One Hundred Years of Labourism
After Rachel Reeves's shockingly explicit comments about how the Labour Party are not about political representation for unemployed workers, I was reminded of this quote:
‘Respectability is the death of all working-class movements. With the change in the public attitude towards trade unionism came a change in the social standing of the officials.
‘They too became respectable, and with their new position came their divorce from the working-class point of view, the growing breach between the official caste and the rank and file.
‘Divorced from manual labour, the leaders ceased to understand the needs of the wage-earner, and with the crowning camaraderie of the House of Commons died the last semblance of the old unity.
‘The Labour leaders entered the governing classes, and Labour was left, perplexed and unmanned, to find new leaders from its own ranks...’
Who said this? Was it perhaps Ken Loach, critiquing Ed Miliband's New Labour Party? Perhaps the late Paul Foot, savaging Tony Blair? Maybe Tony Cliff and Donny Gluckstein, in their 1996 work, The Labour Party: A Marxist Analysis? Perhaps the late Ralph Miliband, in his classic 1961 work Parliamentary Socialism? Was it Leon Trotsky maybe in his 1925 work Where in Britain Going? No - the answer is G.D.H. Cole, from 1913 – in chapter vii of his book The World of Labour: A Discussion of the Present and Future of Trade Unionism.
The problems we face today are not new, and go deep into the history of the labour movement, and so if we don't want another 100 years of Labour trying to preside over the management of a manifestly declining capitalist system, the importance of socialists organising an independent challenge to Labour in the coming elections remain as critical as ever - every socialist who can should support the growing campaign of the the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and others like Left Unity. If Labour are - as Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt put it, an 'aggressively pro-business party' - then the need for a new 'aggressively pro-working class party' has never been greater...