Socialist Party documents

Perspectives for Britain and the world 2009

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Political prospects

The working class in the next period is likely to be checked on the industrial plane although, as we have explained, there will be battles, some of them spectacular, of a defensive character on the issue of jobs.

When the working class is blocked in one direction, it instinctively turns towards another, in this case the political, plane.

This tendency has not been helped by the attitude of the trade union leaders who are encouraging the idea that the only real salvation for working people and the trade unions in Britain is the defeat of the Tories and a new period in power for New Labour.

This has been cut across by the outbreak of strikes in January, particularly of the oil refinery construction workers.

The change in the electoral prospects of New Labour in late 2008 was as unexpected to Brown as was the recession itself.

There has been an incredible turnaround in the posture of Brown. Both the Blair and the Brown governments ignored the 'have nots' in favour of the 'have yachts' for almost ten years.

They set their face against nationalisation, as we pointed out; this became the New Labour orthodoxy, with Brown appearing to borrow aspects of the 'Old Labour' programme, for instance.

It is like a toff decked out in a morning suit with a fancy waistcoat and shiny shoes wearing a cloth cap.

Mandelson, brought back because of his 'dark arts' - read deception and anti-left, anti-socialist propaganda - was found cavorting with a Russian billionaire and Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne in the infamous 'Yachtgate'.

He claims that nothing fundamental has changed and that the New Labour project goes on. This is, in fact, the reality. Nationalisation is designed to help the ruling class and nobody else. In early 2009 there was a perceptible drawing back from nationalising the banks because of the political repercussions that would flow from this.

Even the concessionary measures such as on repossession are minimalist and designed to cast the government in a more 'caring' role than the Tories.

The Labour Party itself remains empty, with the left marginalised. Many of the left MPs could even be defeated in the next general election, depending on when it is held and the circumstances in which it takes place.

Tribune, for over 70 years the house journal of the reformist left within the Labour Party, is dying on its feet and had to be rescued by subventions from the right-wing dominated Unite trade union.

The Campaign Group of Labour MPs' journal, 'Socialist Campaign News', has been wound up. Yet with the left at its most feeble in the entire history of the Labour Party, Tony Benn, together with some 'Marxist' doctrinaires, still pretends that Labour can be 'saved' for the Labour left.

He fulminated against right-wing Labour MP Frank Field's call for a 'national government' in the pages of the Guardian.

He correctly pointed out that the National Government of the 1930s savaged the working class and the poor but he misses the obvious answer to Field; that New Labour, to all intents and purposes, is already a 'national' government.

It has the same priorities as the other parties and is completely subordinate to the wishes of big business.

As we have pointed out, the three main capitalist 'parties' are really three different wings of the same capitalist party.

Why go into a 'national government' when there is de facto one already?

Ironically, the crisis initially came to the assistance of Brown, who was besieged and looked like a beaten man in a bedraggled government before its onset.

In fact, he was the first Labour leader in history to benefit from an economic crisis! He was helped enormously by the blunders of the Tories who in seeking to distance themselves from Brown dug themselves into a hole.

Initially, they went along with the proposals of Darling and Brown on the banks but as their standing in the polls fell, concluded that it was necessary to take up a more oppositional stance.

They now oppose further bail-outs, warn about future state debt and now say they will not stick to the government spending plans of New Labour if they come to power.

This implies that they will cut back on public expenditure, which they will undoubtedly try to implement if Cameron and Co come to power.

Brown has been able to hurl insults at them along the lines of "throughout the world governments and people are saying, 'Yes we can'" - echoing the vacuous slogan of Obama - while the Tories say "No we don't."

The avalanche of bad news economically is bound to have an effect on the working and middle classes.

There will be a tendency, quite correctly, to blame New Labour, particularly as now the middle class will be feeling the pinch.

Many of them are taking their children out of private education because they cannot afford it, some are facing redundancy with 350,000 managers expecting to 'go down the road' and some even threatened with repossession.

The British people are faced with the choice of 'evils'. In this situation, New Labour appeared to many as the 'lesser evil' than the Tories. But as the crisis deepened this mood evaporated and Labour is now behind in the polls. We reject this philosophy but this choice between 'evils' is, nevertheless, probably the prevailing view of the mass of the British electorate.

Nevertheless a hung parliament with Labour as the biggest party is still possible. This could depend on whether Brown goes for an election early in 2009 or possibly coinciding with the euro elections in June at the latest.

If Brown was to go the full term to June 2010 - which many commentators now say will be the case - such would be the probable scale of the economic problems, with unemployment exceeding three million, then Labour would, in all probability, go down to defeat.

Brown could be the new Callaghan, the Labour prime minister who famously failed to call a general election in the autumn of 1978, when the situation was favourable to Labour, and then let in Thatcher in 1979.

One other possibility is the complete implosion of the economy and with it the Brown government.

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