by Norman Markowitz
There is a story today that those who constantly call upon working class supported parties to move to the right (which they call the "center") might note. The British Labor Party, which was formerly committed in its platform to socialism as a long-term goal from 1918 until Tony Blair eliminated that clause in the 1990s, suffered a crushing defeat in a by-election in Scotland. Scotland was Labor's and especially left Labor's greatest stronghold, and before WWII, the historic stronghold of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In the 1980s, Scotland was where Margaret Thatcher was both booed and mooned by people angry at her anti-working class policy and where she made what was perhaps her nuttiest speech, addressing a convocation of clergy and telling them that the unemployment problem was due to the decline of the work ethic,which was due to the decline of the Protestant Ethic and it was their job to revive the Protestant Ethic which would revive the work ethic which would deal with unemployment.
Tony Blair was elected by the core constituencies of the British Labor Party to reverse Thatcherism in the middle 1990s, but what he represented was in U.S. terms a cross between George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, a "kinder, gentler" Thatcherism and a politics of personality while he in the name of New Labor" (which I call Tory 2) used his power to turn the Labor Party into a second albeit more moderate Conservative party, moving first away from any commitment to socialism (which in reality the labor party had moved away from in the 1950s in terms of policy) and then from the welfare state which had been the Labor Party's central achievement.
Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair and some hoped that he would move the Labor Party away from Blair's Tory 2 positions. But he hasn't. Instead he has tried to play Blair game with a less than winning personality, and has recently gone beyond Blair and even Thatcher by seeking a partial privatization of the National Health Service, the Labor Party's greatest specific achievement.
All of this has opened the door to the Conservatives who have begun under the leadership of David Cameron to try to appeal to sections of labor and minorities, offering their version of what George W. Bush in 2000 called "compassionate conservatism."
But no one should trust them. A Tory government would probably be ultra right, taking advantage of the weakening of labor that Blair orchestrated, just as Bush took advantage of Clinton's failed policies and "Reaganism with a human face." A Tory government would in all probability be Thatcher 2, just as Bush has tried to be Reagan 2.
Tony Benn, a veteran left labor man of unyielding socialist convictions and aristocratic background, a sort of socialist Winston Churchill who has spent many years in the political wilderness that Labor Party bosses consigned him to as the Chamberlain appeasers marginalized Churchill in the late 1930s, responded to this defeat best when he said of Brown, if I went to a doctor who said I feel your pain and I have a vision, I would get another doctor."
The Labor Party needs more than Brown's hollow rhetoric. They need to become the Labor Party again, revive the welfare state and begin to think of a socialist Britain, the platform on which they won their most important victory in 1945.