The Third Way
New Labour and the Third Way appeared on the political scene like Siamese twins. After 18 years in the wilderness, there was need for a new approach. Gone was the cloth cap image of the class war, the hegemony of the big unions, the long contentious Clause Four commitment to the common ownership of the means of production, the central planning imperative, plus the idealistic disdain for the compromises involved in the quotidian compromises of political life. Instead new leadership had moved the party into the middle. The hallowed central ground of modern democracies where partisan ideology has given way to exigency, where opinion consolidates and where elections are lost and won. De-industrialization and affluence have eroded the proletarian base. Marxist dogma has long been taboo, while militant self-consciousness (at all times a precarious presupposition) is decidedly a thing of the past.
It is, on historical evidence, unrealistic to expect capitalism to self-destruct. Since the Soviet downfall the market economy has reigned supreme. Embourgeoisement has deeply eroded the working-class base. Friedman's aphorism to the effect that ‘with all respect to revolutionary theorists, the wretched of the earth want to go to Disney World – not the barricades’ ( Friedman, 1998) may well represent a dismissive oversimplification, but its essence cannot be denied. Middle-class comfort consumerism plus the blandishments that the informatics revolution brings in its wake, have drastically altered the political scene. Pragmatism, moderation, gradualism and compromise have made Labour's traditional agenda strikingly obsolete. New Labour is the optimal vehicle for political power, while the vision of a better future ahead is the province of the Third Way.