Global Tremors, British Quakes and Party Fissures

The following is an edited version of my contribution to World and British Perspectives from the Socialist Party South West’s recent Regional Committee which took place on Sunday 4th February.

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Photo: Taken from the Socialist Party website, originally from the Creative Commons

“Before discussing the situation in Britain, it is important to look at some of the trends currently taking place in global Capitalism which provide the backdrop to the economic and political processes currently unfolding in Britain.

In recent weeks we’ve seen the unfolding of demonstrations and protests in Tunisia. This is in part due to the fact that ISIS have been pushed back and are losing their stranglehold over the territory which they had held previously. ISIS formed somewhat of a safety valve to the Tunisian bourgeois as a section of those being radicalised by poor economic conditions were being attracted to ISIS. With ISIS on the retreat the radicalised workers and youth are looking to the government for answers.

Like many countries, political stability is quickly deteriorating with 9 governments being formed within the last 7 years in Tunisia. The situation in Tunisia is being aggravated by the large levels of graduate unemployment. This and many of the factors that fuelled the Arab Spring of 2011 still being present, presenting potential material for revolutionary change.

As in Tunisia, there is a layer of articulate, more middle class, workers starting to draw radical conclusions even if we are not seeing the heavy battalions of the working class being drawn in at this stage. This can easily be exemplified here in Britain with the outbreak of the junior doctors strikes, with UNISON, GMB, RCN and other unions representing the bulk of health workers remaining quiet.

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Photo: Mary Finch

One of the consequences of the ongoing carnage and war in the Middle East is that there are now 11 million Syrian and 4 million Iraqi refugees. This is prompting the less than benevolent response from the EU to become ‘fortress Europe.’ This is despite many countries in Europe directly fuelling the refugee crisis by engaging in bombing Syria such as Britain.

Economic crises are aggravating political and social upheavals. War, famine and natural disasters can often trigger movements and revolutions. This can easily be seen by the recent outbreak of avian flu in Iran. The culling of chickens caused a skyrocketing of the price of eggs and chicken meat, staple foods in the Iranian diet which has led to the outbreak of protests.

Another crisis for capitalism is the development of new technological advancements which are wasted as there is no market to sell them in. As workers are continually squeezed with eye-watering austerity, they are unable to buy back what they are able to produce meaning that new technologies are not able to be utilised to their full potential as profits remaining the driving force within the economy.

The bourgeois are trying to find a way out of the ongoing economic crisis which is leading to ideological splits in their ranks. This is best highlighted by the difference of approach of US vs China.

On the one hand Trump is beating his chest over North Korea and warning China of their expansion into the South China Seas islands whilst opting to take an “America First” approach. On the other hand, Xi Jinping is portraying himself as a poster-boy of globalisation with the One Belt, One Road policy.

This is essentially Chinese imperialism at work, fuelled partly by a desire to weaken US dominance. However, the One Belt, One Road policy is also being prompted by a looming debt crisis which China hopes to export to surrounding countries by providing loans to encourage the development of infrastructure, increasing Chinese trade and influence whilst kicking the can down the road.

Trump is a right populist, opting for protectionist and often xenophobic policies. This is echoed by a layer of bourgeois in the Tory Brexiteer camp. These splits in the bourgeois worldwide over the weakness of the global economy are expressing themselves in a crisis of political representation for the bourgeois. For instance, Germany, the strongest economy in Europe, saw the worst vote for Merkel’s Christian Democrats since 1949. They are losing ground to the more prominently right-wing and anti-EU AfD party.

These ideological splits are also aggravating the National Question. In Spain, the recent push by the bourgeois Catalonian independence parties and the PP government’s repressive reaction for a move to independence has led to a huge defeat for the PP in the Catalonian parliamentary elections.

Brexit has prompted the calling of a border poll by Sinn Fein and the stoking up of sectarian troubles as the Tory party has been forced to go into coalition with the DUP.

We’ve warned of the consequences of taking an incorrect position on the National Question. It can be exemplified by the lukewarm return to Labour seen in Scotland as Jeremy Corbyn does not come out in favour of the still looming question of Scottish Independence which has also been aggravated by the Brexit referendum.

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There is a growth in a broad anti-capitalist mood and the development of a primitive socialist mood. This is expressing itself largely in passive support rather than active engagement in politics that would further a socialist cause. This stems from the economic crisis of 2007/8 and the subsequent austerity. There are little prospects of recovery, especially for the poor. [This is further highlighted by the nosediving of global stock exchanges yesterday and today].

Whilst a small section of the British bourgeois were in favour of Brexit, the Brexit vote has been a huge blow to the bourgeois both in Britain and in Europe not least because it deepens the EU crisis. Wary that they would be cutting their nose to spite their face, the European bourgeois are torn between making an example of Britain to stymie the growing anti-EU mood developing across Europe, or going easy to prevent further economic uncertainty. This is particularly the case as Britain is the 2nd biggest economy in Europe.

In Britain, there is a lack of confidence by the bourgeois in the economy. The fall in the pound won’t have helped this. Yet, there is no desire for the section of capitalists to take advantage of cheaper exports and expand their share in the global markets. Instead, British capitalists are electing to sit on the cash that they are accruing which is widening the already huge chasm of inequality that exists. The British bourgeois are treading water whereas the working class are being subjected through austerity to increasing levels of poverty and misery. This could be a potential flash point in what is already a situation fraught with increasing class antagonisms.

The trigger for political upheaval is just as likely to come from Britain as from countries in the Eurozone or indeed the wider world. There is a seeming quiet on the surface in Britain and the sense that things are not moving very quickly. However, this is partly the product of a weak government that cannot make decisive moves in any direction through fear of going to pieces. Such is the potential for splits in British politics. As one comrade put it, ‘we are paddling in petrol’ with Brexit and the bourgeois reaction to a Corbyn led government providing a potential match to ignite the whole situation.

Corbynism is largely representative of the more middle-class layers. These are layers which we can win to us but working-class layers have not been nearly as motivated into action.

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There are now over 500,000 members in the Labour Party; Momentum [The group set up to support Jeremy Corbyn] claims to have 35,000 members. However, through its determination to purge itself of political debate, Momentum has largely become a moribund organisation whose main contribution is to provide canvass training to bolster Blairite Councillors and MPs. Those that still engage are mainly, with some very small exceptions, of a petit-bourgeois character.

That being said, working class appetites are rising. We caught a glimpse of this in the 2017 general election with the 10% swing to Labour as Corbyn unapologetically put forward his anti-austerity manifesto. This is the biggest swing to Labour since the Clement Attlee government of 1945. If Corbyn were to be returned to number 10 in another general election we could see the working class more decisively take to political engagement.

We have seen in the recent period, growth of more offensive strikes as working class confidence to struggle grows. Strikes have largely been of a defensive character since harsh austerity measures have been doled out in the aftermath of the 2007/8 crisis. Focus had been on defence and protection of current pay and conditions whereas now small pockets of workers are starting to demand better pay and better conditions.

One feature in recent strikes by the RMT, PCS and others has been the distinctive lack of Labour lefts on picket lines. It has largely been members of the Socialist Party that have expressed solidarity on picket lines as workers take to struggle. This is in part due to the soft left Momentum types demobilising their own supporters by preaching unity. Compare this to the right-wing in Labour who have cut to the quick and made no bones about attacking and undermining the left as evidenced by the recent letter attacking Corbyn signed by 68 council leaders and Labour group leaders.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/labour-councils-defy-momentum-b5sv0t25n

The situation is at different stages across the country, in some places right-wing Councillors have been legitimately unseated by pro-Corbyn supporters. In other areas the right-wing bureaucrats still have a firm stranglehold of the party. In Plymouth, it seems that the right-wingers in Momentum who were quick to buddy up with the Blairites have succeeded in deselecting some Councillors but are still firmly married to the idea of continued austerity. This will simply mean a changing of the axe wielders as they offer the meagre and untrue defence of ‘we’re doing the best we can.’

As the left in the Labour Party have adopted the right’s mantra of preaching unity in the Labour Party the right-wing have the audacity to launch an attack on the party leadership claiming that Corbyn and the NEC are being undemocratic. This is somewhat ironic when it was democratic mechanisms which propelled these figures into the leadership in the first place, showing where the direction of travel is heading.

It is clear that the Blairites, who would be more at home in the Tory party, wish to continue cutting and privatising in peace whilst hiding their lack of principles under the broad church of the Labour Party. Our role is often to pop the balloon [so to speak] of these Corbyn types. It is clear that whilst the Labour Party could potentially be a broad church for discussing and implementing working class policies, it cannot accommodate the Blairite, pro-austerity, pro-capitalist and thus pro-misery bureaucrats which cling to the Labour ‘brand’.

We need to pick up and innoculate those who are being frustrated by the lack of strategy to take the right-wing in the Labour Party head on. Even since the general election, by-elections have shown a 5% swing to Labour. They have also shown a swing to parties that portray themselves as anti-austerity such as the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP. This shows the fertile ground that TUSC can reap in this period.

As Theresa May continues to traverse the harsh negotiations of the Brexit negotiations, there is a very possibility that we could see the Tories split as the Remain and Leave camps remain utterly divided. However, it is just as likely that we could see a split in the Labour Party as the anti-Corbyn, pro-capitalist wing act as a 5th column for the bourgeois. They would likely detonate a split if faced with the prospects of a Corbyn led government.

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It remains clear that the quiet mood won’t last forever. There is an explosive mood which can rise to the surface. On Saturday we saw 500 people take to the streets of Exeter at relatively short notice to demonstrate in defence of the NHS. This mood can quickly fall back however and we need to harness and capture the mood as it strikes, with a programme and strategy to advance struggle as it breaks out.

The betrayal of Syriza in Greece marks the potential for a similar betrayal in Britain. Corbyn has done little to challenge the recent issue of Carillion and has instead relied on parliamentary methods rather than the building of a movement which will be much more reliable than those sat next to him on the Green Benches. The failures of even this limited left reformism will likely resurface under a Corbyn government.

This is not a personal attack on Corbyn but rather a warning. If Corbyn cannot face down the opposition within his own Party, is it any wonder that there are sections of the working class that have concerns about the strength of his leadership in forming a government? Particularly when said government would have to face down the sharks in the EU, the capitalist press, the bankers and the heavyweights in big business.

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More people will draw radical and revolutionary conclusions in this period and we need to be there as a revolutionary party to pick these people up, arm them with perspectives and a strategy to end capitalism.

So comrades, we need to hold our nerve, patiently explain but also prepare ourselves and those around us for the huge tremors that lay ahead and the potential for colossal battles to unfold which will highlight the power of the working class and the need for the socialist transformation of society.

There are regional variations about the current mood but it is clear that the idea of a strategy to end austerity is having to be grappled with and refuted more strongly by the Blairites thanks to our influence and intervention. The trade unions have largely been absent in organising big demonstrations and the trade union leaders have tried to apply the brakes on strike action but it is beginning to break out nonetheless.

Events are likely to get hectic as more struggles develop. It is important that we keep cool heads and plan to ensure we make the biggest impact. Events can be great teachers but we also need to be educating particularly newer comrades in Marxism. We can make steps forward, we may only be able to edge forward at this stage but we have to maintain flexibility as events can erupt around us.

We need to engage in and, where necessary, provoke events but we also need to spend time in branches with comrades, arming them with perspectives. People will be attracted to us for different reasons, some will want to ‘storm the heavens’ whereas others will want our grounded analysis in charting a course through the stormy times ahead. We need to temper our cadres by cooling the firebrands but raising the spirits and temperature of comrades who may be in danger of cooling off.

We have gained a certain authority, it is for this reason that the right-wing in the Labour Party treat us with such contempt as they have to justify why they continue to make cuts when we have highlighted a clear, and above all legal, strategy for practically opposing austerity and the Tories.

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Photo: Mary Finch

Comrades, we’re not in a revolutionary period but the potential for incendiary events is there and we have to prepare the ground by building cadres and engaging in struggles as they develop, burst illusions and at each stage in a struggle lay out with workers a strategy and a programme for change.

We consistently manage to punch above our weight but we need to choose our battles carefully, be precious with our time and invest it in a balanced way between agitating and organising, between being patient and impatient in the struggle for socialism and most importantly of all between building and consolidating the party.”

Ryan Aldred

Plymouth

Tuesday 6th February 2018

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Theresa May Resigned to Triggering Article 50

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Photo by Paul Mattsson
Theresa Maybe looked visibly uncomfortable as she signed the letter triggering article 50. Anyone would have thought she was signing her own letter of resignation. As a remainer faithful to her big business chums this is a resignation to the fact that her and her class have been dealt a blow.
In a show of arrogance she had to slip in the line about restoring national self-determination. I’m sure she’ll forget her passion for self-determination when the Scottish working-class dare to demand a second independence referendum.
Theresa May, her pro-remain friends in the Tory party and their Blairite hangers-on speak for themselves when they say they want the EU to prosper as they look on wistfully from outside.
They do not speak for the working-class of Britain which voted decisively to leave and they certainly won’t resonate with the working-class of Greece for instance, which has been robbed of €50 billion worth of public assets and left to rot as it’s capitalists are bailed out and the workers subject to more eye-watering austerity.
There was plenty of talk of the need to cooperate on security. This is no doubt a reference to keep the walls of Fortress Europe up to keep out refugees who are simply fleeing the bombs being dropped on them from “Our Right Honourable Friend” Theresa May and her warmongering Government.
Finally, her call to “work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible” is nothing more than an enfeebled plea from the leader of an increasingly waning force. The fragmentation of the European capitalist class will ensure that they sell each other out for their own narrow minded self-interests ensuring the very opposite of certainty.
The capitalists have been dealt a huge blow with Brexit. The Tories will no doubt want to punish working-class people for daring to leave their bosses’ EU; using Brexit as an excuse to continue slashing services and beating us into submission with greater austerity measures. We will firmly oppose this and any attempts they make to try and persecute other European workers settled in Britain.
The Conservatives will peddle their falsehoods about being “internationalist” and European. Meanwhile, we will continue to oppose austerity, to oppose the divisive politics of the right-wing and to oppose capitalism as we build with true working-class internationalists across Europe towards socialism.
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Should Socialists Support Scottish Independence?

Tensions are running high for British capitalists in the aftermath of the crisis caused by the Brexit body-blow dealt to them by a frustrated working-class vote for leave. As a means of trying to claw their way back into the bosses’ EU the Scottish National Party on behalf of the Scottish bourgeois are now pushing for a rerun of the 2014 Independence Referendum. As socialists should we support Scottish Independence?

In short, the answer is yes, however it comes with some important caveats.

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Photo taken from the Socialist Party Scotland website

Should Scottish Socialists band together with the SNP?

Absolutely not. Scottish socialists will be mounting an independent campaign to reject the reactionary nationalism put forward by the SNP. It is important to campaign independently for the right to self-determination whilst campaigning for a voluntary confederation of socialist states. In this way, we can rebuff Scottish Nationalism and the oppressive yoke of Westminster, acting largely on behalf of English capitalism without in any way limiting the rights of Scottish people to identify and govern themselves freely as a people.

Should voters outside of Scotland have a say in this referendum?

No. If the Scottish working class wishes to identify and govern itself independently we should not put up barriers to working class unity by interfering in their right to self-determination. If the Scottish working-class wishes to govern itself independently, it is incumbent upon socialists in the rest of the United Kingdom to build working-class unity by ensuring that the Scottish working-class is empowered to decide its own fate. If an exploiting nation is given the opportunity to vote on whether to carry on exploiting another nation it will opt to continue doing so. By ensuring that there is no interference from Westminster, we disarm our own capitalist exploiters whilst drawing closer links with the Scottish working-class as they continue their struggle against their own class of capitalist exploiters.

Surely independence only encourages nationalism and division?

By trying to force unity by siding with our own bourgeois we are inadvertently working in the interests of our own capitalist exploiters, i.e. the Conservatives and their Blairite acolytes in their oppression of Scottish people. It is this which will stoke nationalist tensions which will be used to divide the working-class. We should support Scottish independence as part of a voluntary confederation of socialist states whilst rejecting the petty nationalism of the SNP and the exploitative nationalism of the Conservatives and Blairites in the Labour Party.

Should we not also support calls being made for a border poll in Northern Ireland?

The peculiarities and unique features surrounding the national question in Northern Ireland mean that a direct comparison cannot be drawn between Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is a divide which largely, though not entirely, falls down religious lines with the Catholic population wanting to be part of a united Ireland and the Protestants wishing to remain part of the United Kingdom. The attempts by Sinn Fein to whip up sectarian conflict by demanding a border poll only seeks to divide the Northern Irish working-class. Such attempts to inflame sectarian conflict should be rejected in favour of independent working-class organisations voluntarily deciding their own fate on the question of governance in Northern Ireland whilst building towards a wider voluntary confederation of socialist states.

What can we do to build support for Scottish Independence independent of the capitalist classes of both Scotland and Westminster?

Join with other socialists and build towards a true internationalism rather than a so-called “internationalism” based on exploitation and division such as that put forward by the EU free market capitalists, the Conservatives, their Blairite acolytes or the Scottish National Party.

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Photo taken from the Socialist Party Scotland website

You can be put in touch with your respective Socialist Party, whether it be Socialist Party Scotland, the Socialist Party of England and Wales or indeed further afield by registering your interest here:

http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/9

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http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/2

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All Circus and No Bread: Plymouth City Council Cuts Budget and Democracy

Councillors sat today (Monday 27th February) to move the annual budget and yet again it’s the people of Plymouth that are being made to suffer.

With Labour having lost control of the council after the 2016 elections ending four years of Blairite Labour branded austerity the Conservatives and their allies in UKIP are now wielding the axe and they are certainly wasting no time.

It’s difficult to fathom how UKIP can in any way claim to be an “alternative” when they are lining up with the Tories to dish out more misery for ordinary Plymothians. Moreover, we hear once again about the need to be prudent and fiscally responsible from the Conservatives, yet they are continuing to slash services whilst having the gall to increase council tax for every household in Plymouth by 4.49%. This effectively means that the people of Plymouth will have to pay out even more despite the fact that the Tories and their friends in UKIP are further reducing the services which Plymouth City Council is offering. In short people will have to pay more for less.

The Tories have pinned the council tax rise on the need to raise funds to ensure the council is able to meet its requirements for providing adult social care. Rather than lumping the bill on the poorest and most vulnerable in Plymouth why hasn’t Ian Bowyer (Conservative leader of Plymouth City Council) demanded more funding from central government? If they can find extra money for Surrey, why not Plymouth? The people of Plymouth are being expected to pay out more in taxes whilst simultaneously having to put up with reduced bin collections as well as the potential closure of over half of Plymouth’s libraries to name but some of the cuts.

The Labour Councillors were ridiculing the Tories for making cuts and raising council tax but this is exactly what they themselves did over the four years that they had control of the council. However, their remarks were cut short when the Conservatives and UKIP decided to use their majority to end the debate early and go straight to the vote. It seems that the Conservatives are taking a leaf out of Trump’s book by stifling debate which UKIP fully supported.

Despite being cut short the Labour group could have used what time they had to table an alternative no cuts budget as I have suggested to them year after year before budget setting meetings. Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party have been much more open to discuss such an alternative but so far not a single one of Plymouth’s Labour Councillors has been open to even discussing a legal no cuts budget.

Plymouth is in desperate need of an alternative to austerity. We need Councillors who are going to stand up for public services rather than wield the axe. Whether that fight comes from Corbyn supporting Labour candidates prepared to unseat Blairites and oppose the cuts or whether that fight has to continue to come from TUSC, what matters is that fight needs to be had.

TUSC are prepared to continue in that fight and we are always happy to have fraternal discussions with any and all individuals and parties that are also willing to take up that struggle. Let’s build the alternative.

Ryan Aldred

Socialist Party Secretary and TUSC Election Agent

Library Closures: If it’s not about money, what is it about?

Below is a letter I’ve sent into the Plymouth Herald:

“Conservative Councillor Glenn Jordan claimed at a library consultation meeting on Tuesday 21st February that the ridiculous plans to close 10 libraries across the city was not about saving money. If the money is there to keep the libraries open then why not keep those libraries open? How will culling jobs and destroying community spaces help to benefit the city?

The Conservatives are seriously suggesting that library services can reach the people of Plymouth better by closing ten of the city’s libraries, which, when coupled with the expensive public transport system is going to leave people isolated and less able to reach these services.

Likewise, we heard that North Prospect Library is planned for closure because it doesn’t have meeting space. When it was challenged that there are indeed meeting rooms in the library building the retort by Councillor Jordan was that the meeting space needed to be in the library space itself. Forgive me for my ignorance but I would have thought that a library is meant to be just that, a library and not a library/meeting space! The fact that there are meeting spaces available in the North Prospect library building which are being ruled out on the utterly spurious grounds that they are not “in the library” suggests to me that there is more than meets the eye going on here.

If it’s not about money, why don’t they try to increase engagement with these wonderful public spaces rather than simply trying to close their doors for good? Councillor Jordan has put forward these plans “so we are not constrained by bricks and mortar”. I have to wonder aloud, is there a more lucrative business venture that these shameless Conservatives are eyeing up which they are happy to turf out community groups and public sector workers for?

Don’t get me wrong, I do support more being invested to offer a digital service but that shouldn’t be at the expense of jobs and excellent public spaces. If the Conservatives want to see more engagement with libraries why don’t they invest more into ensuring that libraries are well-maintained and remain accessible by keeping them open? Or is it as I suspect that this is indeed not about money but about the continued destruction of our public services?

If these Conservatives and their chums in UKIP can’t look after our public services I’ll be more than willing to show them how it’s done.

Ryan Aldred

Plymouth TUSC Campaign Organiser”

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Labour and Tories Enter Grand Cuts Coalition

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Since the General Election, Labour have been increasingly inward looking as they come to terms with falling horrendously short of shutting the Tories out. Drawing all of the wrong conclusions, the leadership are moving rightwards as they view their defeat in the polls as a sign that they were too left-wing. In reality, the lack of an alternative on offer is really the issue which has seen them falling short of forming the next Government. Labour promised to continue on with the austerity onslaught started by the Conservatives and their now collapsed Liberal Democrat partners and in doing so have been snubbed at the polls.

Despite the similarities in their economic strategy, Labour had nevertheless been posing themselves as an alternative to the Conservatives in their rhetoric. This will have undoubtedly swayed many voters who have seen Labour move further and further rightwards but would hold their nose and remain faithful to Labour to “stop the Tories getting in”. It will therefore come as a shock to many of these people to see Labour reveal how far they have degenerated as they have now formally agreed to share power with the Conservatives in Plymouth’s hung council.

http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Labour-strikes-power-sharing-deal-Conservatives/story-26553401-detail/story.html

Labour will no doubt justify this arrangement as a means of shutting the 3 UKIP Councillors out from becoming kingmakers with the Tories now that Labour have lost their majority on the council. If that is the case then Labour will quickly fall to pieces as it is simply siding with what it considers to be the least worst of two bad options. If Labour were willing to take more of a lead and not implement the eye-watering cuts passed down from national level they would probably never have lost their majority on the council but this latest move will only alienate those who will have voted Labour to keep the Tories out.

In light of this move, Plymouth’s 3 UKIP Councillors will most likely portray themselves as the rebellious anti-establishment underdogs but only a cursory glance at their voting patterns shows that they are just as much a part of the problem. Having offered no resistance to the cuts by not tabling an alternative budget and even voting against implementing a living wage for all Council staff, it is clear that UKIP in Plymouth are just another brand of establishment offering another brand of austerity.

With no illusions in Labour as the reality of this grand cuts coalition will start going about its business of butchering public services, people will very quickly start looking for alternatives. The trade union leaders will now have a very difficult time arguing that Labour are an alternative when the evidence is clearly showing otherwise. The attacks on jobs, conditions and public services will now come thick and fast and people will be looking for a means of organising to fight back and resist the compounding of an already desperate situation.

People will not need to look far as the Socialist Party and TUSC continue to campaign for an end to the cuts and the immediate implementation of a £10 an hour minimum wage, standing shoulder to shoulder with workers as they take to strike action. Labour’s collaboration with the Tories shows that they are not in any way an alternative. We can either mourn at the loss of a Party that is no longer ours or we can be part of the building of an alternative that effectively counters what the Tories have in store for us. Now is the time to get involved with TUSC, join the Socialist Party and build a movement to end austerity.

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Reflections On The TUSC Campaign Trail…

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With just over 3 weeks to go until the General and Local Elections take place I have found it useful to take 5 minutes between putting letters and statements together, preparing for hustings and leaflet drops as well as canvassing, to reflect on the changed mood from last year.

One of the first things that I have noticed this year is the diminished support for UKIP when speaking to people on doorsteps. It was to be expected that UKIP would be prominent in last year’s elections as the local elections ran concurrently with the European Elections but one thing that has been striking this year has been the lack of vocal support this year compared to last year for UKIP. I have had conversations with a number of people who have expressed support for UKIP, more as a protest vote than anything else, but there has been a marked drop in self-proclaimed UKIP supporters or voters.

This seems at odds with the giant billboards, masses of leaflets going out as well as the seemingly full-time commenting on local news websites of some UKIP supporters. However, this will all have been paid for by millions which have been provided by rich donors that were once loyal to the Conservatives.

Something else I have noticed is a lack of canvassing and grass roots campaigning by the other parties. I have spoken to plenty of people who almost seem surprised that a rosette wielding Socialist is knocking at their door of an evening until I point out that there’s only 3 weeks to go until polling day. Again, there are plenty of billboards from all of the Capitalist parties being erected across the city in an almost clandestine turf war but this seems to be the extent of it. The battle for hearts, minds and political ideas seems to have been reduced to an almost clinical advertising campaign.

One other very encouraging difference I have noticed in this election compared to last year is that these elections are much more political than in previous years. It is clear now more than ever before, at least in the course of my political experience, that people are searching much more deeply for a political outlet which best represents their increasingly irked voice. There is a clear rejection of the tired swing from Labour to Conservative and back again as more and more people are looking to parties that can offer a way out of the protracted crisis caused by the current rut Capitalism finds itself in.

Some have been pulled in by the simplistic and mistaken view that immigration is the cause of every societal woe, whether it’s overcrowded schools, the stagnant wages or the alleged influx of health tourists “burdening our NHS” offered by a rightwards lurching UKIP. Others are turning to the seemingly refreshing views of the Greens, who have lurched leftwards in their rhetoric with promises to end austerity and promise of a minimum wage of ₤10 an hour by 2020. Yet when the Greens have been in a position to end austerity, such as in Brighton and Hove or Bristol, they have capitulated and joined an increasing rainbow coalition of austerity wielding parties. Not to mention that ₤10 an hour is needed now, not some time in the distant future.

There is a dwindling rump of support for the Conservatives and Labour, mainly made up of stalwarts and party faithfuls that have not yet come to terms with the fast changing political landscape. Things cannot go back to the way they used to be. Labour seem to be desperately trying to shed its working-class base as it has spent more and more of its time marketing itself to big business with continued austerity whilst opportunistically also offering rhetoric about communities and helping the most vulnerable. This flies in the face of the reality of Labour councils which have dutifully implemented austerity passed down to them by the Con-Dems.

Likewise, the Conservatives have not managed to attract voters beyond its core support as most people are under no illusions about us all being in this together after 5 years of wages, terms, conditions and public services being hammered.

It’s hugely encouraging to be out canvassing on the streets and being greeted, on the whole, with a barrage of questions as it is clear that the working-class are really starting to explore the potential avenues for them to venture down on the political plain. Fed up with more of the same or petty compromises working-class people are looking for a way out of the sustained poverty and misery being unnecessarily inflicted upon them.

As a Socialist Party member and TUSC candidate in the local elections this May I am glad to be there offering a genuine alternative to austerity through the striving for a socialist transformation of society. The ground is fertile for our ideas, having spent just an hour canvassing we were able to pick up 6 contacts as well as a much larger number of people who said they would seriously consider casting a vote for us this May.

Even more inspiring was the presence of a Norwegian student in attendance at our latest branch meeting, directly as a result of our sustained campaigning efforts. Keen to learn more about what the Socialist Party, and indeed the Committee for a Workers’ International, has to offer, I am confident that this can be replicated many times. We are turning more and more heads in this election and more importantly gaining new members and organisers. This will really accelerate the process of building a strong workers’ movement hungry from poverty, hungry for change… hungry for socialism.

I would like to dedicate this post to Declan Clune, a faithful reader of my blog since its inception.

If you like what you read, feel free to like, comment, follow this blog and let’s not forget join the Socialist Party.

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