1980s >> 1981 >> no-924-august-1981

Editorial: In our hands

As support for the Thatcher government crumbles away, the Labour Party’s excitement reaches towards delirium. How long before they lose all touch with reality?

There are, as we know, good reasons for the disillusionment with the Tories. Unemployment promised soon to reach 3 million; further cuts in social services and local authority spending; prices rising relentlessly; open declarations of war by government ministers on workers’ standards of living; riots and looting in inner city areas. The future looks grim; yet the Tories, like all incoming governments, promised us prosperity.

In their wilder moments the Labour Party sees the discrediting of their opponents as a final, historic enlightenment which will finish the Tories for ever. Then Labour will be in power for generations and can at last get down to the task of building the new Jerusalem which they have sung and orated about for so long.

Little wonder, then, that there is such anger in the Labour ranks with Tony Benn for rocking the boat when they want it, now of all times, held steady and on course. Benn, who seems to exist in a perpetual state of high fever of delusion about himself, his party and about capitalism at large, tiresomely claims to deal in what he conceives as principles while his opponents in the Labour Party are more openly and immediately preoccupied with winning their way back into power.

But it is only recent history, that Labour rule was one continual crisis and in all essentials—cuts in public expenditure, attempts to hold down wages, attacks on trade unionism, maintenance of British capitalism’s nuclear armoury—was hardly distinguishable from what we experience now under the Tories.

Towards the end of their time the Callaghan government were a throughly beaten and demoralised lot. Their death knell sounded during the infamous winter of discontent and the resultant working class disillusionment swept Thatcher into power, promising to solve the problems of British capitalism with theories exposed as futile as long ago as the Twenties.

This apparent repetition of history indicates that the Tories’ crisis of confidence is by no means a finality. We have heard all this before and we shall hear it again. We have been here before and we shall be here again.

What then is to be done? If the working class realise that political action need not consist of a repetitive switching from one futility to another, what else is open to them? First, they must grasp that politicians have only a limited relevance. They are prevented by something outside their plans and claims and deceptions from organising society as they say they would have it.

That “something” is the capitalist social system, which from its basis outwards can only be run in the interests of the parasitic minority who own the means of wealth production and distribution. Just a couple of weeks ago we saw two representative members of this minority dress up and parade through the streets to get married. Everything about that event—the opulence, the cynicism, the ballyhoo in the media emphasised the class division of capitalism into those who own but do not need to labour and those who must labour but do not own. The workers, who made all that went into the wedding, owned none of it. Their part in the cruel farce was to stare and wonder and to cheer, to testify to their own degradation.

And in that fact there is the reason for the impotence of capitalism’s politicians. Workers are ready to blame Thatcher or Foot or Benn for their problems, overlooking the fact that they themselves vote for these leaders and all that they stand for. It is the working class who choose their own repression, who respect and admire their exploiters and who are therefore responsible for their own plight.

We are arguing here, as always, for another approach. The Socialist Party of Great Britain insists that workers need to examine the basis of capitalism as the cause of the world’s problems and to act to change society from that basis.

We are arguing here, as always, for a social revolution to abolish capitalism and replace it with socialism—a social system based on common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution. Socialism will be a classless society, without privilege and poverty, a society in which all human beings will stand equal in their freedom.

In face of that, the posturing, impotent leaders of capitalism fade into their true proportions. It is not they who will change human society into one of abundance but the mass consciousness of the working class. Socialism is something for the workers of the world to get excited about and then act to achieve.