The following letter is from a reader in Britain.

The Class Struggle in Britain

The upcoming budget on June 6th is proving to be the first rallying point after the General election for the British left. With the Con-Lib[1] government, or more popularly known in some sections of the left as the Con-Dem government, publishing its first budget on the 22nd June. This budget follows the already announced £6bn worth of cuts. David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister, has already announced that the upcoming cuts will be severe and will cause real pain. Of course the pain will be disproportionately felt by workers, as evidenced by two announcements where Cameron referred to freezing benefit payments while cutting back on child tax credits. This is on top of expected freeze on public sector wages and a freeze on recruitment.

For me, the surprise of this election was that the Labour Party vote never imploded, although it received its worse share of the popular vote since 1983 election; however in the first two weeks since the election the Labour Party has seen some 16000 new members. It remains to be seen whether these new members are disgruntled Lib Dems or disaffected workers who are looking to the Labour Party to lead the fightback. If it is the latter, then they are going to be sorely disappointed when the Labour leadership refrains from any meaningful fightback and will only under pressure organise token demonstrations while hoping that the anger will dissipate. I think that they will take note that in Greece the recent march against the Greek socialist government only attracted some 3000 people, down in a fortnight from 60000.

The response to the Con-Lib government projected austerity 6th June budget has been a call for a national anti-cuts demonstration on June 22nd. This has been instigated by the SWP led Right To Work (RTW) organisation. RTW was set up at the end of 2009 as part of the SWP switch away from RESPECT[2] with more of an emphasis on workplace based campaigns. While this organisation was hoped to be more than a front organisation for the SWP, at least this is what the leadership of the SWP argued, it is still overwhelmingly made up of SWP members while the General Secretary is one of the SWP’s leaders, Chris Bambery.

In 5/06/2010 Socialist Worker it was reported that there has been a encouraging response to the demonstration by a range of labour movement organisations. These organisations have ranged from local Labour Party constituency parties, Trade Councils, left Labour MP’s such as Jeremy Corbyn, Trade Unions such as FBU, PCS, CWU and local anti NHS cuts campaigns It can also be seen to cover not only London but also other regions of the UK. The interesting point of this movement is that there is a growing belief on the left that the Labour Party or at least the left of the Labour Party will be central in the resurgence of working class struggle.

While I would argue that Marxists need to support reform demands of no cuts and be actively involved in these campaigns but what is missing from the current campaign of the British left and I suspect internationally is a need to stress that the post 1945 reforms won were won in a capitalist reconstruction period. Revolutionaries must stress that the capitalist state both nationally as well as locally, which delivers the services such as education, health, welfare benefits etc., is not neutral, rather it is a tool of class oppression and must be overthrown by working class and replaced by workers councils. Simply to campaign against the cuts without putting forward a socialist solution will only mean that the campaigns will run out of steam and be left floundering.

It also seems to me that not one of the organisations involved in either the anti-cuts demo or in the local anti cuts campaign, stresses the need to overthrow the capitalist state or indeed there is no call to repudiate the £156bn budget deficit. Surely if as some organisations such as the Socialist Party argue to nationalise under workers’ control the major companies without compensation then surely it is also correct to argue that the debt which was run up by the bourgeoisie should not be born on the backs of the workers. Cancel the debt should be emblazoned on the anti cuts banners.

While the focus has been on the hope of a resurgence of the Labour left this has been the case with Socialist Appeal (the British section of the International Marxist Tendency) and the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL). Both these organisations are urging their supporters to write in to their MPs and urge the Labour MP to support the nomination of John McDonnel for Labour leader. This is seen as one method of encouraging a debate within the Labour Party which will reverse the years of the right wing hold over the labour Party and make it more possible to win the Labour Party over to a socialist programme.

Unfortunately such a perspective is flawed not only has the left supporters largely either left or have become demoralised and apathetic. But more importantly, during the 1970’s, the last time there was a strong left in the Labour Party, which also coincided with an upturn in working class struggle, the left, while winning conference votes, were never able to shift the Labour leadership in making any significant moves to a socialist policy. In fact the leadership under James Callaghan actually carried out cuts which were in some respects deeper than those carried out by Thatcher. Now in a period where the bourgeoisie has been in the ascendancy accompanied by a low level of working class struggle the chances of the left making such a breakthrough is minimal and if they were to succeed then this would only lead to a dead end of left reformism which would leave workers disarmed in the face of a bourgeoisie offensive to dismantle the minimal post war gains.

June 10, 2010


1. The coalition consisting of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

2. RESPECT was the SWP’s reformist electoral front.