In 1908 a top Tory grandee, informed that there was to be a new, socialist party coming into being which would threaten the status quo in Britain, responded “Don’t worry – we’ll have our own people running it.” Today, this right-wing role within the Labour Party is played by the Blairites and the Progress group. Bob Stothard examines the various well-funded groups that have voiced the interests of capitalism inside the Labour Party over the decades.
In 1908 a top Tory grandee, informed that there was to be a new, socialist party coming into being which would threaten the status quo in Britain, responded “Don’t worry – we’ll have our own people running it.”
How true those words were! Class collaborationists such as Ramsey McDonald, Hugh Gaitskell, Denis Healey, Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair slyly shouldered the traitor’s role. They blocked and schemed against every attempt by the left to introduce radical change into the Labour Party, even ditching Clause IV in the process.
Thatcher’s lovechild, Blair, still has plenty of adherents within the Labour Party and amongst MPs. Though they are loathe to admit it or show themselves in their true colours they are recognisable through their organisation – a limited company, no less – named ‘Progress’. This is just the latest in a long line of well funded right-wing groupings within the Labour ranks at Westminster and beyond.
Before Progress there was the 1974 coming together of the Manifesto Group founded by Greenock MP Dickson Mabon. The Manifesto Group fought tenaciously – and organisationally – against the growing influence of the left within the party and the trade unions. Unsurprisingly, given their inability to counter the socialist arguments, many later left the Party and joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) which ultimately merged with the Liberals, to become the Liberal Democrats. It hardly needs repeating but the overwhelming majority of these Quislings were public school types.
After the SDP split-off, this embarrassed rump quickly re-named themselves as the ‘Solidarity Group’ – tipping their hats to Lech Walesa’s reactionary Polish movement, then nobly challenging the Stalinist bureaucracy. Nevertheless, Solidarity proceeded to play a leading part in undermining Labour’s left opposition, which in turn acted as a gift to Thatcher who correctly noted that Labour had no clear policies in opposition to the Tories in office. The party leadership moved even further to the right with the elevation of Blair as leader, which saw Stalinist methods employed to deprive genuine socialists from entering Parliament.
Another grouping announced itself in 1996 as ‘Progress’. Never has a name been so ill suited within the labour movement. The Labour parliamentary ranks were stuffed with middle class careerists including the numerous but startlingly ineffective ladies who lunch known as ‘Blair’s Babes’. Join Progress and get your career rolling was the message!
Progress puts out a monthly magazine and manages a website. It promotes itself at labour movement events such as union conferences and the annual Party conference. Setting up a stall, hosting hospitality, staff salaries, expensive office rents, etc. do not come cheap. So, where does the money come from?
Donor-in-Chief is David (Lord) Sainsbury the ‘socialist’ billionaire scion of the Sainsbury group of grocers. Beginning in 2004, Sainsbury has donated no less than £2 million to this Blairite gang. Progress has also received large sums from Pfizer (who manufacture Viagra – their ‘free samples’ much in demand amongst MPs and Peers we are reliably informed) as well Lord Montague of Oxford, the billionaire businessman and political fixer and Lord Battacharayya, the Bangladeshi businessman.
It is no surprise to find Progress boasts of supporters and contributors such as Lord Peter Mandelson, Jon Mendelson, David Lammy, Tristram Hunt and Steven Twigg – dedicated anti-socialists every one. The group’s chairman is Andrew (Lord) Adonis.
Financial sponsors seem to include the largely unknown Unions 21, Reading LP, Guildford LP, the Hackney Labour Group, the Fabian Society and Labour Friends of Israel. Also listed is Bell Pottinger – the professional lobbyist company found guilty of altering Wikipedia entries to show clients in a good light. Its founder was Lord Bell who advised Margaret Thatcher on media matters when in power. As recently as 2011 the company donated £11,900 to the Tory party.
The NEC of the Party did investigate Progress but, despite being ‘concerned’ about its finances, allowed it to continue. This was in stark contrast to the show trial of the Militant editorial board in 1983 by the Party NEC, which, in the best Stalinist tradition, expelled them despite comprehensively losing all the arguments.
If groups like Progress and its predecessors were simply the chatterati intent on furthering their own personal interests we could safely ignore them and get on with building socialism knowing, when conditions were favourable, they would be vomited out of the body politic. They are, however, involved in decidedly dirty work, dedicated to the de-railing of the socialist ideal. Is this phenomenon a chance coming together of shared interests? Highly unlikely. The capitalist class have taken a great interest over the years in who leads the organisations of Labour both here and around the world.
Readers may have noted when perusing the CVs of prominent Labour right-wingers how many spent time ‘studying’ or working in US universities. Even in retirement, former Labour MPs head off across the Atlantic on ‘speaking tours’ for which they are handsomely remunerated – Blair being a case in point. This is where they are influenced by the CIA and such-like. They are convinced of the need to prevent any step towards socialism being enacted by those at home. The CIA infiltrates many left or even liberal organisations throughout Europe and the world. Through a baffling maze of conduits they have funded a huge network of anti-socialist groupings and voices across the whole political spectrum. An expose by Sunday Times Magazine journalists, written back in the 1970s, revealed that the CIA was funding the right wing in the Labour Party from the 1950s onwards; the article was mysteriously withdrawn prior to publication by the paper’s owners, but was widely circulated by activists thereafter. There is no reason to assume anything has changed since then.
A number of well-funded organisations and “official” bodies have tasked themselves with ensuring that pro-capitalist voices are in the right place at the right time, especially in the Labour movement. One organisation sticks out in particular.
The Bilderberg Group first met in 1954 at a hotel of the same name in Holland. Amongst the invitees was Hugh Gaitskell, the right-wing future leader of the Labour Party and a young Dennis Healey, who later admitted that western leaders and businessmen were worried by the advances being made by the Soviet Union and its tightening grip on Central and Eastern Europe as well as Mao’s China. It is a matter of record that this sinister operation has regularly received advice and material support from the CIA. Former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey would be a regular guest of the secretive Bilderberg group – a cabal dedicated to the preservation of global capitalism.
Healey bragged: “We pride ourselves in spotting future world leaders before anyone else: Bill Clinton and Tony Blair for example.” The group does not publish the minutes of meetings nor divulge the nature or content of the discussions and conversations which take place. Neither does it divulge why it is a registered charity. It claims attendees enjoy the opportunity to speak freely without civil servants listening in and adding cautionary advice. It was at previous such meetings that first the Common Market was thrashed out and later the launching of the Euro as a common currency.
Attending this year was supposed ‘hard man’ Ed Balls from the Labour frontbench. Also present was Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) along with ‘Boy’ George Osborne. Jose Baroso, President of the European Union made up the numbers. Leading world bankers attended including the heads of Goldman Sachs, Barclays and AXA, along with war criminal Henry Kissinger. Former Labour Education Secretary Shirley Williams, who deserted to Liberal Democrats, was present along with defence chiefs and armament manufacturers from the US and around the world. The Atlantic Institute along with most European heads of state came along too. Even Peter Mandelson got an invite.
These bodies are unelected and unaccountable – except to the ruling class that is. Organisations such as the CIA and the Bilderberg Group have funded and promoted the right wing within our movement for far too long. No wonder they have expressed fury over recent trade union efforts to reverse this careerist gravy train.
The message is clear: the Labour Party and most unions are in dire need of being reclaimed by working class activists. The right, like the capitalist system itself, will not give up their present possessions easily.
In Parliament the middle class careerists need to be turfed out and replaced by working people who have the drive, determination and vision to pave the way to a just and equal society for the betterment of all. New MPs should be steeped in the real history of our movement, with the theoretical basis to provide for the expiry of capitalism and the birth of socialism. Above all, the call should be “For a workers MP on a workers wage!”
In the words of Rosa Luxemburg “Those who do not move do not notice their chains.”