It’s been a week now since the Labour Party Conference 2016 and I am still unclear about what Socialism for the 21st Century actually means. Socialism for the 21st Century is more than just this Sound Bite and Socialism is not just about being nice to everybody Mr Corbyn: it’s a system of Economics. Socialism does have the end result of being nicer and a whole lot fairer than Capitalism but that is only as a result of having real socialist policies to back it up. I just get the feeling that Mr Corbyn’s interpretation of Socialism is just the end result without implementing the system to actually make it happen. Up to now and perhaps for sometime to come I will continue to support Mr Corbyn as the most viable left-wing candidate but my support is not blind and there are limits. For me the limit is when I think and believe that Mr Corbyn cannot deliver a proper version of Socialism for the Labour Party backed up by an economic strategy to match the ideology. That time is getting close with this new development and lack of understanding shown by Mr Corbyn and his team who seem to have resorted to dropping in Sound Bites instead of real policy.
Is Mr Corbyn’s idea of Socialism just another Blair Style interpretation?
Mr Corbyn needs to understand that he cannot have the ideology and ambitions of Socialism without having some resemblance to an economic and fiscal policy that resembles in some way the ideas of Sidney Webb who introduced the concept of socialism to the Labour Party with an introduction of Clause IV as a part of its Constitution. It was only at this point that the Labour Movement actually became a Socialist Movement. Recent Labour Party administrations have attempted to retain the ideology of socialism and abandon the commitment to Clause IV and it’s economic and fiscal systems which it implies. Most notably Tony Blair but what you got in return was a watered down version of Socialism with an unstable fiscal policy and economic approach. This smoke and mirrors approach to Socialism is no longer viable because more often than not it ends up with a government which has lofty ambitions and ideals without any means to fund it’s ambitions. This, as we saw in the case of Blair / Brown, led to out of control public borrowing which eventually leads to a form of bankruptcy.
So is Mr Corbyn attempting the same smoke and mirrors kind of deception? It would seem that to remain in place as Leader he has had to give into certain demands amongst the membership to make concessions to the left-wing of the Labour Party and he will be well aware that there is currently a demand to see a more socialist style Labour Party. However what is unclear is how Mr Corbyn intends to satisfy these demands or whether he is attempting some smoke and mirrors style trickery to merely appease his supporters on the left-wing of the Party. Is Mr Corbyn himself attempting some new re-interpretation of Sidney Webb’s doctrine in relation to Clause IV and what it represents? As yet this is unclear but all we have really received from Mr Corbyn and his team are Sound Bites. There has been a suggestion of some notion of Socialism for the 21st Century and this seems to have been adopted as some sort of Campaign Slogan or Mantra. But what does it actually mean?
This has not been made clear to us as yet so we do not know what we are supporting or whether the Cause is a valid Cause or not. Yes I get the ideology that being nice is the best strategy but what I am not clear about is how he intends to be nice and attain this socialist ideology. What I am aware of though is that a Socialist Ideology can only be realised if it is underpinned by a commitment to and implementation of Socialist Fiscal Policies and a proper Socialist Economic Model. This could only be found under Sidney Webb’s interpretation of Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution. So far there has been no such statement regarding any commitment to such economic principles forthcoming from Mr Corbyn nor his Shadow Chancellor Mr McDonnell.
During the most recent Leadership Contest neither Mr Corbyn nor Mr Owen Smith gave any clear indications about where they stood in relation to the Original Version of Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution. Although both sought to get votes from the left of the Party by referring to it in some unclear Sound Bites. Neither outlined a strong commitment to press ahead a case for it’s re-instatement in it’s original form. Mr Smith suggested that he would like to re-interpret it but that proved to be unpalatable since the same thing happened under Blair which can only now be viewed as the Labour Movement’s biggest mistake. Mr Corbyn has referred to it and suggested that in part it is a good idea but I get the impression that he means the ideological part and not the hard economic and fiscal policies. Truth is that the Labour Party will not be able to convince anyone of their socialist credibility unless Clause IV is re-instated as it was originally meant to be: as an economic system that works to benefit all in society. Any re-interpretation is just Smoke and Mirrors trickery.
Out of the 2 Leadership Candidates the Party eventually supported and opted for Jeremy Corbyn. It was perhaps Mr Corbyn who came across as the most authentic socialist of the 2. He was, I suppose, more convincing and authentic with a longer legacy of Socialist Rhetoric than Mr Smith. However this does not mean that the Labour Party have chosen wisely because Mr Corbyn’s commitment to Clause IV still remains in doubt . His previous references to Clause IV could have been just a very calculated Sound Bite designed to sell him to the Left-wing of the Labour Party and made solely for the purpose of propelling him into the Leadership. Until the Labour Party can sort out where they stand as a Party in relation to Clause IV of their Constitution they have no right to claim to be a Socialist Labour Party nor will they be fit for Government. This is a sad state of affairs and as a Labour Party Supporter myself I am deeply saddened by this state of affairs. The truth is though that unless the Labour Party are willing to commit to and implement an economic model and fiscal policies based upon the doctrine of Sidney Webb then their attempts to install Socialism in any form will be futile. Socialist Ideology can only be put in place if it is supported by fiscal policies and an economic model which supports the Ideology. The Ideology is the end result not the beginning of the process. Socialism needs capital and this cannot come from Public Borrowing it needs to come from alternative Sources such as having some Nationalized Industries but most notably the Energy providers and the Railways. Having Public ownership of these industries raises capital for Government funded Projects, Local councils, local services such as police and NHS. the list goes on. Without this means of raising Capital, Public spending could only be funded through increased borrowing or raising Taxation levels neither of which would be popular or acceptable to the voting public.
What needs to be done before the Labour Party can make a claim to be Socialist Representatives
If the Labour Party actually wish to form a Socialist Government they must first seek a Mandate from the General Public to legislate for Ownership of the Energy Providers and the Railways. I have already discussed this in a previous Post entitled ‘Well Done to Mr McDonnell for daring to use the S Word’. In this post I discuss some ways in which a mandate to legislate for public ownership of these key industries could be sought from the General Public by offering a Brexit Style Referendum on this matter as a part of the Next Labour Party Manifesto. When and only when this mandate to legislate has been achieved can steps be taken towards moving the Labour Party towards being a Socialist Labour Party again with a set of Socialist Ideals and Values. The only other way to legitimately take ownership of these key industries would be to mount a legal challenge to challenge and reverse the policies of the Margaret Thatcher and the John Major administrations. This legal challenge might be based on the incompetence of her administration which led to the undervaluing of these key assets or that there was artificial manipulation of their true market values which was done outside of what was actually in the Public Interest. I have discussed this in another article entitled ‘Thatcher’s Snatch‘.
In the past we have seen Labour Governments being criticised for increasing deficits in spending. The reality is that this was inevitable to maintain the appearance that they were indeed socialist in some form. Because the Labour Party traditionally believe in funding the public sector in a real and necessary way then public spending budgets increased and this makes them very vulnerable to attack from Right-wing Parties like the Tories who are then able to call on the right wing press to help persuade public opinion that public spending is a burden. In many ways under Blair / Brown and Miliband’s interpretations of Socialism it can be a burden because the only means by which a non-true-socialist government can raise funds for public sector spending is by increasing the tax burden or as in the case of Ed Ball’s and Gordon Brown just ignore it and let the deficit increase. So is it any wonder that the Labour Party are now having a hard time convincing the electorate that they are again fit to govern and manage the Nation’s finances.
What can Corbyn achieve
No it’s not just about being nice to everybody, Socialism is a system of Economics and a set of Economic Principles that when employed correctly and interpreted correctly can result in a much better system of fairness for the majority of people and where people can benefit from an Economic System either directly or indirectly. If you implement socialism as it is intended to be implemented it will result in being nice to people, rewarding people and benefiting public services and social projects: in fact all the things that Mr Corbyn actually wants to happen. The problem with Mr Corbyn’s ideals are that he wants the end result but without proper implementation of the Economic System and principles. I get the feeling that Mr Corbyn’s idea about 21st Century Socialism still lie somewhere in the Blair/ Brown camp. Sticking with the Blair /Brown Model would raise fears amongst Voters that either Public borrowing would increase ( thus increasing the deficit) or fear that taxes would rise to fund public sector enterprises. Traditionally raising taxes has proved to be an unpopular vote losing strategy. However if capital cannot be obtained through public ownership of key industries then where is the money going to come from to fund Mr Corbyn’s Ideological Stance. Then he would have no other option available other than manage the economy in an Ed Balls Up kind of way. Increasing Public sector borrowing is also nowadays political suicide. Voters need more detail now and it is unlikely to vote for Mr Corbyn’s skeletal ideas unless he fleshes out his ideas which at present seem vague. The public will not be convinced that Labour is fit to manage the economy unless a clear plan and strategy is forthcoming and I can totally support this as well. So sound bites are not enough. So Mr Corbyn what exactly is your idea for 21 st century Socialism? When will Mr Corbyn be ready to give you a clear picture of his ideas about 21 st Century Socialism. He owes this much at least to the supporters who have followed him this far.
Socialism and Capitalist Ideologies in brief
For anyone that does not know Socialist is what the Labour Party used to be before Tony Blair got involved. Capitalism is what the Conservatives have always been and what the Labour Party have aspired to be since the 1990’s under the stewardship of Tony Blair. So you can see that no current British Political Party carries the Mantle of being socialist. Because there is so very little difference between the political parties this is why voting in elections has declined in popularity because whichever way you vote at the moment will result in very little political change.
Socialism is an Economic System designed to lower the burden on tax payers by having ownership of certain key industries such as the Energy Providers, Railways and Water Providers but has in the past been extended to British Steel, Coal and other manufacturing industries. The advantages of Socialism is that these key industries can provide a means of raising capital for public sector investments and services from which we all benefit from (Police, Fire, NHS, Education, Local Councils and their projects & responsibilities, Public Libraries etc the list goes on but you get my drift). Some of the Capital that these industries would generate would also go back into re-investment into these industries to help them grow and expand. The surplus would go back to Governments and hence to increase the National Reserve.
The basic idea of Socialism is to re-invest and redistribute the profits of nationalised industry back into society (amongst the people and for the people) and that’s how it Socialism works. This is in contrast to a Capitalist viewpoint and ideology whereby shareholders own these nationally important industries. Investment is by the shareholders or those that can afford to buy shares in these industries. This approach favours the wealthy in society those with some form of disposable income. The profits then get re-invested to expand and maintain the business structure then any extra profits are distributed amongst the shareholders. Shareholders are a smaller group than the whole of society. Socialism redistributes profits for the benefit of all but Capitalism makes profits for the benefits of a few wealthy shareholders. Capitalism has no interest in Public Sector Funding and will where possible hive off these concerns to local business to make profits for another small group of shareholders. Capitalism will not be comfortable funding social enterprise or Local Authority Councils.
The Labour Party have until recent times been a Socialist Style Party pursuing a Socialist Ideology. The Conservatives have always held on strongly to Capitalist theories and beliefs.
If the Labour Party is to succeed with a Socialist Model it must be willing to educate the Public on what is in their best interests
Labour need to learn a lesson in economics before it can move towards regaining it’s Socialist Credentials again. It is the fact that when Tony Blair dropped out of Labour’s commitment to Clause IV and it’s associated economics then it made any successive Labour Government un-viable because it became difficult or impossible to generate the amounts of money it needed to successfully fund it’s Government Spending Programme. As a result projects for the benefit of the Greater Community simply got watered down or abandoned. All it was left with as the only option to meet certain promises to improve standards in education, NHS etc was to increase public sector borrowing this would eventually lead to bankruptcy. The Labour Party need to re-assess its economic strategy. Socialism is not a keyword or a spin it’s an Economic System. It is perhaps the only viable option for the future of British Politics. It is not a failed model as Margaret Thatcher falsely made it out to be. Thatcher consistently ran down investment in these industries to make it appear so but this was merely Government manipulation.
Socialism is not an option that you can just dip in where you like and take it’s ideology without taking it’s economics. This what we saw from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. It is a huge disappointment that both Jeremy Corbyn and his challenger Owen Smith were pretty vague about where they stood economically in relation to Clause IV. Mr Corbyn having won the leadership election remains still vague on this issue but has managed to coin a very convenient Election Catchphrase ( Socialism for the 21st Century) without explaining its origin or substance. My feelings are that he owes the Labour Party and it’s supporters much more than this and he needs a lot more than a catchphrase to convince Voters about the viability of any prospective Labour Government in relation to managing the Economy. Jeremy Corbyn for all his previous Socialist Rhetoric should realise that Clause IV is clear and specific as it stands (Webb’s Version): it’s an economic principle that needs to be followed. Socialist Ideologies cannot be invoked or claimed without the true interpretation of Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution that which was founded by Sidney Webb. Clause IV cannot be re-interpreted for convenience sake as Blair attempted to do. You either adopt Clause IV or you don’t. If you do then you can make claim to be a Socialist Party. If you don’t then you can’t. It’s really that simple! Be honest about where you stand Mr Corbyn otherwise you may see your support ebb away!