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IT’S TIME FOR REAL OPPOSITION

No Cuts – No War – No Privatisation

Left winger George Galloway stormed to victory in the Bradford West by-election with 18,000 votes and a huge 37 per cent swing from Labour. Richard Brenner writes

This extraordinary event, in which thousands of young people in Bradford, white and Asian, rallied to an anti-cuts candidate and delivered him a 10,000 majority, has opened a new opportunity for the left in Britain.

Galloway won because he spoke out against the Tories’ vicious cuts, against the bloody war in Afghanistan, against tuition fees and against the sell off of the NHS.

The Tories are lagging badly in the polls, a full 10 points behind Labour. Cameron and Osborne’s vicious budget, which taxed the old so the rich and corporations could pay less tax, disgusted people across the country. So did their reckless call for people to store fuel in their homes to break the tanker strike, causing at least one woman near fatal 40 per cent burns.

But worst of all was the news that millionaires can buy access to the PM in the form of dinners at Chequers and Downing Street. Talk about government of the rich, for the rich. Polls recorded a full 17 point Labour lead as the scandal broke.

And yet still Labour couldn’t win in Bradford. Why? Because Labour won’t oppose the Tories’ hated polices of cuts and war.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls says Labour will support “all” the Tories’ cuts. Labour leader Ed Miliband, who got his job thanks to votes from the unions, kicked his backers in the teeth by supporting the Tories’ freeze of public sector workers’ pay. And when two million of those workers struck to defend their pensions in the biggest day of action since 1926, Miliband urged them not to do it.

And what about the war – that sickening, endless succession of teenage British soldiers killed and Afghan villagers slaughtered – does Labour oppose that? No, they started it, when Blair backed Bush in 2002.

Labour is ahead in the national polls because they aren’t the Tories. But in Bradford all Labour’s long history counted for nothing at the by-election. Because Galloway, a recognised figure with a clear voice, offered some real political opposition to the Tories and their hated policies.

New party
Not just in Bradford but across the country, tens of thousands of socialists, trade unionists, young people, opponents of cuts and war, are celebrating Galloway’s win. Their attention will be turning to the next big question. How can we create something that can supplant New Labour, and be a real voice for working class people nationwide?

The answer must surely be a great national Convention or Congress to discuss founding a new mass party of the working class.

Who could take part?

Trade unionists sick to the back teeth that Unite, Unison, the GMB and the CWU are forking out millions to Labour and getting nothing in return. And members of unions that are not affiliated to Labour, like the PCS, the NUT, the FBU and the RMT, who increasingly see the need for a political voice for their fight against cuts, privatisation and pay restraint.

Electoral alliances like the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which is standing in the May elections in London, Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere in on an anti-cuts platform. TUSC candidates in London include several key figures from the unions, like rank and file electricians’ leader Mick Dooley and leading rail worker Steve Hedley.

Political organisations like the Communist Party of Britain, the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and Respect itself. While the Communist Party, for example, has opposed the idea of a new party in the past, basing its strategy on the idea of a leftwing Labour government coming to power, events have proved that that is unrealistic. Now it is raising the possibility of a new party of labour.

Rank and file groups like the construction workers’ Rank and File Committee, the Unite Grass Roots Left, and the students’ National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

New initiatives like the Occupy and UK Uncut campaigns, and the Anticapitalist Networks in Manchester, Leeds, Brighton and London.

Struggle for power
Of course some will say that we do not need a new party, that movements like Occupy and the Arab Spring show that parties are obsolete in the online age. Bradford proves them wrong.

We need a political party to give a clear message of what we are for. We need a party so we can decide on our policies collectively within a democratic structure. We need a party so we can work in a disciplined way to secure real victories. And we need a party because we are not just struggling against the Tories and their millionaire backers, we are struggling for the working class to bring them down and rule in their place.

So across Britain let the call go up for a huge convention of delegates from every campaign, every organisation, every branch of the working class and socialist movement, to found a new party and begin a new future for socialism.

Richard Brenner adds…
US economy no model for socialists
Writing in the New Statesman, Respect party leader Salma Yacoob said Britain should learn from America:

“Respect’s solution on the doorstep was to argue that we need investment not cuts in order to re-energise our economy and create the growth to deliver jobs. This is not some loony-left pipe dream; it is the experience of the American economy where old fashioned Keynesian intervention is driving down unemployment while discredited Thatcherite neoliberalism drives it up here.”

But over the last five years the US has been in a deep crisis. Huge numbers lost their jobs. Homelessness has soared.
There have been deep, vicious cuts in welfare, services, pay and jobs.

Across the US, homeless people, unemployed and young people have occupied city centres in a new movement against capitalism and its crisis.

America’s painfully slow recovery today – when every month still sees thousands of jobs lost – is caused by capitalism’s cycle, not Obama’s stimulus.

It shows that Respect’s policy of “investment not cuts” is not enough. It dodges the question: whose investment? Capitalist investment – for maximum profit at the expense of reduced wages and workforces? Or public investment for socially useful projects?

We also need to nationalise the banks, without compensation, and merge them into a single state bank, with democratic control over investment decisions. That would mean planning the economy to meet need.

That’s no pipe-dream. It’s a socialist policy. A new working class alternative to Labour will need plenty of them.

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