Written by International Socialist League
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 00:05
In May Britain will have a general election after five years of Tory rule. Five years in which many things have changed both in the UK and in the rest of Europe.
The effects of the crisis and austerity in the UK have come later and are not yet as deep as in southern Europe and Ireland. But there are features in common. The establishment faces a loss of popularity. People are moving away from Tories and Labour in higher numbers than ever and according to polls, both parties will be hard pushed to get a majority.
Recent polls show that the NHS, and the UK economy are the highest priority for the majority. The crisis of the NHS is deepening, as are attacks on benefits and education. The Tories are committed to privatising the NHS and UKIP agree. All the main parties will play the race and immigration cards and continue their attacks on welfare, UKIP will talk about the problems of the EU. All will be using populist politics, scapegoating and lies to win votes.
Labour or Tory austerity is the same and will not change
Who takes office will not change the situation of workers. We have had five years of austerity policies led by the Tories, but the Labour party also pledges to continue with austerity, and vicious austerity measures are being implemented in those cities that are governed by Labour councils.
The biggest union leaderships agree. That is why the unions halted the NHS strike as soon as they could. The TUC is even trying to stop campaigning leaflets from any criticism of the Tories, using the gagging legislation as an excuse, and they try also to stop any criticism of the Labour party.
The likely outcome of the elections is that no one party will have overall control and therefore there is a possibility of a coalition. It could be a Tory and UKIP coalition or Labour and the SNP and with other parties joining.
The national question in Scotland is important. There is a surge towards the Scottish Nationalist Party and they can achieve a very high number of votes. Polls are indicating that they could get more than 50 parliamentary seats out of 59. They are predicted to get 48 per cent of the vote against Labour’s 23 per cent. The SNP is likely to be the third largest party in Westminster after May.
For the great majority of Scottish voters it will be an anti-austerity vote, with a desire to get rid of the Tories and for a greater control over their interests. The SNP is pretending to be a party defending the NHS, even though the leadership will carry out various forms of austerity and privatisation. While some Labour leaders deny it, a coalition of Labour and SNP could happen.
Another problem for the Tories and Labour could be the Green Party; its membership has increased to over 50,000 from 15,000 a year ago. The Greens may get six per cent of the vote (they got one per cent in the last General Election), which may give them more MPs.
Why the support? Because they, like the SNP, pretend to be anti-austerity. However, in Brighton and elsewhere they want to raise council taxes, which would punish the poorest section of workers. In Brighton they opposed the strike of refuse collectors. They would apply austerity, but at different tempo.
It is possible, whatever the party leaders say now, that they could also be part of a Labour coalition. They are not an alternative for the working class and are a middle class party.
UKIP gained a big vote in the last local election but their xenophobia has become more overt. In some cities UKIP posters are pulled down, or written over them “racists go home” over them.
There are parallels and differences with Greece and Spain in which we can see our future. There are deep political changes that are driven by the people’s rejection, as in the UK, of austerity. But if Syriza continues their policy of paying the debt, they will not carry out the wishes of the Greek working class and people. The situation in Spain is not much different, with Podemos playing the same role as Syriza.
Revolutionaries must create our alternative to confront austerity and find the solution to the leadership crisis in the working class. This requires the elaboration of an anti-cuts programme with the election as a tool for the struggle, not the other way round.
Labour always want the pre-election period as a time of social calm, and trade union leaderships are the same. They want to suffocate any possible fight between now and May, don’t let them!
For us elections are a part of the struggle that is made in the streets, we will continue in the streets. We do not ignore the election, but we cannot sub-ordinate the action in the street to voting. Now is the time to mobilise and strike. But if it is to happen it will have to be pushed from below by the rank and file in the unions and communities. Others like Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and Left Unity are building a left electoral alternative.
However the TUSC showed by its practice in Liverpool that what it wanted was an electoral monopoly of the left, undermining fighting policies that are built from the working class.
We say, construct local lists of workers who are fighting to build the movement that will be a voice in parliament and the councils of what is happening in the street. Only in the street can our struggles be the forces to overthrow any government of austerity and create a worker’s solution to the crisis.
Our policy is to encourage local class struggle candidates to create an electoral movement from below, with working class democracy, a no austerity programme decided collectively by the rank and file to continue the fights in the streets before, during and after the election.
We know it is a beginning it will not change the electoral scenario and the balance of power in Britain, but it could mean the beginning of the building of a real working class alternative to the Labour Party.