By William Mills
When John McDonnell, MP for Haynes and Harlington spoke of his hopes and aspirations for the policies of the hard left which border on Marxist dogma and rhetoric I good naturedly smiled and thought the nice old boy is dreaming back to the heroes of his youth, and why not? Surely he doesn’t think there is the slightest chance of them ever being implemented today.
John McDonnell MP
Yet when I heard Owen Jones, Guardian columnist and opinion maker of today, spouting the same failed hard left nonsense about the working class struggle against the capitalists, it set my alarm bells ringing.
To me it was as if he was in some late 19th century European café taking turn to speak alongside working class heroes and demons of the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Lenin, and I had a deep down feeling that this new wave of totalitarianism needs to be stopped before it starts causing real damage.
Hard left policies of the state nationalising all and controlling everything are nothing new.
Jones’s parents were members of Militant Tendency, a left wing group which surfaced in the 1970’s. Realising that the communists would never win more than 5% of the votes cast at the ballot box, they decided to try and take over the Labour Party using every underhand method imaginable and behaved more akin to an evil sect than a political movement.
Sleepy local Labour branches were suddenly swamped with new members. Long serving councillors and MPs were deselected and voted out on a simple show of hands. Yet the result was not the longed for revolution sweeping them to power, but instead the gradual destruction of the of their unwilling host-Labour was unelectable for a generation with Margaret Thatcher winning the 1979 General Election and the Tories remained in office for 18 years.
Labour only began to regain lost ground after leader John Smith started to rid his party of Militant Tendency in a process completed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Owen Jones talks of the working class, but of whom is he referring? Surely not middle class Guardian executives with £700 million balance sheet cash at their disposal? Perhaps he means blue collar workers who roll up their sleeves to unload the lorries with sweat pouring down their brows? But isn’t that all done by highly paid forklift truck operators these days?
At Labour Party conferences in the 1980’s Militant Tendency members stood out in their true working class clothes, having swapped their weekday suits for ripped jeans and hiking boots with ‘I’m a worker’ emblazoned on their tee-shirts.
Whereas those who actually did manual work such as miners, and were dressed in their Sunday best, were jeered at for not being ‘working class’ enough.
After being booted out of the Labour Party some of the ‘Tendency’ reinvented themselves as ecowarriors and others turned up in the Green Party.
Even in Lenin’s day only 5% of the population actually worked in big soulless factories, the rest toiled in small cottage industries or were self employed. Besides is not the factory director who arrives first and leaves last a worker too? And where to the ten million or so immigrants fit into Jones’s out dated class structure theory?
In fact the only non working are the unemployed and those who cannot due to sickness and disability; does Jones wish to penalise those most vulnerable in society?
The idea that we would somehow be better off if living in a socialist utopia was squashed several times over during the 20th century. Totalitarianism whether in its communist or fascist form is intractably evil and has always led to millions of deaths and shattered lives.
During the battle for Berlin in April 1945 the Nazi totalitarian regime facing total defeat still boasted how they had managed to make eleven new tanks even while the battle raged. In contrast under the capitalist system America had shut down their tank factories over a year earlier! Having made a production run of over fifty thousand, and with the factory carpark overflowing at the brim, they decided they didn’t need anymore.
Hitler’s Nazis had the whole of Europe’s industrial base to direct at they wished. And a what a mess they made of it. Hitler in pursuing his working class struggle against the bosses and their middle management lackeys ordered all his scientists and engineers to be conscripted into the Germany Infantry so they could learn ’real soldiering’. Too late he realised his mistake and tried to save those who remained.
Nothing brings home the similarities between the Nazis and Soviets than a visit to the museum of occupation in Latvia’s capital, Riga.
There it describes in horrifying detail how the Nazis and Soviets collaborated before June 1941 to murder and subdue the civilian populations of Eastern Europe who fell under their brutal rule.
What Jones and his chums need to come to terms with is that while the Nazi horrors stopped in 1945 the communist ones continued right through until 1991. All totalitarian regimes may start out with high ideals, but they all end up the same brutal tyrannies.
So Labour’s New Left, before laying plans for the great socialist revival, should read up the history books of the last century to see the terrible harm awaiting the Labour Party and everybody else if they should be the slightest bit be successful.