A fighting socialist programme for workers and youth in struggle
A fighting socialist programme for workers and youth in struggle

Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, Socialist Party executive committee

The working class faces attacks and challenges on every front. The Socialist’s ‘What We Stand For’ column is a summary of the main demands that the Socialist Party puts forward for the fightback that’s needed. An updated column, produced through party-wide discussion and debate, is launched this week (see below).

The editorial of the first issue of the Militant in 1964, the predecessor of the Socialist, set out our paper’s purpose, including that: “We wish to tell the truth to the working class against the lies and exaggerations of the capitalist class and the half-truths of Labour’s officialdom”.

Telling the truth means saying that there’s an alternative to the working class paying the price of the crisis of the profit-driven capitalist system. As we emerge from the pandemic, workers paying is exactly what the bosses want. A new period of struggle between the classes is opening up. So sharpening the ideas of how workers resist is necessary.

So far, the cost-of-living crisis is the clearest expression of this new period. It has quickly become a ubiquitous phrase, because it is a constant presence in millions of lives: when we do the weekly food shop, when we fill up the car, even when we fill the kettle, when the bills land, when the kids need clothes and shoes, and so on and on.

‘Cost-of-living crisis’

‘Cost-of-living crisis’ comprises rising prices and falling wages, pensions and benefits. In April, 7.3 million adults lived in households that had gone without food or could not physically get it in the previous month. Those households include 2.6 million children. But Britain remains one of the richest countries in the world. The Sunday Times Rich List reports that Britain now boasts more billionaires than ever with more wealth than ever.

In tandem with the rise in prices, a wave of strike action has been developing. The historic action now called by the RMT across Network Rail and 13 train operating companies involving 40,000 members is a step towards national action. Another 10,000 workers from London Underground will coordinate action on 21 June, the first of the three days. This strike will reveal the potential power of the working class organised in collective action in a way that hasn’t been seen for years.

The anger reflected in the high votes for strike action is the real background of the divisions within the Tory party. Ultimately the Tory crisis reflects the growing unpopularity of the system based on the maximisation of private profits that their party defends. It is increasingly clear that capitalism is a system that only works for a tiny few at the top. The socialist way out of this crisis includes the demand to take the wealth off the super-rich.

Our starting point, therefore, remains what it has been in all previous iterations: the need for mass working-class struggle to fight for a socialist government to take into public ownership the top 150 companies and the banking system that dominate the British economy. They could then be run under democratic working-class control and management, with no compensation for the fat-cats.

This is not the only update of the What We Stand For column since the launch of the Socialist in 1997. It has been regularly reviewed and discussed within the Socialist Party to assess if it is the best summary of what is needed at each stage.

The last major update was in the aftermath of the mass eruptions in 2011: the Arab Spring, the indignados movements in southern Europe, and millions-strong public sector strike action in Britain. This was the anger at the working class being made to pay for the 2007-08 crisis finding expression, and marked then a new period of the crisis of capitalism and new tasks for the working class.

Minimum wage

But there are times when only specific demands were changed. In 2021, the minimum wage demand was amended to call for a £15-an-hour minimum wage. It is obviously necessary to combine that now with the demand for the minimum wage to automatically increase linked to average earnings or inflation, whichever is higher.

In March 2014, when the Tory minimum wage increased from £6.31 to £6.50, the minimum wage demand was raised to £10 an hour, without exemptions for young workers, apprentices and internships. This was a demand that arose from workers struggling against low pay. It became official TUC policy in September 2014 – but it was clear that it needed a struggle to make it a reality.

At the 2015 general election, only the programme of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), the electoral platform in which the Socialist Party collaborates with the RMT and other trade unionists and socialists, included this necessary demand.

That demand for £10, however, became an important part of Jeremy Corbyn’s programme in the 2017 general election. Alongside the call for council homes, the abolition of university fees, and nationalisation of the utilities, that programme gave workers and young people a glimpse of an alternative to austerity. Thousands attended mass rallies. Students queued to vote for Corbyn. He even won back a million Labour voters that Blairism had lost to Ukip.

In the Corbyn era, the What We Stand For demand on how workers can achieve a political voice therefore also changed. To the demand: “For a mass workers’ party drawing together workers, young people and activists from workplace, community, environmental and anti-cuts campaigns, to provide a fighting, political alternative to the pro-big business parties”, was added: “Fight for Labour to be transformed into such a party: deselect the Blairites.”

In the 2017 and 2019 general elections the Socialist Party argued that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition should not stand candidates but fight for a Corbyn-led government. But as the What We Stand For demand summarised, that required a fight to transform the Labour Party.

When Corbyn was elected Labour became two parties in one – the Blairite defenders of capitalism on one side and on the other, the potential for an anti-austerity party around the thousands who flocked in to fight for Corbyn’s programme. But that was untenable. A fight was needed to remove the Blairite saboteurs.

Programme for battle

The Socialist Party put forward a programme for this battle: mandatory deselection of the defenders of capitalism; readmit the expelled socialists as part of the building of a mass federal socialist party; return the trade unions to their central role in the party, under the control of their members; and a socialist programme.

Unfortunately, such bold measures were not carried out by Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. Jeremy has been removed from the Labour whip and Sir Keir Starmer has carried through changes that have reclaimed the Labour Party for capitalism, a Tony Blair-style New Labour Mark Two. Conclusions must be drawn from this for the struggle in the new period.

The cost-of-living crisis poses the question of working-class political representation sharply. At the end of May, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch correctly said that the upcoming national strike action is a test for Keir Starmer. Once the RMT had voted on dates for the action, the response came. Starmer’s spokesperson said: “We’ve been clear in the position that the strikes shouldn’t go ahead,” he said. “Nobody wants to see industrial action that is disruptive.”

Industrial struggle needs to be combined with beginning to build a political voice for the workers’ movement. Working-class people need a party which will fight for our interests in parliament and in the council chambers. Otherwise, we fight with one hand tied behind our backs.

As the column and the pages of the Socialist show, the Socialist Party fights for a new workers’ party to be built, including our participation in TUSC as an initial step. But the trade union leaders have the real power to solve the problem of working-class political representation – as could Jeremy – by taking steps to initiate a new workers’ party.

The Socialist Party fights for a new mass workers’ party. But as the column summarises, for that party to liberate humanity from the misery of capitalist crisis, it means fighting for a “democratic socialist plan of production based on the interests of the overwhelming majority of people, and in a way that safeguards the environment”.

What we stand for

Capitalism is an ailing, crisis-ridden system based on the exploitation of the majority of the world’s population by a small, super-rich elite who own most of the wealth and the means of producing it. This way of organising society, in which the pursuit of profit comes before everything else, causes poverty, inequality, environmental destruction, wars and oppression across the globe.

The Socialist Party organises working-class people to fight against the attacks from this rotten system on our lives and livelihoods, and for a socialist alternative: a society which takes the wealth out of the hands of the super-rich and is democratically run by working-class people to meet the needs of all not the profits of a few.

Building fighting democratic trade unions in the workplaces and a new mass workers’ party is a vital part of  the struggle to change society along socialist lines.

Because capitalism is a world system, the struggle for socialism must also be international. The Socialist Party is part of the Committee for a Workers’ International which organises across the world. Our demands include:

Work, pensions and benefits

  • A £15-an-hour minimum wage for all, without exemptions. For the minimum wage to automatically increase linked to average earnings or inflation, whichever is higher.
  • Share out the work. A maximum 32-hour working week with no loss of pay or worsening of conditions. The right to flexible working, under the control of workers not employers. An end to insecure working, for the right to full-time work for all who want it; ban zero-hour contracts.
  • All workers to have trade union rates of pay, employment protection, and sickness, parental and holiday rights from day one of employment. End bosses using bogus ‘self-employment’ as a means to avoid giving workers rights.
  • No to austerity through inflation. For all wage rates to be automatically increased at least in line with price rises.
  • Open the books of all companies cutting jobs or claiming they can’t afford to pay a real living wage. State subsidies, where genuinely needed, for socially-useful small businesses.
  • For trade unions independent of the capitalist state, with members having democratic control over their own policies, constitutions and democratic procedures. For all trade union officials to be regularly elected, subject to recall by their members and paid a worker’s wage.
  • Reduce the state retirement and pension age to 55. For decent living pensions.
  • Replace universal credit and the punitive benefit system with living benefits for all who need them.

Public services

  • A massive expansion of public services including the NHS and council services. Reverse all the cuts, kick out the privateers. Bring private social care and childcare facilities into public ownership under democratic control, in order to provide free, high-quality services for all who need them. Expand services for all women suffering violence.
  • For local councillors who are committed to opposing austerity and all cuts to local services, jobs, pay and conditions.
  • For a socialist NHS to provide for everyone’s health needs, including dental and eye care – free at the point of use and under democratic control. Kick out the private companies! Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry under democratic workers’ control and management.
  • Renationalise privatised utilities – including rail, mail, water, telecoms and power – under democratic workers’ control and management.
  • Free, publicly funded and democratically run, good-quality education, available to all at any age. Abolish university tuition fees and write off student debt, end marketisation, and introduce a living grant. No to academisation. For all schools to be under the genuine democratic control of local education authorities, school staff, parents and student organisations.
  • The right to a safe secure home for all. For the mass building of genuinely affordable, high-quality, carbon-neutral council housing. For rent controls that cap the level of rent. Fair rent decisions should be made by elected bodies of tenants, housing workers and representatives of trade unions. For cheap low-interest mortgages for home buyers. Nationalise the privately owned large building companies, land banks and estates.


  • Prioritising major research and investment into replacing fossil fuels and nuclear power with renewable energy, and ending the problems of early obsolescence – where products are designed to ‘wear out’ and be replaced – and unrecycled waste.
  • Nationalisation of the energy companies, under democratic workers’ control and management, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need, in order to carry out a major switch to clean, green energy, without any loss of jobs, pay or conditions.
  • A democratically planned, massively expanded, free to use, publicly owned transport system, as part of an overall plan against environmental pollution.
  • For a major, publicly funded, insulation and energy transition plan for existing housing stock.
  • Agribusiness to be taken into democratic public ownership. For a food processing and retail industry under workers’ control to ensure that standards are set by consumers, small farmers, and all workers involved in the production, processing, distribution and retail of food.

Democratic rights

  • For united working-class struggle to end discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, sexuality, age, and all other forms of prejudice and oppression.
  • Repeal the anti-trade union laws and all others that trample over civil liberties. For the right to protest and to strike! End police harassment. For the police to be accountable to local committees, made up of democratically elected representatives of trade unions, local community organisations and local authorities.
  • For the right to choose when and whether to have children – for the right to access abortion, contraception and fertility treatment for all who need it.
  • For the right to asylum – with democratic community control and oversight of emergency funding resources. No to racist immigration laws.
  • Expand democracy. For the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords. For all MPs to be subject to the right of recall by their constituents at any time, and to only receive a worker’s wage. For proportional representation and the right to vote at 16.
  • For the right of nations to self-determination. For an independent socialist Scotland and for a socialist Wales, both part of a voluntary socialist confederation of Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland.
  • Oppose the dictatorship of the billionaire owners of the media. For the nationalisation of newspaper printing facilities, radio, TV and social media platforms. Access to these facilities should be under democratic control, with political parties’ coverage being allocated in proportion to the popular vote at elections.
  • For a new mass workers’ party, based on the trade unions, and drawing together workers, young people and activists from workplaces, and community, environmental, anti-racist and anti-cuts campaigns, to provide a fighting, socialist political alternative to the pro-big business parties.

Socialism and internationalism

  • No to imperialist wars and occupations!
  • Take the wealth off the super-rich! For a socialist government to take into public ownership the top 150 companies and the banking system that dominate the British economy, and run them under democratic working-class control and management. Compensation to be paid only on the basis of proven need, not to the fat cats.
  • A democratic socialist plan of production based on the interests of the overwhelming majority of people, and in a way that safeguards the environment.
  • No the EU bosses’ club. Organise a campaign with European socialists and workers’ organisations to use the talks on post-Brexit relations to tear up the EU pro-capitalist rules. For a real collaboration of the peoples of Europe on a socialist basis as a step towards a socialist world.