It is necessary to bring to an end the misery and insecurity that capitalism inflicts on the very people who create its wealth. This can only be achieved by the working class organising in a political party which fights for the liberation of the working class.
That is what the socialist founders of the Labour Party meant it to be. The party was hijacked by the trade-union bureaucrats and self-serving Labour careerists — from whom it has now in turn been hijacked by Blair’s gang of openly bourgeois lawyers, journalists, academics, and practising capitalists. The need for a workers’ government, a government that in a measurable way will serve our class, is as urgent today as it ever was.
The openly capitalist character of Blair’s New Labour administration poses the question: how can we get such a government? The answer is first another question: what force in society can create a workers’ government? Only the organised working class — the labour movement. But for that to be possible, we must first transform the existing labour movement. We must democratise to the highest level every structure of our organisations, rebuilding an open and democratic trade-union movement that can develop the demands and interests of the working class and carry them out to their full.
A socialist workers’ government would begin to organise society to meet human need rather than to create wealth for a few. It would organise industry so that everyone who could work has a job and the chance to contribute to the common social wealth and well-being. It would close the vast gap between the richest in our society and poorest at the bottom of the heap. It could lay the foundations for the complete transformation of our present capitalist society into a socialist society, a society where all classes and class differences would be abolished once and for all, a society organised at every level for the benefit of the whole population, and based on people’s needs, not profit.
All that is possible. Its achievement depends on whether or not the workers can build and rebuild and renovate the labour movement into a force that desires to and can defeat the capitalists. When the capitalists feel their property and profits are endangered, there are no lengths to which they will not go to preserve them. The interests and welfare of the working class are their very last concern. They will have no qualms about using the might of the state machine to crush the workers’ efforts to create a higher and more civilised form of society. They have done it often, for example in Chile in September 1973 against the none-too-radical but honestly reforming government of Salvador Allende. They will do all they can to sabotage industries and production. They will attempt to wreck the workers’ government at every level. The labour movement’s inability to take the great trade-union victories of the early 1970s to their logical conclusion — that is, to the creation of a workers’ government prepared to fight to put the needs of the working class first — prepared the way for the savage counter-attack of the right-wing Thatcher government.
A mass, united workers’ movement, armed with an independent working-class programme and led by organised socialists, is necessary if we are to take on the might of the capitalist class and push them back. The Blairites are pushing in exactly the opposite direction. Not only do they govern as agents of the boss class; they want to complete Margaret Thatcher’s work and drive the labour movement out of politics. To some extent they have already done it. The links between the Labour Party and the trade unions have not been severed, but the trade union leaders have let the unions be reduced to dumb extras in Blair’s pageant. The unions still have a lot of reserve power, should they choose to use it.
Raising, as we must, within the unions the back-to-basics politics of class against class, of the need for a workers’ government, we can help rouse the bedrock labour movement to fight against its own exclusion from politics and reverse the logic of Blairism. The Blairites have the commanding heights of the Labour Party, but the fight there is not over yet. Trade unions should take up the old cry for which the Labour Party first differentiated from the Liberals — the demand for working-class people in Parliament, for labour representation. Activists in the trade unions should start by demanding that their unions use their positions in the Labour Party — still substantial, if only they would use them — to fight vigorously and insistently for the unions’ own policies, for the health service, for the welfare state, and for union rights.