Wednesday, 8 February 2017

President Trump’s State Visit, by David Lindsay

Mr Speaker Bercow does not want President Donald Trump to address Parliament. Is Trump a worthy successor to Nelson Mandela? No. Is Trump a worthy successor to Aung San Suu Kyi? Ask the Rohingya about that overrated figure. But is Trump a worthy successor to Barack Obama? Oh, yes, indeed.

By all means protest against Trump’s actions. Up to a point, protest against his utterances. But do not protest against his presence. His arrival in this country would do us no end of good. Provided that the reaction were led by the right people.

The American Democratic Party has been defeated in the person of the most economically neoliberal and internationally neoconservative nominee imaginable. The lesson needs to be learned. The workers are not the easily ignored and routinely betrayed base, with the liberal bourgeoisie as the swing voters to whom tribute must be paid. The reality is the other way round. The EU referendum ought already to have placed that beyond doubt.

There is a need to move, as a matter of the utmost urgency, away from the excessive focus on identity issues, and towards the recognition that those existed only within the overarching and undergirding context of the struggle against economic inequality and in favour of international peace, including co-operation with Russia, not a new Cold War.

The defeat of the Clintons by a purported opponent of neoliberal economic policy and of neoconservative foreign policy, although time will tell, has secured Jeremy Corbyn’s position, since he is undoubtedly such an opponent.

For 25 years, almost completely ignored except in relation to the Iraq War, a section of the political Left and a smaller section of the political Right have consistently opposed the racist, militarist and imperialist policies of the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump Administrations. For 20 years, almost completely ignored except in relation to the Iraq War, a section of the political Left and a smaller section of the political Right have consistently opposed the racist, militarist and imperialist policies of the Blair, Brown, Cameron and May Governments.

A steadfast stalwart has been, and remains, Corbyn. His election and re-election as Labour Leader have been significant victories for the movement against liberal interventionism. Another victory was the social media campaign that led to the lobbying of the House of Commons such that it defeated the Cameron Government over Syria. Therefore, it is not correct to say that, “They never did Stop the War.”

In the event of a State Visit to the United Kingdom by President Trump, it is imperative that those with that consistent, and not unsuccessful, record be the organisers of what would easily be the largest demonstration in British history, and that that demonstration be addressed by Corbyn. This would have the potential to politicise an entire generation, thereby changing Britain in myriad ways over at least 50 years. But it would have to be led by those who would have reacted in the same way to a State Visit by President Hillary Clinton.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Brexit and a New Second Chamber, by David Lindsay

Both Houses of Parliament will reject withdrawal from the Single Market, if it ever gets that far. But whereas the composition of the House of Commons can be changed, that of the House of Lords cannot. At least, not without what would be the ludicrous creation of hundreds of Peers in one go. Giving the Lords a veto is Theresa May’s way of ensuring that the whole scheme is killed off. This has nothing to do with such reforms as there were under Tony Blair. Those reforms postdated the European Communities Act, the Single European Act, and the Maastricht Treaty.

This looks like the real possibility of a new second chamber. But there is no point in waiting for May to come up with anything specific. We all remember the Blairites on this, too. Instead, the Left needs a specific proposal that would maximise the representation of the Labour Left, of smaller Left formations that had the good sense not to use the C-word or what have you for electoral purposes, and of non-party Left activists. There are alliances to be made here.

“Brexit means Brexit,” says the Prime Minister. The democratic will must be respected, says the Leader of the Opposition. They need to confront the mounting anger about the ballooning size of the unelected House of Parliament while the elected House is being cut, and that despite the growing population. The powers of the House of Lords should be transferred to a new Senate, the members of which would be remunerated in the same way as MPs were. Ministers would not be drawn from the Senate, but they would appear before it. Even the Prime Minister might. The Senate’s term of office would be six years.

Each of the nine English regions would elect 30 Senators, namely six Conservatives, six Labour, six Liberal Democrats, six from other registered political parties that did not contest Commons elections, and six non-party candidates to sit as Crossbenchers. Many of us do not like the word “Independent”, since, while not members of any party, we are proudly part of many overlapping networks of political interdependence.

In the first three cases, any member of the relevant party who was a parliamentary elector within the region would be eligible to stand. As electors, each of us would vote for one candidate, with the top six elected at the end. Casual vacancies would be filled by co-opting the next candidate down who was willing and able to serve. The fourth category would use party lists, again requiring candidates to be from within the region. The fifth would replicate the first three, but for non-partisans.

Scotland and Wales would each elect 30 Senators. Five each from the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP in Scotland or Plaid Cymru in Wales, other registered political parties that did not contest Commons elections, and Crossbenchers. Northern Ireland would elect 30 Senators. Three each from the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Ulster Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party, other parties that did not contest Commons elections, and Crossbenchers.

This would give 360 Senators, representing a very broad range of political opinion. UKIP, or whatever came after it, would happily exchange the off-chance of one Commons seat for the effective guarantee of 11 Senators and the serious possibility of 12. The same would be true of the three Green Parties in different parts of the United Kingdom. And practically every elector would be able to point to at least one Senator for whom he or she had voted.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The People's Organiser, by David Lindsay

Tony Blair is planning "more than a think tank, but less than a political party".

And the traditional right-wingers of Labour First are crowdfunding £40,000 for an organiser to fight against Jeremy Corbyn.

But we are also crowdfunding £40,000 for an organiser, the People's Organiser:

One organiser for every £40,000 raised will provide platforms for those who:

- understand the lesson of the EU referendum result in the United Kingdom, and of the election of Donald Trump in the United Kingdom, which is that the workers, and not the liberal bourgeoisie, are the key swing voters;

- locate identity issues within the overarching and undergirding context of the struggle against economic inequality and in favour of international peace;

- welcome the fact that the EU referendum was decided by those areas which voted Leave while voting Labour, Liberal Democrat or Plaid Cymru for other purposes, and which have thus made themselves the centre of political attention;

- celebrate the leading role in the defence of universal public services of those who would otherwise lack basic amenities, and the leading role in the promotion of peace of those who would be the first to be called upon to die in wars;

- have opposed from the start the failed programme of economic austerity;

- have opposed every British military intervention since 1997; 

- opposed Tony Blair's privatisation of the NHS and other public services, his persecution of the disabled, and his assault on civil liberties, all of which have continued under every subsequent Government;

- oppose Britain's immoral and one-sided relationship with Saudi Arabia, and reject the demonisation of Russia;

- have the real eyes to realise real lies, seeing the truly fake news as propagated in support of the economic policies of neoliberal austerity and the foreign policies of neoconservative war;

- reject any approach to climate change which would threaten jobs, workers' rights, travel opportunities, or universal access to a full diet;

- seek to rescue issues such as male suicide, men's health, and fathers' rights from those whose economic and other policies caused the problems; and

- refuse to recognise racists, Fascists or opportunists as the authentic voices of the accepted need to control immigration.

Please give generously.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Why Is The Left So Narrow-Minded?, by James Draper

Like many of my friends, I consider myself to be on the political Left, oppose our current foreign policy in the Middle East, and support Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership of the Labour Party.

However, very few of these friends also support withdrawal from the European Union, oppose modern feminism, or question the theory of anthropogenic global warming, and many are hostile to those who do.

Too many times, there has been an implication during and after the EU referendum debate that the 52 per cent who voted for Leave were naïve, ignorant or racist – as if the Remain campaign were uniquely free of dodgy statistics and misleading information. 

Not only is this deeply insulting and patronising, but it does not reflect my personal experience. 

I was originally in favour of the EU: I loved the idea of nations trading and cooperating to find solutions to common problems.

If I could have seen a glimmer of hope that the EU could reform, then I would gladly have voted to Remain. But I could not keep deceiving myself. 

The EU has not guaranteed peace in Europe: it played a role in initiating the recent trouble in Ukraine.

It is not a friend of the poor and vulnerable: it is heavily influenced by big banks and corporations, and it has caused misery for the people of Greece. 

You do not have to be on the political Right to oppose it, as Tony Benn and Bob Crow demonstrated so brilliantly.

Surely treating European immigrants more favourably than non-European immigrants is the real racist policy, and surely expecting the unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats in Brussels to change their ways is the real naivety?

My main principle against the European Union is also the reason why I oppose our foreign military interventions: I believe in independent nation states, and that the internal running of a country should be a matter for the people of that country to decide and no one else. 

I often find that those claiming to be the liberal, diverse, progressive voices in Western politics are much more intolerant than their opponents.

For example, whenever I reveal to people that I do not identify as a feminist, I am almost invariably met with looks of mingled incredulity and fury.

“So you don’t believe in women’s rights?” is the usual response. Of course I do; I cannot think of a single person I know who does not wish for women to have the same legal rights as men.

My opposition to feminism does not stem from misunderstanding the word either: I have examined the modern Western feminist movement, but I cannot relate to it at all.

We hear all the time that women are paid less than men and oppressed by a “glass ceiling”.

Men do on average earn more money than women and vastly outnumber women on corporate boards, but this is due to lifestyle choices and not discrimination. 

In 2000, sociologist Dr. Catherine Hakim published a paper on “preference theory”, which stated that while four in seven men in the UK were “work-centred”, only one in seven women was. 

Generally, men work longer hours and take less time off work, while women prefer a work-life balance.

Motherhood often plays a large role: if a woman takes time off work to have a baby, this will inevitably have an impact on her progression in her career.

It is also worth noting that the Equal Pay Act has prohibited paying men more than women for the same work since 1970.

Under the age of 35, women now earn more than men in the UK and the US.

Longitudinal studies show a causal link between artificially increasing female representation on corporate boards though enforced gender quotas and decline in corporate financial performance. 

If feminism is about empowering women, then why does it continue unnecessarily to present them as victims?

Talented women can succeed in the workplace without legislation that is deeply patronising towards women and discriminates against men.

In her launch speech for “HeForShe”, Emma Watson said, “Fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating.”

But feminists themselves are responsible for this in many ways.

For a start, look at the aims of “HeForShe”: to “engage men and boys as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality by encouraging them to take action against negative inequalities faced by women and girls.”

There appears to be no sense of recognition that men and boys can also often be victims of gender inequality, and no desire to rectify this.

Examples include the high male suicide rate, lack of support for male domestic violence victims, lower male life expectancy, male genital mutilation, victims of false rape allegations, underachievement of boys in schools, fathers denied reasonable access to their children after a divorce, and gender disparity in the sentencing of criminals.

These are much more important issues than women on banknotes, female composers on an A-level Music syllabus, and other thoroughly trivial matters that receive far more attention from mainstream feminists and exposure in the media.

In the interests of democracy, raising these issues in Parliament should not be left to Philip Davies.

As I have not examined the scientific research into climate change far beyond the theories taught in science lessons and sound bites in the media, I do not feel qualified to take a firm stance for or against the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

It therefore irritates me when other people, whose knowledge into the subject is no more intimate than mine, smugly pour scorn on anyone who so much as questions the prevailing consensus on this issue.

There are many interesting points raised by the sceptics, many of whom are scientists.

These include the political nature of the IPCC, the influence of solar activity on climate, the decrease in global temperature during the post-War economic boom, the amount of money invested in climate science, and periods in history when temperatures were much warmer or cooler than today.

Why are people so scared of debate? If we chose the wrong path, then the consequences would be disastrous either way. 

Major floods would occur, destroying infrastructure and livelihoods, or we would have sacrificed jobs and hampered international development for the sake of a mistaken dogma.

Therefore an open, honest debate is of the utmost importance.

I do not share a number of Jeremy Corbyn’s perspectives. However, were I a Labour Party member, then my vote would go to him. 

I do not understand how Owen Smith’s leadership would add value to Labour. 

Nearly all his policies appear to either be virtually identical to Corbyn’s, thereby rendering a change of leadership pointless, or a blast back to the Blair days of Labour and the Tories battling for the alleged “centre-ground”, abandoning in the process their principles and the people whom they were supposed to represent. 

He claims to want to appeal to the general population and not just to Labour members, yet he shows no respect for the democratic will of the British people to leave the European Union – running the risk of losing more Labour voters to UKIP.

As for Corbyn, where I disagree with him, the fake Conservative Party tends to sing from the same hymn sheet.

Where I agree with him (such as renationalising the railways, taking action against the housing crisis, scrapping Trident, and ending our series of catastrophic interventions in the Middle East), his presence is a breath of fresh air in Parliament.

Anyone who attended the Durham Miners’ Gala could have seen with their own eyes how much his ideas resonated with ordinary people.

His Opposition has reduced the Government to U-turns and ad hominem remarks many times this year.

He has performed his role with admirable dignity, despite being showered with buckets of slime from all directions.

Labour finally shows signs of rediscovering its principles. If only those on the opposite side of the House could do the same.

Our Historic Bloc: Gramsci, Corbyn, and the Labour Party, by Andrew Godsell

I do not know whether Jeremy Corbyn has read the writings of Antonio Gramsci.

In a way, it is not too significant. Progressive political movements are much bigger than the personalities of their leaders.

Regressive movements – such as the regimes of Benito Mussolini and Margaret Thatcher – exhalt the personality cult of the divine leader.

As somebody who has been a member of the Labour Party since 1984, I see the emergence of the mass movement, in which 600,000 people are currently voting in a Leadership Election, as a vital part of our history.

Jeremy Corbyn has sparked the vision of a Labour Party that will end austerity, and which will rebuild the National Health Service and the railways as public services, while redistributing power and wealth.

The era of neoliberalism, an economic policy that Thatcher and Ronald Reagan borrowed from the horrors of General Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, led to a particularly severe worldwide crisis of capitalism – it started in 2008, and it is still reverberating. 

Tony Blair and New Labour achieved a great deal in the early years of power, before the ethical foreign policy gave way to unconditional support for the USA’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while the pledge to abolish the House of Lords withered away as MPs focussed on fiddling their expenses claims.

But Blair’s Labour did not challenge the basis of the power structure in Britain. Now we have a Labour Party that has a choice.

It looks likely that Corbyn, an MP since 1983, with a strong record of support for the working class, trade unions, and internationalism, will be re-elected Leader.

The alternative is Owen Smith, a man who trivialises women and people who struggle with mental health issues, while his background career with Pfizer, a private drugs company, undermines the Labour commitment to the NHS. 

Smith is an unsatisfactory figurehead for 171 members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, desperately clinging to the questionable way they used to do things, and at odds with the 60 per cent of the membership who elected Corbyn a year ago. 

So where does Gramsci fit in with this? 

I first became aware of the Italian politician, theorist, and prisoner of the Mussolini government, around the time that I joined the Labour Party. 

Gramsci’s name often appeared in the pages of Marxism Today and the New Left Review, magazines that I would read alongside the Labour Party’s New Socialist

During the 1980s, I read several collections of Gramsci’s writings, including the Prison Notebooks, plus a biography, and analysis of his thought. 

Gramsci’s central ideas include hegemony, the system of beliefs by which a ruling class asserts and reinforces its position. 

Gramsci advocated ways that the working class could counter hegemony, by creating its own ideology, and by building a movement that became a historic bloc, ready to take power and change society.

Some of the most interesting passages in the Prison Notebooks have Gramsci writing about the nature of a political party, and how its history can be explained. 

This has greatly influenced my book Why Not Trust the Conservatives

Gramsci occasionally touched upon the specifics of British politics, praising the strength of the trade unions, but he was sceptical about the potential of the Labour Party in his era. 

He developed the idea of Ceasarism, whereby a political crisis can lead to power being seized by a heroic personality. 

The crisis can, however, lead in parliamentary systems to a compromise, with Gramsci stating that:

“The ‘Labour’ governments of MacDonald were to a certain degree solutions of this kind, and the degree of Ceasarism increased when the government was formed which had MacDonald as its head and a Conservative majority.”

From his prison cell, with limited access to information about the outside world, Gramsci immediately saw the significance of the formation of the so-called National Government in 1931. 

Half a century later, Stuart Hall, writing in Marxism Today, saw an echo of this in the formation of the Social Democratic Party, as a group of Labour MPs defected to set up a centre grouping in Parliament, to oppose Thatcherism without challenging capitalism.

Now we hear rumours that the re-election of Corbyn as Leader will prompt many Labour MPs, returned alongside him in the 2015 General Election, to seek a repeat of the SDP betrayal.

It appears they may intend a request to the Speaker of the House of Commons to be recognised as a separate Opposition party, presumably without offering to seek a new mandate through by-elections – a precedent unexpectedly set by the two Conservative MPs who defected to UKIP in 2014. 

Unfortunately, at this point in writing the piece, I learned that I had been suspended from the Labour Party, and deprived of a vote in the Leadership Election, due to unsubstantiated allegations about comments on Twitter. 

Thousands of other loyal comrades are also suspended. 

My battle to reverse the suspension, imposed by a right-wing element on the National Executive Committee, continues as I resume writing about Gramsci.

I believe that this is just another example of the need for Labour to be a mass Socialist party, committed to changing Britain, rather than an echo of Blair’s New Labour. 

A party united around radical policies, with a membership four times that of the Conservatives, can win the next General Election. 

I have spoken about the potential of Jeremy Corbyn, as a figurehead for a re-energised Labour Party, at several political meetings, including my seconding an ultimately successful nomination of Corbyn by Southampton Test Constituency Labour Party last year. 

A few months ago, John McDonnell, Corbyn’s left hand man, addressed a packed Labour meeting in Southampton. 

One of the pre-submitted questions answered by McDonnell came from me: 

With the Labour Party having returned a reduced number of MPs at each of the last four General Elections, do you believe we will make the massive gains required to win a majority next time? Would joint work with other parties, on issues such as the NHS Reinstatement Bill and scrapping Trident, help us to replace the Tories with the progressive government the British people deserve? 

In reply, McDonnell said that Labour had been working with other parties to oppose, and several times defeat, the Conservatives in Parliament in recent months. 

On the other hand, he did not favour a formal electoral pact, believing that the strength of Labour can enable it to win power at the next Election. 

Since then the rebellion against Corbyn in the Parliamentary Labour Party has reduced its effectiveness. 

There has been increasing debate among the Left about some sort of progressive alliance between Labour, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party, aimed at defeating the Tories, and I support this.

I have never believed that the Labour Party had a monopoly on left-wing truth, and I see keeping the Tories out of power as more of a priority than returning a majority Labour government.

The SNP and the Greens have enjoyed major increases in their vote, and membership, in the last few years, because they offer something different to established Westminster politics, and give people hope. 

Labour, led by Corbyn, and with McDonnell leading the fight against austerity, can increasingly co-operate with this upsurge in progressive politics. 

As I approach the end of this piece, I have just read a profile of Corbyn, and his leadership campaign meetings, in The Guardian.

The author, Gary Younge, says:

“Corbyn talks about renationalising the railways, building more houses and reaching out to people with mental health problems. There is no talk of neoliberal globalisation, quoting of Gramsci, or appeals to intersectional thinking.”

Perhaps we could have some Gramsci quotes from Corbyn and his supporters, but the specific policy ideas we are developing are more important.

If Corbyn is re-elected Labour Leader, and if we regain power from the Tories, then our ideas can be put into practice on a national scale, making Britain a better place to live.

The media deride us as Corbynistas, but I am excited that we are forming a new Historic Bloc.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The British Left Should Support The Monarchy, by David Lindsay

As the Queen attains the age of 90, the question of the monarchy’s dying with her is being given another outing.

When Prince George was born, there were complaints that we now knew that our next three Heads of State, probably stretching into the twenty-second century, would all be white males.

Well, they would all have been white males, anyway. The present one is not male. But any elected Head of this State always would be. And white. And quite or very posh.

So why bother changing the present arrangements? 

No one with anything like the Royal Family’s foreign background would ever stand a hope of becoming the President of Britain. The Queen is of heavy immigrant stock, and she is married to an immigrant.

They are both probably part-black.

In fact, no one could believe anything else having seen a portrait of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whose features were publicly called “Negroid” at the time, when her ancestry was common knowledge and apparently disturbed nobody.

The city of Charlotte in North Carolina is named after her, and it is the seat of Mecklenburg County. 

Furthermore, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are plausibly believed to be descended from Muhammad through various part-Moorish royal lines on the Iberian Peninsula.

Even if Robert Graves was once ushered away from Her Majesty after he had mentioned their common descent from the Prophet of Islam, that view is widely held in an entirely matter-of-fact way across the Islamic world. 

Genghis Khan and the Tang Emperor Suzong are less plausible ancestors, but not impossible ones. 

Loyalty to the monarchy is nothing if not a bulwark against racism, and not only, although certainly, because the Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth, as well as directly of 16 member-states.

Only four of those 16, including this one, have white majority populations.

Only two of the remaining 14 British Overseas Territories are predominantly white, and only one of those two has a population descended primarily from these Islands, something that Canada and Australia also do not have.

Try and imagine anyone with anything remotely approaching the Queen’s known ancestry as a candidate for President of Britain. No such person would stand the slightest chance of election to that office.

Nor would anyone aged 26, as the Queen was when she came to the Throne. Nor would anyone aged 90.

The Royal Family is not at the pinnacle of the class system.

That is the old Noble Houses of England and Scotland, who look down on the Royals as immigrant noovs, an unfortunate political necessity from the eighteenth century.

That was the root of the trouble with Diana. She had married down. Time was when the Spencers, then the richest family in the Kingdom, had even bankrolled the indigent Hanoverians.

Liberty is the freedom to be virtuous, and to do anything not specifically proscribed.

Equality is the means to liberty, and is never to be confused with mechanical uniformity; it includes the Welfare State, workers’ rights, consumer protection, local government, a strong Parliament, public ownership, and many other splendid things.

And fraternity is the means to equality. For example, in the form of trade unions, co-operatives, credit unions, mutual guarantee societies and mutual building societies; numerous more could be cited.

Liberty, equality and fraternity are therefore inseparable from nationhood, a space in which to be unselfish. Thus from family, the nation in miniature, where unselfishness is first learned.

And thus from property, each family's safeguard both against over-mighty commercial interests and against an over-mighty State, therefore requiring to be as widely diffused as possible, and thus the guarantor of liberty as here defined.

The family, private property and the State must be protected and promoted on the basis of their common origin and their interdependence, such that the diminution or withering away of any one or two of them can only be the diminution and withering away of all three of them. 

All three are embodied by monarchy.

Monarchy further embodies the principle of sheer good fortune, of Divine Providence conferring responsibilities upon the more fortunate towards the less fortunate.

It therefore provides an excellent basis for social democracy, as has proved the case in the United Kingdom, in the Old Commonwealth, in Scandinavia and in the Benelux countries.

Allegiance to a monarchy is allegiance to an institution embodied by a person, rather than to an ethnicity or an ideology as the basis of the State.

As Bernie Grant understood, and as one expects that Diane Abbott understands, allegiance to this particular monarchy, with its role in the Commonwealth, is a particular inoculation against racial feeling.

No wonder that the National Party abolished it in South Africa. No wonder that the Rhodesian regime followed suit, and removed the Union Flag from that of Rhodesia, something that not even the Boers' revenge republic ever did.

No wonder that the BNP wants (or wanted, since it now scarcely exists) to abolish the monarchy here.

It was Margaret Thatcher who mounted an assault on the monarchy, since she scorned the Commonwealth, social cohesion, historical continuity, and public Christianity.

She called the Queen “the sort of person who votes for the SDP”, and she arrogated to herself the properly monarchical and royal role on the national and international stages.

She used her most popular supporting newspaper to vilify the Royal Family.

When the Sex Pistols sang of a “Fascist regime” in the Britain of 1977, then they were referring to a Labour Cabinet with Tony Benn in it. 

Benn had also been the Postmaster General who had taken on the pirate radio stations in order to protect the livelihoods of the unionised musicians.

The fans of pirate radio and then of the Sex Pistols went on to elect Thatcher three times, and did not vote Labour at another General Election until Tony Blair had come along, giving him a third term as Prime Minister even two years after the invasion of Iraq.

God Save The Queen, Comrades.

God Save The Queen.

@davidaslindsay

A Patriotic Vision for the Left, by Tom Bailey

A version of this article previously appeared here.

For a long time now, the words “nationalistic” and “patriotic” have seemed to me to be largely associated with xenophobia, bigotry and prejudice.

Political parties like UKIP and the British National Party have long been claiming that only they are proud of their country and their people.

UKIP’s 2015 General Election manifesto was emblazoned with the slogan “Believe in Britain” as if no other political party did. The English Defence League adopted St George’s flag (ignorant to the fact that St George was Syrian) as if to suggest that they were the true guardians and lovers of our country, and that no other political party could really care for England.

A quick Google search reinforces this unusual association between bigotry and patriotism.

The so-called “patriot movement” consists of various conservative movements in the United States that include organised militia members, tax protesters, conspiracy theorists, and radical Christians who believe in an impending apocalypse.

‘Patriotism’ apparently equates with ‘loony’, too.

And just as these illiberal, conservative groups often pose as patriotic, so the left has forever been accused of the opposite: of having a deep loathing for the United Kingdom and wanting to systematically dismantle all of its traditions and institutions.

In his novel A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor describes his early perception of left-wing politicians as men and women determined to see the destruction of everything ‘British’, from country-life and religion to cricket and farming.

This view of the Left as anti-patriotic was evident in the Daily Mail’s childish and brutal attack on Ralph Miliband, the socialist writer and late father of Ed Miliband.

The tabloid absurdly branded Ralph as “The man who hated Britain” for no other reason than his left-wing political stance, despite the fact that he fought for Britain in the Royal Navy.

Of course, the Daily Mail consistently publishes utter nonsense, but its influence and power cannot be ignored – these are views held by a large amount of the electorate. 

The persistence of this perception is terrifying: if you type “Corbyn hates” into Google, the first two suggested searches are not (as you might expect) “Corbyn hates inequality” or “Corbyn hates injustice”, but instead, Google suggests the two searches “Corbyn hates England” and “Corbyn hates Britain”.

Although Google may not be trustworthy when it comes to politics (I wonder why…), it seems that many in England agree with Cameron when he says Corbyn has a “security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology”. 

This branding of the Left, and the Labour Party in particular, as anti-British or anti-patriotic, is very damaging indeed. 

Previous polling has shown that nearly 8 out of 10 British people are proud of their nationality, and so any party hoping to win in 2020 must reflect that pride. 

And I believe that it can be done. 

The rise of the SNP in Scotland and the popularity of Plaid Cymru in Wales show that patriotism and socialism can and should be synonymous. 

Nationalistic politics does not have to mean regressive politics. Loving your country does not necessitate xenophobic values and inward-looking views. 

Caring about our country does not mean we must abandon our concern for the rest of the world, nor does it mean we should redirect foreign aid to benefit ourselves alone, one of UKIP’s manifesto pledges.

I also believe that patriotism, while it involves pride, does not mean we must agree with everything our country has and will do.

Being patriotic does not mean we must celebrate our terrible imperialist past, nor does it mean applauding war and supporting unnecessary violence.

For too long, we’ve allowed the word ‘patriotism’ to be wrongly defined, and we as radicals must reverse that.

We should not be afraid of waving the English flag or of calling ourselves patriots, because patriotism can mean pride in our National Health Service, in our Welfare State, and in our democracy.

Patriotism can mean the love of our diversity, our tolerance, and our acceptance of other cultures.

Patriotism can mean the love of our artistic history and our support of progressive values, notable in our fight against Nazism.

It doesn’t have to mean a passion for the monarchy, a love of tradition, or a constant support of war, as many now see it.

Patriotism certainly can be dangerous – there’s no denying it.

That’s possibly why Marx opposed it so much (“The working men have no country”), seeing it as divisive, anti-internationalist, and a direct cause of conflict.

But, as I have attempted to demonstrate, it doesn’t have to be.

If we love our own country, we do not have to hate the countries of others. Love of one thing does not necessitate the hatred of another. 

So patriotism isn’t necessarily a bigoted ideology.

Indeed, if argued correctly, a left-wing patriotic ideology could unite the British people like no other, ending the politics of fear (exemplified by the scapegoating of the poor and foreigners) and ensuring pride in, and passion for, our liberal institutions. 

That is why the Labour Party and the Left as a whole must embrace the word patriotism, rather than shying away from it – not just to increase their electability, but to bring people together. 

Whilst right-wing politicians brand the people of the UK as scroungers and wasters; just this week, Alan Duncan claimed that achievement equals wealth, suggesting that millions of British people are lazy and unsuccessful.

And whilst the Tories take benefits from working people and dismantle the NHS, the Left must stand for compassion and love, protecting our people and its institutions – what could possibly be more patriotic?

The Left are the true patriots, and we must prove it.

@TomBaileyBlog