Every socialist dreams of winning a better and fairer world, one which isn’t run in the interests of the rich. But that doesn’t mean our dreams are simply “fantasy” as former Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls suggested this week.
Balls attacked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s left wing policies as “utopian fantasy” that could never win an election, let alone work.
He also argued that Labour wasn’t ready and “didn’t deserve” to win the last general election. He said previous leader Ed Miliband appeared reluctant to promise more clampdowns on migrants and more cuts.
His comments were slightly out of step with current Labour MPs, who have adapted to Corbyn’s left wing politics to try and sap away his support.
They have been compelled to back Owen Smith for the leadership after he claimed to be anti-austerity and can only talk vaguely about listening to people’s “concerns” about immigration.
Having lost his seat at the last election, Balls can comment from a distance on the battles inside Labour more openly.
But, among all the plotting and smearing, Ball’s argument is at the heart of Labour’s split.
It’s because it’s so central that the right are now trying to rig and fix the leadership election by blocking thousands of people from voting on trumped-up grounds.
The question is whether it’s possible for Labour to champion a radically different kind of society. Or whether it’s more “realistic” to try and manage the current system.
Ed Ball’s fantasy, shared by Corbyn’s enemies, is that only the latter is possible—and that the way to achieve it is to mimic the Tories.
Labour’s defeat at the last general election shows what a delusion this really is. Labour went into the election having essentially accepted all the core Tory policies on austerity and immigration.
More than a decade of New Labour in government had lost Labour five million votes. And the financial crisis of 2008 should have put an end to the idea that capitalism can be managed in the interests of all.
Yet those at the top of Labour drew the opposite conclusions. They argued then, as Balls is arguing now, that Labour had actually lost because it was too left wing.
Corbyn rejects all that. He was the only candidate in last year’s leadership campaign to argue that Labour should be an alternative to the Tories, not a pale imitation.
That’s why he has remained so popular among Labour’s membership—despite MP’s attempts to unseat him.
Fighting for that different society means challenging the system, not going along with it as Balls wants.
That means building resistance in the workplaces and on the streets and political organisation that has the potential to turn our dreams into reality.