Britain  •  Industrial

The Rank and File’s Next Step

16 June 2022
Our new pamphlet analyses the Great Strike Wave of 2022-3 and puts forward a proposal to organise a new movement of the militant minority to transform our unions and make them fit to fight. 

Get your copy for £3.

WE BELIEVE IT is possible to build a mass movement against falling living standards, cuts and privatisation – and mass movements are full of revolutionary possibility. We must start from the fight for workers’ burning needs. We need to revive the bedrock organisations of the working class – the trade unions -and push them into action. But we will also need new organisations of struggle, built from below, that can ultimately develop a new militant leadership for the movement.

To all those who want to fight back against the crisis, we propose working together to take the fight to the bosses and unite the resistance against the Tories in a spirit of common struggle. Alongside the practical task of developing resistance, we must consider what we are fighting for – the political solution to the crisis.

In this article we examine the current state of the resistance, scattered and uneven as it is, and propose a strategy to defend our living standards against the rising cost of living and link it to the fight for workers’ control over wages, prices and social conditions.

The bankers, the bosses and the Tories – the capitalist class – have run their economy into the ground. It’s time for a system change.

Pay, Jobs and Benefits
Boris Johnson told an audience in Blackpool on 9 June, ‘If wages continue to chase the increase in prices then we risk a wage-price spiral,’ and warned against ‘increasing wages to match the surge in prices’. In other words, if workers push too hard for pay rises, they will only reap higher prices. The workers will lose and so will the economy.

Like much of what Johnson says, there is no basis to this claim at all. Higher wages have not ‘pushed’ inflation. In fact, inflation is being driven by high energy prices, pandemic and war-induced shortages, and simple profiteering.

There is one economic category these analysts never question. It is sacrosanct, never to be touched: profit. UK corporate profits jumped from £129bn to £139bn in the first quarter of 2022. Why can’t they be cut?

That’s why we say: people before profits; our right to a decent standard of living comes first. We demand £15 an hour minimum for all or a 15% pay rise, whichever is greater. Our pay has been falling steadily for over a decade, so we need an element of catch-up or we will forever be falling behind, while the bosses’ profits climb higher and higher.

But even above-inflation pay rises are not guaranteed to hold their value. Strikes have been relatively successful in forcing the bosses to boost pay offers but with inflation rising every month even the best deals are looking poor.

To resolve this problem, unions should demand all pay rises are index-linked to inflation. For every penny rise in prices, we want a penny more in our pay – every month throughout the year. We call this a sliding scale of wages.

But who calculates the rate of inflation, as it affects ordinary working people? No one does. Government statistics measure 733 prices, including luxury items but not rents. They are intended as a guide to investors, not workers.

The TUC, the unions and local campaigns should set up their own price watch committees, made up of workers and their families, who can check the prices in the supermarkets, rents and utility bills every month and record price rises as they impact our household budgets. Unions should publish their findings and force the bosses to recognise them as the basis for pay claims and indexing wages.

It is possible, inevitable even, that some bosses will declare they cannot afford real pay rises or a higher minimum wage. In this case, we should demand they open their financial records to workers’ inspection so we can see where the money has gone and we can challenge their ring fencing of profits, executive bonuses and dividends.

If they are truly broke, then they should be nationalised, without compensation to the former owners, and brought under workers’ control. If the employer is a local authority or a school, then they will likely cite government cuts to their funding as the cause. Here we should demand the government fully funds public services without cuts to jobs, pay or the service.

In June 2022 the Tories announced that the number of job vacancies in Britain was higher than the number out of work. This was supposed to imply that there is plenty of work for everyone; you only have to ‘get on your bike’ and find a job.

This will come as a surprise to thousands of workers who find that, when they apply for jobs, there are hundreds of other applicants they competing with them even to get an interview. In fact this ‘vacancies paradox’ is a lie, false on two accounts.

First there are skills shortages, meaning many skilled jobs cannot be filled until a new workforce has been trained or migrant workers are allowed to come and live here on equal pay and conditions.

Secondly, the unemployment figure – 1.37 million in April 2022 – is not a true indicator of the number of people who want more work. The OECD investigated the issue in 2019 and found that there were at least 3 million hidden unemployed, not included in official figures. The same is true today.

And third a slowdown, if not a full blown recession, is coming and that will mean closures and job cuts. Bosses will use the threat of unemployment to hold down wages; workers will feel the pain of losing their only source of income.

That’s why we say: work or full pay, full-time permanent jobs for all who want them. To any employer proposing job cuts, we should demand that the work available is shared equally among the workers available. Cut the hours, not the jobs. For a four-day working week with no loss of pay or increase in workload or work-rate.

If unemployment rises, as the economists forecast, we should call on the government to invest in a programme of public works on trade union rates of pay and run under workers’ control.

There is plenty of work that needs to be done and plenty of workers that need more work. Only capitalist economics prevents putting these two together. Our housing stock needs replenishing and upgrading. Our environment must be upgraded with renewable energy, insulation and cleaner transport; we need more hospitals, more schools, more green spaces. It makes sense to create these by creating well-paid, secure jobs.

Every worker deserves full employment rights, including the right to join a recognised union. Abolish zero-hours contracts and all forms of super-exploited labour. We support the struggles of all the unions who are fighting for the rights of precarious workers, especially the smaller independent unions like UVW and IWGB.

They need a mass unemployed and precarious workers’ union to fight for their rights, just like they did in the 1920s and 1980s. If we do not organise them, then the danger is that they fall prey to despair or even racism and fascism.

Benefits and pensions
One of the cruellest acts of Boris Johnson’s government was to snatch £20 a week from Universal Credit claimants in October 2021, slashing the income of the poorest section of our class, many of whom are in work but on poverty wages. Shamefully the unions and the Labour Party did not lift a finger to stop this theft.

This Tory-designed benefit system is beyond repair. It is supposed to be a safety net for the unemployed while they find new jobs, but in reality is set at a level that no one can reasonably live on, so claimants are forced to take any job, no matter how awful, just to keep afloat. Claimants do not receive a penny for the first six weeks and are sanctioned for the smallest ‘digression’, like missing an appointment or not taking an unsuitable job offer.

Abolish Universal Credit and replace it with benefits set at at least the minimum wage and indexed to inflation. It should be paid from day one and on day one.

We support the struggle of disabled people. The unions should demand an end to sanctions and testing, restoring allowances to their levels before austerity and for trade union control over access to work and reasonable adjustments to enable those who want to work to be able to do so.

Pensioners were also robbed in September 2021, when the Tories ‘suspended’ the triple lock, which raises the state pension by 2.5%, the average wage rise or the rate of inflation, whichever is greater. This would have given pensioners an 8.3% increase. Instead they got 3.1% – as did benefit claimants.

The age workers can draw their pension keeps going up and up, soon to 68. Most workers can expect serious health problems before they can retire, especially those on low incomes, or with physically demanding jobs.

We say, reinstate the triple lock and raise the state pension to a level people can live on, as determined by the trade unions and pensioners. The state pension age should be set at 55 or earlier for medical reasons, so everyone can retire with dignity and in good health. This too would free up jobs for younger people.

Tax the rich
Who will pay? The rich must be forced to pay. Corporation tax has been slashed to a historically low 19%. It should be raised back to the level it was under Thatcher, 40% – higher if that is insufficient to protect our living standards.

Britain’s billionaires saw their wealth grow by £150 million a day in 2021. The top 100 executives’ pay now averages £3.6 million a year, while City of London bonuses amounted to £5.9bn – they can afford to pay their taxes!

The poor should be taken out of taxation altogether. Abolish VAT and other regressive consumption taxes which eat up a disproportionate amount of workers’ incomes. Make income tax steeply progressive so the rich pay most. Impose a wealth tax — which is far greater than their massaged ‘income’ figures. Close all tax loopholes and prevent the wealthy from withdrawing their money from the country. If they can do this to Russian oligarchs, they can do it to our own.

Defend our communities
The combination of high inflation and economic stagnation — stagflation — means cuts to health and social services are not far away. As well as devastating the jobs, pay and conditions of workers who provide vital services, cuts also put the burden of care and provision onto working class families, especially women.

Take the massive hospital waiting lists: those who can (just about) afford it have to pay for private care using NHS facilities: those who cannot have to live with the consequences. Either way working class families feel the brunt. We have to defend our ‘social wage’ as much as we do our pay packet.

Health and education
Covid revealed how close to the ground the NHS has been razed. Decades of budget cuts, the internal market and the PFI schemes which exacerbate financial meltdowns, staffing shortages due to low pay, excruciating hours and high intensity work have taken their toll.

The pandemic brought the whole system close to collapse. Now waiting lists are rising, people are dying due to delays and yet more staff are leaving, worn out physically and mentally.

To fill the 40,000 NHS vacancies, we need to abolish student fees, restore bursaries and set them at the level of an entry grade nurse. Raise all NHS workers’ wages by 15% or a minimum of £15 an hour, whichever is greater, to encourage recruitment.

Bring all contracts in-house and expropriate the private sector and big drug companies, so we can raise the standard of pay and condition for all health workers and the standard of treatment for all patients.
Scrap all medical charges from prescriptions to the dentists and abolish National Insurance – the NHS should be funded from general taxation. Then we can expand the NHS and social care so future generations can rely on them.

Schools not only provide socialisation, education and training for our young people, but also some relief from the costs of bringing them up for their parents. This is why we demand free school meals for all pupils, 52 weeks a year.

Funding cuts, competition from academies and falling student numbers have led to a rash of school closures. Good teachers and staff are being sacked for money reasons when school students and families need more support, not less. Instead of shutting schools and sacking teachers, we should reduce class sizes to 20 for primary schools and 25 for secondaries.

Financial support for students has been stripped away by Labour and Tory governments. We need to restore it. Abolish tuition fees for higher education and reinstate the educational maintenance allowance to 16 years old and over, set at a level they can live on – grants not loans.

Instead of being ripped off by high rents and food prices, students should be in control of their residential halls and accommodation fees slashed. Student union leaders need to fight for their members’ rights or student activists should take the lead, like they did in 2010, with militant demos and campus occupations.

Rents, energy and transport
Housing is another great divider determining people’s ability to afford the cost of living. The housing shortage has left millions stuck in private tenancies facing rocketing rents that often absorb more than half of their take home pay.

There should be an immediate rent freeze and ban on evictions. Tenants’ organisations should have the right to inspect landlords’ properties and set rent controls, enforcing them with rent strikes and physical obstruction of bailiffs and the police if they are called in. Rents should be set at a truly affordable level, as close to council rents as possible.

We need more council homes to meet demand as well. A million should be built, using council direct labour teams and under workers’ and community control. Requisition land banks, empty properties and second homes to house the homeless.

All homes should be insulated and retrofitted with heat pumps or hydrogen cell boilers free of charge. This alone would massively reduce household energy bills.

However, this does not help with those bills today. Abolish Ofgem, which has raised fuel bills astronomically. Restore the energy cap to where it was in summer 2021. Trade unions and community organisations, not government bureaucrats should set the price at a level workers can afford. If the energy supply companies go bust, nationalise them under workers’ and consumers’ control.

The privately owned transport companies run a dirty and expensive service, while paying their workers too little and working them too hard. Who can forget P&O’s lockout of its workforce and recruitment of new labour on £1.61 an hour? Nationalise all buses, coach, rail and ferry services without compensation: workers’ control of wages and conditions.

To establish the real state of dilapidation of these and hundreds of other vital services, from refuse collection to youth clubs and everything in between, we call for local workers’ audits of council assets and all services.

Only then can communities and workers come together and plan their future based on their real needs. By doing so they can build the mass support needed to fight for the funding from the central government to make it happen.

There is not a Labour council in the country that will currently support such a struggle. Left wing Labour councillors need to take sides; are they with the capitalists or with their community? If they choose to keep their powder dry, they soon won’t have a cannon to fire it from. Better to be expelled from Labour than do the Tories’ dirty work.

Britain is the fifth richest country in the world, yet comprises of only 1% of its population. It achieves this by exploiting poorer countries.

The City of London wheels and deals trillions of dollars of investments and transactions every day, deciding the fate of millions of people in the Global South at the click of a mouse. Its banks, finance houses and insurance firms hold whole swathes of Africa, Asia and Latin America in debt bondage.

Through the IMF and World Bank it demands privatisation and cuts via its structural adjustment programmes, whenever poorer countries can no longer service their debts, plunging them further into dependency and ruining indigenous industries. Then it imprisons and deports those who have the temerity to seek a better life here. Cancel all debts owed to the City, government, IMF and World Bank.

We have far more in common with those fighting inflation and falling living standards across the world than we do with our own bosses. Their fight is our fight. All refugees and migrants welcome here. Abolish the Nationality and Borders Act and all immigration controlsopen the borders to refugees.

Nationalise the giant multinational corporations without compensation. Their assets in this country should be run under workers’ control; their overseas holdings should be handed over to the workers of those countries, who have paid for these investments many times over with their labour and their lives.

Britain backs up its global robbery with firepower. Despite the Treasury pleading poverty when it comes to helping workers in the crisis, Britain spends £31.6bn a year on its day-to-day ‘defence’ budget and a further £14.6bn on capital investment in the military industry. The total amount of relief in Sunak’s emergency one-off aid package (£15bn) amounts to less than a third of this expenditure!

We say, not a penny or a person for the defence of this system. Oppose militarism and the new cold war. Welfare not warfare – reparations for those countries destroyed economically, environmentally or militarily by Britain’s foreign policies.

A movement that can fight and win
Many trade union militants and socialist activists will recognise that our organisations need to be revolutionised if we are to win these battles. Almost all our unions suffer from inertia when we most need them, weighed down by bureaucratic procedures and timid leadership, meaning that when they do attempt to mobilise the members they offer too little too late and do not have the infrastructure to succeed.

To transform the situation we need to start from the workplace. A massive recruitment drive is needed to strengthen the unions and bring millions of unorganised workers into them. We need shop stewards in every workplace empowered to confront management and call action.

We need to bring all disputes and strikes under the control of the workers affected. They are the ones under attack; they should be the ones calling the shots. Mass meetings of workers should elect strike committees, accountable to and replaceable by the members.

All too often strikes are called, secret negotiations held, a (rotten) compromise agreed and the strikers stood down. This is the logic of partial, one-day or limited strikes. They are not aimed at winning the claim (if the claim is even made known to the strikers) but at compromise, minimising job losses or ‘rises’ that turn out to be pay cuts.

Instead, we propose all out indefinite strikes as the surest and quickest way to win, even if we have to start with warning strikes in order to test and strengthen our organisation.

Our new pamphlet analyses the cost of living crisis and outlines a programme of working class action to defend jobs, pay and public services. 

Get your copy for £3.

Strikers should be in control of all negotiations and full reports of discussions given to mass meetings, where members can mandate their representatives to follow their democratic will. Only strikers, not officials, should be allowed to suspend or end strikes.

Unite has established combines, drawing together reps from the same company or sector, which is a good development, though they need to be truly member-led. Too often, workers fight local battles alone when they could link up their strikes nationally or across different companies. We are for co-ordinated strikes and linking demands to sector-wide reforms so we can spread the action.

Similarly, wherever there is more than one union in a workplace, we need to set up joint union meetings and workplace committees, which can overcome divisions, put aside the rulebooks and cement unity in action, preventing sell-outs and weaker or less combative unions backing off from the struggle.

Councils of Action
Even militant, well organised strikes can get bogged down in a war of attrition, with the bosses banking on their ability to sit it out, hoping to starve workers back to work. These disputes need the support of other workers in solidarity committees to strengthen picket lines, raise funds, refuse to handle scab goods and take solidarity strike action.

In a crisis as deep and widespread as this one there is usually more than one strike to support and many others who need to take action. We should establish action committees to coordinate our resistance and take initiatives.

Local organisations of workers can emerge in a variety of ways, drawing in representatives from local workplaces and neighbourhoods. Their broad composition gives them the authority not only to demand solidarity but also to launch demonstrations, direct action and grassroots strikes.

Once formed, such organisations can develop into real councils of action with recallable delegates from every workplace and neighbourhood authorised to implement their decisions. These have emerged here and in other countries at times of great social conflict: no longer trade disputes with individual employers but a class struggle of the whole working class against the capitalists and their system.

But our fight is a national struggle against a national government. We should build — from the 18 June TUC demonstration and into the Autumn — for a national conference where delegates from all the regions and localities can hammer out a strategy to win, coordinating efforts and widening our base of support.

Undoubtedly in our disputes the anti-union laws are being wielded by the bosses and their friends in the judiciary. These have been used time and again to thwart the democratic wishes of trade unionists to take effective strike action — often merely by phoning up a judge at 2am demanding an injunction.

We have to defy the anti-union laws and call for their complete abolition and replacement by a legal right to strike.

Bureaucracy and Rank & File
At every stage of the struggle workers who seek to take control of their campaigns or fight for more militant positions will come up against the union officials.

Of course, some are more left wing, prepared to lead effective action, listen to activists’ advice and opinions and advocate on their behalf. Others are downright treacherous or, more commonly, slippery. Sharon Graham is a good example of a general secretary who talks a good fight and has supported militant victories, but has also signed off terrible deals, worth half the rate of inflation, and attempted to pass them off as ‘victories’.

The truth is the union officialdom is a bureaucratic caste, bound together by privileges and loyalty to each other. At the top, 30 union general secretaries earn over £150,000 a year, below which is an army of officials, mostly unelected, who oversee most of our strikes (and sell-outs). They earn much more than most members and often get to such a position by joining one of the rotten cliques that control appointment and patronage.

We need to dissolve the union bureaucracy and distribute its functions among capable rank & file members, elected and accountable to the membership. This starts with the fight for workers’ control of our unions.

We support all struggles to democratise the unions: the election of all officials, who should be recallable and paid no more than the average of those they represent; for all conference decisions to be binding and between AGMs the decisions of an executive made up of elected lay members. Branches, regions, combines should be autonomous, insofar as they take the decisions that relate to them, up to and including strike action.

We are for a rank and file movement that can fight for this programme and tie it to a strategy to lead a class-wide struggle against the bosses.

The union movement we need would focus on the workplace, organising militant strike action with the officials where possible, without them where necessary.

At the heart of its agitation would be the fight for workers’ control: of production, conditions, pay and hiring. The sliding scale of wages, controlled by the workers’ price watch committees under threat of strike action, is an example of that. It can’t be done overnight but the aim is to wrest control, bit by bit, from the bosses and strengthen the organisation and power of the workers.

The rank & file movement would not be able to avoid politics either. Many of the demands we raise just to defend ourselves in this crisis need government action. To abstain from fighting for political demands leaves the Labour Party free to pose as the only alternative to the Tories. We must combine demands on the Labour leadership with determination to take political strike action to achieve our aims.

The task we face is colossal, but so is the crisis. There will be plenty of struggles ahead. So long as socialists intervene to revolutionise our unions with a clear strategy to win, we can play a decisive role in their development, just as militants and revolutionaries did in the 1880s, in the 1910s–20s and again in the 1960s–70s.

Defend the right to protest
The last Parliament saw fresh incursions into our democratic rights. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act has enshrined the right of police to break up ‘disruptive’ protests — or any protest likely to be effective.

Now the government is introducing a Public Order Bill to crack down on so-called ‘guerrilla tactics’ used by protestors. This is clearly aimed at Extinction Rebellion but could also make workplace occupations protesting sudden closures and mass dismissals illegal.

Workers must defend their right to protest, greeting every piece of reactionary legislation with demonstrations, direct action and strikes. We must establish trade union and community self-defence groups that can defend our protests and picket lines from police repression.

Fight social oppression
In every social or economic crisis the people hit hardest are those who habitually face institutional discrimination, casual abuse and the constant threat of violence: women, Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities, the LGBT+ community and youth.

The explosion of campaigns like Black Lives Matter, the new women’s and trans movements and youth campaigns like the climate school strikes show that these sections of workers can also provide some of the most determined fighters in our struggles.

Millions of women bear the double burden of exploitative work and unpaid domestic labour, including the bringing up of children and care for the elderly and infirm. They are discriminated against at work, receiving on average 15.4% less pay than their male counterparts.

Women remain concentrated in gender-stereotyped roles as carers, cleaners and nurses, jobs which are undervalued and underpaid. The pandemic revealed that these roles are key to society as a whole, so why are they so insecure and poorly rewarded? In a word, sexism. When women venture into the better-paid sectors, like finance and tech, they face the same barrier and often sexual harassment to go with it.

We demand equal pay for work of equal value, as decided by committees of workers. Where a company reports a gender pay gap, we should demand they close it or face united strike action.

Bigoted bosses argue that women should not be chosen for the best jobs because they take maternity leave or go part-time. We say they should provide free workplace crèches and 24-hour quality childcare facilities. A disproportionate number of women are on part-time, flexible or zero-hours contracts. We demand equal rights for such workers, including access to training and promotion.

Women also face prejudice (and worse) in the unions, in the home, in society at large. We call for women’s caucuses in every workplace and a working class women’s movement rooted in every community to promote their causes and take them into the wider movement.

The pay gap for Black and Asian workers is even starker than it is for women at 25–35%. Discriminated against throughout the education system, many are still concentrated in manual jobs in transport, the NHS or manufacturing, often with racist undertones concerning their ‘limited’ capabilities: Latin American cleaners, Asian garment workers, Black bus drivers, etc.

The cost of living crisis disproportionately affects racially oppressed groups. For example, there is an overwhelming presence of migrant labour in precarious sectors where workers regularly take home far less than the minimum wage.

In the pandemic, Black and Asian workers were disproportionately hit both because of their jobs on the frontline (often without adequate PPE or safety measures) and because of their living conditions in overcrowded housing and without access to outdoor spaces. The faces of NHS staff who died from Covid were overwhelmingly Black or brown.

We say, end all discrimination against ethnic minorities in the workplace. Black caucuses should monitor racist incidents by managers and fellow workers and demand their unions take action, including strikes, to educate the racists and sack those that cannot or will not reform.

For a workers’ audit of where ethnic minority workers are employed in each enterprise and district, which would reveal the effects of years of racist job appointment and promotion policies. A workers’ veto against racist management rulings should be enforced by united strike action.

Youth are the future
More than 1 in 10 young people are not in education, employment or training. Youth are three times more likely to be jobless than adults. Those in education receive minimal state support if any, while those in training are likely to get little more than the dole. The minimum wage for 16–17 year olds is £4.81 an hour, half the adult rate. This is a rip-off, designed to provide employers with cheap labour.

We need to level up the minimum wage and end pay discrimination. The government should guarantee all school leavers a job, a place in further or higher education or a real apprenticeship, all with an income they can live on. All Tory education cuts and privatisations should be reversed.

Youth have been to the fore in the fight against racism, sexism and climate change. They must be in the front ranks of the fight against the cost of living crisis too, so we can use their courage and creativity to fight for their future and ours.

Workers’ government
Many of the actions proposed in this pamphlet can be undertaken by workers organising in their workplaces, towns and cities. But others — like nationalisation, taxing the rich or raising the minimum wage — cannot. Unions help but millions of workers and youth are not in strong trade unions or even in a position to build them.

As the resistance to the crisis grows through the development of militant methods of struggle, the question of which class controls the state will take on increasing practical relevance. The working class has to take governmental power out of the hands of the capitalist class in order to fulfil its pressing demands. But what does this mean in modern day Britain?

Parliamentary democracy has rarely been as discredited as it is today. Tory ministers, their aides and top civil servants partied all night long, week after week, laughing at the lockdown restrictions they placed on the rest of us. The prime minister brazenly lied to parliament and the rest of the country. Johnson even temporarily shut down parliament when it suited him to push Brexit over the line.

But who can replace the Tories? Millions will say Labour, but under Keir Starmer they are committed to defending capitalist interests at home and British imperialism abroad. Their cost of living package was even smaller than the meagre one Sunak unveiled. They would rule for the bosses, not the workers.

Thousands swept into the party when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader and a vibrant left wing passed socialist policies at Labour conferences. However, Corbyn failed to confront the right wing, who openly and covertly worked against a Labour victory. Now Starmer and chairman David Evans have firmly shut the door against the left regaining even the partial control it had under Corbyn.

However, even a parliament with a healthy majority of MPs like Corbyn, John McDonnell and Zarah Sultana would not be in a position to ‘rule’ Britain. Thousands of senior civil servants, army generals, high court judges and police chiefs would rebel and thwart any pro-worker policies. Indeed, one unnamed general threatened ‘mutiny’ if Corbyn was elected.

And then there are the city financiers and captains of industry — they won’t take the state expropriating their property lying down. They would tie a left Labour government in knots in the courts, transfer their capital overseas, initiate a slump and a run on the pound, even organise a coup if need be.

This is why the creation of workers’ councils is central to the movement for workers’ power. Developing out of strike and workplace committees, solidarity groups and action committees, such councils can elect delegates to a national body. Crucially, delegates would receive no privileges and would be instantly recallable if they lost the confidence of the workers they represent.

As the struggle develops with national strikes, occupations of workplaces threatened with closure, daily direct actions and demonstrations disrupting commerce and clogging up city centres, the state will respond with police attacks and arrests. We would need to respond by setting up a workers’ defence guard, under the control of the workers’ councils, charged with defending our movement and its gains.

Of course, these bodies can only arise when the class struggle reaches a crescendo, as it approaches a revolutionary climax. They cannot be conjured up out of thin air or at the whim of a few thousand angry people, but only as a prelude to a socialist revolution. The embryos of them can and will emerge in the course of the struggle — workers’ councils from action committees, a defence guard from mobilisations to stop bailiffs or defend picket lines.

By fighting to establish elements of workers’ control in the workplace, in our communities and in society as a whole, we will paralyse the ability of the capitalist class to effectively rule through their state machine, creating a situation of dual power. The bosses and their state will try to roll back any gains made by the working class; the workers will try to extend them. But dual power cannot last for long. Sooner rather than later, one side has to win out.

For the working class to win, it has to create its own government, a completely different type of government. A workers’ government would be based on workers’ councils and a workers’ defence force, and could only be built following a successful socialist revolution which smashes the capitalist state. It would systematically take over the key levers of the economy and establish a socialist plan of production. The economy would be run for need not private greed.

It would take over the monopoly companies — the ‘commanding heights of the economy’ – and the banks, so we can swiftly end the cost of living crisis at the expense of the capitalists. We could create jobs and raise the incomes of the lowest paid. We could make Britain a welcoming home to migrants and refugees wanting to come here.

By renouncing all of British capitalism’s imperialist claims on foreign countries, by handing over ownership of ‘our’ multinational companies’ operations in these countries to the workers around the world, by cancelling the debt owed by Third World countries to British banks, by publishing the secret treaties and deals our military establishment have done with the USA and other regimes, we would make allies of the hundreds of millions of working people across the globe.

Socialist revolution
Socialism cannot be achieved through legislative reform within the capitalist system — we need a revolution. This is because the rich and the powerful will not allow us to implement even one of our major demands without a struggle. They will resort to violence first, but we must be ready to counter that violence by mass force.

That is the only way we can enforce the seizure of the capitalists’ property and the destruction of their apparatus of repression, which together would mean the end of the capitalist system.

In the end, parliament is only one prop of the power of the British capitalist class — and not the essential one. It is a democratic façade for a hidden dictatorship — the dictatorship of capital. The real decisions are made in the general staff of the army, the boardrooms of the multinationals, in the private networks of the rich and powerful. As long as this power is left unchallenged, no government can hope to radically alter the balance of power in our society.

The police will need to be abolished in the truest sense — replaced by a people’s militia. But what about the army, which our rulers would certainly have recourse to when the decisive moment comes? The road to revolution must draw in the soldiers too. Ordinary soldiers must have the right to organise, to practise democracy, to elect their officers and to refuse to follow orders if they are aimed against the interests of the mass of the people.

Ultimately we are for the dissolution of the army into an armed people, a popular militia to defend working people against counter-revolution and violence by reactionary elements. Instead of invading other countries and wasting billions in the arms race, we would work to spread the workers’ revolution and socialism, aiming for the creation of a socialist federation of working class states and a socialist future for the peoples of the world.

We need a revolutionary party
None of these things can be achieved without the creation of a new working class party, one that is prepared to engage in a serious struggle for power. Workers, young people, militant trade unionists and revolutionary communists must organise to build this party from the bottom up.

The new party must be rooted in the unions, in workplaces and in working class communities, at the heart of the struggles to defend and improve our standards of living. It must be democratic in its internal structures and disciplined in its actions. It must be internationalist in its outlook, its policies and its relations with sister revolutionary organisations.

No such party exists, either in Britain or internationally. But Workers Power is fighting to build this organisation, arm in arm with our sister groups in the League for the Fifth International.

We appeal to all workers, students and the socially oppressed to join our struggle to build the world party of socialist revolution.

Our new pamphlet analyses the cost of living crisis and outlines a programme of working class action to defend jobs, pay and public services. 

Get your copy for £3.

Class struggle bulletin

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