The Real Story of Gordon Brown and New Labour” which underscores that:

He [Gordon Brown] had cause to do so sooner than expected and in supremely more dramatic circumstances. The following week [in 2008] the Republican administration in the US was forced to intervene to save the housing giants Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac… from going bust. In effect a right-wing US government was nationalising two of the biggest and most revered private financial institutions. This sensational development made waves around the world. On the morning after the nationalisation the BBC’s Today programme hosted a discussion between two senior bankers pleading with the US government to do much more to prop up the ailing banks. Ed Miliband awoke to the discussion and assumed that the contributors must be members of the left-wing Compass pressure group, such was the focus on the need for massive state intervention. He could not quite believe it when he heard at the end that the speakers belonged to the Goldman Sachs.

There are more quotes from the book – some of which I’ll post up – that demonstrate the utter incoherence of the orthodox social democratic project in the first part of the twenty first century, how cowed it was (for some good reasons but for many bad) even when it was actually in power in the UK and had been for over a decade. Reading the book there’s little doubt in my mind that there was a degree of sincerity on the part of Brown and others around him in respect of redistribution, but what’s also evident is a near pathological fear of making the case for that – or indeed any other progressive measures – publicly and a degree of credulity as regards markets and business that would have left almost any previous generation of social democrats puzzled, if not entirely uncomprehending.


1. LeftAtTheCross - September 21, 2012

“the utter incoherence of the orthodox social democratic project”

That’s it, isn’t it. As I’ve said before, I started my recent interest in politics by joining the LP just before the last local elections, and moved on a few months afterwards when it became clear that there actually wasn’t much organisational interest in policy-based politics. There was an emptiness that was quite shocking, to me at least.

What is noticeable even in the recent hubbub around the Campaign for Labour Policies is the mildness of it all. Like there are good people in and around the LP, but there’s a lack of willingness to really engage with the big questions.

I keep a half eye on the Social Europe site, really just as an effort to better understand social democracy. And again, much of it is just quite uninspiring.

For example:


And some of it is downright terrifying:


It’s not just the social democracy doesn’t do class consciousness, it’s really that it doesn’t do anything at all in terms of ideology, hence the vacuum that you’ve identified in your piece above. And the floundering which results. And the danger that it will totally abandon whatever connections it may still have to its historical and societal roots.

And that’s a problem for the broad Left, because whether those on the further Left like it or not, and clearly many don’t, it is the constituency of social democracy which needs to be moved leftwards if there is to be any meaningful engagement by society with the politics of the Left. I mean in the medium to long term. From social democracy through democratic socialism towards ruptural transformation. And without shortcuts.

And in the meantime, in the short term, where is social democracy right here and now in this state? Implementing the dictats of global capitalism. Now it’s fine for social democracy to align itself with capitalism, fine in their own terms, there’s not Marxists, they’re not anti-capitalists. There are LP commentators here from time to time, I’m thinking of Desmind O’Toole and Nessa Childers, who take varying positions on the issues of the day and to varying extents express qualified criticism of the LP’s actions in gov’t, and to different degrees engage (or not) with the critiques expressed by those on the further Left. And I think it’s important to engage in return, not out of some starry belief in Left Unity that encompasses even the shameful collaboration with the Troika, but because the further Left is a tiny section of society which needs to expand its influence and build the class consciousness that is required to move the Left project onwards in the real world. Painful though it may be to admit, social democracy cannot be ignored by the Left.


WorldbyStorm - September 21, 2012

I’d agree with pretty much all you say here. I think the further left can attract people but a critical mass? I’m deeply dubious. I kind of get why the SWP goes the PBP route, but I’m fairly certain that’s not going to do the trick either. What would be interesting would be if a social democrats who really mean it get some position of power in formerly SD organisations, or new ones.


WorldbyStorm - September 22, 2012

Which by the way is not to say the further left is redundant. Exactly the opposite.


LeftAtTheCross - September 22, 2012

Agreed. The revolutionary path that cannot be discounted, because eventually that’s the tipping point regardless of whether it is arrived at through opportunistic mass mobilisation around any basket of popular issues or whether it happens through a more gradual shifting of the polity / economy / society leftwards through a longer march. Ultimately the further Left vision and destination are the guides for the journey or journeys. And both can and should co-exist. Just a question of which approach is more appropriate for the circumstances, which will change. None of it can be written in stone from the outset.


WorldbyStorm - September 22, 2012

That’s it exactly. Historically I’ve always felt that the further left was fundamental in terms of keeping the dial, or at least the potential of the dial, tilted further left again. This was when social democracy was actually doing the heavy lifiting in terms of implmentation of say – health services, mass education, etc, etc. But now that SD has retreated from that function let alone anything further it seems more difficult to work out how push that dial leftwards. In a way it seems to me that it’s the old saw about it being easier for people to vote left in times of economic boom than in crises.


2. Sam Waterburry - September 21, 2012

Freedom of Nonreligious Speech


3. LeftAtTheCross - September 21, 2012

And bizarrely appropriate, came across this today:


“Following our record breaking result in the 2011 General Election Labour entered a National Government to restore Ireland’s Economic Sovereignty, rebuild our broken economy and to create a modern, progressive society.

Now we want to recruit people who are as committed as we are to facing those challenges.

We are recruiting committed, energetic and creative people to our Regional Team, based around the country with the following skills:

media relations
excellent verbal and written communication skills

Please forward a letter of application and a concise CV”

Who needs a mass membership party and local branches when the organisational skills can be sourced via the labour (ouch!) market…

FFS, that really is sad.


WorldbyStorm - September 21, 2012

Policy? Ideology? The S word, or failing that the SD words? Anything… anything?

My God, that’s revealing LATC.


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