12/10/2013 by socialistfight
One Nation paternalism is no opposition
to aristocratic Tory privilege
Benjamin Disraeli published Sybil, or The Two Nations in 1845, the same year as Friedrich Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England. The Tory grandee of Jewish origins (the first ‘selfmade’, non-aristocratic Tory man of the Ted Heath genre) had been terrified by revolutionary Chartism and the 1839 Newport uprising and feared, like Cecil Rhodes, that unless the horrific conditions of the working class were alleviated there would be revolution in Britain. Disraeli’s and Rhodes’ solution was to grant minor concessions to workers and step up the extraction of super-profits from the colonies, particularly from India and Africa. Queen Victoria was crowned the Empress of India in 1976, the “jewel in the crown”. To get a flavour of those days look at that appalling Imperialist monstrosity, the Albert Memorial, opposite the Royal Albert Hall.
In this tradition Ed Miliband seeks to ensconce himself. Disraeli’s and Miliband’s One Nation come from noblesse oblige, a feudal obligation on the aristocracy to be paternalistic to the poor in the interests of maintaining their own privileges. Thus Disraeli outmanoeuvred the landed aristocracy represented by the two times Whig/Liberal prime minister Earl Russell. One Nation is promoted to take class out of politics and portray the enemy as the heartless new right Tory aristocratic elite of the millionaire Bullingdon Club of the likes of Cameron, Osborne and Johnson and not capitalism itself. But the resistance of the Syrian National Army has temporarily thwarted Imperialism’s war aims for the extraction of more super-profits from the semi-colonial masses—so even more must be extracted from the metropolitan working class.
Austerity in Britain has shown that there are two irreconcilable classes facing each other, the working class and the ruling class and not the ‘One Nation’ Ed Miliband aspires to. In recent months Ed Miliband has made much of this ‘One Nation’ theme speaking at the TUC Congress in Bournemouth and the Labour party Conference in Brighton. Of course he forgets the history of the Labour party and pleads with Cameron that if only they took up his idea of ‘One Nation’ Toryism everything would be much better under capitalism.
But the developing capitalist crisis is reflected in the continuing attacks on the working class, as a class, whether it be over the bedroom tax, the benefit cap or zero hour contracts. The working class in Britain is showing its revolutionary capacity to fight against these attacks. The national demonstration in defence of the NHS in Manchester outside the Tory conference on 29 September attracted 55,000 workers and their families, with a high proportion of women who make up the majority of NHS workers. This demonstration was organised by the TUC and had very little political content, as the TUC and Miliband indicated they wished in line with One Nationism. There were very few political banners on the demonstration, as the far left entered into the spirit of the day. The only political banners on show were the Green party, one from the Ipswich Socialist Workers party, one hanging from railings from the Socialist party and a couple from local Labour parties.
It was a Grand Old Duke of York march which led us round Manchester to listen to a few speeches from trade union bureaucrats and Andy Burnham, Shadow Secretary of State for Health. Socialist Fight comrades were remiss in not having a banner. It is necessary in this period to be conscious if we are to fight for revolutionary leadership in the working class.
Miliband saw the opposition to bombing Syria and knew this was an opportunity to shaft Cameron, which he did, with dire repercussions for Obama also in the US. This further enhanced that mood and encouraged Miliband to make those promises at the Labour party conference. Inadequate and minimal as they were, they outraged The Daily Mail (Trotsky dubbed it “one of the most villainous papers in the world”) who went for him. This presented Miliband with a further opportunity to attack the Mail, which he did and drew widespread support across the political spectrum, including liberal Tories. The Mail has clearly suffered a bloody nose in this confrontation. This further enhanced his electoral prospects for 2015.
That is why his election as leader was so strongly opposed and why the right wing press like The Mail have been gunning for him. Miliband has sacked the most odious of Blairites, Liam Byrne and Stephen Twigg, from his shadow cabinet and demoting Jim Murphy whilst promoting former Brownite MPs in another indication of his determination to win the election by taking risks. In 2012 Len McCluskey demanded he sack all three or they would “consign the party to the dustbin of history”.
Miliband knows that he must raise workers’ expectations somewhat to get elected. But this is a dangerous game. If expectations are raised too far then the backlash of disappointed workers in strike struggles and riots may be unmanageable. Tony Blair knew this in 1997. Centrally located to lead this backlash down the diversionary path of Europhobia and British Jobs for British Workers is Bob Crow and the RMT’s political front No to EU with its backers in the Socialist party. The 400 odd dead of the Lampedusa tragedy on 3 October are an indication of where all that is going in the hands of the capitalist state and the far right. Bob plays a dangerous game with his “UKIP of the left” here too.
Both Miliband and Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, are seasoned capitalist politicians and remains reformist in character. They have stated that zero hour contracts and abolishing the Bedroom Tax will only be achieved if the economy can afford it under a Labour Government. Ed Balls has said that he would change very little in trying to balance the books in a future Labour administration. Comrades who do not follow the dialectical development of how or why Miliband is moving slightly to the left will be unable to grasp these minute but important developments.
Miliband remains an upholder of capitalism but the crisis of capitalism and the movement of the working class will force him into actions that he does not want to take. He is still determined to break the link between the trade unions and the Labour party and is aided in this process by Len McCluskey, the most opportunist of trade union leaders today. Trotsky defined the technical division of social democracy between ‘The Labour party leadership and the trade union bureaucracy’.
These developments must be studied closely by Marxists. Socialist Fight will continue to fight for in the Labour Representation Committee and everywhere else for a revolutionary alternative to reformism. We will continue to recruit and train the best cadres to Trotskyism.