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Editorial of the Socialist, issue 899
Defeats and u-turns show Tories are weak
Together we can defeat them!
We are in a war against this Tory austerity government. Ranged behind it are the bosses, Rich Listers, privateers, banksters, exploiters and hedge funds. On our side are the majority of people, the working class, young people, junior doctors, teachers, steel workers, disabled people and all suffering under this pro-1% government.
The first task in a war is to assess the strength on both sides. On any account the Tories are weak. Elected with the support of less than one in four eligible voters with a small majority of 12, since last June they have suffered a whole number of defeats.
The government has had to backtrack on its refusal to act on the steel industry, under pressure committing to a public stake. We demand 100% nationalisation.
On its budget announcement to make all schools into academies, it is considering offering councils some control. We say no education privatisation.
The Tories retreated on changes to union dues payments amid the attacks in the vicious anti-Trade Union Bill - let's now fight to defend trade unions. The Tories were forced to retreat on tax credits - we want an end to austerity. And 16 defeats have been inflicted on the Housing Bill - but we need investment in council housing and rent control.
As well as being weak the Tories are also divided. Their divisions do not arise from any deep-running differences on austerity - on that they agree whole-heartedly.
The immediate reason is the European Union referendum which Cameron was initially forced to call in an attempt to cut across the magnetic pull exerted on his backbenches by Ukip. The party is split down the middle.
As Ken Clarke pointed out, Cameron would not last 30 seconds if the government is defeated. A defeat for Cameron and Remain would see him forced to resign and a general election could be called.
Ultimately the Tory party is being torn apart because the system it defends, capitalism, is in crisis and capitalist parties cannot rule in the old way. Across the world, the capitalist parties' inability to provide any solutions to the problems facing the majority of people - including unaffordable housing, low pay, environmental destruction and war - makes them enormously unpopular and therefore unstable.
While the government has not yet faced a mass movement on these issues it has glimpsed the opposition. In the Times, a Tory "rebel" described the forced academisation of schools "as a 'f****** poison' that could see parents camped outside popular council-run schools in protest while Tory councils have described the policy as wrong and bonkers." It's estimated that the rebellion could rise to 40 as MPs feel the heat in their constituencies.
A weak and divided enemy is an advantage but not a guarantee of victory. To drive home that advantage requires organisation and leadership on our side.
Without doubt there is support for the idea of getting the Tories out. It stems from the mostly subterranean mass opposition to austerity, the disgust at the Panama revelations, anger at inequality and no trust in the Tories to solve any of our problems.
The 18-million strong anti-Poll Tax movement toppled Thatcher. Without doubt an organised movement today could not only push Cameron out but also force a general election.
There are many indications of the mood for action - from the strikes of the junior doctors to the support of the steel workers for the demand for nationalisation, from the Kent school students striking against the closure of their school to library campaigners, to the unanimous vote at NUS conference for a national campaign and demonstration against fees, and so on with campaigns and protests on local, regional and national scales.
The first step should be coordinating strike action of all those workers with ongoing disputes. Among them there is support for the idea of a 24-hour general strike which would reveal clearly how isolated the Tories are and the mass nature of the opposition to austerity.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader also reflected the rejection of the representatives of the 1%. But Labour still contains a majority of MPs and councillors who do not oppose Tory austerity. While Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have been upfront in their support for the junior doctors' strike, Shadow Foreign Secretary Hillary Benn has been one of the voices from the Labour front bench saying Labour would not and should not be on the picket lines.
We need a party that stands on the side of working class people. If Labour is to play that role it means Corbyn leading a fight to remove Benn and all those who take the side of the Tories and the bosses against working class people. An unapologetically no-cuts and pro-working class party would win the support of millions and strengthen the movement to get the Tories out.
The Socialist Party is standing candidates as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition against cuts-making councillors in May's local elections. See www.tusc.org.uk
In The Socialist 27 April 2016:
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