The Sickness of Labourism (London)
Panel discussion hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society at Goldsmiths University of London on October 19, 2017.
Jack Conrad (Communist Party of Great Britain / Weekly Worker)
HaPe Breitman (International Bolshevik Tendency)
Lyndon White (Political education officer, East Finchley Labour Party)
Robert Liow (Student activist, Kings College London)
Labour lost the election. But Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran of the 1980’s Labour left, seems to have saved the party. Corbyn's tenure has raised old questions about the Left's relationship to the Labour Party. While some on the Left take the crisis within Labour to be an opportunity, in various ways, for its transformation, others reject Labour as a dead end.
For Ralph Miliband, the crisis of Stalinism and welfare-state social democracy in the 1950s raised the problem of the political party for socialism. He thought Labour’s defeat in the 1959 general election made apparent what would have otherwise been obscure: “the Labour Party is a sick party.” This “sickness” was taken as an opportunity for the Left to clarify the nature of the Labour Party and go beyond the “labourism” which had defined it up until that point. The New Left sought to leverage this moment to educate a new generation “into the promise and the conditions for socialism in the 1960’s.” However, by the early 1970’s Miliband felt this opportunity had passed. How should we understand Labour’s metaphorical “sickness”? Should we seek to save the patient or to learn from its death?