Leaving Labour? Good riddance
Craig Berry, whoever that is, has posted an article at Comment is Free declaring that he is leaving the Labour Party. I suggest that everyone read the article and then utter a heartfelt ‘good riddance.’ Some of the critiques that Berry makes of the Party demonstrate that he has absolutely no idea how it works at a local or national level and that he is frankly lazy in his approach to the local apparatus of the Labour Party, insofar as it survives outside the watchful eyes of the Party bureaucracy.
Berry’s arguments against the Labour Party can be reduced to the following points:
- That the membership has declined to the apolitical or the careerist.
- Most work is based on fighting for elections and little more.
- The inner life of the party is introverted and boring.
- There is no link and no possibility of a link between Labour and it’s core supporters.
- Capitalism is transforming, but the Labour Party is stagnant
Despite all these criticisms, Berry still has no positive programme to suggest and indeed so weak is his critique that of the Party’s policy forming machines he simply says that they are necessary for discipline after eighteen years of opposition. Evidently Berry is so involved with the Labour Party that he categorically fails to see how relegating policy from Conference, which once formed the bastion of Labour activism, to the National Policy Forum might close down debate.
Berry strikes me as one of these pretentious types for whom a political party allegiance forms part of their self-image. He evidently doesn’t have the conviction to jump into a Constituency Labour Party, grasp the bull by the horns and shape it as it needs to be shaped. This relates back to the weakness of his critique. Berry hasn’t made the link between the collapse and reigning in of Trades Councils and CLPs by an overbearing TUC and Party bureaucracy and the fraying of Labour’s core vote.
If Labour can’t link to its core vote, it might be because the past twenty seven years have been spent in direct eradication of the internal accountability and democracy of the Party. Where once the constituencies could be dynamic campaigning machines, stretching far outside elections, now most of them can’t be bothered sending representatives to Conference and feel aggrieved at the affiliation fee because their membership is dwindling. It won’t be long before scores are dissolved.
These same constituencies still have potential, however. They might not openly debate politics in its ideological sense, but such is the point of the Political Education Officer. They might be introverted and boring, but that simply means responsibility will rest on those few who have their own vision for what it might be. I thought Canterbury CLP was boring, but now with campaigns on the homeless and other local issues, ideology is being dragged out, dusted off and thoroughly discussed.
In the aftermath of Gordon Brown’s speech, when the Canterbury branch reconvened after summer’s parliamentary recess, the battle lines were clearly drawn between the Socialist Campaign Group sympathizers, the neutral disinterested and those who rather naively think that Gordon Brown can deliver on what his rhetoric promised. Thankfully the committed New Labourites hadn’t turned up for that particular meeting, though they do so now and again.
The category of people who naively trust the Labour leadership do so because they don’t perceive the machines of control which the Party, the media and the government all deploy. They have no developed critique of capitalism, thus they are buffeted by any light wind, as though they have nothing to anchor them. Such is the type of Craig Berry – disillusioned by unfulfilled promises and the stark reality of Labour in decline, off Berry toddles into irrelevance, not realising that the promises were always empty.
Capitalism is not transforming. So far as every worker is concerned, capitalism is precisely the same, whether we’re rebuilding Bretton Woods, whether we’re designing a new global free trade compact to carry exploitation in new and more intensive forms to newly integrated parts of the world economy. If the Labour Party remains the same whilst the media is buffeted by its own sensationalising of a perfectly understandable economic event, it’s because the old battles are still the battles that need to be fought.
Between Left and Right, between representative democrat and plebiscite democrat, between socialist and social democrat, between good and evil, skywalker and vader, etc. These still have relevance and either the right wins, and Labour continues to decay, or the Left wins and we seek new engagement with local people, new interest in ideology and a repoliticized politics rather than the banal management speak of the careerists seeking personal political advantage.
Perhaps Berry should take his dilettante approach to the Party and join the Conservatives. Or the BBC. Their more dynamic, though critically empty, management speak might be more to his liking.