According to former Communist Party general secretary Harry Pollitt we would have had a revolution a long time ago in Britain if not for horse-racing.
As a racing-loving socialist and someone who has a bet on the gee-gees most days of the week, I'm not sure I'd entirely agree. It could be argued that the block to radical change hasn't been Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori and Red Rum but the Labour Party.
Labour undoubtedly has some great achievements to its name: the NHS, the creation of the post-war welfare state and the extension of public ownership in the 1940s, '60s and '70s. But it has done some terrible things too - with the illegal war on Iraq right at the top of the list.
As the party's 2012 conference ends, the question is: should we give up on Labour as an organisation which can deliver positive change or persevere with trying to get the party back on a more progressive path? To answer that we need to understand exactly what the Labour Party is.
Right from its inception, Labour has been a coalition. It was a party that brought together genuine socialists, social democrats and right-wing liberals who really should have not been in the party at all.
In the first two Labour governments it was the latter two groups which dominated. Only when Ramsay MacDonald and his group of pro-Establishment toadies jumped ship to join the National Government in 1931 did Labour really move to the left.
George Lansbury, the leader from 1932, was an unapologetic socialist, but the right wing of the party attacked this most loveable and saintly of men for his pacifist views and he resigned before the 1935 general election.
When Labour next came to power in 1945, it was by and large the first two groups which held sway. The Labour governments of 1945-51 did follow a right-wing foreign policy - throwing Britain's lot in with Nato and the US - but on the domestic front there were considerable achievements.
The Labour governments of 1964-70 and 1974-76 led by Harold Wilson also had a good domestic record, extending public ownership, introducing the Open University and improving the living standards of ordinary working people. They also outlawed sexual and racial discrimination. In the Wilson era, the gap between the rich and poor in Britain was reduced to its lowest levels in history. The strength of the left within Labour during this period also kept Britain out of the Vietnam war.
However, in 1976, with the election of James Callaghan as party leader, there was another shift to the right, with Labour going to the IMF for a loan which we didn't need and then introducing big cuts in public spending. In opposition, the party moved to the left in the early '80s under Michael Foot but when Neil Kinnock took over the road to "new Labour" began.
The Labour governments of 1997-2010 would have had socialists like George Lansbury turning in their graves, with their aggressive pro-war foreign policy and their support for global capitalism and banker-friendly neoliberal solutions.
Since Tony Blair resigned in 2007 the party has arguably been edging - albeit with the speed of a tortoise - towards a more social-democratic agenda. But there is still considerable disappointment for those of us who want Labour to reinstate clause four and demonstrate support for public ownership.
Labour's shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle is right to say that the last Labour governments were "too timid" to tackle the Tories' rail privatisation but she has stopped short of a commitment to renationalise.
On energy, the party wants us to accept the existence of privately owned energy companies and go for "collective switching" instead of proposing the one thing which would reduce fuel bills in the long term - renationalisation of the entire sector. On the banks too the party wants to break up the big financial institutions rather than nationalise them.
The problem is that Ed Miliband believes that socialist voters have nowhere else to go. In theory we can cast our vote for the Communist Party, the Socialist Labour Party, Respect and others - writer David Lindsay has also called for the refounding of the Independent Labour Party - but we know that, however admirable they may be, these parties on their own have little chance of forming a government after the election.
So Labour will tell us that a vote for any other party but them will "let the Tories in." It's an old trick which works every time.
But here's how we can get round it.
What needs to happen is for all non ultra-leftist socialist parties to come together and fight the next election on a common programme, largely based on the People's Charter.
The message needs to be kept short and simple. An end to neoliberalism and the politics of austerity. A commitment to public ownership and full employment. Withdrawal from Nato, the scrapping of Trident and the adoption of a new, pacific foreign policy. A referendum on Britain's continued membership of the EU. The move to a more direct, populist form of democracy, with people's assemblies gradually replacing Parliament as the places where decisions are taken.
The parties could meet and decide which seats each party would fight, based on their respective strengths in different parts of the country. The socialist umbrella grouping would not field candidates against members of Labour's Socialist Campaign Group but instead prioritise the targeting of right-wing Blairite Labour MPs.
There was of course a Socialist Alliance in existence before - but the presence of ultra-leftist groups in it, such as the Alliance for Workers Liberty, meant it was never going to make a major breakthrough.
At the same time, non-Blairite groups such as the Labour Representation Committee and the Blue Labour movement would continue their fight within Labour for the party to make a clean break with neoliberalism.
Trade unions which currently finance Labour could divide their funding between Labour and the new socialist grouping - with the threat of withdrawing funding completely unless Labour changed.
Such a dual-pronged approach would, I believe, reap rich dividends. Labour would know that if it continued to espouse Blairite or Brownite neoliberal solutions it would lose votes to the new socialist bloc - in the same way that David Cameron knows that unless the Conservatives adopt a more Eurosceptic approach they will lose out to Ukip. Labour MPs who continued to support illegal wars and privatisation would know they'd have a great chance of being out of a job.
The ideal scenario at the next election would be wipeout for the Lib Dems - a highly likely outcome given the unpopularity of Clegg and co - and for Labour to need the support of the new socialist grouping to form a government.
But even if we don't get that the very existence of the new socialist bloc will help push Labour to the left.
Of course, big obstacles lie ahead. We can expect the new socialist bloc to get a rough ride from members of the faux-left and right-wing media elite, with its leaders labelled "extremists," "Stalinists" and "dangerous revolutionaries."
But this group's strength would be that its positions were supported by the majority of the British people. The real extremists in our politics are those who espouse further privatisation, further illegal wars and further attacks on the living standards of ordinary people.
These people have had an easy ride for far too long but by uniting around a common programme which has public ownership at its core we can finally run these reactionaries out of town.
Neil Clark is co-founder of the Campaign for Public Ownership (Twitter
@PublicOwnership). You can also follow him on Twitter @NeilClark66.
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