England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

What way forward in the struggle against the Tories?

Editorial from the February issue of Socialist Alternative, our monthly paper, providing a socialist analysis, strategy and tactics to win socialist change. Get in touch with us at info@socialistalternative.net for your copy.

We are living in an extremely precarious world. 2023 saw the most armed conflicts in any one year since World War II. The capitalist and imperialist powers have no solution as to when or how their massacre in Gaza will end. In reality, the historic conflict and brutal oppression of the Palestinian people cannot be resolved under the system of capitalism.

Escalations in the Middle East have already taken place, with bombings in Yemen, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan, edging the world closer to an even broader regional war. While capitalist leaders do not want a wider war because of the fear of consequences for themselves out of their own control, they are nonetheless hurtling us towards an even bloodier conflict. This must be resisted by the international working class.

Tories ramp up repression

In response to mounting opposition to their failing government, the Tories have launched all manner of attacks against oppressed people, and ramped up repression against our movements. Dozens of climate activists and protestors on Palestine solidarity marches have faced arrest.

Greta Thunberg being arrested on a climate protest in London, October 2023

The rolling out of the new Minimum Service Levels (MSLs) by the Tories, impedes millions of workers’ right to strike, by forcing workers to cross picket lines to ensure that no workplace or service is fully closed. This would massively reduce the effectiveness of any collective strike action. Incidentally, it is the business owners and management who will decide how much of a ‘minimum service’ is needed to ensure continuity, rather than the workers. Our right to strike had to be fought for in the past, and we will need to fight again.

The protest against the MSLs in Cheltenham last month, organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a welcome start. But a single march in a single city goes nowhere near far enough. This can only be the first step of organising campaigns against these new draconian laws. Pressure must be built up in workplaces in towns and cities across Britain, to hold councils to account to not implement MSLs during strike action within education, the Fire and Rescue service and the NHS amongst others in the public sector. It will require huge organisation to prevent bosses exploiting this anti-worker legislation to prohibit the democratic right to strike.

In December of last year, the TUC called a special conference to discuss the new MSLs. However we cannot rely on the TUC alone. It has stated that it will make legal challenges against the new laws, conveniently forgetting that the legislature and courts work alongside and are part of the capitalist establishment, as we have seen throughout many challenges by workers against employers or the state.

Instead, determined leadership is needed across the trade union movement, fed into from below. The strike waves since 2022/3 show that a new generation of workers is ready to fight back. Rather than wait for the TUC, such a fightback can start now with action assemblies, drawing together unionised workers resisting attacks on the right to strike, along with Palestine solidarity protestors, climate activists and all those looking to get organised against this government and their system.

Labour Party

With a General Election to take place in the next 12 months, and after 14 years of Tory rule, it is widely anticipated that the next government will be a Labour majority. Socialists understand that after the misery, pain, and huge numbers of deaths, directly caused by Tory policies, many will vote Labour simply to ‘get rid of the Tories’. However, given the rolling back of many of the promises that Starmer has made in the recent period, we need to be prepared to fight under a Labour government which will be loyal only to big business.

Starmer has, in the last year, been positioning himself as a new safe pair of hands for British capitalism and Western imperialism.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, the world’s super wealthy and government leaders came together to congratulate themselves on exploiting the working class for yet another year. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves welcomed the world’s super rich at breakfasts hosted by crypto exchange Coinbase, investment bank JP Morgan and others, saying that “Britain is open for business”. This will no doubt be an indicator to businesses that they can exploit workers in Britain, and use their influence within the Big Four tax firms to avoid paying substantial amounts of tax on their profits.

Labour has made much of its ‘Five Point Plan for Growth’. In reality, it is a further cosying up of the state to private investment, stating that it will back British business “with a new industrial strategy created in partnership with business to maximise Britain’s strengths”. At the same time, little to no conversation has taken place with workers, and with complicity from trade union leaders to not demand a proper pay deal for their members when called upon, workers are largely left unrepresented. When governments side with businesses, workers always suffer through lost wages, opportunities and conditions.

For a new left party of struggle!

Those who are under the impression that Labour in office will be the solution to Tory crisis will quickly see there is little substantial difference between the two. Through its complete subservience to the war mongering Tories and its refusal to commit to pro-working class policies in opposition, we are seeing point blank what a Labour government will look like. Starmer is completely wedded to capitalism.

But there is a huge thirst for an alternative. At the recent Palestine demonstration in Birmingham, where it was rumoured that Jeremy Corbyn would make an announcement regarding a new party (and did not), one of the chairs of the rally nevertheless put it out to the crowd “Do you want a new party? Do you want Jeremy to be the leader of that party?” The many thousands in the crowd met these questions with an ecstatic ‘yes!’

Palestine solidarity protest in Birmingham, 20 January 2024

A new party of struggle – against imperialist war, against the cuts, fighting for workers’ rights and loudly supporting trans and refugee rights to cut across the Tory culture wars, could play a key organising role in the mass movement, and act as a vital forum for those disgusted with war and the capitalist system.

A new party would be a huge boost to our movements, and could play a vital role in linking the many struggles taking place now, as well as under a future Labour government.

We would welcome and support any steps organised by trade unionists, anti-war campaigners, and all those committed to fighting for an opposition against capitalism, to bring together a genuine left voice to begin the discussions on how this can be built.

Such a party however, cannot be constrained to being just an electoral vehicle, as we saw with Corbyn’s Labour. It must be part of the struggle, to coordinate and escalate actions, whether they be against the atrocities in Gaza, opposing the MSLs, or continued attacks on the climate. Discussions have already begun among a significant layer of those active in the anti-war movement who are looking to Corbyn to stand as an independent in the election which could be the launchpad for a new national left-wing formation to develop.

It must be made up from working class communities, as well as being democratic and open. This would mean the right to recall any elected officials, and all elected leaders should only take the average wage of the people they represent. This will keep them linked in with the struggle, and not separate from the wider class struggle.

Only by building this party, opposed to capitalism, and fighting for a socialist alternative, would working class people be able to put an end to the precarity of the world we live in, full of war, imperialism, poverty, racism, gender and LGBTQ+ oppression. 

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