What Does Labour Have to Lose From a Left Turn?

Labour Logo filled

by James Kelly

Why the British Labour Party abandoned its traditional socialist policies, and the lessons that can be applied to the party’s current predicament.

When the British Labour Party abandoned much of its socialist ideology in the 1990s, it did so for one reason – the pursuit of popularity, and by extension the pursuit of power. It had been in opposition for almost two decades, lost four general elections in a row, and the question that was being posed more and more volubly was “what”s the point of having the most wonderful policies in the world if you never have the power to put them into practice?’ The moment that came to symbolise this dilemma more than any other was the 1983 election, when Labour was led by its most left-wing leader since pre-war times, Michael Foot, and had a manifesto that made radical party activists purr with pleasure. The party went on to suffer its most crushing defeat since the 1930s, and came perilously close to slipping into third place in the popular vote. Perhaps not unreasonably, the lesson drawn by the “modernisers” in the party – including the young Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – was that Labour’s electoral woes were directly correlated to the party’s ideological distance from the centre of gravity in the country as a whole.

“June 9th, 1983, never again!” was the new leader Neil Kinnock’s battle-cry as he embarked on the slow and painful process of moving Labour onto the centre-ground of politics where it was felt it could achieve electability. The most dramatic indication of the sacrifices the party was prepared to make came when Kinnock himself shifted on one of his most passionately-held personal beliefs, and agreed to support the retention of the UK’s nuclear weapons. In an interview days before the 1992 general election, he even suggested that as Prime Minister he might be prepared in some circumstances to launch a nuclear attack – an extraordinary position for a man who had devoted much of his political life to the cause of unilateral disarmament.

But Labour still lost the 1992 election, its fourth defeat in succession. Did this give the true believers in the “1983 maxim” some pause for thought? Quite the reverse. The fact that the Conservatives’ parliamentary majority had been slashed to 21 was cited as proof that Labour’s ideological repositioning had gained some traction with the electorate. The fact that the Conservatives remained in power simply proved that the process hadn’t gone far enough yet. So “New Labour” was born, and in Tony Blair the party suddenly had a leader who was probably further to the right than many “conservative” political leaders in continental Europe. Yet so hungry were the party faithful for power, and so completely had they bought into the modernizers’ analysis of what was required to achieve that goal, they accepted every move Blair made as being necessary. It was sometimes mischievously suggested that if Blair had wanted to reintroduce capital punishment, the party rank-and-file would have let it through on the nod.

And in 1997, the Labour party did not merely return to power, but recorded the most comprehensive victory by any side in a British general election since the 1930s. Some pointed out there was considerable evidence that if John Smith, Blair’s immediate predecessor as Labour leader, had not died in office, he would still have been able to lead the party back to power from a more traditional centre-left position. But not by anything like the same margin, the modernisers retorted. It did indeed seem to be the final, irrefutable proof that Labour’s level of support went up in direct proportion to how far it had moved to the right.

But fast forward to the present day. Gordon Brown has persisted with the Blairite strategy of tacking to the right, and yet the latest opinion polls show Labour at its lowest level of support since records began, and thus by definition lower than at the party’s 1983 nadir. Gordon Brown is a less popular leader than Michael Foot. New Labour was founded on the principle that if you are shedding votes, you must ruthlessly shed your current ideology to win those votes back. As it is the more traditional Labour voters who have been deserting the party in droves – witness the Scottish parliament election last year – the obvious conclusion to draw is that the party must shift back to the left to regain some degree of support.

The objection to this analysis might be that Labour cannot hope to win the next election with its traditional supporters alone – it needs the entire New Labour coalition of 1997. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that this coalition is long gone, and the next election is almost certainly already lost. To adapt the question that was asked in the long years of opposition to fit present-day circumstances – “if you”re going to lose anyway, what’s the point of having power for the next two years if you’re not going to use it to achieve the things your party is supposed to believe in?’

Words About Life

stained glass

Spiritual understanding of existence, karma, the difference between soulful life and ego-orientated life.

Indeed the universal implications must be known in order to have a controlled life. Indeed when such thoughts arise in the mind, feelings of insanity might arise as well. The universe works in sequences, rhythms, patterns and cycles. It could be frustrating realizing this concept, watching everything repeat itself could get annoying, especially when the ones around you don’t realize that humanity and the rest of the world are part of an endless cycle. The benefit of knowing this concept outweighs the negative aspect of it. Instead of complaining about the cycle, realize you start the motions. You can either start a negative or positive motion; the power lies in your hands.

If you start a negative motion it will repeat itself until you realize it and stop it, or else it will just spin and spin. Realize that you are a soul and not a body. The body is just the soul’s instrument, and when the instrument becomes old and rusty, doesn’t work as it used to, the soul discards the body and gets another one. There is no such thing as “death” really. It is only a moment in one’s life when the body becomes too weak to work anymore and is not a benefit for the soul any longer. One could say it is also a time when the soul’s mission is complete, however only for that period of time because it will return and have a new objective. Nevertheless, there is one general objective the all souls must strive to carry out, that is spirituality, to be connected to the supreme soul while having its presence on earth. However, through many births this objective in majority of cases has been neglected and forgotten.

Through many births the soul consciousness has been replaced by body consciousness, this means that the body rather than the soul governs actions. This means that majority of people will do things if there is a benefit for them. This means that anger, jealousy, egotism, arrogance, selfishness, ignorance, attachment to physical objects, thirst for power, lust, become apparent in one’s life. Those who live by soul consciousness would never live by such negative aspects. A soul sees everyone as a brother or a sister; the soul sees everyone as one. The soul sees everyone pure as crystal water. The soul will never fully attach itself to a physical object, knowing that physical objects sooner or later will crumble to nothingness.

It knows that by seeking happiness in physical objects, that happiness will last as long as that physical object or as long as one has an attachment towards it. It knows that happiness through materialism is temporal; through soul consciousness happiness is eternal. It is logical to consider the fact that when one is dependent on an external factor, the fulfillment will not last due to the fact that nothing is permanent. Therefore, if one is merely dependent on one’s internal nature, which is everlasting, the fulfillment is eternal. In order for this to occur, one needs to reach a certain spiritual plateau from which this internal fulfillment will arouse. By living with a body consciousness, a person will be living in an a illusion believing it is reality. The mental perspective of the world itself is an illusion.

The world you live in is the world that lives within your mind. Your perspective is only due to your state of mind, each mind equals a different world. However, by going back to soul consciousness, one awakes from their illusionary dream and sees the world with clarity and truth. By living a righteousness life and meditating and by reading spiritual material one can gain such clarity. Soul and body consciousness are of the same essence, tails and heads of a coin. Spirituality is not a religion, it is not a way of life, it is life, true essence of life. There are no rituals, no customs, no worship; all that is required is to live with a soul consciousness, to be righteous and to be aware of the universal laws. Spirituality is the core of religions, it is the core and the religions are the seeds, which have grown to be what they are due to their environment and time. In essence they are pretty much the same.

The problem is that they have been interpreted wrongly and manipulated; one must look upon without attaching oneself to it and with an open mind to see the meaning with a wider perspective. It is mostly written metaphorically and the meaning lies deeper, it is important not to take it literally. Most of the stories, which are taken literally have a certain meaning but lose their true meaning. For example, many will disagree with this but many will agree, it depends on the state of mind. The main figurehead other than God, of the Bible is Jesus. He has been portrayed as a son of God, as a messiah who came down to earth, he was indeed.

However, Jesus said that he is the son of God indicating that everyone else is a son or daughter of God. He didn’t say it to indicate that he is all powerful and that everyone must obey him. He also said that everyone could be him if they wanted. Furthermore, anyone who comes here, earth, to elevate humanity and to preach peace and love is a messiah. He came down to play his role; everyone has their role to play. This is an example of manipulation; the Christian scholars, the apostles got people to worship a man, like an idol, which is against their law. Yes he had spiritual powers but everyone can achieve them if they tried hard enough, perhaps to a lesser degree, that was one of the things Jesus preached about. Muhammad is very similar to Jesus, pretty much preached the same words. However, Muhammad said he is no God and must not be worshipped, that he is only a man. One does not need to seek out to find a meaning to life or to seek out to find truth, does not need a God to worship but only acknowledged, truth and meaning lies within oneself. There is a whole world waiting to be discovered within you. The purpose of life is to give it a purpose, the truth of life is hidden within you. Meditating is not a religious aspect, nor a Buddhist or Hindu practice.

It is a universal aspect; it is a natural method and a very powerful method of transforming the mind. It is not used to empower breath control or just to relax, even though they are part of it, but the main point is to enlighten the soul by connecting it to a higher source. Just close your eyes and watch how it brightens your soul and how the light envelops your mind. The absence of spiritual light leads to darkness, the negativity and sorrow in one’s life. While being internally dark, the words you speak and the actions you perform will release the darkness, resulting in more sorrow for yourself and the people around you. The outer world will be only a reflection of the inner darkness; things might seem meaningless and distressful. However, when the inner light is shinning the opposite occurs, being that darkness and light are complete opposites, one’s eyes glitter exposing the inner peace.

One’s actions and words are performed with care and love. By sharing the light with others and seeing people benefit from it and become happier results in more happiness inside. Due to the inner light, the outer world in result shines as well. One should realize that one’s actions are judged and are returned to him, this is the law of Karma. The family that you have, the friends, everyone you meet, the situation that you are in, the hard times you have the good times you have, everything in your life, it might sound unfair but they are all fruits of your creation. The seeds you plant are the flowers that you will get. There is no one to blame but yourself. It is more logical to blame yourself rather than God, after all He did give you free will, the way you use it is your choice. To blame God is to say that He is cruel and loves hurting people, that He is blood thirsty and loves to see people suffer This perhaps answers the question, why do innocent suffer; well perhaps they are not innocent after all.

This is due to their past life or actions that they did in the past, the actions that they carried in their past life or what they did in the past have returned to them. This doesn’t mean that one has to suffer due to his actions forever; any negative situation is a sign that something needs to be changed. By changing your actions you change your present state, which changes your future. Nothing is coincidental, there is no luck or miracles, everything happens for a reason and everything has a meaning.

By going deep inside yourself you will find the real self. You will find your role and your purpose in life. Good things don’t come easy but bad things do, the harder you try the better the feeling when you get the result. It is a hard journey but the most important journey.

Limited Effects Theory

paul lazarsfeld limited eff

Paul Felix Lazarsfeld, an Austrian sociologist, influential methodologists, and one of the pioneers in mass communications, is recognized for his scientific investigations on the effects of media in the society and for employing surveys and experiments to gather empirical observations and generalizations.

In 1925, Lazarfeld obtained his doctorate’s degree in philosophy major in applied mathematics at the University of Vienna, where he founded a research institute for applied social psychology four years later. In 1933, he went to the United States and served as the Director of the Office of Radio Research at the Princeton University after receiving a research grant in psychology from the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1940, his project was transferred at the Columbia University where his office was renamed the Bureau of Applied Social Research.

With Hadly Cantril and Frank Stanton, Lazarsfeld is remembered for his detailed investigation of the radio habits of the American listening public. This investigation led to the famous radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” in 1938. Orson Welles borrowed freely from H. G. Welles’s novel and created a radio drama that resemble to news stories. One out of six listeners believed that aliens had invaded the universe and eventually panicked. The invasion from Mars panic was seen by elite observers as a definitive proof of mass society theory, that is, if a radio program could induce such wide-spread panic, obvious and concerted propaganda messages could do much worse.

Lazarsfeld affirmed that many listeners acted hastily and that simulated news stories were trusted without question, especially the eyewitness reports and the interviews with phony experts. He also concluded that media audiences have one or more psychological traits that made them especially susceptible to media influence: fatalism, phobic personality, emotional insecurity, and lack of self-confidence.

At the Princeton University, Stanton, Cantril, and Lazarsfeld were part of a vanguard of social scientists who slowly formulated new views of how media influence society. They argued that media were no longer feared as instruments of political oppression and manipulation because the public itself was viewed as very resistant to persuasion and extremist manipulation. They believe that most people were influenced by others rather than by media; opinion leaders in every community, who, at every level of society, were responsible for guiding and stabilizing politics. Media were conceptualized as relatively powerless in shaping public opinion in the face of more potent intervening variables like people’s individual differences and group memberships.

Lazarsfeld pioneered the use of surveys and experiments to measure media influence, which, in turn, provided evidence that media rarely and indirectly influence individuals. He assumed that media effects were quite limited because in the more micro, or in the individual level, only a limited number of listeners were directly affected.

It should be noted, however, that Lazarsfeld and his colleagues, like Carl Hovland, were not theorists; they were methodologists. Unlike mass society theorists who assumed that media were quite powerful, they employed empirical social research methods like surveys and experiments to gather empirical observations and generalizations. They argued that media influence can be measured, observed, understood, controlled, and utilized for the benefit of the human race. They also argued that if the physical sciences permit people to control the physical world, the social sciences can also permit people to control the social world.

Lazarsfeld and his colleagues, while conducting their full-scale investigation of the effects of political mass communications in Eríe County, Ohio and in Elmira, New York during the 1940 and the 1948 presidential elections, respectively, found out that media were not as powerful as mass society theory assumed and that media influence over public opinion or attitudes was hard to locate. They also found out that people had numerous ways of resisting media influence and were influenced by many competing factors and that media influences were typically less important than social status, group membership, educational attainment, religious or political party affiliations, among others. These findings eventually led to the formulation or construction of the limited effects theory, also known as the indirect effects theory.

A paradigm, also called framework, provides a useful guide in research as long as its basic assumptions are accepted. Though a paradigm exercises great influence over the course of a research, a shift inevitably occur because no paradigm can provide adequate explanations for all observations. Also called theoretical innovation, a paradigm shift occurs when there are efforts to account theoretical limitations and when a new theory is formulated or constructed over and above a dominant theory. It is at this context that the limited effects theory is considered the paradigm shift of the mass society theory.

Formulated from “disciplined” data collections and data interpretations, the limited effects theory was gradually constructed using the inductive approach to theory construction. It assumed that media lacked or have limited power to instantly convert average people from strongly held beliefs, and that it negates, if not totally contradict, the mass society theory assumption that media have the power to reach out and directly influence the minds of the average people.

The limited effects theory gained popularity because it provided answers to the questions of troubled elites in the 1930s. When the propaganda theory threatened to challenge freedom and democracy, the limited effects theory argued that most people could not be directly influenced by typical propaganda messages.

However, the limited effects theory actually placed little faith in the rationality of the individual or in his ability to evaluate propaganda messages. During the 1950s and the 1960s, studies found out that most people are politically ignorant or apathetic and that only some people are politically active or involve because their collective wisdom and political knowledge were concentrated in the opinion leaders who are the mainstay of any political system and who play an important role in shaping or reconstructing the voting systems of the electorate.

Factors

  1. The refinement and broad acceptance of empirical social research methods was an essential factor in the development of the limited effects theory. This was so, because empirical social research methods were promoted effectively as the only “scientific” way of dealing and measuring social phenomena.
  2. People who advocated mass society theories were branded by empirical social researchers as “unscientific.” Mass society theorists were considered as doomsayers, political ideologues, biased against media, or fuzzy-mined humanists.
  3. Social researchers exploited the commercial potential of empirical social research method and gained the support of private industries.
  4. The development of empirical social research method was strongly backed by various private and government foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Science Foundation.
  5. After empirical social research methods showed that media were not as powerful and threatening as assumed by mass society theories, media companies were encouraged to finance more empirical social researches.
  6. Empirical social researchers were successful in introducing their approaches within the various social research disciplines – history, sociology, economics, political science, and social psychology – that shaped the development of communication research. Empirical social research was widely accepted as the most scientific way to study communication even though it proved difficult to find conclusive evidence of media influence.

Assumptions

  1. Media rarely have any direct influence upon individuals. Most people are sheltered from direct manipulation and that they do not believe everything they read, hear, or watch. This assumption negates, if not totally contradicts the assumption of mass society theory that people are isolated and vulnerable from direction manipulation.
  2. There is a two-step flow of media influence. Media could not influence people if the opinion leaders who guide them are not influenced by its messages.
  3. By the time most people become adults they have developed strong group commitments like political party or religious affiliations that media messages are powerless to overcome. These commitments make people to reject media messages although other group members are not present to help them.
  4. When media effects occur, they are modest and isolated. Large number of people will not change their votes although they are flooded with various media messages everyday.

Limitations

  1. Surveys can not measure how people actually use media on a day-to-day basis because they can only record how people report their media experiences.
  2. Surveys are very expensive and cumbersome way to study people’s use of specific media content like their reading of certain news stories or their viewing of specific television programs.
  3. The research design and data analysis procedures are inherently conservative in assessing the power of media.
  4. Subsequent research on the two-step flow has produced highly contradictory finding
  5. Although surveys can be useful for studying changes over time, they are a relatively crude technique.
  6. Surveys omit many potentially important variables by focusing only on what can be easily or reliably measured using existing techniques.