I am a socialist. I am a member of the Labour Party. The two in recent years haven’t been always compatible.
I am a believer in the needs of the many are best served by collective action not by a benevolent or no so benevolent few. Those few with wealth, power and influence all too often act to better the interests of the few.
In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person–Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates–ask them five questions: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.
Extract from Tony Benn’s final speech to the House of Parliament.
The party I support and will fight to re elect was founded on the principles of fairness and equality. It fought for those rights and the representation of those rights. It recognised that the working man/woman contributed to the success of a society and should be valued for their contribution. Somewhere along the road to fairness and equality however, self interest and greed have crept in. The party has been scared into believing the only way to gain power is by moving towards the right of the political centre ground.
This in my belief puts its socialist principles to one side. You either create a society that works together for the benefit of all or you accept a society that works for the few and benefits only those who can afford to live within it. The rise of nationalism in the UK is no coincidence especially when it rises following an economic crisis. A crisis created by greed and market economics not government incompetence. The fear of the immigrant, the alienation of the poor and the lie that we are all in this mess together are all false. These lies were peddled successfully in May this year and led to the return of a Conservative government. This election victory has torn the Labour party wide open and a leadership contest is now under way.
The candidates shy away from talking about socialism. They prefer to look towards the pro conservative centre ground. They don’t want to promote the principles of true socialism for fear of ridicule from the press. The press owned by a right wing few who would certainly fail Tony Benn’s five democratic questions.
Why choose to adopt a more left wing approach? The economic option is to me very straightforward. We create wealth not through the financial markets who are not accountable to anyone other than city regulators and their investors. We generate wealth through public investment. We improve the infrastructure, the public services and in turn create jobs. These jobs then generate tax revenue which is available to the government to invest for the benefit of all. Taxation rates for those most able to pay them should be raised so they contribute more fairly to the creation of a wealthier and healthier society. The more people that are employed, the less benefits are paid out. An economy that works only works if the vast majority of working age are actually working!
The Conservatives would suggest this is madness and would only increase the national debt to unmanageable levels. However despite five years of austerity under a Conservative coalition, the debt has risen not fallen. Suffering for those least able to withstand it has increased proportionate with the rise of living standards for the top 1% of society. This is the politics of greed and capitalism that millions voted to support. Millions of voters that included those most likely to suffer from another five years of austerity.
Yet we in the Labour party put forward candidates not to challenge this concept. We talk of fairness yet embrace free market economics. We talk of equality yet extol the virtues of choice and embracing the private business community. Business exists to make money for its investors not for the betterment of society. Global corporations will tell you how ethical and socially aware they are, whilst at the same time avoiding tax obligations and exploitation of workers on the third world.
There is a small but gradually increasing rise of socialist left of centre politics in the world. Several countries in South America and Europe are beginning to wonder if the global financial markets and their brand of economics is the only way. We in this country, could be part of this. We could have the courage to work for the benefit of the many instead of the betterment of the few as we appear to be doing currently.
These are not old fashioned out dated beliefs. These do not threaten to destabilise the world economies. They suggest that by working to create wealth for all rather than the few is ultimately a better long term solution. To not be afraid to stand up and say I am a socialist. I believe that we work better when we work together. We show our humanity not in charity. Dignity and social cohesion works when we all work together for the benefit of us all.
You can choose to have foreign holidays, second properties abroad, a new car every two years. I don’t expect you to forego those lifestyle choices. I expect you to contribute to the principle of enabling everyone to have that ability. Socialism isn’t the politics of envy. Socialists should promote equality for all. I believe the 1% should learn to contribute to the 99%.
Since writing this post, the Labour Party has finally found a candidate that may share the principles that I spoke of in my article.
He entered the leadership race to offer an alternative to watered down Conservative policies extolled by the New Labour acolytes in the contest. The movement for change has grown with him and he has become the frontrunner in the race.
Jeremy Corbyn in my opinion, offers a real chance for our party and country. He is prepared to look at addressing the complex issues our country faces whilst sticking to his socialist principles. He is forward thinking not trapped in the free market politics of Thatcherism so admired by current Conservatives and Blairites alike. Good luck to him and let’s hope we have finally found a true opponent of austerity with a vision of a better, fairer country for all.