Editorial: After The Defeat


The decisive majority for Boris Johnson in December’s general election represents a turning point in Britain, all the consequences of which have yet to fully work themselves out. The British capitalist class still looks upon 2020 with trepidation. For them 2019 was a nightmare – with economic stagnation, a deadlocked and unpopular parliament, the risk of a chaotic Brexit, and above all the fear of the consequences of a Corbyn-led government. The fact that the Supreme Court intervened directly in politics – against a Tory prime minister – was a clear indication of the pitch of the crisis. The serious strategists of capitalism are now hoping that the election outcome will provide their class with some temporary stability or at least a breathing space. But even if this momentarily appears to be so, none of the underlying problems have been resolved and new crises will be posed in short order, which the capitalist class will not be able to trust Johnson to reliably deal with in their best interests. 

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Is the time right for a new Scottish workers’ party?

Labour’s vote fell further in Scotland, proportionately, than in England and Wales in December’s general election. What conclusions should be drawn for how working class political representation will be secured now, asks Socialist Party Scotland’s PHILIP STOTT?

December 2019 saw Scottish Labour suffer the worst general election result in its 119-year history. Once again the party has been reduced to a solitary Westminster MP. What makes the outcome more catastrophic for Labour than even four years ago was the loss of a further 196,000 votes even compared to the near wipe-out of 2015 – an election which was widely thought to be the very worst it could possibly get. Scottish Labour’s vote fell to 511,838 (18.6%) in December from 707,147 (24.3%) in 2015.   

Following in the wake of the previous year’s independence referendum, the collapse of Labour support in working class areas in 2015 was dramatically illustrated by the loss of 40 of their 41 MPs elected in 2010. Open collaboration with the Tories and the capitalist establishment in the anti-independence ‘Better Together’ campaign had sealed the fate of the Blairite-dominated Scottish Labour Party. Its then leader Jim Murphy boldly declared in the wake of the evisceration that saw the SNP secure 56 of the 59 available MPs: “The Scottish Labour Party has been around for more than a century. A hundred years from tonight we will still be around”. Murphy hastily resigned after a short-lived six months as Scottish leader and is now a well-paid advisor to the Tony Blair Institute.

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Rebuilding the left in the PCS

On December 12, the same day as the general election, the result of the general secretary election for the PCS civil service union was also announced. Mark Serwotka, in office since 2000, was re-elected with 16,420 votes. However, Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd, standing for the first time in a national officer’s election, was second, receiving an impressive 9,278 votes, 30% of the poll. Bev Laidlaw from the Independent Left came third with 5,059.

This was a crucial election in the battle to ensure PCS is maintained as a fighting, left trade union. The votes for Marion now provide a platform to build a new vibrant socialist left within the union, ready for the challenges set by a Boris Johnson majority Tory government. This will be next fought out in the national executive committee (NEC) and group executive elections that will take place this spring.

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The reality of US ‘hard power’ exposed

Adding to the mounting difficulties for the Trump administration, in December the Washington Post published a six-part exposé of the US strategy in Afghanistan. The report was based on the so-called ‘Afghanistan papers’, an echo of the 1970s Pentagon Papers revealing the systematic official lying over US policy in Vietnam, whose release contributed to the fall of president Richard Nixon.

The Afghanistan papers are notes and transcripts from over 400 interviews conducted between 2014 and 2018 with people who have been involved in the Afghanistan conflict in varying capacities. The Post had to pursue a three-year court case to obtain the interviews – done by a US federal agency known as SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) – and is still fighting for full disclosure today, as some of the information was withheld.

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Global Warning: Bad COP

‘Time for action’ read the subheading of the United Nation’s most recent climate change conference, known as COP25. Held in Madrid in December, it was the right call. Following record forest fires in California and the Amazon, and against the backdrop of bushfires raging across Australia, it appeared that, at last, the UN might mean business. That it would put the world’s governments on red alert and ensure decisive action is taken to halt the global warming caused by ever increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

At the start of the annual gathering of representatives from 190 governments and dozens of agencies, NGOs and businesses, the UN issued a stark warning: greenhouse gas emissions had risen 4% since the Paris accord of 2015 and the world will need to cut them by 7.6% every year of the next decade to stay within the limits advised by climate scientists.

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The system that ruins the world

To meet an ever-growing questioning of capitalism since the crisis of 2007-08, the system’s defenders look to theoretically justify its continued rule. The latest effort, by the renowned former World Bank economist Branko Milanović, which claims that capitalism is now unchallenged for the first time in history, is reviewed by PETER TAAFFE.

Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World

By Branko Milanović

Published by Belknap Press, 2019, £23-95

Like the majority of capitalist economists, the author of this book hails what he proclaims is the ‘victory’ of capitalism over ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’. However, Branko Milanović goes further than his predecessors by seeking to argue that the only choice on offer for mankind now is between so-called ‘liberal capitalism’ exemplified by the US, Western Europe and most of the rest of the world, and what he describes as ‘political capitalism’, for which China and Vietnam are the authoritarian models.

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The long decline of British capitalism

What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain

By James Hamilton-Paterson

Published by Head of Zeus, 2019, £9-99

Reviewed by Niall Mulholland

Up to 1939, Britain was the world’s largest exporter of manufactured goods and of energy (coal). From 1939 to 1945, it produced around 125,000 aircraft and a huge number of ships, motor vehicles, armaments and textiles. After world war two, Britain was a pioneer in antibiotics, radar, the jet engine and the computer. In 1950, Britain recorded the highest percentage of the workforce in industrial jobs and 80 percent of the population were classified as “working class”. In the 1970s, trade union membership was at its highest levels and inequality at its lowest.

Yet, within a few decades, much of Britain’s major industries, such as ship-making, coal mining, car-making and steel, were gone or greatly diminished, throwing millions out of work and rupturing working-class communities.

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