Elections, strikes and revolutions: Socialism ’19 – daring to fight

Socialism 2019, London 2-3 November, photo Paul Mattsson

Click for gallery. Socialism 2019, London 2-3 November, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

James Ivens

“Just two words: at last!” This year’s Socialism event – Socialism 2019, on 2 and 3 November – came as the parliamentary logjam finally burst apart into a general election.

As Paula Mitchell told the opening rally, the Rally that Dares to Fight for Socialism, from the chair: “We could be squaring up for quite a hot winter. With not only an election, but the potential for a massive battle of postal workers; the strike action by university lecturers and staff; McDonald’s strikes.”

And our class enemies have taken note. The reactionary Daily Mail rebuked Communication Workers Union rep and Socialist Party Scotland member Gary Clark – for telling the rally that posties will strike during the election.

There was a moving tribute and standing ovation for the late Tony Mulhearn, a leader of the socialist Liverpool Council’s 1983-87 struggle against Thatcher.

And in a fantastic show of working-class sacrifice and resolve, the opening rally’s financial appeal raised at least £40,755 – over £5,000 more than last year.

Now the fight is on. To boot out the Tories and reverse austerity. To help the revolutions erupting across the planet to win. And to build mass parties of the working class to found a new, democratic, socialist world.

Fighting to kick out the Tories and transform society

Extracts from the speech by Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary, at the main rally of Socialism 2019

“In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels explained that we have to “fight tenaciously for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, we also have to represent and take care of the future of that movement.”

Hannah Sell, photo Urte Fultinaviciute

Hannah Sell, photo Urte Fultinaviciute   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

In 2019 we have intervened in important strikes; against low pay, casualisation, bullying bosses. We have taken part in the magnificent, predominantly young, mass protests against climate change. We are involved day to day in campaigning to scrap Universal Credit, to stop evictions, to stop the council cuts being carried out by both Labour and Tory councils.

There have been victories in a whole number of important local struggles. And with the magnificent CWU and UCU ballot results there is the prospect of more victories.

The dominant mood in society is a deep-seated anger against the existing order. No different to the anger we are seeing on the streets in Chile, in the Lebanon, in Iraq, in other countries. But it hasn’t had an outlet. There’s a kind of sullen anger, but lack of confidence that it’s possible to change anything.

Many workers who agree with us on Universal Credit, on Grenfell or the CWU strike, do not at the moment agree with us about the possibility, or the positive character, of a Corbyn-led government.

We live in a capitalist society, where the capitalist politicians – including those in the Labour Party – and the capitalist media, rain down insults and attacks on Corbyn. They are bound to have an effect. Above all, because of the failure of the left leadership of the Labour Party to effectively answer them.

Corbyn’s election did not transform Labour into a workers’ party, but changed it into two potential parties. A potential anti-austerity party around Jeremy Corbyn, and a pretty fully formed pro-capitalist party around the Blairites.

And Corbyn and the Labour leadership’s strategy of attempting to pacify that capitalist wing of the Labour Party, to compromise with them – is never going to work. Eleven Labour MPs voted against a general election. 100 of them didn’t bother to vote! The arch-Blairites are determined to wreck Corbyn’s chances of winning a general election

This is not the most favourable terrain for Corbyn to fight a general election. But in 2017 Labour began on 25% in the polls, the same as today. They went on – not to win, but to win an extra 3.5 million votes.

We argued that if Corbyn came out fighting, on a socialist programme, he could win the general election. And nobody believed us. Everybody thought we were heading for a Tory landslide.

If Corybn builds on his election launch (see front page) and puts a fighting, socialist programme, workers will start to think: ‘we have a chance of a government that might get me a council house. That might get me a decent wage. That might mean I don’t have to work on a zero-hour contract anymore. And therefore, it’s worth coming out to support them.’

We will be out on the streets, in the workplaces, in the university campuses, fighting for the election of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government on 12 December. But it’s not our job just to do that. We also have to prepare for what comes beyond 12 December.

If Johnson manages to wangle himself a small majority, that would be an extremely weak government coming to power against the background of a growing economic crisis – ripping up the few workers’ rights that we have, opening up of the NHS to the US private companies, and so on.

If they do that, though – they will face massive opposition. In Brazil the right-wing populist Bolsonaro thought he was a mighty, powerful ruler. And then we saw a 47 million-strong general strike against him within months of being elected.

If Corbyn is able to win the election that would just be the beginning. I don’t think we should underestimate how far Corbyn’s modest programme terrifies the capitalist class. Why? Firstly, they don’t want to give up a penny. But there’s a second and more fundamental reason. They’re frightened that the election of a Corbyn-led government could raise the confidence of the working class in this country to conduct a class war. Unlike the one we’ve got at the moment, where the rich are winning.

The only practical way to build a society “for the many, not the few,” is to take the commanding heights of the economy into democratic public ownership, and to break the power of the capitalist class.

Corbyn has to absolutely stick by the position that him and McDonnell have put so far, that they will not enter a coalition government. They will not govern together with capitalist parties.

Does that mean we’re saying that if Corbyn doesn’t get a majority, he has to step back, and just be the opposition? Absolutely not. He would have to fight for his programme, and call on the working class to back him.

Even if Labour wins a majority, it will be a minority government for the anti-austerity part of the Labour Party, because they will be surrounded by pro-capitalist MPs.

Nearly six weeks before a general election, it’s not possible to predict how events are going to develop. But if Corbyn comes out fighting, he will get an echo from the working class, and from sections of the middle class.

The working class, in Britain and internationally, remains the most powerful force – the only force – capable of fighting for the fundamental transformation of society.

The Socialist Party will go from this hall today, and tenaciously build a mass, revolutionary party that fights for every immediate step forward for the working class. But also, always, puts central the need for the overthrow of capitalism, and the socialist transformation of society, in order to build a new, democratic order that can meet the needs of all humanity.”

International protest wave is just the beginning

“The world, including Britain, is in the midst of turmoil. Like the European continental revolutions in 1848 – but also with a touch of the Russian revolution of 1917 – an angry wave of revolutionary movements involving a new, fresh generation, has spread like a prairie fire, leaping from one country to another.

One rotten regime after another has been shaken to its foundations by the movement of young people and the working class. We predicted this mighty wave would develop, and it’s happening now before our eyes.

Latin America, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador are on the move. In the Lebanon the movement is brushing aside the sectarian symbols and flags which have bedevilled the mass movement in the past. The revolution has been driven by young people and the working class. A colossal movement shakes all the ‘powers that be’ to their foundations.

They are now seeking to adopt the traditional methods of the working class – of struggle, of strikes, of solidarity – a magnificent united action of the working class.

Increasingly, the same is happening in Iraq, of all places! After the bloody experience of Iraqi workers and peasants.

The Kurds have been abandoned, as we predicted, by Trump and by American imperialism. We say to our Kurdish brothers and sisters: don’t rely on any of the exploiters, rely on your own strength. And the world working class is the only force that can guarantee you your demands and the granting of your legitimate national rights.

It was the youth who were to the fore in the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011. They are now grappling with the problems of organisation and leadership, which was absent in 2011, and accounted for the temporary defeat of the revolution. This is a precondition for those workers to be victorious in the next period itself.

It is therefore entirely false to direct the energies of the youth and the working class to the narrow field of identity politics, and not to class politics. Mass waves of struggle are inevitable on the basis of the contradictions of this system.

Make no mistake about it: this is one of those moments, a eureka moment in history, when the scales drop from the eyes of the working class and the youth, and sections of the middle class, and they cast around for an organisation and a leadership that can show a way forward. Not just a change in consciousness is taking place, but leaps in understanding.

And we say to the capitalists: you’ve had your day. You are incapable of managing the world economic and social situation. You cannot even grant a piece of bread to the starving millions throughout the world.

You have enormously worsened, through your unplanned system, the environmental and economic catastrophe. Climate change, which provoked the young, in a marvellous movement worldwide, to rise up against you and your rotted system.

This is just the beginning! We are with the youth on this movement, linked to a change of system, against capitalism itself.

There is an organic crisis of capitalism, which cannot be solved on the basis of a rotted system.

How marvellous it is for our generation to see the Chilean workers – who in our lifetime, under the iron heel of Pinochet, were crushed by reaction, with an element of fascism – rising to their feet and moving against the remnants of the Pinochet regime.

The only reason they’ve not succeeded already is a lack of organisation, and a lack of consciousness. In the next period, they will build independent organisations of the working class.

Look at the Hong Kong youth. How marvellous it is that they’ve struggled so tenaciously against the Chinese regime. And all they’re asking for is democracy. Well we say, you’ll only gain that creating a revolutionary constituent assembly which can change society in Hong Kong, and appeal to the masses in China itself.

Many of these young workers carry their own wills in their pockets, because they expect to be shot on the streets of Hong Kong. That’s an indication of the marvellous spirit that exists.

You, the capitalists, have presided over a failed economic and social system. Throughout the world the working class, and sections of the middle class, are rising against you. Enough is enough.

Because of the extreme volatility, and the situation in Britain, there will be colossal movements that will take place. The $64,000 question is: will we be able to take advantage of this? It’s not guaranteed in advance.

Exciting times lie ahead, and capitalism cannot solve the problems of working people. We intend to seize every opportunity to build our forces.

Forward to the building of a mass workers’ party, which the Socialist Party can become, as part of the reorganisation and the regeneration of the mass movement in Britain.

On that basis we’ll be able to create a democratic and socialist world. That’s what this meeting today is all about. Of a democratic and socialist Britain, leading to a united socialist states of Europe, and a united socialist federation of the world.

This is not utopian. It’s a practical objective, grounded in the reality of a failing system, and of the working people on the move.

Go to it! Join our ranks! Join with the wave of the future!”

Socialism 2019 Saturday rally, photo Mary Finch

Click for gallery. Socialism 2019 Saturday rally, photo Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)