For many working class people, the weeks since the Tory victory have been weeks of demoralisation. It is of course possible to be blasé about the situation: what, after all, could a Labour government, possibly in coalition with the SNP, have delivered except more austerity? The devil, however, is in the detail: whether a cabinet commits to cut 1 or 12 billion pounds per year does make a difference in terms of vital support services on the ground. It is difficult right now to imagine how the Tories’ agenda might be accomplished without producing severe social crisis.
As if that were not enough, there is a swathe of anti-working class bills, some of which have been unwrapped as vicious little surprises in the queen’s speech: a de facto ban on the right to strike; a ‘snooper’s charter plus’ against ‘extremism’; attacks on the union funding of workers’ parties; all this and more, alongside token concessions to various nationalisms such as Scottish (‘wide-ranging powers to Scotland’) and British (the EU referendum). It stands to reason that even the most dyed-in-the-wool Blairite cabinet could not get away with such radical measures without provoking serious rebellion in the party ranks.
Add to this the crushing feeling that during five years of brutal Tory-Lib Dem rule, the working class has not fought back. Protests and spontaneous outbreaks of anger were largely confined to students, small bands of activists of the Occupy and UK Uncut variety, and, in the case of the 2011 riots, the margins of capitalist society that Marx referred to as relative surplus population. The far left, where it has not been stagnating, has seen further splits producing disillusionment and contributing to the rise of various cross-class identity politics and short-lived liquidationist projects. To put it briefly, we are collectively nowhere.
After such a gloomy few paragraphs, I might just need to ask you to put down that gun, noose, or razor blade. There is no use in despair – but, given our present ineffectiveness, the Wobblies’ old slogan, “don’t mourn, organise”, will not do either. Instead of carrying on campaigning as usual and shouting anti-austerity slogans at a steadily decreasing audience, what the left might just need is some long hard thinking. I recommend Jack Conrad’s recent article, in which he implores us to do precisely that. The main reason why the working class is not fighting, after all, might just be that there doesn’t seem to be much to fight for.
In this respect, it is also worth looking into Mike Macnair’s recent series of articles that inquire what kind of alternative to “all the crap” we need to formulate (part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4), and revisiting his book that proposes an overall approach to attain our goals, Revolutionary Strategy.