From the July 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard
Once upon a time a bunch of dull politicians had a dream. They were going to “break the mould” of British politics. They would create a "sensible" political party which would be neither left nor right, but would offer all things to all voters. They were “moderate” politicians, not "extremists". By this they meant that they would not be so fanatical as to allow principles to get in the way of their quest for power. The political "experts" had an instant love affair with these very “sensible” politicians. The BBC and ITV commentators never ceased to sing the praises of this “sensible" new party, the SDP.
The SDP won millions of votes from workers who were sick of the two main parties. Many voted for it with blind faith in its promise of something different. These gullible people were to be sorely disappointed. The SDP was just like the other parties. Last month the SDP shut up shop, buried in the rubble of its monumental promises to make politics look different. In reality, the SDP stood for the running of the capitalist system, claiming that it could run the market more efficiently than Thatcher’s Tories. The SDP was a Tory party with an arrogant doctor instead of an arrogant Prime Minister as its leader.
Writing in the Guardian on 30 May. Eric Heffer MP stated that “Labour has now become the SDP Mark 2". We shall leave Mr Heffer to state why he supports such a party while claiming to be a socialist. He might like to consult Tony Benn MP who has admitted that the recent Labour Policy Review document, upon which the next Labour manifesto will be based, is a thoroughly anti-socialist statement.
To the Socialist Party the political logic is clear: the SDP was a Tory Party Mark 2; the Labour Party is now an SDP Mark 2: it therefore follows that the Labour Party is simply another version of the Tory Party. Just as a vote to make Owen Prime Minister was no different from a vote for Thatcher, it is quite clearly the case that a vote for Kinnock is exactly the same as a vote for Thatcher. The victory of a Labour government in the next election will be a victory for the continuation of the market system—of profit before human needs.
Socialists can only be encouraged by the demise of the SDP. With that party has died the fraudulent claim that there is a cosy middle ground between naked, ruthless capitalism and the socialist alternative. Now the Labour Party—or, the “new” Labour Party as it likes to be called—is doing its utmost to revive that pernicious claim. Labour presents itself as the comforting, undisruptive, moderate party which can be trusted to look after Great Britain PLC on behalf of all the people, workers and capitalists.
Do not be deceived: there is only one way to run the profit system and that is with callous indifference to the misfortune of those who must be poor so that the capitalist class can be rich. The Kinnock mob, if they get their hands on power, will be loyal servants of the millionaire class and that will make them enemies of the wealth-producing majority.
As Owen climbs from the ruins of his own political failure he has more than a slight smile on his face. Just as one SDP is buried a new one has come to life in the form of the remodelled Labour Party. There is only one way to knock the smile off the faces of the two-headed Owen-Kinnock monster and that is for workers to refuse to squander their votes on such reformist opportunists and instead unite consciously and democratically for socialist revolution and nothing less.