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Hang on to your vote!

A World to Win election statement



Hang on to your vote!

So the latest opinion polls are again pointing to a “hung” Parliament after the upcoming general election, with no single party able to form a majority government. In that event, say constitutional experts, the queen and her advisors could play a key role in deciding who is asked to form a government.

Yes, we are living in 2010 and the absolute power of monarchy was terminated in the English Revolution with the execution of Charles I for treason against his own people in 1649. But such is the nature of the compromise British constitution, the monarch still has residual powers as head of state. There is nothing written, for example, that says the largest single party in Parliament must be invited to form a government. New Labour could have fewer seats than the Tories but try to govern with the Liberal Democrats at the invitation of the queen.

The fact that an unelected figure, who inherited her power and position from her father (whose family has its origins in the German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha!) still has potential political influence in modern Britain just about says it all about the restricted nature of bourgeois democracy. But one suspects (as they say at Buck House) that another unelected group – the global hedge funds and the big wheels in the financial system – will have a more decisive role to play if the election results in stalemate.

That is because the British state is heading for bankruptcy as the recession deepens and the money markets want action sooner rather than later to sort things out. Every January since modern records began, tax receipts have been larger than government outgoings. Not this January, however. In January 2010, the Treasury had to borrow £4.3 billion – compared to a surplus of £5.3 billion last year and £14 billion the year before. All the signs are of a worsening position, as unemployment grows, consumer spending falls further and corporate profits decline.

The markets reacted to the January deficit by raising the interest rates it charges to lend to the British government, adding to the total debt which is probably running somewhere near £200 billion a year or close to 13% of the annual value of economic output. It’s more or less the same ratio in Greece which, as you know, is said to be bankrupt.

Back to the general election scenario. Jonathan Loynes, senior figure at Capital Economics research consultancy, was voicing something more than his own opinion in commenting on the deficit: "It is clear that a more credible plan to restore the public finances to health will be required shortly after the general election to keep the markets and rating agencies at bay."

The bond market will not want a weak government cobbled together as a result of some horse-trading between the parties and blessed by the queen. You cannot, therefore, rule out the possibility that in the event of a deadlocked general election, the pressure will mount for an emergency national government of all the main parties in a grand coalition to deal with the country’s financial crisis.

And with a “return to growth” as likely as the discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we know that will mean unparalleled, savage cuts in spending on public services, attacks on wages and pensions and more job losses. Opposition will be silenced in the “national interest”. Those who voted for one or other of the major parties will have been disenfranchised. You may ask yourself what the point is in participating in the general election under these conditions? And you would be right. Our votes are too precious to hand over to any of them in 2010.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
23 February 2010

Your Say

Dulwich Daisy says:

I always tell people that just because I'm a hypochondriac doesn't mean I'm not ill. Is there a catastrophe or did AWTW invent it? Didn't the slump wipe millions of pounds of fictitious value out whilst leaving ordinary people still having to pay back debt? Didn't we have to bail out the banks? Is the Greek economy kaput? Is the pound falling because the markets think the British economy is kaput? Did Copenhagen represent a total betrayal of the planet because the capitalist govts. want 'growth' at all costs?

It isn't 'catastrophist' (whatever the hell that means) to state these facts and suggest that an alternative is needed. It's always important, I think, to criticise people for what they have written, said and done, not for things they have not written, said and done. Usually there is still quite enough material!

Charles says:

I found the article and comments interesting, but on the whole depressing. For a start, I don't think it is true that the AWTW was the only UK organisation on the left to understand the reasons for the present crisis of capitalism, (although A House of Cards was excellent) and to make that claim, as Robbie does, will not help in trying for more solidarity on the left, which we urgently need. I am doubtful too, that arguments about democratic centralism right now is a good idea. In fact, that is just the kind of argument that will turn off the working class (including those slightly better off who think they are middle class). The problems are many in trying to educate "the masses", not least the multitude of distractions put in front of them, for money making, but always encouraged by the elites for political reasons. I still tend to come back to the feeling that, nasty as it sounds, things will have to get much worse before those masses wake up. That is, in the the better off capitalist countries - there is more hope in the rest, especially Latin America, where they have been on the sharp end of neoliberalism as well as suffering all the agonies of military, capitalist dictatorships before that.

As I keep saying, the debt crisis cannot be overestimated, although the elites may well contrive to keep control for some years yet. But the time- bomb is out there - about $600 trillion in derivatives debts and I am not sure that includes the burgeoning commercial real estate bubble that I read is significant in America, but so far hardly noticed. Add to that carbon trading, which Larry Lohmann of Corner House thinks has similarities to the financial speculation in derivatives. As for the election, I shall only vote if there is a recognisable socialist candidate - highly unlikely in East Cambidgeshire. That may be mainly an emotional response, but I do believe that voting for any procapitalist party (that's all three of our main ones) only helps to legitimize our dumbocracy.

Robbie says:

Phil - you have raised some important issues about what is needed to raise consciousness to take on the capitalist class, but you do this in a one-sided way which poses this against what you see as A World to Win's assumptions and policies.

Todate there are 589 blogs + over 1000 other pages on the website, and nowhere will you find us arguing that the economic crisis is going to make revolution easy. Nor do we anywhere advocate a democratic centralist organisation. In fact we have allocated a whole chapter in our Manifesto to what kind of organisation we propose and seek responses, suggestions to this.

It is almost as if what you call the weaknesses of the working class blinds you to the fact that the capitalist class is also weak. After all, they openly admit that the financial system almost came to a juddering halt where they envisaged no-one being able to take money out of cash machines. A World to Win was alone on the UK left in understanding what was happening with this enormous build up of credit and debt and what the implications were and are. Which was why we managed to write A House of Cards well before this was apparent. And also why we have some inklings of even mightier crashes in the near future. The importance of studying the economic situation is to try to understand what is happening in the world and prepare for it. If the economic situation is worse than the 1930s, and in my opinion this is most likely, then we have to be prepared for all that the 1930's threw up, including fascism, mass unemployment, millions killed in WW2 etc.

And the capitalist class is weak also. After all their system is in free fall, there is no enthusiasm for their political parties and despite what you say, ordinary people are beginning to flex their muscles - whether it is in Greece, Iceland or even the UK and our website every day records these events.

And every day we try to demonstrate that the solution for working people is to get rid of capitalism - not back New Labour to keep the Tories out. And we go as much as we can to discuss these issues with working people - for example with miners recently - rather than wasting our time debating with the 'left'. Most of the 'left' is blissfully unaware of the times we live in and sees no necessity to be prepared for revolution!

Gerry says:

Phil, You say 'the evidence is that the British ruling class will easily be able to impose a sufficient austerity in order to enable them to pay off the necessary tranches of the debt over a long period.' Please tell us what evidence you are using: eg the size of the debt, its relation to GDP and to the global debt, the repayments schedule, the source of the money needed to make the repayments, the scale of the 'sufficient austerity' programme, the length of the period needed etc...

Phil says:

To Ray - you have the same catastrophist analysis as Paul. You have made a prior assumption that catastrophe for British capitalism is inevitable, whatever happens in the class struggle. But all the evidence is against you - the evidence is that the British ruling class will easily be able to impose a sufficient austerity in order to enable them to pay off the necessary tranches of the debt over a long period.

Or, if you prefer, look at it from the view of the working class. There is absolutely no evidence that the British working class has recovered from its strategic defeats (such as the Great Miners Strike) and on the contrary what we have is a situation in which the political ignorance of the British working class is so immense that there is absolutely no possibility that it can 'move' over the next period.

Why this situation? Because the left has systematically miseducated the working class over a period of decades. This problem about consciousness is not the same as the one that Lenin and the Bolsheviks wrote about. It is a far more profound problem within consciousness that has to be tackled in a profound way.

Shibboleths of the left have to go. For example, your advocacy of democratic centralism is totally - and I mean totally - inappropriate for the left in this period. Wake up! The working class wants nothing to do with any situations in which a party line is put in such a way that individual opinions are suppressed. The working class wants to hear the opinion of everybody who wishes to speak. In particular, the working class has developed a healthy contempt for meetings in which people self-suppress themselves and their opinions because they put loyalty to their group over loyalty to the working class.

In other words, the model of how to build a socialist party has completely changed since the days of Lenin. Left groups have not grasped this, except the ones that have rejected the democratic centralist road. In other words there are huge subjective problems within the working class. This is why the hope of AWTW that this economic crisis will inevitably lead to revolution is a wrong method and represents failing to carry out the self-criticism of the left that is a pre-requisite for even the most modest progress. The current economic problems of capitalism are NOT - I repeat NOT - going to smooth the way to revolution. That does not mean that we should not conduct our economic analyses. What it means is that although there is an objective crisis (AWTW is right about this) it cannot be addressed until the immense level of political ignorance in society has been properly addressed. So you are completely wrong to denigrate book learning and political education, and just as importantly, political discussion. (Look at the way left groups pathetically avoid having face-to-face real-life public discussions with each other in front of open audiences). Prepare for a Tory Government and a long period of austerity in an honest manner by changing and doing what is necessary to raise political consciousness in society.

Ray says:

Phil - Britain as well as every country, is in 'actuality' bankrupt economically - that is the true state of global capitalism. The relative poverty of capitalist states is measured by the inverse ratios by which the political regimes are able to assert their control of declining legitimacy and authority of 'their' system. The masses will not and have never moved in history simply through propaganda i.e., books, newspapers, leaflets or today by internet blogging - important though they are. There is undeniably a crisis of leadership of all classes precisely because there are no ready made solutions. That the masses have not moved in a co-ordinated way with their instinctive and embryonic class groupings is because they have yet to come to these conclusions after having tested out that which they have had to hand in the past - and thereby deciding there is no other road.

I have believed there would be a hung parliament and crisis coalition for many months now - but whether you or I are right on predictions of the parliamentary outcome, the fact remains that many of those supposedly lefts propounding socialist perspectives within parliamentary terms are motivated primarily by fear of things getting out of control. A referral to infantile disorders of ultra-leftism i.e., abstention of parliamentary voting is not the present principle danger in itself, but if the abstaining peoples simultaneous awareness is offered no way out of the impasse that would be dereliction of duty on our part.

We must however warn of these developments and counter the 'centrist' positions of those that would tie the masses (both working and middle classes) to parliamentary stages with phraseology. You said in the initial post that "the working class wants nothing to do with the left". It is precisely because of past betrayal they will have to conclude and decide that its their turn themselves to move, but before they do they look around and survey the offerings. The present organisational weakness reveals to the labourer and doctor that there is no easy fixes. Democratic centralism or Rule 1 as in Bolshevism v Menshevism is important of course but there is 'the organising by whom for whom' in this pre-revolutionary stage.

The distillation of politics is fomenting nevertheless - it is being which determines conciousness. Once the masses realise the shackle must finally be broken - there will be release principally by their strength aligned with direction. The nightmare of a national government as you put it, is by its inception primarily 'a nightmare for parliament' under conditions where the populace have a form of parliamentary 'directorship'. Democracy is suspended by a conspiratorial cabal and the form is the content. The Bonapartist Directorship chamber installs extraordinary rules for its continuance at the expense of society. Politics and the state become more transparent and authoritative under exceptional conditions - they don't like that - nor will 'our' people. Options become less plural for all concerned.

Phil says:

Agree with Robbie. I'm not trying to say that analysis of the world economic crisis is unimportant. But Britain is only heading for bankruptcy (see the article) if the British working class strengthens its position over the next period, otherwise the ruling class will just raise the rate of exploitation. So my questions about what is wrong with the left - democratic centralism, hiding on the internet, etc - are not irrelevant but are crucial to the future formation of a party that genuinely represents the interests of the working class.

Robbie says:

Whatever the result of the general election, in effect there will be a "national government" as all the parties will have to deal with the huge national debt and all parties will impose this on working people at the behest of global capitalism, in particular the financial speculators, who are holding national governments [Greece, Iceland etc] to ransom. In the case of Nu Labour it is less being held to ransom, rather they are willing servants.

Phil says:

But there is not going to be a hung parliament, so there is no point in wheeling out the nightmare of a national government. Also, to say that... "the trouble with the left is that it is not so left"... does not constitute an analysis of what is wrong with the left, which is what the working class wants to hear from you. For example, (1) what do you think is wrong in this period with the democratic centralist way of organising that most left groups follow? And (2) why have the left retreated some years ago into becoming internet groups in such a way that we all sadly miss the days when left groups had real life in-person debates with each other at a real life rather than virtual venue?

Paul says:

No one is suggesting that the capitalist crisis is 'going to smooth the way to revolution'. On the contrary, I was writing about political consequences of the crisis for the ruling classes and how the niceties of bourgeois democracy will not be allowed to get in the way in the event of a hung parliament.

The trouble with the left is that it is not so left (and certainly not revolutionary) after all.

We are advocating a revolutionary transformation of the capitalist state and economy (see the Manifesto) where most of the left is wondering how best to participate at the upcoming fraudulent general election or working up a series of 'left' reformist policies.

We will not advocate a vote for New Labour 'to keep the Tories out'. But I wager many on the 'left' will.

Mike says:

there is no smooth way only a violent way.

Mike says:

hooray about time where is britain going leon trotsky read it!

Phil says:

I would wager a considerable amount that the Tories will win the general election outright. Instead of catastrophist stories about what is happening, I think you would be better employed in working on a diagnosis of what is wrong with the left and why the British working class wants nothing to do with it. Let's have no more about how the economic problems for capitalism are going to smoothe the way to revolution.

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