Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Hitchens is so Wrong About Labour

Peter Hitchens is one of those who loves it when people disagree with him, especially, it would seem his brother. But for a highly intelligent man he makes some statements which are shamefully wide of the mark. Take his line on Labour for example. Most of us party members feel our party has swung substantially to the right since the late nineties but Hitchens insists on the contrary:

'This is the most revolutionary government since Oliver Cromwell, dedicated to overthrowing the moral, social and cultural order of this country.The truth is – and I know it because I was a Sixties Trotskyist myself – that the Blair-Brown Labour Party is crammed full of unreformed revolutionaries.'

He claims that in the Parliamentary Labour Party he sees:

'my generation, the ones who between about 1965 and 1975 learned to loathe patriotism, the Armed Forces, proper policing, proper schools, traditional religion, marriage, the Monarchy and all the other things that ‘alternative’ comedians are paid handsomely to sneer at on the BBC. What a conformist bunch we were.'

Some truth in this view of course, but the key thing is that Hitchens adresses only one side of the argument. In terms of the social agenda huge changes in thinking have occurred but can all this be ascribed to the Labour Party, 'revolutionary' or not? The period of which he writes was one of great upheaval in terms of the breakdown of deference and the collapse of old taboos concerning sex, homosexuality, human rights and feminism. This was by no means a march of the Marxists but a much broader advance involving a huge range of influences, including the articulation of youth, the emergence of socially critical writers and film-makers and the assertion of the rights of women. To blame the Labour Party for all that is to give it far too much credit.

Most students of revolutions during the past century would argue they have been about economics: the way that the means by which wealth is generated allocates rewards that many consider unjust. Labour has accommodated Marxist elements but has never been even remotely Marxist; rather it has been gradualist and liberal. After 1945 it engaged in nationalisation but then abandoned that as irrelevant and sought to redistribute wealth by reforming capitalism to which is retained a degree of hostility. Blair and his New Labour confection changed this by abandoning any vestige of 'socialism' and embracing the markets: it reneged on its traditional ideas, according to leftie critics: any revolution that happened was within the party and was a counter revolution.

By ignoring the economic dimension and focusing on the social one (where he daftly overstates his case) he invents a straw man it is easy to attack but fails to enlighten. Mind you, I think he knows all this but continues with the error because it provides such good attack copy for the Daily Mail. And I did so enjoy his deconstruction of David Cameron in that Despatches programme a year or so back. Keep it up Peter, it's entertaining but it don't fool anyone except readers of the Mail.

Interesting post and blog. Curious that you chose a picture of Christopher rather than Peter for the post.
Yes, sorry about that Philipa; I've now corrected my mistake.
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