Monday, 10 November 2014

Alan Johnson Walks On Water

From Day One, when Ed Miliband upset all of the plans and prognostications of the media, by beating his brother to become Labour Leader, the media have carried out a vendetta against him. In a sense, nothing new in that. The media, and particularly the gutter press, have always tried to spread poison about Labour leaders, just as they do about anyone who, in any way, is seen to be standing up for the rights of ordinary working people. That kind of scurrilous rumour mongering goes back even further than the infamous “Zinoviev Letter”, cooked up between the press and intelligence services, back in the 1920's. A Labour leader, worth their salt, should be provoking the ire of the media. But, its not the politics of Ed Miliband that has got the media scrabbling around in the gutter. Its something more visceral than that.

In the 1920's, the capitalist press, no doubt did reflect fears, within the ranks of capital itself, that a Labour Government might be the first step towards something more radical, just as Kerensky's Government, in Russia, had had to give way to the Bolsheviks. Labour, in government, was untested. Whatever the bourgeoisie knew about the Labour leaders, that might have assuaged their fears, was undermined, by what they did not know about the thousands of Labour activists, amongst whose ranks were a large proportion of communists. The Zinoviev letter was a fake, just like many of the stories concocted today, by the media, are a fake, but in 1920, the USSR did feed money to British workers on strike. Around half a million pounds was fed, through the Co-op, to striking workers.

In the 1960's and 70's, the more intelligent sections of the bourgeoisie understood that Labour were not going to introduce Socialism, or even take measures that would seriously damage the interests of big industrial capital. But, Wilson's Government was still radical enough to scare the petit-bourgeoisie, who saw themselves being squeezed between workers gaining rights and increased living standards, they could not afford to pay, on the one hand, and the increasing power of big industrial capital on the other, that could afford to pay those wages, and which also had the ear of government.

The reality is that all the talk about “Red Ed”, is just part of the range of labels the media have used to try to get some fractures they can prise open. Ed Miliband is not only to the right of Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan, let alone Michael Foot, he is to the right of even Tory social democrats like Ted Heath! Heath was quite prepared to nationalise companies like Rolls Royce, and to borrow and spend in Keynesian style, when unemployment rose. Heath even introduced that well known Trotskyist demand, during times of inflation – the Sliding Scale of Wages, that gave workers automatic wage rises every few months, as inflation passed fixed limits. Many workers had never had such big nominal pay rises!

When the “Gang of Four” split from Labour, to create the SDP, it was not because Kinnock represented some left-wing break from this social democratic tradition. Far from it, despite all of his gut wrenching blather, Kinnock was a right-wing machine politician, who created the conditions for Labour's steady slide away from any kind of principled basis for its politics, to its transformation into a purely electoral machine, tossed about willy-nilly on the sea of public opinion, and swayed about by every bit of gossip spread by the media. It created the basis for Blairism.

The Gang of Four did not split from Labour because Labour had moved Left, but because times had changed, and even the old social-democratic model caused problems for an increasing number of the petit-bourgeoisie, who were becoming more actively hostile, and whose first manifestation was the sweeping away of Heath in the Tory Party, and his replacement with the properly conservative Thatcher. But, this did represent a political divide, and the SDP fell headlong into it.  It represented the fact, that the Tory Party moved to the Right, as the forces of conservatism strengthened, to represent the interests of the petit-bourgeoisie, whilst Labour, in order to represent the interests of big capital, had to adopt an even more interventionist role. The only way that Big industrial capital, in Britain, could withstand the ending of the post-war long-wave boom, and the rise of new industrial powers in Asia, was if the capitalist state itself adopted a more central role. It would, indeed, have to have adopted the same kind of corporatist stance that the capitalist state had adopted in many of those Asian economies. In Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia the state had intervened on a large scale – the same thing happened in the US, when it industrialised, in the 1860's, as Engels describes.

The US during the 1860's, fought a civil war to create a strong centralised state that could act as an interventionist state. It introduced high tariff walls behind which industrialisation could take place rapidly, it borrowed money and engaged in large scale infrastructure programmes, including using the army to clear native Americans from their lands, to allow the building of a transcontinental railway, and so on. In Japan, the capitalist state not only undertook such measures, but it actively picked industrial winners, encouraging companies in successful industries to merge to form much larger companies that could compete even more effectively in the global market. 

Similar measures were undertaken in the other Asian Tigers. In Singapore, huge amounts were invested by the capitalist state in modern infrastructure, which is why today, it has broad band speeds across all of the country of around 1 gbps, whereas in Britain, the ambition of the government is to only raise the best speeds up to around 100 mbps, and that not for several years!  Where Thatcher was attempting to build a low wage/high debt economy, the government in Singapore, was gradually trying to increase wages, and was discouraging further investment by those kinds of industries that relied on low skilled/low wage labour, and instead was encouraging the introduction of more high value production that required higher skilled, higher paid workers.

It would have required a shake up of management that itself, in Britain, had become bureaucratic and ossified over a couple of centuries, to be more like that in these dynamic Asian economies, or to be like that in Germany, and its more openly social-democratic regime, that incorporated labour into the boardroom, via the Workers Councils. There was then nothing particularly socialist about any of these ideas. They were the logical path that social democracy needed to tread, and its no wonder that it was the left-wing of that social-democracy represented by Benn and Foot, and the external foot soldiers within the ranks of the Euro-communists that proposed them, in various forms of Alternative Economic Strategy. The main weakness of those plans, from the perspective of a rational social-democratic strategy was the fact that they had not broken free of the old 19th century straightjacket of the nation state, and so continued to express hostility to the EEC, whereas, just as had happened in the US in the 1860's, the only rational basis for an expansion of capital was within the confines of a much larger state.

There is no political divide between Ed Miliband, and the media's chosen one – David Miliband, just as there was no political division between Blair and Brown. The difference is only one of personality and style, and in today's commodified politics that is what electoral politics has been reduced to. It is what the media trades in, especially with 24 hour news media, where the news is no longer about a simple transmission of “facts”, which in the past led some news readers to even appear on radio and say, “there was no news today”! Such a black screen would be death today for a news channel. Today, they are all some version of “Hello Magazine”, trading in gossip, and for whom no one is anyone unless they are a celebrity of some sort. On that basis alone, for such degenerates, Ed Miliband has to go.

What has been seen, in the last few weeks, in the media's intensified attacks on Miliband, is the same that was seen in the last few months of Gordon Brown's government. Repeated stories, from unnammed sources, about plots, but with no one actually prepared to stand up behind them, which suggests that they have been fabricated by the media. Then some disgruntled Blairite, often a nonentity, who has already left politics, and is looking for media exposure for their new career, or who is on their way out shortly, and has their eyes on prospects, for some new income source, might be pulled out to suggest that they reflect the views of the Party, and the leader must go straight away.

The trouble for the media, however, has been that all of their attempts to sow division and push Miliband out have failed. One reason they have failed, is that, however much they monster Miliband, their ambitions are pointless unless they have a champion of their own they can promote, now that their favourite Blairite celebrity, David Miliband, has gone off to the US. Having seemingly realised that weakness in their strategy, the media now seem to be in a desperate scramble to dragoon the uber Blairite, Alan Johnson, into standing against Miliband.

This nonsense has been given a veneer of credence by some of those aforementioned Blairite nonentities, dragged into TV studios, and persuaded to venture forth in the pages of the Sunday newspapers. What is most ridiculous is that, if Miliband is seen to be not media friendly, and lacking in presence, what does all this say about the person who actually would take over were he to stand down? In all of the frenzy of trying to draft Johnson, the media and the Blairites seem to have forgotten the small matter of the LP Constitution!!!

If Miliband stands down, the first thing that happens, whether the media persuade Johnson to be resurrected before Easter or not, is that the Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, takes over. She would then remain in place until such time as the procedure is put in place for the election of a new leader and deputy leader. Given that Labour is a democratic party, and the leader and deputy leader are not simply drafted by a media propaganda campaign, even one backed up by opinion polls, and the views of unnammed politicians, that would take several months. Time would need to be allowed for candidates to be nominated, hustings would need to be held, amongst all of the LP and TU, branches and constituencies, as well as all the other affiliated organisations. All of that would have to take place before any actual ballot took place.

With an election only a few months away, it would be suicide for Labour to go through such a process now, and it won't. From a purely political strategic point of view Miliband should have got shut of the Blairites quickly. To win the next election Labour needs to create decisive clear water between themselves and the Tories. Labour is not going to become a socialist party, but purely for its own electoral benefit it should return to being a decisively social-democratic party, and it needs to present that message clearly by being organisationally sharper. They need to ditch Blairism for good, and all of the anti-politics it represents.

No comments: