Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Labour devouring itself: 1. Mutual Malice

They say the first casualty of war is the truth.

In an internal party battle, it gets knocked on the head more quickly still. There’s no worse offence than apostasy: the friend who turns against you is far more hateful than the open enemy.

That’s what’s happening in the British Labour Party now, with a chasm opening between its two wings.

There have been few instances of physical violence, and none against the person: a brick through an office window was the most egregious example. On the other hand, the verbal aggression is pretty ferocious. It means that it’s a less painful experience these days to debate with Tories, officially our opponents, than to fellow party members who favour a different candidate for the leadership.

At its mildest, supporters of Owen Smith (of whom I am one) are all of us categorised as Blairites. That’s bad enough, seeing as rather a lot of us feel that, despite Blair’s many achievements, he lost our respect forever by the unconscionable act of following Dubya into a misguided invasion of Iraq. But the insult is actually far worse, because to Corbyn supporters (of whom I am absolutely not one), ‘Blairite’ is a synonym for ‘Tory’. Indeed, we’re repeatedly referred to as ‘red Tories.’

That’s particularly irritating, because if there’s one constant in my political outlook, it has been complete opposition to the Tories. An organisation which exists to protect privilege and the link between wealth and power strikes me as utterly out of place in our times. So to be called a supporter seems nothing short of ludicrous.

But this isn’t to say that my side has been any more sensible. The accusation these days is that the 300,000 new members of the Labour Party, most of whom seem to be fervent Corbyn supporters, represent a take-over by ‘Trotskyists’.

Trotsky must be spinning in his grave. He did indeed recommend the tactic of ‘entryism’, which meant going into a mass working class movement, taking it over and turning it into a revolutionary organisation. But I’m sure he never intended entryist groups to stay in such an organisation for unlimited periods, as the so-called Trotskyist group Militant attempted to do until its expulsion in the 1980s.

Trotsky rousing Red Army troops
Corbyn or Smith? Nothing to choose between them, he would have said
All Militant achieved was to turn Labour Party meetings, never the most exciting way to spend an evening, into something excruciating. Presumably, the hope was that anyone not of their persuasion would be driven out, if only to try to get themselves a life. Since Trotsky was particularly susceptible to the fault I mentioned before, of hating the dubious friend more than the avowed enemy, I expect he would have had the whole of Militant carted off to a Gulag somewhere. And most of the rest of us would have regarded that as a welcome gesture towards keeping politics interesting and maintaining a sense of humour.

In any case, Trotskyist groups can at best mobilise a few thousand people in Britain. And that’s on their own count. There are probably only a few hundred.

Oh, go on then, let’s be generous: the very low thousands.

Certainly, there are nothing like the 300,000 who have joined Labour. Among that new memberships, there may be a few Trotskyists and some may even be playing a leading role. However, the vast majority are just Corbyn-supporting social democrats. Misguided, in my view, but hardly died-in-the-wool, red-toothed followers of the founder of the Soviet Red Army.

So, on either side of the fence, the slanderous name-calling is tossed back and forth. And there’s no sign of its stopping.

It’s a shame, though perhaps inevitable. Passions are running high, as the stakes are so significant. But that does nothing for the quality of our lives.

To say nothing of our chances of beating the Tories.

Next: one or two of the more irritating slanders.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating, but how does the outside world view Labour looking on from the outside. It does look as if labours has been hijacked by some Luddite sort of scare crow left militant. Having assumed this to be correct the party has decided to have some sort of competition for a new leader, the only problem being both candidates are sort of similar, one wears a tie and the other doesn't. Neither is credible nor visionary or importantly an inspirational leader, north find it hug.ely offensive that any individual should have inspiration or achievment as an objective, so they are both failures. Labour has some very capable individuals who have vision and inspiration, both values and qualities that current labour appears to despise.

Once labour can dispel it's Victorian view of the vales of a Conservatove government and realise that it stands for individuals who value achievment and encourages it in others and welcomes success rather than despises it, it might just start to gain some degree of respect from a largely thinking and intelligent voting public. On the other hand labour may continue to think it's 1948 and we have just come back from war and the nation is bust, lets nationalise every thing that is bust, a good idea given the time and circumstances.

David Beeson said...

Your points are good. And certainly I think there's a backward-looking inclination in certain parts of Labour. Where I might disagree with you is on Smith's position: I think he's a lot more forward-looking than Corbyn, and he's personable too. I don't know that he's a perfect leader, but right now I don't need perfect, just better.

Anonymous said...

David, grasp inspiration and leadership. To believe it could be a bit better is no more than be living in we failed but not that badly. Is that what you believe in? If so you hav no determination desire or vision of anything more positive than its OK. Be brave and have vision and a desire for individual achievment and success which suould be celebrated.

David Beeson said...

I believe we have to be brave enough to face up to evidence, rather than taking refuge in unsustainable belief. Sadiq Khan won a welcome victory in London, but did it by keeping Corbyn completely out of his campaign. And he did it by rising above and defeating a vicious media onslaught, something Corbynistas surrender to, blaming the media for their failure instead of withstanding their onslaughts. I want Khan's victory to be emulated nationally, not Corbyn's surrender. That's where true bravery would take us.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and the difference is I believe that Sadiq has respect for success and business and knows that London will only ever be respected and dominant due to being a winner. Unfortunately Cprbyn has some misguided belief that we can all be equal, maybe he should have a little chat with Darwin. Humanity is lead by leaders and and some win and others lose, unfortunaly their followers have the same fate or success which is fortunate.