Monday, 13 June 2016

What is the "Hard Left" anyway?

What exactly is “The Hard Left?”
 By Bernadette Horton


On a daily basis right wing newspapers and media refer to Jeremy Corbyn as the “hard left Labour leader” the Shadow Minister for Trade Unions Ian Lavery as the “former hard left President of the NUM” and any MP that dares to voice his/her support for Corbyn is automatically branded “hard left supporting MP…” The list is never ending, the job done by right wing media to spray tag the Labour Party, any newspaper that isn't owned by Murdoch and anyone remotely involved in a trade union as “hard left” is a daily diatribe most of us have become accustomed to.

After the recent Welsh elections where I was campaigning for a Welsh Labour victory day in and day out, I often heard this term bandied about by activists. In banter I often heard “you lot on the hard left need to realise what it will take for Labour to win an election.”  But what exactly is the “hard left”? And does anyone consider themselves to warrant  the right wing media tag of being “hard left.”?

I'm a socialist. Full stop. Yet I've been branded everything from a Stalinist to a Trot, from a trade union firebrand, to a Bolshevik and yes the tiresome “hard left” logo too. Every time I tell a stranger or even another party member I write for the Morning Star I am instantly branded with their own personal version of exactly where I fit into the “hard left” genre.

I believe in all children being given equal access to schooling, apprenticeships and university, whatever their background and those from poorer families given help to achieve this. I believe in the right of everyone to have a decent, warm roof over their heads at a price they can afford to pay and that means the building of social housing. I believe railways should be publically owned as the public use them and are entitled to a seat when they have paid the fare; a fare that is realistic for the service and doesn't eat into their wages that makes going to work extremely difficult. I believe in compassion for the vulnerable. By this I mean dignity for disabled people and dignity for the carers who care for them. A state that directly helps promote quality of life for disabled people and supports disabled people to  work if possible; and if not possible,  supports their right to a life without worrying how they can feed themselves and their families, and whether they are able to heat their homes.

I also believe that if the employers cannot be bothered to pay a living wage, then they should be compelled by law to do so. A fair days pay for a fair days work has never been more needed in this country than it is now. All concept of fair pay, fair hours and fair conditions is being eroded and we need to stop this immediately. If a parent needs to stay at home and care for children they should be able to do so while their children are young without the necessity of having to have either one full time wage if  they are a single parent or  two full time wages as a couple, coming in or they will suffer. It's no coincidence my childhood in the 70s and 80s was idyllic with a father in work and a mother working part time with no debt worries. Having a parent around who wasn't stressed out from working long hours contributed to my own mental health well being. Just look at the chaos our children are surrounded by now as they are tested from the cradle, have soaring mental health problems and are often lucky to have quality time with their parents, for an hour or two a day.

I vehemently believe in an NHS that is free from privatisation and treats everyone free at the point of entry. We pay National Health Insurance so have paid through work for our NHS in our working lives. For those unable to work I am happy my family’s dues and those of people in work and the better off  go to looking after them too.It is a fundamental freedom in this country that if you get sick or have an accident you will treated by dedicated staff free of charge.

I believe in the right to join a trade union. For a trade union to protect your rights in the workplace and more recently in the community. To negotiate pay deals, to stamp out poor health and safety conditions, to stand up to bullying and harassment in the workplace, to blow the whistle on unscrupulous workplace practices and praise the employers who are giving their workers a good deal. Bringing the odious Mike Ashley of Sports Direct infamy before Parliament to account for his Victorian workplace practices, where staff live in fear, mostly on zero hours contracts and have 110 ambulance call outs at its warehouse HQ in a given year is because my trade union Unite, and particularly Unite Community have put up a relentless campaign to make the billionaire Ashley accountable.

I passionately believe in business and trade : vital for our economy. I love to support our small independent businesses on the high street; the ones who treat their employees fairly. I see the fantastic apprenticeships developing specialised skills at places like Airbus near me in North Wales and see the trade they do in Europe and the rest of the world, and know those highly skilled jobs are well paid ones too with pay deals negotiated by their union. Likewise the steel jobs in our steel industry that we are frantically trying to save currently. Local MPs and Ams and indeed my own union,have been campaigning vociferously to halt the closure of our steel plants. These are the lifeblood of skilled and decently paid jobs that we need to protect.

I stand up strongly for the right to protest and demonstrate against injustice. You will find me in pouring rain and recently hailstones fighting to protect our steel industry, our public services, our care homes and protesting against the total evil  of benefit sanctions.

According to the right wing press this then makes me a ringer for the “hard left” badge of shame.

All of  the above, in my own view,  point to my socialist beliefs. My Labour Party beliefs. It's not “hard left” or any other right wing media obsessional name, but purely socialist. The same type of beliefs held by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and countless other Labour MPs. And I am opposed to elitism, power held by the “top 1%” those with money being able to buy their way into private education and university, oligarchs buying up London housing, a Tory government hellbent on making the poor poorer and the disabled more vulnerable and frightened, constituency boundaries being redrawn to favour Tory candidates, trade union activities and funding being unduly scrutinised and almost outlawed and the fear of helping refugees and the ugly politics of UKIP stalking our land.

But that's why socialists are being branded as “hard left”. It's the establishment fear, their own right wing hysterical fear that sees them lashing out on TV and in print. The fear that socialism will show them up for all that they are; opposed to the rights and aspirations of working class people, opposed to care of the vulnerable, opposed to working class people having a good quality of life.

I'm a socialist.  If that makes me “hard left” then I'm proud of it.