Socialist Party documents

Perspectives for Britain 2017


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Consciousness

20. There is no period of history that corresponds exactly to the times we are living through. As we have described many times before the economic crisis which began in 2008, and from which capitalism has not recovered, has had profound radicalising effects on the working class. However, these effects have been complicated and partially delayed by the consequences of the collapse of Stalinism. This meant that the working class entered the age of austerity without a widespread socialist consciousness, and with a low level of organisation or even awareness of their class's potential strength. Nonetheless, the working class has repeatedly shown its willingness to struggle, particularly when a lead is given. The mass upsurge in support for Corbyn demonstrated an important step forward in consciousness by a significant layer, seeing the need for an anti-austerity party and grasping an opportunity to create one. At the same time many sections of society, particularly younger people, who had previously considered themselves middle class, have been radicalised and have increasingly adopted the methods of struggle of the working class - as demonstrated by the junior doctors strike.

21. We recognise the complications caused by the legacy of the previous period, but do not in any way accept attempts to use them to justify inaction or retreats by leaders of the workers' movement. On the contrary, the enormous anger that exists at the consequences of capitalist crisis has created openness to socialist ideas. Where they are put clearly and boldly they can win widespread support, leading to a leap forward in consciousness. In this broad sense, the 'subjective factor' can have a decisive effect on the development of events and consciousness. The limits to Corbyn's current electoral support are not primarily objective but as a result of Corbyn's endless retreats in the face of the pro-capitalist wing of the party. This is a classic consequence of reformism, Corbyn's leadership is an irritant to the capitalist class, and faces constant attacks from them, but at the same time fails to put forward a programme that can satisfy the desires of an angry and alienated working class.

22. In reality, the movement around Jeremy Corbyn cannot yet be described as a clearly defined left reformist trend. Its programme is very limited; not clearly calling for renationalisation of any of the industries that have been privatised over the last thirty years, with the partial exception of the railways. Nor does it have a clear class approach. That is why we have used the loose term 'left populism', or more accurately, 'elements of left populism' to describe the potential new party in formation within the Labour Party.

23. Objectively, in an era where capitalism has nothing to offer the working class but a diet of misery, attempting at every stage to take back concessions it made in the post-war upswing, there is no room for stable, long term reformist parties. Reformist politicians, who promise to fight for capitalism to act in the interests of the working class majority, will face gigantic pressure from the capitalist class to capitulate, even if the reforms they are putting forward are, by historical standards, extremely modest. The bile already heaped on Corbyn is as nothing to what a Corbyn-led Labour government would face. Only by 'extra-parliamentary action', that is the mobilisation of the working class in support of the government's policies, would it be possible to implement its programme. To continue to defend the government against the inevitable sabotage of the capitalist class would pose a break with capitalism and the development of a socialist planned economy. Therefore reformist parties will tend to very quickly face a choice between revolution and capitulation. Nonetheless, we are likely to see the birth of more developed left-reformist parties in the future not because there is an objective basis for stable left reformism but because of the growing militancy and socialist consciousness of important sections of the working class. The majority of whom, nonetheless, will not go straight from passivity to drawing revolutionary conclusions, but will first test out reformist ideas.


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