Carry Forward the Struggle against Cameron!
No to the Austerity Agenda! Defend the Rights of All!
General disbelief followed the result of the General Election that the Conservative Party had won an overall majority in the Commons. The resolve of those forces who are pledged to oppose and defeat the austerity agenda has, however, been strengthened. It is recognised that the ruling elite had been set on ensuring that Cameron remained in Downing Street. The last-minute tornado of fear-mongering from the Conservatives could be seen to amount to a coup carried out against the electorate.
The disinformation about the result has been that it has amounted to a famous victory for the Conservatives and a horrendous loss for Labour. From this, it has been a short step to concluding that the electorate returned a Conservative majority representing the centre-ground, while Labour lost because it had turned too far to the left, was in hock to the unions, and rejected the values of New Labour. The reflection of this in the workers’ movement is the pressure to blame the electorate for the Tory majority, and express despondency about the outcome or, what amounts to the same thing, develop a hysteria about fighting harder.
But the issue does not pose itself primarily about moving left or right. The issue was and continues to be to say no to the austerity programme and defend the rights of all. The electorate did not embrace the austerity agenda. Far from it. It is clear that the SNP inspired the Scottish people to reject austerity in as much as it was represented by Scottish Labour. And they pledge to take this fight to Westminster also. A party such as the National Health Action party inspired people through its principles, its stand and its organising work to challenge the status quo.
The facts show that the Conservative Party barely secured one-third of the vote. It only increased its share of the vote by 0.8% from 2010. With a turnout of 66.1%, only a quarter of eligible voters turned out to support a Conservative candidate.
What was particularly noticeable was the rejection of the Lib Dems. This shows a rejection of the Lib Dems as the party that betrayed the electorate by ditching its promises and its manifesto in 2010 and allowing the Conservatives to rule. Of the seats the Lib Dems lost on May 7, two-thirds went to the Tories and only one-third to Labour. Overall the share of the vote by the old Coalition parties plummeted by 15%. Parties such as the Greens increased their share of the vote, and Caroline Lucas was elected in Brighton with a substantially increased majority.
The conclusion can be drawn that Labour was unable to prevent the Conservatives from reaching a majority because it conciliated at best with the austerity agenda and did not present an alternative to the programme of austerity. At best, Labour apologetically refused to fight austerity, and indeed actually focused on how it would continue this programme. It did not affirm it would defend the rights of human beings, but on the contrary it capitulated to the agenda of the rich which blames the people and not the state for the ills of society. One had the spectacle of Labour swearing that its main priority would be to balance the books by reducing investment in the future of society, while the Conservatives presented themselves as the party of working people. It can be confidently said that behind this scenario lies the agenda of the rich and powerful who wish to keep the people disempowered and to exercise their dictate over society.
The spectacular success of the SNP not only reflects their opposition to austerity but to upholding the principle that the Scottish people should exercise their sovereignty. Support had been increasing by leaps and bounds since the Westminster parties united in opposition to Scotland as an independent country in which the people are sovereign, and hence paid the price. The success of the SNP also reflected the opposition of the people to militarisation and the threat of nuclear weapons.
The election of the Conservatives with a majority poses the danger to the people of an extremist and dictatorial government, which does not recognise the right of human beings and their collectives and the importance of a modern government basing itself on a culture of rights, and which in particular is singling out the right to conscience for attack. It goes without saying that it is fundamentally opposed to the right of the people to be the decision-makers, a right which has taken root with the Scottish people.
The scene is set, not for a consensus parliament, but one in which pro-austerity and anti-austerity agendas will come into clash. How far this develops remains to be seen. The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act would seem to guarantee a government that can rule out a vote of no-confidence for a term of five years. However, the Tories have a very slender majority, and are set for a growing opposition to their term in office, perhaps within the Commons but certainly through the working class and people’s movements.
In these circumstances, it is vital that these movements put high on their agenda the issue of building a Workers’ Opposition. The people ardently desire a change in the direction of the economy and of society, and are opposed to austerity, privatisation, paying the rich, and the imposition of an agenda which consolidates the rule of the monopolies and criminalises the right to conscience on the spurious grounds of combating extremism. The election has demonstrated that the more the ruling elite talk of “One Nation” and “British values”, the more they impose neo-liberalism and criminalise dissent and opposition to the neo-liberal agenda. Their whole system is counterfeit in this respect.
The task presents itself of carrying forward the struggle against Cameron, the Conservatives, and this neo-liberal austerity agenda that they represent. The task presents itself of developing resistance and giving this resistance organisational form. The task presents itself of defending the rights of all. We call on everyone to fully participate in taking up these tasks and turning the situation around.