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Socialism, Labour and Brexit
In recent times the word socialism has not had the nicest of connotations, the Labour Party has had its reputation tarnished and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, faces constant onslaught from the media. New Labour in all four of its manifestos from 1997-2010 failed to mention the word socialism at all. This distance from the origins of the Labour Party can be attributed to the 18 long years Labour spent in opposition, during that time Thatcher and the Conservatives implemented schemes of privatisation and deregulation of the economy. For Labour to return to power they realised they realised they must accept the privatisation of the economy and work within the capitalist system, dropping the belief in the original Clause IV. In recent years, however, the Labour Party has been pushed back to the left by momentum returning to its socialistic origins but without the old clause iv. This explains the lack of appeal a more socialist manifesto has as for the past 40 years almost that type of nationalisation and regulation hasn’t been present in Britain at all.
The catastrophic defeat at the 2019 general election can be attributed to two key factors. The incompetence of Jeremy Corbin as leader of the Labour Party. And the extreme manifesto, this left-wing manifesto isolated the moderates from the New Labour era. Socialism of that kind died in 1979 and as stated by Francis Fukuyama Liberalism has marked the end of history, not socialism, contrary to what Karl Marx claimed. Labour only managed a return to government by adopting a technocratic standpoint and embodying the third way advocated by Anthony Giddens. This ideology was not too dissimilar from modern liberalism clearly coherent with Fukuyama's statement. It seems if Labour wants to return to power scaling down the Socialism will be a huge factor.
It seems certain now the UK will leave the European Union. What does this mean for Socialism and the Labour party? Tony Benn once called the EU a capitalist club believing it only protected the rich and was another reason a socialist government would struggle to get into power. He believed for socialism to be rejuvenated in Britain leaving the EU was one of them as it would transfer full sovereignty back to Parliament. This was endorsed by Anthony Crosland, from the Social Democrat wing of the Labour party, who claimed the EU makes implementing socialistic policies namely Keynesian economics very difficult as national governments will struggle to do it without full autonomy over their economy. He also famously stated that supranational economic policy leads to austerity not enhanced social welfare, words echoed almost 40 years later by parties in Greece and Spain. This belief in the incompatibility of Socialism with the EU could mean once Britain is out of it, a Socialist government may have an easier time implementing socialist economic policies and regulating the economy. Brexit may just be what is needed for a Labour government to successfully implement a socialist economy albeit in a more moderate and modern manner than Labour governments of the past may have done.
Only time will tell how the Labour Party and socialism in Britain will adapt to recent events and react to Brexit, but Brexit and a harrowing defeat at the election might just be what Labour needs.