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Tory Britain: the endgame approaches

22 April 2024

By Jeremy Dewar

Today, the past gains of the working class, in healthcare, education, social housing and council services, are under attack, along with the right to strike and the right to protest. The most urgent threat to humanity, climate change, is generating catastrophic challenges which capitalism is proving completely unable to meet.

Horrifically destructive wars in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, Myanmar and the clash between the old imperialist powers (Nato) and the new ones (Russia and China) mean the spectre of world war looms once again. Capitalist globalisation is breaking down into protectionism and economic rivalry with racist, far right anti-immigrant parties gaining strength around the world.

In such circumstances, the working class needs an international organisation which is able to coordinate solidarity actions with workers and oppressed people under attack across the world, and to lead the mobilisation against our rapacious ruling class. Only an international revolutionary organisation rooted in the working class will be able to meet these challenges and offer an answer to them through the struggle for socialism and, in the words of the Internationale, unite the human race.

A world at war

Russia continues its unjustified and reactionary attempt to deny Ukraine its very national identity, to occupy and annexe its territory and turn it into a vassal state. Despite the unprecedented military support of the US and other western imperialists in the earlier stages of the war, the much touted Ukrainian counter offensive was unable to punch through Russia’s fortifications. The six month wrangle over new US arms supplies for Ukraine indicates a growing unwillingness to support Ukraine indefinitely. An imperialist peace with Russia at the expense of the Ukrainian working class cannot be discounted.

Meanwhile, Israel has used the 7 October attack by Hamas and its allies as a pretext for the most brazen attempt at a racist genocide so far this century. Netanyahu has rejected appeals from the US, UK and Germany to restrict its indiscriminate bombardment of civilians. The only way the West can hope to halt the massacre is by ceasing weapons supplies to Israel. However, this is precisely what they refuse to do.

Building resistance among the working class and youth in the Middle East is a priority for revolutionaries everywhere. Ultimately it is only mass action by these forces that can bring relief to the beleaguered but steadfast Palestinian resistance. We must fight not only for the immediate withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces, for aid, and for Israel and the West to pay for the reconstruction of Gaza, but also for the revolutionary overthrow of the Zionist state and the establishment of a single socialist, bi-national workers’ state in Palestine, with equality and freedom for all.

Economy of crisis

Since the pandemic, the global economy has been in a state of shock, first suffering from acute inflation, then from the capitalist ‘cure’—sharp interest rate hikes which have severely restricted access to credit. Britain and several states in the European Union are now in recession. The USA is undergoing a pre-election boom due in large measure to Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue plan, but China’s growth is falling and giant firms are going bankrupt, causing a paralysis at the very top of the bureaucratic Communist party.

Things are far worse in many semi-colonial countries, like Argentina, Pakistan and many African states, which have seen severe slumps and high inflation. Record numbers are facing economic hardship, war or climate change and are fleeing their homes in the hope of finding employment in Europe or the USA.
Predictably, COP28 was a failure. An exercise in greenwashing at the highest level of state policy, its President was Sultan Al Jabar, who had previously been the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

The attempt to halt and reverse climate change through private ownership of industry (with or without state subsidies) and Big Oil has failed. The youthful ecological movement has declined and fragmented, though the alliance of striking Berlin bus drivers and the climate change movement shows promise.

Tory Britain: the endgame

The British economy is a mere 1% larger than in 2019 before the pandemic. GDP per capita, a more accurate measure, has fallen by over £4000 or 8.5% since 2007. The quickening decline of Britain will sharpen all the contradictions facing British capitalism.

After 14 years of economic self harm, from austerity to Brexit, and five prime ministers, the Tories are fighting like cats in a sack. They are rightly and widely despised for their crimes, from the £2 trillion bank bailouts and the destruction of thousands of well paid, full time, secure jobs and their replacement with low paid, part time, precarious ones, to bankrupting councils and bringing the NHS to its knees.

They are trying to leave a poisonous repressive legacy in the Criminal Justice bill which will further expand the government’s power to repress protests and boycotts, or even outright ban them. This will now be amended by Michael Gove’s definition of ‘extremism’, as ‘seeking to undermine or overturn the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy,’ or even ‘creating a permissive environment for those who wish to do so.’

Suella Braverman’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda and Sunak’s blanket support for Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza are the morally repugnant last gasps of a regime that millions of workers will be glad to see the back of. But the populist, racist right in the form of Nigel Farage and Richard Tice’s Reform Party, which is polling at 16%, represents another danger in the wings, foreshadowing the far right threat which could emerge out of the ashes of the Tory party.

Labour and the alternatives

Labour has already committed to maintaining the Tories’ spending limits. This will mean retaining as targets for ‘savings’ the few social welfare provisions that still exist, often channelled through local government, via a combination of spending cuts, bankruptcies, and privatisation of social assets.

Presuming that Labour wins the upcoming general election, we must resist the inevitable attacks which will be launched by a Starmer government, learning the lessons of the cost of living strike wave to overcome the divisive dead hand of the bureaucratic union leaderships.

Union leaders are placing their hopes in Labour’s New Deal for Working People and the promise that it will introduce a ‘genuine living wage’, ban zero hours contracts, end fire and rehire, and repeal the 2016 and 2020 Trade Union Acts.

But we have been here before. The promises to strenghten union recognition rights come 25 years after Blair had promised to do the same. One Labour source has warned that the Tony Blair Institute ‘will be going through this, line by line, with a fine-tooth comb’.

Today, with the party supporting a genocidal war in Gaza, we should not vote for any Labour candidates in either the council elections or in any by-elections unless they have come out clearly for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, the restoration of aid funding and an arms blockade of Israel.

But what is the alternative to Labour? It certainly won’t come from the union leaders. Sharon Graham’s avowed non-interference with Labour’s politics has led her to her double down on attacking those Unite members who dare to advocate for Palestinian rights and demand boycotts in ‘our’ arms industry.

We state clearly and without equivocation that the working class needs an utterly different sort of party to Starmer’s Labour. But the fiasco of Corbynism’s capitulation and the history of past attempts to create a ‘left’ alternative to Labour show that a new reformist formation divorced from the unions will not succeed.

Instead, the militant rank and file of the trade unions must build a new, revolutionary leadership to break the stranglehold of the bureaucracy and wrest the unions from Labour.

We can start this process by fighting for the unions, both during and after the election, to insist that a Labour government takes the measures needed to restore our decimated services, to raise pay for public sector workers, to repeal all the Tories anti-union and public order laws and to break from all their fiscal limits. We should demand they tax the rich to pay for these essential policies, including immediate measures to seriously combat climate change.

In short, the unions should advance their own programme to act in the interests of the working class; not just on questions of jobs, services and pay, but also to demand international solidarity with oppressed nations and fight the demonisation of immigrants. There must be no let-up in the class struggle, no honeymoon, to save the skin of a Starmer and Reeves led Labour government.

The leaders of the Labour party and trade unions cannot consistently defend workers’ interests while they are committed to defending the capitalist system. But we don’t need another reformist party with a few reheated Corbyn policies. We need a real fighting party rooted in workplaces and communities. For such a party to consistently fight imperialism, its aim must be to overthrow capitalism through revolution. As the experience of the USSR proved, this cannot be done in one country alone. The working class requires nothing less than the world revolution. Only by building a new international revolutionary party, a Fifth International, to lead this struggle, can its success be guaranteed.


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