The British Labour Party is under siege.
Originally, at the time of its inception, it was a socialist party representing the membership of the trade unions, and therefore, essentially, working men. Its natural homelands were in the heavy industrial areas of Glasgow, the north of England, London and the coalfields of Wales. It was a party of the cities, not of the countryside.
Since the 1970s, it has been involved in a massive dialectical struggle with itself and with what might be called the forces of global capitalism, which have been trying, with some success, to marginalize it and exclude it from political discourse.
It is interesting to map this process.
The 19th Century philosopher, Hegel, described the movement of history as a constant process of the collision of opposing forces that combine to produce the next collision. It was a favourite interpretation of history by Marxists, but you don’t have to be a Marxist to see it in action, and Hegel himself was certainly not a Marxist.
Modern British politics did not begin with Margaret Thatcher, but we have to begin somewhere, and we must admit that she was the most influential Prime Minister of the late 20th Century.
If we describe the politics of Thatcher in dialectical terms, her ideas can be seen as what Hegel called the ‘thesis’, and the politics of The Militant Tendency and Tony Benn would be described as the dialectical ‘antithesis’. This is the conflict that drives history.
Thesis versus antithesis equals synthesis. The whole process moves on, now, because the compromise ‘synthesis’ automatically becomes the new thesis, and so on, ad infinitum.
Thus, we have Thatcherism versus radical socialism equals New Labour. Margaret Thatcher versus Tony Benn equals Tony Blair. This is, indeed, what happened, and a left wing Labour Party shifted to the right in order to pull in the left wing of the Tories.
This should not have been a surprise to anyone, even though, obviously, it was! It is the way history works.
New Labour, therefore, became the new thesis, the new orthodoxy, if you like, and David Cameron merely continued the New Labour pattern, even though he led a Conservative Government. The antithesis, or anti-orthodoxy, has arisen in the Labour Party, in the form of the Socialist policies of Jeremy Corbyn.
The dialectical struggle is now taking place inside the Labour Party, between Corbynites and New Labour.
Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives are moving in to claim the centre ground that Labour is vacating, for Politics, like Nature, abhors a vacuum.
The Nation’s politics is like a set of old-fashioned scales in which the fulcrum is constantly shifting from left to right and back again. With each shift of the fulcrum, more weight has to go on one side or the other to keep the scales level.
When the scales no longer balance, we have revolution and tyranny.
So, the Conservatives are now moving into the centre ground, to mop up disaffected New Labour voters, and the Labour Party will be further forced to the left to re-connect with left wing young people.
The next dialectical spat may well come from a conflict between the Conservatives and UKIP, before the Labour Party can live again with its right wing.