WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
By Phil Hall
The British Disease is passive aggression. It is class hatred not class warfare. Class warfare is healthy, it leads to revolution and change. Class hatred, on the other hand, results in ordinary people giving Boris Johnson a large majority because they have decided they don’t like middle class do-gooders like Jeremy Corbyn. These people prefer the devils they know, the Tory bully boys, and for the moment they outnumber us.
In the 60s and 70s passive class hatred meant that trade unions and employers in the private and public sectors constantly locked horns. But until 1945 the British working class never really challenged the ruling class for power, after all, the ruling class had thrown them a few scraps from the table of empire. If the German people were culpable for supporting Hitler in the full knowledge of what that meant, the British people participated in colonial conquests and were culpable of supporting empire.
In the 1970s there was no empire. This disease, this chronic condition, the pathological mutual antagonism between workers and employers, lowered the quality of many British products and services. It lowered the productivity of British companies and harmed the whole economy and country. Neither workers nor employers were going to cooperate so there had to be a winner to remove the logjam.
the British working class never really challenged the ruling class for power, after all, in the past it threw them a few scraps from the table of empire.
The idea touted by monetarist ideologues took hold; natural former state run monopolies when privatised, would run more efficiently and be more effective.
Just as long suffering, though asinine, Russian voters chose Yeltsin’s 100 days to a capitalist paradise in 1991, in 1979 British voters believed the Saatchi and Saatchi (he of the sliced up cows and unmade beds, his hands aound Nigella Lawson’s neck) when he put up posters that said: ‘Labour isn’t working.’ Within two years unemployment had doubled under the Tories to three million.
The masochistic British electorate voted Tory for 18 years before it tried Labour. The blue Labour government of Tony Blair that dashed so many hopes lasted for 12 years and then the British electorate voted Tory again. We have had a Tory government of the worst sort for 10 years now, and in their latest incarnation the Conservatives are at their most repulsive, shifty, cynical and cruel.
The proto fascists of the USA have Donald Trump and the proto-fascists of the UK have Boris Johnson. Both of them won by appealing to the worst instincts of voters.
In an echo of 1930s European fascists, to large crowds Trump shouted:
Make America great again.
And Boris repeated:
Get Brexit done. Which British people know is code for:
‘Britain for the British.’
These were cheap, ultra-nationalist slogans, but they resonated with enough people to help defeat a resurgent left.
and in their latest incarnation the Conservatives are at their most repulsive, shifty, cynical and cruel.
The consequences of leaving the EU are on the plate of the Conservatives. They have to eat the ugly monster sitting on the white dish staring at them with the bulging eyes and gaping mouth of Farage – the Tories must eat this stinking toad they adopted as their own.
‘Get Brexit done.’ Ribbet!
So, now as a result of the electoral choice to vote Conservative there will be fewer well-funded hospitals and fewer schools for the many, but there will be more diamond encrusted watches, designer suits, electric luxury vehicles and country pads for the few.
And who are the foot-soldiers of Labour that the majority chose to ignore and deride? They are, in the main, people with a social conscience: typically, university students, lawyers, doctors, community case workers, social workers, teachers, public sector workers, activists inside unions: worthy people, pillars of the community who keep it going and sustain it and who understand the harm that deregulated capitalism has caused the citizens of the UK.
In the UK now, there are many millions of British people who clearly understand that the purpose of privatising companies was never to make the trains run on time, but to extract as much wealth from British pockets as possible. Privatisation is there to milk money out of ordinary people.
we won the culture wars. It was the left that helped make Britain into a multicultural, tolerant, more feminist, less homophobic society
There is a whole world of people who understand in the marrow of their bones that the Tories do not work in their interests, but but in the interests of the wealthy. Many people now understand that the Labour left are on the side of ordinary people.
We didn’t lose everything, we won the culture wars. It was the left that helped make Britain into a multicultural tolerant, more feminist, less homophobic society in the teeth of Thatcherism. It was the left that made fascism unpopular. It was our music that argued for brotherly love. Those were our artists and film-makers who showed how unfair society was and how it needed to change. We won the cultural battles against Tory money. The Tories see most artists, comedians and creatives as their natural enemy.
The younger generation, naturally, are more comfortable living in a multicultural society. It is the majority of the older generation, still uncomfortable with multiculturalism, that is trying desperately to turn back the clock. The younger generation’s prospects have narrowed because of Tory policies, especially Tory housing policy. It is they who flock to Labour in order to try to create a better society for themselves. The old look backwards, while the young look forwards.
We have four more years to reformulate our party into one coherent organisation; we have four years to remake the Labour Party into more unified, more representative, more powerful social democratic whole. We have four years to add good alternative media counterweights like Ars Notoria to the propaganda of billionaire media moguls and right wing centrists in the BBC and Guardian who have swallowed the neo-liberal Kool-Aid.
The worst thing you could ever do, and the biggest betrayal would be to leave the Labour party now in a childish fit. Let’s hold the red lines. We want nationalization. We want a green revolution. We want more worker representation on company boards. We want more cooperatives.
The old look backwards, while the young look forwards.
In truth what we want is a fairer capitalism that works, with a strong interventionist state and a thriving green economy. We want a better social democracy than Sweden or Germany. We want a health care system as good as Cuba’s.
There are a few other things Labour needs to take on board as well. Labour has been lukewarm about the creative power of micro, small and medium businesses. It needs to get enthusiastic about them. In addition to reigning in the big corporations, we need a contrasting strategy strategy designed to energise and support micro, small and medium businesses.
Keeping in mind the oncoming effect of AI on employment, we need to adopt the proposals of Andrew Yang in the US and provide everyone with a basic standard living income. We need a much stronger technology strategy.
And if Britain is going to put strong controls on its armaments industry then the state must spend on repurposing it towards starting a British space industry. It has to be done or we will continue with the existing model.
Migration has also been a tool of business to break unions and lower wages. It has expanded the black economy. Outsourcing, low wages and mass migration, especially from Eastern Europe, are all linked. Labour needs a progressive migration policy that accepts asylum seekers and a modicum of new immigrants, but in a more sustainable way.
Labour needs to be more convincing when it comes to the right to privacy. It was New Labour that built on Thatcher’s surveillance state. Shouldn’t we, as a party that believes in freedoms and human rights, role back state surveillance? Has a single person from Labour said they would protect the right to privacy or reduce the number of CCTV cameras or the amount of Internet surveillance?
Antisemitism and Islamophobia are linked because of the conflict in Israel Palestine, the conflicts play out in European countries too. This is why anti-Semitism has become an important issue again after the terrible experiences of the last war. The fact that many people on the left feel solidarity with the Palestinian people, as they should, has given right wing Zionists the excuse to say that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism.
While anti-Semitism exists and is alive and well in Europe, mainly Eastern Europe, it is not a burning issue in the UK, but a manufactured one. The purpose of this manufactured scandal has been to put criticism of Israel beyond the pale. It isn’t and any worthwhile Labour politician, including a top human rights lawyer like Starmer, should be decent and honourable enough not to allow themselves to be pushed into this heffalump trap.
Starmer is not the problem; Starmer is positioning himself and his shadow cabinet according to the different forces arrayed in the Labour party. If the membership make a stand again he will have to move our way. And he will. We need to force re-selection of sitting MPs. Party democracy is all we need to shift the fulcrum to the left and keep it there.
Tear up your card now and all you become is just one more resentful, helpless, passive aggressive observer. Stay in the Labour Party. Stand up for the principles of socialism and social democracy. Keep fighting for progressive policies and a humane society.
Phil Hall is a university lecturer. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine. He started Ars Notoria in May 2020.