As Left Unity, the project to form a new party of the working class, approaches its founding conference, Workers Power supporters are calling for the new organisation to adopt fighting policies to combat the Coalition and its austerity drive. We offer this programme for discussion, amendment and adoption
The effects of the Great 2008 Recession still blight Britain. One in ten workers and one in five young people are out of work. Real wages have been in decline since 2007. Public sector wages have been frozen for two years.
Cameron and Clegg’s cabinet of 23 millionaires continues with its slump policies even whilst Osborne is claiming a recovery.
The National Health Service, public education, the entire post-1945 welfare state are under attack.
Benefits for the disabled and the long-term sick have been cut. The degrading fit-for-work tests conducted by Atos have driven people to suicide.
50,000 people face eviction from their homes thanks to the bedroom tax.
Claimants are forced onto work-for-dole schemes to massage the unemployment figures.
Students in higher education face the £9,000 tuition fees.
They have raised our pension funds and raised our retirement age.
They have sabotaged the fight against climate catastrophe by cutting investment in renewable energy and clean technologies by 70 per cent.
But austerity is not just a series of cruel and immoral attacks on the most vulnerable in our communities; it is the capitalist solution to the crisis this system itself has caused.
The bosses’ believe recession and stagnation can be solved only by boosting profit rates and cutting “unnecessary overheads” – i.e. spending on health, welfare and education.
This means sacking hundreds of thousands of workers, freezing wages, pushing millions into temporary and insecure employment (the rise of zero hours contracts).
That is why their “recovery” will be a jobless one, with continued austerity, precarious low wage conditions, and mounting inequality. Put simply it means making the working class pay for their crisis.
Politicians of all parties say there is no alternative; that is a lie. There is a solution but it is the direct opposite of their solution.
IT IS MAKING THEM PAY.
Obviously this starts from resistance to all these attacks. It means strengthening, increasing and uniting the fightback to the extent that it makes it impossible for Cameron and his cabinet to govern.
To wait for an election in 2015 is to accept another historic defeat for the working class like that Thatcher imposed on us in the 1980s. She destroyed or privatised the industries where the unions were strong. Cameron wants to destroy the welfare state – the remaining bastion of strong trade unionism. But the Tory wreckers and their Lib-Dem hangers on can be stopped.
Around the world we have seen massive protests against the effects of the crisis and the governments, dictatorial or “democratic”, who unload it onto the backs of ordinary peoples. In Greece we have witnessed a long series of one-day and then multi-day general strikes.
The Occupy Movement in the USA and the Indignados in Spain, the square occupations of the Arab Spring and in Greece were copied in many countries. They inspired calls for equality (we are the 99%), direct democracy, the fall of authoritarian regimes and social justice. In the Middle East they fed into full-scale revolutions, as the people demanded the fall of the regimes.
In Britain too we had the school and uni student protests of November-December 2010, the summer riots in 2011, direct action by UK Uncut, local campaigns against hospital closures and the bedroom tax, the strikes by electricians, and most recently the Hovis workers strikes.
Such struggles show we do have the capacity to mount an effective fightback. If we are bold enough in our vision and unite our forces we can kick out this government before it is too late.
What’s holding us back?
The reason we have not done this so far lies in the actions, or rather the lack of them, of the official leaders of the union movement. The biggest scandal is that two years after the Coalition announced its intention to break up the National Health Service, only in September 2013, did the TUC or the principal health unions call a mass national demonstration.
For all the their talk of coordinated action they have failed to coordinate and unite our resistance. The pensions struggle of 2011 was sold out after only one day of mass action. Union leaders right and left have tamely allowed the anti-union laws to prevent a class-wide response to a political attack on the entire welfare state.
To prevent such sell-outs or sabotage we need to build a rank and file movement in the unions to take control of all disputes and negotiations, to make officials fully accountable and recallable, and employed on the average pay of their members. Our watchword should be: with the union leaders where possible, without them where necessary.
We need the local People’s Assemblies, trades councils and union branches to create delegate-based action councils which are organising centres against the cuts and provide active solidarity for all those fighting them. They must be bodies made up of delegates sent by workplaces, campaigns, housing estates, schools and colleges.
With such grassroots organisation – building up to a national focus – we can increase and coordinate our struggles all the way to an all-out, indefinite general strike. This cannot be left in the hands of the union leaders – but controlled and directed locally and nationally by councils of action.
But to coordinate all these coordinations we need a new type of political party – democratic not bureaucratic, armed with a democratically agreed and developed strategy, a programme. That is what Left Unity is setting out to do.
A programme for resistance
Over the year ahead we will campaign for:
• The TUC and the unions to organise the midweek day of action they promised in Bournemouth and make it a full-scale one-day general strike, to use this mass mobilisation to initiate industrial and direct action up to and including an all-out political mass strike to force the abandonment and reversal all the cuts and the privatisations.
• Solidarity with all wages struggles in the private and public sectors, for an increase in pay to compensate fully for the loss of real wages over the past year, fully indexed against inflation. Stand against zero hours contracts. Raise the minimum wage, pension and social security payments to a level everyone can decently live on.
• A programme of essential public works – including a huge building programme of socially-owned housing, schools, nurseries and local health clinics, providing accessibility for the disabled, phasing out nuclear power and laying the foundations of a sustainable energy and transport policy. No one should be denied work while such crying needs confront us. This programme must be carried through under workers and users’ control and funded by taxing the wealth and the profits of the banks and big corporations.
• Halt and reverse the cuts and privatisations in health, education and welfare. Repeal Lansley’s Act; bring all foundation hospitals back into a fully nationally controlled system. Abolish the academies and free schools, nationalise the public schools, restore EMA at a living level, abolish tuition fees, reinstitute maintenance grants and cancel the student loan debt.
• Halt the attacks on women’s jobs, services and rights; defend and extend high quality childcare provision for all; fight for access to jobs, pay and conditions fully equal to men; strengthen zero tolerance of domestic violence and rape.
• Fight all expressions of homophobia, transphobia, and the bullying, physical and mental violence, it leads to; illegalise all discrimination and grant full and equal civil rights, including marriage.
• End police harassment against ethnic minorities. End stop and search. For the right of all refugees and migrant workers to come, live and work here with full citizenship rights.
• Solidarity with Muslims and other ethnic minorities against abuse and violence; stop the marches of the EDL and other fascist groups by mass mobilisations and by organising militant self-defence of communities and meeting places.
• Make our struggle international – for solidarity actions with those in other countries, like Greece, fighting austerity, unemployment and racism.
• Oppose all attempts to take Britain into new wars and invasions on false humanitarian or human rights pretexts; but mobilise material support for all those fighting for freedom in Syria, Egypt, Palestine, etc.
• Fight for the defiance and repeal of all the anti-union laws, and the restoration of legal aid.
• Fight for the right of the Scottish people to decide for independence or not, free from any threats or intimidation, and should they do so the immediate recognition and implementation of their decision.
Despite Ed Miliband’s 2013 conference pledges to abolish the bedroom tax, freeze fuel bills and build 200,000 affordable homes a year by 2020, over the past three years the Labour Party has:
• Backed the Tories’ public sector pay freeze
• Denounced the 30 November 2011 pensions strike
• Said it would not reverse the coalition’s cuts and keep to its spending levels for two years
• Supported the Tories’ benefits cap
• Attacked unions who demanded policies in their members’ interest in return for the millions they contribute to Labour.
The Old Labour “socialism” of reducing social inequality has disappeared without a trace; the identification with the unions and the working class has been abandoned; the domination of nakedly pro-capitalist ideas in Labour is total. The representation of the Labour left in parliament, in local government, in the constituencies has shrunk to an all time low.
Labour cannot be converted into an instrument of socialist transition. That is why we need a new party of the working class, a party of struggle against capitalism, based on those fighting in the here, and now. A party that can win working people to the only real solution that is in their interests – a socialist solution.
It is one that starts today from making the rich pay for saving our services, for creating jobs and a future for the young and a decent retirement for the old. But it goes on to the socialist transformation of society: to organising production on a rational basis, planned democratically by us, to meet social need not private greed.
Putting a socialist solution back on the agenda is not primarily a question of elections – it must be a do-it-yourself solution – carried out by the direct action of millions not just voted for. In the words of Karl Marx, “the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself”.
That is the foundation of what Left Unity is fighting for. Join us.