It has been worrying me for some time now, and I feel that it is appropriate to ask the question. Is there any Left-Wing remaining in British politics? We used to have the ‘Loony Left’, the Labour Left, The Workers’ Revolutionary Party, Militant Tendency, The Socialist Workers’ Party, and The Communist Party, with all its various factions. There was the Young Communist League, The Morning Star Group, the Trotsky supporters, and the old-style Marxist-Leninist diehards. Some of these still exist. You can find websites on the Internet, see members selling newspapers and pamphlets, and notice their banners on TV news, waved by marchers, demonstrating against something or another. The Morning Star newspaper is still for sale, and has a modern website. There is even a Stalin Society. I was keen to join, but they didn’t reply to my e mailed request. It seems that it is too much trouble to be a revolutionary these days. Round up all the members and supporters of these various parties, and you would be pushed to fill the terraces of a second division football club with them. They have no impact, no influence, few policies, and no apparent agenda. Their leaders are anonymous, and constantly changing, and most of them have been eaten up by internal arguments, that have diluted them into oblivion. The days when the Establishment feared the wrath of the organised Proletariat, and their strong Trades Unions, are long gone.
There was a time, not so long ago, and certainly within my recent memory, when the Left had a fierce commitment, and a hunger for real change. They had radical ideas and beliefs, and swore to change the status quo, if and when in power. The rhetoric is now about wind farms, nuclear power stations, global warming, third world sweat shops, and the rights of farmers in countries most Britons couldn’t find on a map. What about the re-nationalisation of railways, utilities, banks, and industry? Never mentioned. Getting out of Europe, and abandoning NATO, has become a policy of the extreme Right, after it was discarded by the Left, and found lying around, waiting to be picked up, and re-packaged for general consumption. Wealth taxes on the rich and powerful, the abolition of the House of Lords and the Royal Family, getting American bases off our soil. Where are those policies? Gone; though sometimes partially embraced by powerless splinter groups, and more worryingly, the burgeoning Right.
In Britain, we are seeing a return of Right-Wing politics at a rate unseen since in Italy and Germany in the 1930’s, and driven by much the same fears and reasoning too. Fear of job losses, fear of foreign investment and ownership, and fear of things non-British. Add to this fear of different religions, against a background of ‘Crusader’ involvement in Muslim countries, and the firework has been well and truly lit. An economic slump has opened the back gate to the worst kind of sneaky rightists. UKIP, Old-School Toff Tories, Right-leaning Liberal Democrats, and even most of the (new) Labour Party, are all embracing the politics of the Right. Some are more outgoing and extreme, such as the League of St George, Column 88, and The English Defence League. Others, formerly considered extreme beyond the pale, like National Front supporters, are now merging into parties like UKIP, and The Conservative Party, and melting happily into the background.
The media has all but abandoned any support for the Left, in any form. Despite laughable accusations of Left-wing bias, the BBC continues to tread carefully, fearful of its licence money, and dreading being handed over to commercialisation. All other television provided for mainstream viewing is either cosily neutral, or blatantly conservative, albeit with a small C. The newspapers are virtually all speaking for the Right, and the worst ones are fuelling the fires of xenophobia, as well as religious hatred, and spewing out propaganda against the disadvantaged and poorly educated in our society. The possible exception, The Guardian, speaks for the well-heeled middle-class intelligentsia, salving their consciences during their morning commute. The Morning Star has such a small circulation, it would be pushed to compete with a regional newspaper in a small town. Even that supposed voice of the Left, seems more concerned with the internal struggles of Communist factions, and is preaching to the more-or-less converted anyway.
The Trades Unions are still here, but they are no longer a force to be reckoned with. Years of amalgamation have turned them into unrepresentative monoliths, that have lost sight of their members as individuals, and seem to have forgotten the essence of the trades and skills that they are supposed to defend and protect. Hamstrung by changes in the law, they have played along, having their industrial teeth pulled one by one. Their political affiliations have diminished, and the Labour Party, that they were most associated with, is trying to sever ties with them, fearful of continued association with an organised workforce; embarrassed to stand alongside them and fight for the rights of ordinary people. Their leaders have become powerful and wealthy in their roles, detached and distant from a membership they treat like sheep. The only real alternative to another Conservative government, which would surely move even further to the Right in politics, is, whether I like it or not, the Labour Party. Now far removed from its roots, and unrecognisable to the activists who moulded it during the 1970’s, it is no longer a party of the Left. Its leader is an ineffectual bureaucrat, and its cabinet have no real policies. They have even revealed that many of the policies of the present coalition would be unchanged under a Labour administration, and that some of the cruellest changes, in health provision, and welfare reform, would also be upheld. In that case, the Labour Party is no longer a worthwhile, or even desirable alternative.
It seems likely that the very definition Left, relating to political affiliations, will soon cease to be used, and not long after, cease to exist. Left-Wing, Leftist, and any similar descriptions, will be consigned to the history books, to be viewed with mild interest as a thing of the past, sometimes with a wry grin of amusement. I like to think of my own politics as those of the extreme Left. Old-school, hard-line Communism, like something that once existed, but no longer does, or ever will again. The only place for this now, is inside my head, as I conclude that there is no Left left.