Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Monday, April 20, 2009

Alice Mahon leaves the 'Nasty Party'

The resignation of Alice Mahon, the former Labour MP for Halifax - one of the few socialist members of Parliament in recent years - from the Labour Party over the weekend is hugely significant in my opinion, and though long overdue she deserves to be congratulated. People who follow British politics on even the most superficial level will not need any elucidation from me about quite how utterly corrupt, intellectually bankrupt and well, 'nasty' New Labour have become as a Party. The economic crisis only further clarifies things - even the trade union bureaucrats who run Unison understand the growing frustration and bewilderment from their members about why they are funding such a Party which no longer has anything to do with either 'democratic socialism' or representing the interests of 'labour' against 'capital' at a time when the need for a mass socialist party in Britain has never been greater. As Unison leader Dave Prentis puts it, 'The rich bankers and greedy speculators who got us into the mess are rewarded with huge bail-outs... while ordinary workers, expecting to put in a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, are rewarded with threats of job cuts, low or no pay and privatisation.' Hopefully more of those socialists who are still members of the Labour Party will now finally feel encouraged to follow Alice Mahon's lead, and to further this process I will reprint her heartfelt statement of resignation from New Labour on my blog.

It became clear to me during my 18 years in parliament that, with the phenomenon called New Labour, two things would change the politics of the Labour movement forever.

One, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would adopt with great enthusiasm the free market economics pursued by Thatcher and the US neo-cons. Two, they would have to change the structures and policies of the party to achieve their goal.

A machine was put in place to crush anything remotely connected to Old Labour. Conference was changed beyond recognition, any dissent ruthlessly stamped on by the new spin masters. Delegates were sought out and pressurised into supporting New Labour policies even if they were against what the local party had decided.

This nastiness was a hallmark of New Labour and they exercised it at every level of the movement.

I have stood for conference arrangements committee twice and the party machine has moved in and spent enormous amounts of money supporting the candidates who would always support the leadership's bidding. No expense was spared when it came to defeating an independent voice. Party members have effectively been banned from any decision making.

For those of us on the left, the weekly parliamentary Labour Party meetings were not a happy event.

I remember asking for a two-day debate on the Iraq war and the sky almost fell in. The Blairite foot soldiers ran out to brief the press and sure enough on the front pages the following day it was reported that I and other usual suspects had been ridiculed and "roundly booed" for opposing the leadership position.

There are very few of what I would call real Labour MPs in Parliament.

I stayed in the party hoping that with a new leadership we might go back to being a really progressive and caring party. In the event I could not have been more wrong. Under Brown things are just as bad. The decision to privatise the Royal Mail is inexplicable and simply wrong. We said in our 2005 manifesto we would not privatise Royal Mail; we lied.

That manifesto promised a referendum on the European Constitution, we renamed it the Lisbon Treaty and reneged on that promise also.

Now we find out that a website was to be set up in our name whose sole aim was to smear members of the opposition and their families. Well not in my name and, from the response I am having to my decision to resign, not in the name of many party activists either.

I have spent most of my life working for and representing the Labour Party. I always took the view that I should stay and fight within, but New Labour have done such a good job of demolishing our democratic structure that I realised there was nothing I could say or do to change things from within.

There was only one thing for me to do and that was to resign.

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