Last weekend saw spontenous demonstrations outside Downing Street and the Grand Connaught Rooms, where Cameron was apologising to the Tory party, attracting several thousand before being broken up by police. These demonstrations came in the wake of revelations that the ruling class (including Cameron) have been – shockingly! – routinely engaged in avoiding paying taxes on their assets. The leak, dubbed the Panama Papers, reveals connections between major banks, heads of state, and government officials the world over with tax avoidance vehicles and shell companies.
This is of course business as usual for the capitalist ruling class as they seek to extract as much profit as possible at the expense of the workers that create all this wealth. While creating attractive conditions for businesses and wealthy individuals to make their superprofits services for the rest of us are cut or privatised. This is not due to the ‘wrong’ party being in government, but the wrong system (capitalism) being in place.
The Kill the Housing Bill demonstration saw thousands take to the streets, while the #4demands demonstration yesterday, Saturday 16 April, drew crowds of over 100,000 calling for an end to austerity and the provision of homes, healthcare, jobs, and education. While these are demands that we should and must make, the speakers invited to the march provide no clear path to enforcing those demands. The message of the day, delivered by an assortment of politicians, trade union leaders, and political activists, including Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Owen Jones, Lindsey German, and a video message from Jeremy Corbyn was to “go out and build the movement in your communities and in trade unions.”
The question is then what kind of movement? The speakers at the demo yesterday, and at many other protests and rallies over the past few months, clearly intend for this to be a movement for the Labour party. While in opposition they are free to preach about a more “fair and just society” and an “economy that works for all” despite Labour councils across the country currently implementing cuts to services and destroying social housing.
It is often claimed that Jeremy, despite his constant backtracking on positions since entering the leadership contest and becoming leader such as NATO membership, Clause IV of the Labour Party constitution, and allowing an open vote on bombing Syria, has at the least engaged and energised left-wing movements again. However, 2011 demonstrations drew over half a million, and also saw occupations and riots across the country as a result of the recession.
No matter the intentions of those leading the resurgence of “old Labour” the reality is that capitalism cannot be made to serve the working class, and social democracy only serves to protect the ruling class and their interests. Despite 77 years of operation with Clause IV in Labour’s constitution, declaring their commitment to “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange,” the party has consistently shown their true allegiance to the bourgeoise, supporting predatory imperialist wars and free-market economics, while making the minimum concessions possible to workers under the pressure from the example of the USSR.
We must take the anger and the optimism present in these demonstrations and the working class at large and forge a path to revolution. Leading people from protest to petition to the next protest, with the only goal being a Labour victory, will ultimately grind down and demoralise the anti-austerity movement.
Interestingly the spontaneous demonstration outside Downing St calling for Cameron’s resignation put across a clearer and more honest message than the Labour-dominated demonstration. Speakers on the open microphone were making the points that it’s not just Cameron, or the Tory party that need to go, that a Labour victory in 2020 will not make the difference we need, but that it is capitalism that needs to go, a moribund system that no bourgeois party can fix.
March with us on May 1st, and help us build a real revolutionary workers party in Britain!