Benn gives Labour left excuse to stay

LAST WEEK’S meeting of the Campaign Group of Labour MPs voted down Tony Benn’s proposals to change its name to the Socialist Group. Benn had further called for the insertion of the party’s existing clause four, word for word, into the aims and values of the organisation.

He wrote in a memo to his colleagues: “The purpose of both these changes would be to make clear to the movement and to the public that socialist ideas are still to be found inside the party. It might discourage members of the party from resigning, as some have suggested they might if clause four is deleted.”

No doubt he is right. So many Trotskyite entryist groups, as well as individual leftists, have been able to cite the existence of clause four in justification of their membership of a party which has never had - and will never have - the possibility of advancing the working class along the road to socialism.

The scrapping of clause four will not make an ounce of difference to the party’s practice.

The change will, however, be useful in gaining support from the ‘middle ground’, as Labour now consolidates itself as capitalism’s government-in-waiting.

Meanwhile the Labour left will continue as it always has, constituting the most dedicated section of membership, faithfully campaigning on behalf of the rightwing leadership at election time, while most of the ‘revolutionary’ left groups will continue with their absurd ‘Vote Labour but ...’ parrot cries.

Tony Blair still has some sort of fight on his hands to ditch the offending clause. But in the long term Benn’s desire to keep the left in the party - with its mouth clamped shut - will have done a disservice to the working class, whose urgent need is to build an alternative, revolutionary organisation.

Jim Blackstock