Editorial – Neither Starmer nor Old Labour

After Keir Starmer had said in an interview with the BBC on 16 July that he didn’t object to being called a ‘fiscal conservative’ (presumably with a small ‘c’), Mick Lynch of the RMT commented on Sky News that ‘at the minute many people can’t spot the difference’ between Labour and the Conservatives’, but spoilt it by adding ‘and that’s a shame for somebody who’s probably as talented as Keir Starmer is’ and calling on him to ‘show that he’s on the side of working people.’ That would be difficult because he’s not on our side.

Lynch went on:

‘He should be saying something about workers’ rights. He should say stuff about the NHS, looking after people who are struggling in the housing market, council houses for the masses, controlling rents, addressing all sorts of stuff about what’s going to happen in the imbalance in our society. He’s not saying any of that. He won’t dare mention the word socialism’ (tinyurl.com/463ranbn).

Who does he think Starmer is? Jeremy Corbyn, the man Starmer stabbed in the back? Lynch is nostalgic for the Labour Party of yore – workers’ rights, council houses, rent control – but it’s a couple of generations since Labour advocated that sort of thing. That workers should want better conditions is normal but this was never going to come through the Labour Party; a little through trade unions perhaps but dependent on labour market conditions. The ‘imbalance’ between those who own and those who work is built into ‘our society’ and nothing can be done to reduce it. The whole basis of society needs to be changed from class to common ownership before production can be geared to meeting people’s needs properly.

The present ‘labour unrest’ is a reaction to rapidly rising prices putting pressure on workers’ living standards and so is essentially defensive, running fast to try to stand still. If it leads to a revival of a bit of class consciousness in some workers that can’t be bad, but defensive, trade union consciousness is not enough. What is required is the socialist consciousness that there is no solution under capitalism but only through socialism.

Lynch chides Starmer for not daring to mention the word socialism. It’s a good thing he doesn’t. We don’t want Labour leaders claiming to be socialist. The Labour Party doesn’t stand for socialism — everyone can see that now — but never did. It’s just another capitalist party and always has been, even in the pre-Blair days when it had a paper commitment to full-scale state capitalism (nationalisation). Which is probably Lynch’s idea of what socialism is.

The alternative to Starmer is not to go back to Old Labour and its reforms that didn’t work but forward to socialism where productive resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled so that they can be used to turn out what people want and need, instead of as now (and under Labour governments) to make profits for the few.

Next article: Pathfinders – Russian roulette ➤

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