The situation that now faces the Tory government resembles an episode of Game of Thrones. The intrigues are numerous, as are the characters who scheme and plot in the shadows. Without any allies, the authority of the House of May is being drained with each passing day. And Winter is Coming - or at least the dreaded Tory Party conference in October. But this is no television fantasy.
The Tory government is in a deep crisis. Every time Theresa May opens her mouth she puts her foot in it. On her recent trip to Japan, when journalists asked about her political future, she bristled and said she was "not a quitter" and would be “here for the long term”, leading the Tories into the next general election. This immediately put the fat on the proverbial fire! The reaction was swift. “Frankly, that attitude may end up hastening her demise”, said one former minister.
Another Tory MP said that Mrs May was “harbouring delusions… She is weakened, she’s not a winner. Frankly, she is a disaster.”
Michael Heseltine, who was sacked as a government adviser over Brexit, told the BBC: “The long term is the difficult one for Theresa May because I don’t think she’s got a long term.”
As she staggers towards her doom, the Brexit negotiations are turning into an ugly mess. As negotiators throw insults at one another, Liam Fox denounces the “blackmail” of the EU leaders. Unable to agree on hardly anything, the poisoned atmosphere is pushing everything towards a “train-crash” Brexit, with no deal and the economy heading towards a slump. Big business is desperate to avoid this and is keen to promote a transitional arrangement. But they have lost control over events and Britain is on a very slippery slope.
The trade union leaders and now the Labour leadership are also desperate to stay in the Single Market. But this is no solution for the working class, any more than protectionism or free trade. The “market” stands for privatisation, flexibility of labour, cost-cutting and a race to the bottom. The Labour movement should stand on an independent class position. They should be advocating a socialist Britain, where the economy is owned and controlled by the working class, and then make an internationalist appeal to the workers of Europe to join them. We say: No to a bosses’ Europe! For a socialist Europe!
Clearly, the Tory government is on its last legs. There are open splits and divisions. It will not last until 2022. It may not last the next few months. We could be faced with a new general election quicker than many think.
With Labour rising in the opinion polls, Corbyn could form the next government. “If you’re angry with the government who would you go to?” asked Mr McCartney, the defeated Tory MP for Colne Valley. “Probably Corbyn. Because he’s angry as well.”
In Britain, as elsewhere, the mood of anger against the Establishment is ever present. The Financial Times, the mouthpiece of big business, had an interesting interview with a 40-something UKIP supporter in Colne Valley. ”The only two politicians I would vote for was Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn”, he said. “Why? Because I believe them.”
“The party system is not fit for purpose”, then paused. “Well, it is fit for purpose: to maintain the status quo.”
The Financial Times defined the attributes of the status quo as including the disastrous Iraq war, the parliamentary expenses scandal, the 2008 crisis and the years of austerity.
The mood in Britain is changing rapidly. There has been a sea-change even since the general election in June. There is a growing “them and us” feeling, reflecting a class hatred for those who are enriching themselves at everyone else’s expense.
Jeremy Corbyn is on the ascendency, including within his own party. Labour’s right wing is on the back foot. They have given up the idea of splitting the Party, at least for the moment. Despite this, the pressures for deselection will mount.
Obviously, big business is against Corbyn. They hate him and especially the radicalised millions who stand behind him. They are plotting to set up a Centre Party, made from pro-European Tories and Blairites. That is why the Blairites are a Fifth Column inside the Labour Party. But this project has temporarily stalled with the rise of Corbyn’s Labour.
Britain today, has elements of a pre-revolutionary crisis: a crisis of the regime, open splits in the ruling class, sharp changes in consciousness, chronic instability and a growing politicisation. Such a situation can last for years given the economic crisis in Britain and internationally.
We have to be frank. A Corbyn Labour government will face a grave economic situation, with a deepening crisis of capitalism and the debacle over Brexit. The realisation that the government cannot reform the system will become all too evident. In addition, big business will work to undermine and sabotage the Labour government, with a “strike of capital”.
To carry out its left-wing programme, Labour will need to stand up to big business. Furthermore, it will need to take emergency measures to deal with their sabotage. Before the war, Clement Attlee, Stafford Cripps and others at the top of the Labour Party spoke of the need for emergency measures or an “Enabling Act” to force through its programme. They wanted to abolish the House of Lords.
No way out under capitalism
The then Labour leader, Attlee, in his book “Labour Party in Perspective”, warned against the Party watering down its ideas. “It does not in my view involve watering down Labour’s Socialist creed in order to attract new adherents who cannot accept the full Socialist faith. On the contrary, I believe that it is only a clear and bold policy that will attract their support. It is not the preaching of a feeble kind of Liberalism that is required, but a frank statement of full Socialist faith in terms which will be understood.”
Labour should heed these words. In Britain, the top 150 monopolies own 78% of all productive assets. Together with the banks they control the entire economy. If we are to break the grip of big business and plan the economy in the interests of the majority, they will need to be taken over. Labour must be prepared to carry through a bold socialist programme but also to face up to the inevitable sabotage of big business and be ready to resist the forces of greed and profit by using the power of the working class.
While we look to the future, we must also learn the lessons of the past. There is no way out on the basis of capitalism for working people. This dog-eat-dog society must be done away with altogether. The power of the working class should be mobilised to carry this through. Events will transform and retransform the situation, pushing things further to the left. Under these conditions the ideas of Marxism can play a decisive role in arming the movement with clear ideas and a vision. That is what Socialist Appeal is fighting for. Join us.