Just read…. A Party With Socialists In It: A History of the Labour Left

A Party With Socialists In It: A History of the Labour Left

by Simon Hannah Pluto Press 2018

Reading Hannah’s history of the Labour Left leaves the question: why are they in it?

A good romp through aspects of Labour Party history with perhaps not enough discussion of the myriad leftist cuckoos working inside a party that doesn’t consider itself a socialist party but more a broad church who will tolerate a socialist fringe.

Having recounted the sorry history of the perpetual conflict with their colleagues, they “deemed on the right”, and more than once illustrating the accommodationist DNA of a movement that accepts basic capitalist thinking and strategies and sees the state as neutral, there is  the trimming, always by the Left, to support an organisation whose dominant leaders would rather see it fail that be elected on a reformist social democratic “Left” platform. Somehow repeatedly experiencing this and still seeing a vehicle for advance is indeed an act of pure optimism, a sisyphean achievement thriving in the inch of space sustained in a party that sees labour cuts as morally better than any others wielding parliamentary power .


The book itself describes how the pattern for Labour to adopt a leftist hue in opposition – although never true of Blair – with predictable softening and “integrationist” policies prevailing. The essentially defensive nature of Labour politics is not a New Jerusalem but, at best, a fairer caring version of what we have. In itself not a bad aim, but let’s not mistake it for anything more than that.

Surely it is marketing hype to believe that:

“The greatest challenge to the left still lies ahead – will it transform society or be seduced and integrated back into the status quo?  Blair was right about one thing:  the class compromise on which Labour was founded in 1900 is increasingly unsustainable; that is why political polarisation is happening inside Labour, in the wider society and across the world. What is clear is that for the first time in a generation, there is an alternative.”

There are always alternatives if the consequences are borne, but it takes an act of political amnesia to think Labour Party is a solution.


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