The Conservative Left's Continuing Support for Labour

Labour, whose victory was wildly celebrated by the conservative Left, is now roughly half way through its first term. In an effort to cover their embarrassment at how things have turned out, these unwanted, unloved, but ever so loyal supporters, are obliged to continue to insist Blair remains the ‘lesser evil’.

All despite Blair, rather pointedly, never making the slightest effort to conceal that he sees his party’s future on the centre Right, or (with plans to cut jury trials, mandatory drug testing for offenders and ‘anti-terrorism’ extended to include all ‘direct actions’) arguably right of Centre. Historically the longer Labour is in office the further it moves to the Right. Given that it is guaranteed a second term (something that it has previously not managed) it is amusing to consider what political criteria the conservative Left (those still afloat) will be forced to employ in order to justify New Labour as the ‘lesser evil’ in five years time?

One thing’s for certain, they certainly have not tired of New Labour yet. It only takes a half plausible cause, or a candidate such as Ken Livingstone to tug at the old loyalty and have them up and running. Even a paper that railed against what it describes as the conservative Left’s ‘auto-Labourism’ on practically a weekly basis is now seen to gush that “even if Livingstone ends up as the official Labour candidate - in the teeth of an all out pro-Dobson Millbank campaign - we [working class revolutionaries] should still mobilise for his candidacy, but against New Labour”. Which is to say ‘we mobilise for the New Labour candidate - against New Labour!’

This very process of resowing old illusions in New Labour, just as the mass of the working class are breaking with Labour can “create the possibility of a mass working class movement, independent of Labour” we are told. (Weekly Worker 11.11.99) At a point when working class communities are increasingly standing their own candidates (albeit tentatively) the self-styled collective leadership advises they ‘remain Labour’s tail’. Or as Weekly Worker previously put it “it has been an enormous strength of bourgeois politics that the left wing of social democracy has been able to divert proletarian anger and aspirations for change into the safe channels of the Labour Party.” So from that point of view, why now the evangelical zeal to re-anchor the working class to Labour? Because it has fallen to Livingstone to displace Blair from the mantle of ‘the lesser evil’, and “so to stand back for offering strong support would be a profound mistake”.

There is little doubt that the shenanigans surrounding the selection of the Labour candidate is a source of huge personal chagrin for Blair. If indeed as the W.W. over optimistically forecasts the whole affair results in ‘mass defections from Labour in London and a realignment of forces on the left’, all to the good. But just because you envisage some advantage, does not mean you pitch in on the one side or the other. Much less because you deem it ‘progressive’ does it mean you are obliged in principle, as working class militants, to formally offer political support. This is after all, a falling out amongst those inside the enemy camp, is it not?

‘Class politics’ is after all about picking sides. At no time this century can the choice have been more straightforward. And once set, that base orientation is decisive, governing all else. Everyone knows this. All the breast beating in the world thereafter cannot conceal the reality of the Left continuing to operate unashamedly, day in day out, in the interests of one or other enemy faction. After an unbroken pattern lasting the entire century is it too outrageous to conclude that here is where their hopes, aspirations, and ultimately loyalties lie? Which is why, increasingly, for those of us looking on purely from a working class perspective, it is no longer what they think they are doing, but only what they are actually doing that counts.
Reproduced from RA vol 4, Issue 4, Dec '99/Jan '00