“I’ll make capitalism work for the people..." promised Ed Miliband during his successful campaign to become Labour leader. Workers have heard this all before. The Labour Party has always tried to make capitalism work for the people. And every time that it has been in office, it has failed miserably to do so. The reason Labour – and indeed the Tories who also talk of a “people’s capitalism” – fail to make capitalism work for the people is that this is an impossible mission. Capitalism just cannot be made to work in the interest of all. It is a profit-making system that can only work as such, in the interest of those who live off profits.
The driving force of capitalism is the accumulation of capital out of profits. When this slows down, as at present, there is a crisis. So, governments must not do anything that might discourage the making of profits to accumulate as capital; in fact, even if it wasn’t their original intention they have to end up doing all they can to encourage this. Inevitably, this brings them into conflict with the wage and salary working class whose labour is the source of profits, imposing wage restraint and/or austerity on them. All governments have to put profits before people because capitalism, the system within which they have to work, runs on them.
The Labour Party has failed, so let’s start a new one. That’s what some trade unionists and leftwingers are saying. But why? Surely one of the lessons of the 20th century has been that Labourism is a dead end. It can’t succeed. Not because its leaders are insincere or incompetent or corrupt or not resolute enough. It fails because it sets itself the impossible mission of trying to gradually reform capitalism into socialism. This can’t be done, as experience, not just theoretical understanding, has confirmed. The last thing that is needed today is a non-socialist, trade-union based “Labour” party. We have seen the past and it doesn’t work.
In February 1906, the fledgling Labour Representation Committee (LRC), under the leadership of James Keir Hardie renamed itself and the Labour Party came into being. The Labour Party consciously steered the social-democratic or socialist movement of the early twentieth century away from social revolution to a futile policy of ‘reformism’, maintaining unswerving support for the exploitation of working people, the wages system, commodity production and the private ownership of the means of producing wealth. It had relied on a cynical propagation of the pretence that state-run capitalism and reforms represented "stepping stones" to a socialist society and what emerged from those years of reformist efforts was not a slowly evolving socialism but a Labourism which increasingly judged itself by the success of the one thing it could do in government – manage capitalism; all reformist baggage what emerged from years of reformist efforts was not a slowly evolving socialism but a Labourism which increasingly judged itself by the success of the one thing it could do in government – manage capitalism; The myth of nationalisation as an answer to the problems of capitalism beng more or less dead and all reformist baggage being abandoned in the pursuit of Labour's desire to manage capitalism better than the other lot. The Labour Party engineered its own metamorphosis, re-branding policies and redefining its agenda. The commitment to nationalisation enshrined in the 1918 Party constitution was abolished and Trade Union influence over policy – always more mythical than real – was publicly abandoned. Its image, thus transformed, seemed revitalised and business, media and the electorate acclaimed the party that now called itself New Labour.
If there are with two other people and the first one of them is openly hostile, abuses you at every turn and is obviously working for interests diametrically opposed to your own, you would have to be crazy to consider them a friend. But if the other person keeps telling you that they are on your side, sympathises about how awful the first person is being, and says you should trust them instead – while all the while they are pursuing interests just as opposed to yours and will proceed to stab you in the back at the first opportunity – then who is your real friend? Neither of them is the answer, of course, though we can say that you are less likely to be deceived by the openly hostile one. The function performed by the Labour Party is always to appear as the benign friend to the workers in distinction to the “wicked” Tories. Hoping that the Labour Party will behave differently is an unrealistic – indeed utopian – expectation. Any party that tries to run capitalism gets its hands grubby, as a matter of course, in what is a very dirty business. Voters vote governments out because they appear incompetent, incapable of finding solutions to the daily problems that confronts wage and salary earners. But government can never solve these problems because their permanent solution lies only in the abolition of capitalism and the wages system. Economic laws that politicians are powerless to change and leave little room for manoeuvre determine what politicians do and how they must react. The policies propounded by Tory or Labour are similar because they are manifestations of the same political imperative – a continuation of capitalism – and are distinguishable only to the extent that they propose different organisation methods to administer the same economic system. In misguided expressions of defiance that flow from frustration and lack of understanding, voters repeatedly swap Labour governments for Tory, or Tory governments for Labour - as they have on eight separate occasions since the second world war – in the hope that it will somehow make a difference.They are always disappointed by the outcome. How often have disillusioned Labour supporters and voters cried “betrayal!”?Mandating a political party to administer capitalism means that workers surrender political power to their class enemy - a lesson that workers seem unable to grasp as the same mistake is slavishly repeated over and over again.
Now as the natural conclusion to reformism has completely overrun the Labour Party , they are a simple party of capitalist maintenance, with objectives of some form of new society being not just shunted into the background but completely out of existence. They are now more dedicated than ever to running with optimal efficiency the very system that creates poverty, misery, homelessness and war. As for those old Labourites who blame all on the mistakes of the past and present on certain leaders, this simply adds to the argument against leadership. In any case, the leader as a individual is irrelevant. Knocking one leader out of office and replacing them with another won’t change the system, and it’s the system that all attention should be focused on if we desire a radical change in the way we live.Trading one group of pro-capitalist apologists and careerist politicians for another can never be the answer. Changing society’s economic structure is the answer.