Shallow slogans won’t defeat the Con-Dems

November 29, 2011 at 12:31 am (AWL, Cross-post, Cuts, Socialist Party, solidarity, SWP, Tory scum, unions, workers)

Who's out on Nov 30th?
By Matthew   (via Workers Liberty)
“Strikes can smash the Tories”. “November 30: our day to smash the Tories”. “Mass strikes can kick out Con-Dems”. “Force Cameron out!”

The text under such headlines in Socialist Worker and The Socialist varies, and sometimes does not really fit the headlines, but the headline message is common and frequent.

You can see why SWP and SP think the message will be catchy. Strikes against cuts? Good. More of them? Better. Bring down the Tory/Lib-Dem government? Excellent. Combine the two ideas in a snappy phrase? Has to be even better.

Increased mobilisation and agitation could destabilise the government. Deeper economic crisis could destabilise it. Since the crash of 2008, governments have fallen in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece.

But let’s tease the issues through. Making the government fall is not necessarily a step forward. In Portugal and Spain, for example, the toppled administrations were replaced by regimes akin to Tories; in Greece and Italy, party administrations have been replaced by “technocrat” administrations designed to be less vulnerable to popular resistance to the cuts they push through.

In Britain the fall of the government would probably mean it being replaced by Labour. That would be a step forward. The new government, though under Ed Miliband pro-capitalist, would be more easily pushed by working-class pressure, and that working-class pressure, against a Labour government, could more directly shake up and transform the labour movement.

But it would not be adequate, even for winning the immediate battle on pension cuts. Balls and Miliband have refused to promise to reverse the coalition government’s measures, and will not budge from that refusal without intense and organised political mobilisation within the labour movement. Slogans which present toppling the government as the supreme prize to be won by increased strikes are thus a snare.

The SWP and SP headlines suggest to the casual reader that a good turnout on 30 November could force Cameron from office. In the small print SWP and SP recognise that more is needed.

Earlier this year SW suggested a general strike. “If the pressure gets intense enough, it can lead to the kind of united action that really does have the power to bring down the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition — a general strike” (22 March).

The suggestion has now faded to an exercise in “imagining”. “Imagine the impact if millions more said they would come out — and then decided to stay out…” (1 October). But the thought still seems to be that “smashing the Tories” is not what 30 November can achieve, but what a future general strike could win. The SP suggests something similar, though by way of saying: “we must prepare for a two-day strike as the next stage of the escalating action”.

In other words, the headlines mean: “We want more strikes. And if the strikes become really big, as big as we want, then they can win the supreme prize: topple the government”.

They mean that if strikes rise to a high pitch, capable of winning large concessions, then socialists will have presented the ruling class in advance with a convenient let-out. “You’ve made your point. Calm down, and we’ll call a general election”.

Having presented forcing a general election as the ultimate prize, the socialists will have weakened themselves in the battle that will follow, when we will have to argue against the Labour leaders’ inevitable story that the crisis means that they can’t change much, or quickly, from the Tories’ plans. Specific, “hard” demands for the strike, like “fair pensions for all”, are sharper in that situation than the apparently-radical “bring down the government”.

It is also far from certain that Labour would win the general election. When the great May-June 1968 general strike in France was finally stifled, in part with the promise of a quick general election, De Gaulle’s right wing won that 23/30 June election with an increased majority. Millions of strikers disappointed by the failure of the general strike to change society then voted for “the party of order”.

Even if Cameron lost the election, the replacement might well not be Labour but a Labour/ Lib-Dem coalition. Ed Miliband signals that he is angling for that.

To take the working class forward politically, the negative call for “kicking out the Con-Dems” or “smashing the Tories” has to be linked to a clear positive call for a Labour government, not a new coalition, and for the unions and the working class to organise for sharp demands on the Labour leaders. The call must be linked to politics, not just more strikes.

Neither the SWP nor the SP makes that link. The SP refuses to vote Labour or to fight for unions to reshape Labour. (Its article under the headline “Force Cameron Out!” ends by quarter-suggesting that it envisages an SP government replacing him. The last of the article’s concluding list of demands is: “Support the Socialist newspaper and join the Socialist Party”).

The SWP is not so dogmatic. But as of now it says nothing about Labour except to make the obvious points about Ed Miliband’s poor politics. As used by both SWP and SP, the “smash the Tories” or “kick out the Con-Dems” slogans are further examples of flim-flam “agitationalism” — socialists trying to catch the wind by shouting popular “anti” slogans without spelling out clear positive alternatives.

And to present flim-flam “agitationalist” aims as the best thing that the best development of strikes could achieve is harmful for the development of purposeful, clear-headed working-class action to win definite advances, and of serious political action.

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  1. I can't believe it's not brewlrg comoetnarayewrer said,

    Nothing about the strike as yet reported on the racist, far right ‘harry’s place’ shithole. I wonder if the tory piece of shit Edmund Standing is penning a denunciation of the strike right now? I also note that the site is currently running ads for (1) tesco (2) an asian ‘barely legal’ style ‘dating’ site and (3) a book by that tory cunt Iain Dale about that other tory cunt Borris Johnson.

    I guess it’s no surprise that the corporate whores (e.g. corporate lawyers, hedgefunders, hacks for radical rightwing thinktanks and tory party activists) that post at and run that neo-fascist, redwatch inspired sewer would pimp their sorry arses to anybody who flashes their cash at them (don’t give a fuck if the adds are ‘auto’ generated – they speak volumes about the sort of deased scumbags that run and read the site). But, the greedy, good-for-nothing pieces of shit also have a ‘donate’ button – as if being fabulously wealthy (Toube boasts of a second home in France for example) and already having sponsorship isn’t enough for these greedy, filthy sponging social parasites (and having taxpayers money bailing out the institutions they depend on for a ‘living’). What utter fucking cunts.

    • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

      excellEnt coommamentT monsuer blergHH commensttaaytor. more plaesae

  2. SteveH said,

    I think Labour would make different calls to the Tories as they tend to lean toward Keynesian solutions. For the Tories this is the ideological opportunity of a lifetime. Labour would put more money in peoples pockets. I think right now, given the mess the ConDems have made of the economy, Labour would win the election.

    So to paraphrase you and the SWP : “Kick out the Tory scum!”

  3. charliethechulo said,

    “Kick out the Tory scum” is a fair enough slogan, as far as it goes. As the article above makes clear, the AWL does not agree with the SWP about the the slogan “Kick out the Con Dems”, etc.

    In fact the SWP has *no* serious governmental slogan. Essentialy, they’re syndicalists.

  4. Sarah AB said,

    I’ll do a post later – I’ll be picketing etc for a while though.

    I’m not sure whether I agree that “Increased mobilisation and agitation could destabilise the government” – it might help them, beyond a certain point. Possibly.

    • Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

      horsey double barrelled piss.

  5. representingthemambo said,

    Well in Birmingham some of the left seem to have hit upon a political solution. Run an election campaign with the Greens. Have a look at this:

    I’m not going to condemn this outright, but it seems to smack of desperation and demoralisation rather than anything else.

  6. Jim Denham said,

    Agreed, representin’:

    except that I, personally, *would* condemn it outright.

    • representingthemambo said,

      Although I think lining up with the Green’s is foolish, I kind of see why people might do it.

      I sat through the rally in the NIA yesterday and listened to a guy from the GMB (I think) telling the audience to rapturous applause that things will be so much better when the Con/Lib coalition in Birmingham get swept away and replaced by Labour. This wasn’t a kid. This was a grown man.

      Will they be better? Will they fuck.

      Is there a single labour council in the country standing up against the cuts?

      Does anyone reading this really think they will reverse the conservatives policies when they get back in? How would they?

      I understand all of the arguments about why the left shouldn’t walk away from the labour party, but at the same time I can perfectly well see why people are looking for an alternative. The Greens may not be socialists, but their policies against the cuts are rather more coherent than labour’s.
      We have a generation of militants who are either either old enough to be demoralised by Blairism or young enough to not remember any time when labour stood up for the working class, even half-heartedly. I get why they might be flailing around for an alternative.

      I do leafletting for my local labour party from time to time and trust me, its bloody depressing. The literature is dire, and I understand why anti-cuts activists and strikers want to work with a party that appears to be on their side.

  7. paul Mellelieu said,

    An SWPer tried to tell me yesterday was a general strike when I quizzed him about dropping the slogan.

    • representingthemambo said,

      Interesting anecdote. I’ve read some of the leftwing literature and to be honest its ludicrous. I see why they are so marginal. We are in a historic crisis of capitalism and still the left can’t get its act together and realise the enemy is the government and not each other, and talk of a general strike is just empty sloganising. A couple of other things,; who are all the strange people on here with their weird deliberately misspelt range that seem to dominate much of the discussion, and if anyone has a subscription to the London review of books could they be so kind as to email the full version of one article on there for some research I’m doing?

      • representingthemambo said,

        And can someone explain why there a bewildering array of anti cuts campaigns even in a political backwater such as Birmingham? It’s most confusing for the uninitiated. Why are they all separate?

      • representingthemambo said,

        That should say language not range.

  8. brewlrg comoetnarayewrer - request to cyclophoberia ladee - pleeaz don't deleterate this I happen to no that my guestr posts draw in significant blregg traffic - my associattes at werd press faxed me this morngin said,

    Saucer currNTS:

    “In short: Yes, immigrants have taken our jobs, but only because we’ve forgotten how to work.”

    the terk ur jerBs\z combined with “we’ve 4goternN how to werk’


    • Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

      HP Sauce aka the ‘literary’ wing of the EDL.

      • brewlrg comoetnarayewrer - request to cyclophoberia ladee - pleeaz don't deleterate this I happen to no that my guestr posts draw in significant blregg traffic - my associattes at werd press faxed me this morngin said,

        Fascists and liberals alike efface social class as a superordinate category of social relation through which all other oppressions are reflected and refracted. They treat class as unimportant and dismiss the left’s preoccupation with it as ‘dogmatic’, ‘outdated’ and ‘extreme’. Fascists and liberals exist in symbiotic unity with the later creating the ideological and material conditions for the rise of the former. Liberal cunts like saucer scum saKKKcloth and aSShes and so on should be treated by all leftists and as the main enemy – nothing less than pure hostility and utter hatred of everything they stand for is enough.

  9. Monsuer Jelly est Formidable said,

    careful there blergGHH coommemntaytror – werds like that will have cyclophObieaHH ladee deletinG yer coommenntenTS

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