Socialist Party documents

British Perspectives: a Socialist Party congress 2012 document


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The main parties

69. Given all these factors the question is posed: how long can the government last? Can it defy the odds and last the full term? It is unlikely - to say the least - that Cameron, who has already performed a high-wire act, can survive "cuts, cuts and more cuts", in the words of Tory blogger Tim Montgomery.

His fragile government is sustained by the inherently unstable Liberal Democrats and is a virtual prisoner of the vicious eurosceptic wing of the Tory party.

This was illustrated last year at the time of the crisis over his 'veto' of the proposed European treaty.

He now appears to have backtracked and acquiesced to the treaty, which has enraged the Tory eurosceptics! But Cameron's 'ace in the hole' is Ed Miliband and New Labour.

Without his acquiescence, together with the right-wing trade union leaders, the government is unsustainable.

Miliband stance is a classic case of a 'Labour' leader who by his prevarication does not satisfy the working class yet irritates the capitalists.

One New Labour spokesman after another has sought to grovel in support of the policies enunciated by, Cameron.

Acceptance of benefit cuts - as we have already explained - the embracing of all Tory cuts by Ed Balls and a pledge that a future Labour government cannot go back on them is the new mantra of New Labour.

It poses the question which many workers will ask: "What then is the point of New Labour?"

70. This was recently underlined by an incident involving Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, and one of our comrades.

The Labour MP was collecting tins of food for the poor! When confronted on why she was acting like a Victorian 'do-gooder', collecting from the already poor for the destitute, and not fighting the cuts, she replied: "I'm just the MP -what can I do"!

71. Little wonder that polls show that there is little faith in New Labour's ability to control the economy.

Against the background of one of the most calamitous crises of capitalism in history, Miliband comes forward as a champion of this same capitalism, but one that is "responsible".

As one correspondent to our paper put it: "Yes, responsible for mass unemployment, poverty and misery." Cameron himself readily agreed and took up Miliband's theme with a denunciation of 'crony capitalism'.

As a consequence of this, bungling Labour has once more fallen behind the Tories in the polls. We have a situation now that is reminiscent of the 1930s.The Labour leadership felt their inadequacy and were afraid of power.

In a period of austerity, it was the Tories of the National Government who the middle class and sections of the working class turned to in the crisis.

The Tories had the money, they were the natural 'rulers', reasoned a significant section of the population.

However, a big 'deferential' factor still operated on the electoral plane at that stage. Today, the whole class character of British society has decisively changed.

72. Moreover, the political situation is extremely volatile, which is reflected in the opinion polls where can turn around in a matter of months or even weeks.

There is any number of yet unknown factors which could unseat Cameron. The eurosceptic wing of the Tory party is unrestrained in its hostility to him.

A poll carried out by the Independent of 150 backbenchers found that only 26% of Tory MPs believes economic growth will improve over the next 12 months.

Moreover, 39% of Tories think it will stay the same and 34% predict it will get worse! No sign of beckoning sunny economic uplands here! One group of right-wing Tories denounced another group of eurosceptics as an "organised faction against the Prime Minister" which wanted to organise some kind of "Tory spring" against Cameron! This parliament is notable for the unprecedented number of revolts against the government, many of them emanating from Cameron's natural supporters. This, in turn, is a reflection of the volatility of society as a whole.

73. The majority of Liberal Democrats are uneasy bedfellows of the Tories in the coalition government.

This does not apply to the top leadership of Clegg and particularly the odious Alexander, who are indistinguishable from Osborne and his policies of 'austerity' in the 'national interest'.

But occasionally even Clegg has to lean 'left' in order to retain the support of his party for the coalition.

But there are limits to this. Over the proposed benefit cuts, he has come under 'unprecedented' pressure from his own backbenchers .One critic described the voting of some Liberal Democrat peers as "shameful, illiberal and flying in the face of democratic institutions of the party", while another warned that if the issue was mishandled it would "make the fiasco over tuition fees look like a picnic".

The Liberal Democrats have moved towards the right at national and local level with thousands of former supporters deserting their ranks.

However, it still has a 'social-democratic' wing, which has the potential to force Clegg out or even split from the party.

Some have made recent noises towards New Labour, expressing a clear intention to collaborate with Labour in some new coalition arrangement.

This will not include Clegg or Alexander, who are likely to move in the same direction as the 'National Liberals' who served in the 1930s coalition.

They will be absorbed into the Tory party. Our analysis made in previous documents that the Liberal Democrats could end up as a rump with the majority being absorbed into the Tory party still stands.

74. New Labour is at an historic crossroads. It has abandoned all pretence of opposing capitalism, which was the founding principle of the Labour Party itself, certainly from 1918 onwards.

It now occupies the position once filled by the Liberal Party in the late 19th century. It has tied its fate to an outmoded, crisis-ridden system which, rather than granting reforms, demands savage counter-reforms.

The goal of socialism was abandoned a long time ago in Blair and Brown's counter-revolution. This has inevitably brought New Labour into collision with the trade unions, just as the Liberals did 100 or so years ago.

But this has not yet resulted in divorce. When Miliband was first elected, a resurgence of hope that Labour could be 'reclaimed' swept through the ranks of the Labour Party and even the trade unions.

Lenny McCluskey said to us in the meeting that we had with him that he would give Miliband three years to 'deliver'.

We predicted that Miliband would disappoint in a much shorter period than this. And so it has proved to be the case with Lenny McCluskey now one of those denouncing his pledge to hold down public-sector workers' wages and maintain Tory cuts.

Mark Serwotka has consistently criticised Miliband. On 30 June in the meeting in Central Hall, ATL general secretary Mary Bousted received a standing ovation in the middle of a speech when she attacked Miliband.

75. This, however, is unlikely to lead to an immediate severing of the unions' link to Labour, in particular Unite's.

This is sheer historical inertia. Some activists, although by no means all, are uncertain as to the capacity of workers to build new political structures.

Using this excuse, the bureaucracy of the right-wing unions, especially Unison, are holding back moves to break the Labour link in part due to ambition to hold parliamentary or party positions.

They see the unions as a vehicle for their careers and must be swept aside by members or forced to change their stance.

This policy is not in any way viable against the background which we have described of cuts and attacks on living standards.

This is, therefore, the best period for us to press forward the case for TUSC. For us, this is a step towards a new mass workers' party.

For others it is merely an electoral alliance - firmly union based - which by challenging Labour will put pressure on them to act more in favour of the unions.

The reasons for supporting TUSC are mixed. But it is justified by the fact that the unions act together on the political plane, which in itself could provide the experience and momentum for laying the pre-conditions for the setting up of a new party at a later stage.

76. The consciousness of the working class still lags behind the objective situation. Even in Greece - because of the absence of the subjective factor, a broad mass workers' party or a mass revolutionary party - the development of this consciousness has not yet caught up with the objective situation, although there are elements of a pre-revolutionary situation there.

77. In an article from 1931, Trotsky carefully sets out the preconditions for a pre-revolutionary situation.

This should include the preparedness of the masses to seek a solution to the crisis not through the old regime and its parties, but outside the framework of capitalism.

In Greece, the electoral rise once more of Syriza, together with the Communist Party and the anti-capitalist left front means that these parties combined now stand at 31% in the opinion polls.

Thus a new and important element - the psychological element - of a rejection of the old parties and the preparedness to seek a way out on the basis of the new formations has appeared.

78. Consciousness in Britain has not yet reached this stage. There is a layer of workers who are still hoping against hope that the pre-crisis situation will return.

Another layer reluctantly still puts some faith in New Labour - because it is the only mass 'show in town'.

Their hopes will be cruelly disappointed in the next period. There is, on the other hand, an important layer of workers and young people who are searching for the revolutionary alternative.

Our task is to reach them and then win them to our party. This task will be gone into more detail in the organisational resolution.

79. There are many other issues with which we have to grapple with in the coming period. For instance, the re emergence of the national question in Scotland, which will impact on England and Wales.

The Scottish and Welsh comrades will produce more detailed and expansive material on the issue. From an English perspective, we have to stand for the right of self-determination, up to and including the right to separate for Scotland and Wales.

Before Cameron's bullying, clumsy intervention - which smacked of a colonial diktat - Scotland appeared to be rejecting complete independence in favour of 'devolution max', i.e. the granting of maximum autonomous powers to Scotland.

After Cameron's attack, however, opinion polls showed that 51% of Scots favoured independence. But this is not certain to hold. At the same time, we must combat all elements of bourgeois nationalism whether it emanates from Scotland or England.

As the struggle against the cuts has shown, the closest coordination between the working class of Scotland, Wales and England is still absolutely necessary. The Scottish nationalist leader, Alex Salmond, appears to be very 'radical' when he strikes a defiant note in opposition to Cameron and the British parliament.

Nevertheless, the SNP has not hesitated to pass on the government's cuts. Wales does not appear at this stage to want to go down the 'independence' road. We will therefore support the devolution of maximum powers to the Welsh assembly.

The standing of candidates once more for this body represents an important stage in the development of our Welsh organisation.

80. The past year has seen a consolidation and growth of our party. We are a factor - although not yet a decisive one - in the trade union field in particular.

Youth Fight for Jobs' Jarrow March to London and the demonstration found a big echo from workers. We must now capitalise on this in the unions and workplaces as a step to building a powerful youth movement.

Our trade union work must be stepped up, particularly the excellent work of the NSSN. Above all, we must recruit the best workers and youth to our banner.

If we can have such an effect with the members we have now, imagine what we will be able to do if we double our forces, which is entirely possible in the next period!

81. It is clear that the British working class, indeed British society, has arrived at a decisive historical juncture.

One road - the capitalist road - leads to a threatening catastrophe where all the gains of the past are endangered by a diseased system.

On another road - that of struggle and socialism- lies hope for the future. We are sure that workers and youth will choose this second path, and in so doing will lay the basis for the socialist and democratic planning of the resources of society.

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