“The war is lost”

Below is the transcript of a secret speech delivered in a closed leadership session during the Labour Party Summer School held over the weekend. I have promised the person who sent it to me not to reveal their identity, or the identity of the person who gave the speech.

Do you agree with the opinions given in the speech? Or has he/she got it wrong?

It is time for the left in this country to give up the fight.

Comrades, the war is lost. Every attack we make against the enemy’s bastions ends up with our ideas and initiatives being murderously gunned down. Our policies and ideals are mown down with ease, like a line of hapless Anzacs walking towards the German machine guns at Passchendaele.

There is dignity and heroism in the fight. That I don’t deny. Our leaders of the left continue to rouse us to action, reminding us of the justice of our cause, and of the monstrous wrongs done by those on the right. For a short time these speeches stir us into action and leave us with a sense of belief and purpose.

But dignity and heroism mean nothing once the artillery shells begin to fall. When we experience day upon day of withering fire and have to spend almost every moment ducking for cover, it is not the grand words and fine speeches of our leaders that ring in our ears, but the cries of ‘incoming!” and the wailing of comrades too demoralised to continue.

The demise of our cause is steady and gradual, but we do not always sit here passively, enduring this misery without any attempt to strike back. However, when we do charge forward from our positions, crying for equality, justice and a fairer society for all, the bombs go off all around us, and the fire directed at us from every media outlet is overwhelming. A few of us will continue to charge forward, only to be blown to pieces by the fire of newspaper editors and talkback hosts, while the rest of us are left hiding amongst the wreckage of the battlefield, whimpering for the lost society we once had, and cursing the idiot leaders who sent us forward on this impossible mission.

And after our Great Push Forward has been so easily swatted away, those of us who remain intact slump in the trenches, deep in mud, occasionally peering over the parapets to see what the enemy are doing. Some brave or foolhardy souls will still fire the occasional shot into No Man’s Land. But the rest of us wait. We wait in fear, because we know that the enemy are planning their own big offensive.

There’s talk of a big attack coming, and we know it will be bad for us. The other side have a fearsome array of weaponry: newspaper columnists, political pundits, talkshow jocks, and bloggers. Their generals also understand the ground that the battle is being fought on, and know how to use the weapons they have at their disposal. Their leader exudes charm and inspires his troops, unlike our wooden leader who, while trying his best, just doesn’t seem to have the heart for it any more.

Our leader more and more resembles Field Marshall Haig, who led the British army on the Western Front during the First World War. Haig may have consigned millions of men to slaughter on the fields of France and Belgium, but he was not a bad man, nor for the times was he a particularly poor general. Like so many generals of the period he was trying to fight a modern mechanised war by using tactics developed in the nineteenth century. He did not understand how the machine gun had made those tactics obsolete. He tried his best, but his best just wasn’t very good.

The other side’s leader is not a risk-taker. He may not be a Rommel or a Patton, but he knows his business, and he knows exactly how to conduct a war when the odds are stacked in your favour. Prepare slowly and bring overwhelming force to bear when the moment is right.

We have few answers whenever an attack comes. They drove us back in the big offensive of ’08, and we took heavy losses. We hoped that a new leader would inspire the troops to great deeds, but the enemy remains camped in our territory, and we have little hope of driving them back. The opinion polls don’t tell the full story. A look at the political map shows that we have not lost further ground since the enemy’s big offensive in ’08, but the map doesn’t reveal the full picture. The line is crumbling and may break soon. An effective counteroffensive is no more than a pipedream. We didn’t join the fight just to hold a crumbling line, so why should we continue?

There’s now talk of a terrible new weapon about to be tested on us—asset sales. Last week saw a savage attack on our frontline. Though we were broken in several places, we realised it was just a feint, even though the attack carried away many of us and left the survivors shaken.

Our leadership trialled its own new weapon last week, but the new tax plan was like an artillery piece that misfires, blowing up its crew.

The enemy also seems to have unlimited resources and high morale. Our own morale is plummeting, and some of the troops have deserted. There is no shining hope on the horizon. If any hope exists at all it is that our enemy’s allies are as weak and as hopeless as the Turks and Austrians were for Germany in the First World War. There is also runmour of a new force to emerge on the left, but that’s just idle talk to keep the troops’ minds off how hopeless the struggle now is. A new front seems like only a distant prospect at this time.

When you consider all of these factors only one conclusion is possible. There is no hope of victory. So why do we continue to fight?

Let us just lay down our weapons and preserve ourselves. Surrender is the only viable option. We may find ourselves labouring under a regime that breeds envy, inequality and poverty, but being slowly ground under the boot of rampant neoliberalism would still be better than this hell.

And we may not be weak forever. Let us quit the fight now, go back to our homes, and start to rebuild. When the forces of occupation have become bloated and indolent, when their overconfidence and arrogance become offensive to the masses, and when the people finally realise the truth about those who govern them, then we will rise up and take back our nation for the left.

And if that doesn’t work we can always move to Australia.