As the Tory government limps on, under the rule of the fifth Tory prime minister in six years, HANNAH SELL analyses the economic and social roots of the Conservative Party’s long decline.
Over recent months the Tory Party has teetered on the brink of collapse. First Boris Johnson was ousted as prime minister amidst an avalanche of scandals. His replacement, Liz Truss, lasted just 45 days, making her the shortest-ever serving prime minister.
Then, over the weekend following her resignation, with the Tories at an all-time low of 14% in opinion polls, it appeared that Johnson was going to make a comeback. He claimed he had the 102 nominations from Tory MPs needed to appear on the ballot paper. Had his name been on the ballot of Tory Party members, it was overwhelmingly likely he would have re-won the leadership. He could not, however, have governed the parliamentary Tory Party, which would have finally imploded. Just one indication of this was the widespread reports of Tory MPs threatening to defect to Labour had Johnson been re-elected.
In the end Johnson didn’t stand, possibly because he didn’t get the nominations necessary, or because he didn’t want to lose the gargantuan fees he is making on the celebrity speaker circuit. He may well also have had an eye to a future return at a more propitious moment and did not wish to bear the tag of ‘loser’, as he might have been in the vote among Tory MPs, and almost certainly at the next general election. What is certain, though, is that he came under huge pressure from large sections of the capitalist class not to act so irresponsibly and finally destroy what was once the most successful capitalist party on the planet.
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The Socialist Party’s annual Socialism weekend in November included a session on the cost-of-living Enough is Enough! campaign launched this summer. Published below is an edited version of the contribution to the discussion made by CLIVE HEEMSKERK, a Socialist Party executive committee member and the national election agent of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
When the agenda was being discussed for this year’s Socialism event the answer to the question posed in the title of this session – ‘Is Enough is Enough enough?’ – was potentially more open than it is today.
The national strike action, in particular that on the railways by the RMT transport workers’ union which began in June – followed by the national strikes by the Communications Workers Union (CWU) in BT and Royal Mail in July and August – touched the consciousness of millions of workers, in Britain and also internationally.
The capitalist establishment politicians and their media, led by the ‘state-affiliated’ broadcaster the BBC, didn’t know how to deal with the biggest strikes by the RMT since the union’s formation in 1990. They veered from questioning how ‘impactful’ they were, often reporting from an empty station platform as they did so, to implying that ‘selfish’ union members were ‘holding the country to ransom’.
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Faced with the UK Supreme Court ruling against a referendum organised by the Scottish parliament, and a new round of ‘eye-watering’ austerity unresisted by the Scottish National Party and Green Party government in Holyrood, the struggle for Scottish independence can only succeed as a mass movement against capitalism and its consequences, argues PHILIP STOTT.
The Scottish government’s latest policy paper in the ‘Building a New Scotland’ series was unveiled in October. Titled A Stronger Economy with Independence, the policy paper was signed off by the Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership but also the Scottish Green Party ministers.
In truth, it is a reheated reprise of the 2018 report published by the Sustainable Growth Commission, set up by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to make recommendations on economic policy for an independent Scotland. Socialist Party Scotland described that document as “nothing more than a tired old case for capitalism, which also marks a shift rightwards compared even to the 2014 independence blueprint. As such it offers nothing for the working class and young people facing austerity, falling incomes and deteriorating public services”.
Against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating economic crisis this updated manifesto for capitalist independence – and that’s exactly what it wants to be – is utterly deficient. It cannot possibly resolve the multi-faceted crises facing capitalism, including in Scotland. Not least because it is predicated on maintaining the same profit-driven system untouched.
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The Scottish Green Party operates a de facto coalition with the SNP at Holyrood. There was much made about the historic agreement that, in August 2021, saw Greens take up government roles for the first time in any of the UK legislatures.
The deal does allow for public disagreement between the parties but only around issues such as aviation policy, green ports, direct financial support to aerospace, defence and security businesses, field sports and the economic principles related to concepts of sustainable growth and inclusive growth.
Basically it means that the two Green Scottish ministers agree to support the government budgets, including its recent slashing by £1.2 billion. Many will ask: what difference have the Greens made to the fundamental positions taken on opposing austerity and the fight against the cost-of-living crisis?
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Continuing our Introduction to Marxism series, CHRISTINE THOMAS looks at the roots of women’s oppression and explains how socialism offers real choice and liberation for women.
According to the World Economic Forum on present trends it would take 132 years to achieve gender parity globally. Around the world, women are more likely to experience low pay and suffer from poverty, and they carry out the majority of childcare and domestic work. Violence against women, sexual harassment and sexism continue unabated. Why is this still the case and what can be done about it? How can we end gender inequality and oppression?
For Marxists, women’s oppression is a class issue. This doesn’t mean that only working-class women suffer from oppression. Clearly that’s not the case. They are especially economically disadvantaged, but when it comes to violence against women, attacks on reproductive rights, sexual harassment and sexism, these affect all women regardless of their class background, although class, ethnicity, etc, will impact on how they experience that oppression.
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Sir Keir Starmer’s leader’s speech at this year’s Labour Party conference “was more John McDonnell than Tony Blair”, the former shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn told the fringe meeting organised at the Liverpool gathering by the Socialist Campaign Group of left Labour MPs.
“It demonstrated just what you have done throughout our movement” McDonnell said, praising the dwindling minority of left-wingers remaining within Starmer’s new New Labour party. “By sticking around, you’ve forced our ideas onto the agenda again” he claimed, “so even the Blairites have to accept them”. (BBC News, 28 September)
Others joined in, pointing to the conference votes for a £15 an hour minimum wage and at least inflation-linked pay rises; a “commitment to a publicly-owned railway” proposed by the ASLEF train drivers’ union; and the resolution – moved by the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) general secretary Dave Ward as the bitter dispute of the postal workers raged on – that “the next Labour government will bring Royal Mail back into public ownership”.
Describing policy announcements such as Starmer’s plan for a state-owned Great British Energy company as “genuinely transformative” and a “victory for the left”, the Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome appealed to “those with power in our party” to recognise that “the left are not the enemy, we are the future”.
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The ‘don’t stand against Labour’ argument is back, as the prospect of a general election looms. Here we reprint, in shortened form, an article written by CLIVE HEEMSKERK and first published in The Socialist No.840, 21 January 2015, which shows how these issues were dealt with under Ed Miliband’s Labour leadership in the run-up to the general election and local council contests in May 2015.
“A great many voters will be rightly angry on 8 May”, wrote Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee in her New Year’s Eve assessment of politics in 2015, because they felt obliged to “chose the least worst of two parties from which they feel increasingly alienated”.
But, she went on, there is no alternative to voting Labour on May 7 because “another five years of the Conservatives” would set “an irreversible seal” on the government’s policies. Obeying “the tactical diktats of the two-party game” is an “iron rule” and those backing anyone else will have “wasted their vote”.
As polling day gets nearer this argument will be repeated again and again. And not just in the pages of The Guardian which, with one or two maverick exceptions, is a house-journal of ‘austerity Labour’. Many trade union leaders also do not want to answer this profoundly pessimistic idea.
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An anti-war movement could be one of the routes to a new political voice for the working class, under the Tories or a Starmer government. But only if the lessons from both past movements and the current war in Ukraine are fully absorbed, argues HANNAH SELL.
Eight months ago the world woke up to the news of Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Since then, in addition to the horrendous consequences for the peoples of Ukraine, and for the Russian soldiers dying on its battlefields, the war has had repercussions for the whole world. It is contributing to increases in food and energy prices, and the looming world recession. It has also ramped up global tensions. Fears of it leading to military escalation and even the use of a nuclear weapon have grown.
Like most countries, however, Britain has yet to see the resurgence of mass anti-war protests. This does not mean that the war is unimportant to people. For example, a YouGov poll in June showed that 74% of people were ‘worried’ about the Russia/Ukraine situation. The same poll showed that there was majority support for the British government continuing its current policy by ‘sending additional weaponry and supplies to Ukraine’. However, a different poll, conducted by IPSOS in October, showed a much more sceptical attitude among young people, with only 45% of 16-34 year olds supporting the British government’s backing of Ukraine.
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As delegates assemble for the COP27 UN summit in Egypt MATT DOBSON argues that capitalism is unable to solve the climate crisis, and examines what needs to be done to secure a future for humanity on our planet.
Three decades of international climate summits and capitalism has failed to get to grips with the climate crisis. All the fundamental problems remain and are worsening. Carbon emissions are rising, as are temperatures, with climate scientists warning that the planet will reach a tipping point if temperatures rise by more than 1.5 degrees centigrade.
Extreme weather events are increasingly common – droughts, heatwaves, flooding and wildfires. Climate change is forcing more and more people to migrate away from uninhabitable conditions that can’t deliver the basic needs of life.
Economic and geopolitical crisis after crisis also threatens to escalate the situation. Faced with energy shortages due to the Ukraine war, major capitalist powers in Europe have reopened oil and gas fields and increased carbon-based production.
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Sozialistische Organisation Solidaritaet, the German section of the CWI, is publishing a new edition of the influential book, The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner, first printed in 1986. Below is the introduction to the new edition, written by CHRISTINE THOMAS.
The Creation of Patriarchy is a useful contribution to the discussion about women’s oppression historically and today. Although Gerda Lerner says very little on the strategies that will be needed to fight against oppression in all its forms, a major weakness in the book, she nevertheless provides valuable historical information to aid that struggle, especially for socialist feminists who see oppression rooted in economic and material change.
The general thrust of her argument, in line with the analysis in Friedrich Engels’ book, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, is that women’s oppression has not existed for all time but is the consequence of historical processes. And if historical processes can bring about women’s oppression, they can also lay the basis for its elimination. For women, and working-class women in particular, struggling with low pay and cuts to public services, suffering violence, harassment and sexism on a regular basis, knowing that it’s not your fault, that it hasn’t always been like this, can in itself be liberating – the starting point for getting organised to fight back and change the conditions that perpetuate inequality, gender violence, sexism and oppression.
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