Monday, May 08, 2006

Why I am not in the Labour party

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Sorry for the absence.

Anyway, I was contesting Clapham Town ward in Lambeth for the Socialist Party over the last couple of weeks - part of an experiment to see if we could establish a base through a bit of persistance - I actually trebled my vote to 39 this time, so perhaps there is an effect. [/irony]

The count was cliche central - the Tories were 'orrible creasy overly clean shaven and plummy accented - the greens all wore green and beige, and the lib-dems had horns, tails and smelled of sulpher, and kept munching on boil in the bag babies.

I've already discussed here the amount of time and effort that goes into the election count, and it is a massive process to behold. Interesting also is the number of bloc voters. We'd contested a full slate to see how many people would plump entirely for us - we counted 11 before we left at two in the morning (I've been struggling with a dreaded lurgi that's left me speechless for most of the weekend). The bloc voters for the Labour and Tories, though, streamed in by the hundred.

To reiterate a point I've made here before, we must never underestimate the persistant, consistant, clear and conscious support that so many people give to the main parties and capitalism, we cannot simply brush it aside as false consciousness.

Anyway, back to the title of this post - I was reminded that basically I got on better by just a way of fond memory, perhaps, with the Labour candidates. Just as the Despairate duo have announced why they are not in the SWP, I thought I should explain why I'm not in Labour.

After all, when I survey the landscape of parties outside the SPGB, it's the only one I could ever think of going (back) to. The argument that it is where the bulk of the working class are is persuasive. That at least under machiavellian guise it has advanced a few working class causes whilst in power is too. That it is a broad church and I'd be able to argue my case there, likewise.

The decision, it seems to me, rests on whether I privilege ideological agreement over a sort of social alignment. The fruits of joining and not joining are, at the moment, the same, I wouldn't get any of the policies I want. I might be able to work my way into a position of being able to practically help - in the here and now - but only by comprimising heavilly.

I am not of the utter No reforms! of the SPGB - I joined for its emphasis on inetrnal democracy and because of my lingering Bennite belief that unless you address the fundamental balaance of social power any changes Labour makes will be merely insergent raids on the bastion of entrenched plutocracy.

Being able to make a clear distinction and position suggests I should continue to prefer ideological agreement over practical alignment - but I am not a sectarian drone, I am simply throwing my political energy behind the best available means I can see of advancing my politics.


Blogger gray said...


that is a misleading comment. "No reforms!" has never been the position of the SPGB. The opposition has always been to reformism (e.g. the Labour Party) and not reforms per se that might actually - all things being equal - assist the working class.

The "No Reforms!" bit was of course manifested by the WB of Upton affair back in the 1910s.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Bill said...


there have been members who have taken the stand against reformism as being the raison d'etre |(or reason for being, as the French would say) of the party. All I was saying was that that kind of purism/oppotiionalism isn't my bag.

9:36 AM  
Blogger DespairToWhere said...

Good post Bill. I wonder what the horrible plummy Tories made of you: you do look a bit like Raskolnikov. (A great look, I hasten to add!)

12:48 PM  
Blogger Darren said...

Nice post, Bill and congrats on the election campaign.

I agree with you on the bit about why one is a member of the SPGB. Though cowards sniff and traitors sneer (sorry, I'm listening to Dick Gaughan and Billy Bragg singing 'The Red Flag' whilst writing this), it is because I consider that the SPGB is a broad church of sorts, and because I think that the questions it raises will need to be addressed if and when there is a sizeable working class movement of and for itself out there, that I continue to be an active socialist.

Burning question of the day, though. How come cde Lambert got 23 more votes than the next socialist candidate? ;-)

5:28 PM  
Blogger DespairToWhere said...

Hi Darren,
What you say reminds me very much of what Paul Foot used to say about being in the SWP. The same argument could of course be advanced for being in any group. Where you and Paul Foot go wrong is in implying that socialists not in any group are not "active".

12:06 PM  
Blogger Darren said...


I wasn't implying anything about anyone else. I was only referring to myself, and explaining why I continue to be active in the fashion that I do.

all the best,

2:14 PM  

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