Boris Johnson and the Tories’ election victory will have angered and disappointed many workers and young people. He may have been elected promising ‘an end to austerity’ and to serve the ‘nation’, but in truth Johnson will rule for the billionaires and the interests of big business from day one.
Workers’ rights, the NHS, the environment, benefits and wages will come under attack. But the real power in society is not Johnson. The working class and especially the trade unions, if they mobilise in defence of the interests of the majority, can stop the Tories and their attacks. Disappointment can rapidly turn to anger. Mass struggle, as has been the case recently in France, Chile, Lebanon and Iraq, will be on the agenda. A postal workers national strike is still possible and the real anti-working class character of a Johnson government will become clear in the months ahead.
In 1987 Margaret Thatcher was elected with a majority of 102. Within twelve months the campaign of mass non-payment against the poll tax, led by Militant, now the Socialist Party, had begun. It turned the Iron Lady into iron filings, forcing her resignation in 1990. Today, the Tory Party is far weaker than it was then. It is bitterly divided, and Johnson has only been able to win by distancing himself from his own party, using populist rhetoric to falsely claim he is standing up for ‘the people’. This was a ‘snapshot’, a very ephemeral result, with even Johnson having to acknowledge workers had only lent him their votes.
Many are asking why did the Tories win seats in parts of England and Wales in working class areas that have been devastated by austerity and capitalism? As the statement from our sister party in England and Wales explains: “It was the compromises that the Labour leadership made with the Blairites that are the central reason for this defeat, above all on Brexit. Swathes of working-class leave-voting areas saw Labour as a ‘Remain’ party.”
As Dominic Lawson wrote in the Sunday Times last week: “It is the centrists, supported by the former Labour leader Tony Blair and his erstwhile spin-doctor Alistair Campbell, who dragged the party from its policy of respecting the result of the 2016 referendum.”
“As the Socialist Party has consistently argued, the working-class vote for Brexit was a cry of rage against everything they had suffered in a decade of austerity. Had Corbyn, as we did, taken a different position in the EU referendum the right-wing Tory nationalists would not have had the space to dominate the Brexit campaign in the way they did. He should have argued in 2016 for a vote for Brexit on the grounds of opposing the EU bosses’ club – with its pro-privatisation and anti-working laws, standing instead for a new collaboration of the peoples’ of Europe on a socialist basis.
“Corbyn’s neutrality, combined with months of seeming to collaborate in parliament with pro-capitalist Remainers – Jo Swinson, Ken Clarke, and co – allowed Johnson to claim he was the only candidate who could “get Brexit done”.
Many Labour Leave voters also did not vote in this election for the same reason; disappointment in Labour’s position on Brexit and Corbyn’s continual concessions to the right wing of his own party. Not least of these factors has been the avalanche of cuts being made by Labour councillors across large swathes of the Midlands and the North of England and the Welsh Labour government implementing austerity.
The Blairites stepped up their civil war against Corbyn during the campaign. Fifteen former Labour MPs even went as far as taking out press adverts calling for people not to support Corbyn. In concert, the capitalist media also launched a blitz of lies and distortions against Corbyn and his manifesto.
In reality, the over 10 million people who voted Labour – a higher vote than was won by Ed Miliband in 2015 and Gordon Brown in 2010 and Tony Blair in 2005 – were enthused by Corbyn’s manifesto. Nationalisation of rail, mail and broadband are hugely popular. As were pledges to tax the rich and big business, investment in public services, scrapping Universal Credit and defending the NHS from privatisation.
If the Blarities had written Labour’s manifesto, the defeat suffered would have been far, far greater. This, of course, has not stopped the Labour right, backed up by the media, from immediately demanding Labour be turned back into a party safe for the interests of big business. Arch-Blairite MP Ian Murray, Labour’s only Scottish MP, demanded after the result: “not only does Mr Corbyn have to go but the policy and the ideology has to go too.”
What the Labour left does now is unclear. What is clear, however, is that there should be no concessions to the capitalist wing of the Labour Party. Labour in Scotland and across the UK has to be established as a genuine workers’ party. The Blairite saboteurs must be removed along with any councillor, MP and MSP who votes for cuts and opposes Corbyn’s manifesto.
As a first step, a labour movement conference of the trade unions, socialist organisations and the Labour left should be convened to discuss re-founding Labour as a fighting workers’ organisation. If this is not done, then it’s clear that a new workers’ party will have to be built in Scotland and indeed across Britain. Socialist Party Scotland will fight for such a party to be built in Scotland as quickly as possible.
It’s inevitable that, given the result, support for independence will grow significantly in the coming weeks and months. With a Tory government at Westminster and with the pro-capitalist SNP winning 48 of the 59 available seats on a commitment of demanding an indyref2, the scene is set for a major explosion in the national question.
Labour, who fatally are widely seen to oppose the right to self-determination in Scotland, lost six of the seven seats they had won in 2017 and have once again been reduced to a single MP in Scotland. Their vote fell dramatically to just over 18%. The SNP was seen by many as the most effective way of opposing the Tories, while also supporting independence.
As Socialist Party Scotland said in our election leaflet: “In Scotland, many workers and young people will vote SNP hoping that independence can offer an escape route from austerity and cuts. Corbyn’s lack of a fighting lead over the last two years has meant the positive aspects of his radical programme have not been heard. Labour in Scotland are still widely perceived as ‘anti-independence.”
The SNP’s manifesto was significantly to the right of Labour’s. Indeed SNP politicians regularity joined the chorus of attacks on Corbyn by the Blairite right and the capitalist press during the election campaign. Their dual policy of ‘Stop Brexit’ while also seeking a mandate for a second independence referendum had an impact.
Indeed, support for independence has increased during the current phase of the Brexit crisis and is now likely to increase further. Nevertheless, there is not the same enthusiasm towards the SNP by workers and young people as there was after the 2014 referendum. Years of SNP politicians carrying out cuts at Holyrood and in local councils has undermined their base.
A Catalonia-style confrontation could now develop if Johnson continues with his pledge to refuse to allow a second referendum. In contrast to the SNP leadership, Socialist Party Scotland will, if a referendum was denied, advocate the building of a mass campaign of defiance, general strike action, mass protests and occupations to demand the right to choose. Including demanding that the Scottish government organise the referendum in defiance of Johnson and the Tories.
The SNP leadership, because they defend capitalism, are organically opposed to such methods. They naively believe that an agreement could be made with a Johnson government that would allow a ‘legal’’ referendum to take place. We fight for an independent socialist Scotland as the only way out of the crisis facing the working class on jobs, pay, public services and poverty.
Socialist Party Scotland, as we did in the 2014 referendum, will call for a specific trade union, socialist-led, anti-cuts and pro-working class campaign for an independent socialist Scotland. One that while supporting a Yes vote in an indyref 2, would also fight for the powers of independence be used to end and reverse the cuts and for socialist policies. Central to this is the burning need to build a new mass working-class party that would fight for the powers of independence to be used in the interests of the working class.
An independent socialist Scotland would need to seek to build a united movement with the working class in the other nations; England, Wales and Ireland, across Europe and internationally. It would also lay the basis for a genuine free and voluntary socialist confederation of states and an international plan of production.
Above all, the potential power of the working class must now be marshalled in Scotland and across the UK to fight this reactionary Tory government and the wave of attacks they will try to implement.
Mighty class battles will open up, including over Scottish independence. Socialist Party Scotland will be at the forefront of these struggles, advocating a socialist programme to end capitalism and the rule of the billionaires.