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Anti-Labour Party

In politics, self-sabotaging acts are so common that they rarely surprise veteran observers. At the bitter root of most shoot-oneself-in-the-foot idiocies is stubborn blindness occurring when a leadership asserts its self-preservation over the good of Party members.

KURT JACOBSEN AND SAYEED HASAN KHAN |

In politics, self-sabotaging acts are so common that they rarely surprise veteran observers. At the bitter root of most shoot-oneself-in-the-foot idiocies is stubborn blindness occurring when a leadership asserts its self-preservation over the good of Party members.

Still, with every fresh wave of stupidity, one can’t help asking why. Helpful here is the social scientist Roberto Michel’s “iron law of oligarchy” which states that by their very nature large-scale organizations, including especially political parties, tend to spawn haughty administrative cadres that elevate their own narrow interests above the organizational purpose. This topsy-turvy switch occurs with demoralizing regularity everywhere one looks. In the private sector, one need only glance at astronomical CEO compensation versus skinflint rank-and-file salaries for evidence. Scandalously, two of three officially poor people in the UK work full-time jobs.

In the case of political parties, witness the dismaying case of Britain’s Labour Party where party leader Keith Starmer so recently sacked an impudent shadow minister for daring to join a picket line alongside the very working people the Party historically was formed to protect. It was a striking event in several senses. New Prime Minister Liz Truss’s Tories, bucking this trend, sternly refuse to punish Party members who strive to devise even more ways to shove great gobs of money into the wallets of the rich. Why the difference?

The supreme political aim for economic elites inhabiting any democracy is to install in office the most accommodating Party possible. This coveted outcome is not always possible, though, so the second but no less important goal is to capture and neutralize the main opposition Party by crafting the terms under which they define themselves. In Britain, the capture now appears to be completed. In the 1990s Tony Blair’s ‘New’ Labour Party crew abandoned any hint of socialist aspirations and instead portrayed themselves as slick and skilful managers of capitalism, the kind of managers whom tycoons can invite to posh social galas and safely make donations.

This chummy view lost its persuasive power after the exposure of all the deceptions propelling the Iraq invasion and then with the implosion 2008 of the financial system. In 2015 a genuine socialist Jeremy Corbyn emerged as Labour Party leader and very nearly won the 2017 election. Yet, as internal inquiries reveal, both then and in the run-up to his 2019 election defeat, Corbyn, already beset by fierce intra-party conflict over Brexit, was brutally sabotaged by Blairite centrists in control of the Party bureaucracy. They weren’t worried the upstart radical would lose; they were deathly afraid that he could win with the most progressive policies offered in Britain in decades.

The result is that the Labour centrists blithely abetted Boris Johnson’s victory. Corbyn supporters were then either driven out of or marginalized within, the Party in the course of a “Trot hunt” in which even a chap who liked the Green Party’s Facebook page was purged. The blistering abuse hurled toward Corbyn often exceeded that for which members earlier were expelled for stepping over the line. The centrists in charge comported themselves exactly like the Stalinist monsters they imagined their foes to be. Indeed, one is hard put to see how they behaved one whit differently toward the Corbyn wing than the Tory Party bureaucracy would have.

The “broad church” politics of Labour (as with US Democrats) opened it to middle-class technocrats who believed that they could run the nation a smidgen better than the Tories while doling out as few concessions as necessary to scruffy lower orders who they do not fancy very much and, in many instances, despise. Corbyn’s successor Keith Starmer quickly broke his promise to conciliate the party factions and instead aligned utterly with the treacherous centrists. Starmer dumped an earlier plan for “common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water”, all of which are run so miserably that even most Tory voters agree they should be immediately renationalized. Starmer’s evident strategy is to do nothing but wait for the Tory government to wreck itself through pandering to its rich constituency with a fervour that Labour manifestly lacks regarding its own members. The do-nothing stance sadly is working. Labour is up 20 to 30 points in polls.

No surprise since New Tory PM and ardent Thatcher wannabe Liz Truss wanted to cut taxes on the rich (but was thwarted), lacerate welfare and boost defence spending. Workforce resistance revved up. The UK suffers spiralling price hikes, a recession, interest rate hikes, and a 6.6 million waiting list for health service treatment. A 2020 study confirms that tax cuts mostly go to the rich, do not boost jobs, do not raise growth, do not decrease inequality, and do not spur the rich to work harder for anything other than higher compensation for themselves.

The UK Office of National Statistics finds that income inequality since 2008 rose. Bloomberg reports that US corporations, and doubtless British ones too, are enjoying their highest profit rates since 1950. Even the head of the International Monetary Fund several years ago opined that higher progressive taxes on the British rich were needed. Food banks cannot handle the demand. Two-thirds of the population face choices this winter between paying for heating or for other minor essentials, such as food.

Meanwhile, citizens are induced by the media to patriotically pay price-gouging fees even though they are largely the result of backfiring sanctions for the sake of a Ukraine war that Nato did its best to provoke. The Tories are indeed in trouble, although they are always capable of a pragmatic U-turn which could shrink that big Labour lead to nothingness in the next 2 years. The bigger trouble is that nobody knows what Starmer and his band of mollifying managerialists stand for, and that is no way to win power.