‘Reclaiming’ Labour

Latest attempt at the resuscitation of a corpse

According to the Morning Star of 5 July 2004, hundreds of activists, MPs and trade unionists attended a Conference at Congress House (TUC Headquarters) on Saturday 3 July, and voted unanimously to launch the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). The Conference was supported by the FBU, the firefighters’ union, the transport union RMT and the communication workers union (CWU). Individuals from other unions also attended, while some local branches sent delegates. MPs present included John McDonnell, chairman of the so-called Socialist Campaign Group, Jeremy Corbyn, Lynne Jones and Alan Simpson. Also present was the former Labour MP and minister Tony Benn.

Labour – always an imperialist party

At this Conference, UNISON executive member John Rogers hailed the LRC as a “rallying point for all” and “an answer to those outside the Labour Party who are telling us to give up”. Far from being an answer to those who want every class-conscious worker, every socialist, to abandon the imperialist Labour Party, the gentry involved in reviving the LRC are engaged in the reactionary task of resuscitating the stinking corpse of social democracy, which long ago abandoned the cause of the working class. Unlike European social democracy, whose renegacy to the cause of the working class dates from the first world war, the Labour Party in Britain, right from its birth, represented the interests of British imperialism and a privileged minority of the working class – the labour aristocracy. It never did, does not now, and never will in the future, represent the interests of the entire working class in Britain, let alone the oppressed people abroad.

The Labour Party (not just Tony Blair’s ‘new’ Labour, as the Troto-revisionist fraternity and their ‘left’ Labour allies, including the resuscitators of the LRC, would have us believe), has always supported British imperialism, for the privileged position of the labour aristocracy is totally dependent on the loot and the extraction of imperialist superprofits from abroad. The Labour Party could not defend the one (the privileges of the labour aristocracy) without defending the other (British imperialism).

The composition of this labour aristocracy has undergone a remarkable change over several decades, but the labour aristocracy as such remains. If in times past it was composed of skilled craft workers, today it consists largely of skilled white-collar workers, administrators, labour and trade-union functionaries, and those holding supervisory and managerial jobs. However, what this new labour aristocracy shares with the old is its utter contempt for the poor, the destitute, the deprived and downtrodden at home and abroad; its total disregard for the plight of the most disadvantaged and most cruelly exploited sections of the population in Britain and hundreds upon hundreds of millions of oppressed people abroad. And this for the simple reason that such destitution is a precondition for the maintenance of its privileged and parasitic existence, which explains its philistinism, the depth of its vile subservience to, and its contemptible sycophancy in the service of, the imperialist bourgeoisie.

Economic basis of opportunism

Those who are sincerely interested in the social emancipation of the working class have a duty to explain the above fact and to bring to the notice of the working class the undoubtedly profound connection between imperialist superprofits and opportunism in the labour movement. Those who are genuinely interested in the fight for socialism have a duty to recognise, and explain to the working class, that opportunism in its ranks is no accidental phenomenon; that it is the product of imperialist economics. Imperialism engenders a split in the working class, for it has singled out a handful of exceptionally rich and powerful states who plunder the whole world and who are able to use a portion of the superprofits thus derived to bribe the labour leaders and the upper stratum of the working class – the labour aristocracy, who are “… the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, real channels of reformism and chauvinism”. (Lenin, Preface to the French and German editions of Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism)

Protecting social democracy

Whatever their subjective desires and rhetoric, those seeking to revive the LRC simply want to take the working-class movement a hundred years back, instead of learning from the history of those hundred years and going forward. As a matter of fact, they are engaged in the shameful task of protecting social democracy from itself. At a time when the working class is seriously questioning the need and usefulness of supporting the imperialist Labour Party, when they are beginning to disaffiliate the unions from it, who should come to the latter’s rescue but these ‘left’ champions of social democracy.

At the above Conference, Alan Simpson MP, condemning public subsidies to private companies, stated that the “only trains running on time are the gravy trains”. There is a great deal of truth in this statement, although we are not sure if Mr Simpson has grasped the irony of his statement. The whole point of the ‘left’ refusing to leave Labour is that it is terrified of jumping off the gravy train and joining the ranks of the ordinary mortals. While firmly holding on to the gravy train, the ‘left’, at best, wishes to salve its conscience through radical rhetoric against ‘new’ Labour; at worst, it is engaged in fooling and hoodwinking the working class through an exercise in the embellishment of social democracy and presenting it in bright colours.

Corbyn and Labour’s bloody record

Jeremy Corbyn, the darling of the Troto-revisionist gentry, condemned the ‘new’ Labour clique for taking Britain to war in Iraq, adding that this was “the most damaging thing ever done to the Labour Party”. More damaging than Labour’s support for the cold war and the murderous war against the Korean people? More damaging than the hangman’s role it played in regard to the Greek revolution and the Malayan people’s national liberation struggle? More damaging than its suppression of the Irish liberation struggle and its part in the overthrow of the nationalist Iranian regime following the nationalisation by the latter of the Anglo-Persian (now BP) oil company? More damaging than its part, following the second world war, in restoring Dutch rule in Indonesia, French rule in Indo-China, and subsequently its unreserved support for the genocidal war waged by US imperialism against the Indo-Chinese people, which claimed more than 3m lives? More damaging than its support for racist minority regimes in southern Africa? More damaging than its barbarous war against the Yugoslav people, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and the break up of that country? The truth is that there is not a crime that Labour, old and ‘new’, would not commit in the service of British imperialism.

One could go on, but enough. Either Mr Corbyn is totally ignorant of the blood-thirsty history of British imperialism, and labour’s total support for every one of its murderous wars, or, and this is really the case, he is deliberately attempting to mislead the working class while pocketing the not inconsiderable perks that his membership of this imperialist party undoubtedly bestows on him.

If “Blair’s international policy makes us hang our heads in shame”, as Labour Executive Committee member Christine Shawcross, speaking at the same Conference, said it does, may we ask Ms Shawcross: in heavens name, what are you doing in this imperialist party hanging your head in shame, when you could leave with your honour intact and head held high? Only Ms Shawcross can answer, although our suspicion is that her continued membership of Labour and its Executive Committee has something to do with the gravy train spoken of by her colleague, Mr Simpson.

Iraq War in defence of British imperialism

Mick Shaw of the FBU called for an end to Britain’s support for US imperialism. Britain is not merely supporting US imperialism, however; it is defending its own imperialist interests, albeit as a junior partner of the US. These interests range from oil and armaments to export of capital and dominance of the Middle East, which is endowed with fabulous oil reserves. Two of the three largest oil companies in the world are British or Anglo-Dutch. Tony Blair and Labour are the servants of British monopoly capital, just as all previous Labour governments have been. They are no poodles of the US; their job is to defend the interests of British imperialism.

The job of those who wish to fight for socialism is to expose the bloodthirsty nature of all imperialism, including British imperialism, and to work to overthrow it. But those who gathered at Congress House to revive the LRC, far from working for the overthrow of British imperialism, merely want to replace Tony Blair by another Labour representative of imperialism, new Labour by old Labour imperialism. They hanker after an imperialism without its ‘defects’. In other words they want the continuation of “… the existing society but without its abuses”, to use Engels’ words.

Well gentlemen, you can’t have imperialism which does not strive for the maximum of profits, which does not fight for markets and avenues of investment, and which does not wage predatory wars of spoliation and for domination. This is the result not of malice on anyone’s part. Imperialism cannot help being what it really is. Driven by the crisis of overproduction, faced with the iron law of the tendency of the rate of profit to decline and the shrinking opportunities for profitable investment, hand in hand with surplus capital in a world that is fully divided, various imperialist powers are forced into cut-throat trade wars, which from time to time spill over into horrendous carnages of the proportions of the first and second world wars. The period between these global holocausts is punctuated by a series of endless local wars, which consign millions of people to death as sacrificial offerings at the altar of the profits of monopoly capital.

For the robber barons of finance capital, war is not only just another business. Sometimes it is the only business. Those who would represent monopoly capitalism, cannot afford to be queasy.

The Labour Party has always been a loyal servant and a true representative of British imperialism. It has therefore always been ready and willing to commit any crime in the service of British imperialism. On this, the only important question, the 3 July gathering of the ‘left’-wing worthies of social democracy did not have a single sentence to utter. Those who want to abolish war must fight to get rid of imperialism.

Our ‘left’ wants to reclaim a Labour which never did exist except in their imagination. What is needed is a revolutionary party of the proletariat, ready willing and able to mobilise the working class for the overthrow of British imperialism – not the exhumation of a corpse and attempts at its resuscitation.