Tuesday, 11 May 2010

With a new government in place, the task now is to turn anger and fear into revolution

David Cameron has become the new Prime Minister, with Nick Clegg as his deputy, after five days of negotiations and political wrangling. Gordon Brown, meanwhile, has resigned as both Labour leader and PM. It's not quite the worst outcome that we could have had from the General Election (that being an outright Tory majority), but it's close.

I'm not going to dwell on the particulars of this deal.

Whether or not we'll get an alternative vote / proportional representation system is irrelevant. The main flaw of electoral politics are that, from cost of standing to the publicity and campaigning required, it is weighted in favour of both the established parties and the ruling class. You simply cannot gain power without pandering to one or other element of the political and economic establishment, and how our ballots are counted will not change that. Only direct democracy is genuinely democratic.

The only thing that genuinely matters is what comes next. Namely, the attacks on the working class in the name of "financial stability," and "economic recovery." Before the election, all three parties promised job losses and public service cuts. The Liberal Democrats were second only to the Tories on this matter. And now the two worst of a bad bunch are sharing power.

So what do we do about it? The one thing that is clear as we face the first coalition government for 70 years is that voting has failed, as expected, to solve working class problems, and our fate will be decided in how strongly we fight back.

The first picket line of the new administration will be laid out by British Airways cabin crew, who have rejected the latest piecemeal offer from their employer - on the back of a union official being sacked - and voted for 20 days of strike action. An optimist might hope that this strike collapses the new administration before it has time to get going, but the truth is that this is unlikely. The BA dispute is not tied to who is in government and, though it will cause some consternation, is unlikely to signal a death-knell.

What is also clear is that a succesful fightback cannot take place through official channels. Court injunctions against both Unite and the RMT offer a precedent to block the right to strike through the courts, instantly hampering any official action which follows the correct procedures.

Education workers may have more experience of this. The Brighton Solidarity Federation and Anarchist Society are hosting a conference in Brighton on Saturday 29th May to "draw the lessons from the strikes, occupations and other forms of direct action taken in [higher education] and [further education] over the last months." Amongst these actions is the ongoing occupation of a building on the Trent Park campus at Middlesex university in opposition to the closure of the philosophy department.

There is certainly a lot we can learn from these actions, as well as from the situation in Greece. Direct action and resistance from below remain the only way to combat attacks on our class. Our own history, most notably the mass campaign of non-payment and resistance that stopped the Poll Tax, is instructive here. But the question is whether we can not only repeat those successes, but build upon them. Can we push from workplace occupation to worker control? Can we build mass protests into a proletarian invasion of parliament?

If we resist the backward slide but do not push forward, then we are no better off. If we bring down one government and let another form, then we are simply waiting for the cycle to happen again. If what awaits us is yet another vicious assault in the class war, then we must fight to win.