On Monday, I attended the Fabian Society hustings for the Labour Leadership, and was pleased to ask the following question: “Are you a Socialist, and if so, what does that mean to you?”.
All the candidates answered in first part in the affirmative, with David Miliband probably demurring the most, Ed Balls being the most fighting, Andy Burnham unexpectedly quoting Billy Bragg, Diane Abbot being equally passionate as Balls. Ed Miliband was less passionate, but gave the most coherent argument about how his Socialism would work in policy terms.
One of the reasons for the question was following a long beer-fuelled debate with some good friends. Essentially the debate boiled down to them arguing that they wanted to hear from the candidates where their ideas and passions came from, and I said that while that was essential, it was also important to know what that would mean in terms of their take on policies for the future.
Inevitably and quite rightly, when you ask this question, you ask yourself what your own answer would be. That presumably is the ideal answer that you would want to hear.
So I will attempt to give an understanding of what I mean when I declare myself a Socialist, and how this would inform my policies were I to come to a position of leadership (very unlikely, but bear with me here!).
I believe Socialism is about society using the tools at it’s disposal, at all levels, to ensure that the fruits of capitalism are shared by the many not the few. Sometimes that means nationalisation - the railways would be a good example here, sometimes it means fighting privatization – of Royal Mail which was a bad idea under Labour and remains one under “Saint” Vince. Sometimes it means regulation – tougher restrictions on pay and conditions to ensure a fairer society. Sometimes it means local solutions – like freeing councils to build more social housing.
The Socialist solutions are many and varied, but they all stem from the same basic set of principle, that between the five of them the candidates outlined on Monday and which distilled outline my beliefs.
I am Socialist of the Heart like both Billy Bragg and Andy Burnham, and recognise the innate equality we are born with and the inherent inequalities in the system that choke our ability to remain equal. Like Diane I draw my line in the sand and stand on the side of the stand of the voiceless and the powerless. Like Ed Balls I am passionate about opposing measures brought in by right wing Governments to remove the power of the state to stand at people’s backs using the rhetoric of getting out of their way. Like David Miliband I recognise that the responsibilities of Socialism don’t stop at our borders, and that we should be judged on how we represent the voiceless and powerless everywhere. Finally like Ed Miliband, I believe Socialism is about taking action, not just to oppose, but to regulate, organise and bend the capitalist system to the will of the people. To ensure the benefits Capitalism can bring are felt by the many not the few.
I have a declared favourite in this campaign, but I was pleased to find so much talent and agreement about being braver in our understanding and practice of Socialism. I will also work with other members to take full advantage of the newly awakened thirst for internal Labour Party democracy to keep the pressure on whoever wins to keep the fires of Socialism lit, and keep holding the coalitions feet to them!
Tags: Andy Burnham, Billy Bragg, David Miliband, Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Fabian Society, Socialism