Cowardice of the Labour leadership

IT’S NOT looking good for David Cameron these days. The economy is stagnant and unemployment continues to rise. The Coalition is under fire from all sides over the Government’s plans to semi-privatise the health service. His Liberal Democrat collaborators are facing a rank and file back-lash against the Health and Social Care Bill, which Labour has pledged to scrap if it wins the next general election.

Britain stands isolated in the European Union. Cameron’s efforts to restore the close ties that British imperialism once had with the United States have been ignored by the White House while his attempt to replace it with a new “special relationship” with French imperialism could fall apart if the French Socialists win the forthcoming French presidential election.

The imperialist plot for regime change in Syria has been snookered by Russia and China and the determination of the Syrian masses while some of Her Majesty’s Government’s late allies in Libya have shown their gratitude by kicking down the grave-stones of Christian and Jewish soldiers buried in Second World War cemeteries in Benghazi.

All in all Ed Miliband should be having a field day in the opinion polls. But though the latest surveys give Labour a five-point lead over the Conservatives, the party is running neck-and-neck with the Tories in London and there is no guarantee that Ken Livingstone will defeat Boris Johnson in the keynote Mayoral elections in May.

The civil unrest and the national strikes over pensions show the depth of anger, which has grown over the last 12 months, amongst millions of working people to the Tory-led coalition. But the right-wing Labour leadership has refused to give the protests the lead and in most cases it deliberately worked to undermine and sideline union efforts to force the Government to change track.

While Cameron’s solution to youth unemployment is little more than forcing young people to work as slaves stacking supermarket shelves, Labour’s answer is hardly more inspiring. The Shadow Chancellor’s proposals to tinker about with tax credits and cut VAT are simply another version of the neo-Keynesian strategy adopted by the last Labour government that will do little to “quantitatively ease” the plight of working people struggling to make ends meet during the biggest slump the capitalist world has seen since 1929.

The problem is not that Ed Miliband is a useless or inept leader as some of the Tory media would have it. He certainly knew how to play the political game when he defeated his brother to win the Labour leadership in 2010. The problem is that he courted the unions when he needed their money and votes but he thinks he can safely ignore them now that he’s got what he wanted.

Ed Miliband is banking on the collapse of the Liberal-Democrat vote to give Labour victory at the next election while refusing to promise the unions anything that Labour could be held to account over when they are next in office. The problem is simply that Labour’s right wing accepts virtually all of the bourgeois agenda of privatisation and that the old social-democratic left of the Labour Party is, at the moment, unable to stop them.

While the only national alternative to a Tory-led government is a Labour government, Labour’s right-wing doesn’t possess a divine right to lead the movement. But their dominance will only be challenged if organised labour through the unions and the Labour Representation Committee mobilise the millions behind a working class agenda for change.

Throughout the working class there is a demand for the restoration of all the rights the people enjoyed up until the Thatcher era — state welfare, free education and a national health service that was once a model for the western world. But that has to be paid for and it was paid through progressive taxation and the national ownership of telecommunications and utilities, whose vast profits were returned to the State to subsidise the “welfare state”.

The communist movement has a crucial role to play in raising the demands for progressive taxation and public ownership within the labour movement. At the same time we have to point out that these are only palliatives. There is a way out of the crisis and that is socialism, which can only be established through mass, popular democracy and the end of bourgeois rule altogether.