Posts Tagged ‘Alex White’

The 1980s were a tragedy for Labour, but this decade is turning into a farce

02/07/2015, 12:14:07 PM

by Alex White

Two things happened in the Labour party recently which managed to make me sympathetic to things said by both Karl Marx and Neil Kinnock, which is no mean feat.

First, a group of left Labour MPs did what groups of left Labour MPs are reduced to now: they wrote a letter calling for the cancellation of Greek debt, which is one step up on the ladder of Parliamentary left-wing activism from signing an Early Day Motion.

Letters do not generally cause me distress, but letters telling the country that a group of Labour MPs want to let another country abdicate its fiscal responsibility, when our own party has lost two elections weighed down by perceptions of our own fiscal irresponsibility, are definitely a bad thing.

Second, at the Unions Together hustings for the Labour leadership earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn rallied passionately on the topics of Hugo Chavez, Greece, Colombian trade unionists, Greece again, TTIP, how the bad outweighed the good done by the last Labour government, and occasionally the Conservative Party.

Marx was wrong about a lot of things but he had a good turn of phrase, particularly when he said of a dying regime that it ‘only imagines that it still believes in itself and asks the world to share in its fantasy’.

The same is true of the Labour left who are rallying not just around Corbyn but against any attempt to make Labour electable. They would have you believe that the more you wrap their language around you – anti-austerity, public ownership, industrial action, alternative economic strategies – the more you are on the side of working people.


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Labour’s new revisionists will lead the revival

31/05/2015, 12:15:20 PM

by Alex White

The Labour Party is ‘travelling in strange country, exposed to climatic rigours it had not anticipated and against which its traditional equipment gave little protection’.

It is a damning indictment of Labour’s comfort zone tendency that Richard Crossman’s contribution to the 1952 New Fabian Essays, which he edited, would make a good summary of the party’s current situation.

Crossman was not a revisionist, but the essays he edited are home to the first serious collection of modern revisionist thought; the tradition which would – by way of a titanic struggle between Hugh Gaitskell and Aneurin Bevan – find its strongest voice in Anthony Crosland and its strongest actor in Tony Blair.

Labour Kremlinologists and historians with an eye on the symbolism of Gaitskell versus Bevan may attempt to see something similar in the battle between Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall. It is no coincidence that Kendall’s ‘what matters is what works’ line is the most articulate understanding of revisionism since Crosland’s writing on the distinction between ends and means.

A revisionist has one purpose: rethink the role of the state (the means) to build a more equal society (the ends).

To call this Tory-lite is a lazy attack with an even lazier understanding of Labour history, with the disastrous consequence of surrendering ground to the Conservatives. As Adrian McMenamin highlighted recently on Uncut, revisionism is a movement far wider and richer in history than those who use the Blairite label as an insult understand. It found its way to the 21st century from Eduard Bernstein’s repudiation of Karl Marx and R.H Tawney’s seminal text on equality, via the brave but unfulfilled leaderships of Gaitskell and Neil Kinnock.


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Four ways Labour can step up a gear

01/06/2012, 02:53:23 PM

by Richard Angell and Alex White

So now we know: the Labour party fightback is winning arguments and elections, and we have the hardest-working and most committed activists. A total of 824 councillors gained in last month’s local elections is the best of starts.

But there is still room for improvement. Ed Miliband’s speech to the Progress conference outlined a desire to change and a plan to get out and speak to voters. He should carry that through with other measures while the party is doing well – sitting back is not an option.

Next year we do it all over again for the county council elections, and Ed has the perfect opportunity to really strengthen his hand. Here are five ideas for aiding that step-change in those results and putting us on track for 2015.

1. Start campaigning early

First, we need to be clear about the battleground. The leader’s office has a clear role to play in setting this focus.  It should distribute a list of PPCS who have already been selected to all MPs (policy advisers, party affiliates and friendly groups might also be included). Our parliamentarians and shadow cabinet should then focus should on organising campaigning and policy visits, helping with fundraising and organise phonebanking and other acts of solidarity from their own area.

In the seat where we already have Labour candidates fighting in a sea of blue, they need all hands on deck. Second, a list of swing marginals should be drawn up so MPs can get deep into Tory territory and start winning these constituencies before we even have a candidate in place. Each seat should have a detailed plan for funding, campaign days and staff. Labour groups such as Progress, Movement for Change and the Fabians could be helpful additions to capacity on the ground.

2. Twin boroughs and sitting MPs with key southern and eastern seats

Second, considering all the support that was focused on London for the 2012 mayoralty, in 2013 – a fallow election year in London – those 32 London borough parties should be twinned with each of the 35 south-eastern, south-western and eastern seats we lost in 2010. All of this with the sole focus of winning back much-needed county council seats in marginals that will decide who is in government after 2015.


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