Sunday, 20 June 2010

Political OAPs

Old Labour. Pensioned off, and sent to Florida. Hasn’t been heard of for years…

If it succeeds, the Conservative-Liberal coalition risks dismantling the British wing of the alliance that brought about most of the great progressive achievements of the last century. Universal suffrage, the New Deal, the postwar European welfare state and the Civil Rights movement were all the product of an alliance between an intelligentsia that wanted an expansion of individual and social freedoms, and a working class that needed a more equal and just society. (David Edgar)

Not wholly wrong of course. Though I’d question the role of the “alliance” in the Civil Rights movement. And is this coalition really strong enough to remove what exactly…. the Hampstead liberals, the NUM, the Socialist Workers Party? This is even before we assume the progressive achievements of the post war period haven’t already been rolled back to a significant extent. For let us not forget that the last thirty years have been a time of Reaction. Jean Bricmont knocks a few years off the period; he starts it from collapse of the Soviet Union; and interestingly compares it to the years after Napoleon’s defeat, where the French Revolution’s ideals were snuffed out and betrayed. But wherever you start, I think we both agree it’s been a hard one for the progressive Left.

No, it’s not so much the content as the language. I hear a political dialect, it’s something in the phrasing: not quite the rigid formulas of Communist pronouncements, but still a hint of the party platform; of the orator sure of his audience, the confidence that his abstractions will be understood. Then there’s the tribalism, as if New Labour upholds the values of freedom and social justice; of fair shares for all. As if the party hasn’t sold out to big business and the United States.

If the “alliance” is broken I think we can blame Blair and Brown – already in decay (and see David Marquand for a realistic assessment of the tensions between the intellectuals and the unions within the Labour Party, which go back a long way) it was shattered by the decision to go to Iraq.

And finally, of course, there’s the recognition of class and injustice, and the poor’s need for economic reform. That does feel like ancient history, a time when we were subjects and citizens, before the shopping centres and out of town supermarkets; which turned us into consumers.

Those were the days! We need them back again.

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