As another year draws to a close, the outlook for the working class seems increasingly gloomy.
The idea that each generation’s prospects will be better than the last has evaporated. Sixty years ago, the then Tory prime minister Harold MacMillan boasted that Britons had never had it so good. Today, we have never had it so bad.
“It is too fatalistic to say that we are now in an era when things can only get worse,” states the Financial Times, the mouthpiece of British bankers. “But it is simple realism to understand that the strongest trends in world affairs are malign and gathering momentum.”
It is the same in Britain. According to the ONS, after rising by 23% in the eight years to 2008, average UK wages (adjusted for inflation) fell by 5% in the following eight years. And those at the lower end have suffered far more, experiencing the biggest decline in real wages since Napoleonic times.
For people living in England’s most deprived areas, average life expectancy fell between the periods 2011-13 and 2018-20 – by eight months for women and five months for men.
A quarter of UK households essentially have no savings. They have no safety net. The services that councils provide are being torn apart by austerity. Many local authorities are warning of financial collapse, with a growing number declaring themselves bankrupt.
Catastrophe for workers
Apparently, we are not officially in a ‘recession’. But for millions of workers and their families, the last 15 years have felt like a permanent slump. We are rapidly going backwards.
“We are back in a world in which the electorate knows there is no money,” says David Gauke, a former Tory Treasury minister.
In other words, we are facing years and decades of deep cuts, attacks, and falling living standards.
Compared to its rivals, British capitalism is falling further and further behind. Business investment has collapsed. According to the latest quarterly survey of the CBI, the bosses’ union, 88% of businesses have no plans to invest. And without investment there can be no real recovery.
“Meanwhile,” notes the FT, “Slovenia’s GDP per capita is on course to overtake the UK’s within a few years, followed not long after by Poland.”
This dire situation means a catastrophe for the working class.
The idea that a Starmer Labour government will come to the rescue is a sick joke. This admirer of Margaret Thatcher will preside over a massive attack on the working class.
“Anyone who expects an incoming Labour government to quickly turn on the spending taps is going to be disappointed,” stated Starmer bluntly in a recent speech.
Faced with crumbling hospitals and schools, Labour leaders will say that ‘unfortunately’ the cupboard is bare.
Starmer says he intends to boost economic growth. But they all say that. Faced with a deepening crisis of capitalism, Starmer will be guided by the laws of the market and the diktats of the bankers.
As always, the bosses will demand that the working class make sacrifices to put the sickly system back on its feet. And Starmer will willingly oblige.
The working class will very quickly see through a future big business Starmer government, which will be even more unpopular than the present Tory administration. ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer, this establishment flunkey, will be rapidly exposed.
The last year’s strike wave represented an awakening of the class struggle in Britain. After this, to think that the working class will swallow Starmer’s bitter medicine is a fantasy.
A period of stormy class battles lies ahead. There is an enormous accumulation of anger and bitterness in society. Workers are being forced to sacrifice, while the rich have never been richer. There is a feeling ‘enough is enough’.
The working class in Britain is facing a disaster. The only way out is to overthrow the decrepit capitalist system, which threatens to drag us all down with it.
Reformism vs revolution
The Labour ‘left’, however, is only capable of offering a mealy-mouthed response. Momentum described Starmer’s recent remarks, for example, as “a shift to the right and a failure of Labour values”. And it went on to say that his “praise of her [Thatcher] isn’t smart politics.”
Starmer isn’t motivated by “smart politics”, but by appeasing the establishment.
The “Labour values” these lefts preach are simply an attempt to patch up capitalism; to make it nicer and kinder. This is the programme of left reformism, not of revolutionary change.
The ‘lefts’ do not believe in a root and branch solution. Instead, they prefer to tinker around the edges, leaving capitalism intact.
They criticise Starmer now. But when the Marxists pushed to remove him through a campaign of no confidence in 2021, they all ran a mile. This reflects their political softness – a general characteristic of left reformism.
Revolutionary Communist Party
The same can be seen in the so-called Communist Party of Britain (CPB), which also bases itself upon the continuation of capitalism.
“The TUC and the wider trade union movement should be pressing for public ownership and defending the best elements of Labour’s manifestos of 2017 and 2019,” states an editorial in the Morning Star, paper of the CPB. “Alongside all utilities being taken back into public ownership, funds for the private sector should be dependent on binding investment agreements policed by trade union board members.”
In other words, rather than take over the giant monopolies, banks, and insurance companies that dominate the economy, the CPB only wants to renationalise the privatised utilities, then fund the capitalist economy through “investment agreements” with big business.
They fail to point out that the capitalist economy – as well as being in crisis – only operates on the basis of profit.
They criticise ‘neoliberalism’, as if there is a better alternative under capitalism. Whatever policy a future Labour government pursues, it will be the markets that decide, as Liz Truss found out the hard way.
There is no middle path. The only correct communist policy is for the expropriation of the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy, without compensation, allowing production to be planned under democratic workers’ control and management.
If you agree with this revolutionary road, and want to organise to smash capitalism, then join us in fighting for such a programme. And help us in the launch of The Communist and the Revolutionary Communist Party next year.