Over the last week since the general election, David Cameron has lost no time in announcing yet more reactionary laws. Emboldened by their parliamentary majority, and freed from the ballast of coalition with the Lib Dems, the Tories have rushed to introduce further measures to stick the knife in against the working class.
Over the last week since the general election, David Cameron has been putting together the most right wing cabinet we have seen for decades and has lost no time in announcing some of the most reactionary laws that have been proposed in decades. Emboldened by their parliamentary majority, and freed from the ballast of coalition with the Lib Dems, the Tories have rushed to introduce further measures to stick the knife in against the working class.
With Osborne, May, Duncan Smith, and Fallon all keeping the same positions they had before the election, it will come as no surprise to find the same austerity, anti-immigration, welfare-slashing and military policies setting the agenda at the top of government.
Protecting the bosses; attacking the right to strike
It is no doubt with a sense of smug satisfaction that Cameron has installed Sajid Javid as business secretary – a man who has a portrait of Thatcher on his mantlepiece. In his first job as a banker with multinational bank Chase Manhattan, he became the youngest vice-president in the history of the bank at age 25. Clearly this man is an accomplished parasite with a keen ability for making rich people richer: a perfect lackey for the ruling class and a sworn enemy of the workers.
Living up to these credentials, Javid announced on Tuesday that he would be pressing ahead with Tory plans to all but ban the right to strike. The Tories want to enforce a 50% turnout in strike ballots, with 40% of the eligible voting membership in favour of the strike. The irony of this would be funny if it weren’t so serious, given that the Tories themselves were elected by just 37% of a 66% turnout, meaning their own mandate for enforcing such a draconian law is just 24% of the electorate.
Strike action is one of the few weapons workers in a capitalist system have to defend themselves against attacks by the bosses. As these attacks step up a gear under this government of the rich, the ruling class are keen to disarm the working class as far as possible; the political representatives of the capitalist class are all too aware of the industrial action that their austerity and planned cuts to come will provoke.
Such an attempt by the Tories could backfire, however, by radicalising workers and pushing them towards demands for longer, broader strike action, including demands for a one-day general strike. This would be a way of hitting back at the government and proving that it is workers on the shop floor, not Tories in cushy offices, who really keep this country running.
Furthermore, in the absence of any legal avenue for action, to act as a safety valve for the pressures building up in workplaces, it is possible that there will be more spontaneous, illegal action taking place. Such action has already been seen in the recent past period. Walkouts, unofficial strikes, and occupations: all of these are increasingly on the cards in the period ahead.
Scrapping human rights in the name of profit
Other head-banging reactionaries in Cameron’s new cabinet include Priti Patel as employment minister, a woman who has argued fervently in favour of the death penalty, and who described British workers as “the worst idlers in the world” in a book she co-authored in 2012. She is in good right-wing company with John Whittingdale as culture secretary, who believes that the TV licence fee is worse than Thatcher’s poll tax, and whose appointment points towards privatisation of the BBC.
Michael Gove, a man who argued for bringing back hanging in the late 1990s, is replacing the rabid right winger Chris Grayling as justice secretary, with the latter moving to leader of the Commons. It would not be an exaggeration to describe Gove as the arch-reactionary of the Tory party. After having lost his job as minister for education in the last government, due to the complete disgust of all who work in that sector with the policies he tried to force through, he has now been brought back to force through changes to the justice system that few, if any, lawyers think are a good idea.
Sure enough, within days of Gove’s appointment the Tories have wasted no time in briefing that the scrapping of the Human Rights Act will be part of the first Queen’s Speech of this parliament. The Act makes enforceable in Britain fundamental democratic rights, such as the right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment, including torture; the right to the freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and freedom of speech; as well as basic rights such as the right to a private and family life, and the right to life itself. These rights were set out initially in the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, and were won as basic concessions by ordinary people who had been forced to suffer the horrors of fighting the second world war in the interests of their respective national ruling classes. Since then they have been used to challenge governments which have sought to criminalise protesters, limit the right to strike, turn a blind eye to crimes committed by troops overseas, and other abuses of the fundamental liberties of working class people.
The proposed replacement for the Human Rights Act is a British Bill of Rights which, according to the plans published by Grayling under the last government, will limit the enforcement of human rights to only “serious cases”, while “trivial” matters will not qualify for human rights protection. The difference between what a Tory considers a serious abuse of a person’s rights and what an ordinary person might consider an abuse is likely to be enormous. There can be little question that these Tory plans are designed purely as an attack on the most fundamental rights of working class people.
Fightback against this government of thieves!
In short, the first week of this Tory government has given us the most reactionary cabinet for decades and proposals which, if passed into law, will constitute some of the most serious attacks on the working class for a generation.
Through this government, the ruling class is speaking with one voice, and its well-directed blows will land squarely on workers and young people. It is up to the leaders of the labour movement to launch the fightback against such attacks, starting with the call for a one-day general strike to show the Tories and the friends in the City who really runs society.
In the coming battles with the Tories we too have to be clear about what we are fighting for. We want to get rid of the Tories and see an end to austerity. To achieve this we want the expropriation of the rich, along with their banks and big businesses. We want real democratic control over the economy so that we can run it for need and not profit. We are fighting for the revolutionary socialist transformation of society. These have to be our demands and they have to be fought for using mass collective action, such as strikes and mass demonstrations, through which we can speak with one voice and strike with one fist.