Where did the Labour Party come from – and where is it now headed?
The rise of industrial factory production in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries led to the displacement of agricultural workers into industrial labour in the enlarging towns. There was already a clearly divided society between the majority of the people – the farm workers, labourers, servants and peripherals (soldiers, minor traders and so on) – and the gentry (the owners of the land, property etc) who were an upper ruling class apart and the owners and instigators of the new industrialisation.
The working conditions in the factories, mines, mills and the like were dire, long and harsh, often dangerous. The vote was limited to the gentry and the monarchy (Magna Carta). Protests by the workers at the harshness – a form of industrial slavery – were repressed by ‘law and order’ armed forces.
The accumulation of money, not just the ownership, soon became a dominant feature of the upper ruling class – the acquisition of capital was a spur to production with the growing science and technology creating more productive labour workers.
One machine could do 700 hours of manual labour – and so the divide between labour and capital ownership become more evident and eventually led to the development of trade unionism, aspiring for unity and fairness, and for social reform.
By the late nineteenth and early twentieth century this was spreading across the industrialised countries of Europe and the concept of a different society evolved – one of more equality and common ownership of the means of production. Several elements came together and the term ‘Socialism’ was born. A loose socialist federation of workers, trade unionists and progressive intellectuals with the same socialist aspiration.
The Labour Party was born from the trade unions with the support of intellectual activists such as the Fabian Society, democrats and others to win the united support of the workers with ‘practical’ reforms as an inevitable steam-roller progress to a better world. Similar political movements also arose such as the Communists.
One party however, was formed in 1904 which stood clearly and solely for the democratic understanding and support of the majority of the people for the fundamental change from class ownership to the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution – anything less would be a diversion leading to the continuation of capitalism. That party was the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Over the twentieth century the Labour Party and other reformists thrived, with much popular support for reforms culminating, perhaps, in the apogee of the sweeping election victory of 1945 and the rise of the Communists in Russia. It was a poisoned chalice. Besotted with their triumph, they were consumed with the power of running a capitalist state. Their last vestiges of socialist aspiration had died.
We still have capitalism with all its fearful flaws and inequalities, and socialist society is still seen as a fanciful irrelevancy.
Now the Labour Party is entirely consumed and thinks of nothing but the best way to get elected to run capitalism, just as do the Conservatives, Liberals, UKIP and all the rest. They are essentially indistinguishable and sterile, looking for leaders to hopefully sort out our lives for us. They shake their heads at socialism as unpractical utopianism while they recruit and train ‘heroes’ to kill other ‘heroes’ in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan to acquire ‘their’ oil etc. They end up with billionaires and food banks. The halcyon days of trade unionism, the ’left’ wing, the formation of the capitalist NHS with the disillusionment of the early ‘socialists’ such as Aneurin Bevan are now effete. Reduced to the discussion of capitalist power through the pathetic smog of Cameron v. Miliband (or whoever takes over from him - can you tell the difference?)
No wonder people want to escape to triviality - Downton, Emmerdale, etc. But think about it. Take your life from their hands to the better world of true civilisation of humanity – before it’s too late!