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17 April 2013

The lost tribes of British politics – day 3: the Labour left and the palaeo-socialists

5. The Labour Left

Just because New Labour is done for it doesn’t mean that Old Labour is back in the game. That much was made clear when the Labour left tried to organise a challenge to Gordon Brown’s coronation in 2007 – but couldn’t even get enough nominations to force an election.

You might think that Labour doesn’t need a left: it’s mainstream is quite capable of bankrupting Britain on its own. But, to be fair, there is a sizeable chunk of non-totalitarian territory between, say, Ed Balls and outright Communism.

Tribune magazine is the traditional standard bearer – but, more recently, the Labour Left has been enlivened by sparky young writers like Owen Jones and Laurie Penny. Furthermore, thanks to campaign groups like the Occupy and 38 Degrees, proper pinkoes (as opposed to duller Brownites) haven’t had it this good for a long time.

And yet, despite today’s crisis of capitalism, Britain remains indifferent to the charms of full-blooded socialism. Unlike the situation on the continent, where parties of the left compete with those of the centre-left, the Labour Party – outside of the political micro-climates of Brighton, Bradford and Tower Hamlets – has the red corner all to itself.

Furthermore, within the Labour Party, there’s no challenge to the ruling faction. The heirs of Gordon Brown have nothing to fear from the heirs of Tony Benn.

Come on lefties, sort it out!

Score card:

Intellectual inheritance: 2/5

Past glories: 3/5

Online presence: 3/5

Future prospects: 2/5


6. The palaeo-socialists

For curiosity value, it may be worth mentioning a heretical offshoot of the left – which, for the sake of a name, we’ll call palaeo-socialism (we’ll come on to palaeo-conservatism later in the week).

 If nothing else, this provides an example of how the internet can provide obscure political ideologies with a voice that otherwise wouldn’t be heard. In an admittedly restricted field, the premier palaeo-socialist blog is that of Neil Clark – sworn enemy of the liberal interventionists (featured yesterday).

Much of the left is too hypocritcal and cowardly to stand up for liberal values, but not the palaeo-socialists. No, they openly and defiantly take a stand against such values – seeing them as the problem. So no compromise with capitalism, indeed no truck with liberalism of any kind – including social liberalism and liberal interventionism in foreign policy.

Though, palaeo-socialism is very much a minority pursuit in this country, its combination the undiluted economic and social illiberalism represents the political mainstream in many parts of the world – though nowhere you’d actually want to live.

Score card:

Intellectual inheritance: 1/5

Past glories: 0/5

Online presence: 2/5

Future prospects: 1/5


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