Socialist Worker

Labour is scared of a radical alternative

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2439

Labour leader Ed Miliband

Labour leader Ed Miliband (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

Labour Party leaders are terrified that millions of people will back more radical candidates at the general election, rather than lining up behind Ed Miliband.

For months it has been clear that the Scottish National Party (SNP) is likely to gather up a rich harvest of previously Labour seats. And they will do so because they claim to be more left wing on key issues such as Trident nuclear submarines, the NHS, and resisting austerity.

But now the Greens are consistently running at around 6 percent across Britain. In response Labour has launched a desperate attack along the lines of “Vote Green, get Cameron”. 

It is a familiar blackmail. Labour leaders no longer believe they can inspire people to vote for them by the hope of real social change. 

Instead they are reduced to pointing to the horror of the alternative.

Labour has set up a special unit to bash the Greens. It is headed by Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary. After last year’s European elections he wrote a cringing letter to Ukip voters apologising for previous Labour policies on immigration and begging, “we will do everything to prove that we are on your side”. 

Potential Green voters receive no apology from Khan. Instead he says, “Voting for the Green Party…means more tax cuts for the rich, failures on climate change and the continued privatisation of the NHS.”

He’s soft on the right, hard on radicals.

Labour-supporting author Owen Jones calls on Labour to deal with the Green surge by moving left. But he warns that a large Green vote could imperil some Labour MPs. He argued that would mean, “five more years of the bedroom tax, the dismantling of the NHS and the stripping away of the welfare state. If Labour loses many Green voters will suffer ‘buyer’s remorse’: the exhilaration at voting for principles will be eclipsed by despondency at being saddled with another Tory government.”


The slur that will be hurled at everyone who dares to put forward a left alternative to Labour is that, whatever your intentions, you are aiding the vile Tory enemy. When Socialist Worker supporters campaign as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) they will hear this from Labour activists.

This is wrong for two linked reasons. First, although there are differences between the Tories and Labour, in policy terms there is very little that divides them. 

The Tories will ram through further cuts, allow private companies to erode the NHS, hold down wages, back Israel, support US imperialism at all key points, refuse to abolish the anti-union laws and blame immigrants for problems in society. And so will a Labour government.

The truth is that under Tony Blair basic Tory polices became unashamedly embedded in Labour leaders’ thinking. And Miliband has not reversed that. Labour is not going to be transformed into a genuinely socialist party, and the only ways it will be shifted left is by struggle in the workplaces, communities and streets and by the rise of a more left wing political alternative.

Second, it follows that the strategic necessity for radicals and socialists is to create a genuine vehicle for working class political representation—one that challenges the rich and their system rather than embraces it. 

We need a class alternative to the Tories, Labour, the SNP and the Greens.

You can’t seriously wish for “something better than Labour” without trying to make it happen—however tough that may be in the short-term.  Of course TUSC won’t stand against John McDonnell, Diane Abbott or Jeremy Corbyn. 

But such socialists are a small minority among Labour MPs today.

Everyone who celebrates the victory of Syriza in Greece should remember that once it won only meagre votes—3.3 percent in 2003 and 4.6 percent in 2009. I’m sure there were supporters of the Labour-type Pasok party who said that if you voted Syriza you were just helping the right.

But it was right to put forward an alternative to Pasok. 

Reject Labour’s blackmail. Organise, campaign and vote for TUSC, for socialists, for the left.


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Article information

Tue 3 Feb 2015, 18:33 GMT
Issue No. 2439
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