The Ed Miliband vs The Daily Mail show, as sponsored by the BBC, has had Twitter all aflutter for a week now. One aspect that came out for me was a reminder of how those on the left hate to be associated with the reality of their ideas being put into practice.
When the Daily Mail developed their attack on Miliband Senior (Ed's Dad, I mean, not David as we've been used to interpreting this description) into an observation on the evils of Stalinism, Leftists were quick to point out, correctly, that Ralph Miliband wasn't a Stalinist. Nor was he a Trotskist - oh no, he was just a generic brand Marxist. Although Marxism was the basis for these abominable revolutionaries' regimes, the left always distance themselves from them.
These distinctions are most important for the left, not for historic and academic reasons about their technical differences, but because, by associating a man's beliefs (and indeed their own) with an actual regime that enacted their base ideology, they are exposing themselves to the ultimate test of their ideas. We can look at The Soviet Union, North Korea, Communist era eastern Europe, Cuba etc as examples of what actually happens when you take academic Marxist theory and put it into practice.
I include western democracies in my observations of nations that have dabbled in implementing socialism - Britain, post-1945, for example. I also observe that you see the same trait of denial in natural Labour supporters. I remember a few discussions before the 2010 general election with people who seemed open minded about who to vote for at the time. They were unhappy with the Labour government and seemed to want change. However, subsequent to the election I see them harking back to how great it was before the evil Tories got in, describing themselves as staunch Labour supporters. Clearly, they were just embarrassed by their government when I spoke the them before the election. But bring up Labour's record and they will scoff that, obviously Gordon Brown's government wasn't a true representation of their left wing "values"... Blair? No, no, awful man, lied a lot (like Brown). Wilson/Callaghan? - no, no strikes, winter of discontent... etc. etc. Either that, or they reinvent history so they airbrush out the failures and exaggerate the successes.
Pretty much the only Labour leader they might be happy to associate themselves with is Clement Attlee, due to a rather over-romanticised view of that government's creation of a welfare state and national health service, post-Second World War. You'll hear no reference to the fact that the principle of a freely available health service was broadly agreed during Churchill's wartime premiership, that Attlee's reforms were funded by US loans or the extent to which the modern welfare state and NHS have deviated from their original principles and objectives. Oh no, only that every attempt to reform either has been an evil plan of the Tories to "attack the poor".
It's this infantile mindset that seems to dominate the thinking on the left. They've retreated to academic arguments and misrepresentations of recent history and of their opponents views. In debate, you can't use real world examples of their ideology being implemented because "no one has ever properly tried it before". And anyone who disagrees with them doesn't share their "values" - by this they mean people who don't share their political views are bad and/or stupid. To be fair this is often the case for those who hold extreme or fundamentalist opinions. And that's fine when it's Marxists or Fascists in fringe parties, as they are never going to get to govern (as long as we keep our current electoral system!). However, when we're talking about the Labour party, its leaders and supporters, that's extremely worrying.
Ed Miliband has completed Gordon Brown's journey to cut all ties with the Blairite New Labour realism of occupying the political centre ground. Miliband and his supporters believe that, if only they were given one more chance, they'd get it right this time, and it is frightening, as they have clearly not learnt any lessons from recent history.
Indeed, one wonders when the left, generally, will start to look honestly at its legacy, both here in Britain and across the world, and come to terms with their consistent and often tragic failures.