By all accounts, Labour should be miles ahead in the opinion polls as more and more people turn against this coalition government of the rich. But Labour is now only a few points ahead of the Tories with just ten months to go before the next general election. Without a bold socialist programme, Rob Sewell argues, Labour are heading for disaster.
With falling living standards and more draconian cuts on the way, the Tories have presided over the biggest assault on the conditions of working class people in living memory.
As a result, Labour should on all accounts be miles ahead in the opinion polls as more and more people turn against this coalition government of the rich. But Labour is now only a few points ahead of the Tories with just ten months to go before the next general election. The May 2014 elections showed just how unpopular the Tories and the Lib Dems now are, despite all the media talk of a “recovery” but also showed that Labour is not benefiting from that mood in the way that they should be given all that has happened.
Lagging far behind
In fact, with Labour announcing a planned cut in benefits for over 100,000 young people, the most hardest hit by the capitalist crisis, and Miliband proudly having his photo taken with the Murdoch rag, the Sun, it seems the Labour leadership is intent on throwing away the next election.
The replacement of Job Seekers Allowance by means testing will, we are told, “incentivise” the unemployed, and reduce benefit spending by £65 million. Miliband is trying to out-Tory the Tories on benefit cuts. No wonder there is a growing dissatisfaction with his performance as Labour leader. A recent Guardian-ICM poll found Miliband’s personal satisfaction rating falling from minus 25 to minus 39, even worse than Cameron and Clegg.
Lord Kinnock, that “great” former leader of the party, who took Labour to two successive humiliating defeats, has blamed Miliband’s unpopularity on a “hostile press”. But that is no excuse. The capitalist press has always been hostile to Labour and workers know this.
While he has announced a few popular things, such as a temporary freeze on energy prices, the fact is that Miliband is far behind the increasingly radical mood now being expressed by the majority of people. Most working people are far to the left of the Labour leadership. In opinion poll after opinion poll, a big majority are in favour of the public ownership of the energy companies, the railways, Royal Mail, and many other monopolies. They are sick to death of private corporations and billionaire parasites making fortunes on their backs.
However, Miliband seems afraid to offer anything that would cost money. He is determined to stick to the Tory austerity spending plans, which mean continuing deep cuts across the board. He has also promised to continue the freeze on public sector pay, which is hardly a vote-winner for the millions of public sector workers who have now experienced more than five years of wage cuts.
Rachael Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, who announced she would be tougher on benefit “scroungers” than the Tories, has said that any modification of the discredited Tories’ Universal Credit scheme, would be “funded from within the existing budget.” Shamefully, Labour MPs have already voted to support the Tory measures to cap welfare spending, as if the poor were the problem.
More of the same
In reality, Miliband and his leadership are not offering change but more of the same. He has accepted all the restraints of capitalism. That is why millions of Labour supporters are dissatisfied to say the least.
This has affected Labour support north of the border in Scotland, where some have mistakenly turned to supporting independence as a way forward. This growing support for nationalism in Scotland amongst Labour voters is a direct consequence of the betrayals of reformism, the abandonment of socialism and attempts to patch up capitalism at the expense of the working class. George McFadyen, a resident of a tenement in the Gorbals, said he had voted Labour all his life but was now voting for independence. “Labour up here – all they are interested in is that gravy train in Westminster,” said McFadyen, a retired mechanical fitter.
These people and others have been let down by Labour politicians, who have been regarded as just interested in feathering their own nest. The middle-class careerists, who have taken over the Labour Party, have fully embraced capitalism and all its ills. Miliband has made it clear: he does not want to overthrow capitalism but rather to “reform” it . This is nothing new and has been the mantra of all right wing Labour leaders over the decades. In reality, they have abandoned socialism, if they ever believed in it in the first place. In truth, this talk of “reforming” capitalism is just talk because that is all it can ever be. You cannot turn the meat-eating capitalist tiger into a worker-friendly vegetarian.
Capitalism is in deep crisis. It cannot afford the reforms of the past. On the contrary, it needs to take these reforms back and has been busy doing so since the economic crisis exploded. That is the reason for the austerity cuts and the brutal attacks on working people, especially the sick, the weak and the infirm.
Even the strategists of big business recognise that this austerity regime will have to last for years, if not decades, as long as capitalism survives. For Labour to embrace capitalism means to embrace austerity and cuts. That is the logic behind Labour refusing to promise to reverse Tory cuts. That is why Labour promises to continue with a “Labour” austerity programme which will be no different to the one we already have. This is a recipe for disaster on every front, starting with the next election.
Bold socialist policies needed
The Labour Party was created by the trade unions to represent working people, not big business and capitalism. The only real alternative to capitalist crisis, mass unemployment and falling living standards is a socialist programme. Labour, if it was worth its salt, would stand for a revolutionary transformation of society rather than surrendering to the demands of big business, the banks and the City of London.
By taking over the commanding heights of the economy, the banks and corporations that dominate our daily lives, we could draw up a democratic plan of production along socialist lines, using our resources to give everyone a job with decent pay, build all the houses and schools we need, introduce a four-day 30 hour working week, increase holidays and pensions, provide fully-funded childcare, as well as a living grants for students. We would introduce automation and robotics to cut back on menial work and gradually reduce the working week to 20 hours and less, such is the science and technology that already exists. We have the resources to do all this and more but today they are in the wrong hands, the capitalists.
Big business is only interested in making profits, even if this means closing down factories and throwing decent people out of work. It is time we put an end to this madness of the market. We need a society geared to deal with need not profit. Capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has become a massive brake on society. Like feudalism, the rule of the bankers and oligarchs should be confined to the dustbin of history.
If the Labour Party was to fight with such a bold socialist programme then it would sweep to power at the next election with the overwhelming support of the mass of people of this country. A Socialist Britain would be a beacon to those struggling in Europe against austerity and attacks. We would make an appeal to all those who have had enough of poverty, cuts in services, low pay and the bosses’ system in general to join us and create, not a bosses’ Europe as now, but a Socialist United States of Europe in the interests of working people.
This would electrify the workers of the world, which has suffered one terrible crisis after another, and provide the basis for a Socialist Federation of World States. That is a future worth fighting for!