Among working class people there exists a healthy level of mistrust in and disrespect for career politicians. One visible sign of this is the declining interest in the whole electoral process in recent years. Even so, and despite the seemingly never ending string of reports about MPs’ and ministers’ wrongdoings, you don’t yet get the impression that parliament is going to be swept aside any time soon.
The recent (and not so recent) revelations have come so thick and fast that a mere quarterly magazine like Direct Action cannot hope to comment on every case. But behind each instance of lost data and dodgy funding, behind every passport scandal and failed or vastly over-budget project, there lurk the lies, deceit, arrogance and downright incompetence of one of those chinless wonders who’s managed to con enough people to vote them into Westminster.
lies and deceit
And it’s not just a simple case that these incidents reflect the human failings of only a few isolated individuals. No, the whole institution of parliamentary democracy is laced through and through with lies and deceit. And it could not be otherwise for, after all, it is a system that is totally geared towards upholding the privileged positions of the elite, a system that is built on a series of empty promises that we hear repeated every four or five years at election time.
These pages have consistently pointed out how social and financial inequality has continued to grow under the present regime; how casualisation and deregulation in the workplace has continued to eat away at our pay and conditions; and how New Labour is just as adept as the Tories, if not more so, in ensuring that the rich have continued to get richer. In this issue we look at some of these themes again, both in general (see Casualisation Kills, p.11; Lackeys of the Rich, p.12; No Such Thing as Class?, p.22) and with a particular emphasis on events in the health and care sector (see Silent Nightingales, p.6; Death by Superbugs, p.9; The Caring Face of New Labour part 2, p.10).
against all parties
But what is it going to take to bring about a new society of freedom and equality? Of course there are many out there who advise the working class to ditch New Labour in favour of building a ‘new socialist’ party. While we certainly agree with the view that our class has nothing whatsoever to gain from continuing to support the likes of Brown and co, we do take serious issue with the idea that any other political party, whether or not it calls itself ‘socialist’ or ‘revolutionary’, is the answer for the working class.
For members of Solidarity Federation, the notion of organising as a political party has two major downfalls which have been consistently pointed out by generations of anarcho-syndicalists before us (see The International Workers Association, p.18). Firstly, the political party is a form of organisation that artificially draws a dividing line between ‘economic’ activity in the workplace or union on one hand and political activity in the party on the other hand. For more than a century, this division has meant that, in Britain, class struggle based on the direct action of the working class has played second fiddle to the illusion of parliamentary action carried out on our behalf by the aspiring careerists in the Labour Party.
working class politics
To SolFedders, economic and political activity are actually inseparable. It is the capitalist economic organisation of society that forms the bedrock of the current unequal system, a system which is further guaranteed and protected by the political and repressive organs of the state. However, to say that political parties ultimately have no useful part to play in the class struggle is not the same as denying that working class organisations should be involved in politics. Far from it. Anarcho-syndicalists argue that political issues are part and parcel of the struggles we face wherever we work and live. This is a view of politics – working class politics – as something independent of political parties.
In fact, we go further than this. The second major flaw in the idea of the political party, especially the kind of party that sees itself as leaders of the working class, is that they are basically the new ruling class in waiting. This observation is as true now as it was when anarcho-syndicalists were first confronted with the likes of the British Labour Party and the Russian Bolshevik Party. While these parties have travelled different roads, one thing they share is their absolute failure as vehicles for the emancipation of the working class. As such, our attitude to political parties includes not only the need to act independently of them, but extends to actively opposing their goal of capturing state power. The bottom line, as articulated by the First International, is “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves”.
Not that the ‘new socialist’ party is likely to be with us any time soon, at least not judging by the recent goings on in the ‘Galloway gang’ (see Gaining Respect?, p.14).
also in this issue...
Besides all this, we also take a look at the failing efforts to address climate change (see A Load of Hot Air, p.13) and at the effects of supermarket expansion (see Supermarket Sweep, p.16). There are also the usual international and reviews sections, while we round off with a ‘closer look’ at situationism and its relationship to anarcho-syndicalism (see Capitalism is Boring!!!!, p.32). Enjoy your read and we hope it gives you food for thought. At least it’ll give you a break from the virtually non-stop sychophantic coverage of U.S. presidential hopefuls – don’t ya just hate ’em!