Bill Greenshields – addressing the CP executive committee argues that worker’s organisations have go beyond the rhetoric of ‘resistance’ if the damage done by austerity is to be reveresed.
On May 2nd 1933 the Nazis attacked and occupied the buildings of the trade union movement of the German working class. They declared the unions “incorporated” into the German Labour Front – an employer and State led “nazification” organisation. They arrested, incarcerated, tortured and murdered thousands of union members, acting directly in the interests of the German ruling class, and “against the threat of communism to Europe”.
They acted because the German unions, socialists and communists had, in the face of economic crisis and depression, organised the working class to resist attacks on their living standards, attacks designed to re-establish and increase the rate of profit. The Nazis, new to State office, proclaimed that, “We are all in it together,” and that resistance must be eradicated.
European and US capital thus found Nazi Germany an attractive investment and trading proposition, and the Nazi political program too was supported by a very wide section of the capitalist ruling class across Europe and USA – and glorified by many – from Henry Ford and the Kennedy family, the Governor of the Bank of England, to many of the British Royal Family, Lord Rothermere and his Daily Mail and many, many more.
On May 2nd 2014, Ukrainian fascists attacked and burned the trade union building in Odessa, chanting, singing and cheering the deaths of those they had trapped inside, and who were shot by them as they tried to escape. The fascists were again undertaking the Nazi task of eliminating resistance. Now, as the Nazis were in 1933, they and their putschist government are widely supported, financed, directed and used by US and European capital and their international organisations – with the “We are all in it together” European Union in the lead – aiming to consolidate and accelerate their imposition of “austerity” across Europe, in order to re-establish their rate of profit.
This is one of the very most vicious attacks of the class war – the same class war that was officially recognised by the TUC General Secretary Francis O’Grady at the founding conference of the People’ Assembly in June last year. Throughout Europe workers are being subjected to various versions of the same “austerity” treatment.
Resistance is growing, both in the form of the People’s Assembly movement and most importantly in the trade unions’ struggle including the use of co-ordinated strike action – yet to grow into generalised strike action. But are we winning the battle of ideas that will make that movement genuinely strong and successful? It is true that the recent People’s Assembly Conference, as well as unanimously adopting the People’s Charter as the Assembly Charter, also unanimously endorsed Party motions identifying the nature of the crisis and the ruling class attack. The Assembly agreed that “austerity” IS working for the ruling class, and that the capitalism system REQUIRES a decisive defeat of the working class in order to re-establish the rate of profit… just as it did in Germany in 1933.
But we need to ensure that activists of the People’s Assembly agree that in the light of this, we have no alternative but to develop a strategy designed to inflict a decisive defeat on the ruling class. What would such a defeat of the ruling class look like? Certainly an end to austerity, the defeat any “austerity government”, and its replacement with one committed to People’s Charter policies. This would certainly not end the class struggle but it certainly would represent a decisive defeat for the ruling class in the war it has launched! And there are smaller victories to win along the way…
But many activists – particularly those new to the struggle – believe that simple protest and resistance is enough, that strikes and civil disobedience are aims in themselves, rather than weapons with which to achieve the small victories and the real goal, the end of austerity etc. The huge danger is that if we are right that a decisive defeat of our class is an imperative for capitalism – that it is not a matter of choice or simple political position – and if we limit ourselves to growing and sustained resistance and protest, we are inviting the kind of response that capitalism and its institutions are inflicting on the trade unionist, socialist and communist resistance in Ukraine, and that they have inflicted before in each of the five continents when they have felt it necessary.
It genuinely is a class war rather than the regular day to day class struggle than characterises capitalism per se. It is a class war launched by the ruling class in the 1980s through the Thatcher and Regan administrations and clearly recognised then, amongst others in the movement, by the NUM in the 1984/5 strike, summed up by the headline of The Miner “This Is War!” It is a class war stepped up and accelerated as a consequence of the current financial and economic crisis. It is a class war that will not end in a draw.
We must help develop throughout the People’s Assembly and Trade Union movement a day in-day out war consciousness, and a strategy for winning.
It is in this light that we understand the role of the European Union as a major weapon of class war, owned, controlled and operated by the capitalist class as they sit fit, depending on the particular battle and terrain of that war. The fact that the wide movement does not yet properly grasp the unreformable capitalist nature of the European Union indicates that we are a long way from succeeding in the battle of ideas within our movement about the nature of the war in which, like it or not, we are engaged.
Similarly, the lack of understanding and direction in the movement generally over the crisis in working class political representation illustrates the same thing. The lack of a broad workers’ movement prepared to fight to win led to vacillation, capitulation and finally willing surrender by the leadership of the Labour Party to the very powerful pressure and dominance of capitalism and particularly the City of London and its US investors. Now that Labour leadership hacks away further at their historic links with the unions, while intermittently making sympathetic gestures towards the victims of the austerity policies they share with the Tories, emanating from the same source – the imperatives faced by capitalism, and the war on workers.
The work the Party has done on our strategic approach to the Labour Party, based on building a mass movement capable of resolving the issue from within the organised working class, is indispensable. But still, despite valuable proposals along those lines from one or two unions, the majority of unions, affiliated and non-affiliated, seek to “wait and see” – while elements of the ultra-left debase and confuse the issue with absurd suggestions that somehow they can, between their squabbling selves, cobble together a new party which they could then “offer” to the working class… patronising and arrogant childishness.
The war has been declared and is underway. It is reflected in “austerity”, in disguised and statistically manipulated unemployment, in privatisation, in legal and organisational attacks on unions, in increased exploitation at work, in pay and pension cuts, in attacks in attacks on health and safety and other working conditions, in the deprivation and demonization of those most vulnerable, in orchestrated “divide and rule”, in public service cuts, in poverty and the wealth gap with its obscene and growing disparities. It’s also reflected in the beatings, bullets and flames of the Ukraine.
We now have to win an all-encompassing recognition of the stark realities – both in the movement, and also throughout our own Party comrades. We have soundly based organisation in the Party, through Branches, Districts, Nations, Trade Union Advisories, Policy Commissions and democratically derived and accountable leading committees. This organisation allows, and will only work with participation by all of our members.
To make Party organisation work to its best we now have to step up and revitalise Party education at all levels, and in new ways. Party participation, strategic activity and discipline are only borne out of education, conviction, analysis and a “practice, theory, practice” collective process of review and planning of work – at ALL levels. Party education, organisation and activity cannot be separated – each depends on the other… and we need to reinforce them now at this moment of decisive struggle.