THE NAIVE CORRESPONDENTS
by Rhys Jolley
When there were effectively only two political parties the concept of left and right a simple validity. In the early nineteenth century England, there were the Tories who were committed to acquiring more power for the crown and themselves, pitted against the socially conscious Whigs who wrested a little of it back to the people – but they were still both parties of privilege who used secrecy, entitlement and religion to keep their class system, based on titles and land ownership, intact.
Suffrage was extended to include some male members of the middle class, the larger tenant farmers and eventually businessmen who did not own a lot of land but who employed working people in their factories. The 1867 Parliamentary Reform Act increased the electorate to almost 2.5 million out of a population of 30 million. The Conservative leader, Benjamin Disraeli, believed that because of an inbuilt tendency to defer to their social superiors, the middle classes would make limited demands on politicians, provided they were kept housed, fed and clothed and would vote Conservative forever.
After that, the Whigs morphed into the Liberal Party who continued to emphasise social issues but movement was slow because more politicians were elected from the rural areas, where the gentry had their estates, skewing the system against the growing commercial class based in the cities.
As more and more workers moved to the larger centres, the cruelty of their working conditions in the factories became an issue and the Labour movement was formed to challenge their cosy relationship. At last, a large scale uprising from below was born with the responsibility to give all individual workers a voice and to lift them up to their highest achievement.
In 1918, after the horrors of the first world war, working class men were at last given the vote and by 1928, when universal adult suffrage was introduced, the Labour Party had replaced the Liberals as the Conservatives’ main rival. The workers had gained a truly powerful voice.
To complete the picture, many intellectuals later extended the Liberal principals down to establish links with the needs of the earth and minorities through CND, formed in 1958 and the Greenham Common women’s protest movement that the Green Party was to follow on from. The Greens are still too identified with ecological issues, when their main responsibility is to remove blocks to each individual becoming a genuine partner in a more equal society.
The fact that everyone who opposes the Tory philosophy has continued to be lumped together as left wing has obscured the full spectrum of opposite dynamics going on. Top/down needs to be added for a full understanding. It is an erroneous idea, that Labour is essentially a left leaning party. There is overlap but it’s main orientation has always been grass-roots right – a difficult concept for people to grasp, but you can see from the diagram that, in the cyclic flow of political responsibility, it is certainly so.
Unfortunately, Labour’s confrontation with the bosses narrowed down their focus too much into a class war. They always had an uneasy relationship with the co-operative movement which they should have supported more and small businesses, too – but it was a start.
The Greater London Council under Ken Livingstone was a most effective and liberating socialist experiment which encouraged initiative rather than dependence. Labour was not there for us smiling benevolently down from the Westminster heights, we were Labour, passionately involved with the needs of our brothers and sisters, creating a new world on the ground. We were all activists then. Gay equality, respect for our ethnic minorities and the cheeky community arts initiatives were given a great boost.
Several of us were councillors, most were squatters or in housing co-operatives. We drank at the pub with our local representatives and passionately threw revolutionary ideas around.We knew we were the change that was happening. It was an exhilarating time. But, of course, the monied class wanted none of that, so it was decisively crushed. And by the time Ken became London mayor it was a distant memory even to him.
The intention to give a measure of independence to Scotland and Wales, along with the introduction of a minimum wage gathered steam under Labour. John Smith was preparing to carry these forward and much more when his most unfortunate death let in the great pretender, Tony Blair, who waited till after these two initiatives were completed before showing his true colours.
Goebbels once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” And provided you can hide the economic and social consequences of your lies from the people, while generating enough fear, then your power will remain intact. It was the lies that many in the Labour party were telling themselves that were the most damaging.
In the diagram, Labour is shown where it was before Tony Blair abandoned many of its principles and re-positioned himself and the party far up the central pillar in the hemisphere of privilege, an act of treachery that few people have fully understood. It is not just wanting more social justice that determines where you are in this scenario, it is where you actually identify yourself to be, where your heart lies and Blair never saw himself as a worker. His wish for power and money, to be one of the elite, determined his every move.
The Murdoch newspapers’ support for him was clear evidence that he was doing the wrong thing. Consort with villains and you will surely become one. Is that not so, Mr Blair? And when the gap between rich and poor inevitably widened during his reign, the New Labour betrayal was complete.
He is still encouraging Labour to regain the centre ground but you can see from the diagram that he has no idea where the true centre lies, and would not want to be there even if he did.
On taking up his leadership position, Corbyn was caught in an impossible bind. Labour had become a party of patronage, not participation. His shadow cabinet had many Lib Dem look-alikes talking about equality from a position of social or intellectual superiority. Being now part of the system they profess to oppose, they cannot effectively counter the Tory lies when they are firmly embedded in them.
They still foolishly believe that you can overcome the corporate message and objectives by trying to water them down. Being partly against is to be caught up in their agenda, to be fighting on their ground. They don’t understand the extent to which the Establishment’s network of control from above has been gradually handed over to international conglomerates with world domination as their preferred outcome.
These modern-day exploiters have had the guile to create a juggernaut that promises to free up the markets and bring prosperity to all but it is a total illusion. And many of our gullible Labour representatives are falling for it. They believe that you can bring social justice and equality of opportunity from within a system that will do anything it can to make sure it never happens. They also need to recognise the stranglehold the lobbying industry has on the entire political system.
Until the parties genuinely orientated at the grass-roots level have collectively something approaching an equal amount of power and influence, those at the top will continue to have a disproportionate share of the proceeds and the ability to keep themselves firmly entrenched there. Labour should link up with the socially responsible elements in the Lib Dems and walk in tandem with the Greens and the SNP to form a united front to counter the Tory lies.
Knowing that truth is the greatest enemy of this network of corporate manipulators, those of good will must rediscover the fact that a small truth focussed precisely and persistently into the essence of a big lie will always destroy it. Gandhi understood that well.
Like Gandhi, Corbyn is, in many ways, a simple man with an exceptionally strong will. He would do well to select a couple of examples of complex wrong doing from the many available that encapsulate all that is amiss with the current economic objectives, suss out how the deception is engineered and how much money is being siphoned off from the public purse to pay for it, and focus this understanding with clarity into the core of the corruption. Then demand answers.
But above all, those around him must find the courage to oppose these corporate takeovers in their entirety on both moral and economic grounds. Remember what you stand for and then specify and promote credible alternatives based on principles of balance, individual empowerment and community ownership that enough people will intuitively support or, as a party, you will lose everything that matters and, sadly, so will we.