The Greasy Pole Column from the September 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the 1945 election the Labour Party offered a manifesto with the title blazoned across the front cover – Let Us Face The Future – which provoked the more retentive voter to comment that this was because they dare not face their past – Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden, Jimmy Thomas, the 1931 'National' government... Now Ed Miliband is trying the same desperate technique – concentrating on the promised future and ignoring the indefensible past –Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Alistair Campbell, Iraq, Afghanistan...And if anyone anywhere is still doubtful there is Labour's paddock of developing talent, presented so as to include A Future Leader Of The Party.
One of the brightest and most pyrotechnic of these is Stella Creasy, whose present prospects are for a steady whizz up the Greasy Pole –unless she turns out to have gone too far too fast. It all began when she was asked, at school, to join a noisy protest about the export of sheep from the docks at Brightlingsea. She underwent a political 'epiphany' leaving her dissatisfied with the idea of shouting and waving posters: 'you had to get stuff done'. Any excitement for her in this flash of conversion should have been calmed when in 1989 she joined the Labour Party – at a time when it was sliding towards New Labour with its immovable resolve to win votes by keeping stuff as it was and always had been. If she had any reservations on this whole issue she controlled them, taking jobs as a speech-writer for, among others, Douglas Alexander and Charles Clarke. Elected as a councillor in Walthamstow, she wrote herself a speech which unwisely argued that the nascent recession was passing so that 'We're already starting to see movement out of it...' Such loyalty to that fading government justified her nomination for the parliamentary seat at Walthamstow, which she won in the 2010 election with a majority well over nine thousand.
Perhaps she was unaware of the enormity of it but she began her time in the Commons by trying to use a lift. Another MP (Conservative and male), apparently unable to accept that a blonde younger women could also be an Honourable Member, informed her that the lift was reserved for MPs. Outrageous as this was it should have been useful to Creasy as an introduction to the prejudice and arrogance rife among those who have such power to regulate our behaviour in the interests of a ruling class. How she responded to that fool is not recorded but a guess can be made from the opinions of others. The Spectator named her Campaigner of the year 2011: 'an example of how to do opposition politics'. The Conservative Home website rated her as 'one of the few genuine Labour stars of the 2010 intake'. Even more impressive (and unnerving) Iain Duncan Smith thought that 'She has certainly got a bright future. Stella will go all the way'. After some delay, Ed Miliband gave her a minor job – Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention.
Any doubts on whether her promotion would devitalise Creasy's ambitions were answered when she joined Caroline Criado-Perez in her agitation for a female image to appear on the new￡10 bank note –which provoked a storm of Twitter abuse and threats of violence, including rape, toward both of them. The consequent panic obscured the fact that the monetary system is a necessary appendage to capitalism's commodity economy with all that means in terms of poverty and disaster, compared to which the style of bank notes is drastically irrelevant. Creasy has also spoken out about the problem of domestic violence, which on average results in the deaths of two women each week. This is one of the ugliest problems in this society, persisting whatever efforts are made to ease it. But it is not so straightforward; it is often in the confines of a home that the despair, the fear and the frustrations of an impoverished existence overrun all restraints, leading to behaviour which is internal and illegal as distinct from other, more damaging, violence for which people are clothed in uniforms and decorated with medals.
These are just samples of the 'stuff' which Creasy has involved herself in, on the assumption that there was something to be achieved in this way. She regarded Alexander as 'incredibly intelligent and kind' but the fact is that during his time in Parliament under Blair he rose through a series of ministries and is now Shadow Foreign Secretary, apparently complacent to have been part of that wretched experience. There is nothing better to say about Charles Clarke, who was Home Secretary under Blair. He made himself notorious for his readiness to undermine some of the most important legal safeguards of people up against criminal charges. He closed down the Stephen Lawrence Steering Group, set up by Jack Straw to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the MacPherson report on that racist murder, on the grounds that the majority of the Report had been implemented – which Stephen's mother, did not accept: ' I cannot believe we have achieved anything near what we should have done in the Steering Group'. Creasy's overall view of that government's record was crudely inadequate; on the murderous war in Iraq, and the lies, she '...didn't agree with the decision to go to war. I think, however, that we have moved on and we have a duty now... to both learn from that experience and address where Iraq is...'
To understand the working of this social system, enabling its passage into a sorrowful history, it is not necessary to experience anything like an 'epiphany'; the case for the abolition of capitalism now is constructive of past systems and human abilities within them. For example animals are exported, often with cruel suffering, for breeding or to be sold for profit. That is part of the nature of capitalism's wealth, always and everywhere as commodities. This is a fact which does not respond to shouting on the dockyard or elsewhere and it needs more than 'stuff' to change it.