Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

General Election 2010: It's time for class war

Following a recent post on Marxism and Anarchism and then one heralding the anniversary of the Poll Tax Riots, one might think that heading a post with the title 'It's time for class war' might lead some readers of Histomat to wonder exactly if this blogger is about to join one of the minuscule anarchist grouplets in the UK or something. Actually not, but anyway those currently shouting loudest about 'class war' are, as ever, those who for decades have been loudly cheerleading a war of the very richest in society against the poorest - the Daily Mail, whose headline today screams NOW THE CLASS WAR BEGINS.

What does this refer to? News of a much needed escalation in the current BA strike perhaps? No, that's too much to hope for - on every level. Actually, the Mail's headline in fact refers to Gordon Brown's banal declaration that he was from 'an ordinary middle class family in an ordinary town', which - the Daily Mail seizes on with horror - an implicit reference to the fact that Tory leader David Cameron is the son of a stockbroker and actually a related to the Queen, being a descendant of William IV while Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is the son of a banker 'and his aristocratic grandmother fled St Petersburg after the tsar was ousted' by the Russian Revolution.

Actually there is a serious need for a real return to the question of class and yes, class struggle in British politics today - as Socialist Worker's excellent election coverage makes clear - given the grotesque poverty and inequality in modern British society - and given the devastating cuts that all three parties want to impose on public services by way of making 'ordinary' people (to use Gordon Brown's phrase) continue to pay for the capitalist crisis. The fact that Cameron, a rich white Old Etonian aristocrat trying to pass himself off as a British Barack Obama waving the banner of 'change', is a man who sits on a personal wealth of about £30 million and yet is leading this charge for public service cuts in the name of 'everyone tightening our belts' as 'we are all in this crisis together' is nauseating enough without the likes of Brown and Clegg following in his wake. Thank goodness that amid this election campaign - 'the worst election ever' according to one commentator, dominated by pro-big business parties offering either cuts or racism (or both), at least one party in this election is offering a socialist alternative and is prepared to not simply talk about the need for 'real change' but is actually seriously committed to it as well. The Daily Mail may well have to get used to screaming about 'Class War' in Britain for some time to come.

Edited to add: Right to Work is organising an emergency post-election conference on Saturday 22 May in central London:

An age of austerity is what all three established parties are promising after the forthcoming general election. All are pledged to cutting public services in order to pay for the public budget deficit. Ordinary people are being asked to pay for a deficit caused by this government nationalising the gambling losses run up by the bankers.

The European Union and the International Monetary Fund are demanding cuts. In Greece these same unelected officials are demanding savage cuts in pensions and wages plus cuts in services. There workers, students and pensioners are fighting back.

The vicious attacks on striking BA cabin crew reveal nervousness among politicians about how working people will react to being asked to making sacrifices to pay a crisis they did not cause.

We cannot sleep walk into an election knowing that vicious cuts are coming without organising for resistance. We certainly cannot simply hope that if Gordon Brown is re-elected he might go back on pledges to cut spending. Cuts are already taking place and BA cabin crew, PCS members, UCU lecturers and Network Rail workers are already taking action to defend jobs, services and living standards.

This conference aims to unite trade unionists, students, pensioners, local campaigns and all those who rely on state schools, hospitals and services. Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Pete Murray, vice-president of the NUJ are among the confirmed speakers. We are also inviting speakers from Portugal , Greece & Italy so we can learn from the strikes and protests there.

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