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Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Political Wing of the British People

Blair and Reid will soon be gone. However, they seem to be determined to do as much further harm to the constitution as possible in their last few weeks. I am deeply suspicious of the new 'Ministry of Justice' as are the judiciary it seems. Far more outrageous though is this suggestion of permitting British police to stop and question anyone without demonstrating reasonable suspicion. Everyone thinks new Labour abandoned 'socialism' years ago but, in the sense of believing that all rights are ultimately vested in the state and merely conceded on loan to the subject, New Labour is thoroughly and dangerously socialist. It should not be forgotten that Labour was never officially a Socialist party until Blair changed Clause 4. The old version read:

"To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."

The evil Webb who wrote it meant nationalisation by 'common ownership' and 'popular administration and control'. However, it is open (and was possibly designedly open) to an entirely different interpretation. When the worker privately owns his own means of production there is obviously no need to secure for him the full fruits of his labour. If 'common ownership' and 'popular administration and control' are understood to refer to cooperatively owned productive and regulatory guilds independent of the state, then all that is required is to fulfil the terms of Clause 4 would be legislation to insure that when more than one family or individual is required to efficiently execute some economic activity the additional persons employed would have to be given ex-officio some share in the ownership of the enterprise. The paradigm would be something like John Lewis. Better still, if usury were re-criminalised there would be no need for such regulation. No one would long sell their labour to another when they could easily buy their own means of production. There would be no other way to acquire more capital than to labour and so the non-labouring owners of capital would be unable to price the labourer out of the market for the means of production. A cooperative and family based market economy would arise naturally without the need for the dead hand of the state.

Anyway, the new Clause 4 reads,

"The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few. Where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe. And where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect."

Which is obviously mostly platitudinous tosh but which does contain two positively objectionable phrases. 'Tolerance' is defined by the OED as "The action or practice of enduring or sustaining pain or hardship". If we are talking about the action then of course whether tolerance is a good idea depends on the circumstances in each instance. An evil may be permitted if its proscription would result in a greater evil, not otherwise. A habit of permitting evil of course is a vice. The practice of tolerance is therefore quite unsuitable for elevation to the rank of a general principle. There is no need to tolerate other cultures and races because they are good things and don't need to be tolerated. If a culture has bad elements then there may be a question of tolerance or not depending on the likely side effects of intolerance. Again this is a matter of particular prudential decisions not of a habit or settled practice. Far more scary is the demand for "a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few." As relative power, wealth and opportunity are always by definition in the hands of the few this can only mean that the majority should entirely deprive the minority of any power wealth or opportunity whatever. This might simply be bad drafting but I'm not so sure. Tony Blair once described the Labour Party as 'the political wing of the British people' and Jack Straw while home Secretary criticised a judge because "he has completely ignored the will of the people and public opinion as to what the criminal justice system is all about." Such comments suggest that if this was a draftsman's slip it was a Freudian slip.