How can a new Tory Prime Minister, Liz Truss, become so unpopular in a matter of weeks not only with workers and sections of the middle class but also with many Tory MPs (who fear for their seats) and those who rule this planet?
By International Socialist League (ISL) – Britain
Truss modelled herself on Margaret Thatcher, she loves the ‘free market’ and has close ties to the neoliberal Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute. The IMF and World Bank support that, but Truss expressed the naked greed of British finance capital – to get rich quickly and impoverish workers.
Her fiscal plan sent world markets into chaos, made mortgage holders worse off, and the value of the pound against the dollar fell to a historic low. UK pension funds had an enormous investment in bonds that very rapidly became worthless and the Bank of England had to buy billions of bonds otherwise the pension funds would have been wiped out.
Supply chains, inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the weakness of the British economy are undermining Truss’s ability to enrich the wealthy and attack the poor at the rate she wanted.
The IMF feared the turmoil spreading into other countries and a rising working class and strike wave. After more than 40 years of increasing anti-trade union laws and union bureaucracies that refused to fight, the British ruling class thought they had workers under control. But the rank-and-file anger over the cost of living crisis and low wages has pushed the unions into a strong strike wave.
Kwasi Kwarteng, Chancellor for barely a month was called back from meetings in the U.S. and sacked. He was immediately replaced with twice defeated Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt, known for his long tenure as Health Secretary in previous Cabinets.
Changing the attack
Hunt is planning drastic cuts in public spending and will fight inflation-linked wages. The strike wave has to keep building and go on to organise a general strike, it is the only way to stop their plans.
The Bank of England plans to hike interest rates yet further to ‘control’ inflation. So, the cost of borrowing and servicing debt is going to rocket.
The deepening class war is precisely why hundreds of thousands of workers are taking to the picket lines and the streets. Hunt is aiming to carry a new round of austerity, threatening all public services. Workers’ struggle helped to bring down Johnson, and it can bring down the Tory government.
TUC in retreat
While the strikes are rock solid across the country and determined to win, the TUC look away to dodging a unified coordinated strike movement. However, at the TUC congress in October, there are three motions calling for coordinated strike action.
The union rank and file must demand that their union leadership not only build coordinated action across the unions but discuss in their branches the need for a general strike. Union rank and file and branches need to build inter-union committees or use existing local trades councils to revive or create new links across workplaces and sectors.
To sectionalise the strike struggle and lay the basis to control it, union bureaucracies have created three campaigns, ‘Enough is Enough’ (EiE) led by Labour left MPs and the CWU postal workers leadership, ‘We Demand Better’ led by the TUC and Unite’s ‘Unite for a workers economy’.
The demands of EiE are for a ‘real pay rise’, slashing energy bills, ending food poverty, decent homes for all and taxing the rich. To win, the working class has to go forward and build coordinated strikes into a general strike. Each demand questions who controls the gas, oil, food and construction companies. But they need to go further and explain how these demands can be won. Taxing the rich to the full means challenging the ruling class and overturning those who dominate parliament in both the Tory and Labour Parties.
Not one of the union leaders or Labour Left MPs has called for a general strike and the idea of building a strike movement internationally is never even thought about.
There needs to be a fight for full union democracy that aims to prevent the control from the top, and there’s the need for inter-union rank-and-file organisations for a general strike so the class can act as one class and mobilise in the communities and oppressed. To achieve low-cost housing for all means a mass housing programme. This has to be fought for by the working class in their neighbourhoods and the unions, especially in the construction sector.
A dysfunctional world system
Inflation is an international phenomenon that comes out of the imbalances within world capitalism.
As the Financial Times has it,
“Confidence indicators have fallen sharply and are at all-time lows since the index began over a decade ago in countries including the US, UK and China. In emerging economies, which are more exposed to rising food and energy prices, confidence has fallen even more sharply. India is the world’s only large economy described as a “bright spot”, with strong indicators pointing to robust growth this year and next. The rest of the world’s major economies are struggling with mounting economic problems…” i
Rising inflation was not caused by wages, workers have had below-inflation increases or even wage freezes since 2010. However, “the major central banks are applying their own ‘shock therapy’ to the world economy, intent on driving up interest rates in order to control inflation, despite the growing evidence that this will lead to a global recession next year.” ii
The main policy of the imperialist leaders is to keep wages from rising and let unemployment rise. Millions of pounds of profit are paid to shareholders while the real value of workers’ wages has fallen for over a decade.
The workers and socialist response
The Tory Government in Britain spearheaded the world offensive against the working class and their organisations in the 1980s. Ideologically, it was the propagation of economic liberalism against Keynesianism, all forms of socialism, and workers’ struggles.
In an accelerating war for world markets, with an over-accumulation of capital and commodities, capitalist rulers carry out a frantic programme of reduction of costs of labour and increasing speed-up. They use workers in one country against those of another, workers in one sector against those in another sector, workers in one factory against those in others, and even workers in one factory who do the same job but are on different wages and conditions.
The amount paid to shareholders since privatisation runs into many billions of pounds, they have made their money at the expense of health and safety and workers’ wages and rights for many years.
For many years Labour and trade union bureaucrats entered into a joint class alliance with capitalist owners leaving rank-and-file militants to fight rear-guard actions without a national or an international strategy for problems which can only be solved by combining in a unified struggle nationally and internationally.
A socialist programme must start with class independence which means freedom to strike and an end to anti-trade union laws, nationalisation without compensation and under the control of workers via their own organisations.
The International Socialist League needs to be built into a revolutionary socialist party, that is part of a revolutionary International. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Labour Party came into being out of the demand for an independent political expression of the working class. Today it has been transformed into its opposite. But the demand by workers for an independent political party for their class has arisen inside the strike and anti-austerity struggle.
At the same time, workers and activists are being expelled or leaving the Labour Party. A new workers’ party is needed to bring together all the workers in the struggle now whether union militants or fighting in the neighbourhoods with all the oppressed and who do not trust and want to be independent of the existing TUC leaderships and Labour Party.
Such a party to succeed cannot be a reformist party whose main goal is to gain concessions through parliament or which seeks to develop leadership mainly through elections. It has to give an answer to the burning questions facing all those oppressed and exploited by capitalism.
The ISL would go into such a party based on the perspective of full workers’ democracy and fighting for a socialist programme. We would fight for a programme of workers’ control of production, health and education through work-based committees.
So we need to build both the International Socialist League and fight for a new workers’ party based on all the struggles taking place today.
Internationalism, a cornerstone of the socialist programme
The strikes have shown that internationalism is alive in the working class. Striking workers are receiving solidarity greetings from many continents and that reflects the desire of workers to fight internationally. This must be developed so that the struggles of workers, for example in France, Belgium and Italy who have organised wide national or general strikes can find a common bond and international struggle.
Workers such as the dock workers in Liverpool have begun their new struggle with an understanding that they stand on the shoulders of the astounding Liverpool docks struggle of 1995 to 1998 which built strong links internationally. Their struggle can only be won by linking with other workers, and combining in joint strikes while fighting internationally against the employers.
Build coordinated strikes!
Demand TUC to organise a general strike!
No real-term reduction in wages, benefits and pensions!
i https://www.ft.com/ ‘Confidence slumps around the globe as cost of living crisis bites’.