To defend its interests, the working class needs its own political party

29 April 2013

Elections cannot improve the conditions of the working class. In this respect, next Thursday's local elections will be even more of a non-event than usual. If there were candidates worth voting for, this would still be so, because the areas concerned by this ballot are mostly part of the ConDems' traditional middle-class heartland. Votes cast by workers will therefore be invisible.

Around 85% of outgoing councillors are ConDems - and even when the coalition did "badly" in comparable elections, as in 2004, they still won 75% of the seats. So, on the whole, the results of Thursday's vote are more or less a foregone conclusion. If there was ever an election without any stake in it for the working class, this is it!

The politics of scape-goating

Of course, despite their large majority, this is not quite the case for the ConDems - especially not for the Tories, whose score may be significantly reduced by the fact that, for the first time, UKIP is bidding for three-quarters of the seats in these elections - 1,734 in total.

From UKIP's 14% score in last November's Corby by-election, when it really started to raise its profile, to the 28% votes it won in the Eastleigh by-election this March - pushing the Tory candidate into third place - this party's nasty demagogy seems to have been making some progress, mostly among the Tories' own electorate. And its 15% score in national opinion polls has become a major worry for Cameron, who is personally threatened by a challenge from the right wing of his own party.

Ironically, though, UKIP owes much of its success to Cameron himself, and to his scape-goating of immigrants and the poor, as a means of diverting attention from his policy of lining the pockets of the rich.

UKIP's original single-issue focus on opposing Britain's membership to the EU was just a matter of circumstance. With the advent of the crisis, it has switched to tapping a broader range of reactionary prejudices born out of the fears caused by the economic collapse among a whole section of the petty-bourgeoisie. Despite its denials, UKIP is merely filling the space left by its unsuccessful predecessors, like the old National Front of the 1970s and, more recently, the BNP.

Cameron's endless attacks against the EU, immigrants and what he dares to describe as the "parasitism" of the poor, have only lent credence to UKIP, which is merely championing a less hypocritical version of the ConDems' own scape-goating demagogy - with all its anti-working class content.

The working class can stop this drift

The crisis offers only two options. One option, the only one which makes any sense for the working class, is to free society from this crisis-ridden system. The other, the preferred one for all the main parties, is to preserve capitalist profits at all costs.

It was on the basis of this latter option, that Cameron paved the way for UKIP. For the same reason, he tries to outbid it with greater doses of scape-goating, for instance by promising to restrict foreigners' access to the NHS. Never mind that, according to official figures, they only account for 0.2% of NHS costs! But, by the same token, far from weakening UKIP's appeal, Cameron thereby justifies its xenophobia in the eyes of wavering voters.

And Labour is following in Cameron's footsteps, with Miliband conceding more and more ground to the same reactionary demagogy! Didn't he state that Labour had previously been too "soft" on immigrants? This, when in fact Labour was actually blaming immigrants for a collapse in health and education, which was really due to their own under-funding! Didn't he refuse to oppose a large part of the ConDems' welfare cuts, and then propose to make benefits dependent on how long claimants have been in work - thereby condoning the idea that the poor should be "punished" for their poverty? But by doing so, Labour has been mimicking Cameron's reactionary drift and offering a field day to the likes of UKIP!

In a period of crisis, class antagonisms appear more clearly than ever. The working class cannot afford to rely on politicians whose main aim is to preserve the profit system. If it does, it takes the risk of boosting the fortunes of aspiring thugs whose only aim is to try to get the capitalist class to use their services instead - thugs like UKIP.

The only alternative is for the working class to raise its own profile, assert its collective strength in society and rally behind its banner all those who are hit by the crisis. But for this, it needs a political party of its own, which resolutely expresses the need to get rid of the profit system - a party that needs to be built as a matter of urgency!