Why did Britain’s Labour Party suffer such a devastating defeat? The explanation offered by Socialist Review left me disappointed and angry. From the defeatist heading, A Bloody, Bitter Pill, to the floundering, academic analysis, Joseph Choonara fails to provide a marxist analysis that can take us forward.
Choonara attributes the Labour Party’s decades-long decline to its “continued adherence to neoliberal policies.” Why the Labour Party embraces such policies and why the working class submits is not explained.
Nor is there any mention of the capitalist class. The Tory and Labor Parties are treated as stand-ins for the two great classes. As Lenin pointed out, despite a mostly working-class membership, the British Labour Party is not a working-class organization. It is led by a managerial class whose loyalties lie with the capitalist class and their State.
As with all reform parties, the Labour Party takes a managerial approach to social problems, that is, ‘elect us and we will solve your problems.’ Warring factions inside the party disagree on what problems need solving and how to solve them; however, all agree that the solving properly belongs to social managers and not to the people and communities who actually suffer those problems.
Managerial solutions are limited to what capitalists will accommodate. With the balance of class forces in their favor, capitalists feel no pressure to alleviate workers’ problems. This leaves the managerial class accommodating to capitalist priorities until mass revolt compels them to switch sides, from offering to manage capitalism to offering to manage the revolt against it.
Choonara identifies the challenge – how to turn the tide of class struggle and “restore hope within the working class.”
Restoring hope rests on a clear explanation of why things are as they are. Despite periodic mass rebellions, the level of class struggle remains low for two reasons: the lasting impact of the defeat of the Russian Revolution; and the subsequent entrenchment of managerialism in all social organizations, including unions and the left.
A managerial approach to social problems holds back the working class by keeping them subordinate to elites, experts, authorities, officials, and ‘betters.’ Without a clear understanding of this obstacle and how to overcome it, we can only wait for workers to solve the problem, which leads to blaming them when they do not.
In order to shed the managerial albatross, socialists must resurrect the revolutionary principle of working class self-emancipation by insisting, without compromise, that workers can solve their problems only by taking collective control of the social resources needed to solve them.