HOW CAN MOMENTUM DEFEAT LABOUR’S OWN TORIES?
Labour Party activists were moving left during the period from the 1960s onward. But they were defeated comprehensively by the “social democrats” during the 1980s. There are lessons from that period for Momentum and the Corbyn campaign.
Some right-wingers exited the party and created the SDP (early 1980s). Subsequently they joined the Liberals. The others stayed behind, to finish their work on behalf of the Establishment.
For the Party, the outcome was the rise of Blair and the election of New Labour in 1997.
Despite the adulation of the press - then and since - New Labour was actually elected with fewer votes than John Major obtained in 1992. And between 1997 and 2010, New Labour went on to lose around 5 million Labour votes!
So; how can Momentum defeat Labour’s sub-Tories?
A useful, if somewhat academic book, by Leo Panitch and Colin Leys (first published 1997) covers the rise and fall of the Left and seeks explanations of why and how it happened - “The End of Parliamentary Socialism”. Here is a quote describing the left’s initial rise.
“The Labour Party (in Clay Cross) in 1959 had fifteen members and only two councillors. In this project [to shift Labour leftward] Dennis Skinner, who had previously only been active in his NUM branch, was joined by other young miners, and later by his two brothers who became members of the Labour Party Young Socialists when they were still at school.
They took the view that if they, the Labour Party, were to win the confidence of the people, they needed to embark on a course of political education for everybody. There was nothing patronising about their attitude; they wanted people to know what was going on . . . Night after night, doors were knocked on, leaflets distributed, public meetings organised and attended. …
By 1963 they had swept the municipal council and begun to implement a policy and a style of administration that was rather revolutionary.
They cleared the slums and built new council housing at a rate more than twice the national average.
They bent the rules, scattering Compulsory Purchase Orders “like confetti” and transferring money from the general rate fund to avoid paying high interest rates on government bonds which only ‘lined the bankers’ pockets’. They … charged the the lowest rents in the country.”
Clay Cross is justifiably famous for this, and because it defied the Tory Government of Heath in 1971. They unlawfully refused to implement the terms of the Housing Finance Act which would have meant increasing rents.
These are the kind of councillors we need today!
Have we got them? Can we get them?
HERE a London Labour councillor is expelled for opposing Labour's cuts!