The disastrous election of a majority Tory government requires the socialist left to get its act together. As David Cameron’s cabinet of attack dogs moves on to the offensive we will need a real fightback.
There will be wave after wave of assaults on the NHS, on the most basic trade union rights and on welfare.
The Tories will seek to divide resistance by intensifying racist scapegoating and the demonisation of Muslims. They will launch even more attacks on women, on young people and disabled people.
They will abandon all pretence that they are taking urgent action over climate change. And they will seek to abolish the Human Rights Act.
There will be sharp constitutional questions and attempts to mobilise English nationalism. We need defiant opposition.
There was an upsurge of protests and strikes soon after the election of Tory governments in 1970, 1983, 1992 and 2010. We need a fight now—and to organise to prevent it being derailed by the union leaders.
Everyone on the left must unite in the struggles to defend union rights, save the NHS, win decent pay and secure jobs, combat racism and halt climate change.
We should all build the People’s Assembly demonstration on 20 June and similar events.
And we will also need to continue the battle against Ukip. Nigel Farage is not an MP—and that’s worth celebrating. It is a tribute to the work of Stand Up to Ukip and others. Campaigning works.
But Ukip did take 3.9 million votes, won an extra 174 councillors, control Thanet council and came second in 120 parliamentary seats.
With a referendum on the EU coming possibly as soon as 2016, Ukip will seek to intensify its racist and anti working class poison.
We need struggle on many fronts, but on its own this leaves a political gap.
The election demonstrated Labour’s failures and its continuing crisis. Labour lost the election because it was too right wing, not because it was too left wing.
Its uninspiring message—and the years of retreats by Labour and most union leaders before it— created the conditions in which the Tories’ won seats.
In contrast the Scottish National Party (SNP) won a stunning success by speaking to the left of Labour over austerity and Trident.
It gave hope and, sustained by the great Yes movement in the referendum, mobilised an army of supporters to sweep aside the Tories and Labour.
The SNP will now be tested further on its anti-austerity credentials—a test it has failed when it has obtained office at local or national level in Scotland.
The achievement of the Green Party in winning over a million votes demonstrates the thirst for an anti-austerity force.
But the party’s record in office shows it is not the sort of class based socialist alternative we need.
Ed Miliband saw his poll ratings rise when he offered some hope of change. But the glimmers of class politics were battered aside by the clunking fist of financial “iron discipline”, “not a penny more” of borrowing, and “cuts in the deficit every year”.
Labour’s leaders disgracefully blamed migrants for falling living standards. Ludicrously, they ended up attacking Cameron for “unfunded promises” to spend more on the NHS.
Instead of dealing with the problem, many now want to make it worse. So far, the majority trend inside Labour is to push for even more moves rightwards. Peter Mandelson bemoans the party’s “incredibly unhealthy” relationship with the unions.
One after another, Labour figures say the party has forgotten “aspiration”.
Working class people aspire to a home, to a job, to a living wage, to a free NHS, to a future for their children and freedom from racism.
Such things are not secured by “shopping at John Lewis”. They are won through collective organisation, and class struggle.
We stand with those who are seeking to push Labour leftwards. But we believe it is a dead end.
This is a time of turmoil. Bold moves are needed. We believe there is a basis for the left forming electoral coalitions and working together to build a stronger socialist alternative.
It should be possible for all of us on the left to group together in a single electoral coalition.
Next year will see important elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the London Assembly (including the mayor) and many English local authorities.
We—along with the Socialist Party, the RMT union and independent socialists—are part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
But we would like to involve other forces and be part of something broader.
We are pleased that seven out of the ten parliamentary candidates put forward by Left Unity at the general election were joint with TUSC. We want to build on that with more joint candidates.
If the left gets its act together then there are thousands of activists outside the existing organisations who could be part of a new movement.
We call on the different formations of the left to meet, as a matter of urgency, in order to hammer out a basis for practical unity in offering an electoral alternative to the Labour Party.
A basis of unity can be achieved, we believe, without particular political tendencies having to give up their identities or principles.
It should be possible to unite around a simple platform embracing:
- Opposition to austerity – no cuts in the welfare state and restoration of the cuts made since the start of the crisis
- Opposition to racism, Islamophobia, and fascism – no scapegoating of migrants
- Opposition to sexism and homophobia – support for women’s liberation and for the struggle of all oppressed groups to emancipate themselves
- Opposition to imperialism and war – against the expansion of NATO and the West’s war drive in the Middle East
- Support for all workers’ struggles and for the defence and strengthening of trade union organisation and rights
- Support for young peoples’ right to free education, affordable housing and a living wage
- Support for socialism as the progressive and democratic alternative to a capitalism mired in crisis
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