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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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


Tuesday 6th February 2018

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Fleeting Fancies, Ephemeral Encounters…

ImageI have been inspired to write this article from what would seem to many as the most trivial of things but, for me at least, it has evoked a much deeper interpretation. For tonight, I write as I journey by train up to Exeter to meet with my beautiful partner, Oona.

I’ve been sat here quietly recovering from a night of unbridled chaos, painting the town red [some might say in more ways than one if one were to consider our spreading of revolutionary red ideas right, Sam? ;-)] with some of my very accommodating, understanding and, hopefully, forgiving comrades; Glynn and Sam.

In the short moments that I’ve been sat here on the train I have been engaged in exchanging pleasantries with two fellow commuters who I have had the good fortune to cross paths with as they travel to London to meet with loved ones. I wish them all the best of luck on their journey and hope against hope that they may come across this blog of their own accord one day. If so, I would like to say a quick hello to them as I’m on the 19:55 train from Plymouth to London Paddington on a Sunday evening. Of course, they will be much more likely to see this blog with your help, reader, and so I encourage you to like and share this article widely in the hope that it reaches them. I’m well aware that I could just show this article to them right now but that would take the fun out of it and wouldn’t allow you, my audience, to contribute to this story by sharing this blog around the world to wherever it needs to go.

So, why is it that such a small exchange of pleasantries can be such an inspiration to a student of the revolution such as myself? Well, if you insist on continuing to read up to this point then I guess I shall have to reward your curiosity and satiate it by sharing my thoughts and feelings with you…

It is my belief that thanks to the prospects of hope and clarity of vision shared by my fellow comrades in the Socialist Party, I have become a much more rounded, self-actualised (if one were inclined to use Maslow’s terms, as I, for one, would be) individual. It is from this well of confidence and conviction that I have found something very useful as a source of energy for my revolutionary candour; the ability to fully engage with the moment, Seize the day (Carpe Diem!) and enjoy the sweet, fleeting fancies or ephemeral encounters of the present moment.

Moreover, I fully believe that this newly found zest for life is infectious and so I pass on the good will and positive energy that I’m feeling onto you, my audience, who I hold the utmost gratitude for, for heeding my thoughts and feelings. I hope that these carefully crafted yarns, will one day weave an enriched and revolutionary tapestry across the pages of history and I would love for each and every one of you to be a part of that tapestry. A tall order, some might say but then everything starts with a dream.

Now, to engage in the finer things that l’amour has to offer as I meet up with ma cherie with all the promise of passion, desire and whimsy.

And so my readers my task for this evening is done. I dedicate this piece to each and every one of you who has taken the time to read it and I ask but one small labour of love in return as a way of expressing your gratitude for my literary architecture and that is this: that you share this piece out in the hopes that it should find its way to the travellers who I may never have the opportunity to meet again.

P. S. In the short time that it has taken for me to get from Exeter St David’s train station to the house of my beloved, I have enjoyed yet another ephemeral encounter with a homeless woman named Mandy. I could not spare any change for her or her fine specimen of a Rottweiler rescue dog but I hope that her heart was touched tonight on the unforgiving streets of Capitalism. I did however, spend the things that I can always afford to any human being; compassion, a sympathetic ear, a hug and my time. I hope these sentimentalities keep you at least a little warmer tonight. Mandy, I wish you godspeed (or the relevant Atheist equivalent if you share my scepticism of such a force within our universe) in your harsh journey. I know that I may never see you again but again, I call upon the reader to share this article widely so that you may hear my pledge which I dedicate to you and all others who are in a similar situation to you. I pledge to you, that I will do everything in my power to ensure that we experience Socialist revolution in our lifetime, as I cannot sleep soundly at night knowing that there are those such as yourself who are still neglected by our current inadequate political system.

And now the rest I leave up to you, dear reader. Can you get my pledge to those I have vowed to fight for? I hope you can and if you share this article then you can take comfort in being part of sending out that hope to those who need to hear it most…

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