By Kojo Kyerewaa
The emergency budget comes as no surprise to most on the revolutionary left. The Coalition agreement, rather than holding back Conservative plans for dismantling the welfare state, has instead legitimised them in the public’s eyes.
The day after the budget, polls showed that 57% of the population approved of the cuts. Although polls can’t necessarily be trusted, there was a distinct lack of protests.
The Trades Union Congress burped that this was reckless and the government must think again, Labour ex-cabinet ministers cried that it is unfair and should be done in a more “responsible” way.
At the same time some on the left called for a general strike and Greek style resistance from a population pacified by insurmountable personal debt, the Sun newspaper and Sky TV.
Make no mistake, this is the gravest attack not only on public services but also on the working class since Thatcher.
However, it is far wide-ranging, cementing and deepening Labour’s attempts to privatise state-run services.
The impact and long lasting effects of these proposals if implemented will be a shock to many and devastating for millions. The unemployed pit valleys in Wales and desolate streets in sections of Liverpool mask the deeper psychological trauma, working class communities are still recovering from 30 years on.
Ken Livingstone angles for office, pitching his tent as the trusted defender of London against the Tory government, Bob Crow has been handed the opportunity to don his cap as the 21st Century’s Arthur Scargill calling for a general strike.
Yet this is not the 1980s: trade union membership is half what it was in 1979, whilst the average age of members has doubled and Thatcherite anti-trade union laws are firmly established.
Moreover, the Labour Party is much more right wing and the revolutionary left far smaller. Moreover the 1980s ended in defeat, which resulted in the decline of trade union power and militancy.
Though now the cuts have started to nibble at the edges of previous pledged spending plans, there have been howls of pain, pledging resistance, even from Liberal councillors: but what is the task now for those who not only want to defend our class but advance it?
We need to build the strongest united front, the British left has ever seen. It will probably not be in the form of a political party, but a network of coalitions, diverse in its support, but not reliant on politicians or union leaders.
It can only be composed of the working class – even if with middle-class sympathisers – united in the objective of opposing the attacks on the living standards of the working class.
Though the situation is severe, alarmist slogans will not draw out the latent power of our class.
We need a story to tell to inspire our class, it must resonate with all members; the young as well as the old, the migrant and British born.
The message is that the Emergency Budget is in the interests of the rich few, at the expense of collective wealth of the many.
Left unchallenged it will be devastating for the majority. Nothing other than our collective strength through a campaign of civil and industrial disobedience will be able to stop this dangerous ideological experiment.
This campaign cannot be one that defends the status quo or has a rose-tinted view of the welfare state.
Where we will differ from our social democratic allies is that our aspirations go beyond perpetuating a bureaucratic and capitalist-serving state.
We must argue for the abolition of the state, a tool for the transfer of our collective wealth to a privileged, parasitic class.
This doesn’t mean we should resort to sectarianism or bickering with Labour Party members: but whilst uniting with them on actions, we remain distinct in identity, something that can only be maintained in open democratic structures.
To maintain and propel a genuine united front, we need open, transparent and democratic structures, involving positions of accountability, not to form hierarchies, but to ensure responsibility for agreed action.
For example, South London Anti-Fascist Group has built small scale united fronts, involving anarchists, Trotskyists, and various members of the working class including social democrats, trade unionists, Muslims, Catholics and Gurkhas.
We need more of a ‘unity in action despite diversity of outlook’ position.
Community organising is essential: the trade union movement cannot be relied on alone. History tells us that this isn’t enough.
We must act locally, but move from haphazard individual anti-cuts coalitions to build this broad network of alliances, focussing on action and not sectarian interest.
Sectarianism is a luxury for those who will not face destitution by failure.
The government has declared class war and we will be tested for loyalty to our class by our ability to overcome sectarian divisions. Failure to do so is a gift to the ruling class.