- Labour, Tory, same old story; fight ALL capitalist cuts! -
Leaflet issued by CPGB-ML, 2 September 2011
In the year since Chancellor Osborne's landmark spending review was announced, the imposition of austerity measures has crept ahead like a car crash in slow motion. This concerted attack on the living standards of the majority, so necessary for the tiny minority whose wealth, power and status depend on exploiting the labour of others, threatens to heap ever more intolerable burdens onto the backs of working people.
Everything is coming under the hammer: jobs, pensions, benefits, the NHS. Yet most unions - organisations that are supposed to defend the rights of workers against capitalist exploitation - have stood by as if mesmerised. Whilst the TUC talked of coordinating a fight-back, the only concrete action has been a demo - six months after the cuts were announced!
Fight ALL the cuts
When the National Shop Stewards' Network organised a militant demo outside the 2010 TUC congress, the political tone was marked by the readiness of many grass-roots activists to put not only the new coalition government, but also the Labour party and the capitalist system itself in the dock. But this healthier approach, reflecting a mood of disgust with Labour in the most militant ranks of the working class, has not proved to the taste of those on the 'left' who prefer to forget the last 13 years, join a nostalgic chorus of "Tories out", and set their sights on the 'next Labour victory'.
The decision of the NSSN's January conference to establish a national anti-cuts campaign aimed at opposing ALL cuts, emphatically including those being implemented by Labour councils all over the country, was a small step forward. But in order to build on this progress, and shift the focus to that of real class struggle, the unions need to break the shackles that keep them bound to the Labour party and social democracy.
When the promised 26 March demo finally rolled around, the TUC was as disturbed as the government by its scale, realising that the head of steam building up in favour of a real fight against the cuts could not much longer be vented harmlessly in once-in-a-blue-moon symbolic parades. TUC nerves were further jangled on 30 June, when its failure to organise coordinated strikes was shown up by the huge nationwide response to a one-day strike in defence of public-service pensions.
It was no accident that the unions leading this action (PCS and NUT) are not hobbled by affiliation to Labour - a fact that was surely noted by the many members of Unison, Unite and other Labour-led unions whom nobody had seen fit to ballot but who doggedly turned up with their branch banners anyway.
Meanwhile, in the absence of a serious lead from the supposed general staff of the labour movement, other forms of resistance have carved their own way, including the revolt over student funding and the picketing and occupation tactics of UK Uncut and others.
Yet these semi-spontaneous movements, whilst possessed of a resourcefulness and courage that put to shame the do-nothing TUC, can make little progress in isolation from the working class. Conversely, the working class will be immeasurably strengthened when 'organised labour' no longer means just the small minority of employed workers currently organised in trade unions but ALL workers, be they employed or unemployed, active or retired, 'indigenous' or migrant, in or out of the TUC.
The NSSN has called on workers to lobby the TUC in London on 11 September. We support this call, but it should be clear that no amount of well-intentioned rank-and-file democratic pressure from below is in itself going to uproot the opportunism that infests the trade-union movement, debilitating unions and preventing them from serving the real interests of the working class.
Opportunism does not pop up from nowhere: it is founded in the bribes paid to the layer of relatively privileged workers who Lenin called the "labour aristocracy". These better-off workers, whose pay and conditions depend upon the continued flow of imperialist loot from abroad, infect our whole movement with a spirit of class collaboration. It is only through a root-and-branch ideological struggle against social democracy, and especially against its main outlet in the Labour party ('New' and 'Old' alike), that a new leadership can be built behind which the working class can take on capitalism and win.
Nobody should doubt the scale of the crisis we are entering, or believe that it is just being 'talked up' by the Tories to scare us. Behind the debt crisis that is undermining the US economy and tearing Europe apart lies a deep-seated overproduction crisis that has been brewing for over three decades. More commodities have been produced globally than can be sold at a profit on the market - not because the world's needs have been met, but because people just cannot afford to buy them.
The problem is further aggravated when capitalists, desperate to beat the competition, slash wages and reduce the workforce, thereby further reducing the masses' spending power and adding another twist to the spiralling crisis.
Break the link
The good news is that the same capitalist crisis is also chipping away at the material basis for opportunism, since the ruling class can no longer afford to spend so much on buying off its opponents. The time is ripe for the working class to move from cynical mistrust of the Labour traitors to a confident assault upon their stranglehold over organised labour.
While our unions are tied to the imperialist-affiliated Labour party, we will not be able even to fight the cuts, never mind organising to overthrow the whole rotten system that brings poverty and war in its train. Therefore, there is one abiding slogan that should be embraced by every class-conscious worker:
Break the link with Labour!
The crisis of overproduction deepens (Lalkar, September 2011)
Youth uprising: rage against capitalism (Proletarian, August 2011)
Cuts and lay-offs as the crisis rolls on (Proletarian, August 2011)
Combat Labour influence in the union movement and follow the Greek example (Proletarian, August 2011)
Worsening economic crisis sees violent repression escalate (Proletarian, June 2011)
Fuel poverty on the rise as poverty bites (Proletarian, February 2011)
Students lead the way with Millbank occupation (Proletarian, December 2010)