Peter Hain’s comments last week that the government will have to take a more radical stance in order to regain its standing after the war, were treated as though such a new agenda would merely be a cynical way to win back support and that Labour would need to ‘look left’ again after spending so much time at the side of George Bush Jr.
But I think there is much more to Peter Hain than this. He is one of the most interesting figures in the government, and the party as a whole. I mean for goodness sake he is a New Labour minister who is not a afraid to use the ‘S-word’ or for that matter the ‘L-word’!
In this month’s edition of Progress Hain gives a more detailed explanation of what kind of radicalism he is talking about – he uses both words and calls it libertarian socialism:
Pioneers like the Levellers, Agitators and Diggers from the mid-seventeenth century – or, later, Tom Paine, the Chartists, Robert Owen, William Morris and GDH Cole – were libertarian, not state, socialists. They were committed egalitarians. But, crucially, they were also inspired by liberal values of individual freedom and justice.
Meanwhile, trade unions and political organisations evolved from a series of self-governing societies, groups and institutions not dependent upon some central apparatus. They were part of a radical democratic tradition later joined by the Chartists and still later by the suffragettes……
“We have the chance to a build a political legacy that we can look back on with pride. Our rich history shows that our movement was founded through democracy and freedom, and the decentralisation of control, ownership and decision-making. Too often, we on the left have talked as though we are about control and centralisation or about nothing. Past governments have sounded paternalistic and managerial, rather than empowering and liberating.
“It is in libertarian socialism that our true roots lie – and on its application to localism on which our success as a government will depend. In returning to those values, we can see the route-map by which we can unite around a future vision for Labour. “