Workers need their own party to fight this profit system

8 July 2013

What is the balance sheet of the past three years, since the general election?

In 2010, three years into the capitalist crisis, what was evident to anyone who had the patience to read the parties' manifestos and listen to their leaders, was how little difference there already was between them.

The cross-party consensus was that the working class was to be made to pay for this crisis - and, more specifically, that austerity policies were an absolute "must", in order to plug the public finance black hole inherited from another cross-party policy, namely the bail out of the bankers under Gordon Brown.

Three years on, what has changed? Cameron and Clegg have long dropped their "modernising" masks, to embark on a joint drift to the right, attacking the poorest sections of the working class and pointing a finger at the most vulnerable - the jobless, the disabled, foreign workers, etc., accusing them of being "parasites on hard-working people". Never mind that the only purpose of these policies is to line the pockets of the real parasites - the wealthy and the big shareholders - as never before.

Meanwhile, Labour's Ed Miliband has been chasing after the Coalition's policies. The more they drifted to the right, the more Miliband has swung rightwards, endorsing every new turn of the screw and sometimes, even, as he did recently over issues like restrictions on foreign students, or the so-called "welfare cap", suggesting a few of his own. On most issues relevant to workers, Labour is now just singing along to the ConDems' anti-working class, pro-bosses tune!

Where is the working class movement?

While this reactionary overbidding is taking place between the main parties, the working class movement has been conspicuous by its absence. Long forgotten are the few national initiatives taken by the TUC, which - at least - enabled workers to demonstrate their opposition to all these attacks.

But this is not just because TUC leaders were uncomfortable with their own success at the time, in mobilising hundreds of thousands onto the streets - although they certainly were. It is also because their agenda never went beyond weighing in on Labour's side, and showing their ability to channel workers' anger into the ballot box and behind a future Labour government.

But now that Labour wants to show itself as a tough-talking champion of austerity, who does not rely in any way on workers' support - not even in the ballot box - union leaders are carefully avoiding any shows of strength. Not that they are rewarded by Miliband for their slavishness, judging from his attacks against Unite around the Falkirk candidate selection! But, as a result, they are depriving workers of any opportunity to measure their strength.

Raising the banner of the working class

What is at stake here, is more than just removing the disgusting sight of these politicians competing to prove that they are the most effective trustees of the profiteers' interests - on workers' backs. Far more important is the worsening social situation - the degradation of living conditions right across the working class and the demoralisation resulting from the fact that nothing is proposed to oppose it.

On average, real wages are now almost 10% below their pre-crisis level, and even lower for the record number of workers who have been cornered into signing-up to part-time or zero-hour contracts. Yet, in the meantime, companies are sitting on mountains of cash, the banks have returned to their past fast profits and speculators have resumed their pre-crisis bingo games. The continuing crisis is being cynically used by the profiteers as a weapon to squeeze more out of the working class, with the help of their politicians.

This social degradation combined with the right-wing drift of the entire political spectrum, is a fertile medium for the growth of even more reactionary forces, feeding on frustration and despair - such as UKIP or its less respectable twin, the EDL - forces which are clearly enemies of the working class!

The only alternative to this, is for the working class to return to the political scene, not as electoral cannon-fodder, but by asserting itself independently - and by starting to use the full power of its collective strength. To this end, it will have to rebuild the confidence it has lost in this strength, by defending its material interests day in and day out. But it will also need to organise a party which really represents its political interests - a workers' party which sets itself the aim of replacing this rotten profit system with one which is free from any form of exploitation and capable of catering for the needs of all.