comment Guest article

’40 years of hurt’ – ‘Labour Voices’ script becomes vital guest article

Script that would have been video by late film-maker Simon Baker is turned into important guest post by Rotherham teacher Andy Searson on the importance of working-class values and history to the Labour movement, the urgency of the party remembering it and the hope it offers of real change
Andy Searson, appearing in a Labour Party video made earlier this year by Simon Baker

Andy Searson is a Rotherham teacher and Labour member who has authored a number of guest articles on the SKWAWKBOX about the reality of northern communities and the importance of Labour remembering their central place in the history and heart of the movement.

Andy was due to appear in the next of the seminal Labour Voices videos – a unique series that gives a voice to Labour’s genuine grassroots, created by outstanding Labour film-maker Simon Baker – but the plan was disrupted by Simon’s tragic death last month. Andy has taken the script and turned it into an article, to honour his friend’s memory and to make sure that the voice, history and priorities of his community and others like it are not lost.

Forty Years Of Hurt!
Andy Searson

Forty years of hurt! That is what the majority of people in our Labour heartlands have had to endure. For too many of our fellow citizens, the last forty years have brought decimation of their communities, local public services, suffering, hunger, homelessness and poverty. The 2017 Labour manifesto of hope ‘For The Many,’ provided real tangible answers to the everyday struggles faced by millions of our people. The manifesto pledges gave hope that real change, not seen for decades, was possible. But, if we are to really transform the lives of the many, we need to rebuild that sense of mutuality and community. Communities are made of people, not rhetoric. You can define a community by the shared attributes of the people in it and by the strength of the connections among them.

Pride, dignity, solidarity

I believe our future lies in the lessons of our shared history. Here in the Labour heartlands we had municipal pride and dignity – those that went before us transformed shanty towns and slums around the mines into thriving communities with sports clubs and facilities, parks, societies, clubs and welfare institutions. They built homes fit for our local heroes as they returned from defeating the fascists in two World Wars. Homes that seemed like palaces to those working=class families, our families, our great grand-parents, grandparents or parents.

We did this by caring for each-other, through our community spirit, our neighbourly solidarity and collective effort. The pooling of collective funds in mutual societies, Co-operatives and building societies.

Shared history under attack

Our shared history, our shared struggles, from the battles to save our steel industry, our mining communities, our manufacturing and clothing industry – bind us together. Whether you voted leave or remain in the EU referendum, we have that unbreakable bond of our shared history, our shared struggles and our shared hope that our children and their children will have better, more secure living standards than we have had.

From 1979 our communities have been under attack from powerful forces. An economic model that favours the few over the many. A system that has closed our steelworks, our coal mines, our care homes, libraries, sports facilities, robbed us of secure work, introduced zero-hour contracts, low pay, put our elderly relatives social care into the hands of private companies who think 15-minute visits is all they deserve after a lifetime of contributions. A system that shackles our children with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt for having the hope of a university education. A system obsessed with privatisation, outsourcing of services and one that put our hospitals at risk by burdening them with outrageous PFI deals and opening them up to privateers.

“Not the history our grandparents foresaw for us”

As our Industries fell one by one so did our high streets, parks, social clubs, societies and welfare clubs. The land where they had proudly stood has been swallowed up by profiteering private property developers or left derelict. This is not the future that our grandparents foresaw or wished for us. The communities that they built have been brought to their knees by a system that doesn’t work for us, our area, our communities and our families.

To rebuild our communities, we need a new system. We need to reignite that community spirit that I still see all over our towns and villages. We need to look to our families’ histories and how we built our communities using collective efforts – TOGETHERNESS, UNITY, STRENGTH. I believe Labour have that vision. I believe in that vision. Only Labour, under its new leadership, has the policies and a bold plan that will deliver for the millions of ordinary people. It is the key to unlocking stagnant potential and reigniting that ‘can do’ emancipatory spirit of 1945.

“Around here, statistics don’t mean much”

We are constantly told the economy has been fixed and growth is on the up! Some-times I wonder how “growth’ is measured. Because I keep hearing that the economy is growing, that things are on the up. I can’t see much sign of it from where I’m standing. Around here, statistics don’t mean much, when you’re struggling to make ends meet or to survive from one month to the next.

I remember when our communities were thriving. When we had decent jobs, decent pay. People had security in their work. We had money to spend and we spent it on our local high streets. We had proud industries and we had opportunity.

This is not some rose-tinted fantasy, it’s the places that we grew up in.

“It wasn’t just our communities that Thatcherism dismantled”

Yeah, we had our problems, but whether you were born here or not, we were ONE community and we looked out for one another. What happened to change all that? Why did we lose what we had? Was it the just the march of “progress”? Or was it something else?

I lived through the miner’s strike and the steel strikes of the 80s, when the Tory government under Maggie Thatcher set about dismantling the industrial heart of this country. I remember clearly the slogans of those who resisted: Save Our Steel, Coal Not Dole. These weren’t greedy people, all they asked for was the chance of an honest days work – security and self-respect for them and their families. But more than that, they knew what the destruction of those industries would do to towns like ours.

How right they were.

But it wasn’t just our jobs and our communities that Thatcherism dismantled. It went far, far deeper than that. They changed our economy, our politics, our country. Thatcher once said, “there is no such thing as society, just individuals”. For someone who didn’t believe society existed, she did a bloody good job of destroying it. No more “looking out for each other”, now, it was “look after yourself and bugger the rest”.

Because that’s the system we now live under – it’s a system that doesn’t value things like happiness, family or community, only cold, hard numbers. If it can’t be counted or put into a spreadsheet, it’s not part of the equation. And, if you can’t produce a profit, you’re in the dustbin.

Working-class anger overflowing

For nearly 40 years we’ve been living under this system, but only now are we seeing its results, the anger and the hurt overflowing. I understand the anger, I really do. I feel it. Not many people around here have any faith in politics and politicians. And here’s the truth – I’m a Labour man through and through, but I can’t claim it was just the Tories – even the party I love didn’t do enough to stop the decline.

“Things have changed”

But things have changed.

Don’t listen to the snake oil salesman who want to blame everyone and everything but the system. Because when you can’t get a GP appointment or you’re waiting 4 hours in A&E – it’s not because of immigrants – it’s because of the deliberate dismantlement of the NHS. When you can’t get a house – it’s because they’re not building any houses. When you can’t get a decent, secure job with decent pay, it’s because the system relies on insecure, poorly paid work. Immigration or no immigration, inside the EU or outside the EU, you don’t change any of this, until you change the system.

That’s what Labour will do, and that’s why they’ve had everything, but the kitchen sink thrown at them. They’re the only ones that have the ideas and the determination to really change our country for the better.

I know you’ve heard it all before, but if we stop believing that things can change, they never will.

People like Farage, Rees-Mogg and Johnson don’t want to change the way things work, they don’t want to save our communities, they want to light a fire under this country, and they don’t care if it burns to the ground as long as they can pick up the spoils.

I believe in real change, a better future and I’m fighting for it.

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  1. And that’s why we are proud to be socialist and ashamed and angry with what all lot of Labour mps and leaders of the Labour party have done to the working classes they are supposed to represent?Jeremy Corbyn is possibly our last chance to re establish some sort of fair society!We all especially us posters on here want somthing better but we don’t stand a chance when our representatives in parliament,don’t even come from the same background or believe in a socialist society.We now rely on the CLPs to deselect the traitors and I have to believe that those infesting our party will leave…..with a push

    1. Stuff the church indeed,or at least a church so broad it includes the likes of Blair and Mandelson.

      1. With those two inside, it sounds like the sort of church I’d happily barricade and burn down!

    2. ‘Broad church’ has got a bad name recently. But so has the notion of ‘church’ in general as hideouts for fairy tales and hypocrisy – and,indeed, abuse.

      But the essential notion holds good : not in terms of embracing those who are antagonistic to the basic tenets of a just society, but in terms of inluding a range of viewpoints on how that comes about. Anyone claiming that there is one true doctrine of ‘socialism’ is deluded.

      More importantly, if the Labour Party ceases to be a broad church in that sense, it can forget being a serious force in progressive politics.

      I can recall right wing Party members with whom I had serious disagreements. But they were, essentially on the same side.

      1. RH….when we use the word broad church,the meaning can only be Socialist of different background,…..Not rampant Libs or right wing capitalist supporters ,The word on the membership card says democratic socialist…..not cuckoo’s and various forms of Zionists,capitalists and uncle Tom cobly and all.We need a clearout and urgent deselections!,we might then go forward,but the current position of tolerating destructive associated body’s attached to the Labour party is unsustainable and downright suicidal…HELP!

      2. ‘Socialist’ is a term as much abused as ‘ Christian. There’s a few good ‘socialists’ and ‘ Christians’ I’ve known who use words as a cover.

        On the other hand, there’s lots of comrades who have eschewed windy rhetoric who I would have trusted in the trenches.

        Stalin claimed to be a good socialist. Ghandi didn’t.

        Just be careful with the purity purges – unless you value Labour only as an irrelevancy.

      3. RH, either you believe the rise of the 1% has to be stopped or you don’t.

      4. RH

        I’d say “Socialist” and “Christian” OUGHT to be interchangeable. Christ, for me, was the original Socialist.

      5. “either you believe the rise of the 1% has to be stopped or you don’t”

        Of course. But necessary – not sufficient. That’s why it isn’t fucking simple once you get beyond the bleedin’ obvious.

      6. Prime consideration absolutely has to be given to how each policy affects the wealth gap – any policy the wrong side of neutral MUST be rejected, otherwise the 1% still end up owning everything – just somewhat delayed.
        ANYTHING else and our existence will be at the whim of the super-rich.
        There’s no argument that gets around that inescapable fact.
        It’s not politics any longer, it’s not up for negotiation or discussion – by arguing for a broad church you’re arguing for an accommodation with the ‘centrists’ and that leads to a Vichy government with Twatson playing the part of Pétain.
        This is a fucking war and you’re on the wrong side, RH.

  2. ‘Municipal pride and dignity’ date back to the Victorian version of competition – most impressive Town Hall – lauded by Thatcher but comprehensively misunderstood and completely undermined by her stupid poll tax.
    The pride ratepayers previously felt at their ‘extra’ financial contribution to society was real – dinner party complaints were generally competitive but surreptitious boasting over property values.
    When everyone else was forced to pay the ex-ratepayers lost that.
    Making people already struggling pay a tax they can’t afford for vanishing levels of service leads to waste and bitterness, not efficiency and community spirit.

  3. What working people are not told is that everything is going nicely to plan, first capitalists create a crisis which they demand ordinary people pay for, thoroughly explained by Naomi Klein in the “Shock Doctrine”.

    Second in a world with shrinking raw material resources and the expansion of under developed countries and the growth of modern technological advancement (computerisation)……. where that very development transfers jobs and livelihoods away from traditional industrial countries …… reduces wealth creating opportunities which once thrived.

    Thirdly combined with a new ideology that on the surface promises more freedoms, better opportunities, and individual self advancement actually ends up destroying everything it promises, which has been the very doctrine that this article relates to, that since the 1970s became the given wisdom of most political parties and conventional economists. It’s called NEO-LIBERALISM and Thatcher along with the corrupt mass media emboldened and institutionalised it in the minds of ordinary people, saying that there was no alternative.

    Fourthly at a time when the public realised that something had gone seriously wrong in the country and cried out for change, the only party offering that was Labour, but to our dismay and at times disbelief, Blair transformed that very party into a Tory Neo-Liberal party NEW LABOUR that puts corporate power before people. Which in turn created mass disillusionment and further entrenched the notion of inevitability of falling living standards and an unequal society.

    Only when the tiny body of real left MPs within the Labour party rose up to offer a genuine alternative have we seen a rowing back of this pernicious political ideology, today no politician whether from the Liberal Party, Tory or right wing Labour will ever admit to being a Neo-Liberal, and the anti austerity stance has now blown up the myth that there is no alternative. Which is why the political discourse has changed from ideologies to one of outright hostility and character assassination of individuals who stand up against the establishment.

    Meanwhile a new development has also been born out of the ‘Financial Crash’, and that is a movement of international financial experts have aligned themselves to campaign against Neo-Liberal fantasy economics and explain something that is never taught in economics at Universities and its called money creation.

    Money creation is fundamental to how money actually enters the economy, and blows away the myths that that a country such as ours has earn in order to spend on public services and welfare. That most all money is actually created by the government itself through the Bank of England, called a central bank. Central Banks throughout the world issue money through private banks as loans, but unlike the myths most people are told, those banks do NOT use the savings of existing customers to pay for loans, but actually just type numbers into an account, called a deposit account. The Bank of England calls this process money creation, where money DID NOT EXIST before, meaning what we would call printing money, only its all done electronically today and are just numbers held in an account.

    Fundamentally, the financial crash proved that in a crisis or at any time of government choosing, they can produce unlimited amounts of money to solve whatever problems we meet, and that governments must intervene when the so called private sector fails. In short money is not a problem for a government such as ours but is for those that live within the Euro Zone because of the unnecessary Neo-Liberal doctrines imposed by the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. Although they did bail out the European banking system through what is known as Quantitative Easing, and since they have reduced that we have already seen Deutsche Bank shedding employees because they have the largest proportion of debt held by any Bank in Europe and are now forced to use traditional methods to reduce that debt burden. If they could change the rules to bail out the banks therefore, why did they impose austerity on the Greeks? the answer is of course obvious.

    So, this is why austerity is totally unnecessary, and our government doesn’t have a problem over money, it’s a political choice that Neo-Liberal politicians make. The choices they make are to transfer public services and assets into the private sector, creating a private sector monopoly that has power to dictate the living standards of the many by the few.

    1. Rotzeichen,thank for taking your time and effort to inform all of us on here….Knowledge is power,and you have shown that the Neo liberal alliance of Tory libs and Labour groupys at the alter of greed is bound to crash..and we urgently need to get Corbyn and socialism into downing street…for the very first time.I am a pensioner and cannot remember a socialist government.Not surprising really that people often say when canvassing Go on off your all the same?Maybe if we show some guts we will not all be the same and we can have a party with mps that we can be proud of instead of ashamed…talk about being out of touch with the membership,these mps have a lot to answer for?

    2. Neo-Liberal capitalism is in crisis, its last hope is to turn inwards and privatise the public sector to maintain profit.
      Perhaps this is why it’s advocates, media, and Neo-Liberals within Labour attack Jeremy and is his supporters so vehemently.
      As political barbarians they are fighting for their pathetic political lives.
      But we will win!
      ‘The old order, Neo-Liberal Capitalism is dying.
      But the new cannot yet be born.
      Perhaps we are all being tested.
      And only the stars will ride the storm!’

      1. Yes bazza! and you are correct and some like me will not be there to see the death of greed and corruption but Jeremy’s vision of a caring society will win……..and that will be enough for me!……Socialism will always survive greed

  4. I hope Wirral Council’s uninvestigated, recently re-relected #racist, disabled abusing, right-wing Labour councillors read this.

    There’s the rub.

    Truth will sweep all before it.

    1. Wirrel into Together…..I would be interested but have no account with Twitter or Facebook or WhatsApp and don’t want one…..can you suggest anything else…..No rude words please….mmmm

  5. Ps I am interested that despite eveything we are still electing right wing scum,maybe they think anything’s better than a Tory?

  6. We’re a deeply twisted country, psyche-wise, and most of our problems stem from the fact we’ve never dealt with our aristocracy, despite the illustrious nearby example set by the French in 1789.

    That’s why, instead of turfing the scoundrels out, we offer them our arses and ask for more. Look at the way the working class keep getting conned into voting Tory. Secretly, we’re kinky sadomasochistic bastards!

    1. “Secretly, we’re kinky sadomasochistic bastards!”

      You might have a point, given the space devoted to internal slagging in contrast to getting into power.

      1. Correct RH We are in the position of tolerating disloyalty within the Labour PLP as normal behaviour…….I could cry!

    2. You are spot on again timfrom,……but its lonely out their…..The British public seem to tolerate being subjects…….Despite donkeys years of refusing to stand up for the loyal toast at dinners,and embarrising my wife daughter and son I believe that the only person’s I swear loyalty to are the British public not the house of Windsor and their parasite offspring.When becoming a borough councillor Irefused to swear allegiance to the house of Windsor and all of their offspring…….Shame we don’t adopt that in Westminster,we might then have the vote of the republican Mps to cancel out the DUP…….simple as that…no republican will ever swear loyalty to an archaic and corrupt royalty

    3. Ti!from… I have just read your post regarding Christian and socialism and once again you are perceptive in recognition of true socialist belief and Christianity merge. Christ was so much a leader of the Jewish fight against enslavement of a conquering roman army.And that is why no true christian like me could ever support the Tory party. Rees moggs family were always known as informers and collaborators much the same as the howard family so called advisors to the royalty.No true Catholic would ever vote Tory and even in modern times most Catholics would vote Labour…. To argue christ and capitalism is ridicules !The carpenters son could only have supported and encouraged my veiw that socialism is the only moral choice

  7. Excellent piece and very relevant to me as a working class socialist as a great working class comrade of mine has just passed away and someone said of him: “He was one of those working class people who gave everything to Labour and never wanted anything for himself in return” which perhaps puts Right Wing Labour MPs to shame.
    The author is right, we have had 40 years of Neo-Liberal Capitalism which has systematically favoured capital over labour.”
    But now we have a real socialist leader in Jeremy Corbyn who will break the Neo-Liberal chain.
    Hold on brothers and sisters, “Jeremy’s Army is on its way.”

      1. Timfrom hang in there,you are not frightened and we need people like you and your sense of humour brightens the darkest days..We have few realists and even fewer in parliament.We will one day show our veiw is the only sane alternative to rampant greed

      2. Why, thank you, Joseph!

        Yes, we mustn’t get downhearted in the face of the shitstem and all its busy gremlins, who try to divide and dilute our power.

        “I’m gonna put on the iron shirt/And chase the devil out of earth!” Lee Perry, Chase The Devil. YouTube it…

      3. Yes to the tune of Oliver’s Army:
        “And we would rather have Jeremy in!
        Than the Tories any day!”

      4. Isn’t about time we had another political broadside from Mr Macmanus?

        He’s been awfully quiet on that front the last, ooh, 30 years!

  8. Neo liberalism died in 2007
    Unfortunately Brown and Obama decided it was too big to fail

    1. It should have died and so should the banks but as you say they were reanimated by QE.
      They’re zombies though – just need one good kick in the head.

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