For the “remain” section of the capitalist class the unexpected result of the 2016 referendum meant they had lost control of the political process. Now the December general election has confirmed the “leavers” will be in control for the next 5 years.
It is slowly becoming clear that the “leavers“ want to turn the UK into a low wage, low regulation economy undercutting EU competitors and also make it a haven for speculation and hedge funds. The referendum and the election were both won by posing the issues in terms of nationalism rather than class. The decade of austerity and hardship workers have suffered since the 2008 crisis was blamed on EU regulations and EU immigrant workers. The cry of the “leavers“ was simply:
"The barbarians are at the gate, pull up the drawbridge! The good years can return only if British capitalists take control."
However, the real force driving this pantomime is the economic crisis. 10 years of low interest rates, quantitative easing, and cuts in wages and welfare have not brought a recovery in either the UK, where the economy contracted in November, or in the global economy, where growth rates are in continual decline. The reason none of this medicine has worked is that the true cause of the crisis is the general decline in profit rates which is the result of the way capitalism itself works. The capitalist class will never admit this. It’s easier to blame foreigners, while telling the working class to rally round the flag, tighten their belts and accept austerity – austerity always, supposedly, temporary. For the ruling class the easiest way to restore profits is to increase the rate of exploitation of the working class. That is the thread which links all the scenes of the Brexit drama. That is also why, for the working class, the next 5 years will bring more low-wage, temporary, precarious jobs, more cuts to welfare, services, pensions and more debt. All this will now be presented as the will of the British people – as what the people voted for.
The CWO has consistently argued for workers not to vote in capitalist elections because elections only camouflage the real dictatorship of the capitalist class. They enable our rulers to claim they govern by the will of the majority, to present parliament as the forum where workers’ grievances and problems can be addressed and solved and to claim all independent class struggle is unnecessary. The December election was a confirmation of all this. Faced with the choice of Brexit or a more interventionist state capitalism under Corbyn, the capitalist class preferred Brexit and its control of the dominant ideas in society, particularly via the media, ensured they got the election result they wanted. But what about the Labour Party, wasn’t it proposing an alternative to capitalism?
What Labour was offering was a return to a type of mixed economy of the post-war years, where the state holds important sections of capital directly. This has nothing to do with socialism since the relation of social domination of capital over labour remains. It is simply a deception to call it socialism. But in doing this the real role of the Labour Party is exposed – the role of reconciling the working class to capitalism. Two variations of capitalism were being offered in the election. Both Tories and Labour are capitalist parties to the core. But couldn’t the Labour Party be converted into a workers’ party if enough socialists enter it? This has been the strategy of Stalinists and Trotskyists from the post-World War 1 period to the present and has been a spectacular failure for the best part of a century. The December election once again confirmed this. Those who enter the party to transform it into a workers’ party are either transformed themselves into the party’s pro-capitalist bureaucracy, or get demoralised and leave politics, or like the Militant tendency in the 80s, get kicked out. The party’s role in containing or sabotaging class resistance to capitalism continues unchecked. In general what all this shows is that there is no parliamentary road to socialism and those who pretend there is are just peddling lies. So what is the way forward?
Class Struggle/Political Struggle
In the future the attacks on wages and conditions will not only carry on but will increase in ferocity. As the problems of the system increase, we are seeing mass struggles in many parts of the world which are a symptom of capitalism’s crisis and decay. These struggles are today cross-class struggles and so are unable to lead to a solution. The truth is, the capitalist system itself needs to be overthrown and only the world’s workers can do this. The global working class needs to re-enter the political arena as a force to lead the future struggles and turn them against the whole capitalist system. This means a revival of class struggle for class interests such as wages, conditions and social benefits, a struggle which ignores the interests of capitalism and orients itself towards the creation of a socialist world.
The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 50) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.