Editorial: Doctor Smith Operates
As Leaders go John Smith is something of a novelty. He did not campaign for the leadership as the darling of the left and then outrage his supporters by revealing himself as a man of the right.
His appeal was of a different kind. He studiously avoided any ideological commitment apart from vague phrases about a juster and more caring society. His promise was to be a shrewd and prudent managing director for British Capitalism plc. The implication was clear. This is a man you can trust. He will look after you like your family doctor. After the hysterical abrasive raving of Neil Kinnock some Labour supporters might have found relief in John Smith’s more comforting message.
It was all of a piece, that Smith’s election to the Labour leadership should be so blatantly and determinedly stage-managed. There was in fact no contest worth the name. It was a fix-up. Punch-drunk though they were over their fourth consecutive election defeat, some Labour Party members still had enough energy to have doubts about Smith’s leadership and about how he got the job.
So it should have surprised nobody, when Smith declared that nothing would be exempt from his desire to revise Labour’s policies. What Labour used to regard as its principles no longer exist. Everything they say and do must conform to two standards of judgement: Os it in the interest of British capitalism? Does it win or lose votes?
If this means disregarding everything the party has stood for, so be it. If it means an open admission that Labour is the Tory Party with a different emblem and different coloured rosettes, that is a price worth paying. If it means losing a few voters who believed however half-heartedly that Labour stood for a different social system—well, what party aiming at power over British capitalism needs such thorns in its electoral side anyway?
What Smith is doing is but the latest episode in Labour’s drive to become a natural party of government whose only principle is to get into power. At times they have justified this on the grounds that they will run capitalism more efficiently and more humanely than the Tories. Smith has made it clear that even that excuse can no longer be used.
So what about all those people who want to contribute to the establishment of a new and better society and who have worked and voted for the Labour Party in the belief that this would bring it nearer? Many of them must be in despair, bitter and angry at what they see as the betrayal of their party.
But it need not be all loss. A society of common ownership, democratic control and production for need not profit remains worth struggling for. To do this people need to organise politically—not in the Labour Party. Labour has never been a socialist organisation and now more than ever is unworthy of anything other than working class hostility and contempt.
What is needed is a party that stands for socialism and which sticks to its socialist principles. We consider our record over the years shows us to be such a party. If you want socialism your place is in the Socialist Party.