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- Editorial of the Socialist issue 1062
Anti-austerity, socialist policies can be a winning formula
As the parliamentary Brexit crisis drags on, the already deep distrust of capitalist politicians is being further undermined. Johnson is straining every nerve in order to get a general election. In the process he is revealing how the capitalist class are prepared to bend, break or change their own rules whenever it suits them.
The Fixed Term Parliament Act was an undemocratic device cooked up by a previous Tory prime minister, David Cameron, in order to try and strengthen his weak coalition government. Now, heading a government so weak it cannot govern, Johnson has no hesitation in changing the law introduced by his predecessor in order to suit his interests.
Contrast that with the treatment meted out by the courts to groups of workers who, despite having an overwhelming majority for strike action, are banned from striking if the numbers who voted in the ballot are even one below the legal threshold.
As the Socialist goes to press it seems as if Johnson could succeed in getting an election before Christmas. The task of the workers' movement is to fight to ensure he doesn't succeed in winning it.
Johnson's strategy is very high-risk. Despite his spurious claims to have ended austerity, millions of working-class people can only see a continuation of the misery imposed by successive Tory governments for almost a decade. And despite his attempt to mobilise Brexit supporters by promising 'to get Brexit done' or 'die in a ditch', he has done neither!
In a general election the Tories are likely to lose both Remain votes to the Lib Dems (19 of their 20 target seats are Tory) and pro-Brexit votes to the Brexit Party. The election result is therefore very unpredictable. But the most important factor will be the kind of campaign that Jeremy Corbyn runs.
Corbyn is being attacked from all sides. Not least from the pro-capitalist wing of his own party. Even the arch-Blairite Peter Mandelson was forced to recognise, however, that Corbyn's policies are popular.
Right now those policies are being largely drowned out by the noise of the Westminster bubble. Corbyn and the Labour lefts bear a big share of the responsibility for this. Their endless attempts to compromise with the pro-capitalist Labour MPs have - as we warned - done nothing to stop the Blairities trying to undermine Corbyn. Instead, it has resulted in his anti-austerity message becoming almost inaudible.
As the 2017 snap election showed, a general election is an opportunity to change all this. If Corbyn comes out fighting with a socialist programme he can mobilise massive popular support. Calling for the immediate nationalisation of Royal Mail, for example, will be extremely popular with the postal workers who have just voted in big numbers to strike.
A pledge to kick all the profiteers out of the NHS - in contrast to Johnson's willingness to open it up to US capitalism - would be popular with the vast majority of the population.
In the last election, Labour's manifesto pledged to abolish tuition fees; if this was repeated and expanded on - with a promise to write off all student debt - it would enthuse millions of students and graduates. Mass council house building, nationalisation of the energy companies, an immediate minimum wage of £10 an hour for all, along with abolition of zero-hour contracts - a programme of these demands and more could electrify Britain.
On Brexit, Corbyn needs to pledge to renegotiate it in the interests of the working class - refusing to accept the EU's pro-privatisation, pro-austerity laws. He would then be able to argue clearly in favour of his deal in any confirmatory referendum.
This programme should be combined with nationalisation of the major corporations and banks, to really take the levers of power out of the hands of the capitalist saboteurs that would otherwise do all in their power to prevent the implementation of pro-working class policies.
In the run up to the 2017 election, the Socialist Party argued that Corbyn could win if he fought on a socialist programme. At the start of the election campaign few believed us. While Corbyn didn't win, however, he gained 3.5 million extra votes - the biggest increase for any party in a general election since 1945. This clearly demonstrated that it was possible to kick the Tories out, provided Labour did not stand on an 'austerity-lite' Blairite manifesto but put forward policies in the interests of the working class.
In the coming weeks, or at most months, the workers' movement will have another chance to get the Tories - who have driven millions into dire poverty - out of office.
In The Socialist 30 October 2019:
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