Editorial: Ken Livingstone/Paul Foot – Dream Ticket?

Ken Livingstone has taken on the Labour machine. He wants to be mayor instead of Blair’s poodle, Dobson. Journalist and SWPer Paul Foot is heading a list of candidates for the assembly calling itself the “London Socialist Alliance” which is supporting Livingstone. “Vote Livingstone, Vote LSA” is their slogan.

Well, should we? That depends on what you want. If you want to elect an old-fashioned Labourite politician to run the administrative side of capitalism in London—or if you want the mayor of London to speak with a London accent—or if you want to protest at Blair’s control-freakery—go ahead. But if you want Socialism, stop and think it through. Livingstone as mayor with Foot as leader of the assembly is an intriguing prospect, but how would this advance the cause of Socialism?

Livingstone has been a lifelong member of the Labour Party and still regards himself as a Labour man temporarily separated from the fold. He is not a socialist unless you think that nationalisation under a Labour government is an example of Socialism (in fact, it’s state capitalism).

In any event, he is not standing as a “Socialist”, but as a politician promising to make things better for London people under capitalism—”Vote London” is his campaign slogan. But anyone who knows how the profit system works knows this can’t be done. It doesn’t matter how sincere or competent or determined a politician is they can’t make capitalism work other than as a system that gives priority to profit-making. All governments that have spoken about putting needs before profits have failed. So will Livingstone. This is not a reflection on him personally but on capitalism as a system.

Paul Foot and his “London Socialist Alliance” aren’t standing on a socialist programme either. They are not standing for the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production for use not profit. All they are doing is offering a collection of attractive-sounding reforms to be achieved within capitalism: “a £7 billion increase in NHS spending”, “a 35 hour week without loss of pay”, “a minimum wage of at least £7 an hour”.

Nice if you could get them, but you can’t. They’re just empty promises. Vote-catching bait. These days capitalism can’t deliver reforms. Nor can Foot and his friends any more than Livingstone or Blair or anyone else.

So what to do? Leave Livingstone to fight it out with the other professional politicians. And if you want to vote for Socialism, do this by writing “WORLD SOCIALISM” across your ballot paper.

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