I am grateful to Jim Denham for his response (Solidarity 587) to my letter (Solidarity 586). I thought I had made it clear — certainly Britain’s Road to Socialism (BRS) does — that the “popular, democratic, anti-monopoly alliance” is primarily about transforming and uniting the broadly defined working class into a force for overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with the political rule of the working class i.e. socialism. The references to smaller capitalist and intermediate strata (not the same thing) are fairly few and frankly marginal and I would agree with most of what Jim says in his final paragraph.
Jim says a “major disagreement” between us is “the role of socialists in the class struggle today” and says “supporters ofSolidarity and Workers’ Liberty focus on working class activism organised within the Labour Party and trade unions. The Labour Party and unions are the arena for the debates and struggles that take place within the British working-class movement.” Really? So Black Lives Matter, Reclaim These Streets, the Sarah Everard protests, opposition to the Police Bill etc., are down to the Labour Party and the trade unions or not relevant to “the British working class movement”?
Let’s take a step back. Trade union membership is circa 6.4 million, Labour Party membership is around 500,000 and the national vote for Labour at the last election was 10.3 million. Important numbers but currently very much a minority of the class, a minority of the population and minimal influence or impact on the direction of travel in this country.
The strategy of the BRS is precisely to transform the current minority and sectional role of the labour movement into leading an overwhelming majority of the working class for socialism, not by burrowing deep into the Labour Party, but transforming the labour movement through building alliances with the wide range of progressive and democratic movements fighting against exploitation, oppression and all the negative impacts capitalism has on all aspects of our lives.
The BRS argues that capitalism in Britain today is “state monopoly capitalism” which exploits workers as workers but also oppresses large sections of society on the basis of gender, ethnicity, age, constantly tries to roll back democratic rights and civil liberties, blocks social progress on any front, generates militarism and war and threatens the future of the planet through environmental destruction.
As Marxists we understand that many of the issues which mobilise people into struggle are ultimately rooted in the nature of the capitalist economic and social system itself and can ultimately only be fully addressed through the establishment of a socialist system of society.
These are mutually transformative alliances. The labour movement positively engages with wider social, progressive and democratic movements, understanding that class exploitation and oppression extends far beyond the workplace and economic relationships. These wider movements learn to understand the potential contribution and leading role of the labour movement and the social weight it can bring to bear to support their progressive demands. From their experience and the involvement of socialists and communists, these wider movements develop deeper understanding of the centrality of the class contradiction, the nature of society and need for fundamental change.
Through the building of this mass alliance and movement, the labour movement increasingly realises its leading role on behalf of the working class as a whole, able to represent and articulate the interests of the class, in all its complexity and diversity.
The socialism we want to establish must be heavily informed by the demands and aspirations of the progressive movements and struggles, otherwise it will be badly deficient and it will not command the support of significant sections of the broad working class itself. Socialism must be feminist, democratic, green and internationalist, amongst many other things.
The role of the “popular, democratic, anti-monopoly alliance” is therefore primarily about building a united working class majority, led by a transformed labour movement, with advanced, ultimately revolutionary consciousness and organisation, a “class for itself” and capable of carrying out socialist revolution.
If Jim and the AWL “fundamentally disagree” with the above, then I am sorry and disappointed. But I sense there is also significant common ground.
Andrew Northall, Kettering