The “Socialist Roots” of the UK’s Labour Party

Mr Graham Peebles in his article, ‘A Lost Opportunity for Change‘ (Dissident Voice, May 28, 2015) appears to be living in a quite different part of the U.K. to the one I am familiar with. He states that the British Labour Party are, ‘frightened to be true to their socialist roots’ but fails to tell us how he defines ‘Socialist’.

Perhaps his definition includes the time when the Labour Government sent in troops to undermine striking Dock Workers? Perhaps he means by ‘Socialist’ the Labour Government building the Atomic Bomb without telling Parliament or even its own Members of Parliament? Maybe his definition of a ‘Socialist’ is millionaire Tony Blair who’s vivid imagination dreamt up ‘weapons of mass-destruction’?

Having lived under a number of Labour Governments my recollection is that when in power they are obliged by the constraints of the market system to run things in much the same way as the ‘nasty’ Tories—and that means restricting the rights of working people in favour of the holders of capital.

Now it is true that when first incorporated, the Labour Party did make favourable noises towards working people. Unfortunately, however, like many on the ‘Left’, it failed to understand the nature of the Capitalist system and believed that it could, by degrees, change it into a system which  it called ‘Socialism’.

However the opposite occurred. Far from the Labour Party changing Capitalism by degrees, the Party was itself changed by Capitalism to become the full-blown pro-market pro-Capitalism political party that it is today.

The first mistake it made was in believing that state-ownership of the means of production, which it called ‘Nationalisation’ was ‘Socialism’ and that this equated to real common-ownership. The hypocrisy of this arrangement was highlighted by a legal case where in a particularly bad winter in tough times shortly after the war, a miner was prosecuted for taking a few lumps of coal home to keep his family warm.

He was prosecuted for theft and when, in his defence, he argued that he could not steal from himself as a co-owner of the mine, the court dismissed his plea on the grounds that the mines were owned by the King! And all this under a Labour Government!

In the Labour Party’s infamous Clause 4 of its Constitution, it talked of, ‘Common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange’. But genuine common ownership (unlike the mines example above) would entail the disappearance of ‘exchange’. In fact, real common ownership would mean the concept of ownership would disappear.

Nowadays, as Mr Peebles, in effect, concedes, the Labour Party avoids like the plague the use of the word ‘Socialism’ preferring to use even vaguer terms like ‘social justice’ and the like.

Mr Peeples uses the term, ‘clash of the new’ to describe the policies of such parties as the SNP and Plaid Cymru—parties that were founded respectively in 1934 and 1925! And since when has crude Nationalism been the answer to the problems of humankind?

Can he, for example, provide evidence that since Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, its respective workers have benefitted from ‘independence’? And who or what are they ‘independent’ from? The Market System? The U.S. Dollar? Recessions? Global Warming? War? Terrorism?

As for the ‘Greens’, they continue to support the very political/economic system that, in putting the profit of the few before the needs of the many, is the very cause of the pollution and global warming they rail against.

Finally, Mr Peebles seems to be besotted by the idea of women politicians as a magic formula for the world’s problems. No doubt he is thinking of such gentle feminists as Mrs Thatcher, Mrs Nehru, Mrs Bandaranaike and Mrs Marcos! A person’s gender is no guarantee as to whether that person’s views are rational or otherwise as his article sadly demonstrates.

Richard is a poet and amateur blues harmonica player who lives in the seaside town of Clacton on England's east coast. He's had approximately 70 poems published in England and Wales as well as a number of articles. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Richard.