The Labour Party Conference: Specious Socialism?

29 Sep 2013

In anticipation of the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Ed Miliband took to the streets to speak with the people. After his address, he was confronted by a man who asked when the pry would “Bring back socialism” to which Ed Miliband replied “That’s what we’re doing, Sir.” 

Since the early beginnings of New Labour, socialism has slowly been draining from the worker’s party, much to the dismay of its support foundations. When Mr Miliband directed the party on a course of ‘One Nation’ Labour the ideological position failed to change, with Len McCluskey casting the party to the ‘dustbin of history’ earlier this year. Further, with the GMB Union withdrawing a significant portion of its funding to the Labour Party due to party reform, many believe that the Party needs a new lick of red paint in order to get back on track.

 

In his conference speech, it looks like Ed Miliband recognised this, and delivered a clear socialist message to Britain. Most significantly, Mr Miliband denounced the ‘Global Race’ as one to the bottom rather than the top; a race founded upon the exploitation of workers with Britain’s success dependent on the loss of its society. Ed Miliband said that “Britain cannot and should not win that race.”

Moreover, Ed Miliband continued to criticise a state of two warring classes that currently exists in Britain, with the ‘cost of living crisis’ a running theme throughout the conference. But Ed Miliband made a powerful statement suggesting that “The cost of living crisis isn't an accident of David Cameron's economic policy; it is his economic policy.” Mr Miliband has pledged to look at the minimum wage and ensure it becomes a living wage, effectively limiting the ability of capital to exploit its workers. Incredible accusations of bourgeois oppression that will resonate in the ears of socialists everywhere.

As well as echoing these traditional messages of the Left, the speech hinted at tailored socialism to deal with new and increasing problems. For example, the place of environmentalism and sustainable politics in times of austerity has at long last been embraced by a major political force. Ed Miliband outlined details of 1 million ‘Green Jobs,’ developing Britain’s sustainable infrastructure even in times when critics say it is unimportant.

Further pledges made also follow this example. Liam Byrne the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions spoke of changing people’s perceptions of those using the welfare system, announcing the ‘Universal Credit Rescue Committee’ and thus trying to return poverty to a problem for the poor rather than of it by re-examining Beveridge’s ideas.

Moreover, a huge emphasis on breaking up ‘The Big Six’ energy companies by the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary Caroline Flynt not only aids in relieving the ‘cost of living crisis,’ but also stops the country being held to ransom by large companies.

For Ed Miliband ‘One Nation’ Labour amounts to a credible socialist force in Britain, echoing messages of working-class unity and dismantling exploitation. A scary prospect for the political Right and their media sources. However, the messages delivered by others seem to show that Britain being a dominant capital economy is still more important to the party’s popularity than being a responsible one.

Britain’s workforce has suffered a huge blow in the form of zero-hour contracts, detailing the exploitative nature of the UK’s economy. But despite his welfare policy, Liam Byrne did not mention this once and put their removal in doubt as he said “Any job is better than no job.” 

The speech by the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls continues to show the party’s allegiance to a dominant economy. Although there are pledges to fund the economy through hedge-fund tax increases instead of the ‘Bedroom Tax,’ the government cannot be ignored when they say that the numbers do not add up. How will socialism drive the economy when its current state has such support? An economic state that has relied on exploitation.

This conference has pledged a more Leftist vision to Britain whereby the environment is a higher priority, the stigma is to be removed from welfare and the NHS is to be rebuilt as a triumph once more. But with the economy remaining one of the most important issues in the eyes of the electorate, can the party really promise an end to exploitation? If not, then there journey Leftwards will be cut severely short. 

By Samuel Mercer

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