TWO CHEERS for Ed Miliband who came out in support of the St Paul’s protesters last weekend. The Labour leader said that the protesters camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London presented a stark warning to the political classes and reflect a wider national crisis in confidence about the values of those in business and politics.
But, while clearly keen to align Labour with today’s mounting anger against the capitalist class that is sweeping Britain and the rest of Europe, Miliband was careful not to endorse what he called the "long list of diverse and often impractical proposals" of the protesters
Writing in the Observer, Miliband described the Occupy London protest and others around the world as "danger signals" that only the "most reckless will ignore".
"The challenge is that they reflect a crisis of concern for millions of people about the biggest issue of our time: the gap between their values and the way our country is run,” Miliband declared. “I am determined that mainstream politics, and the Labour party in particular, speaks to that crisis and rises to the challenge”.
The Labour leader hasn’t stuck his neck out that much. He’s got at least half the Established Church behind him and he knows that most of the ruling class themselves fear a Greek-style backlash and want to distance themselves from the “let them eat cake” neo-con attitude that was the norm in Bush and Blair’s days. And while he’s happy to lend half a hand to a few hundred tent people parked in St Paul’s churchyard he says nothing in support of the millions preparing for the biggest strike in British labour history on 30th November.
Last week the Cameron government made a revised pension offer to avert the public sector strike at the end of the month. The offer, which would exempt those who stand to retire within the next 10 years from the changes and gave slightly more generous upper limits, did nothing to allay the major areas of union concern such as increased pension contributions and later retirement. It was too little too late and it’s been justly rejected.
Miliband talks about the gross inequalities in society. Like some of the media pundits or Anglican bishops we see more frequently on TV these days, he talks about the immense annual bonuses the City bankers pay themselves while their own staff are paid peanuts and the unemployed and the elderly are forced to eke out a miserable existence on a benefits system that is facing further cut-backs.
This certainly more than what his predecessor, the wretched Tony Blair, would have ever said, But Miliband is not making a case for social justice and he is essentially appealing to the bourgeoisie to accept reform and help those at the bottom of the ladder climb up a peg or two.
Former Labour premier Harold Wilson once said that the Labour Party owed more to Methodism than Marx. Wilson may have been biased towards his own Wesleyan church but he was certainly right about the Labour Party.
Wilson, like a number of other Labour leaders in the 20th century, was a lay preacher. Though they were all dab hands at extolling the virtues of Jesus none of them seriously claimed that prayers not politics were the answer. But the politics they espoused were those of reform, social-democracy and bourgeois argument to deride and dismiss Marxist ideas and scientific socialism.
Working people have never got anywhere with pious motions or cringing appeals to the supposed good conscience of the bourgeoisie. Past victories were won only through confrontation with the employers and their state machine. Today the working class can only rely on the organised strength of the unions to defend their rights, now under massive attack from the ruling class and the Tory-led Coalition government. Resistance to the bourgeois onslaught on our living standards will get a huge boost with a massive turn-out for the pensions strike in three weeks time. Support the protest in St Paul’s but let’s make sure it’s solid on 30th November!