A United Response
The ferocious and intensifying attack by the rich men’s party on the people who actually do the work needs an united response—by us! Yet we remain in a deplorable state of hesitation, disunity and confusion. Plenty of organizations and people online on various lists, forums and Facebook grumble away together discontentedly, but with no sound, agreed analysis of what is going on, though that is what is needed. The difficulty is that it is hard to get unity when the government is supported by the millions of issues of propaganda printed daily by the capitalist media, and the almost identical, selective “news” presented by the TV channels.
Yet we have one daily newspaper in the UK that is consistently in favor of the interests of ordinary people, the Morning Star. This paper is not run by capitalists, but millions who are discontent with the mass media still choose capitalist newspapers with their anti-worker agenda instead of a newspaper that suits us in our struggle against bank induced austerity, and for decent jobs, pay, conditions and benefits when we are ill or have fallen into unemployment, situations that are far from unusual but can be disastrous for families in starkly capitalist countries like the USA, the model for Cameron’s party here in the UK.
The satisfaction of these demands is impossible in the present dire capitalist crisis, which will only be settled within the system when wages are forced down by mass unemployment and enforced suffering. That is the nature of the capitalist system.
We can be sure that as soon as people start reading the progressive daily paper, and thereby begin to co-ordinate their opinions and efforts that the police will find excuses for arresting those leading and co-ordinated the protests. Protesters will be described in the capitalist media as “rentacrowd”, “anarchists”, “conspirators”, “rioters” and “hooligans”, with the aim of painting the leading protestors as extremists or louts, and magistrates will issue them with punitive fines or terms of penal servitude, the basis for all this having been set by the heavy punishments imposed on youths even for trivial misdemeanors following the riots of August 2011. That when a government minister, Stephen Laws, who stole £40,000 in false expenses was let off then taken back into government!
Such happenings must anger us all the more, and stir us to greater protest until it becomes a mass protest that simply cannot be handled by the authorities in that unjust and bullying manner, and the ones incarcerated have to be released. Not being willing to act will yield the ground to the capitalist agents posing as a democratically elected government—the ConDems, the Conservative and Liberal Democratic coalition.
But although being that determined can beat back ConDem assaults against our persons, we need an alternative programme, and so far the Parliamentary opposition has not been adequately opposing the ConDems because New Labour has essentially the same outlook and motivation as the Tories and the Liberals. New Labour under its leader Ed Miliband remains the New Labour of Tony Blair, an alternative capitalist party. There is nothing socialist in the principle that only the private sector can run the economy, and that is the core of New Labour.
It was the Labour party when in power, that gave away to the bankers and their rich owners the contents of the British Treasury—money that the government took from us ostensibly to provide us with common services. Now the Treasury is empty because we have overspent. The TV stations are good at finding worthy but ignorant people, often pensioners and the unemployed with no means of overspending anything, to say on camera, no doubt for a modest incentive, "we have overspent, so we have to tighten our belts". We did not overspend, as the media propaganda has it, but it illustrates the power the capitalist media have over us, the confusion it generates, and the reason we need to read our own newspaper. That alone would help to get rid of the learned helplessness, apathy and inertia workers currently feel.
The government we elected to manage the country on our behalf gave to the rich the money we had put into the exchequer to give us health benefits, work and a pleasant environment to live in. The rich had gambled on junk stocks consisting of mortgage debt packaged for resale to permit the spreading among many buyers of the risk of lending money on inadequate security. So long as the housing boom continued, the value of a house would increase and eventually would equal and exceed the mortgage, leaving the debt secured and the bonds safe and yielding riches from mortgage repayments for decades into the future. The housing boom did not continue!
The banks that had devised the bonds and the greedy rich who had bought them were left broke, holding a load of nigh on worthless junk, and many banks were technically bankrupt. A run on any of them in that condition would have ended them. That is why national governments had to fill the void in the banks’ vaults by emptying the national treasuries. The greedy gamble of the rich was so bad and the banks so involved by their laying off individual risks with each other, just like bookies, that £trillions had to be given to banks in every western country to secure the ruling rich class from going bust! It was none of our business to bail them out. Governments elected to look after the interests of all of the people essentially protected the sole interest of the super rich one per cent, at the cost of the middle class and the poor worker.
With treasuries virtually empty, the national governments had to cut the services they were meant to supply via taxation, so civil servants and other public servants had to be cut. Ordinary people therefore were sold the lie that we had been overspending and a period of austerity—job losses especially from public services, and wage and benefit reductions—was needed to get us back on track. Meanwhile the rich are not even asked to pay back in taxes any of the £trillions they have ungratefully received from the taxpayer as a gift.
Leading the People
The economic leadership of working people in capitalism has always been the ones willing to step forward and lead the trades unions—activists and shop stewards. But these trades unionists realized they needed a political branch and set up the Labour Party, which remains to this day the party for most working people. Regrettably, though, the trades unions did not use the financial power they had over the Labour Party as the source of its funds to make it stick to its principles, particularly the important one of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, or Clause 4 as it was called.
The Labour Party has been controlled hitherto by trades unionists closest in ideology to the ruling class, those who were careeristic and opportunistic in outlook and willing to compromise with capital to maintain what they perceived as an advantageous position in the social hierarchy. Ultimately, the Labour party abandoned any pretense of socialism, but despite that, being able still to rely on the support of leading trades unionists who had grown indifferent to the question of socialism. Yet a concerted movement and campaign within the trades unions for a firm line on the Labour Party would be immensely beneficial to the effectiveness of working people in countering the pressing powers of wealth and the undemocratic European Community.
Now New Labour is all things to all men, including many working people who mistakenly believe it is still what it was. So long as that is the case, activists ought to do their utmost to bring it back into the fold, via trades union pressure and demands from the membership.
Here we have to convince substantial numbers of workers who believe themselves to be middle class and natural Tory voters—white collar workers like office workers, technicians, scientists, foremen and charge hands, or lower management generally, and small business people like small sole proprietorships! They wrongly identify themselves with the capitalist class even though they do not have enough capital to live off without working—they must work to live, yet deny that they are working class. Their interests are those of workers, not those of monopolists and financiers, yet they wilfully support the parties and policies of their class enemy, thereby giving their enemies the rope to hang them.
Of course, the capitalist media try to encourage readers and viewers to support the free-and-easy Labour Party of unprincipled political opportunists. With a capitalist Labour Party as well as a capitalist party, the UK has got closer to the American system of two alternating rich man’s parties, and no alternative policies. It is a system that holds no fears for the ruling rich class. What the rich do not want is the Labour Party to respond to trades union pressure and adopt anew the socialist principles it once has, at least in name.
So the media keep up their pressure for the Labour Party to stay in the “political center” of a scale that is constantly redefined as excluding the “extreme left”, meaning anyone on the left, socialist, communists, anarchist, or any other leftist view, eventually even liberal! So the political center creeps continuously to the right. The assumption of the media seems to be that voters have fixed political views, and parties have to change their policies to attract a greater spread of voters. So they all go for a broad enough spread to encompass the center, and end up overlapping substantially leaving little choice in practice.
Building Socialist Unity
Political Struggle. The working class must not be diverted from the political struggle and instead be persuaded to settle for an endless economic war against the employers and their governments which leaves the employers wealth and power intact. To do so simply leaves working people at the capitalist’s mercy. The capitalist class simply regroup for another bash at the people—to restrict their conditions and freedom at a later date. That is not to say that an economic battle does not accomplish the political war. It does! After all, peoples’ immediate concerns are their economic welfare, but the political angle comes with the realization and acceptance that the capitalists and capitalism must be replaced by socialism if the class war is to end with the victory of the general good. For exploitation to be ended, capitalism must be ended. That is the object of the political struggle.
Eschewing Capitalist Media. Given that the capitalists control the mass media, the mass of the working class is too confused to be relied upon to spontaneously find the correct reply to the attacks made upon it by the government of the rich. It is too easy for the mass media to pick on easy scapegoats in society and direct reactionary elements among the workers who are seeking easy targets, to put the blame onto them rather than the class enemy. Easy scapegoats must be easily recognized, so racialism is the first preferred distraction used by the media, currently black and Moslem immigrants. Events will not spontaneously take the right course. It is too easy to blame an accessible scapegoat when the real enemy is well hidden and protected by the state.
People need principled leadership, and a principled party to do it, and the practical leadership of that party will be publicized and explained through the socialist newspaper. Wealth can always be converted into weapons for use against the workers whether by hand or by brain—the rich have the advantage in the age of capital. But the working people have the power through their co-ordinated ability to stop working and bring the economy to a halt, hitting the rich where they feel it most—in their wallets. Whatever the rich try to do, with the working people sufficiently determined and united, synchronized rolling strikes or a steadfast general strike can stop it. Building that degree of unity in the face of the capitalist media is essential, and is the reason why every socialist should eschew financing capitalist propaganda while the socialist news organ is undersubscribed and underfunded… and therefore of limited effect.
Socialist consciousness. Equally, spontaneity implies and requires a widespread socialist consciousness and politico-economic understanding that takes a lot of practical experience and considerable devotion to Marxist study to gain. As most people will not have that sort of understanding without a proper journal to provide it, to imagine ordinary people will spontaneously do the right thing is likely to be a serious error, denigrating also the efforts of those who have tried to decipher the political signs. Moreover, it yields to those elements who will use any local crisis as an opportunity to get the reputation as a leader without adequate preparation, or to police agents provocateurs who use such situations to lead people astray and into traps.
Marxism offers the proper framework for interpreting the crises and opportunities that arise in the struggle against capitalist exploitation. No two situations are alike, so Marxism is no crystal ball, at least in the sense of giving high definition answers, but it suggests the conditions and limits for successful action, and so is an essential guide to it. The active working class leader needs both theory and practice—often called praxis—understanding of both Marxist theory and practical experience in class struggle.
Marxism. Those who press for a purely spontaneous rising against the oppression of the ruling class base their stance on the importance within capitalism of the economic struggle for fair wages and, decent conditions, and jobs. One might call these people “economicists” because they restrict the class struggle to one bounded by capitalist economics and social conditions. The “economicists” assume the capitalist system and cannot transcend it.
Many active workers in trades unions, including too many of their leaders, are “economicists”, but more than economics is needed if the class struggle is to go further and have some prospects of ending in an ultimate victory for the class of working people. Indeed, some do go further, seek to inform themselves of Marxism despite the widespread disdain for it propagated by capitalist politicians, academics and media, and especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. So they prepared themselves better for the full scale assault we are now experiencing.
Marxism preceded the Soviet Union and cannot rationally be rubbished by reference to the failings of its leaders. Marx’s analysis of capitalism remains sound, as the events of the financial collapse since 2007 prove, and capitalism’s reason for demeaning Marxism is not that the capitalists want to relieve simple people of a mistaken attitude, but because they know it remains sound and so is dangerous for them. By wrecking the belief workers’ leaders had in Marxism, capitalist agents are seeking to assist capitalism, not to educate the people.
A worker conscious of economic unfairness and injustice under capitalism has two choices, a capitalist or a socialist ideology. To belittle socialist ideology—Marxism—is to strengthen capitalism. It explains why our society spends so much money and effort on mocking trades unions, working people’s practical workplace organizations, and socialism and communism, and their theoretical outlook, Marxism.
New Labour. For the same reason the Labour party, which began as an umbrella organization for left wing groups some of which were Marxist, by degrees expelled the Marxists until, under the leadership of Tony Blair, it got rid of all pretense of socialism and established itself as another capitalist party—New Labour, though “Not Labour” would have been more appropriate. This party, however, still has the loyalty of many workers, despite its record, and still has the loyalty and uncritical financial support of significant leaders of large trades unions. It is, though, the party of the “economicists”, having ditched “Clause 4” as an objective, as we saw, this being the clause which required the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. So now New Labour, at best, stands for modest social reforms within an eternally present capitalism, thereby necessarily helping capitalism to remain stable and profitable. Reform, needless to say, leaves the economic system itself unaltered, so New Labour is never going to change society for the better.
It is not socialist, but it remains the focus of working class aspirations because working class understanding is moulded by the capitalist media. Moreover, it still has good socialists in its ranks, and conceivably, if the trades unions that fund New Labour used their financial power to change the rules and the selection of parliamentary candidates, the Labour party could be reborn as a class party capable of fighting back against the ConDem assault on us. Class conscious workers therefore must use their influence in the trades unions to move Labour towards the left.
Fortunately, besides the Labour Party, a variety of smaller left wing parties and campaign groups exist, but unfortunately they tend to be sectarian and particular, and so resistant to campaigning in unison. The natural principled party of the left is the Communist Party, but over a long period of time in the 1970s and 1980s, the party was infiltrated and destroyed from within, disbanding itself in 1991. Its successor, the CPB, remains small but with the important role of supporting and expanding the newspaper of the working people, the Morning Star, and promoting a socialist stand in the trades unions. It recognizes the centrality in the history of British socialism and working class thinking of the Labour Party, which it wishes also to return to its foundational principles and away from class collaboration and delusions of managing capitalism for the capitalists.
The main point about the CPB is that it is guided by Marxism—it has principles and a method of applying them. The New Labour Party now has none, having abandoned them to fulfil the ambitions of careerists like Kinnock, Blair and Brown whose only principle was winning elections at any price, even abandoning socialism and selling the UK to Rupert Murdoch.
The Working Class. Emphatically “economicism” is a result of capitalist media spreading confusion and negative propaganda about socialism among the working people. It is a tactic that has succeeded remarkably well. It has turned the working class against its own interests at a time when exploitation by an egregiously greedy capitalist class was hurting more than for eighty years. As noted, working people even blame themselves for overspending when it was the bankers and their rich clients who had done it. The perpetual money making machine they thought they had inevitably failed, proving their greed and stupidity, but still nothing has been done to curtail it.
Offered inadequately secured loans by the banks, people accepted them in all innocence, believing the propaganda from co-conspirator with Tony Blair to destroy the Labour party, Gordon Brown, that “boom and bust” had ended, and that bankers knew what they were doing. They did not, and Gordon Brown gave away the contents of the national exchequer to save the greedy rich and their bankers from suffering catastrophic losses. The governments of most major capitalists countries followed Brown’s lead.
We suffer today because the national treasuries are empty, and services we need, provided traditionally by public and civil servants cannot be provided, unless the government cuts staff to cut costs, and borrows money to pay the wages of those who remain in post, and the benefits of those cast out of work. Who does the government borrow from? Who else but the banks! They have been given all our taxation money, and they are now lending it back at interest! We are having to pay interest to borrow our own money. Meanwhile, the beneficiaries are not even taxed, but the workers and middle class have to economize, “tighten their belts” and suffer unemployment not seen in a lifetime. We are most definitely not “all in it together”.
Democracy is meant to be a system where candidates have principles to let voters choose a representative whom they consider represents them. They have clear choices. The same should apply even in a party system. Parties should be formed to offer a set of policies implementing principles that the voters can choose from. When party leaders change their policies to make their candidates more electable, they are abandoning some of their principles, so that others who voted for those very principles are now being tricked or have no party to represent them.
An example is what happened at the end of the 18 years of Tory rule under Thatcher and Major. People were sick of Thatcherite Toryism, and wanted the distinct change they thought Labour would offer. But under Blair Labour had become New Labour, the face of which was the cloying charm of the sociopathic Blair himself, and his compact with the media devil, Murdoch. The ultra right wing media baron, Murdoch would never have entered into any compact with a socialist, and many of the leading Labour party activists knew Blair had changed his spots. He was the first Labour Prime Minister to “sell out” even before he took power. Blair was voted in only to apply with his co-conspirators, Brown and Mandelson, another thirteen years of Thatcherism, made possible by his pact with the devil, and the demoralization of the Tories and their own disunity.
It demonstrates how important it is to have an alternative socialist newspaper, and how it ought to be used to clear the confusion spread among voters by the capitalist media. Working people need not be helpless in the face of the austerity assault of the government. Otherwise we have little alternative to the incessant beat of capitalist propaganda, and no prospect of rebutting by socialist principles what is presented as unarguable norms of capitalist economics.
Nor will there be much prospect of moving people from their apathy into the consistent activity needed to bring down the system we live under of lies, injustice and unfairness. Only when a significant portion of the employed public and those left unemployed to keep wages down get their information from a daily newspaper committed to the interests of ordinary people and the poor will there be any chance of them acting sufficiently coherently to make a difference. Then people will be able to organize their efforts in unison, to unite their thinking ideologically, rather than being distracted one way and another by divisive issues like the intolerance and racism spread by the capitalist media. And whereas the capitalist media deliberately ignore or misrepresent working class protests, the socialist newspaper reports them and publicizes them to maximize awareness and response.
In the UK, the Morning Star is that newspaper—in the USA, the People’s World. There are many single issue organizations with news sheets, albeit not daily, and perhaps websites, and they help in raising awareness, but it is piecemeal. A political theory to unite the single issues and offer a consistent explanation is vital. That is Marxism, and the vehicle for presenting that view is the revolutionary newspaper, allowing people to see how single issues have a common explanation in the class struggle.