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Socialism In The Labour Party Essay

2007 words - 8 pages

Socialism in the Labour Party

Socialism is defined in the oxford English as a "political and
economic theory of social organisation that advocates that community
as a whole should own and control the means of production,
distribution, and exchange." Philosophically this fitted the labour
party and it's roots. When the labour party was founded in 1900 four
constituent elements were instrumental in its make-up. Theses four
elements were: the trade unions, the social democrat federation, the
Fabians and the Independent labour party. They all needed socialism
although only the Social Democrat Federation had a strong ideology.
These groups produced a version of moderate evolutionary socialism
with an idea of a fairer more just society. They claimed human nature
was collectivist not individualist and could reach perfection. To
reach this state intervention was needed to run industry- for the
collective good. Labour, like all political parties, has changed and
evolved over the years, it has most definitely moved away from it's
roots and is by no means as socialist as it was. But is it still
socialist at all? In order to find this out I will explore the context
of old labour and socialism, the ideological debate, organisation and
structural changes, changes in policy and policy-making, and Blair's
'New Labour' government.

Traditionally Labour had won less electoral campaigns than the
Conservatives but it had secured a large amount of the working-class
vote and become the second force in British politics. Because of
labour's origins it paid more attention to internal democracy in its
organisational structure than the other parties. To do this it divided
policy formulation between the Annual party conference and the
leadership, the variety of interpretations of socialism which labour
were committed to made the party seem more divided than the
Conservatives. This is one of the reasons the party changed so
dramatically. Geoghegan illustrates this problem succinctly saying,
"the key problem in defining socialism, as with all ideologies, is
that of adequately capturing similarity and difference; showing what
unites socialists without minimising the tremendous differences that
separate them." The danger is that one will either reduce socialism
down to core essentials or simply give a historical narrative. Labours
idea of socialism changed not only form old to new labour but from
different stages of old labour. Before the representation of the
peoples act labour was essentially a fringe party and as such had
little responsibility except to itself. In Labours first time in
office it changed its policies dramatically opting for a safer, tried
and tested scheme of government, although this may have been due to
economic problems at that time. Labours aims changed again when Tony
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