Trotsky Would Laugh

15/08/2016 13:31 | Updated 15 August 2016

Labour has forgotten what its name means. Labour is a movement of the common labour force, not a centre right tepid mediocracy, nor a diluted moderate Conservatism.

The party is truly divided. Those that pine for the Blair era now adopt and fashion a 'New Labour' model from Owen Smith, Angela Eagle or perhaps another equally uninspiring mannequin dressed in counterfeit socialist clothes. Such 'coup' members should separate from Labour and rebrand themselves a new party, the 'neo-liberal party', or, oh, wait, maybe 'New-Labour'. Orwell was prophetic in his depiction of Oceania 'Newspeak' as a tool to stunt dialogue, thoughts and concepts. Call the ministry of war the ministry of peace. Call diluted Conservatism 'New Labour'.

Just don't call this centre Right politics a labour party, for labour means Left, by definition. The labour movement is founded on Left wing principals, beginning in Scotland in 1889 the early labour movement weaved together multitudinous Left schools of thought, almost as varied as the people involved. It was the working class, ordinary folk, coming together to organise, agitate and take control of their working life, defending themselves against capitalist and industrial excess. Defining the conditions of their labour. Left. Socialist. Organiser. Agitator. These are not things to be ashamed about. These words and values brought us the eight hour working day by James Deb via the short-time movement, along with countless other examples and social victories. Unions were born with the Amalgamated Society of engineers in 1851, and later the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in 1868, and it is telling that the unions are predominantly backing Jeremy Corbyn's Left policies instead of Owen Smith's soft Conservatism.


Why be ashamed of the Red in Labour?

The Red in the Labour branding originates from socialism and communism. The semi-official anthem of the Labour party is 'The Red Flag' by Jim Connell, and proudly sung by Labour MP's after victory in 1976 to the reaction of much mace waving.

The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts' blood dyed its every fold.
So raise the scarlet standard high,
Beneath its shade we'll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.

The Red flag dates back not only to the 18th century French revolution movement but to the Roman Servile slave revolts of 135 BC: think Spartacus. This deep, wonderful socialist and communist shared history ties the UK labour movement in with other labour movements around the globe such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), affectionately called wobblies, the Canadian liberal movement, Australian Labor, and Latin American socialism and communism. You ain't done nothing if you ain't been called a Red. This is a history to cherish and be proud of. A history that drinks deep in the stream of the long memory of people and social struggle. Why is New Labour so afraid of this foundational history?


New Labour, personified by Blair, now Owen Smith, do not consider themselves part of the labour movement in a classical sense. Left wing socialist labour movements are repugnant and frightening to them; an embarrassing radical lineage to be swept aside for their anglicised big business conservative neoliberalism. Owen Smith Inc. will vociferate in loud platitudes he is going to form an 'electable' party, and his intent is probably sincere. The problem is, an electable party as envisaged will barely be distinguishable from a Tory party incumbent, so it has to be asked - what is the point of getting elected if in so doing you adopt the persona of the opposition? The desire for power is the obvious mundane answer.

Jeremy's successful galvanisation and flourishing growth of the Labour party, has been towards traditional left, working class socialist frameworks, and this terrifies a significant section of the party who dislike such political ground.

There is an irony that they chose the word Trotskyite to throw at people. Trotsky argued for perpetual revolution and instability, and this is precisely what the coup leaders are perpetuating within the Labour party - instability. Trotsky would be laughing. But the word Trotsky in the 2016 sense is a Red herring.

The Reds are not at the gate

Trotskyism can have academic interest, and should be nothing to be ashamed about even if one were an advocate, but Trotskyites are not queuing in their thousands to join Labour. It is an empty linguistic tactic devoid of meaning. In order to understand its recent cynical deployment, one must divorce the word from its actual meaning, like Orwellian Newspeak. It was chosen virtually at random, and Tom Watson could just have easily picked anarchism, Fabianism or Marxism. The word in its current context has nothing to do with belonging to a specific school of labour movement thought. It is not to do with communism in the Russian sense as the name suggests. It is just a word some pundit in an office thought would appear scary, confusing and attractive to the mainstream press. The pundits succeeded in manufacturing a circus of fictional dissent into party ranks in the hope that the distraction would undermine what is becoming a genuine grassroots revival for the labour Left.

You do not need to break out your history books and read up on 1920's communist Russia in order to understand the political turn of events in UK politics. The whole Trotsky fad is just a variant of 'project fear' tactics that have gained popularity with politicians in recent years, across the political spectrum, due to the success of attaining political goals by intimidating and frightening voters. It is a concerning trend.

Project fear will certainly manifest itself again in other guises and words by other politicians for other reasons, but be under no illusion: the word Trotsky is nothing more than fear mongering. It is a calculated distraction.

The media, like some excitable puppy dog, is enjoying chasing this new word about. Throwing it up in the air and catching it again. Barking vague nonsense about its deeper meanings. Let's hope they bury it soon and we'll move on to the next thing we're prodded to be afraid about.

Viva la revolución.

Adrienne Macartney runs the public engagement project 'Science Hooker', and is a final year PhD student at the University of Glasgow where she studies the loss of the early atmosphere of Mars, and what lessons this loss might provide for tackling climate change.