Friday, 14 March 2014

An awful week for the Left ends with more appalling news

This week has been marked by two huge, yet entirely different losses on the Left.

It began on Monday with the dreadful shock of Bob Crow's sudden death at home and ended with resigned sadness as Tony Benn's death was announced this morning.

Crow was a man at the height of his power and influence, a member of the Scottish Socialist Party, and a union leader of the working class who has the ability to make the governing class tremble in their boots.

Benn was, conversely, the governing class. He seemed, on the surface, an archetypal modern Labour MP: grandson of a baronet and son of a Liberal MP.

But it would be a mistake to let that impression be a lasting one. Whilst he followed the now well-trodden career path of the Labour apparatchik from the Commons to the Lords, this was entirely against his will, and, possibly unique amongst Labour MPs, actively sought not to be a member of the House of Lords.

While Crow, who represented workers from the Rothesay ferry to the Edinburgh trams and the Glasgow subway, grew frustrated with the transformation of the Labour Party into a paler version of the Conservative Party and ultimately affiliated his RMT union to the Scottish Socialist Party in protest, Benn attempted to hold back the tide from inside Labour.

For this, he has never been forgiven by the craven traitors who stole the Labour Party. As Secretary of State for industry, Benn followed a classically socialist programme: workers' pay was increased, and he piloted the Health and Safety at Work Act. He established workers' cooperatives. As Minister for Technology, he had responsibility for developing Concorde. 

During the battle for Labour in the 1980s, he put forward an alternative economic strategy to Dennis Healey's subjugation of the economy to American capitalism, with the IMF dictating cuts to the welfare state.

Benn was responsible for developing the last real Labour manifesto, including policies which are now mirrored in the present SSP platform. Mainstream, popular socialist ideas such as nationalised industries and industrial democracy, which are now viewed as anachronistic horrors by vestigial rump of the modern Labour Party, an organisation whose 'leader' in Scotland is now trying to ban the working class from university, ban the poor from medical care, and who spends her days whipping up hate and xenophobia.

How very small and insignificant the leadership of the modern Labour Party look when compared to a true giant of the workers' movement,

In later life, Benn isolated the Labour leadership by his opposition to their vicious and deliberate act of genocidal criminality in Iraq, and served as president of Stop The War until his death this morning.

But Benn was a figure, however popular, from the past. He served as somewhat the conscience of the Left movement despite an isolationist British nationalist viewpoint, probably a product of his generation.

Crow was a figure from the here and now. A man who in his works and deeds made the lives of working-class people tangibly better. Bob Crow's death is the significant and truly damaging loss for us this week.

We will miss both men. Tony Benn's passing is saddening, and reminds us all of what might have been had the cowards and traitors, flinching from Thatcher and sneering at the workers, not won in the 1980s.

Certainly, a Britain run by people of the calibre of Foot and Benn would be far more attractive than one in which the working class look from Tory to Labour frontbbenches and back again and see an indistinguishable mass of privately dedicated millionaires.

Bob Crow's death, though, is a catastrophe for the Left. In an age where many union leaders were seduced into thinking this is as good as it gets for workers, Bob Crow fought tooth, nail, and successfully for his members making them, as one tribute said this week, just about the only working-class people in London with a decent standard of living.

We'll miss them both. Let's make sure next week is a better one for the workers' movement. People die, but ideas never do.