Friday, 4 March 2011

Time For Labour To Euthenise The Liberals

No one could have foretold that the Liberals collapse at the Bradford By-Election could be so complete.
At the previous Oldham By-Election, as I showed in my blog Labour Trounces Liberal-Tories, the Liberals had only appeared to not do so badly, because the Tories had shifted their votes to them. In fact in Oldham, the joint Liberal-Tory vote collapsed by 50%. But, the Bradford result is far worse than that for the Liberals. Not only did its vote evaporate, but the Tories vote fell by half to.

The Liberals have no credible excuses. During the election campaign they had been going round telling peoplke that in the General Election they had come second to Labour, in an attempt to shore up the anti-Labour vote.
In fact, they had only beaten the Tories into second place in Bradford, by six votes. But, for a party to go from second place down to sixth place, and to lose so much of its vote that it is beaten not only by the cranks of the BNP and UKIP, but even by an Independent Candidate, that its vote collapsed to such an extent that it lost its desposit, is incredible.

Nick Clegg says the Liberals will bounce back. Well, one thing is for sure they could hardly see their support fall much lower! But, that should now be Labour's task.
In reality the Liberal-Tories have become a single party. There is no real ideological difference between Clegg, Osborne, Cable, and Cameron. The reason the Liberal vote has so severely collapsed, even more than that of the Tories, is that they feigned Left for electoral purposes, and have now been exposed for the vicious, right-wing, Capitalist Party serving the interests of the petit-bourgeoisie, and reactionary elements in society that they have always been. That is why they were able to secure the votes of those elements in Oldham.

The inevitable conclusion has to be for Clegg and Co. to merge with the Tories. Electorally, what support they had in the centre-left has gone. The only votes they can now expect to pick up are those of the hard right, and in the majority of seats - certainly after yesterday's debacle - there is no reason for those voters to lend their vote to the monkey when they can vote for the organ grinder.
The Liberals are now dead as a political force, and not before time. Labour should now do the decent thing and euthenise them.

In recent weeks sections of the far Right in the Labour Party, such as Peter Mandelson, have been arguing that Ed Miliband should leave the door open to doing a deal with Clegg.
Yesterday's result shows how disastrous such a course of action would be. Mandelson and the Labour Far Right, want to pursue that course, because so long as the Liberals are thrown a lifeline, they can continue to fulfill a function for the labour Right, of prviding a counterpoise to the Labour Left, and the rank and file of the Party. The Labour party should invite Mandelson and his cothinkers to do the decent thing. If he wants to maintain a link with Clegg's Liberals after they have shown what they really are, then he should join them, and follow them into the Tory Party where he belongs.

For decades the Liberals presented a problem for Labour, because they split the anti-Tory vote. That was most significant when the SDP was formed and created the alliance with them.
Without that, then in 1983, its possible that Labour might have defeated the Tories. It would certainly have don much better than it did, providing a more solid base for fighting the Tories during the Miners Strike, and into the 1987 Election. Now, the tables are turned. Whether the Liberals formally join the Tories or not, they pose no threat to Labour votes. They can only split the Tory vote, which is why they will come under significant pressure to merge with the Tories.

But, the election yesterday shows that even if the liberals do merge with them, they face significant further problems. Labour now has no challenge to its Left, because the Liberal attempt to pose in that position has been exposed. Labour is free to hoover up the votes of the Left and Centre-Left, which will be easy pickings as opposition to the Liberal-Tory Cuts grows, and as workers and the middle classes find their living standards being squeezed by inept Government economic policies. Squeezed in the centre ground, the Tories will be led to move rightwards.
Yesterday, the Tories themselves lost out to the lunatics of UKIP. That shouldn't be overstated. UKIP has tried, understandably to capitalise on its second place, but in reality its second place its meaningless. In reality Labour's vote was such a landlside - securing 61`% of votes - that all the rest was just a sharing out of what was left. UKIP secured just a fifth of Labour's vote!

However, the Right-wing of the Tory Party is already restless. It feels that Cameron has used the Coalition to push through less right-wing policies than they would like. With the only ground available for the Liberal-Tories to pick up being on the Right, they will be under increasing pressure to undercut support for the BNP and UKIP, by increasingly moving on to that ground.
Yet, that will be likely to cause further contradictions within the Liberal-Tory Party, as more "Liberal" elements of it, recoil at such a move. Nor is it clear that such a move would in any case be even electorally succesful. The BNP were seen to be a busted flush at the last General Election, and although there may be a hard core of Daily Mail readers who will always be prepared to vote for racist and reactionary policies, its not clear that a significant electoral bloc can be built around such policies without losing even more votes at the same time. That is likely to be even more true when the main concern moves to opposition to the Cuts, and defence of living standards.

If Labour does not rebuild itself in the coming period then it never will. But, Labour faces problems too. In Council Chambers around the country, it will face the problem of how to respond to the Cuts. If a large anti-Cuts movement existed at the moment, which was putting considerable pressure on the Government, then it would be necessary to demand that Labour councillors voted against the Cuts. In the absence of that, such a strategy is not credible.
We should not ask people to engage in pointless adventurism that in any case could have worse consequences. In reality such stands will only result in the Government introducing direct control of Councils, bringing in Commissioners, and introducing even more drastic cuts than a Labour Council might have done. That is no reason for Labour Councils not using every tool at their disposal to mobilise opposition to the Cuts.

But, it is necessary to develop new ideas and strategies for this fight. As I have said at a number of anti-Cuts meetings I have attended, it is depressing that these fights are the same fights that I was involved in nearly 40 years ago, when I first became involved in the Labour Movement. The reason that is the case, is that oulined by Marx.
So long as Capitalists own the means of production they have the whip hand. Workers are forced time and again to fight the same battles just to stand still. The only solution to that is for workers to take ownership of the means of production themselves. However, it has proved impossible to convince workers as a whole of the need to do that at the level of society as a whole. They look at the example of the USSR, and rationally conclude it is not a desirable prospect. They look at State Capitalist enterprises, and are not impressed by that either. But, we do see workers taking over businesses such as John Lewis, and Waitrose. We have even see them taking over Hospitals to run on the same basis. In fact, there are a number of enterprises that workers have taken over, and begun to run on their own account, and have made them succesful.
In a number of places, where bosses have threatened closure, workers have occupied plants, again opening the possibility of taking them over.

All of these examples, may not be perfect, and they would all be better if they were joined together in some national federation, and part of a concerted strategy developed by the Labour Movement, but they do show that workers can be won to the idea fundamental to Socialism - that workers should and can own the means of production - here and now, thereby creating the basis for the establishment of that principle across society.

We are now seeing some fundamental changes in the way production, particularly of services is undertaken, and those changes, mean that the old established forms of the State Capitalist Sector of the economy will have to change or die.
The latest challenge to the Post Office is an example of that, and the Capitalists are probably rubbing their hands at the propsect of a strike which will facilitate the further transfer of functions to the private sector. As Engels, once commented,

"Even strikes, than which nothing had been more nefarious up to 1848, were now gradually found out to be occasionally very useful, especially when provoked by the masters themselves, at their own time."

Rather than trying to defend the old Capitalist Status Quo, which increasingly will become indefensible, it is up to the Labour Movement, and the Workers Party to propose and develop new forms, new ideas, and new ways of responding. We now have a chance to use the Cuts to transfer ownership of the means of production out of the hands of the Capitalist State, and into the hands of the workers themselves. But, such a transformation cannot be conducted from the top down.
Any such move would be more likely to be simply a means of saving money, and in any case, the workers themselves must want to take over these functions.

As Engels himself commented,

“It seems that the most advanced workers in Germany are demanding the emancipation of the workers from the capitalists by the transfer of state capital to associations of workers, so that production can be organised, without capitalists, for general account; and as a means to the achievement of this end: the conquest of political power by universal direct suffrage.”

But, since that time the Labour Movement has gone backwards terribly. It is not just Trade Union bureaucrats, jealous to preserve their function of negotiating between the workers and the State capitalist bosses, who oppose such a movement, but sections of the Left too.
Real Marxists have to wage a serious struggle to win the movement back from the ideas of Fabianism and Lassalleanism from which it has been suffering for so long, and to move it back to the ideas such as those elaborated above by Engels. The Labour Party and marxists within it, have a perfect opportunity to organise and fight for such a reorientation in grass roots struggles against the Cuts, and thereby to begin to rebuild the Labour Movement around the idea of working-class self organisation, and self-government.

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