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Labour in, then continue the resistance

Rather than ending the current strike wave and endorsing Blairite neoliberalism instead, calling for a general election now and a getting a Labour government in would put the workers’ movement in a better position to leverage our power, argues HELEN O’CONNOR

THE survival of the Tories, the most successful political party in history, hangs in the balance, as capitalism plunges further into a worldwide crisis.  

The current economic turmoil looks as if it will be worse than the 2008 crash, but working-class people will be expected to pay for this one too. We can only successfully resist the onslaught of attacks on our class by unifying right across the breath of our entire movement and by making the correct demands.  

The demand for a general election is vital in this period because a weak and divided Conservative Party gives us a golden opportunity to press home the advantage for our class.

Billionaire Rishi Sunak has been installed in No 10 to serve the interests of his class, but the Tories’ attempt to side step a general election by swapping out their leaders like changing overcoats is putting them in dangerous territory. Any notion that we live in a democratic country is now on shaky ground and people will start to question why they are excluded from having a say in who is running the country.  

And who are these “markets” who brought down the mini-budget and the Truss government? They are people with names, the real leaders of this rigged and undemocratic system — the bankers, the City of London and the rest of the capitalist class who are making a political choice to enrich themselves beyond our wildest dreams and at our expense.

Previous generations of working-class people fought hard for their right to get rid of governments that failed them via the ballot box. They fought on the industrial front and they recognised the importance of having their political voice too.  

Forcing a general election which the Tories clearly wish to avoid would send a message to all politicians that they are answerable to the people. It would serve as a very serious warning to any government that the working class in this country is no longer prepared to put up with cuts, privatisation, attacks on our living standards and wars.

For the past 12 years the Tories have been waging unremitting class war — and having elected Sunak they will now ramp up attacks especially on public services and on trade unions. If they succeed in delaying a general election the Tories will hold onto their 80-seat majority and retain untrammelled power to drive through legislation designed to crush the NHS and public services.

The Starmer-led Labour Party is intent on pursuing pro-market policies in government, including cuts and privatisation, but it is also true that millions of working-class people will vote Labour to get the Tories out.

Those who are disheartened by the treatment of the Labour left during the Jeremy Corbyn period are arguing that to call for a general election will simply lead to a rerun of the Tony Blair years with resultant apathy and disillusionment in politics.  

The left has been dealt a heavy blow inside the Labour Party, but the current strike wave sweeping through Britain is a strong signal of a building tide of anger amongst working-class people that should not be ignored or disregarded.  

The growing wave of industrial militancy led by the RMT and the CWU will grow even further in the next period because working-class people have had enough of seeing ever-diminishing returns in spite of working harder and longer than ever before.

A Labour government will be one of crisis from day one, and an increasingly militant working class will challenge their relationship with the profiteers. Working-class people have had enough of austerity and finding themselves shut of the NHS and the public services we are entitled to receive. They will fight on their picket lines and in their communities.

Workers and the public have lived through the impact of the privatisation of the NHS and public services and what this means for workers’ rights, quality of services and accessibility. They won’t buy the same old lines trotted out by Tony Blair that private is good and public is bad.  

Workers know, far better than politicians do, that privatisation is little more than the organised, legalised theft of workers’ rights and public services. Ask any outsourced worker if they think that there is any form of “good privatisation” that offers “social value” and you will see what answer you get.  

These workers will regale you with their lived experiences of being worked to the bone, bullied and harassed, having their dignity undermined and not being paid on time or at all for work done. The word slavery is often used by the migrant workers toiling for private providers for a pittance, day in and day out.  

There is nothing incompatible about demanding a general election while building resistance on the picket lines and on the streets. They are not different strategies antagonistic to one another, they are different elements of the same strategy — to get rid of the Tories.  

We get the Tories out and we don’t stop organising, campaigning and fighting until our demands are met. Things don’t have to be this way. There is money in society and enough for everyone to have a decent life, to thrive and to develop to our fullest potential.  

It’s the economic and political system that is failing working-class people and the task of the labour and trade union movement is to show them what the alternative is — and that alternative can only be a socialist alternative.

Helen O’Connor is GMB Southern regional organiser — Twitter @HelenOConnorNHS.


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