Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/208/8527
What we think
Vote Socialist - For Real Change
AT THE 1997 general election we urged readers to vote Socialist if they wanted real change. Again, unsurprisingly, we urge our readers to vote for Socialist candidates in England and Wales and for Scottish Socialist Party candidates in Scotland.
In over 200 constituencies, nearly a third of the total in Britain, working-class people will have a chance to vote for a socialist candidate. However, in the other two-thirds workers may ask socialists how should they vote?
Our honest answer has to be that we cannot advocate a vote for any other party. In 1997 we understood why many workers would vote Labour, despite their misgivings, because of the burning desire to get rid of the hated Tories after 18 years. But, unlike many other groups on the Left, we did not advocate a vote for Labour in 1997.
We correctly warned that New Labour would be a pro-big business government which would continue a Thatcherite agenda. At the time that message wasn't necessarily believed by many working-class people. But four years later the truth of that warning has been borne out.
New Labour is privatising air traffic control and the tube - things they appeared to rule out doing after the last election. They have extended privatisation into health and education. They have carried out policies that have benefited the bosses and the rich and widened the wealth gap in British society.
Half a million more people are classified as poor since Labour came to power in 1997. The level of the minimum wage they introduced was pitiful. They introduced student tuition fees and saddled students with debts of up to £20,000.
Labour has presided over an economy and public sector that puts ever greater burdens on working people. Yet, despite this they are likely to be returned with a big majority.
While Labour did not deliver on its pre-election slogan that things will only get better, the reason they will probably comfortably win this election is because a majority of those who vote will think although things have not improved under Labour they could only get worse if Hague's Tories were elected.
But by whatever margin Labour wins the election they will not receive a ringing endorsement from the voters. Over two-thirds of under-25 year olds say they will not vote, the election turnout overall could be a historic low of 60% - more are likely to vote in the Big Brother poll.
ILLUSIONS THAT may have existed in Labour have been stripped bare by the experience of the last four years.
Blair, now confident that Labour will win comfortably, is setting out his post-election agenda. He intends far greater privatisation of public services - perhaps even total privatisation in most cases.
Blair perhaps would not have raised these prospects so openly if the election race had been closer. But, he would have known that he would not be opposed by the Tories in pursuing these so-called free-market goals, which even the Tories have been reluctant to raise until now.
Public-sector union leaders have not mounted any effective challenge to Blair's privatisation piracy.
Indeed, their only concern seems to be half-hearted attempts to try and protect the terms and conditions of the existing workforce without any consideration of the potential collapse of public services and the effect it will have on their members and the population at large.
Yet, that does not mean there will not be ferocious opposition to Blair's plans - especially against plans to privatise public services, which the Socialist Party will play a leading role in resisting.
It is doubtful whether such opposition will come in any effective way from within the ranks of Labour MPs - even those who still describe themselves as left-wingers.
These MPs will forced to address after the election how can they seriously represent working-class people and defend their living standards and conditions from within the ranks of New Labour.
There will be mass opposition to New Labour's second-term plans.
We have already seen the willingness to strike back of tube and postal workers.
But such industrial struggles will need to be linked to establishing a party that guarantees independent political representation of the working class - a new mass workers' party.
We urge workers to get organised and join in the process of creating a new mass workers' party that in the longer term will effectively challenge New Labour both electorally and in wider industrial and political struggles.
Growing Union Militancy Against Labour
A FURTHER sign that a second-term Labour government will meet vigorous opposition to their plans to privatise essential public services was last week's postal workers' strikes. Also, in the CWU, the postal workers' union, last week Billy Hayes beat the union's deputy general secretary John Keggie to win the general secretary's position.
Hayes, portrayed as a left-winger in the press, beat Keggie, widely viewed as a clear favourite and the union establishment's preferred choice, by 36,047 votes to 32,279. This overturning of a right-wing union leader bears similarities to Barry Reamsbottom's removal in PCS, the civil service union, when he was beaten by left-winger Mark Serwotka.
Keggie, a former Scottish divisional officer, was once perceived as a left winger but was closely linked to negotiating the hated restructuring of working practises known as The Way Forward, which led to last week's strikes.
In both PCS and the CWU these results show that union members are far to the left of their former leaders. Although Hayes is described as a left-winger and was seen as the opposition candidate, he has quickly sought to distance himself from that perception.
He says he is a supporter of the government, but reserves his right to be 'critical'.
Also replying to an article in the Independent about fears that his election would lead to a militant union leadership Hayes corrected a report describing him as opposed to The Way Forward: "I could hardly have been in a position to oppose the deal as one of the main negotiators, together with Mike Hogan and John Keggie", he said.
But, whatever, his own thoughts on The Way Forward are, he has inherited the leadership of a union that is becoming increasingly militant.
Three Socialist Party members were also re-elected to the union's national executive.
At the forthcoming CWU conference there are motions on the agenda, pushed by members of the Socialist Party, calling for the union to break its links with Labour and prepare a militant battle to stop Post Office privatisation.
In The Socialist 5 December 2009: