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British Perspectives 2015

Socialist Party documents

British Perspectives 2015

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Quagmires ahead!

32. There are many issues which will be problematic -to put it mildly - for the next government. Central of course is the economic crisis and the huge struggles of the working class that will be on the agenda. But there are also other thorny problems. For the Tories the issue of Europe is a nightmare. Cameron temporarily managed partially to hive off the huge problem of Europe by pledging to have a referendum in 2017. In a second term, however, he would probably have to find a way to justify staying in Europe - which is in the interests of the majority of the capitalist class - despite the opposition of most of his party, a substantial section of which could defect to UKIP. The pro-European group in the current parliamentary Tory Party only claims sixty members, and the majority of these are not willing to publicly admit to membership! After the election, however, the anti-EU MPs will be even more dominant, as 'euro scepticism' is now a virtual prerequisite to being selected as a Tory candidate. Under huge pressure from his own back benches and from UKIP, Cameron is likely to be forced to make further demands on the EU to 'reform', in particular to curtail the right of free movement. If the UK takes unilateral measures to do so, it will inevitably lead to tit-for-tat measures by other EU states, which could even lead to the break-up of the EU, at least in its current form. Nor will Labour escape problems on Europe. Out of power, the Tories will scream for a referendum, which would be popular with a majority of the population, but which Labour would resist.

33. The poisonous scandal over allegations of child abuse being covered up is also a potential nightmare for all the Westminster parties, but particularly for the Tory Party. So far, attempts to push the issue into the long grass by setting up an enquiry have being complicated by the anger of the abuse survivors at the figures picked to head the enquiry, both at the heart of the establishment and close to people implicated in the scandal. As a result, there is currently no enquiry and no clear plan of how to establish one. Finding someone who would genuinely be seen as independent, but would also prevent anything too damaging to the establishment being revealed, is a seemingly impossible task for the government. This in itself is an indication of how badly all the institutions of capitalism - the media, the church, the judiciary, the police and above all capitalist politicians - have been undermined. It is likely that this issue will not explode before the general election. However, afterwards - if some of the reports in the tabloid press are substantiated - a scandal could erupt which could destroy the Tory Party and possibly other Westminster parties and institutions as well. It now also seems the monarchy could be damaged. Ironically, if it wins the election, it might be more possible for Labour to at least partially cover up the scandal in the interests of the capitalist class.

34. The nightmare in Iraq and Syria is another deep-running sore that the next government will have to deal with. The legacy of the Iraq war led to Cameron's humiliating defeat on the first vote over intervention in Syria. The horror of ISIS, however, has had an effect on public opinion - creating a feeling that 'something must be done' - making it possible for Britain to take part in the bombing of ISIS as well as to send some limited ground troops under the guise of assisting with training. However, there is still big opposition to sending ground troops. ISIS is the monster-child of imperialism's invasion and occupation of Iraq. It can only be defeated by a unified working class on the basis of a clear socialist programme. A glimpse of the potential for which is illustrated by the heroic defence of KobanÓ from ISIS jihadists by the Kurdish People's Defence Units. Imperialism's intervention will only fuel support for ISIS. The next government is likely to be under pressure to increase intervention into Iraq and Syria. This will be particularly difficult especially for Labour which is still permanently scarred by its responsibility for the 2003 invasion. Workers in Britain are rightly disgusted by the crimes of far-right Islamists like ISIS. But at the same time, we should not allow the capitalist manipulation of this horror to generate consent for further imperialist intervention. In seeking to develop an effective anti-war movement, we cannot simply oppose imperialism; we should pose a concrete alternative on the basis of workers' internationalism. Supporting independent working-class struggle in the region to cut across sectarianism through solidarity campaigns and associated activity will be key to this strategy. At the same time, there already more than a thousand British citizens who have travelled to the region to fight for the messianic, destructive Isis. The nightmare in Britain is of some of them returning and carrying out horrific mass terrorist attacks like 7/7. This would have a destabilising effect on society and, in particular, would increase racism, anti-Muslim prejudice and divisions within the working class. The capitalist class would use it to justify further repressive powers for the state. It might also be used as a justification for further participation in imperialist interventions in the Middle East. However, there would not necessarily be a basis for this; instead, a mood could exist that it was imperialist intervention that had created the nightmare from which workers in Britain were suffering 'blowback'.

35. The horror facing the masses of the Middle East has led to the largest wave of mass migration since the Second World War with around 16.7 million refugees worldwide and a further 33 million displaced within the region. The Tories laid bare the 'cold cruelty' of the British ruling class when - competing to outdo UKIP on immigration - they suggested that there should be an end to the EU rescuing migrants drowning in the Mediterranean in order to discourage them from coming! Contrast this to the reaction of working-class people when faced with this terrible human suffering. The ghost ships arriving in Southern Italy over the holiday period have been met with people abandoning their parties and cooking, opening their homes, and providing clothes and food. "The poorer people are the more they give," said the Red Cross spokesperson for that part of Southern Italy.

36. The reaction of most workers in Britain, or any other country, would be the same in that situation. Nonetheless, there is at the same time a widespread and deep-seated feeling that the scale of immigration to Britain - from both inside and outside Europe - is a threat to the living conditions of workers in Britain. While racism and nationalism are clearly elements in anti-immigrant feeling, there are many consciously anti-racist workers who are concerned about the level of immigration. As we have explained repeatedly, we have to put forward a programme which unites the working class in dealing with the consequences of immigration. Crucially, we have to argue for the rate for the job for all workers and union organisation, regardless of what corner of the world they originate from, explaining to workers in Britain that this is the only effective way to counter 'the race to the bottom'. Alongside this we have to raise our general programme for full employment and sufficient public services for all. We, of course, also have to defend the right to asylum, support anti-deportation campaigns, call for the closure of detention centres and so on. If the right of free movement within the EU is curtailed, we have to campaign for the right of all workers to remain in Britain, with full rights. The major capitalist parties are all trying to cut across UKIP by being even 'tougher' in their language on immigration. This only fuels support for UKIP. And five years of the Tories talking 'tough' has not resulted in a significant fall in immigration. If Labour is elected they will undoubtedly try to show how 'tough' they can be. In particular, they have said they will also cut benefit entitlements for workers from the EU. Not only will this leave workers from other European countries destitute, it will make it easier for employers to super-exploit them and thereby drive down wages for all workers. However, Labour will suffer the worst of all worlds; whatever measures they take will not prevent them being attacked relentlessly by the Tories and UKIP for being 'soft' on immigration.

37. There are many other thorny issues the next government will face, including the question of further rights for Scotland and - at a certain point - a new referendum and, linked to that, the Tory right and UKIP's attempts to move towards some kind of English parliament. Prior to the independence referendum, the vast majority of people in England were unconcerned about the 'West Lothian question' and would have opposed an English parliament just because it meant having another tier of unaccountable capitalist politicians. The Tories, however, cynically attempted to whip up the issue in the latter days of the referendum campaign, which had a certain effect. It seems to have receded but it will be an issue in the general election campaign and can come to the fore again as Scotland demands more rights. The Scottish Referendum also reopened the question of devolution in many English regions. The anti-austerity mood in Scotland, and the anger at the Westminster political elite, found a particularly strong echo in the North of England, suffering from industrial decline and the associated problems of unemployment and poverty. The Tories have attempted to skew this mood with their undemocratic proposals for a 'City Region' of Greater Manchester, as a model for other urban areas. This was, at least initially, grabbed with haste by the discredited Labour politicians of the area, apparently over the heads of the national Labour leadership. We reject this anti-democratic model, of nominated representatives from the existing authorities, plus a directly elected 'super mayor', based on privatisation, cuts and the diminution of the powers of borough-level local government. Of course, where there is popular support for democratically, directly elected assemblies in the regions, we would be in favour of this.

38. The biggest problem for all the major parties is huge unpopularity and weakened social bases, which leaves them unable to weather shocks they could previously have coped with.

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