For many observers of the British Labour Party leadership election, it was almost irrelevant as to who would emerge victorious. Comparing the election manifestos of the candidates, you wouldn’t find any mention of fighting back against the cuts in welfare, against the massive redundancies being planned by the Coalition government, no mention of working class organisations or defending trade unions, and certainly no mention of the ‘s’ word, socialism. In short, you would look long and hard to find anything that would appeal to the ordinary working person.
The agenda of what is still called New Labour is entirely oriented towards the old and very much discredited neoliberal agenda. Before losing power, the New Labour Party was totally committed to free market competition, the unfettered operations of international finance (it was Brown after all who worked on relaxing the rules), the creation of optimum conditions for international business, privatisation and the selling of state assets, and the removal of trade union influence.
They were falling over themselves with statements about how supportive they were of international business, the freedom of international markets, their passion for growth and progress, and how they were the utterly convinced that the health of business meant the health and welfare of everyone in society. How utterly wrong they were.
David Miliband, the older brother was a committed Blairite/Brownite, and is still fully supporting the neoliberal agenda. Ed, the younger brother was Minister for the Cabinet Office under Blair. Ed Balls, sometime attender of the Bilderberg business conference and mate of Conrad Black was hardly a voice in support of the common man. The other candidates were notable by their absence of any real political principles apart from bland statements about breaking with the past.
Despite the ludicrous bureaucratic irony that Ed Miliband, already branded Red Ed by some of the more hysterical press, relied on union leadership votes to win, he is anything but militant or even vaguely socialist in his outlook. Like all the other candidates, he is committed to the neoliberal agenda. The trade unions as ever will be used to control any outbreaks of opposition to the cuts in social spending and will be urged towards resignation under the guise of moderation.
Any other position for these neoliberal politicians is politically impossible. They long ago gave up any intention of fundamental social change or even meaningful reform and all they have left are the remnants of spin and rhetoric, perfected by the old guard under Blair and Brown. Spin long ago replaced any political content in their manifestos and the process has left them with nothing more than questions like how to get the party re-elected.
Whereas once politicians would argue about the politics, their political principles, and would try to convince voters that these principles were worth supporting, now the spin machine employs thousands looking for the right buzz words, the right soundbites, the right methods for manipulating popular sentiments just to get them into power. It is no longer based on politics, but on the manipulation of popular sentiment by the avoidance of political principles and anything that might be remotely controversial.
Reformist politicians always turn away from attempting to implement their would-be radical policies because they face opposition from entrenched interests. The recent statement from the UK banks that any attempt by the Coalition to control them would lead them to move out of the country, demonstrates clearly that capitalist interests will not tolerate even mild control from even a right wing government. This is not a question of too much government and interference, but that the state is now openly subject to the will of financial capitalist interests. They are effectively saying leave us alone or we’ll screw your economy! The comtempt this shows for democratic government is breathtaking.
Faced with the obvious demonstration of their impotence, reformist politicians always direct their control elsewhere. Perhaps it is worth quoting Miliband himself. No, not one of the brothers but their dad, Ralph, who still has a lot to teach them.
“But social-democratic leaders in government illustrate particularly clearly the limits of reform. For whil they raise great hopes among their followers and many others when in opposition, the constrictions under which they labour when in government, allied to the ideological dispositions which lead them to submit to those constrictions, leave them with little room to implement their promises… Confronted with demands the cannot fulfil, and with pressures they cannot subdue by reform, they too turn themselves into the protagonists of the reinforced state. Like their conservative opponents, they too seek to undermine the strength of the defence organisations of the working class…”
So Ed, there’s your old man talking about politicians just like you. No doubt we’ll see the renewed rhetoric of “reform”, “modernise”, “progress”, and that old mantra “choice”, but the reality will be very much more of the same. These guys bailed out the banks and financial institutions creating the state funding crisis that led to the austerity measures and they did that because they wouldn’t take on a fight with the financial institutions.
Now, in opposition, they are facing the implementation of their very own policies. They can’t attack the ideological basis of these policies and will only try to slow down the implementation. That’s a very raw deal for those people paying for the crisis they didn’t create, and who voted for a party they saw as representing their interests.
The only shift to the left in New Labour will be in the spin and we will see Labour politicians and trade union leaders campaigning against any workers who try to organise effective opposition to the cuts. We shouldn’t be surprised because that’s what left reformist politicians have always done. Ralph Miliband spelled it all out back in 1969. He was right then, and he’s still right.Powered by Sidelines