Letter: New Labour lurching back to Victoria

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The Independent Online
Sir: Before the debate between Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy is frozen in a re-run of the familiar argument in which "New Labour" are forever defeating "Old Labour", your leaders may like to be reminded of what two right-wing and highly respected leaders of the Labour Party had to say about Socialism.

The first came from Hugh Gaitskell's speech in the Commons in 1945 in which, talking about the Labour government, he said: "We believe, for example, that the present capitalist system is ineffective, that it produces insecurity and that it is unjust. Can anyone deny these things?"

The second comes from John Smith as an Energy Minister, arguing for the public ownership of oil in 1975: "We bring forward proposals for public ownership, because we are Socialists."

"Modernisation" is in reality a code word for the attempt, now being made, to persuade the Labour Party to go back to the Victorian era when both Conservatives and Liberals were equally committed to the worship of market forces.

Yet it is these very same market forces which have led to the situation reported in the Independent On Sunday (21 July): "447 dollar billionaires enjoy wealth that exceeds the annual income of half the world's people."

Does anyone really believe that an economic system that can produce such inequality should serve as our guide to the politics of the 21st century?

TONY BENN

House of Commons,

London SW1

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