DLS Event: Author Discussion with Andrew Permain on The Politics of New Labour

2pm, Saturday 19th November, Teviot Row House, Bristo Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9AJ

Speakers: Andrew Permain (author) and Eric Shaw (co-author of the Strange Death of Scottish Labour)

This meeting gives an opportunity to discuss Andrew Permain’s new book on the politics of New Labour.

The book is an attempt ‘to think in a Gramscian way’ about the curious political phenomenon of New Labour. It is written partly in retort to those people at the heart of the New Labour project who have cited Gramsci as a source of inspiration for their ideas. Pearmain argues that New Labour makes a far better object than agent of Gramscian analysis.

Part I of the book discusses Gramsci’s influence on left thinking in Britain – culminating in the 1980s debates in Marxism Today on Thatcherism and the ‘Forward march of Labour halted’. It shows how arguments loosely based on these debates then fed through into the Labour Party, as its leadership – from Kinnock to Blair and Brown – sought a better understanding of Labour’s defeats and how to adapt to ‘new times’.

Part II is a critique of New Labour, arguing that though elements of the Gramscian analysis of Labourism did play some part in its formation, much was lost in translation. In discussing the making of New Labour, and what it took from both right and left (as well as what it chose to leave out), Pearmain shows how Gramsci’s key political concepts offer a compelling explanation of exactly what went wrong with New Labour.

“Full of excellent research, intellectual promise and visionary concept … an important analysis not merely of the near futile decade of Blairism but of the failure of the wider Labour movement and indeed the entire British left?”
Geoffrey Goodman, Tribune, May 2011

Andrew Pearmain is a political historian based at the University of East Anglia. He was a member of the Communist Party (1975-85), of the Labour Party (1997-2002), of the Green Party (2003-present) and a Norwich City councillor (1999-2003). He is also a consultant and national expert on social care for people with HIV/AIDS.

Contents

Introduction: Gramsci, History and New Labour

Part I Gramsci and his Legacy
1. First Uses of Gramsci
2. Optimism of the Seventies, Pessimism of the Eighties
3. Iron in our souls: the hegemony of Thatcherism
4. The Abuses of Gramsci: ‘Post-Marxism’, Postmodernism and Cultural Studies
5. The ‘Euro-communist’ Roots of New Labour: Marxism Today
6. The ‘Euro-communist’ roots of New Labour: ‘New Times’

Part II A Critique of New Labour
7. The Makings of New Labour
8. Neil Kinnock and the Labour Party Policy Review
9. Labour, Modernity and ‘Modernisation’
10. What New Labour Took from the Left
11. What New Labour Left Out: the ‘Gramscian’ Left

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