The Communist Party’s political committee met last week to analyse the general election and its implications for the labour movement. Here is the second part of its subsequent statement
FOLLOWING the Tories’ general election victory, it is vital to identify the main features of the ruling class agenda in Britain in these new political conditions.
Its immediate objective will be to resolve Britain’s political crisis by making an orderly exit from the EU while retaining maximum access to European markets.
Most of big business and its dominant section in the City of London will be content to maintain the close alignment with single market rules, although the immediate threat of progressive state intervention has passed.
As Boris Johnson’s government begins negotiations on future relations with the EU, notably a free trade agreement, differences may arise over regulatory standards, non-EU “third party” imports and trade relations, European Court of Justice jurisdictions and the like.
While the labour movement should always seek to maintain the highest standards, it should not support arrangements which lock Britain into the permanently pro-market rules, institutions and procedures of the EU.
Whereas pro-monopoly capitalist governments in Britain can be replaced by mass activity and the ballot box, no mechanisms exist to do this at EU level.
Instead, the left and the labour and progressive movements in Britain must urgently reorientate their political outlook, away from a largely idealist, illusory and dependency view of the EU and towards a class-based analysis of its real character.
The Leave, Fight and Transform (LeFT) initiative has vital work to do to assist in this process.
The Communist Party will continue to advance the perspective of “popular sovereignty” as the progressive alternative to competing notions of nationalism on the one side and abstract EU-based “internationalism” on the other.
The interests of the working class and the people generally should not be entrusted to either the institutions of the British state or those of the European Union.
They have to be fought for, secured and enforced by the labour movement and its allies.
This includes the rights of foreign residents, migrant workers and would-be immigrants. Emboldened by racist elements in and around the Tory Party and by the defeat of the left and the labour movement, the danger of resurgent racism in Britain should not be underestimated.
This needs to be combated on the basis of working-class and campaigning unity, understanding that concerns about the impact of immigration and migrant labour on local economic and social conditions must be addressed with progressive arguments and policies, not simply dismissed as “racist.”
In particular, the left should develop and unite around a humane, generous and non-racist immigration and citizenship policy rather than propagating the anarchistic, “free market” position of open borders.
All forms of racism are toxic for the labour movement. This includes anti-semitism, the weaponisation of which by reactionary bodies can only be assisted by the failure to identify it correctly and deal with it promptly and decisively.
Another strategic objective of the ruling class in Britain, assisted by its supporters inside the Labour Party, is to seize this moment to drive all notions of class politics and socialism out of the Labour Party altogether.
The intention is to “Europeanise” the party so that it more closely resembles traditional social democratic parties across the European Union whose pro-EU, pro-capitalist politics have driven away much of their electoral support.
From France and the Netherlands to Italy and Greece, these parties have abandoned all aspirations to a mixed economy, economic planning and radical wealth redistribution.
Instead, they embrace the neoliberal model of capitalism with its fetishisation of “the market,” deregulation, “entrepreneurship,” privatisation, fiscal austerity and labour flexibility.
Central to this agenda will be a renewed drive to weaken or break the link between the Labour Party and most of Britain’s largest trade unions.
The ruling class and its state and capitalist media understand that the trade unions, in particular, comprise the core of the Labour Party and the main basis on which it can be renewed.
That is one reason why the Tories’ general election victory signals the launch of a fresh offensive against trade union and workers’ rights, beginning in the transport and emergency services.
It is in the interests of all unions and the TUC to unite in favour of the right to strike in all industries and services, opposing strike-breaking in all its forms.
The left and the labour movement may need to consider how best to put the case for trade unionism and working-class solidarity to armed forces personnel.
As far as economic and financial strategy is concerned, there is a contradiction between Johnson’s populist programme of major public investment in public services and infrastructure, and his need to fund it without taxing the wealthy and big business.
As this contradiction comes to the fore, more privatisation, outsourcing and higher levels of regressive indirect taxation will become the order of the day.
The People’s Assembly will have an important role to play not only in campaigning in communities against any continuation or revival of austerity and privatisation policies, with more active involvement from a wider range of trade unions and trades councils.
It needs to popularise the case for a credible and comprehensive alternative economic, social and environmental strategy.
The proposed day of action on May 1, International Workers’ Day, must become a massive day of mobilisation by labour and progressive movement organisations in favour of such a strategy, for working-class unity across all differences of nationality, race, sex, sexual orientation and religion.
Trades councils can take the lead in forming broad-based May Day committees in towns and cities across England, Scotland and Wales.
Britain’s ruling class understands that rivalry between the world’s major capitalist powers is intensifying, as the struggle for control over resources, transport routes and markets escalates.
The rise of People’s China as an economic power and an alternative model for growth and prosperity adds to these pressures.
This is the context in which to understand the continuing expansion and interventionism of Nato, the militarisation of the EU and the contradictions developing within both imperialist alliances.
The British government intends to press ahead with a rearmament drive which includes the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons programme.
This dangerous and hugely expensive course requires the most vigorous response from CND, Stop the War and — as an affiliate of the anti-imperialist World Peace Council — the British Peace Assembly.
At the same time, the labour and progressive movements should make clear their full acceptance of the legitimate need for adequate conventional defence forces.
Moreover, the case for nuclear disarmament must always be accompanied by a policy for conversion and diversification of existing military work into civilian production, with no loss of employment, pay or pension rights.
On all these and other fronts, only militant mass extra-parliamentary campaigning can derail or modify the measures that the Tories have in store.
On this basis, too, the labour movement has to be strengthened and renewed in workplaces and working-class communities across Britain.
Genuinely “broad left” rather than sectarian networks need to be established or revived in trade unions.
More union branches must be persuaded to play a role in their local trades councils, which must themselves be outward-looking and non-sectarian in their conduct.
Politicisation and repoliticisation will be essential to this renewal process in the labour movement.
Systematic political education on all the major issues facing our society — not least the ecological crisis — should be undertaken in Labour Party and trade union organisations.
The ruling class in Britain has always sought to wipe out the historical memory of the working class, substituting its own version of history for the struggles of the people and their labour and progressive movements.
This, too, much be challenged, building on the work of dedicated communist and other left-wing historians.
Class politics is also the only basis on which to unite, maintain and strengthen the labour movement across Britain and prepare the ground for future election victories; not reductionist class or economistic class politics, but those which recognise the link between exploitation and the different forms of inequality and oppression.
For example, the mirage of Scottish independence offered by the SNP will not serve the interests of the working class and the mass of the people, least of all when Scotland remains subject to Bank of England, EU and Nato rules, policies and diktats.
The only credible and beneficial alternative is enhanced powers and resources for Scotland and Wales in a federal Britain, based on solidarity between all its nations and regions.
Scotland has the national right to determine its own constitutional future, including through a second independence referendum, although the Communist Party would then campaign for working-class unity and progressive federalism rather than division and separation.
More immediately, the labour movement and the left must ensure that the 100-plus decision-making powers in devolved areas repatriated from the EU pass in full to the Scottish and Welsh legislatures.
On the constitutional front, the labour movement also needs to unite around the need for electoral reform, an effective mechanism for electors to force by-elections and abolition of the House of Lords.
A strategy to democratise and diversify media ownership should also move up the political agenda.
All these and other left and progressive policies are promoted in the Communist Party’s alternative and political strategy.
Fighting for them provides the basis on which a popular, democratic alliance against state-monopoly capitalism can be built, led by the organised working class.
The CP’s updated programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism, will be published early in 2020. It is the antidote to the damaging levels of defeatism, hysteria, personalisation and abuse that afflict parts of the left and the labour movement at the moment.
Ten million votes for Labour’s most radical general election manifesto in more than 30 years indicate that the forward march of the labour movement can be restarted.
The 90-year story of the Morning Star and its predecessor, the Daily Worker, is due to be celebrated next year, demonstrates the vital role of a daily paper for the labour movement and socialism.
Britain’s Communist Party marks its centenary in 2020. One hundred years of struggle also prove that the oldest, most experienced and, when necessary, ruthless ruling class in the world can be challenged and on vital occasions knocked off course by mass action.
There is a future for socialism, if we use Marxism to learn and apply the lessons of experience.