For a democratic Labour Party

THE RIGHT-WING Labour leadership is now in the throes of full blown panic and trying to rewrite its own constitution while in the middle of its leadership election as it begins to dawn on the leaders just how fragile their hold on the party is once the masses of the working class in Britain has been given the chance to take it back into working class control.

The Labour Party has always been a mass party encompassing a very wide political spectrum, and although in theory a democratic centralist party it has always tolerated factions. Every now and again it would purge its left and Trotskyite enterists.

Though it was founded by the trade unions to give the working class its own voice within Parliament, the Parliamentary Party leadership has been dominated by the middle class intelligentsia since the days of Ramsay McDonald.

But the working class element within the party remained strong, with figures like Aneurin Bevan and even Harold Wilson who gave it credibility among the working class.

Harold Wilson when Prime Minister was regarded as right-wing by the youth of the Labour Party. Nevertheless he was left-wing and pro-trade union enough to raise concerns within the ruling class — who regarded him as a puppet of Moscow — and there were serious plots to discredit and undermine his government. They were especially worried when he was re-elected after the mid-70s miners’ strike brought down the Edward Heath government.

The ruling class press painted a picture of Britain in the late 70s as in crisis, with endless strikes — which focussed on uncollected household rubbish and a brief strike by undertakers. Ever since they have portrayed these years as some kind of hell.

In reality wages were rising, working class living standards were rising and there was close to full employment.

The ruling class retaliated with Thatcherism and such a blistering media attack on the new brief Left Labour leadership of Michael Foot, who was also described as a “Moscow agent”.

Their allies inside the Labour leadership then steered the party steadily to the right in the wake of the Thatcherite attack on trade unions and working class living standards — through Neil Kinnock, John Smith and finally to Tony Blair, an open admirer of Thatcher. He treated the unions with contempt and was afraid to address working class people face-to-face.

He also restructured the Labour Party, taking power way from the annual delegate conference and filling the party with politically naïve “aspirational” yuppies. There was no more pretence at democratic centralism; the party was run by committees of internal careerist apparatchiks. Blair won the 1997 general election by a landslide — because the people of Britain were so thoroughly fed up with the selfish and corrupt Tory government. And he went on to win another two general elections because the memory of the Tory “Nasty Party” was still strong in people’s minds.

The Blairite “New Labour” yuppies dominated the leadership and worked to drive out all others, claiming Blair’s election results validated his claims that the only way to win an election was to be more Thatcherite than Thatcher.

Blair never even attempted to restore trade union rights so throughout his period in power the value of wages fell. Workers were encouraged by the banks to compensate by borrowing to the hilt so the full impact of the lowering of wages was postponed to the great financial crash of 2008.

When the Tories were re-elected in 2010 the crash gave them the excuse to impose a monstrous austerity regime that has torn our hard-won state welfare system to shreds, and it is going to get worse.Since Blair took charge of the Labour Party the voice of the working class in Parliament has been silenced except for a dwindling handful of honest Left Labour MPs.

The Blairites thought they were so secure they could tolerate allowing Jeremy Corbyn, one of these honest Left Labour MPs, on to the new leadership ballot “for the sake of an open debate” — or for a laugh.

But by doing so they allowed a genuine working class voice to be heard and hundreds of thousands of increasingly oppressed workers are responding, hopes have been raised, the apathetic and the disillusioned re-awakened and we now have a better chance of a genuine Left prime minister in a few years’ time than we have had for nearly a century. It shows how quickly things can turn when an increasingly angry but gagged working class finds its voice.

Then the class war will really begin.