Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Labour officially declare 1997 'Year Zero'

Jim Callaghan - now safely filed away into the memory hole

Now I now this is not really much of a story, but the Labour Party official website has now completely scrapped its 'Our history' section. It has just vanished into the memory hole. New Labour are now are officially a Party without a past - at least no past before Blair. All one gets now is this page: 'Labour in Government', which reads like something the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia might have put out in about 1937.

Our party has been in power now for ten years - something Labour has never come close to achieving before. And though it’s been tough at times and there are still big challenges to overcome, we can be hugely proud of the progress we have delivered together for the country.

It is easy to forget what Britain was like in 1997 - the NHS on its knees, schools crumbling, crime doubled and millions of families still scarred by unemployment over three million and interest rates still recovering from hitting 15 per cent on Black Wednesday. And while we know that everything is not perfect now, Britain is, without doubt, a better, more prosperous and fairer place.

Our economy has enjoyed the longest period of growth for 200 years. There are 2.5 million more people in work. Living standards have risen. There are more nurses and doctors in a transformed health service. More teachers in modernised schools. More police on our streets and tougher action against anti-social behaviour.

The result is that crime is down 35 per cent. School standards have never been higher. While once patients routinely waited over 18 months for treatment, no one now waits over six months. Families and pensioners are being given more support. Our towns and cities are being transformed. We’ve introduced the minimum wage and dramatically extended maternity leave and pay.

All the progress we’ve seen is the result of the hard work and commitment of millions of people. But our party in Government and Labour councils have played a huge role in bringing it about.

We’ve shown, too, that Labour is the party of fairness and aspiration - that you don’t have to choose between economic prosperity and social justice. In doing so, we have shifted the ground of politics and caused a serious identity crisis in our opponents.

I am not sure if British school students study the concept of 'propaganda' in English lessons anymore, but if they do then this would make an ideal case study. Of course they were not going to mention the Iraq war or New Labour's 'ethical foreign policy' in general, nor say Blair's boast that he would end sleaze and restore 'trust' to the political process. But what they do mention is just lies piled upon half-truths. To take just one example: their claim that 'Our economy has enjoyed the longest period of growth for 200 years'. As Chris Harman notes, 'There was a far longer period of uninterrupted growth, lasting 25 years, from 1948 to 1973. It was also at a faster rate than we have known under New Labour. The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain reported that "from 1949 to 1973, the UK economy grew at an average rate of 3.0 percent per annum." Growth has only been at an average of 2.3 percent since 2000, according to National Institute Economic Review (NIER) figures.'

Harman goes on to show how inequality has also risen under New Labour:

'More important to people's lives than economic growth and productivity is how much of the increased output feeds into living standards. These standards doubled in the 1950s and early 1960s, which is why economists often refer to the period as "the golden age of capitalism".

The situation under New Labour has been very different. Average household income, after adjusting for inflation, has risen by only 0.35 percent per year since 2001-2, and is actually falling slightly at the moment, according to the Financial Times' Expenditure and Food Survey.

But average income alone can conceal more than it reveals, since rich and poor are lumped together. One undeniable continuing trend has been a rise in inequality. Income inequality rose enormously under Margaret Thatcher and John Major - more than in any other advanced industrial country. Today it is even greater. The incomes of the top 1 percent of people have nearly doubled in real terms under Gordon Brown. Slow average growth of income with increased inequality equals increased poverty.

In 1979 about 5 percent of people lived in poverty (measured as less than half the national "median" income). Today the figure stands at about 9 percent. This is the same proportion as in the last two years of John Major. They have to survive on less than £180 a week before tax and housing costs, with half getting less than £144 a week.

Over the last year poverty has started growing - 30 percent of children, a quarter of parents of working age, and more than one in six non-parents live in relative poverty. That's 12.7 million people, or a fifth of the population. For all the Blair-Brown talk of a wonderful economy, child poverty fell by just one eighth between 1997 and 2005 and began to rise again last year. When politicians say poverty can't be solved by throwing money at it they are deliberately ignoring the reality that "throwing" one thirteenth of the money of the top 10 percent of households would double the incomes of the lowest 10 percent.'

Will 'Our history' make a return at some point, once the Party historians have got around to writing things the way Gordon Brown wants them? Or will New Labour from now on just pretend that 'Old Labour' never existed?

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At 2:27 pm, Anonymous Keith Watermelon said...

links back beautifully to my post on: is gordon brown a tankie?



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