Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Socialist in America

My new Labour Party membership card has just arrived in the post. I must be the only card carrying member of the Kensington Consituency Labour Party in Virginia Highlands, and, quite possibly, the only "democratic socialist" in Midtown Atlanta. Good: a lunatic is always in a minority of one.

British expats, by and large, tend to be tax dodging Tories. Or rabidly right-wing supporters of UKIP who endlessly complain about immigrants refusing to integrate (despite being intolerant expats themselves). Little Englanders, in other words.



Why am I a supporter of the Labour Party? I believe in the Welfare State, the BBC, the National Health Service and free education for all because I am a product of the post war social consensus that lasted from 1945 to 1979 and the election of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government. The late Margaret Thatcher is still a hero to many in the UK, and here too in the USA. Although her act was popular aboard Mrs Thatcher, as Prime Minister, was loathed and despised by a great many people in the UK.  Why? Because she destroyed the manufacturing base of the country, put millions on the dole queue and created a North-South divide. And that is why I am a lifelong supporter, and member, of the UK Labour Party.



But what about the indigenous population at post? Americans loathe, hate and fear socialists.  In the US of A, democratic socialism is synonymous with totalitarian communism.  So you have to be quiet about left-wing political allegiances in America, the country of two right-wing political parties (three if you count the Libertarians).  Any kind of state intervention or government programme is percieved as "socialist" here. Obama bailing out the banks?  That's socialist.  Why did he bother to do that, for crying out loud? Because if he didn't use Keynesian measures to shore up capitalist blunders there would be bread queues and tent cities across America like the 1930s. Obama a socialist? If only!   



So, as a card carrying champagne socialist of the UK Labour Party, it pays not to declare your political allegiances in midtown Atlanta.  But Americans always get a shock when they find out that their favorite UK politician of late, Tony Blair, is a socialist. Amazingly, Blair still describes himself as a socialist despite his estimated personal fortune of £70 million.  Why is Blair so rich? One lucrative source of income is the private lecture tour circuit here in the USA. He's made a bundle on it, just like Margaret Thatcher in the 1990s. Blair's motivation is worry: he does not want to die broke like Harold Wilson, one of the last true socialist leaders of the UK Labour Party.  


Harold Wilson in 1970. He lost to Edward Heath.


The bad dream of New Labour is dead and we've got a general election next May in the UK. And, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, once again, I shall be voting for the Labour Party. But, to expats and Americans alike, I will keep the peace, and avoid the subject of politics. Especially on those awkward occasions when the locals praise the late Tony Blair...