THE NEW Shadow Cabinet is surprisingly upbeat, considering it has just lost a general election and seen parliamentary power transferred to a coalition variously described as the Lib-Cons or the Con-Dems.
The Labour Party did not receive half as bad a drubbing in the polls as they had feared and the economic problems facing the new government are so deep that political and economic pundits are predicting it was have to take such draconian measures that its ministers will quickly be very deeply unpopular and their parties unelectable for a generation to come.
But the Labour contenders for the party leadership have nothing to be smug about. The election result showed that voters did not want the Tories. Labour could have won, easily, if it had not behaved so much like the Tories.
The Miliband brothers, Ed Balls and their colleagues have admitted they failed to connect with working class voters. And yet it was the working class voters who turned out in central London, Manchester, Leeds, Tyneside, Scotland, Wales and all the traditional Labour heartlands to support them — in spite of their failure to connect — because the working class hates the Tories.
The votes that Labour lost were those of the slightly more prosperous working class who prefer to think of themselves as middle class — or “middle England”.
David Miliband last weekend declared that “New Labour” is dead — and we are glad to hear it. But then he went on to say that he was interested in “Next Labour” — as if it were just about changing one silly title for another.
And there is talk of changing the structure of the Labour Party to allow “ordinary people” to have a say in its policy-making and candidate selection — as the American parties do in their primaries. The hidden agenda here is decreasing the influence of the unions within the party.
Currently the unions, who provide all the funds for the party, have one third of the voting power in a college system that also gives a third of the power to constituency parties and the other third to the parliamentary party.
Of all those, it is the unions who represent the widest spectrum of “ordinary people”. Hundreds of thousands of union members voluntarily pay their political levy to support the Labour Party. Their elected representatives have regular union conferences where all the major issues are debated and voted on. It is a far more democratic system of exercising the influence of the masses on the leadership than the American primaries — where people who are open enemies of a party could vote on its policies and candidates.
The only qualification is that they have to be union members — in other words workers — creators of the wealth that the capitalists, the international banks seem to think is theirs by right to accumulate and use to control the world.
These workers deserve jobs with decent wages, homes, healthcare, education, leisure, culture and a healthy and protected environment but they are about to get all these things cut and taken away from them because of the greed and short-sightedness of the bankers.
The contending Labour leaders are not socialists and they are not going to produce pro-working class policies except under extreme pressure from the unions and the constituencies.
The Lib-Con-Dem coalition is trying to change the parliamentary rules to make it harder to throw it out but the cracks are already starting to show. The next election may not be far away and the left labour movement is already preparing to fight it.
But elections are not the only arena of the class struggle. Every trade union dispute, every local community campaign, every political paper sold on the street, every political demonstration and every refusal to toe the bosses’ line is a skirmish in the class struggle. And every defeat of right-wing ideas in union and party branches or anywhere workers meet and talk is a step forward to the day when the workers will sweep this corrupt bourgeois state machinery and its sham democracy away and build a workers’ democracy.