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British Perspectives 2013: a Socialist Party congress document

Socialist Party documents

British Perspectives 2013: a Socialist Party congress document

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Prospects for Con-Dems

55. It is not possible to judge whether this government will last its full term. One of Cameron's first acts on coming to power was to institute grossly undemocratic arrangements for five-year fixed parliamentary terms, providing some legal protection to help a weak government last the course in the face of mass opposition.

However, there are still several means by which an early election could be called. None of the capitalist parties want this - the LibDems know it would mean annihilation, the Tories think they would probably lose, and Labour would rather let the current government continue to gather opprobrium for carrying out the cuts.

However, the government is so divided - both between and within parties - that its collapse is possible, particularly in the face of a mass movement of the working class.

56. However, it may not be the cuts which act as the immediate trigger for a collapse of the coalition.

There is a whole number of possibilities. Europe has once again become a nightmare for the leadership of the Tory party.

John Major's 'bastards' are back with a vengeance! Desperate to appease the Tory right, and also to cut across the growing electoral support for UKIP, Cameron and Osborne are 'talking tough' on Europe.

Osborne has gone further than Thatcher ever did, threatening UK withdrawal from the EU unless it changes.

However, his statement horrified the majority of the British capitalist class, including representatives of finance capitalism.

The president of the CBI, along with the chairman of the London Stock Exchange and others, have written an open letter warning that the dominant powers in the EU - Germany and France - are extremely unlikely to accept Cameron's attempt at renegotiation.

The British capitalists fear that in that situation, having played the nationalist card, the government would end up holding the promised in/out referendum which could result in Britain's exit from the EU.

This would have negative effects for British capitalism. Companies would be less likely to set up base in Britain, and the City of London could erode its position as one of the most powerful centres of finance in the world.

It is also a very dangerous situation for the Eurozone, as it could act as a catalyst to deepen the divisions within it.

Not only Merkel, but now representatives of the US government, have waded in to try and make sure Cameron back pedals.

57. However, Cameron's fear of a split in the Tory party makes it extremely difficult for him to simply retreat.

We have to be prepared for this issue to escalate further, although Cameron has attempted to postpone the issue until after the next election, this may not succeed.

By promising to hold an in/out referendum after the general election Cameron is also hoping to gain an electoral advantage.

This will increase the divisions in the coalition. In the main the 'orange book' LibDems chose their party over the Tories only because of its pro-European stance.

In the event of a collapse of the government the Tories could play the nationalist card in order to try and win the general election.

In recent opinion polls, 51% of people want to leave the EU compared to 40% who want to stay. This is a dramatic shift.

While it can swing back the other way under the impact of a campaign, this is a clear warning of how events could develop.

In such a situation the labour movement and the working class must have an answer which poses issues from a class point of view and in particular to cut across the dangers of nationalism.

58. The current position of the leadership of the TUC that the capitalist EU's 'social Europe' is a progressive force, is increasingly ludicrous against the background of the nightmare facing workers in the countries of 'the periphery'.

We would fight for the trade union movement to campaign for a referendum but on the issues of our choosing - the class questions which are at the heart of the neoliberal agenda which is the 'modern' EU.

This would be a referendum to oppose lock, stock and barrel the EU's Lisbon Treaty agenda - with its programme of privatisation, cuts in wages, etc.

We need to reassert total opposition to the bosses' club of the EU. We must come together, not in a narrow nationalist fashion but with solidarity of workers' and the labour movement on the international plane.

At the same time, the need for workers' international solidarity across the continent of Europe, and for a confederation of democratic socialist states must be brought to the fore.

59. Different sections of the working class do not see the question of Europe identically. For some the arguments of the TUC leadership that Europe provides some limited protection against the vicious British capitalists still have some legitimacy.

Others, particularly some young people, see it as positive because they are internationalist or are repelled by the 'little Englander' Tories.

60. However, growing numbers of workers associate Europe with instability and austerity. Important sections of organised workers have also experienced the way that European directives have been used to drive through privatisation and the undermining of workers' rights.

UKIP, a far-right, populist party, is currently on 15% in the polls, and is starting to win votes from some workers.

This is mainly a protest vote, stemming from a desire to punish the government. Nonetheless, Europe is a factor in their vote, particularly as it relates to the question of immigration.

One reason UKIP has been able to pick up a vote is because they put forward anti-immigrant propaganda, but are seen as 'more respectable' than the BNP.

In next year's European elections it is possible UKIP could again come second this time behind Labour, particularly if there is not yet a mass workers' alternative.

Paddy Power is currently offering 3/1 on UKIP coming first! While the party would be unlikely to repeat this in the general election, it would nonetheless be a potentially dangerous development.

On the other side sections of the capitalist class, anxious to limit or halt the development of a right-wing populist and anti-European force, may launch a campaign to undermine UKIP, which could have some success.

TUSC first came into being in the aftermath of our work with RMT in the last European elections, where we took part in the 'No2EU-Yes 2 Democracy' list which they initiated. TUSC can play an important role in the next European elections.

61. Currently other forces of the far-right are in disarray. The BNP are riven by internal splits, as are the EDL.

Our party's important role in preventing the EDL marching in Walthamstow gives a glimpse of the potential for a workers' movement campaign against the far-right, organised around clear class slogans.

The Golden Dawn in Greece is a warning of how far-right and neo-fascist thugs can gain support as the crisis deepens if such a campaign is not organised.

In recent years the trade union movement in Britain has 'franchised out' campaigning against the far-right to Unite Against Fascism (UAF), which is led by the SWP.

UAF takes a liberal approach to the issues, uniting uncritically with the capitalist politicians who are implementing austerity, and thereby creating the conditions in which the far-right can grow.

We have to begin to campaign more vigorously for the workers' movement to take the lead and put its own stamp on the fight against the far-right.

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