Thursday, 10 August 2017

Trotting On

If Tony Blair really has read Isaac Deutscher's three-volume biography of Trotsky, then I am General Wrangel.

But unlike Blair, I have never even pretended to be a Trotskyist, still less have I ever been one. Like Jeremy Corbyn, I have never even pretended to be a Trotskyist, still less have I ever been one. 

Unlike Blair, I never even pretended to be any kind of Marxist, still less have I ever been one. Like Jeremy Corbyn, I have never even pretended to be any kind of Marxist, still less have I ever been one.

The Labour Movement grew from many and various roots. Trade union and co-operative. Radical Liberal and Tory populist. Christian Socialist and Social Catholic. Fabian and even, in the space both on Labour's fringes and on Marxism's fringes, Marxist, subject to the balancing and moderating influences of the others.

Giving the wrong answers does not preclude asking the right questions. Much of the Fabian tradition also gives the wrong answers.

Trotskyists, in particular, have always asked the right questions about the deficiencies of the specific post-War model of public ownership. Those questions need to be asked again, now that the case for a return to public ownership itself has become unanswerable.

There have always been extremely few Trotskyists in Britain. But this is possibly the only country where a moderately well-informed member of the voting public would know the word "Trotskyist". 

Ken Livingstone won the 2000 London Mayoral Election against the full might of Tony Blair's pre-Iraq machine, and against an official Labour candidate who was a former Cabinet Minister.

Who did the donkey work for that? Who do you think? And they were rewarded.

As late as 2007, three years after Livingstone had graciously permitted the Labour Party to readmit him rather be humiliated by him for a second time, the Evening Standard's list of the 25 most influential people in London contained no fewer than four members of Socialist Action.

With the man who had appointed them to their various positions, those members of that tiny Trotskyist organisation comprised one fifth of the total list.

Now, say what you like about Livingstone's London, but it was hardly Trotsky's Kronstadt.

It was, however, the biggest powerbase that Trotskyists have ever had, anywhere in the world. Eight years running London in the early twenty-first century.

But then, three of them had sat overtly as Members of Parliament in the 1980s and early 1990s, although there were more of them than that on the Green Benches at the time.

A sitting MP until her retirement in 1997 was married to Trotsky's bodyguard, who as her husband presumably held a parliamentary pass.

The All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation, which made no bones about being the Militant Tendency, brought down Margaret Thatcher.

Don't take either my word or Militant's for that. Read the extremely bitter account of it in her own autobiography. All other attempts at explanation are fig leaves that she herself refused to wear.

To her, as to Militant, she was removed in order to abolish "the Community Charge", and that abolition was the biggest concession that the British State ever made to the Far Left.

After all, that abolition did happen as soon as she had been deposed. On Europe, while the rhetoric changed a bit, the policy did not change one jot.

And now, Momentum has more members that UKIP, including far more Members of Parliament than UKIP has ever had.

Few of the former, and probably none of the latter these days, are Trotskyists. But you, dear reader, know the word, don't you?

Why, even Tony Blair now feels the need to pretend that he used to be one.

Only in Britain, kids. Only in Britain.

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