Friday, September 15, 2006

The Labour Party Leadership Battle

Reproduced from A Revolutionary Act, which is the personal blog of John Bissett, who is a regular writer for the Socialist Standard.

Countless column inches and seemingly endless hours of news reports have been given over to the leadership crisis the Labour Party is currently engulfed in. Speaking up for Prime Minister Tony Blair, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said Blair would stand down when he was good and ready to do so and he accused Chancellor Gordon Brown of "absolutely stupid" behaviour in challenging Blair, commenting that Brown needed first to prove his fitness to lead.

Fitness to lead? Now there's a thing. It assumes leaders have some special qualification acquired over years of study and self-sacrifice when the only real qualification is the ability to hoodwink others into thinking you possess knowledge and qualities they do not. Unlike other professions - doctors, surgeons, architects, physicists - whose skills come via many years of hard slog - politicians require none whatsoever. The only requisite credentials needed when standing for election are that you are over 21 years of age, not insane and with no recent prison record.

Despite this, many workers think we cannot function without leaders. This is a fallacy and one perpetuated by the master class to help them maintain their rule over our lives. Indeed, so prevalent is this philosophy, that from the cradle to the grave we are taught to mistrust our own intelligence and to feel somewhat inadequate, to look up to our 'betters and superiors' (schools, church, politicians, parents etc) for their expert guidance and to accept without question the plans they draw up for our future.

Moreover, the whole concept of leadership and the need to choose the candidate most fitted for the post of leader is keenly promoted by aspiring leaders. In truth, history confirms them to be pitiable exemplars of honesty, integrity and compassion, forever paying lip service to truth and justice and other grand notions equated with leadership.

Blair has proved to be just as deceitful, dishonest and corrupt as every British prime minister that preceded him, ready always to defend power and privilege over the real needs of the people who elected him. From the moment he won a fourteen minute standing ovation from a CBI Conference just prior to the 1997 Labour victory, through the myriad scandals his Party has been caught up in, and right through to his perfidious reasoning to invade and occupy an immiserated but oil rich country, he has constantly lied to the electorate, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and bullied anyone bold enough to stand up to him.

Nothing Brown has said or done inclines us to consider he will act any differently. As Prime Minister he will lead the executive of the capitalist class - what else are governments but the national administrative arm of capital? - and as leader he had better be seen to be "batting for Britain", defending the interests of big business at home and abroad. This is the real remit of the leader in capitalist society.

It is assumed by many that leaders run the world. Well, I rather think it is we, the workers, who run the world. Politicians might make government policy, which becomes law, but it is we who build and work the hospitals and schools. It is we who build the bridges, roads and railways, ports and airports; all the products that humans need to survive. It is we who produce everything from a pin to an oil-rig and provide humanity with all the services it requires - we the working class! We don't depend on leaders for these skills or for their guidance. They have no monopoly on our knowledge and intelligence or on the inventions we dream up to enhance the quality of life. If all the worlds' leaders died tomorrow, few would really miss them and society would function just as before.

The concept of leadership has emerged with class society and will end when we abolish class society, when we abolish the capitalist mode of production and all that goes with it. The master class have been allowed to lead because of their control over the means of living and by virtue of their control of the education system and their monopoly of the media and other and information processes.

It doesn't have to be this way. The greatest weapons we posses are our class unity, our intelligence, and our ability to question the status quo and to imagine a world fashioned in our own interests. Leaders perceive all of this to be a threat and so will do anything to keep us in a state of oblivion, dejection and dependency. Our apathy is the victory they celebrate each day. Our unwillingness to unite as a globally exploited majority and to confront them on the battlefield of ideas is the subject of their champagne toasts.

Remember this as the battle for leadership of the Labour Party hots up.
John Bissett


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