Thursday, May 17, 2007

McDonnell should seize the moment

So it’s just not just the British monarchy that enshrines the feudal, hereditary principle of succession. New Labour has now joined the anti-democratic club by blocking the nomination of left-wing candidate John McDonnell and allowing Gordon Brown to be crowned Our Great Leader unchallenged. Even while the Brown camp were spinning the lie that they would love a contest, his supporters were arm twisting MPs thought to be backing McDonnell’s attempt to get on the ballot. Now the truth is plain for all to see: New Labour is a monolithic and intolerant party whose leadership is disinterested in debate and cares even less about the ideas of socialism that McDonnell embraces. As for those rank-and-file party members who supported McDonnell and wanted an open debate about the future, they were simply ignored by the New Labour bureaucracy who want a Brown coronation. They don’t count any more because New Labour doesn’t really want them in the party. That’s why half the membership has deserted the organisation in recent years, including many socialists. In transforming the organisation into New Labour, Brown and Blair have changed the face and character of the party from top to bottom. Constituency and conference democracy has long been suppressed while the policy agenda is firmly tied to support for market-led initiatives and for the globalised capitalist economy. Election procedures are designed to marginalise minority candidates to the point where this is the first time that someone has been "elected" leader without a formal left-wing challenge. The Parliamentary Labour Party like never before is dominated by men and women without principle or an interest in the history and traditions of the socialist and labour movement. Another crucial reason why McDonnell failed to get sufficient MPs to endorse his campaign is the fact that most trade union leaders lined up behind Brown and declined to call for an open contest.

The time is ripe to open up the widest discussion on how to construct an alternative to New Labour. Re-elected in 2005 by just one in four of registered voters, it has the support of even fewer now. The undermining of public services, authoritarian measures that sideline human rights and the illegal invasion of Iraq has eaten away at their base. Allegiance to Old Labour has not translated into support at any price for New Labour. McDonnell, despite his exclusion from the leadership contest, is in a strong position to lead a new movement. He has produced a
manifesto, Another World is Possible, which provides a comprehensive critique of New Labour and suggests some policies that look forward rather than back to a mythical "golden age" of Labour politics. He advocates an extension of democracy into the workplace and a new constitutional settlement that shifts power away from the transnational corporations and political elites. He concludes by saying: "Our aim must be to build a momentum that enables society to move from the profit-driven, market economy in the direction of this urgently needed democratic transformation. The disillusionment and disaffection with our existing political and economic set-up is self-evident. If we turn this frustration into positive, democratic aims and aspirations then we will surely succeed. Existing technology, science and resources have the potential to find answers to the most pressing problems confronting humanity if they are made to serve society rather than profit. To succeed our new agenda can and must bring together a new, wide ranging united front for change. This new movement has a vast resource of potential participants to mobilise into a force for change from above and below including community organisations, trade unions, environmental activists, those struggling for equal rights, human rights campaigners, the pensioners’ movement, students, young people, peace campaigners and the movements against global poverty and Third World debt."

The time to launch such a movement has arrived.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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