Together let us chart a new path!s chart
London Political Forum on the Future of Society
The following introductory remarks were given at the Political Forum on the Future of Society held at the Marx Memorial Library, London, on October 29, 2016.
RCPB(ML) considered it timely to organise such a Political Forum as this. In fact, our plan is to make this the first of a series. We will hold the next Forum in Durham at the end of January, and the plan is to hold further Forums in Birmingham and other parts of the country.
First of all, we considered it timely in a general sense not only because of the degree of the assault on society and on the people’s movements, but also because of the resistance to that assault: for the people’s forces to elaborate their view of the future is crucial.
The whole EU referendum campaign, whether to remain within or leave the European Union, then put firmly on the agenda the urgent necessity in our view to develop these kinds of Forums, where people can put their views and develop the unity between the various progressive forces, the forces involved in organising for something that is worthwhile, in opposition to what the ruling elite has in store for the people.
One can reiterate endlessly the areas where there is an assault on society. This is what is generally called the austerity agenda and the whole neo-liberal approach that successive governments have been pursuing. This includes the destruction of the manufacturing base, the promotion of chauvinism and racism, as well as the warmongering and militarism. One can list irrationalism, the assaults on health care and education, and attacks on the people’s claims as members of society.
In opposition there are the resistance struggles, which are themselves being blocked. The necessity for change is put on the agenda. How to build this effective political movement to realise what people’s vision of society should be unites us all.
At the same time, it is true to say that as the necessity gets more urgent to work for a change in the direction of society and the economy, the pressures of life themselves militate against it, because life becomes more difficult. It is therefore a testament to the people’s forces that we are holding this Political Forum at all.
The holding of this Forum is something that we think represents the New. The importance of action is crucial, but it is not action looked at in itself. There is the importance of summation, of developing guidelines to which to work. Furthermore, there is the issue of charting a new path. As we put it in the invitation and the call to participate: together let us chart a new path for society.
This is the discussion we think is crucial for the activists in the various movements to carry out. Out of this discussion, we would like to develop the conception of what is a modern society consistent with the 21st century. We have the whole experience of the 20th century to look back on and sum up: two world wars, the first imperialist world war, the second against fascism; the development of a new society in the Soviet Union, its collapse and what were the reasons for that collapse; and the way the whole world situation has moved from one where the tide of revolution was in flow to one where it is in ebb. There is a lot to sum up of the 20th century. The 21st century has been dark times in many respects – dark times in the sense that it opened up with the so-called war on terror and has proceeded from there. But where is the summing up of the people’s forces that can take this situation forward?
Far from rights being recognised by the powers-that-be in this situation, they have been clearly undermined, trampled on and not recognised. The question of rights we think is one of the crucial questions for the 21st century. There is a right, as we are going to discuss, to health care, to education, even a right to sovereignty. The question of the right of people to take control of their lives, the right to be decision-makers, is something which is on the agenda.
The question of who decides what happens, who makes the decisions, who is in control, is one of the foremost questions. We think that one of the main orientations is the fact that the situation of the forces in power having to right to decide and depriving the people of the right to decide the direction of the economy, the direction of the health service and so on, this situation must be overturned. At the very least, this wholesale block to the people having any say and being in control of any decisions has to be challenged.
Looking at things in this way, it can be seen that the struggle is not simply one of reversing this history of assault, of the anti-social offensive, in order to salvage the gains that people have made, but is of actually safeguarding the future. To do this we both have to analyse the present, the here and now, the actual situation, and to look at the origins and development of that situation. But further, we have to elaborate the future so that what is new, what is characteristic of the battle against the old is not simply a phrase.
That raises the question of renewal, whether in the sphere of political institutions, political processes or the whole outlook on society. Renewal, bringing into being something new, is one of the crucial issues.
One of the main ways by which there is a block to this renewal, which is quite natural, is the influence of capital-centred thinking, the orientation of the old, within the people’s movements. One example of old thinking within the movement is that workers’ wages are viewed as a cost to society or enterprises. To combat this influence of the old means to uphold that workers create value. Even in the health service, health workers create value in that they produce healthy individuals. Education workers similarly create value.
That being said, it is necessary to clarify that the need to battle against the old thinking is not a matter of causing divisions. Everybody is faced with divisions in society and in the movement. Divisions exist in society – straightforwardly, there are class divisions. But if the front of the people gets organised then it is possible that the old outlook can be challenged.
We launched these Political Forums thinking that it is a very necessary form for developing this unity and discussing these questions of renewal and of developing new, human-centred thinking. But then in the planning stage, the EU referendum came along, and the discussions raised the issue of taking control. This is a class question in the sense of who it is that takes control. All sorts of forces in this context are talking about shaping the future and taking control of the future in these circumstances. One thing about this situation is that it does open up the space for discussion on the new kind of politics which society needs, for the discussion on how to take things forward and how to turn around the economy to favour working people, and how to combat the chauvinism and retrogression which is the only answer of the ruling elite to the crisis of the neo-liberal economy and to the crisis of working class representation.
In our view, one can say that the result shows the importance of escaping from the illegitimate authority of the institutions of the EU. But at the same time, it is important to recognise that the division between those who voted Remain and are still for remain, and those for Leave, can be dangerous, divorced from addressing the fundamental problems of society. The issue is that people want to be in a position to have control of the decisions which affect their lives and the future of society. It is therefore necessary to stand against the assault on people’s consciousness and on people’s rights, by which the whole question of Brexit was infected, by those in authority.
We want to concentrate on what opportunities there are, what is the space for change. This is what the Political Forum raises, as well as how to strengthen resistance to reaction, and also how to work out a programme together which is going to turn the situation around in favour of the working class and people. The Forum raises the questions of what kind of political process, what kind of political parties are both necessary and actually existing and their history, how to achieve peace (one of the most crucial questions of this time), how to guarantee people’s rights, and how to bring stability.
Our analysis is that those who put private interests above social responsibility have usurped political power to make the decisions. In opposition, we have to bring the human factor into play, the human factor/social consciousness to turn the situation around.
These Political Forums will, we hope, provide a form where we can discuss the crucial problems of life itself from the point of view of working out what is the way forward, finding our bearings in this present situation and combating the disinformation which seeks to atomise everyone and sow prejudice.
To emphasise, there is a question of building coherence to the work of all the movements. In that sense, the Political Forums set our sights on building the Front of the People which is against the Front of the Monopolies and their political representatives. It is a front where inter-monopoly contradictions and the whole orientation for empire-building is actually tearing the world apart. The Proletarian Front can be said to be part of building the unity of the people, the working class and their allies, into a united torrent, a concerted programme which can take us to the future and escape the nightmares of never-ending war, the anti-social offensive and the assault on thinking itself and the quality of being human.
We rely on ourselves and our own discussions. Our aim, as the call to participate says, is to join together to affirm the necessity for change, change which empowers the people to gain control over their lives and work, which is their right, and to work for and to establish that kind of future, that kind of society which is fit for human beings, in which their well-being is the highest concern of all.