In his recent little rant in The Guardian, George Monbiot lists more than enough reasons for erstwhile Labour voters to withdraw their support at this election.  It includes the usual complaints from the left/centre-left over the growth in inequality, pro-business policies and authoritarian social policies inflicted or tolerated by Labour since 1997.  This criticism, though damning enough, is not sufficient to convince a lot of committed (if unhappy) Labour supporters – in his blog David Osler has consistently argued the case for the left to stick with Labour, if not uncritically.  This view combines two elements: first that all the likely alternatives would be worse, and secondly that the Labour Party can be renewed in either its old social democratic form or a more radical, left guise while maintaining its working class base.

The first argument, as well as being speculative, tends to exaggerate the differences between the three ‘main’ parties.  In their joint determination to see the recent economic crisis and subsequent recession as simply a Minsky Moment which can be eased back to ‘business as usual’ by more regulation of financial services and (a little) more restraint by bankers, they surely are the three wise monkeys of capitalism.  As I suspected would be the case, this election campaign has revealed very little in the way of significant differences between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats, whether on the economy, civil liberties or the environment.

The second argument ignores the way in which all votes cast for Labour have explicitly been used as evidence of positive support for the New Labour project.  Also it does not address the limitations of reformist parties which lack clear objectives or mass popular support or both.

The unpalatable truth is, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed, non of the parties is being honest about just how severe the coming public sector cuts are likely to be.  But to challenge the consensus for this among the ‘political class’ of politicians, commentators and experts means challenging the system of capital accumulation itself.  New Labour, as boosters for globalised monopoly finance capital, are surely part of the problem not the solution. The Labour left, though, is still wedded to a feeble ‘state socialism’ based on a centralised state delivering welfare services to a passive, dis-empowered electorate which is funded by redistribution within a growing ‘mixed economy’.

Anyone concerned with substantially changing a system that is based on notions of economic growth that are unsustainable, that creates poverty, and promotes inequality, must look outside the Labour Party even to be able to debate these issues.