General election: Don’t vote – fight for socialism!

Parliamentary road to socialism

In the run-up to the general election on 8 June, socialists will have to decide either to campaign in support of the Corbyn-led Labour Party, or to oppose it because it remains a racist, imperialist and war-mongering party. The Revolutionary Communist Group is clear: we are facing a global crisis of the capitalist system that is threatening humanity with war and destruction. It means that there is only one choice: we have to build a working class movement that can challenge the ruthless, predatory British ruling class. We have to fight for socialism. Corbyn and his supporters are actively preventing this development. They spread the illusion that a Labour government can make radical and progressive changes while in practice they divert or block resistance where it emerges.

Labour in power will have to satisfy the ruling class that it will protect Britain’s imperialist interests. To do this, it will continue the wholesale attack on working class living standards regardless of what Corbyn and his supporters might say they want. Our conclusion is that socialists should not participate in this parliamentary charade, or create fantasies that Labour in government can meet the needs of the working class. It has never done so in the past and will not do so now. We have to oppose the Labour Party and stand for the interests of the working class and oppressed throughout the world.

The general election comes just as the most savage cuts in state benefits have come into effect, and at a time when projections make clear that austerity will continue beyond 2020. The record of seven years of Tory rule is clear:

  • Average wages for full-time employees are still 12.6% below 2007 levels, and for 33 out of 169 occupations are more than 20% below. 80% of new jobs are precarious in nature and dependent on self-employment.
  • The NHS is approaching collapse while state education is undergoing complete fragmentation in the drive to create ‘free’ schools and grammar schools with massive handouts to private institutions.
  • Tory housing policy spells the end of social housing and is forcing working class people back into overcrowded private slum accommodation at higher and higher rents.
  • People with disabilities are suffering an average 20% cut in their benefits, Employment Support Allowance for many has been slashed by nearly 30%. Housing benefit eligibility has been restricted, and payments have been cut by the Overall Benefit Cap and the Bedroom Tax, threatening homelessness for hundreds of thousands.
  • Up to 3 million children risk going hungry during the school holidays, while the Trussell Trust reports record usage of food banks, issuing nearly 1.2 million people with three-day emergency food parcels in 2016/17.
  • Racism has been normalised through the creation of what May calls a ‘hostile environment’ for migrant workers and the clear intention to use the plight of three million EU residents as a bargaining tool in Brexit negotiations.
  • Internationally, Britain remains the most bellicose member of NATO calling for further sanctions on Russia and Syria. Tory foreign policy involves alliances with reactionary states like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel to sustain the interests of British imperialism.

Given this appalling record, defending the interests of the working class is clearly an urgent task. Yet at a time when millions are suffering the impact of austerity with hundreds of thousands forced to use food banks to survive, Labour has failed to oppose the ruling class:

  • It will not reverse benefits cuts because the right wing says this rewards ‘shirkers’ and ‘scroungers’.
  • Having led the way to privatisation of state provision under Blair’s government, Labour has failed to lead any fight to save NHS and free care provision. Crisis after crisis is justifying rationing without real opposition.
  • There has been no opposition to the systematic destruction and disintegration of state education through the introduction of selection and phoney ‘free’ schools. It was Labour that introduced university tuition fees that put higher education beyond the reach of poor families.
  • Labour councils, hand-in-glove with profiteering developers, have led the way in the destruction of social housing, forcing families into homelessness, socially cleansing parts of London and putting secure housing beyond the reach of working class families.
  • At the same time these Labour councils have slashed jobs and services on behalf of the Tory government while dishonestly pleading there is nothing they can do to resist. Women and disabled people have borne the brunt of these cuts while councillors continue to receive exorbitant expenses.
  • Labour has made no commitment to repeal the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, key to May’s ‘hostile environment’ for migrants: Labour candidates do not want to be seen as soft on immigration.
  • Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s recent suggestion that he regarded those earning £70-£80,000 annually as ‘rich’ drew outrage from Labour’s Progress group in a frank statement about whom they want to represent.
  • Corbyn will not commit to abandoning the Trident replacement or the imperialist NATO alliance since 80% of the Parliamentary Labour Party is against him.

In order to win the election, the Labour Party will have to secure the votes of the better-off sections of the working class and middle class, and its manifesto will be geared to this end. However, the material privileges of this layer can only be maintained at the expense of the mass of the working class, and the economic consequences of Brexit will only exacerbate this division. The interests of the mass of the working class will be abandoned to protect Labour’s electoral ambitions.

18 months ago, the left claimed that Corbyn’s election as Labour leader would transform the Labour Party and the fight against austerity. Nothing of substance has changed since then. In fact, under his watch, grassroots struggle against austerity has gone backwards. Corbyn’s principal aim has been to maintain Labour unity to ensure the party stays a parliamentary force, making concession after concession to the right wing – for instance allowing a free vote in parliament over bombing Syria or renewing Trident. Corbyn has capitulated to the racist ideology of Zionism, saying that he now 'admires' the settler-colonial nation of Israel. Together with McDonnell, Corbyn instructed Labour councils to set legal budgets for 2016/17, thereby authorising savage cuts in services and jobs. This year no such instruction was required since Labour Party rule changes at the September 2016 conference made it a disciplinary offence to oppose legal budgets. Labour remains what it always has been: a reactionary, anti-working class force.

Socialists and communists do not share the illusion that this deep unending crisis of capitalism and its effects can be resolved through parliament. We know that the only way forward is through independent working class organisation and the creation of a socialist, anti-racist and anti-imperialist movement which completely opposes the Labour Party and its allies. There are no short-cuts through parliament: such a movement has to be built on the streets and in working class communities. Join us in that struggle

Revolutionary Communist Group


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