Thursday, 2 December 2010

Time for a New Socialism

This is a lengthy and important article from Compass. There is a shorter version in the New Statesman.

Time for a New Socialism argue John Harris and Neal Lawson
Thursday, December 02 2010

To begin, a reminder. Just seven months ago, Labour suffered a defeat of epic proportions. It was the Party's worst performance since 1918, barring the loss it suffered under Michael Foot in 1983. But where is the debate, the soul searching, and the way out of such a cataclysmic setback?

Two events have smothered any conversation. First, Labour went straight into a leadership fight, in which the overriding goal of the candidates, naturally enough, was to win, not fixate on why Party had lost so very badly. Gordon Brown should have stayed on for six months like Michael Howard did, to over see a more wide-ranging debate and allow a far-reaching analysis of Labour's plight, analogous to that which led David Cameron to victory against David Davis. In Labour's case, our guess is that Ed Miliband would still have won under this longer timescale - and probably by a comfortable margin: he, after all, was the candidate who engaged most forcefully and fully with the scale of Labour's defeat and called on the party to ‘move beyond the New Labour comfort zone'.

The second explanation for the absence of intellectual heft is the cuts, and another comfort zone that could seduce the Party into ignoring the deep hole it is in. Austerity, it is presumed, will do our work for us. Maybe it will. But remember: the cuts that will be in the forefront of voters' minds come election day 2015 will be the tax cuts the Coalition has just doled out. Besides, even if a turbulent next two years sees the Coalition loosen their grip on power, will Labour be any better prepared to govern effectively without a thorough understanding of what has gone so wrong, and why?

There is a third reason why Labour appears to be sleep walking away from the car crash that was the 2010 election defeat: the sheer gravity of what happened, and the onerous challenge it entails. We know in our hearts that this was more than a routine defeat; just another turn of the electoral wheel in which someone has to lose. In May 2010 Labour lost more than an election: it lost a way of being.

To understand the profound nature of this numbing loss, we have to go back and admit to ourselves that social democracy has been in retreat for decades.

More here.

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