20th October - our voice must be heard

8 October 2012

If this year's conference season showed anything, it was, once again, that the working class cannot expect anything from any of the main parties: there is nothing to choose between them.

Cameron's and Osborne's "we're all in it together", and the "One Nation" slogan, which Milliband pulled out of the dusty cupboard of 19th century Toryism are just different ways of saying the same thing.

These slogans are based on the same fallacy: that in this society there are no classes with conflicting interests and no class struggle! They are designed to hoodwink working people into believing that their well-being must necessarily depend on the profits of the same capitalist class whose parasitism caused the crisis.

In fact, what was striking, yet again, was the extent to which the policies promoted by the Labour and Tory leaders are interchangeable. And how much the politicians of both parties agree that the working class, and especially its poorest members, should pay for the crisis, rather than the wealthy and their companies.

Trustees of British capital

Since the ConDems came into office, we've had plenty of time to see what their "we're all in it together" meant. It meant that we, workers, were to be "all in it together" by agreeing to have our jobs, wages, benefits, pensions, conditions and services cut, in order to allow more wealth to go into the coffers of the banks and big companies and the pockets of their rich shareholders.

But is Labour actually proposing anything different? Hasn't shadow chancellor Ed Balls, repeated that a Labour government would NOT reverse the ConDems' cuts? Hasn't Milliband himself supported the coalition's wage freeze in the public sector, without saying a word against Osborne's massive public sector job cuts?

When Milliband tries to sound different from his Tory rivals by championing a "break-up" of the big banks, does he ever propose to recoup some of the fantastic profits made by these banks in the run-up to the crisis, which was its main cause? No, of course not. Milliband won't harm the interests of British capital any more than Osborne and Cameron. On the contrary, he bends over backwards to show what a loyal manager of the City's interests - and a more effective manager than Osborne, at that - he would be if he was in office.

And is it any wonder, given Labour's record? Let's not forget how, under Blair and Brown, Labour dismantled most obstacles to the casualisation of labour by the bosses and strong-armed the jobless into taking non-jobs. Nor how they encouraged bankers and speculators to suck the economy dry, before awarding them tens of billions in public money to cover their losses, when the crisis broke out. Let's not forget either, that it was Labour which initiated the austerity drive which paved the way for the ConDems' own version of it.

Relying on our own forces

Contrary to what these politicians would have us believe, there is a class struggle taking place at present - in fact, there is a war waged by the bosses against the working class and its conditions.

No ballot paper will ever allow us to fight back in this war, let alone to regain the ground lost over the past years. Only our collective strength will, provided we use it without falling for the illusions peddled by those who claim to speak on our behalf.

At its last conference, the TUC leaders finally decided to have another national protest against the cuts, 11 months after the success of last year's November 30th mobilisation. This, after a year in which, in many industries, public and private, union leaders have been signing up to all sorts of cuts behind workers' backs.

The TUC slogan for this day of protest is not "let the capitalists pay for their crisis", as it should be, but: "for a future that works". Which is another way of telling us that the best we can do is to wait until Labour returns to office - something that was said again and again at the TUC conference.

But what is there to wait for? Another austerity drive, this time under Labour wrappings? No way. We've seen it all already! What is needed today is a general mobilisation of the working class - a rising wave of strikes and protests strong enough to stop the attacks of the capitalist class and to tilt the balance of social forces in our favour.

We cannot expect the TUC leaders to organise such a mobilisation. But we can use October 20th to say loud and clear that this is what we need and what we want. The more of us who turn up on the day, with our own slogans and placards, the better we will be able to measure our collective strength and to prepare for the necessary future struggle.