We live in a time when the gap between rich and poor has never been greater.
When the number of strikes is the lowest since records began.
When millions who live on the bare minimum are no longer unionised.
When the notion of an effective ‘labour movement’ is already history.
When social democrats plan the political genocide of the working class.
When the idea of equal opportunities is exploited to obscure social division.
When the level of race attacks has been likened to political terrorism.
When political support for the European far-right is gauged in millions.
And when despite everything, the Left still tells us ‘there is no better time to be a socialist’ to whom do we turn?
What road do we take?
SOCIALISM IS DEAD, SO WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?
Less than a decade ago, for those seeking change, Labour was the choice for hundreds of thousands of people. No longer. Blair it is widely accepted is now organising against the working class. Where Thatcher attacked the working class economically and organisationally, through forced unemployment and the removal of trade union rights, New Labour is determined to wipe the working class out politically: ‘everyone will in future be designated middle class -or- underclass’ we are informed.
THE LEFT - AFRAID OF THE TRUTH
Unsurprisingly the formal dropping of the socialist facade has left Labour’s revolutionary cheerleaders in disarray. Two years after inviting people to vote ‘Labour without illusions’, they are today exposed as the only people who had any. And because the conservatives of the Left have no answers relevant to today’s problems history is passing them by.
Plainly radical politics is a pointless exercise if you are afraid of the truth. But truth can be devastating. And the devastating truth after half a century of false dawns, cowardice, and betrayal, is that ordinary people have not merely lost faith in all socialist parties, but at a basic level in socialism itself, Socialism is dead. The guiding ideologies, strategies and tactics with which it began (and indeed ended) the century have brought us full circle. We are back where we started. Without power, without a voice, without representation.
NEW THINKING, NEW LANGUAGE, NEW STRUCTURES
If politics has a purpose it is to cause change or prevent it. If working class rule is the unchanging goal, the use of the term socialist serves only to conceal that new thinking, new structures and indeed new language are needed. Equally bolting together existing organisations on the basis of the lowest socialist denominator will prove fruitless. Furthermore given conditions, to continue to disagree on how society might be organised AFTER taking power is a distraction. Instead we must focus on the day-to-day concerns of a class, betrayed, outflanked, and oppressed. Within this wider perspective, that the momentary interests of the working class are given primacy is fundamental Reclaiming the legacy as best fighters for those interests, is for revolutionaries not simply the appropriate way to escape the sectarian ghetto, it is the only way, and there are no short-cuts.
THE ERA OF THE SECT IS OVER
So where, when, how and why did it all go wrong last time round? That there is no single incident, individual or organisation solely to blame is hardly a surprise. Nonetheless, within months of the working class taking power in Russia in 1917, the Bolshevik leadership laid plans (on a basic misunderstanding that a minority administration could impose communism from the top down) to ban all political activity other than their own. A bastardised Marxism, which undeniably prepared the ground for the Stalin led counter-revolution that followed. Thereafter the entire socialist thought process was contaminated in one way or the other. With the moral high ground surrendered, the rise of fascism followed swiftly. From a highpoint in 1917, defeat in the Spanish Civil War less than twenty years later, arguably closed the chapter on working class self-determination in Europe in the 20th century.
This pattern cannot repeat itself. Not least because those organisations who pledge their allegiance to the failed experiment of 1917 and who religiously follow the formula, will never get the opportunity to do so. The era of the sect is over.
OBJECTIVE REALITY, NOT IDEOLOGY
Outwardly blind to such developments ‘steady as she goes’ remains the order of the day for the conservative Left. When it is pointed out they are heading for the rocks, that the labour movement, their mainstay has snapped, ‘Red Action has no theory’ is the smug response. Despite this alleged shortcoming, (and without any claim to infallibility) Red Action has, unlike its detractors, correctly analysed, often uniquely, all the decisive events (from Clause Four, to the Peace Process, from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the rise in Euro-Nationalism etc) within the last decade. The method employed is simple. Internal democracy combined with a working class membership not only allows honest discussion, but demands it. As a matter of routine, objective reality rather than ideology is the starting point. Putting the long term interests of the class first at all times, completes the jigsaw. Up to now we are the only ones to do this.
WORKING CLASS RULE IN WORKING CLASS AREAS
However our agreement that the ‘labour movement’ as an agent of social change was played out, left no time for self congratulation; no time to say ‘we told you so’. On the contrary, it placed a gigantic responsibility on us and others to go out and ‘prove’ we had found a better way. A daunting prospect. Nonetheless this work has begun. Since 1997 in working class communities up and down the country ‘the immediate aims’ of a new movement are being articulated. Toward an interim objective of ‘working class rule in working class areas’, a range of pilot schemes in response to chronic problems i.e. Labour party corruption, anti-social crime, gentrification and so on are routinely giving New Labour careerists fits of the vapours. By contrast, the overwhelmingly response from ordinary people previously either brow beaten or ignored, is proof we are back on course.
A BENCHMARK FOR REVOLUTIONARIES
But much more needs to be done. With each small advance, both the political opposition from the establishment parties, and working class expectation increases. To continue to play a full part at an organisational level within the newly formed INDEPENDENT WORKING CLASS ASSOCIATION, we too need to grow. So for the first time in our history we are actively looking to recruit. Not to promote Red Action as an end in itself, but in order to meet the bench mark for revolutionaries in any era: provide a lead; make a difference; alter the conditions of the working class where it is, and as it is, in order to change it.
In spite of the recent 11 million plus votes for the far-right across Europe, Britain as yet does not even have a single far-right councillor. The reason is simple. Fought to a standstill, the British far-right effectively conceded ‘the battle for control of the streets’ in the mid ’90’s. Against this, repeated warnings by militants of the consequences of failing to replace them in working class areas, and the dangers posed from the adoption by the BNP of the Haider approach, continue to be largely ignored. One outcome being that here too, the nationalist right is beginning to regularly displace the socialist left as the radical alternative in local, and for the first time ever recently, national elections. If nothing else, this warning from history serves to remind us of the huge stakes and the titanic nature of the task in hand. But making a difference is what politics is all about. And in the business of shaping the present, we are at one and the same time shaping the future. But, here as in all other countries in Europe the far-right display similar intent. New Labour may dictate the present, but either ‘working class independence’ or ‘euro-nationalism’ is the radical future. Everyone has a role to play. And everyone should do their bit.
Your class needs you. Get involved.