The Death of Socialism?

Before the article begins, a quick note about the different admins on this blog – though we’re all to some extent socialists, and share various views, we do differ on some things (for instance, in a broad sense I’m a Labour supporter, but another one of us is a Green), and the opinions put forward in this article, or any written by me, are mine. Anyway, onto the article. Enjoy!

The other day I found myself watching the Green Party’s latest party political broadcast (if you haven’t watched it already, go for it, it’s vaguely amusing.) It pushes forward one of the Green’s favourite messages – the three main parties (and in the video, UKIP) are all the same, and the Greens are the real alternative. In this article, I’m going to push aside the Lib Dems, Tories and UKIP, and focus on Labour and the Greens.

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One of the Green party’s selling points is that it’s the “true” socialist party – Labour has betrayed its roots, so the Greens have picked up where they left off. They have solidified this claim with a tangible shift to the left policy wise, with renationalisation taking pride of place on their manifesto. But are the Greens a socialist party? Is Labour now part (or rather still part of) the evil neoliberal ‘coalition’? Does socialism (by which we generally mean social democracy) still have a place in British politics? To quickly answer the questions – sort of, no, yes.

Now firstly, we’ve got to look at the Greens. You’re probably guffawing at this point – of course the Greens are socialists! Aren’t they? The commitment to nationalisation certainly suggests it, as do their other left wing policies. On top of that, the Green movement naturally resides on the left – I certainly can’t imagine a neoliberal environmentalist. But do these things alone define a party’s ideological standpoint? First of all, the commitment to nationalisation needs to be looked at. In my mind, the recent shift to the left doesn’t actually make them “socialist” per se. Not only does this term have far more qualifiers than just liking water and trains being owned by the state (a proper commitment to trade unionism for instance), but I feel like the Green Party’s shift has more to do with the leadership and a realisation of a gap in the market for that type of policy than an actual idealogical drive. Traditionally, the Greens have always been on the left, but their driving force hasn’t ever – in the past or now – been to do with the worker. However, I’m not disregarding their policies as somehow “false”, just not something that necessarily defines where they really stand in an idealogical sense.

Now, onto Labour. I’m not going to attempt to prove that Labour’s policies are socialist, but neither am I going to claim they’re part of some grand neoliberal conspiracy, like some on the left tend to suggest. A quick look down their policies and then a glance at the Tory offering confirms this. Obviously under Blair, with his PFI contracts and bank deregulation, was a different kettle of fish, but if you actually scrutinise Miliband’s party, you can see there has been a change for the better.

However, there’s still an identity crisis with Labour, and in my mind, a more radical approach is needed. I don’t support the Green approach – going down a list of “socialist policies” and ticking everything that looks nice – policies should still be made with consideration of finances, so I don’t support instant large scale renationalisation. However, the Labour Party can start to push forward a long term plan for a return to a mixed economy, perhaps targeting railways and NHS privatisation first, and later moving onto utilities, as well as having a stronger commitment to electoral reform.

How is this possible though, I hear you ask, with a party still infested by evil, parasitic Blairites? Well, it must be understood that membership wise, the Labour Party is still particularly left wing, and by engaging with the party rather than moving away to other semi-socialist parties like the Greens who have no hope of actually gaining any influence/power, we collectively can move Labour back towards a properly socialist outlook, and prevent the eponymous “death of socialism”. There are already groups within the party pushing for this – most prominently “Red Labour”, an informal group of socialist Labour Party members.

With more support and fewer defections, socialists will have a much better chance of getting their voice heard in parliament – and indeed having socialists within Labour’s leadership once more. So in conclusion, socialism is still out there, but we need to group together under a single banner to make it start to change Britain once more – so join Labour or the Fabians or Labour Left, influence the party and its policies from the inside, get involved in Red Labour, and push for a better future for all of us.

– Seb

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