2000 03 Editorial

A Spectre is Haunting Millbank…

“Haider IS Hitler!”, said the posters put up around London by the Anti-Nazi League in mid-February. And to prove it the picture of Raider had a toothbrush moustache painted on.

If the sentiment was confined to the Anti-Nazi League it would be harmless. The League has now been in the business of stopping new Hitlers for many years and the harmlessness of its activities is demonstrated by the fact that it has not yet succeeded in creating one.

The reason the sentiment is not harmless this time round is that the Prime Ministers of a dozen European countries have adopted it. And in order to stop Haider / Hitler they have instituted a de facto European Union boycott of Austria in breach of E.U. rules.

[Jorg Hader, born in 1950, was leader of the Freedom Party of Austria, national liberals with roots going back to the failed 1848 Revolution. Haider became leader in 1986, and began a turn towards right-wing populism, sometimes descrined as Fascist. There was outrage when his party became a junior member of a coalition with the centre-right Austrian People’s Party in 2000. Hader formally stepped down but remained the actual leader of his party. The coalition broke down in 2002 and the People’s Party won a new election. Hader formed a break-away party which had lower levels of support, and died in a car crash in 2008

[There is a massive mismatch between the treatment of Haider and later tolerance towards anti-Russian Ukrainians who include a large element who identify themselves with World War Two Ukrainian Fascists who were an independent anti-Soviet force that was part of the time in alliance with Nazi Germany.]

Socialism is in power in Europe. Or Socialists are. With the exception of the French, they ace Socialists who have jettisoned Socialism in pursuit of power. Somebody once said that socialism is what Socialists do. If that is the case, then socialism is now capitalism.

And this capitalism of the Socialists is capitalism on the Thatcherite side. It is `radical’, which means that it is intent on restoring free-market capitalism in regions of life where complacent conservatives had been content to allow social institutions to function.

Margaret Beckett was the last of the present crop of Labour Party leaders to jettison her socialist baggage. She left it until the eleventh hour to sell her soul. But that was soon enough for her to profit from the sale by gaining a Department of State. She became President of the Board. of Trade, and she immediately declared it to be her mission to de-socialise Europe economically in order to globalise it. She declared war on the Conservative fuddy-duddies who for two generations had been getting in the way of progress by conserving the social dimension of post-1945 capitalism.

She had once been apprehensive lest social market Europe should obstruct the advance of Britain towards full-blooded socialism. Then she became a Cabinet Minister with a degree of influence on European affairs, and she set about abolishing the social dimension of the market in Europe and restoring the law of the jungle.

The British example is being followed. Economic de-socialisation by Socialists has been set in motion.

But while they are de-socialising the economy and exulting hard-headedly in the destruction of the ideals–the illusions-that they once stood for, they would have us believe that they have committed themselves to other ideals which are no less worthy than those they have rejected but differ from them in being realisable.

But reliability is not a characteristic of the new Clause 4 as compared with the old Clause 4. The old Clause 4 had at least one quality necessary to an implementable aim. It set out a definite object.

It was not the aim of the Labour party as stated in the old Clause 4 that made the party unelectable in the `eighties. It was the ideological stance of the party leadership on matters other than Clause 4, under the leadership of Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock (with the lunatic fringe consisting of Margaret Oppenheimer Hodge and a dozen others who are Ministers in the present Government) that made it unelectable.

John Smith would have won the 1997 election with Clause 4, as Harold Wilson in the ’60s and `70s and Attlee had in 1945. The Attlee/Bevin government made an impressive start towards the implementation of Clause 4. Barbara Castle, though a Bevanite in general ideology, tried to follow through on Ernest Bevin’s realistic socialist project with her trade union legislation but was prevented by the phrasemongering Left allied with the wooden-brained trade union Right. Another attempt to consolidate the great post-war reform was made by Wilson in his second administration with the Bullock Commission on Workers’ Control- The Left pulled out all the stops in the campaign against the Bullock proposals for 50/50 trade union/ shareholder representation on boards of directors. Ken Coates with his Institute of Workers’ Control united with Neil Kinnock in a supreme effort to prevent capitalism being given a lease of life by saddling the trade unions with responsibility for the conduct of enterprises. They wanted Socialism Now, but it was not easy to grasp what they thought socialism was. But they knew that obliging trade unions to engage in the management of enterprise had nothing to do with it.

Trade union power, the greatest social power in the land only twenty years ago, had to be kept free and irresponsible, otherwise the socialist future would disappear.

We took the contrary view: that trade union power was too great to be able to continue in a position of irresponsibility. Socialist consolidation required that it should be harnessed to management of industry. In its unharnessed state it had become a power of obstruction, and if it continued in a purely obstructive role it would be broken.

Within ten years of the `Socialist’ rejection of the Bullock proposals, unharnessed trade union power collapsed before Thatcher.

It was the .socialist’ rejection of Bullock that made the old Clause 4 a dead letter. The Bullock proposals were the most practical step towards its realisation. By rejecting this step the ‘Socialists’ (the present Blairites) left themselves without functional domestic policies and they turned to the fads and fancies that made them unelectable. And them, on the verge of extinction, they became Thatcherites.

They struck out the old clause 4, having in any case refused to act on it when they had the power to do so in the seventies. And they replaced it with a new statement of aims. When doing so they condemned the old statement on the grounds that it was too indefinite to be implemented. They replaced it with a statement consisting entirely of fine sentiments abstractly phrased. It means in particular whatever one cares to make of it. There is nothing in it of an objective character. Its realisation belongs to the realm of palaver .. hype … spin. And if the Government claims at the end of its term in office to have realised it, one might argue with equal credibility that it was realised before it was formulated.

The Party won,, half-a-dozen election prior to 1997 with a democratic, rather that a democratic-centralist, structure. The different strands of it worked together because they imagined that they had some ideals in common which they could set about realising when they won an election. Nobody saw it as a flaw in the statement of aims that there could not be a comprehensive and final realisation of those aims in the course of a five-year term in government. Despite the Methodist input into the Party, the language and conduct of the leading groups was not Millenarian.

The Millenarian note was first struck by the ‘modernisers’. The first sign of it was Neil Kinnock’s litany of doom on the eve of Thatcher’s second election victory-the victory that Michael Foot handed her on a plate on grounds t6aft had nothing whatever to do with Clause 4. For the first time since the Cromwell fiasco of the 1650s, the language of the Book of Revelation figured in the forefront of British politics. And, when Thatcher won despite it, Kinnock set about becoming a Thatcherite.

Two elections later Kinnock had suppressed the internal life of the Labour party sufficiently, and had made it into a good enough imitation of Thatcher Toryism, to feel that he had the Prime Ministership in his pocket. Then he went and blew it with his Cup Final rally at Sheffield.

Kinnock lacked the authentic Millenarian touch. Millenarian ecstasy and the ecstasy of a football crowd are not quite the same thing. It was from middle-class England that genuine Millenarian ecstasy was generated.

Were Blair’s conference speeches written by the refugees from the Communist Party and the Trotskyist organisations with which he surrounded himself? Who else, at the turn of the Millennium, would be able to tap into the Millenarian state of mind? The Marxists did little else during their half century of intellectual dominance than perfect their manipulative skills and saturate themselves with the Puritan ideology of the 1640s and 1650s.

The art of writing speeches from which not a single idea can be excavated and delivering them with the kind of skilful sincerity that mesmerises the audience and makes it manipulable – that is what New Labour consists of.

In earlier times the different strands of the party functioned together because they all felt that the aims of the Party gave them things to do. That is no longer possible now that the Party has no aims. A different kind of unity is now needed. It is called “managed consensus”. In Germany in the 1930s it was called Gleichschaltung. In that period all good democrats felt a chill of horror at the word and at the thing. But New Labour knows that Gleichschaltung is of the essence of democracy, because the alternative is chaos.

Why did the leadership decide that Ken Livingstone had to be broken? Not because of policy differences. Ken was one of the more sensible elements of the `seventies Left. He did not inhabit the lunatic world of the Margaret Hodges. On many particular issues the world of English politics has gone his way, and in foreign policy he is in tune with the New Imperialism. It was not Ken that made Labour unelectable. The problem seems to be that those who did make it

unelectable have now come to power by doing things to themselves which Ken has not done. He represents continuity with a past which is their past but which they want to pretend is the past of other people. He is the spectre at their feast.

He may agree with them on most things, but that is not the point. The managed consensus is not agreement arrived at by use of reason. It operates through spiritual subordination. And the trouble with Ken is that he is obviously not a broken spirit who has undergone a charismatic re-birth. You have only to look at him to know that he is no modernised Seventh Day Adventist like Alan Milburn or Stephen Byers.

It was not because of policy differences that the Born-Again decided that Ken had to be broken, but because he gave scandal to the faithful by his spiritual pride-by the presumptuous integrity that has kept him still the same person that he was before the Blairites got their soul transplants.

(Sir Ken Jackson and Lord Tom Sawyer appeared on BBC 1’s `On The Record’ on February 28th to call for a halt to the “reform”, as the process of managed consensus is called. They fear that a party of clones will not be functional in the long run and they appeared to feel nostalgia for the old days when Party members were real people. Sir Ken might have done something practical about this earlier a couple of weeks earlier if he had balloted his union members about the candidate for the London Mayoral election instead of taking part in the election rigging against Livingstone. But before expressing concern for the life of the Party he took care to snuff it out.)

When Jorg Haider compares himself with Tony Blair we can see what he’s getting at. He too wants to prevent his country from being flooded with foreigners. He too wants a strong, competitive economy. He too wants to break up the old corporatist arrangements. He too wants to privatise.

Austria is one of the most socialist countries in Europe today. Its social structures derive in great part from the Nazi era. Haider wants to break them up.

The Socialist International is in power in the European Union. If it was denouncing Haider and boycotting Austria in defence of socialism that would make a kind of sense. But it isn’t doing that because it is itself now the major de-socialising and globalising influence in Europe.

Haider wants to do in Austria what Thatcher/Blair have done in Britain and what Schroder is intent on doing in Germany. (And we noticed that in mid-February that Schroder told immigrants in Germany that they had best go home.)

The only sense we can make of the EU stance on Austria is that the defunct Socialists have taken up a kind of displacement idealism. They are now doing in fantasy what they failed miserably to do in reality seventy years ago. They are stopping the rise of Fascism. But the odd thing is that what the Fascists want to do in Austria is what the Socialists are doing elsewhere.

The Austrian Socialists have not led the assault on Socialism, so the Freedom Party is doing it. But that is what happened here too. Thatcherism was a Freedom Party constructed within the Tory Party, and the Labour Party only took up the assault on Socialism after Thatcher had disarmed it.

Austria was for many centuries a sprawling multi-national Empire in Central Europe and the Balkans. Its loose hegemony over the German states was broken with the formation of the federal state of Germany in the 1860s. From 1870 to the First World War it was the small German centre of a state of Slavs, Hungarians, Poles, etc, and it devised increasingly democratic means of enabling these peoples to live together. The Empire was broken up in 1919 for no better reason than that it was defeated in the war. A whole array of new states was set up in its place. Austria was pared down to a small German state (with substantial German populations placed under the neighbouring states of Czechoslovakia and Italy) but was held accountable for all the debts of the dissolved Empire. This sudden transformation left it with political parties appropriate to a major state, chief of which was the Marxist Party. Intensive class conflict in a wrecked economy was the outcome.

There was a strong sentiment in favour of unity with Germany all through the ‘twenties. It was voted for in a referendum, but was vetoed by Britain and France, the organisers and guardians of the Versailles Settlement. (Germany was then the weak, ultra-democratic German Republic.)

The class conflict culminated in civil war in 1934. The workers were put down and the Christian Social regime of 1934-8 was described as Fascist.

In 1938 Hitler annexed Austria. Britain and France did not interfere. They had forbidden the unity of democratic Austria with democratic Germany but they allowed the uniting of Fascist Austria with Nazi Germany. The 1938 unification (Anschluss) was not supported by the Austrian Christian Socials and Social Democrats spent the next few years in prison where they agreed the post-war strategy of collaboration in the national interest. Practical collaboration under a superficial display of antagonism has continued ever since. That is what Haider wants to break up.

The economic infrastructure of Austria was greatly improved during the seven years of unity with Germany, and the Austrian personnel of the state apparatus were continued in the postwar state apparatus. Much the same thing was done by Adenauer in West Germany. There is very substantial continuity between the Fascist and post-Fascist regimes in both countries, and that is certainly one of the reasons why both states have been stable and prosperous in the post-war era.

The British media have shown no interest in finding out about Austria or about Haider, and there is little to be found about them in the bookshops. A book about Haider by Melanie Sully, published a couple of years ago, is not stocked by Foyles, or Waterstones, or Dillons. But the author (who appears to have the outlook of a British liberal) was interviewed an Radio Eireann (Ireland is not participating wholeheartedly in the boycott). She was asked about the fact that Haider’s parents had been Nazis. She replied that they were very small Nazis, and that if they had been big Nazis Haider would hold a leading position m one of the two big Austrian parties.

Stop! We don’t wish to know that!

 

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