Pam Barker | Director of TLB Europe Reloaded Project
Boris Johnson has promised to complete the Thatcher revolution. While being elected by a large percentage of working class people. This is a contradiction.
To American readers and readers who weren’t born at that time, we remind you of some of Margaret Thatcher‘s key domestic ‘successes’, which were in broad strokes to financialize the economy and ship out working people’s jobs abroad. She also brought down the mineworkers’ union, which resulted in closing down pits in mining communities. Post-Thatcher, working class people were left with far fewer options to make a decent, sustainable living, and those communities still haven’t recovered from this today. [Entering the EU under Ted Heath, her predecessor, had the same effect of closing down industries like fishing, which also contributed to the economic destruction of working class communities. Thatcher didn’t like the EU big state structure to give her credit, but she did nothing to reverse its policies, which hurt ordinary people once in effect. The EU simply became a massive market for the US transnationals, shutting down local industries.]
The UK fits into Colorado and a chunk of Wyoming for relative scale. It’s a sardine can surrounded by water. Beyond that lie a bunch of countries, whose people all speak a variety of different languages, which have their own economic problems. If employment and economic conditions are bad at home, there’s simply nowhere else for working class people to move to, contrary to what the globalists would have us believe.
Tony Blair, who was elected post-Thatcher and post-John Major in the 1990s, was not an improvement for these people despite being from Labour. Labour had been deliberately changed by this point from the top down to represent the interests of the oligarchs and transnational corporations, a policy shift renamed the Third Way. Ditto for the Democrats under Clinton. Today we see far-right (neoliberal) economic policies, which have gutted ordinary people’s economic lives, combined with trendy far-left, ‘progressive’ identity politics that focus on a tiny minority of the population, all enacted by the same single government. Mass migration conveniently serves the agenda of both: we use the migrant for dirt-cheap labour while supporting him (they’re usually male) for his skin color. We’re not allowed to speak about the majority, however (portrayed as ‘white’), and we’re certainly not allowed to talk economics. Such is the practical result of Third Way, govern-from-the-centre policy that has deliberately sidelined the working class into economic impoverishment and social marginality.
For those who liked Thatcher and would say that she was coerced to do these things by the Bilderberg lot (which would certainly be true), we also remind readers of the policy move that shot her to utter infamy among people before ever becoming Prime Minister. She was branded Thatcher the Milk Snatcher when, as Minister of Education in 1971, she abolished what was a relatively cheap, free school milk programme for Britain’s children, which was regarded as a positive thing for children from economically deprived areas. Such was the backlash against Thatcher’s image over this that she later claimed to have regretted doing it. She also instituted the Poll Tax or ‘Community Charge‘ as PM. Instead of levying taxes on property to fund local councils, Thatcher instituted a head tax which charged each and every occupant of a house, causing economic hardship on poor families. This created the infamous riots of 1990 (pictured). The policy was reversed under John Major. She also quietly drew up plans to dismantle the welfare state, which we see happening incrementally under neoliberalism today, in which poor people would be charged for schooling and healthcare among other things. Given economic levels in working class communities, that would have sent Britain back to the ’20s and ’30s when people such as my parents simply couldn’t afford to see the doctor.
Thatcher was later to say that the biggest success of her time in office was Tony Blair. You get the idea; you also get the idea about Britain’s Tory Party. Such was the ‘Thatcher Revolution’.
For more information on the social and economic effects of Tory policy in the last few years, see the following: UK austerity has inflicted ‘great misery’ on citizens, UN rapporteur says; Nearly five million people in the UK live in “deep poverty”; Britain’s enemy is not Russia but its own ruling class, UN report confirms; Visualizing The Surge In The UK’s Homelessness, and Britain’s Universal Credit: Government and the BBC Secretly Collude in Propaganda Campaign.
So it’s quite monumental that working class people would hold their noses and vote for the Tories. It had to be that bad for them to do so. The Labour party, with its hardcore Blairite Third Way/Fabian faction that supports the EU and transnational corporations, had to be completely unrepresentative of people’s wishes, especially concerning Brexit, for them to do so.
Regarding the importance of fulfilling Brexit, we also recommend this short RT piece titled Voters want to ‘get Brexit done’: Johnson’s campaign slogan paid off at the polls. Of note:
Boris Johnson’s promise to finally deliver Brexit resulted in a blowout victory at the polls, analysts told RT, noting that the Labour Party failed to recognize that it was a one-issue election.
Parliament’s foot-dragging over leaving the EU propelled the Tories past their political rivals during Thursday’s snap election, argued Alastair Donald, associate director of the Academy of Ideas.
The people have stood up to a huge amount of pressure over the past three or four years to either overturn the results or to have a second referendum. They’ve stood up to that pressure and they’ve said ‘we want Brexit to be done’.
He pointed out that even “democratically-minded Remainers” voted for Johnson, amid growing anger at Labour and the Liberal Democrats for trying to stonewall Brexit.
Poor policy choices by the opposition bolstered Johnson’s popularity at the polls, Journalist Neil Clark said.
Labour made a huge error by not supporting Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in Parliament… and then, the election which came after that would not be about Brexit, because Brexit would have been achieved.
So once Brexit is achieved in some form (alas, we simply cannot trust Boris Johnson to deliver a complete break with the European Union), then what for ordinary people? The British aristocracy are in power with a full mandate under the Tories, privatising everything that’s left and charging people for it while levying more tax under fake ‘austerity’, with the pro-EU, pro-transnational corporation, pro-migrant cheerleaders under Labour, with Corbyn having gone, sitting in ‘opposition’. It’s rock and a hard place time.
The British working people are facing their Gilets Jaunes moment. The Yellow Vests, representing the majority of working people in France, have already figured out their interests aren’t being represented by any of the parties and institutions in France, including the unions. It will be a long 5 years under neoliberal Johnson. For their own sake, we hope the Brits will take a leaf out of the Gilets Jaunes’ playbook.
(Marsden’s article below is an excellent run-down of the situation for ordinary people with the Tories now fully in power, but we do not endorse its explicitly international socialist standpoint, nor do we endorse his silence on mass migration, which is known to harm the economic interests of the working class.)
Johnson wins majority in UK election after collapse of Labour vote
Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson has secured the biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 victory, on the back of the worst result for the Labour Party since 1935.
The Tories, previously reduced to a minority government, now have a 80-seat majority, with 365 MPs, compared to Labour’s 203, the Scottish National Party’s 48, the Liberal Democrats 12, Plaid Cymru’s 4 and one Green.
The Tory vote only rose by one percent, but Labour’s fell by 8 percent on the 2017 general election.
Johnson’s return consolidates the most right-wing government in post-war British history, with devastating consequences for the working class.
He has pledged to move swiftly to “get Brexit done” and to complete the “Thatcher revolution.” The Withdrawal Agreement Bill, paving the way for Brexit on January 31, will have its second Commons reading on Friday, December 20.
Brexit is bound up with an ever-sharper lurch towards trade war and the forging of an ever deeper military alliance with the Trump administration, targeting Russia and China. These plans to secure Britain’s imperialist interests must be paid for through an ever more savage attack on jobs, wages and working conditions.
During the election, Britain’s courts twice ruled against a planned strike by Royal Mail postal workers, while Johnson threatened to ban all strikes on public transport in response to the action taken by workers against South Western Railway. Operation Yellowhammer included plans to deploy 50,000 regular and reserve troops and 10,000 riot police in the event of civil unrest provoked by a no-deal Brexit. It will now be revealed as a response to the civil unrest resulting from the frontal assault on working people being planned by the government.
The scenes now unfolding in France, of riot police brutally attacking strikers and Yellow Vest protesters, is a foretaste of what is to come. So too is the venal and anti-democratic character of the election campaign itself.
The media, including the BBC, has spewed out a multi-million-pound torrent of lies directed against Corbyn, centred on warnings of economic ruin, claims that he represents a threat to national security and is an anti-Semite. It was a campaign openly encompassing leading representatives of the armed forces, security services and even the chief rabbi and archbishop of Canterbury.
In the process the entire structure of parliamentary politics has been exposed as rotten. “Democracy” has been revealed, as it was in the 1930s, as a cynical and criminal sham.
Millions of workers will be appalled by the election’s conduct and outcome, especially those who had looked to Corbyn to provide an alternative against such a widely despised figure as Johnson. Above all, the reason for such a defeat must be understood.
Speaking after securing a reduced majority in his Islington constituency, Corbyn said that “Brexit has so polarised and divided debate in this country, it has overridden so much of the normal political debate and contributed to the result for the Labour Party across the country,” overriding Labour’s popular manifesto policies.
He noted in addition the “attacks that take place against family and loved ones of politicians” that “are disgraceful and frankly they are disgusting.”
There is truth in both statements.
Brexit played a major role in losses in Labour’s working-class heartlands, many of which voted leave. The Tories won an increase of between 4 and 6 percent in leave areas and fell by 3 percent in remain seats. In contrast, Labour’s vote fell by 12 to 13 percent in the North East and Yorkshire, compared with 6 to 7 percent in London and the South of England. Labour seats were lost in Ashfield, Bishop Auckland, and Workington that have never previously elected a Tory MP.
Labour lost its longest serving MP, Dennis Skinner, when the Tories took the Bolsover seat he has held since 1970. (ER: Dennis Skinner is a veteran of the party, which shows how bad the reaction against Labour was.)
In Wales, the Tories won Vale of Clwyd, Wrexham, Clwyd South, Delyn and Ynys Mon from Labour.
In Scotland, Labour lost six of its seven seats, deepening the ascendency of the Scottish National Party established by the betrayals of the Blair Labour government.
But the ability of the Tories to win ground in former Labour strongholds, together with the Brexit Party which did not stand in Tory seats but won significant swings against Labour, was made possible by Corbyn himself. It is he, and the pseudo-left groups such as the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party who claimed he was leading a left renewal of the Labour Party, who bear political responsibility for Johnson’s victory.
On Brexit, Corbyn adapted himself fully to the pro-EU agenda of the City of London, from the 2016 referendum onwards, ending up with a policy of renegotiating a deal with the EU followed by a second referendum in which he would remain neutral that convinced no one and made unifying the working class against the Tories impossible.
But this was only one element of a constant series of political adaptations—to the Blairites and big business alike—that meant ever fewer numbers were convinced that the thin gruel of minor reforms he advanced offered a genuine alternative to the Tories or that, given his refusal to drive out the Blairites, that Corbyn would ever fight for the workers who looked to him since 2015 to oppose austerity, militarism and war.
Even now, Corbyn is attempting to continue his role of keeping Labour united while holding out the threadbare prospect of a “left” succession. He has pledged to his Blairite critics that he would not lead Labour into the next election but would stay on to preside over a “process of reflection” and ensure that “we move on into the future.”
Further retreats must be expected. The pro-Corbyn group Momentum’s national coordinator Laura Parker declared, “There is absolutely no appetite to go back to the centrist policies of old… We will keep the Labour party socialist.” But Momentum’s founder, Jon Lansman, gave only half-hearted support, saying the decision on who should replace Corbyn did not need to be taken “until the new year.”
The Blairites, for their part, have already declared war. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said, “[W]e have a duty to rebuild, starting now.” Labour peer Andrew Adonis tweeted, “I think the ‘period of reflection’ required to assess the need for new leadership of the Labour Party should be about ten minutes.”
The real period of reflection required is for the working class to fundamentally reassess its attitude to Labour.
The election outcome is the result not only of the political cowardice of Corbyn. It is, in a more fundamental sense, the inevitable product of decades in which the supposed “left” of the Labour Party and its periphery pursued the middle-class politics of identity, while working with the trade union bureaucracy to suppress the class struggle and ridicule and denigrate the class-based politics of socialism. That is why Corbyn could never represent a genuine alternative to the Labour right and worked instead to subordinate workers and youth to a party and a trade union apparatus that is a political instrument of big business.
To wage the struggle necessary against the Tory government, the working class must now draw the most fundamental conclusions from the political shipwreck suffered by Labour.
The Socialist Equality Party rejected all claims that Corbyn’s leadership would lead to a renewal of the Labour Party. Events have now confirmed that there is no national reformist, parliamentary path on which jobs, wages and social services can be defended, democratic rights preserved and the drive to militarism and war halted.
ER: we affirm that we do not support the idea of the United Socialist States of Europe!
The SEP opposed all attempts to divide workers and to dragoon the entire working class behind one or other reactionary capitalist faction in the Brexit dispute. We warned of the political dangers of the divisions created and urged a unified struggle by workers across the continent for the United Socialist States of Europe.
The SEP has been vindicated in these warnings, at a time when workers all over the world are being driven into struggle against the brutal imposition of austerity by governments of the financial oligarchy. The leftward sentiment exploited and suppressed by Corbyn must now be directed towards a conscious struggle for a unified movement of the British, European and international working class for socialism, through the building of the SEP.
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