Opening Pandora’s Box. Austerity and Jeremy Corbyn
1. The Challenge
As a child I learned of honestly, fairness and justice, and I learned about socialism. These philosophies go hand-in-hand. But in my lifetime, The Labour Party I loved has become fearful of the truth, and has lost the trust of the electorate. Now, we are facing a leadership election, when for the first time in decades there is a real opportunity to change.
Recently, Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas said Jeremy Corbyn, standing as a candidate for Labour leadership was “exactly what Britain could do with” and he could inject common sense and values into the Labour Party. So it was reported in the Telegraph, where Syriza is referred to as “hard-left”, when in fact it is a moderate, democratic party, and rose to power by democratic means because the Greek electorate have been damaged by austerity.
Recent elections have not achieved the great change as in 1945 because of the establishment’s stranglehold. There are immense riches for some and yet the state’s responsibility to its ordinary citizens has been eroded, and today the welfare state, rather than an insurance against destitution is now being sold as a means of scrounging from others.
Solidarity, socialism, and neighbourliness, are words from the past which we are told was some far-left extremism and has no place in the future. That fear of being destitute, of being alone and helpless is a direct result of neoliberalism. Austerity, created by the IMF and described in the Zombie Economy was hatched seventy years ago in New Hampshire, has been pursued around the world ever since.
They have overseen the transfer of power from the State to the private institutions and corporations.
Ordinary people in the UK, as around the world know that austerity has failed, yet increasingly they feel that their votes will achieve nothing. What do they say to politicians who ask for their votes on the doorstep?
“There is no point in voting; they’re all the same.”
“They’re all in it for themselves.”
“They are all liars!”
“They only want to know at election time.”
“I like Labour, but we can’t trust you with the Economy.
“Too many immigrants taking our jobs.”
“I’m not interested in Politics.”
That may be a fair assessment of the situation from their view but I am filled with despair. The Labour Party’s recent abstentions on the Welfare Bill resulted in it being carried. Harriet Harman made a grave mistake, and the Labour Party let down the people, itself, and all those party members and voters who thought they were voting against the Tories in May. Why is this happening? Nothing will change until Austerity is challenged and the truth is out. No one is challenging it because of fear and disinformation.
2. 1983 Manifesto was too left wing
Labour’s 1983 Manifesto was not extremely Left Wing. Some examples include:
- In 1983 Labour promised to invest in homes, transport, new technologies and industry.
- It promised to work for equality, for women – equal pay, maternity pay and assistance for child care
- Planned for Investment in Education, and Provision for under-fives
- It proposed to improve the environment, to tackle pollution and to conserve energy.
- It planned initiatives to promote peace and development around the world, and to cancel Trident and not to co-operate with Cruise Missile deployment,
- Labour would have expanded services for social care and to reverse Tory cuts in the maternity grant.
- Begin a Strategy to Eliminate Low Pay.
- Open immediate negotiations with our EEC partners, and introduce the necessary legislation, to prepare for Britain’s withdrawal from the EEC, to be completed well within the lifetime of the Labour government.
- Rebuild British industry , and up these steps with a new National Investment Bank, new industrial powers, and a new Department for Economic and Industrial Planning.
Expanding on the details here show refreshing, positive policies describing a world I wished we could have seen. It was not this manifesto that led to Labour’s defeat in 1983. They called it the greatest suicide note in political history. It looks more like a survival note for a thriving society. Neil Clark in the Guardian, describes how that defeat determined how the resistance to neoliberalism crumbled.
“That moment in 1983 was the last great opportunity to derail the neoliberal bandwagon before it did lasting damage to the UK’s economic and social fabric. Labour’s emergency programme of action would have halted the de-industrialisation of Britain and removed the spectre of mass unemployment from the land. The re-imposition of exchange controls would have put a brake on the growing power of international finance; thanks to Thatcher’s deregulatory measures – money power was soon to rule the roost.”
The yawning wealth gap, already starting to develop in 1983, would have been reversed by Labour’s staunchly progressive tax policies.
3. Popularity of Tory Government in 1982
In 1981 and 1982, the Tory cuts were very unpopular, and Michael Foot’s Labour Party was well ahead of the Tories in 1982. But Margaret Thatcher’s gamble to send a task force to the Falklands ignited a false patriotism where flag-waving citizens cheered the task force on its way. Thatcher’s gamble paid off. In times of austerity, it was like some kind of hysterical party. It was a close thing, but without victory in the Falklands it is unlikely she would have remained in power.
‘The nation drank deep of an experience it had not enjoyed since 1945: a clear military triumph. The victory dragged Thatcher’s leadership from the brink of collapse. She won global celebrity, in both the United States and the Soviet Union, and 10 points were added to her poll rating. She was at last in the lead over Labour. The emergent Social Democrats never recovered. Thatcher wrapped herself in the flag, denouncing all sceptics and crudely boasting the renaissance of the British people as a world power against dictatorship.’
4. The Social Democratic Party, and The Alliance WITH LIBERALS
In 1983, the British electoral system was very much a two-party affair, and as we have seen recently, in a first-past-the-post electoral system, a divided opposition inevitably leads to defeat. In 1981, four former Labour cabinet ministers Bill Rogers, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Roy Jenkins had crossed the floor and formed the SDP. In 1983, ten days before the General Election, an SDP-Liberal Alliance was formed. Their agreement not to oppose seats resulted in Thatcher’s biggest ever electoral landslide. The lesson of the need for Party unity, I hope was learned. In this betrayal, we have all paid dearly.
The Falklands war and the SDP-Alliance splitting the vote, swung it for Mrs Thatcher not the Labour manifesto whatever the press and Blairites say. I remember it as clear as it was day, what a shock it was. The press was wicked. That is what started fear of the truth.
As we know the victors write the history. The massive privatisation policies of the Thatcher years, which continued under Blairism, is still continuing today, though we have little left to sell off, would have been averted.
Instead, what resulted was that Thatcher’s parasitic, out-of-control capitalism grew exponentially. Manufacturing declined further, unemployment soared, employment rights eroded, and what we have been left with is a growing inequality where fear of being trampled on has led to social divisions and isolationism.
5. Pandora’s Box – the Trap of Fear
Pandora’s Box of Fear needs to be wrenched open, and truth revealed, and spoken. To be fearful to expose the evils and injustice in the world is to perpetuate it. In the reality, it is the Tories who will fear the most. Their project fear is Corbyn. They do not fear his opponents, but make no mistake, they want to nip our claim to a more equal economy “in the bud“.
Listen to Jeremy Corbyn, and you will hear he talks sensible, pragmatic, socially desirable policies which are supported by the electorate. His approach is courageous and honest, as shown in his decision to join 47 other Labour MPs, and the SNP and Liberal Democrats to oppose the Welfare Bill. As the only candidate to oppose austerity, and the neoliberal Tory agenda, he shows he has real Labour values. He is not afraid to speak the truth. We have heard enough lies, and felt enough fear. We must be proud of our achievements in government, and recognise where we have made mistakes – and why.
The myth of the inevitability of neoliberalism must be countered, and the politicians need to speak honestly. We need to be Straight Talking Labour. As Tony Benn said “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
6. Exposing the Truth, the Emperor’s New Clothes
The fable of the Emperor’s new clothes is well-known. Everyone could see the emperor was naked , but too fearful to challenge so they admired his new clothes. Everyone knows that the very, very rich, are the real scroungers – representing a hidden welfare state while millions depend on food banks in this country alone. If everyone knows this, then why is our Labour Party still supporting Tory cuts and austerity? It is time to call the Emperor’s bluff.
From our defeat was borne fear of telling the truth. But truth is always the way. Remember the lines of Tony Benn? “Say what you mean and mean what you say!” Wise words. Lies always get caught out – Blair – Cameron over Syria. If there is one thing which puts people of voting it is lies. Look how the non voting numbers rose. But Jeremy speaks honestly. He speaks the truth. The prospect of Jeremy Corbyn leading my party warms my heart at last. I cannot have that confidence in Burnham, Cooper or Kendall. I used to admire Harriet Harman. She has disgraced the party in not opposing the Welfare Bill, and I admire every MP who voted against the welfare cuts. She let the party and the other candidates down, but they let themselves down then by not having the courage to oppose and lead.
Jeremy Corbyn has my vote, and my best wishes and hopes.
REFERENCES and FURTHER READING: