Politics & Economics

As Tories fall apart, workers’ action can finish them off

02 November 2022
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By KD Tait

SIX SHORT weeks was all Tory MPs needed to put an end to the Truss experiment. This time they did not make the mistake of consulting their members. Having already installed Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor, the election rules were blatantly rigged in favour of the bankers’ man Rishi Sunak.

The forces of chaos, in the guise of Boris Johnson, were determined to spoil Sunak’s coronation, but Tory MPs threatened to split the party rather than accept his leadership. This concentrated enough minds to scupper his bid. But the fact that they resorted to such desperate measures is indicative of the depth of the crisis British capitalism and its traditional ruling party, are in.

Britain has been subjected to a constitutional coup, carried through with the encouragement of the bond markets, the Bank of England and the IMF, making the democratic case for a general election irrefutable. But the Tories won’t be driven from office unless and until their plan to make workers pay for the crisis is comprehensively defeated.

Truss’ departure concludes the third act in the Tories’ attempt to make Brexit work. After the paralysis of Theresa May’s Brexit-lite, then the detour through Johnson’s populism, Truss heralded the rise to power of the free-market fundamentalists who knew what Brexit was really about: unleashing economic growth by ripping up the welfare state, employment rights and regulations.

Kwasi Kwarteng’s budget was designed to justify the ongoing suffocation of the health service by creating a hole in public finances. Although he fell or rather was pushed into the hole, his sacrifice was not in vain; our public services face ‘painful’, ‘eye-watering’ cuts. But now the real content of Brexit is emerging, the Tories’ electoral coalition is falling apart.

The appointment of the multimillionaire ex-banker Rishi Sunak has merely delayed the detonation on the depth charge which Brexit has laid in the foundations of British capitalism and its party.

The new budget will set out the precise balance between spending cuts and tax rises but, like every budget since 2010, austerity will decimate the welfare state and impose severe cuts to people’s living standards with pay, pensions and benefits pegged way below inflation.

The wider government programme consists of attacking the working class’ ability to resist these attacks, and intensifying exploitation: attacks on trade union rights, intensifying the hostile environment, expanding free ports and deregulation.

Labour in the wings?

The assiduous courting of Britain’s bosses by the Labour Party leadership, a re-run of the infamous ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ conducted in the run-up to Blair’s 1997 election, is an attempt to sell Labour to the bosses as a responsible steward of British capitalism.

As proof of this Starmer has abandoned Labour’s 2017 and 2019 manifestos and reneged on the pledges made during his leadership election. His recent speech to the TUC Congress was a blunt warning that Labour is committed to being the party of ‘sound money’ that will take ‘difficult decisions’. The TUC top table enthusiastically applauded him.

Labour’s pitch rests on its links to the top levels of Britain’s pro-capitalist trade union bureaucracy, allowing it to more effectively pacify and police working class resistance to the restoration of ‘economic responsibility’.

That is why, in the mouths of the Labour and trade union leaders, the call for a general election now is a diversion. Not only does it rely on the illusion that a Labour government would protect the working class against the economic crisis, it also has no means of achieving its aim… unless it is tied to a strategy of raising the level of class struggle.

Only mass workers’ action— demonstrations, strikes, civil disobedience—can drive the Tories from office. And only a government that rests on workers’ organisations—strike committees, councils of action, defence guards—can become a real workers’ government that rules for the many, not the few.

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