Opposition to Politics for the Public Interest under the Guise of “Together”
After the No vote in the Scottish referendum, in which the Labour Party played a central role in the establishment campaign, the unity of the Westminster cartel parties is now out in the open. This was reinforced in the subsequent overwhelming parliamentary vote for new military intervention in Iraq. Labour’s place as an integral part of the arrangements of the British state has become increasingly overt.
With the approach of the next year’s general election, the big parties are vying, but failing, to produce a champion for the ruling elite. Labour has been desperately failing to brand Ed Miliband as such a champion even though Cameron, Clegg and the present Coalition are so evidently racing down the “austerity” path of the anti-social offensive and the opponents of the rights of the people. For the past two years, Labour has been rebranding itself as One-Nation Labour, a phrase claimed from the Conservatives themselves. Behind the facade of progressive-sounding words, this represents a vision of further politicisation of the private interests of monopolies and marginalisation of the interests of the working class and of society in general.
The idea of One-Nation Labour reached its final form before the election in Labour leader Ed Miliband’s speech to the party’s annual conference on September 23, with its nauseating mantra of “together”.
Miliband presented Labour as sticking up for the common people, the “families like yours, who are treading water, working harder and harder just to stay afloat.” “Labour is the party of hard work fairly paid,” and so on.
While there is “prosperity in one part of Britain, amongst a small elite,” argued Miliband, this elite forms “a circle that is closed to most, blind to the concerns of people. Sending the message to everyone but a few: you’re on your own.” However, “we just can’t carry on with the belief that a country can succeed as a country with a tiny minority at the top doing well.” What is needed is the “a different idea for Britain”: “Together”.
The point is, while he recognises the existence of “the powerful and the privileged”, he obscures the existence of social classes with contending interests and politics. Rather, everyone in the nation is together and faced with the same issue, even if there is a scale of wealth and power.
On this basis, the main theme of the speech was to promote the illusion that it is possible to resolve any conflicting interests between the poles of this one nation, via a shift in values, replacing one “belief” with a “different idea”.
In reality, there simply cannot be a common set of national values in a society divided into such opposed classes as the working class and broad sections of people on the one hand and the monopolies on the other. The monopoly capital-centred view of togetherness means the workers giving up their claims on the economy and being mobilised behind the private aims of competing monopolies for domination of international markets. The workers’ view of togetherness means upholding public right, laying claim to the economy and restricting the power of the monopolies to plunder social programmes and the environment.
Miliband therefore asserted: “Together says that it is not just a few wealthy people who create the wealth of our country. It’s every working person.” This places the workers in the socialised economy and the private owners of monopoly capital on the same footing, as if the latter could be also called “working people”. It obscures that it is the efforts of the working class that create the social product, the majority of which is drained from the economy by the “few wealthy people” who do anything but “create the wealth of our country” in their inexorable drive to accumulate this wealth in their perpetual state of fierce, mutual competition. Rather, it promotes the illusion that the workers require the assistance of these individuals to provide the businesses in which they work.
He asserted that “together says that we have a duty to look after each other when times are hard.” This is nothing other than the widely condemned notion that “we are all in it together.”
For example, to counter the “cost of living crisis”, “you need a government with a singular focus on tackling it. Key to this is transforming our economy so we create good jobs at decent wages. That requires a massive national effort. The principle of together: everybody playing their part.”
“It’s about businesses and trade unions engaging in cooperation not confrontation.”
In other words, the private interests of the monopolies are seen as at one with the interests of the workers and society in general.
“Together says it is not just the powerful few at the top whose voices should be heard, it’s the voice of everyone.” Here, Miliband obscures the politicisation of private interests.
In this respect, he spoke about what he called the “basic bargain of Britain”: “that all working people should share fairly in the growing wealth of the country. That means, as the economy grows, the wages of everyday working people grow at the same rate.”
“For government it means no vested interest, no old orthodoxies, no stale mindset, should stand in the way of restoring this basic bargain of Britain.” This means no return to Old Labour (the stale mindset), no social democracy, or worse, socialism (the old orthodoxies) and no accommodation of the trade unions (the vested interests). The workers should at most confine their demands to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. They should certainly not develop their independent politics and views.
Instead: “It’s time we transferred power out of Whitehall. To our businesses, towns and cities, so that they can create the jobs, the prosperity, the wealth that they need.” This is the politicisation of private interests in the form of transferring power from government to businesses, presented as one-nation politics with the working class subordinating its interests to the private interests of the monopolies, allegedly the creators of prosperity.
In essence, Miliband’s One-Nation Labour is merely a continuation of Blair’s New Labour, which abandoned social democracy and openly declared itself the “party of business”. Miliband’s Labour Party even preserves the same backward aim of making Britain great again: “Together we build great businesses, the best in the world. Together we can make Britain prouder, stronger in the world.”
His speech was therefore imbued with the same national chauvinism and a refusal to abandon the values and programme of austerity.
“I’m determined that as Prime Minister, I promote our values all round the world and one of the things that that means friends is seeking a solution to a problem that we know in our hearts is one of the biggest problems our world faces and that is issues in the Middle East and Israel and Palestine.” Issues on which Labour has an illustrious record. “The next Labour government will fight to make sure that we fight for our values and for human rights all round the world.” The word “fight” can be taken literally.
This chauvinistic outlook underlies Labour’s position on the national question in Britain. “We are more than ever, four countries and one. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Britain too,” he said. “Each nation making its contribution. We are not just better together, we are greater together.”
“All of those people who were proud to be Scottish and proud to be British. Just like there are so many people who are proud to be Welsh and proud to be British. And so too we can be proud to be English and proud to be British.” What kind of pride is this? Any talk of “British pride” in the context of British imperialism, promotion of its “values all round the world”, aiming at military might and success in the markets for the monopolies, is a thoroughly reactionary aim. Talk of “English pride” in the context of England as the dominating power in an archaic kingdom is equally reactionary and is no basis for unity of the people of Britain.
Try as he might, Miliband is unable to break with Blairism, but he is also unable to create the profile of a national leader. The speech is a complete rehash of Blair’s “Third Way” and national aim of making Britain great again in the conditions of the unity of the Westminster cartel parties increasingly exposed in the eyes of the electorate. This is a population which has reached the point of serious discussion, particularly apparent during the Scottish referendum, of how Britain in constituted, whom it serves and to what aim its economy is directed.
After five years of disastrous rule by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the working class will certainly have to consider how to participate in the general election strategically and elect candidates that represent a block to the austerity and pro-war agenda. However, it should have no illusions about the Labour Party as a party of labour, or even as a party which stands against private interests in favour of the public good. Rather, the working class must continue to build its own Workers’ Opposition, which is able to resolve the problems of where sovereignty must lie, lay the foundations of an anti-war, pro-social government, and, with its own independent perspective and programme, politicise public interests and the general interests of society.
– See more at: http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-14/ww14-31.htm#sixth