MacDonald and nothing new about New Labour

“New Labour” is the biggest misnomer ever conceived. Blair and his adherents took us back to the period prior to 1893. Prior to that year working-class representatives co-operated with the rich and wealthy, hoping thereby to get crumbs from the table. This usually meant co-operating with the capitalists of the Liberal Party, but sometimes even with the landed Tory Party. In 1893 Keir Hardie and his colleagues had seen enough and formed the Independent Labour Party.

However, certain leading figures in the Labour Party always harked back to this era. James Ramsay MacDonald in the period before the First World War put all his efforts into alliances with the Liberal Party, making a mockery of the title of the ILP, of which he was a leading member.

MacDonald viewed himself as a theorist. He presented a theory of socialism which did away with the need for class struggle. He thought Marx had been wrong on that point. Of course, MacDonald was simply engaging in wishful-thinking. Even his sympathetic biographer admitted that MacDonald never showed how socialism could be achieved, which was quite a damning criticism of a supposedly major theorist.

Unfortunately, MacDonald set the pattern for many Labour politicians following him. Whilst talking socialism, or the more acceptable “social justice”, they co-operate fully with the rich and powerful, setting aside any need for class struggle.