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British Perspectives 2013: a Socialist Party congress document

Socialist Party documents

British Perspectives 2013: a Socialist Party congress document


Next general election

70. Whenever the general election comes it is most likely that Labour will come to power, either with a majority or as part of a coalition with all or a section of the LibDems.

Miliband would prefer the latter in the hope the LibDems would act as a cover for a Labour government's pro-capitalist policies.

However, like Blair before him, he might lead Labour to a majority despite himself. Labour has no answer to the burning problems facing working class people.

The failure of New Labour could pave the way for an even more right-wing Tory government at a later stage.

However, the building of a new mass workers' party would also be firmly on the agenda.

71. Such is the blatant anti-working class nature of New Labour's policies even Dave Prentis has been forced to criticise them, demanding that they clearly oppose privatisation and pledge to introduce a real living wage.

Both are ruled out. Within UNISON there are now only 490,000 members who pay into the Labour-affiliated fund, compared to around 700,000 who do not.

It is mainly historical inertia that explains the minority who still pay to Labour - only 27% of new UNISON members sign up to participate in the affiliated-political fund.

72. Unlike the leadership of UNISON, UNITE has launched a campaign to try and shift Labour towards the left.

However, Len McCluskey's attempts to convince 5,000 UNITE activists to join Labour and fight to change it is very unlikely to succeed.

Even if 5,000 do join, the majority of them will not stay when they see the moribund, undemocratic character of the Labour Party.

Nonetheless, not only UNISON but the other affiliated unions are most likely to continue to support and fund Labour in the run up to the next election.

This is likely to be reluctantly accepted by the majority of trade unionists, who still hope that a Labour government will at least be better than the current lot.

However, this situation become very difficult to maintain if Labour comes to power, particularly on the back of a mass struggle of the working class against austerity, when Labour implements pro-capitalist policies.

The work we do before the general election to campaign for a serious electoral force to the left of Labour is vital preparation the development of a mass party of the working class.

At this stage there is also a certain mood of scepticism towards parties among many workers and young people, including some of the most militant.

Given their experience of the capitalist parties this is inevitable. However, on the basis of our intervention and experience workers will draw the conclusion that 'we need our own party'.

73. Consciousness in Britain still lags well behind the objective reality of 21st century capitalism.

However, workers' illusions are progressively being stripped away. Many who previously hoped that the crisis was temporary are beginning to understand that this is the 'new normal'.

While all kinds of divisions remain within the working class - between benefit claimants and others, young and old, migrant and non-migrant, public and private sector - nonetheless, there is a growing unity in a burning hatred of the tiny elite at the top of society.

There is not yet a mass socialist, never mind Marxist, consciousness but there is a growing minority of workers and young people who can be won to our party, and an anti-capitalist outlook is becoming widespread.

We have to be prepared for new 'occupy' or occupy-style movements, as particularly young people search to find an effective means to oppose capitalism.

As in the US, this can include campaigns to prevent evictions, and attempts to organise unorganised, low paid workers.

We have to engage with such movements, attempting to convince them of a socialist programme.

74. There are many other issues which this short document has not had time to deal with. The government's foreign policy can also provoke movements, particularly of youth, as was shown by the support of all three major parties for Israel's recent brutal attack on Gaza.

A wider conflagration in the Middle East would be likely to lead to a new anti-war movement in Britain.

75. The national question in Scotland is an important issue, which will also impact on the working class in England and Wales.

Our comrades in Scotland have produced material on this. We are not advocates for separation but we defend the right to self-determination, up to and including the right to separate, for Scotland and Wales.

In the past we have advocated extreme autonomy for Scotland. Now, however, given the support for independence among the working class in Scotland, which although it is still a large minority at this stage, is strongest among its poorest and most oppressed layers, it is correct to call for a socialist independent Scotland as part of a socialist confederation with, England, Wales and Ireland.

The working class in Wales do not appear at this stage to want to go down the road of independence. We will therefore support the devolution of maximum powers to the Welsh Assembly Government.

At the same time, we must combat all elements of bourgeois nationalism whether it emanates from Scotland, Wales or England.

As the struggle against the cuts has shown, the closest coordination between the working class of Scotland, England and Wales remains absolutely vital.

76. In 2012 our party made important steps forward, particularly in our role and authority in the trade union movement.

We have to continue this work in the coming year, further developing the NSSN in particular. We have also won an important socialist layer in the universities.

Continuing to develop our student work should be combined with stepping up the building of the party among young workers, the unemployed and underemployed.

77. At the same time we have to be prepared for struggles, possibly developing very suddenly, on a qualitatively higher level than anything which has taken place over recent years.

Capitalism is putting every gain won by previous generations into jeopardy - there is no possibility of the working class meekly accepting this.

On the contrary we will see ferocious opposition. On the basis of experience, combined with the propagation of a compelling Marxist programme, the working class will draw the conclusion that the only alternative to capitalist misery is socialism and the democratic planning of society's resources.


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