The economic crisis
1. From the Far East to the heartlands of capitalism the brutal contradictions of the global crisis of overproduction have unfolded as the world economy has sunk into open recession since the summer of 1997. "The full extent of the financial crisis which began over a year ago in South-East Asia is beginning to emerge. It took a new plunge during the summer with the collapse of the Russian economy, and the unprecedented convulsione unprecedented convulsions of the 'emerging countries' of Latin America. But today, it is the developed countries of Europe and North America that are in the firing line, with the continual slide on their stock exchanges and the constant downward adjustments of their forecast growth. We have come a long way from the bourgeoisie's euphoria of a few months back expressed in the dizzy rise in western markets during the first half of 1998. Today, the same 'specialists' who had congratulated themselves on the 'good health' of the Anglo-Saxon countries, and who forecast a recovery for all the European countries, are the first to talk of recession, or even 'depression'. And they are right to be pessimistic. The clouds gathering over the most powerful economies are pregnant, not with some passing squall, but with a veritable tempest, an expression of the dead-end into which the capitalist economy has plunged" (IR 95, 'Economic disaster reaches capitalism's heart')
2. The slide into world recession has shaken all of the British bourgeoisie's propaganda about the success of the British economy, the 'recovery' under the Major government and the 'boom' that followed the election of Labour. Growth forecasts are continually revised downwards: they have gone from 2.1% for 1998 to under 1%. Business reports have vied with each other in their gloomy predictions about the state of the economy. A report produced by y the CBI at the end of October 98 said business confidence was at its lowest since the height of the recession of the 1980's. The British Chamber of Commerce talked of the 'meltdown' of manufacturing. Ernst and Young, the international accountants, using the Treasury's own computer model of the economy, have predicted up to 500.000 lays-offs in manufacturing over the next two years. According the House of Commons Library 300 manufacturing jobs are going a day at present and this will increase to 600 next year. The City of London has been shaken by the financial earthquakes reverberating around the world economy. Profits are forecast (by the CBI) to fall from 3% in 197, to 0.7% in 98 and to 0.1% in 1999. There has already been the wave of closures of state of the art electronics factories: Siemens, Hyundai, Via-systems. In the car industry, a central part of the industrial base, Rovers are laying off up to 4,000 workers and the remaining workers are being called on to accept the loss of overtime pay and bonuses which amount to a 25% pay cut, Ford's have introduced short time working.
These expressions of the plunge towards open recession are only the beginning
3. Confronted with these increasing manifestations of the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, the British bourgeoisie has responded in the only way it can: to strengthen state capitalism. This is is one of New Labour's most important tasks. It has to increase the competitiveness of British capitalism through tighter state control, which goes hand in hand with attacking the working class at every level. However, this does not mark a break with the 'free market' Tory government, but the continuation of the latter's defence of state capitalism.
The state's role in preventing economic catastrophes is in fact the expression of a general tendency imposed on all countries and all governments in this epoch. It is a characteristic of decadent capitalism to resort to the state power in order to maintain the functioning of an economic machine which, left to itself, would be doomed to paralysis by its own internal contradictions.
Since the First World War, which expressed the fact that the survival of each nation depended on its ability to use force to grab a place on a restricted world market, the capitalist economy has had to statify itself permanently. In decadent capitalism, state capitalism is a universal tendency. According to the country or the historic period, this tendency has assumed more or less developed forms and rhythms. However, it has never stopped advancing, to the point where the state machine is at the heart of economic and social life in all countries.
After the Second World War the most important parts of British capitalism were nationalnalised by both Labour and Tories. With the reappearance of the open economic crisis at the end of the 1960's the state used policies of increasing inflation and public and private debt in order to try and manage the crisis through artificially stimulating demand.
In the 1980's the state introduced the Medium Term Financial Strategy with which it tried to manipulate the exchange rate, interest rates, the money supply and inflation in order to try and manage the economy's decent into crisis. The state methodically cut out the unprofitable parts of the economy: steel, coal, shipbuilding etc much of this was done in the name of 'privatisation' and 'deregulation'. This policy not only cut out the dead wood but also sought to better integrate 'private' capital and the state at the level of management. Firms such as BT were exposed to the market and had to carry out massive lay-offs, but the state reinforced its overall control through the use of regulatory controls that dictate pricing and investment policies. The state also holds controlling stakes in the privatised industries and has places on all the boards. At the same time all aspects of local government and the NHS were brought under centralised control. By the end of the 1980's the British state had a firmer control over the whole economy than ever.
In the 1990's the Major government introduced its "strategy for growth", whicich pumped £1.5 billion into the economy, introduced the biggest rises in taxes since the Napoleonic war, increased public spending by £29.4 billion. Personal debt rose from a situation in 1991 where repayments were greater than the increase in debt to one in 1996 where net debt increased by £3.5 billion. The government also stimulated the recovery by devaluing the Pound by 30% and through staying out of the EMU once, it had been pushed out. The main attacks on working class living standards were organised directly by the central government, e.g. the Job Seekers Allowance.
4. Since coming to power New Labour have set about reinforcing these state measures for trying to manage the crisis with great gusto.
A central theme of the government has been the need for 'flexibility', 'employability' and the imperative need for bridging the 'productivity gap' i.e. the need for workers to work harder, longer and for less pay. Labour makes no bones about using the high pound and interest rates to force the economy to improve 'productivity'. These measures have also been backed up by changes to the tax and welfare system which make its easier for bosses to employ workers on low wages, thus further adding to the 13 million on poverty wages already. The changes to the welfare system will further drive down wages, by pushing tens of thousands off of benefits and into the he job market.
Labour has also made it clear that it will continue the policy of cutting out the dead wood. The closure of the high tech plants, threat of lay-offs at Rover etc, have all brought the same response from the government: 'get on with it because it is vital to increase productivity'.
5. Along with these measures have gone unprecedented attacks on the social wage. Labour is carrying out an all-out assault on the welfare system. They have made it clear that they are going to cut back on every benefit and that no one should 'expect benefits for life'. Single parent benefits are to be cut by £10; the sick and disabled are to have their benefits cut and will have to undergo new tests to assess whether they can work or not. This will force tens of thousands off benefits. Workers receiving occupational pensions because they have become ill through industrial accidents or general illness will have their benefits cut. The idea of compulsory second pensions is also being put forward. This amounts to a new tax and justification for cutting the state pension. These attacks are set to continue with yet more 'reforms' of the welfare system to come as the state desperately seeks to cut its costs.
6. The accelerating descent of the world economy into open recession is pushing British capitalism towards its worstworst recession, even depression, since the 30's. The state capitalist measures taken by the British bourgeoisie through Labour have helped to put in place their strategy for trying to manage this descent into recession. However, "...the application of state measures, all the co-ordination of economic policy between the most developed countries, all the 'salvage plans' cannot save capitalism form a growing bankruptcy, even if they do enable it to slow down the pace of the catastrophe". (International Situation Resolution from the 13th RI Congress, IR 94)
7. The broad framework for understanding Britain's role in the world imperialist game, as presented to the last WR Congress, has been fully confirmed:
"The tendency of 'every man for himself' in imperialist relations has continued to grow throughout the world over the last two years. One of the most striking illustrations of this tendency has been the decline of Britain's 'special relationship' with the United States...
In ex-Yugoslavia the policies of Britain and America clash sharply...
...The entente (with France) is particularly fragile - along with all imperialist alliances today - since it is a coming together of two second-rate, historically declining powers of essent essentially equal strength. Neither party is ready to subordinate its interests to the other and the entente is therefore unstable...
.... If resistance to the imperialist ambitions of the US continues to be the main orientation of British imperialist policy, its antipathy to the designs of Germany is a historical part of that policy which remains valid today, especially given the reanimation of Germany's ambitions following the collapse of the eastern bloc and the reunification of Germany...
... The US has sought to punish Britain for its disloyalty by exacerbating the conflict in Northern Ireland in the name of peace" ('Theses on the British Situation', WR 201).
All of these tendencies have been accentuated, as the contradictions of the imperialist jungle have become more acute, with the tendency towards every man for himself dominating over the tendency towards the formation of new blocs. Without the threat of another bloc to make the second and third rate powers submit themselves to one of the bloc leaders, the tendency for each imperialist power to 'save their own furniture' is increasing the imperialist chaos. This does not mean that the potential alternative bloc leader, German imperialism, is not seeking to build a bloc around it. It clearly is, through the development of its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and its increasingly active engagemgement in 'peace keeping' missions. Nevertheless, its ability to do this is weakened by the general situation of every power being out for its own.
8. In this international context, the decision of the British bourgeoisie to place Labour in government has greatly strengthened its ability to defend its independent imperialist strategy. The inability of the bitterly divided Tory Party to defend the interests of the main faction of the British bourgeoisie was a server weakness: "...The main faction of the British bourgeoisie has appreciated that the best defence of its imperialist interests lies in pursuing an independent policy. There will be times when this necessitates alliances, but these will tend to be short-lived and unstable. As a second division power, incapable of aspiring to the status of leader of an imperialist bloc, British imperialism can have no long-term orientation. The Labour government of Tony Blair will speak of its 'ethical' arms policy and insist on its desire for 'peace' throughout the world, but above all it will pursue an independent orientation for British imperialism. No longer the all-powerful bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century, British imperialism remains a ruthless force in the increasing chaos of international relations. It is no longer the strongest of imperialisms, but it is still one of the smartest when it comes to an orientation in the defefence of its particular interests". (British imperialism, the orientations of a second-rate power, in WR 216 & 217). Tony Blair's speech to the 1997 Labour Party Conference clearly expressed this 'independent' line: "My vision of post-Empire Britain is clear, It is to make this country pivotal, a leader in the world. With the US our friend and ally, within the Commonwealth, in the United Nations, in NATO. To use the superb reputation of our armed forces, not just for defence, but as an instrument of influence in a would of collective security and co-operation...to make Britain a beacon to the world".
9. The apparent friendship between Blair and Clinton has raised questions about whether the special relationship between the USA and Britain really has ended. On several levels, there has been a certain warming of relations since the election of Labour, as witness the whole Third Way campaign; Britain's backing for the US over Iraq in 96 and at the beginning of 98; its support for the US-backed Kabila regime in the Democratic Republic of Congo; support for the attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan. However these have to be seen as part of the diplomatic policy of British imperialism. Given its position as a second rate power, combined with its historical links to the US, British imperialism is not going to break off relations with the US. These relations cannot be seen inin black and white terms either. British imperialism will seek to ally itself with Uncle Sam only so long as it serves its interests. In particular, it will support those actions by the US that it thinks will stop or hinder the emergence of German imperialism, for example the enlargement of NATO. Or, in the case of Iraq, it has no choice but to support the US faced with the diplomatic offensive of French and German imperialism in the Gulf region.
Moreover, in some of the most important foci of imperialist conflict we can see growing tension between the US and Britain.
In the Balkans, Britain has backed US threats against Serbia over Kosovo, because it understood that these threats were primarily aimed at the German-backed KLA and that the US couldn't afford to inflict too much damage on Serbia because it is the main anti-German regional power. Thus, Britain can carry on giving discrete support to its Serb ally and thus maintain its influence. One of the first actions of the Labour government was to send the minister of defence to the Balkans in order to hold talks with the Bosnian Serb leadership, at a time when the US was trying to diplomatically isolate it.
Labour has also continued the previous government's efforts to undermine the US's position in the Middle East. The Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's visit to Israel and deliberate provocation of the Ie Israeli bourgeoisie was aimed at further stirring up tensions between the US and Israel.
In Africa, British imperialism has taken some punishment from the US for its independence. The US has replaced GB as the main backer of the strategically important central and east African State of Uganda. This was once a very loyal British ally in the region.
10. The full import of the imperialist tensions between the US and Britain are made plain by the situation in Northern Ireland. Over the past two years, the US has kept up its efforts to punish Britain by interfering in its Ulster backyard. The Good Friday Agreement, being essentially a Pax Americana, represented a significant victory over Britain:
"If the British bourgeoisie and its mass media has lauded Blair as the peacemaker in Ulster, it's to make the best of the reverse that it has suffered at the hands of the United States over the Northern Irish peace agreement and salvage what it can for its international standing.
The Good Friday agreement confirms a US-sponsored process, begun in 1994 with the Irish Republican Army's cease-fire, of undermining the hold of Britain over this part of its territory. Britain's role in the sabotage of US objectives in the Balkans conflict during this decade not only confirmed the end of the special relationship between Bren Britain and the US, but also the generalised trend of 'every man for himself'...The US has returned the favour on Britain in the latter's own backyard. By supporting the political wing of the IRA, Sinn Fein, the US is punishing Britain for its pretensions at playing an independent role on the wider arena...The Good Friday Agreement confirms what has been implicit in the peace process since 1994: the elevation of armed republicanism, courtesy of Washington, from pariah to an official political player in the running of Northern Ireland" ('Northern Ireland: Imperialist 'peace' means further bloodshed', WR 214).
British imperialism has sought to fight back against this US victory. Every inch of the way it has tried to undermine the 'peace process'. The most brutal expression of this was the Omagh bombing, which devastated the heart of a strong nationalist town and killed 28 people. While there is no direct proof that the British State planted the bomb, it certainly made sure it gained as much as possible from it. The republican movement came under considerable pressure as the Unionists opposed Sinn Fein taking up its seat on the Northern Ireland Executive, while the bombing also enabled the British state to impose draconian 'anti-terrorist' law on the mainland and in the North.
However, Sinn Fein - with US advice - wrong footed these British moves by rapidly denouncing the bombmbing and those who did it. Sinn Fein came out of this situation looking even more like a defender of peace than before. It was also very willing to help hunt down the bombers, whom they probably knew were being manipulated by the British. It was for this reason also that the Eire Government also introduced new anti-terrorist laws.
11. Europe was one of the main reasons the Tories had to go. Since coming to office Labour has shown that it is going to continue the orientation of an independent policy towards Europe, based firmly on trying to undermine German imperialist ambitions: "We want there to be three key players in Europe, not two" (Foreign Office Mission Statement). To this end, Labour has carried out the usual duplicitous game of British imperialism. On the one hand it is certainly making a greater effort to increase British influence in Europe (much more friendly attitude to Germany and France, talking and make preparations to join the Euro sooner or later, etc). However, these actions are being used to stop British imperialism being pushed to the sidelines and thus not being able to counter the ambitions of German imperialism. British imperialism has to be at all the negotiating tables of the European bourgeoisie in order to defend its interests and to seek opportunities to make alliances against Germany. This includes efforts to place a wedge between the Germanan/French relationship.
12. In July 1998 the Labour government issued its Strategic Defence Review. This work was the culmination of the lessons learnt about the military/imperialist demands of the new period. The Review assimilates the need for: "an integrated external policy' using all the instruments at the government's disposal -diplomatic, "developmental" as well as military" (The Guardian 10th July 98). The Review also gives British imperialism a whole swathe of reasons for justifying its intervention around the world. In particular it states that threats to national defence are not just military ones: "It refers to drugs and organised crime, terrorism, environmental degradation and threats posed by information technology" (idem).
This strategic plan "will enable either a division level deployment or two simultaneous brigade size deployments, one of the latter being sustainable indefinitely" (International Defence Review, August 1998).
This is what Blair meant by his "instrument of influence". British imperialism, drawing on the lessons learnt in Bosnia etc is giving itself the capacity to intervene anywhere that British imperialist ambitions needs to.
13. The only perspective for British imperialism is an ever more desperate struggle to defend its o its own interests against the encroachment of its main rivals. These will inevitably led to the increased use of military power, for which British imperialism is preparing.
Political strategy of the bourgeoisie
14. The electoral victory of New Labour marked an important strengthening of the British bourgeoisie and has allowed a revitalisation of the whole democratic campaign that had begun to lose its impact on the proletariat. It also marked the British bourgeoisie's successful overcoming of the weaknesses caused by the Tories remaining in government.
"The Tory Party's life in office spans the concluding phase of the western bloc's offensive against the USSR (1979-89) as well as the period since the collapse of the blocs. As a result the Tory government, despite its leading Britain away from its former role as loyal, lieutenant of Washington, has been particularly vulnerable to the counter-veiling and destabilising pressure from the United States.
But at present time, the task of the bourgeoisie in implementing the further attacks to come is to reinforce the present disorientation of the working class in Britain by preserving the illusions of change through the 'democratic' institutions of the bourgeois state - illusions given a new lease of life by the collapse of the Easte Eastern Bloc.. In the short term, a 'victory' for the caring, sharing face of capitalism in Britain - and the rest cure for the Tories in opposition - would add a considerable stimulus to the big democratic campaigns currently being foisted on the working class internationally" ('Theses on the British Situation').
The last two years have fully confirmed this analysis. We have not only seen the whole election campaign that dominated the social terrain for months before the election, the bourgeoisie has also maintained this democratic onslaught since then, with the referendum on national assemblies in Scotland and Wales, the future elections of these bodies, the campaigns about proportional representation, the possible election of city mayors, and so on. The furore over the arrest of General Pinochet is in continuity with these campaigns.
These democratic campaigns are backed up by Labour's 'big idea': the 'Third Way'. This presents Labours' defence of British state capitalism as something new, as something going beyond the 'old ideologies' of Left and Right, the 'unrestrained free marker' and 'state centralisation'. This is a powerful ideological weapon because it reinforces the whole anti-communism, 'death of the class struggle' campaign. With this ideology the idea of the end of class is reinforced and the idea of the class struggle is replaced by the concept of the 'stake-hololder society' where everyone has a stake in society and a responsibility to the 'community'. Thus, the working class is submerged in individualism and inter-classism. The 'Third Way' is a mystification being used on an international scale, as shown by the complexion of the new Schroder government in Germany.
15. Drawing the lessons of the destructive internal feuding of the Tory Party in the last years of its government, the British bourgeoisie has rebuilt New Labour in such a fashion that it will be much better able to withstand the pressures imposed on it by the crisis, imperialist tensions and decomposition generally. The Labour Party is tightly controlled and disciplined from the centre at every level. No opposition is 'officially' tolerated
While this control maintains the necessary discipline in the party, it also allows the left wing of the party, and the left generally, to present themselves as the defenders of the 'socialist and democratic traditions' of the Labour Party. The old war-horses of the Labour left, Benn, Skinner, Livingstone, are still the ones most willing to criticise New Labour. At the same time a whole new generation of Labour left MP's are starting to make names for themselves. A prime example of this is Diane Abbot, who appears to be the main critical voice of the left as regards economic policy.
16. Since the election we have seen the continuation and accentuation of the factional struggle inside the Tory Party. The pro-US wing has gained the upper hand. The election of Hague, a long-term Thatcherite and Euro-sceptic, to the leadership marked an important blow to the pro-independence faction. The Hague faction, with the full backing of Thatcher, has built up a campaign to drive out or silence the opposing faction. In various statements the leadership has made it clear they will tolerate no dissension and that if the pro-European wing does not tow the line they should leave the party. This struggle reached a new level of bitterness at the 1998 Party conference.
The bitterness of the struggle in the Tory party demonstrates the problems the British bourgeoisie has in controlling its right wing party. One of the reasons for the election of Labour was to allow the right to go into opposition and sort out it problems. However, as things now stand, should the Tories be required to return to office to carry out the necessary attacks on the working class, and to allow Labour to go back into opposition, the bourgeoisie as a whole would be faced with the inconvenience that its right wing party no longer defended its principal orientations in matters of foreign policy.
17. On a wider level, the bourgeoisie, by means of New Labour, hashas sought to strengthen the repressive apparatus of the state.
New Labour promised to be "tough on crime and the causes of crime" and since coming to power they have certainly toughened up the repressive apparatus:
* MI5 and MI6 have been openly more integrated into police work.
* The Law and Disorder Bill introduces whole new levels of repression:
* All government agencies are now to be integrated together much more tightly. The police, Social Services, Social Security, Customs etc are meant to work closer together on joint operations. The first such operation shows what is to come. In operation Mermaid 52 police forces are to mount road blocks across the country on a set day: the justification is to check on the safety of commercial vehicles, but these road blocks while also be manned by Customs officers and benefits fraud squads;
* All of the computers of the state apparatus are also to be brought under common programs in order to 'better fight fraud';
* The Law and Disorder Bill continues the British state's draconian criminalisation of children. The only response of the state to the growing weight of decomposition on the young is repression: more prisons for children (Britain has more children in prison than any other European country), curfews, 'Parenting Orders' forcing parentparents of troublesome children to go to state 'parenting' classes, etc.
* The 'caring, sharing, peoples' government is also inflicting the most brutal attack on immigrants in years. All immigrants who are seeking to gain permission to stay in Britain will no longer receive state benefits; they will now receive vouchers for food and clothing and then only after they have proved their families and communities cannot help them. They will also be dispersed all over the country. Immigration officers will now have the right to enter peoples' houses.
The Class Struggle
18. The 'Theses on the British Situation' from the 12th WR Congress gave the following framework on the development of the class struggle:
"... the difficult resurgence of working class struggle on an international scale is being deliberately hindered by the recent manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie that aim to reforge the chains of the trade unions on the working class. However, the appearance of these manoeuvres in Britain has been very different to that in France, Belgium and Germany, being marked not by mass demonstrations and nation-wide protests of fairly short duration, but long, isolated struggles dispersed across the country. Over the last two years in a number of strikes, notably those of the Liverpool dockers andrs and the postal workers, the unions have adopted a more radical stance, and have worked to bring out traditionally militant groups of workers. These disputes, which have not won even the illusory victories of the French strikes, have had their impact and have received displays of solidarity with the intention of delivering the message that it is only possible to struggle behind the unions, The result is the same as elsewhere: the hold of the unions has been strengthened and the path of the revival of struggle and consciousness made more difficult...
The proletariat is in a difficult situation, assailed on all sides by the bourgeoisie. Confused and unsure how to develop its struggle, it all to easily falls into the traps set for it. However, the very fact that the bourgeoisie needs to launch its manoeuvres on such a scale confirms that the resurgence exists and will continue. The bourgeoisie is trying with all its strength to stifle the potentiality of this situation by dragging the workers into the wasteland of reformism and democracy. Undoubtedly it will continue to have some success, but at the same time, the deepening of the economic crisis will compel it to make further attacks on working class living standards and this will certainly provoke reactions from the workers. Furthermore, in this situation the bourgeoisie cannot go on repeating the same manoeuvres for fear that their real function will be exposed. Conditions are therefore maturing for the development not only of workers' militancy, but also for a greater consciousness about the stakes of the situation and a greater awareness about the tricks of the bourgeoisie".
The past two years have seen the development of this dynamic. At the international level we have seen struggles in the US, Denmark, Russia, Korea, Greece, France and elsewhere, expressions of a mounting discontent and militancy within the class. Britain is no exception. There have been small but important expressions of this growth in combativity. For example, the strike by 25,000 postal workers in April which saw the struggle spreading from Liverpool to offices in London and elsewhere. There was also an unofficial strike by several hundred care workers in Glasgow, strikes at the BBC, by firemen, and railway maintenance workers, all in response to attacks on conditions, jobs and pay.
19. These expression of growing militancy are unfolding in a context where the unions are still largely able to control the class. This makes it possible for the bourgeoisie to carry out numerous manoeuvres aiming at ensuring that the revival of combativity doesn't take place in an uncontrolled way.
The dialectical relationship between the revival of combativity and the efforts of the bourgeoisie to counter it is the mai main feature of the transitional phase we are in:
"... we are today in a kind of transition period between the one in which the unions were regaining their credibility, and one in which they will be exposed and discredited more and more. One of the characteristics of this period is the revival of the themes of 'fighting' trade unionism, in which the 'rank and rile' are supposed to be able to push the union leaders to be more radical...or where there is supposed to be a 'base union' which can 'really' defend the workers' interests despite the 'sell-out of the leaders' (a notable example being the dockers' strike in the UK)" (Resolution on the international situation, 12th ICC Congress).
In the recent struggles, we have seen the growth in the role of the radical rank and file movement. This was particularly marked in the electricians' strike of last November, when it was the union stewards who opposed themselves to the leadership, organising a co-ordinating committee of stewards from the main sites involved in the strike. The radical unionists also use the illegal nature of the unofficial strike and possible repression to indulge in all sorts of 'clandestine' activities: secrete meetings, stewards using false names. etc.
However, given the particular situation in Britain, i.e. the reign of a New Labour government, the union leaderships have themselvelves been able to increase their credibility by mounting a very verbal 'opposition' to many of the attacks of the government.
20. Labour has backed up its democratic campaigns with others which seek to use all the expressions of the decomposition of society - drugs, crime, child abuse, etc - in order to get the working class to look to the state for protection. For example, Labour has made much of its plans to be 'tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime'. It has also deliberately stirred up public anger about child molesters, racist attacks, etc.
21. We have also seen the full use of the anti-communist campaign over the past period. It was not accidental that Figes' book The People's Tragedy was originally in English, given the international importance of the language. This has been backed up by what must be one of the most crude pieces of bourgeoisie black propaganda since the last war - the BBC TV program on Lenin which sought to present him as a near psychopath who ordered the killing of millions, who organised the October 'coup' because he had a brain tumour, and whose general nastiness could be seen from the way he kept his desk very neat! This may be laughable but the BBC obviously knew it could have a powerful impact not only here but abroad. The working class was also subjected to much weeping and wailing ing about how cruel the Bolsheviks were when the bones of the Czar and his family were reburied this year.
22. Over the past two years, the leftists have been fully implicated in the manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie.
In the build up to the election, all the different groups carried out their role of giving the democratic process a 'socialist' and 'critical' gloss.
Since the election and the development of the attacks, the leftists have sought to channel workers' discontent into the whole democratic campaign. New Labour is criticised for "giving up on the idea of radically transforming society" (Socialist Worker, 21.3.98). Workers are also called on to place their trust in democracy in order to fight the attacks: According to the SWP, "a fight which can stop the attacks (means) petitions, lobbies of MP's surgeries, pressure on trade union leaders to fight, demonstrations and marches..." (SW 10.198).
As we have seen, with the unfolding of the new government's attacks on the working class there has been the development of an 'opposition' on the left of the Labour Party. This 'opposition' has been loudly supported by the leftists. Those members of the left of the Labour Party are presented as the 'defenders of the socialist traditions of the real Labour Party'.
The leftists, with the SWP in the vanguard, will continue to carry out their role as the radical wing of the Labour left and the trade unions. Faced with the deepening world recession and the necessity for Labour to carry out increasingly brutal attacks, the leftists' 'critique' of the government's actions, and of the 'betrayals' and 'hesitations' of the trade union leaders in response, will be an increasingly important part of the bourgeoisie's efforts to contain workers' discontent within the capitalist framework.
23. Despite all these forces arrayed against the working class, the inexorable deepening of the economic crisis will be a vital factor in the slow, uneven, but definite revival both in class combativity and in class-consciousness. The first, because the class will be compelled to reply to the increasingly frontal attacks demanded by the crisis; the second, because the crisis reveals the utter bankruptcy of the capitalist system, and obliges the proletariat to develop a perspective, a conscious overall goal, for its immediate struggles. The international scope of this class resurgence will also feed into both these dimensions of the struggle in Britain. Revolutionaries cannot underestimate the difficulties still faced by the proletariat, but it is their task to be at the sides of their class, to intervene actively in its battles in order to assist it to overcome the difficulties and progress towards a decisive confrontation with the bourgeois order.