The working class and the youth will not be the beast of burden of the bosses as the deepening of the crisis threatens more budget and benefits cuts; zero-hour contract; no pay rises and increased precarity in work for the youth.
A new recession is threatening Europe and Britain will not be able to escape the next crisis due to the volatility of the world economy and due to the measures that British capitalism has taken to ‘secure’ their recovery which is creating an ever more privatized unstable economy.
David Cameron raised the danger of a third recession in Europe at the G20 summit. Stagnation and recession are permanent features of the 18-member euro zone, whose combined economy is larger than that of the United States. And this is already impacting on the British economy.
The global economy is in a worse state than it was in the initial period following the Wall Street crash of September 2008, partly because the so-called emerging economies, which have provided up to 80 percent of global expansion over the past six years, are slowing down rapidly.
Splits in the ruling class
The road out of the 2008 crisis is plagued by these multiple problems that are producing splits in the ruling class. This is because there is a fight to see which sector can appropriate the majority of the profits in such volatile times.
The Independence referendum in Scotland was a powerful expression of this, as the Scottish middle bourgeoisie fought for a bigger portion of the cake.
Another expression is the rise of UKIP. In general the left say that UKIP is an expression of fascism, but UKIP is first of all an expression of the bourgeois sectors’ dissatisfaction with their current share of profits and their need for more direct control of government to maintain their survival. UKIP is a representative of some of the most privileged sectors such as private equity, banks and oil.
UKIP is a far-right tendency of the polarisation of the class struggle between two antagonist poles: capitalists and the working class. They want to reduce even more the working class’ share of the national income as a way to give a larger share to the bourgeoisie.
However, their divisions make the bourgeoisie weaker. The old three party system is declining, and they are obliged to accept a new political partner, ending the division between Tory and Labour, with the Liberals wavering between them. For the first time since the First World War, when Labour established itself as the political expression of the working class, a new party, UKIP has emerged, which is an expression of the profound changes that have started in Britain.
The recent skirmishes of Cameron with the EU are just an expression of the deepening crisis in the Tory Party. Cameron’s speech at the G20 was a cry for help, because if the situation worsens in the months before the general election, they will lose.
The Liberals are considerably weakened and Labour, to date, are not willing to (or cannot) begin an open war on every front against the working class. They see what has happened in Spain, Portugal and Greece where social democracy has virtually disappeared and are afraid to go down the same path. But the deepening of the crisis will leave no room for “half measures” and this is also driving Labour to crisis. Some want Miliband to go because of his loss of support in the working class, but the problem remains who can replace him?
The working class
Wage loss since 2008 is the worst since records began in the 1850s, jobs are more precarious and zero-hour contracts are a reality everywhere. Only one in 40 new jobs since the recession is full time. The Social Mobility and Child Commission has predicted 2010 to 2020 will be the first decade since records began to see a rise in absolute poverty.
Welfare benefits are all being reduced and eroded. Those on benefits, the majority of whom are low waged, are being sanctioned (that is 100 percent cut in benefit). Meanwhile rents, especially in London are shooting up. In one renewal project, the New Era housing estate, owned by a US company, is threatening to evict present tenants to put rents up from £800 to £2,000 a month.
We are facing the closure and selloff of children’s centres, mental health services, libraries, and parks from local authority control. If the cuts continue as projected within five years many councils and communities will collapse.
The attack on the working class is not homogeneous. The traditional industrial working class, which is the social base of the Labour party, has not felt the heaviest attacks, but their salaries and rights will be hit.
It seems that the youth are the hardest hit. They are not unionised, do not have permanent jobs, are unskilled and employed on zero-hour contracts.
Working women, Black and immigrant people are, as always, attacked by the crisis and suffer the greatest discrimination. Average women’s wage is 21 per cent lower than men’s, they are in the most precarious sectors, such as cleaning, and also work a double shift (workplace and home) and suffer male oppression.
That’s why these sectors (youth and women) are on the frontline of the struggle. The youth’s demonstration against fees, cuts and debts saw 10,000 people, who faced the police and invaded a protected area of the parliament.
In the last few months strikes have been increasing in number and working days lost in the 12 months up to September 2014 is 250 per cent higher compared to the same period in 2013. Many are victorious.
The problem remains in the union bureaucracy. The TUC and the union national leaderships are betraying all the fights, but the strikes show how powerful the pressure is from the rank and file.
Unfortunately there is not one national trade union for the creation of new rank and file movements that could lead to the creation of an alternative fighting union federation. The foundation of the Independent Workers Union by the cleaners in London shows the possibilities for the rank and file to break from the old unions.
The huge students’ demonstration in London, without the support of the NUS and against them, can also be the beginning of a discussion among the students to call a national congress independent from the NUS, Labour and the TUC, to organise the fight against fees, cuts and debts.
What should the left do?
When we say that the crisis is making the bourgeoisie weaker it does not mean that the working class is automatically stronger. This is not because of the weakness of the working class but because of the weakness of the leadership and the policy of the left.
At this moment, when the number of strikes is increasing, the SWP and the SP centre their policy on elections. At every meeting, every demonstration or rally the SP speakers have only one call: “Join to the Trade Union Socialist Coalition”.
And the SWP, in a recent article, called for the unity of the left (forgetting the working class) to fight the rise of UKIP in the general elections.
“We believe there is a basis for the left forming electoral coalitions and working together to build a stronger socialist alternative. It should be possible for all of us on the left to group together in a single electoral coalition for the May elections.”
The “unity” they envisage is under the banner of the TUSC, that means SWP and SP leadership.
Their answer to the kind of party the working class need to defeat the bourgeoisie is a party to the left of Labour to stand in elections and send MPs to parliament.
They want to repeat the same path that Labour has taken since their foundation and led the working class to the situation we are now in. With the difference that the Labour was a real working class party and TUSC is just an umbrella.
The working class does not need to repeat an experience of over 100 years to arrive at the same conclusion they have now: electoral parties are a dead end for their liberation.
The crisis of the revolutionary leadership of the working class is more evident than ever, and shows the urgent necessity of building a working class and left alternative that could lead the workers to fight the bourgeoisie in the streets and not in the ballot box.
But this does not mean that nothing is happening. If changes are taking place in the bourgeoisie, so also are taking place in the working class.
Left Unity is an expression of the re-organisation of the working class in the political field. It is limited programmatically and organisationally – but it is a reality and it would not grow if there was no room for a new working class party.
Left Unity’s leadership also want to build an electoral party “to the left of Labour”, but it’s open for revolutionaries to work inside it.
The challenges that face workers in 2015 are immense, but they have shown on many occasions their will to defeat the government’s austerity policy and in 2015 it will be no different.