Political parties and policies

This post is for those who care about party labels. Personally I find them more of a hindrance than a help to serious political discussion.

My first post noted that I am “not currently a member of a political party but agree with most policies of the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the Socialist Labour Party and those socialists that remain in the old Labour Party”.

At this election I am a non-party candidate for the Socialist Labour Party: previously I have been a non-party joint candidate of the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. I see no conflict in this.

All three parties believe the austerity policies of the Westminster parties are morally wrong and ineffective as a financial ‘strategy’ and all agree that the £100 billion renewal of Trident should not proceed. If elected (I know it’s a long shot), I would work with the Plaid Cymru/Green/SNP anti-austerity anti-Trident bloc.

I am driven by socialist, environmental and democratic concerns and I see these as complementary. I think it a pity when parties focus on a narrow set of issues and view others as enemies.

Concerning the environment

Historically, environmental concerns were central to the motivation of 19th Century socialists (such as Engels and William Morris). During the 20th Century, in part due to and replicating the (understandable but misguided) priorities of the Soviet Union, green issues became secondary to mainstream socialist thinking.

This, historically, is why people motivated by green issues began to create parties detached from the socialist tradition – and why socialists tended to look on greens as an apolitical and an unwelcome addition to the political scene.

But, by the end of the 21st century, rampant capitalism had obliged greens to move towards socialist thinking just as the growing environmental crisis obliged socialists to reincorporate environmental concerns into their litany of the ills of capitalism. Today there is no excuse for parties to campaign exclusively for either.

National identity

Something similar happened in respect to socialism and nationalism. Most early 19th Century socialists favoured home rule for Ireland and Scotland (rarely Wales) because their socialism was locally-based (William Morris again). This ‘bottom up’ socialism has decisions taken by those most directly affected.

‘Top down’ socialism is a 20th Century phenomenon, influenced by Labour and Socialist parties in government in Western Europe and by the Soviet Union. Socialist parties in Britain (and all over Europe) tended to be hostile to ‘separatism’ because, they say, it divides the “working classes”.

For their part, the early nationalists of Britain (certainly in Wales) tended to ignore the threat to national identity from globalisation. With or without the EU, multinational conglomerates dominate the economies of Britain and France, making genuine Welsh or Scottish independence impossible.

One of the saddest spectacles of recent years has been ‘nationalists’ going cap in hand to multinational companies to persuade them to invest. There can be no separate distinctive development of any nation unless steps also are taken to make nations independent of multinational corporations.

Socialism

The essence of socialism is that people – not unelected multinational companies – control what happens. This may take many forms – the most ‘top down’ version being the Soviet Union and the most ‘bottom up’ being Tito’s Yugoslavia. Many other countries have elected ‘socialist’ governments in name and so there is no single authoritative model to copy.

The 1945-51 Labour government, despite the parlous state of the British economy after the war and the 1930s depression, nationalised all our basic industries (electricity, gas, coal, water, railways, etc.), created our National Health Service and made all education free. These achievements rescued Britain economically and led to the ‘never-had-it-so-good’ 50’s and 60’s.

This was a top-down version of socialism that uneasily coexisted with all the power of big business in Britain left intact, continuation of the British empire and an alliance with the now all-powerful US government against colonial liberation movements and the Soviet Union. The rearmament programme, instituted in 1950 at the insistence of the USA, undermined the progressive policies of the Labour government and the Tories got back into power.

Politics since 1951 has been step by step back from the actions of the 1945-51 government with, under Tony Blair, Labour becoming as right-wing as the Tories were in the 1950s. All the nationalised industries of 1945-51 (and the Royal Mail) have become profit-making enterprises, often still receiving public subsidies, and they are now no longer public services.

The Socialist Labour Party seeks to revive the spirit of 1945 and, although I believe it can be weak on environmental and national issues, I agree with 95% of its manifesto. My posts have been presenting snippets of their policies (and mine) in my own words and has linked these to contemporary events.

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