Labourcoup, latest, UK
Comments 15

One Nation Labour: The Party That We Need

by David Lindsay

On the scale of public ownership and on the extent of trade union power, Jeremy Corbyn is well to the right of Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home. That is not hyperbole. It is fact. As it is that Margaret Thatcher presided over publicly owned railways, and over a 60p top rate of income tax well above that proposed by Corbyn. And as it is that Tony Blair promised to renationalise the railways in several speeches leading up to the 1997 General Election.

Why would Corbyn’s position not be the centre ground? You can have all the private health insurance that you like. But if you were hit by a car, or if you collapsed in the street with a heart attack, then someone would call 999, and an NHS ambulance would take you to an NHS hospital. That that call would certainly be made, even by a perfect stranger, is testament to the definition of the United Kingdom’s culture by the social democratic legacy of previous Labour Governments, and supremely of that which was elected in 1945. Everyone benefits, of all classes and in all areas. Such was always the intention behind it.

This is the only British identity that almost anyone alive can remember, or that almost any of the rest would wish to have. Today, however, it is under threat as never before. Even in the 1980s, nothing came close to the scale of the attack, not merely since the 2015 General Election, but since that of 2010; under the Liberal Democrats, who never moderated a thing, as much as under the Conservatives.

Labour grew from many and various roots. Trade union and co-operative. Radical Liberal and Tory populist. Christian Socialist and Social Catholic. Fabian and even, in the space both on Labour’s fringes and on Marxism’s fringes, Marxist, subject to the balancing and moderating influences of the others. Giving the wrong answers does not preclude asking the right questions. Much of the Fabian tradition also gives the wrong answers.

Labour has always had a right wing. It always will have. It always should have. People who would prefer the purity of a Stalinist, Trotskyist or Maoist groupuscule have never been short of options. The point is to have a right wing of the Labour Party, and not merely a right wing in the Labour Party. The Leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the Deputy Leadership of Tom Watson can achieve that.

From the Trade Union Act, to public ownership, to the proper centrality of rail and coal, to foreign policy and wars, to Trident, to civil liberties, to the case against the European Union from the very start, Corbyn’s views are the views of Peter Hitchens, who, unlike John McDonnell, still openly wishes to disband MI5. Many of them are also shared by Peter Oborne and by several other commentators who could hardly be described as “Loony Left”.

Furthermore, they are popular. For example, the renationalisation of the railways is consistently supported by between 65 and 70 per cent of the population, stable across all parts of the country and across the electoral bases of all parties. There is strong public support for rent controls, and for a mandatory Living Wage properly so called. Defending the NHS is massively popular. But even if none of those things were the case, a political party does not exist purely in order to follow public opinion. What would be the point of the Labour Party if it did not campaign for such policies as these?

Labour needs to be a broad alliance between the confidently urban and the confidently rural, between the confidently metropolitan and the confidently provincial, between the confidently secular and the confidently religious, between those confident in their liberal social values and those confident in their conservative social values. It must seek that alliance across all ethnic groups, across all social classes, and across all parts of the country: One Nation.

The basis of that alliance includes the contribution-based Welfare State, with contribution defined to include, for example, caring for children and caring for elderly relatives. It includes workers’ rights, with the trade unionism necessary in order to defend and advance them. It includes John Smith’s signature policy that employment rights must begin on the first day of employment, and apply regardless of the number of hours worked. It includes Corbyn’s recent reiteration of that policy, as well as his accompanying proposals for pay ratios and for the requirement that the Living Wage be paid if dividends were to be.

That basis includes community organising. It includes profit-sharing and similar arrangements: not “shares for rights”, but shares and rights. It includes the co-operative movement and wider mutualism, not least in the provision of financial services, especially following the loss of the Co-op Bank precisely because it was not itself a co-operative, but was merely owned by one.

That basis includes consumer protection. It includes strong communities. It includes fair taxation. It includes full employment, with low inflation. It includes pragmatic public ownership, including of the utilities, of the postal service and of the railway service, and always with strong parliamentary and municipal accountability. It includes publicly owned industries and services, national and municipal, setting the vocational training standards for the private sector to match.

That basis includes local government, itself including council housing, fiscal autonomy, the provision as well as the commissioning of services, the accountability provided by the historic committee system, and the abolition of delegated planning decisions.

That basis includes the State’s restoration of the economic foundation of the civilised and civilising worker-intellectual culture historically exemplified by the pitmen poets and the pitmen painters, by the brass and silver bands, by the male voice choirs, by the Workers’ Educational Association and the Miners’ Lodge Libraries, by the people’s papers rather than the redtop rags, and so on. In order to restore a civilisation in continuity with it, that culture must be rescued from “the enormous condescension of posterity”.

That basis includes the Union, the Commonwealth (unsentimentally understood), and the ties that bind these Islands, recognising that only social democracy guarantees the Union and that only the Union makes possible social democracy in these Islands, so that the erosion of social democracy is the most powerful of separatist arguments, despite the fact that the separatists could not possibly deliver social democracy, and very largely would not wish to deliver it, in the entities to which they aspire.

That basis includes economic patriotism, itself including both energy independence and balanced migration. It includes the recognition that we cannot deliver the welfare provisions and the other public services that our people have rightly come to expect unless we know how many people there are in this country, unless we control immigration properly, and unless we insist that everyone use spoken and written English to the necessary level.

That basis includes an approach to climate change which protects and extends secure employment with civilised wages and working conditions, which encourages economic development around the world, which upholds the right of the working classes and of non-white people to have children, which holds down and as far as practicable reduces the fuel prices that always hit the poor hardest, and which refuses to restrict either travel opportunities or a full diet to the rich.

That basis includes the full compatibility between, on the one hand, the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and, on the other hand, the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past.

That basis includes the organic Constitution, with the full pageantry and ceremony of the parliamentary and municipal processes, and itself including a very British trait of inbuilt self-criticism: variously Radical and republican, populist and pacifist, Celtic and regional, proletarian and intellectual (often both at once), exemplified in the present age by the distinct role of Dennis Skinner at the State Opening of Parliament, a role as much a part of the event as that of the Queen, with each of them as the latest, but far from the last, in a long, long line.

That basis includes the national and parliamentary sovereignty of the United Kingdom in the face of all challenges: from the United States or from the European Union, from Israel or from the Gulf monarchies, from the Russian oligarchs or from the rising powers of Asia, from money markets or from media moguls, from separatists or from communalists, from over-mighty civil servants and diplomats (including in the intelligence services) or from over-mighty municipal officers, from the ownership of key parts of our infrastructure by other people’s states instead of our own, and from inappropriately imported features of the economic and political cultures of the Old Dominions, such as the behaviour of Lynton Crosby. This list is not exhaustive.

That basis includes the understanding that the national and parliamentary sovereignty of the United Kingdom is, with municipalism, the only means to social democracy in the territory that it covers, and is thus the democracy in social democracy. It includes, no less than the previous point, the understanding that only social democracy, and not least the public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, is capable of safeguarding that sovereignty, national and parliamentary, and that democracy, parliamentary and municipal.

That basis includes conservation and the countryside, especially the political representation of the rural working class. It includes personal freedom through superb and inexpensive public transport, ultimately free at the point of use, with every rail franchise taken back into public ownership over the course of a Parliament, and with its fares structure thereafter determined by the House of Commons.

That basis includes academic excellence, with technical proficiency, refusing to compromise on either, and extending to apprentices and trainees all provisions enjoyed by their peers in further or higher education, as well as vice versa, with a national UCAS-style system for apprenticeships.

That basis includes civil liberties, with law and order, including visible and effective policing, and including an end to light sentences and to lax prison discipline through a return to a free country’s minimum requirements for conviction.

That basis includes fiscal responsibility, of which neoliberal capitalism is manifestly and demonstrably the opposite. It includes a strong financial services sector, with a strong food production and manufacturing base, and with the strong democratic accountability of both. It includes a total rejection of class war, insisting instead upon “a platform broad enough for all to stand upon”.

That basis includes a large and thriving private sector, a large and thriving middle class, and a large and thriving working class; all depend on central and local government action, and with public money come public responsibilities. It includes very high levels of productivity, with the robust protection of workers, consumers, communities and the environment, including powerful workers’ representation at every level of corporate governance. It includes a base of real property for every household, to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State. It includes an absolute statutory division between investment banking and retail banking.

That basis includes a realist foreign policy, itself including strong national defence, and precluding any new Cold War against Russia, China, Iran or anywhere else. It includes British military intervention only ever in order to defend British territory or British interests. It includes a leading role on the world stage, with a vital commitment to peace, supremely a complete absence of weapons of mass destruction; in place of Trident, we need flood defences, we need civil nuclear power, we need a return to the exploitation of our vast deposits of coal, and we need properly paid, properly equipped Armed Forces.

And that basis includes the subjection both of Islamism and of neoconservatism to an approach defined by our proud history of equal opposition to Stalinism, Maoism, Trotskyism, Nazism, Fascism, and the Far Right regimes in Southern Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.

This is the road to victory in 2020.


15 Comments

  1. rtj1211 says

    I’m afraid the word ‘confident’ is incompatible with the Labour Party of the past 30 years. The Labour Party is always about an elite ruling over ‘those who need to know their place’.

    You are not confident if you need to crush the aspirations of others because they are better than you. Yet that is what the Labour Party always does. Always has done.

    Why? Because its leaders always sell out to the rich and powerful if they reach office. They trade their own supporters’ dreams for money, power and influence.

    Whilst the word ‘trotskyist’ always has far left insinuations, the question Trotsky posed which is at the heart of all discussions about whether the Labour Party has a realistic meaning or not is this: ‘let’s suppose we get elected here. Are we big enough to handle the challenge from foreign powers who would wipe us out for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they could?”

    The answer, of course, in the case of the UK, is no. We are not big enough. Not if the USA, Russia and the EU decided to destroy us. Really decided to. They could blockade us via the sea, intercept all incoming flights carrying goods for trade, they could block the channel tunnel, thus applying a noose around us.

    Sure, we could live off potatoes, vegetables, meat and apples, berries and the like. We could mine coal and generate sustainable energy in time.

    But without the tacit tolerance of the USA, EU and Russia, we really couldn’t do much more.

    In that case, we would have to build a big enough global alliance to render such a blockade economically stupid, diplomatically damaging and militarily futile.

    Have our politicians even had such thoughts as they claim their £70 – 150k per annum salaries from our Exchequer??

    I wonder…….

    Like

  2. enarhem says

    Bring back the school milk program, I’d show up for that as long as it was warmer than about -1C and colder than +3C.

    Like

  3. James Carless says

    A bit of a curate’s egg of an article,that cannot be dismissed out of hand for the parts which those of us disagree with,a good basis for the kind of discussion that should be taking place in the CLP were it not for authoritarian ban on meetings taking place nationally to prevent any support for Corbyn being vocalised.
    Personally ,as someone who considers climate change to be the biggest issue facing all life forms on this beautiful but abused planet,I still would prefer a power station fueled by oily rags and old tyres to any uranium based nuclear reactor, they are neither safe or economic and leave a toxic inheritance for longer than any written history.
    That’s why reporting on the aftermath and ongoing poisoning of the Pacific by Fukushima has been criminalised by the Japanese government.
    The best and simplest nuclear analogy I have used in my teaching past, is with J R R Tolkien’s ‘Ring’: – a power which is addictive,corruptive,hard to control and anti nature.

    Like

  4. bevin says

    Interesting and provocative but very much in the tradition of comrade Van Winkle.
    The problem is that we cannot pretend that Thatcherism/Blairism neo-liberalism didn’t happen. And we shouldn’t attempt to.
    And that it happened, that all the ‘Social democratic” achievements of the post war settlement were rolled back with remarkable ease and very little resistance and particularly little resistance from the Labour Party or the TUC is something to be thought about.
    RH Tawney told the Fabians, in 1951, that “you cannot tame a tiger claw by claw.” And yet here we have Mr Lindsay urging us, the claw marks still bleeding on our faces, once again to try.
    History generally has a meaning.
    We can learn from the past.
    And what the Labour Party-from the Fabians to the Cooperators, from the Methodists to the Single Taxers, from the three acres and a cow lads to the Trades Unionists, from the Marxists to the Keynesians- has to face up to is the embarrassing fact (of which every Tory is aware) that you cannot have social democracy without democratic control and ownership of the means of production and distribution.
    It has been tried and it ended up with the status quo. It always will.
    After all the real roots of the Labour Party lie in the nation’s ancient knowledge that its country has been stolen from it, since its lands were enclosed and transferred to private ownership. It is that grievance that Labour exists to right. And it is high time to stop pretending otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Richard Le Sarcophage says

    A load of old jollop. No even vaguely decent and humane society can be built while capitalism and ..a large and thriving private sector..’, exists. The evidence from Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil for just the most recent examples, tells you that.

    Like

    • Richard Le Sarcophage says

      Éverybody not groveling before Israel and its ever demanding Fifth Columns is ‘antisemitic’ by definition.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. reinertorheit says

    I don’t need any party which numbers Tony Blair, John Prescott, Gordon Brown, Clare Shit, or Peter Mandelson among its members.

    We’ve tolerated nearly 20 years of failure to deal with these scum, and we won’t tolerate it any longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It includes a leading role on the world stage, with a vital commitment to peace, supremely a complete absence of weapons of mass destruction; in place of Trident, we need flood defences, we need civil nuclear power, we need a return to the exploitation of our vast deposits of coal, and we need properly paid, properly equipped Armed Forces.

    And that basis includes the subjection both of Islamism and of neoconservatism to an approach defined by our proud history of equal opposition to Stalinism, Maoism, Trotskyism, Nazism, Fascism, and the Far Right regimes in Southern Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.

    Well!
    Apart from the “exploitation of our ‘vast’ deposits of coal” and “subjection of Islamism” together with no mention of neoliberalism, I think that wasn’t too bad a viewpoint.
    I understand that the armed forces should be properly paid and equipped, but to what extent?
    I agree with civil nuclear power, there are too many specious arguments against a very useful resource. The costs are largely inflated due to fears that are unfounded. New technologies don’t leave much waste and whole towns can be powered by the equivalent of one engine from a nuclear sub.
    Was this article simply an opinion piece or is this backed by the main labour movement?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Richard Le Sarcophage says

      The far Right regimes in South Africa and Latin America enjoyed great support from the Right. Remember Pinochet’s little mate Straw, ensuring his evasion of justice, let alone the open and covert support for apartheid. And Nazism and Fascism enjoyed massive support from the Right in the UK in the 1920s and 1930s.

      Liked by 2 people

    • headrush 69. This was an opinion piece that has been heavily criticised for the mere mention of resisting Israel and the use of capitalism. Lindsay has described the “subjection of Islamism” without actually explaining a generalised term, if he means all those of the Muslim faith – that is racist, but if he means the extremists, he would have done better to be more explicit.
      I am not in favour of any nuclear powered resource but it is, as far as I am concerned, a better option than the use of the dirty lignite coals being used in bio mass technology without the carbon capture facilities running in tandem.
      As far as capitalism goes, it is a means to an end. If used minimally, challenging outright exploitative activity, it can be a useful tool, as long as you know where to draw the line. What we have now is completely beyond capitalism, it is global corporatism – a very different monster which must be rooted out completely, by whatever lawful means available.
      Not sure that this article does not in fact hide an undertow replete with generalisations and an unspoken agenda as some of the commenters have suggested. Perhaps they know something I don’t regarding the authour.

      Liked by 1 person

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