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A resolution on the crisis of British politics passed at Counterfire National Conference 2015. Submitted by the Steering Committee


We note:

  1. A multi-level crisis of the neoliberal project threatens to bring the post war political settlement to an end. Thirty years of privatisation and financialisation have produced a nasty, insecure and unequal society generating immense anxiety and bitterness.
    The failed cycle of imperial wars has discredited British foreign policy and further damaged the standing of elites. We are no longer living in a relatively stable welfare society presided over by two alternating parties.
  2. Despite talk of recovery, the government is committed to continued confrontation with the majority in society. George Osborne's plans would mean that by 2020 public sector spending will be less than in any year since the 1930s.
  3. The result of this is a growing legitimacy problem not just for mainstream politics but for all ruling class institutions. There is a deep sense that our democracy as a whole has failed. In the short term we have unprecedented political volatility, in the longer-term, social instability is likely.
  4. Labour, the historic party of the working class in Britain, is far from immune from this wider crisis of legitimacy. It is hard to see how it can get through the election without a serious internal crisis: if it loses, the Blairite right-wing (in control of the PLP and the bureaucracy) will go on the offensive. If Miliband becomes Prime Minister, he will be committed to austerity and facing the prospect of a further financial crisis.
  5. The establishment is responding to crisis by trying to whip up hysteria against immigrants and Muslims. Ukip has been the main beneficiary in the short term. But although mainstream politics is becoming more and more toxic, polls show that economic questions are at the forefront of most people’s minds, and that people hold left wing views on nationalisation and inequality amongst other things.
  6. Last summer saw a high level of mass protests as well as the anti-Westminster insurgency in Scotland – partly coordinated by the left-led Radical Independence Campaign - underlining the potential for the movement and the left. Protests, rallies and movement events continue. Housing has become a crucial issue and the question of democracy is becoming more and more central.
  7. There have been large increases in membership of anti-establishment parties. The SNP has more than trebled its membership since the referendum and now has over 90,000 members in an electorate of 4,285,323 – making the SNP 2% of the Scottish electorate.
    The Green Party has also grown fast. This is a reversal of recent trends for party membership and it contradicts superficial ideas about anti-politics. In this situation people are already discussing the issue of effective working class representation. This is to be welcomed but we cannot address it in practice until after the election when some in the Labour Party and the unions may consider their position.
    It may be a difficult process too, with no guarantee of immediate success. In the meantime strengthening the movements remains the number one priority. There could have been no Syriza without years of mass street mobilisations and strikes against austerity in Greece, no Podemos without the huge mobilisations in Spain.

We resolve:

  1. To continue to build the united front movements as the key for the left to relate to and mobilise people's anger. Stop the War was critical to the broad but militant response to Israel’s invasion of Gaza and has played a vital role in opposing the bombing of Iraq, and combating islamophobia.
    The People’s Assembly has a crucial role to play in providing coherence for the movement against austerity and for democracy. Events such as the People's Question Time demonstrate the appetite for political discussion in the run up to the election. As well as the issue of housing, campaigning over racism is going to be a priority in the months ahead.
  2. To extend Counterfire’s programme of polemic, explanation and analysis. We have already done well in helping to counter the myths about migration and austerity, and challenging simplicities about ‘a shift to the right’ in society, our online readership is growing fast, but we need to find ways to increase the reach of our arguments including stepping up the output of publications and more regular, more systematically promoted forums and meetings as well as educational events. We need to raise the level of Marxist theory in Counterfire and apply it creatively to a fast moving situation.
  3. To campaign actively for revolutionary organisation. The crisis of mainstream politics provides a massive opening evidenced by Russell Brand’s popularity. But while there is a serious level of activism in the movement and a relatively widespread anti-capitalist mood, there is a big argument to win about the need for strategy and co-ordination in the movement, and about the need for revolutionary activists to organise together.

The steering committee

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