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Perspectives for Britain 2016

Socialist Party documents

Perspectives for Britain 2016


A new more, unstable era

56. Traditionally the pace of politics in Britain has been drawn-out. The working class, whilst very determined once in action, has also been slow to enter the struggle.

Those ponderous traditions ultimately reflected the power and stability of British capitalism. They are now in the process of being burnt away by the reality of British capitalism in the twenty first century.

Increasingly, we have to be prepared for sudden, and sometimes unexpected, developments as workers' anger at austerity searches for a viable outlet.

This can mean sudden new political developments but also explosive struggles where workers find an effective means to fightback.

This can include social movements (like the water charges movement in Ireland) particularly where workers feel blocked on the industrial front by the right-wing trade union leaders.

The unstable nature of capitalism globally can also impact political developments in Britain; including the nightmare possibility of another major terrorist attack.

The increasingly Southern European character of British politics also means that we will have to be much more flexible in our own tactics.

In the last six months, we have shown our capacity to respond effectively to this new era. However, that has only been the start.

The process towards the fragmentation and reconfiguration of politics in England and Wales, which we described in the last perspectives document, will continue.

57. The battle inside Labour and the Tories has dominated the political agenda in recent months and can continue to do so for a time.

However, that does not in any way mean a return to 'two-party' politics. On the contrary, as we have described, splits in both parties are likely to lead to new formations developing.

At the same time, parties that were able to capitalise on anger with the establishment parties in the general election can make further gains.

It is noticeable that UKIP's propaganda for the local and Wales Assembly elections is deliberately 'leaning left' on the NHS and public services.

There is no question that an important section of the four million who voted UKIP in the general election could be split away from UKIP if Corbyn was to make a clear class appeal to them.

A Labour Party that was fighting for a 10 an hour minimum wage, demanding nationalisation of the steel industry, the banks and the energy companies, and calling for a vote for exit in the referendum would be able to win many UKIP voters.

However, as things stand, it is far from certain that a Corbyn-led Labour Party will be able to make substantial inroads into UKIP voters.

The propaganda of the Labour right that he is an 'Islington' politician only interested in 'peacenik' issues can have a certain resonance given his failure to take a clear stand on class issues, even suggesting that there are 'no differences' with the Labour right on domestic policy.

58. The Green surge, on the other hand, has definitely been cut across by Corbyn's election with many of the 1.2 million who voted Green now orientating towards the Labour Party.

This does not mean the Greens will disappear. Anger at local Labour council cuts, combined with the illusion that the Greens would not carry out cuts in office, could mean they still pick up some good votes in the local elections.

And further down the road, if disillusionment with Corbyn sets in or he is overthrown, a new Green surge is possible.

However, if a new workers' party comes out of the civil war within the Labour Party, it will be much more difficult for the Greens to regain the ground they have lost.

We have correctly raised the need for a new democratic Labour Party or new workers' party structure to be based on a return to the Labour's federal roots.

This would allow all genuine anti-austerity forces - including socialists but also the left of the Greens - to affiliate to the Labour Party while retaining considerable autonomy.

Were the leadership of the Labour Party to adopt this approach it would be possible to win the left of the Greens to Jeremy Corbyn's banner.

59. It is not possible to predict what the exact outcome of the battles within either Labour or the Tories will be.

Beyond drawing general conclusions about the shallow social base for capitalist parties and the resulting instability of capitalist politics, the most important conclusions we have to draw is on the growing radicalisation of important sections of the working class and young people.

The movement which thrust Corbyn into leadership of the Labour Party demonstrates beyond doubt the potential for a new mass party of the working class on an anti-austerity programme.

At the same time, his election has fuelled a wider debate on socialist ideas - what they are and how they can be achieved - which is a very important step forward.

At this stage, the concept of socialism is very hazy among those who have been galvanised by Corbyn. However, the experience of Corbynism, combined with participating in the struggle against austerity, can lead many thousands of new activists to conclude not only that socialism is possible but that to achieve it requires a party such as ours, organised around a clear programme for the complete transformation of society.


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