The day after the general election we will wake up to a Labour government. The only question will be whether they have won a comfortable majority or a landslide victory. While taking pleasure in the Tories’ disastrous results many will be concerned at the size of the vote for Reform and looking for evidence of a left wing revival in the performance of the independent left candidates, alongside the Green Party and the Workers Party.

Will Nigel Farage finally win a parliamentary seat? Whatever the result in Clacton, by taking control of their election campaign Farage will have boosted the vote for Reform across the country. They got a significant boost in the opinion polls from 9% to 17% the day after his announcement (see page 5). It will not be enough to win them many seats (see page 4). But it will eat into the Tory vote and may turn defeat into disaster for the Conservative Party and accelerate its transition into a populist, far right party, analogous to the US Republican Party under Donald Trump.

While some on the left might welcome this as the Tories’ ultimate demise, we would do well to remember that the Labour Party has also moved rapidly to the right. Previous Labour governments have always promised reforms to benefit the working class, only to retreat in the face of ruling class opposition once they are in office. Starmer’s Labour will not be forced to renege on its promises. It has already betrayed them. Remember the ten pledges from his leadership campaign? All have gone and Labour enthusiastically embraces the neoliberal agenda and promises to implement Tory policies, but without their corruption and incompetence. We’ll believe that when we see it.

Another pitfall for the left is the belief that the electorate will be radicalised by the failure of the next Labour government and turn to the left. Hence all the fuss about the current crop of independent left candidates and the talk of using this election as a stepping stone to building a new democratic socialist party to challenge for power at the next election.

This is a questionable strategy because Labour are not going to fail. They are going to succeed in inflicting fresh defeats on the working class in order to bail out the system, unless we can build the sort of opposition that will stop them this side of the next election. A strategy that limits itself to building an electoral opposition or, at best, subordinating the class struggle to the building of a progressive electoral alliance is doomed to failure.

Many workers believe that, for all its faults, a Labour government has to be better than the Tories. It stands on the left of British politics. But make no mistake, when Labour fails it will only serve to further discredit the idea of socialism and drive workers further to the right. A populist Tory Party that blames foreigners, migrants and wokery could easily return to power unless Labour moves even further right to steal its policies. In such a situation rather than taking a principled stand Starmer will follow them to the right.

So what should the left do on 5th July? Well, after 14 years of Tory rule we deserve a holiday and should spend a couple of days celebrating their humiliation. We should not get depressed by the size of the vote for resistance. Instead we should be thinking about what comes next. How do we fight the rightward drift in our public life? And, how do we take on a media that seems all powerful. We should certainly be making plans to carry on meeting together with those we have met whilst canvassing, if we have, and organising together on all the issues that unite us, from saving our local library to filling that coach for the next national demonstration for Palestine.

The biggest mistake would be to imagine that we can build an electoral alternative to Labour that will sweep to power in five years time. Even if we were successful, a new socialist government would find that holding office does not give you the power. As we show elsewhere in P is for Power, the power of capitalism will be directed against us to thwart our plans.

Sixty years ago a Labour government took office after thirteen years of Tory rule. The Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson described a meeting with the governor of the Bank of England in the mid-1960s:

“Not for the first time, I said that we had now reached the situation where a newly elected government—with a mandate from the people—was being told by international speculators that the policies on which we had fought the election could not be implemented, that the government was to be forced into the adoption of Tory policies to which it was fundamentally opposed. The governor confirmed that this was in fact the case.”

Labour backed down and turned on the working class. Workers fought back and six years later the Tories were back in office. The power of capitalism had beaten the Labour Party but it had yet to beat the working class. After four years of mass strikes and protests the Tory government was forced out and Labour under Harold Wilson was back in office to continue its task of betraying workers’ hopes. That’s the logic of the electoral system as it exists. We fight to defeat the right, only to find the government we craved has itself moved to the right.

We won some famous victories back then but we did not win the war. This time Starmer will not even question the bank when it calls for austerity. He will enthusiastically embrace whatever is necessary to placate those that really hold the power. That is why we have to organise to thwart Starmer’s ambitions and, in doing so, demonstrate the power of direct action to enable people to really take back control. That is how we make the case for socialism. Then, whoever wins the next election, we will be in a much stronger position to fight back than we are today. We will still use elections as a tactic to support class struggle. But we must never let electoral calculations undermine that struggle. That is the Labour way. It is way beyond time to find our own way forward.

The best way to enjoy the Election Special is by reading the PDF. You can find it here or just look through here.

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