General Election: break with Labour now

After weeks of electioneering, following an outcome that surprised even the pollsters and that left three party leaders dead in the water, working class people in Britain are now confronted by exactly the same questions about the future that they faced at the start. Regardless of who has topped the polls and whose career has ended, none of the leading parties was willing or able to represent the interests of the working class and the poor. The electoral game was fashioned to provide only one outcome: a government to serve the interests of British imperialism while perpetuating the illusion that we live in a democracy which is capable of benefiting the working class. No political party would be allowed to take power that did not defend the interests of British imperialism and the City of London. The media set the parameters of debate, and ensured that they governed all the hours of phoney interviews with politicians on radio and television. That is why we called for no vote at this pantomime election.

Five more years of unbridled war on the working class will be the inevitable consequence of the 2015 General Election. The Conservative Party will form a majority government winning 331 out of 650 parliamentary seats. Predictions that Labour leader Ed Miliband might head a coalition government died as key marginal constituencies in the Midlands swung to the Conservatives rather than Labour. In Scotland, the results were even more catastrophic for Labour as the Scottish National Party (SNP) captured all bar one of their seats with swings of 20% and 30% and more, winning 56 out of 59 constituencies. The LibDems reaped the consequences of their gross opportunism, losing 48 seats and ending up with a mere eight MPs. Although Labour was able to gain seven seats in London mainly at the expense of the LibDems, this was a weak result: it was unable to defeat the Tory incumbent in Battersea despite a huge pre-election effort.

There were one or two significant Tory losses: Esther McVey, architect of the bedroom tax and virulent defender of benefit sanctions, was defeated in Wirral West. However, it was the LibDems who suffered the most punishment in England: former Business Secretary Vince Cable and Justice Minister Simon Hughes were among the most prominent losers. For Labour the casualty list was a long one. In Scotland, Scottish Labour leader and arch-imperialist Jim Murphy was ignominiously defeated at the hands of the SNP along with Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and a raft of other Scottish Labour stalwarts who reaped the consequences of their contemptuous dismissal of the concerns of the Scottish working class during the referendum campaign in 2014. Labour’s most serious loss was of its Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls who consistently promised that Labour in power would vigorously protect the interests of City bankers and wield the whip on public spending on behalf of the ruling class.

The Conservatives were elected despite their failure to solve Britain’s economic crisis even with a vicious austerity programme aimed at the weakest and most vulnerable sections of the working class. They are now offering more of the same: savage cuts in welfare spending and on local government services, repeal of the Human Rights Act, more drastic anti-trade union legislation, massive attacks on housing and working conditions, more health service privatisation, and so on.

This has been possible because the Labour Party committed itself to austerity and the interests of the ruling class. Labour was first and foremost intent on reducing the public spending deficit: being austerity-lite meant that it could not offer anything more than a handful of crumbs to the working class. Early on in the election campaign Shadow Secretary Rachel Reeves contemptuously rejected the plight of the poorest sections of the working class: ‘We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those out of work.’ Labour was not going to fight on behalf of the working class and did not deserve their votes. Years of failure by the trade union leadership to challenge austerity or Labour’s supine betrayal meant that millions were without representation at this election. Unite the Union General Secretary Len McCluskey’s promise that Miliband was advancing an increasingly radical programme convinced very few.

The rabid billionaire press attacks on the Labour Party and Ed Miliband are not sufficient to explain its defeat. The attacks on SNP and its leader Nicola Sturgeon had been equally vitriolic, yet it is evident that the Scottish working class voted SNP in huge numbers in a positive rejection of austerity and its main advocate in Scotland, the Labour Party. The Scottish working class will now have to test the SNP’s commitment to an anti-imperialist, anti-austerity future: it has so far failed to issue a real challenge to British imperialism, favouring instead joint rule with the Labour Party. But if there is one positive outcome of this general election, it is the destruction of the Scottish Labour Party which was always ready to stand in the way of progress.

The ruling class will be content for its interests to be defended by a Tory government, and will be prepared to put up with the political and economic instability that will accompany the EU membership referendum to which the Tories are committed. Above all the ruling class has gained confidence from the absence of any serious working class resistance to the savage attacks of the last five years.

Labour politicians have constantly told us ‘wait till we get another Labour government’. This was the call of the Labour supporters who brought Tony Blair to power in 1997 and continued to cover up Labour’s imperialist, anti-working class role for the next 13 years. It is beyond the time when we should put an end to these illusions. There was never a short cut to defeating austerity and imperialism through the ballot box. Britain needs a socialist movement; one that is built from working class resistance. It cannot be built through the Labour Party but over its dead body. It cannot be built through the trade unions: the threads that tie them to the Labour Party mean they will undermine any struggle that poses a real challenge to the ruling class. Break with Labour now! Bury its opportunist corpse and begin the real fight back.

 

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