Socialism’s Dilemma

The most important quality in politics is ideology – the set of values you hold to be both right, and good. The British Tory party, for example, believe in an ideology known as capitalism, an ideology that’s right and good for only a tiny portion of society – the super-rich 1%. For all the rest of us it’s demonstrably bad. The Labour party is supposed to believe in socialism, a set of values that are the exact opposite: bad for the super-rich 1%, good for all the rest of us.

The conflict within Labour boils down to what appears to be a “Catch 22” situation: you’re a socialist and want political power, but if you say you’re a socialist you won’t get elected – at the moment – so you pretend to be a capitalist just to win votes. You persuade yourself that once you’re elected you’ll immediately revert to your true socialist self.

I’ve heard old party activists say as much – heard them say you tell people anything they want to hear so long as they vote for you. Although this is this obviously cynical and dishonest there’s sound precedent for believing it works. After all, the Tories have decades of electoral success behind them achieved on the back of outrageous lies. How many times, for just one example, have we heard them say “the National Health Service is safe in our hands” only to watch them sell it off bit by bit to big business, and shut down vitally essential Accident and Emergency departments all around the country? Lying works so well for the Tories because that’s what people are used to. But changing the society these lies have created can’t be done by telling more capitalist lies. We have to use the truth.

At the end of his excellent speech last Monday John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said a very important thing. He said that people should no longer be ashamed to be socialists. Britain desperately needs socialism. It’s better to lose elections honestly fighting for socialist reform than win them by pretending to be a socialist, only to then continue practising capitalism – as “New Labour” did. In the struggle between ideology and “electability”, Labour should loudly and proudly fight for socialism, because that’s the only way it will achieve it. Socialism cannot be achieved through the back door.  It must be openly supported by the people. That’s how Attlee achieved it in 1945. So openly campaigning for socialism begins the essential re-education process that’s necessary to overcome decades of Tory brainwashing. If that strategy loses a few votes, so be it; at least it’s honest.

John Andrews is a writer and political activist based in England. His latest booklet is entitled EnMo Economics. Other Non-Fiction books by John are: The People's Constitution (2018 Edition); and The School of Kindness (2018 Edition); and his historical novel The Road to Emily Bay Read other articles by John.