Labour Offers More of the Same! We Need a Genuine Working-Class Party!
Sunak’s Tory government flounders from one crisis to another, even though it really has no opposition within mainstream politics. In the middle of a huge international crisis of Western imperialist hegemony, this crisis is also the product of British capitalism’s more specific decline. The Tory Party is a huge liability for the boss class of Britain, but for the moment, they are stuck with it. It desperately clings on knowing full well that a large majority of the population consider it a venal gang of asset strippers and are desperate to see the back of it. This Tory Party abandoned its long-time ethos (many would say ‘façade’) of sober respectability in the middle of the last decade and plunged into populist demagogy to try to exploit a major crisis of the British capitalist system much of which was of its making, to give itself a paradoxical short-term revival. The problem is that this was only a short-term buzz, and that is all it could be. The hangover from the debauchery and rampant corruption-in-plain-sight of Boris Johnson’s premiership, and then the Kamikwazi rampage of Truss’s brief but destructive far-right reign, is proving terrifying. It has lost its moorings and does not have any clue how to recover the political capital as a supposed organ of bourgeois stability that it once possessed.
Sunak likes to put across an ‘image’ of the Tory Party returning to some vaunted “integrity, professionalism and accountability” but his government has so many obvious sociopaths in it that this is a bad joke. He has no choice in this as the populists are too strong in the party to be decisively defeated. And he owes his rise to them in any case – he is one of them, who is now trying to dissemble. So, it staggers through contradictions – the Windsor Agreement he signed with the EU to resolve the impasse over the ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’ of Johnson’s original 2019 Withdrawal Agreement aims to preserve the Good Friday Agreement, which is the basis of power-sharing in the North of Ireland. But that depends on formal adherence to the European Convention of Human Rights and similar international agreements, including the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The tactic of the far right of the Tories is to use non-white stooges to promote a racist agenda – which was learned from the former apartheid South African regime’s Bantustan tactic. Sunak himself is a prime example, as were Sajid Javid, Nadhim Zahawi and Kwasi Kwarteng earlier. Their rise is fuelled by big money, neoliberalism and corruption, and there are always stooges among every population that can be bought and bribed. Suella Braverman’s reprise of Priti Patel’s plan to criminalise asylum seeking, if implemented would blow Sunak’s agreement with the EU out of the water. His visit to Macron, bunging him a half-billion pound bribe to set up a detention camp, is designed to find a way round this contradiction.
Strike Against Government Censorship
But the attempt to suppress criticism of Braverman’s racist agitation against refugees by Gary Lineker has led to a confrontation of the government and its BBC stooges with football stars and BBC staff, driven by support from working class football fans, who are often stereotyped as racist and reactionary. Not in this case. Lineker is hardly radical – he was hostile to Corbyn from the right – but on this his statements and refusal to apologise are principled and worthy of support.
Both Labour and Tories denounced Lineker’s Tweeted comparison of Braverman’s vitriol with 1930s Germany– though Labour was forced to about-face. He was removed as chief presenter of Match of the Day. Braverman claimed his criticism was ‘offensive’ because her husband is Jewish – weaponising him to defend racism. But when other star presenters, like Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, refused to appear without Lineker, followed by other presenters and commentators, and then football clubs and players, under pressure from fans, refused to appear, or to be interviewed about matches by the BBC. In effect this has led to a spontaneous and amorphous strike and confrontation with the government and the corruptly taken-over BBC, with its leading personnel like Richard Sharp widely known to be involved in financial corruption with Tory politicians like Johnson. A strike by football stars, clubs and fans, which shut down BBC’s football coverage in less than a day. A strike provoked by the government, this time about political censorship, right-wing ‘cancel culture’ and flagrant attacks on free speech.
The Strike Wave and the Union Bureaucracy
This interacts with the broader strike wave, which has recently shown signs of sputtering, as strikes have been called off for ‘negotiations’ with the government by nurses, firefighters and railway workers, even though the votes in favour of strike action by sections of workers being balloted recently have exceeded the most optimistic expectations of trade union militants. In the Royal Mail, several weeks ago, you had 96%, on a 77% turn out, voting to strike. This was then exceeded by junior doctors who managed a 97% vote in favour of strike action. But in this strike wave the problems of the nature of the trade union bureaucracy, and the lack of leadership of the movement by a political party of the working class, are now central questions.
The bureaucracy, even its most militant-talking figures such as Mick Lynch of the RMT, have scrupulously abided by the previous anti-union laws and merely sought to manoeuvre within them, not only in terms of ballots and fighting for a huge turnout, but also by giving two weeks’ notice of strikes, refusing to engage in solidarity actions, and not openly organising more generalised strike actions. This has been done apologetically and occasionally and has not been central to the strategy of the unions. What should be done is to mobilise that mass militancy that gives rise to 90%+ majorities into confrontation with the bosses and the government where the union membership, not the bosses state, set the terms. In the absence of that, the government has felt emboldened to carry out a further attack on trade union rights with its outrageous ‘minimum service level’ bill, eroding the right to strike itself. The unions should absolutely not be settling with the government not least because of this.
The problem is that the unions have no unifying leadership and perspective, and many of them are organically soft on Starmer’s Labour Party even as it shafts trade unionists and bans its elected representatives from even standing on picket lines. This strike-wave is driven by public sector workers’ discontent at being nakedly robbed of billions that should be spent paying them decent wages, while the same billions are sent to Ukrainian Nazis for the proxy war against Russia. Yet the TUC passes resolutions calling for increased arms expenditure, and misleaders like the fake-left Mick Whelan of ASLEF, along with John McDonnell, signed the dreadful Ukraine Solidarity Campaign statement calling on British imperialism to sent warplanes to the Nazi regime in Ukraine.
Such people are incapable of leading a real struggle against this regime, and its accomplices and stooges like the Zionist racist and Nazi apologist Starmer. To strike as a unifying fist against the bosses, we need a genuine workers party able to offer a principled alternative to such wretches, and to the ethos of the labour bureaucracy as a whole. Such a party needs to fight consistently to defend oppressed peoples abroad, such as the Donbass population and the Palestinians, and thereby also to consistently oppose imperialist activities in support of such oppression, which in present conditions literally involves taking money from the poor at home and giving it to violent racists abroad. It must give voice to working-class discontent against that bureaucracy, a caste of professional negotiators over the price of labour power within the capitalist system who themselves fear the emergence of movements aimed at abolishing that system, which would render their role redundant.
Sunak’s regime is as strident as any involved in waging the criminal imperialist anti-Russian proxy war in Ukraine. He rivals both Ursula van der Leyden and Boris Johnson in that regard. The overarching situation in West Europe is that the war risks destabilising the whole continent, not just Britain. Anti-war protests as well as strikes over economic questions are becoming a regular event in Western countries. Britain has lagged behind, but the groundswell of discontent that led to the formation of No to NATO, No to War means that is unlikely to last. The protests are fuelled by economic suffering of the masses as many are crucified by inflation and rocketing energy prices, but in Britain it is worse, largely because of Brexit. The considerable strike wave resulting from the inflation has revived both the strength, purpose and moral authority of trade unions among the mass of the working-class population.
Starmer: Purging the Labour Movement from the ‘Labour’ Party
The ruling class, knowing full well that the lies and demonisation of Russia involved in this war are as outrageous as those used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq, are desperate to stop a real anti-war movement taking off. Thus, the attempts to stop the No to NATO conference. As the Tories have atrophied, the bosses have been grooming Starmer and New Labour to take their place, and he is undertaking this mission with enthusiasm.
His attacks on the working class and left-wing base of the Labour Party go far deeper than those under Kinnock and Blair. The ruling class had a big scare when Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader, and Starmer is simply acting for the bosses in making sure that Corbyn and people like him will never be able to address a mass audience through the Labour Party again. We see not only the banning of Corbyn from standing as a Labour candidate in the Islington North seat he has held since 1983, but also such measures as banning CLP’s from affiliating to left-wing, anti-racist, environmental and socialist campaigns. These include, as Skwawkbox recently reported:
“Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stop the War Coalition, Republic, London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, Jewish Voice for Labour, Somalis for Labour, Sikhs for Labour, All African Women’s Group, Health Campaigns Together, The Campaign against Climate Change Trades Union, Peace & Justice Project.”
The flipside of this attack is that CLP’s will not be allowed to vote against being affiliated to right-wing and racist bodies that are nationally affiliated to Labour. Such as the Jewish Labour Movement, which supports the racist state of Israel against the Palestinian people, and which openly refused to support Labour in the 2019 General Election, preferring Boris Johnson as prime minister to Jeremy Corbyn.
This is a full-frontal attack on the working-class component of the Labour Party more blatant than either Kinnock or Blair dared to do. Its clearly a purge of the mainstream Labour left and all who dissent from the politics of privatisation of healthcare, racist and chauvinist campaigns against oppressed ethnic groups, NATO nuclear warmongering, and support for Zionist crimes. There is no real pretence any more than they are attacking some kind of ‘far left’ fringe of supposed ‘infiltrators’ or ‘entryists’, implying that such people have revolutionary aims that are at odds with Labour’s supposed ‘democratic and constitutional’ politics.
Blair publicly regretted that Labour was ever created and wanted to ‘heal’ the split with the Liberal Party. Starmer is now putting that into practice by purging the Labour’s organic reformist left. The explicit statement by Starmer that Corbyn has been de-selected – by Starmer’s diktat — from Islington North is accompanied by the semi-proscription of the Peace and Justice initiative that Corbyn founded. Banning CLP’s from affiliating to this body logically points to banning members from supporting it – that is, proscribing it. And thus, the basis is being laid by Starmer to expel Corbyn from the Labour Party on a similar basis to many expulsions that have happened already – for supporting bodies such as Labour Against the Witchhunt, etc, which were proscribed retrospectively, so that people who supported them even before they were proscribed can be purged.
This little innovation is one very good reason why no one with any socialist or working-class consciousness, no-one with the slightest shred of democratic principle or even self-preservation should support Labour in any election where that would help Starmer become prime minister. Passing new rules (or laws) that are then used to ‘prosecute’ people for “prohibited acts” committed before such measures were adopted is a threat to all the democratic rights that the working class has won under bourgeois democracy. It indicates that today’s Labour Party leadership rejects the principle that working-class people are entitled to any democratic rights at all. It is rather like an infamous judgment regarding slavery that was one of the key flashpoints of the US Civil War in the mid-19th Century.
Chief Judge Taney of the US Supreme Court forced slave Dredd Scott to be forcibly retained by his owner and declared that black people had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect”. Starmer has a similar attitude to working class socialists and those who fight against racism – for him they are lesser people whose democratic rights can be abolished retrospectively, at the behest of the employing class. If he can do this within the Labour Party, there is no reason why he could not do the same in wider society were he to become Prime Minister. It is worth noting that Braverman learned the technique of weaponising her husband’s Jewish origin to suppress criticism of racism, from the Labour right.
Working-class people have everything to fear and nothing to gain from putting Starmer into Downing Street to replace Sunak. It would be out of the frying pan and into the fire. The best outcome that the working class can hope for in the next election is a hung parliament, where neither Tories nor Starmer’s party are able to do much, with some presence of a new left-wing party perhaps crystallising out of such progressive, anti-imperialist developments as No to NATO, No to War, and/or the various initiatives that are taking place to try and put the beginnings of a new working class party in place before the general election. Though the Starmerites might respond to this by forming a grand coalition with the Tories.
Potential for a New Working-Class Party
The potential for a new working-class party is shown by a recent opinion poll conducted by Trust Barometer, which revealed that 61 per cent of potential voters agreed that Britain needs “needs a completely new type of political party to compete with the Conservatives and Labour for power”, and that three quarters said that they thought the UK was “heading in the wrong direction”. (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-tories-starmer-sunak-poll-b2290995.html?r=44995) This does not appear to reflect any kind of far-right sentiment – overwhelmingly it appears to reflect discontent with the right-wing Tory regime and the belief that Labour under Starmer is like the Tories.
The most advanced initiative towards such a development is the 2022 merger of Chris Williamson’s Resist Movement with the Socialist Labour Party, founded nearly three decades ago by miners’ leader Arthur Scargill after the Labour Party under Blair repudiated its bureaucratic-socialist Clause 4. As now a leading spokesperson for the SLP, comrade Williamson initiated No to NATO, No to War with George Galloway and his Workers Party. We hope these will come together in a principled party unification in due course and avoid/overcome the adaptation to right-populism that has marred the Workers Party in its founding period. Other initiatives that point in the same direction are the call for the convening of a conference to discuss and advance the formation of a new left-wing party, put forward by the Socialist Labour Network, which our comrades have also supported over the last period for its potential in this regard. The People’s Alliance of the Left (PAL), which includes Left Unity, TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), the Northern Independence Party and the Breakthrough Party, is another strand that may have some role in the creation of such a party. If Corbyn were to bite the bullet and defy Starmer to stand as against Labour in Islington North that would undoubtedly galvanise much wider numbers, though it is far from clear that he has the political courage to do that. What is needed above all is a commitment to both free debate and working-class democracy, and a framework where political development in a genuinely working-class, revolutionary direction is possible.