Typewriter Critical Mass editorial

This is an updated version of the editorial we published last year on 14th July. We are also publishing an updated version of “What We Stand For” by Dave Middleton. We need to discuss questions of socialist strategy and tactics that go beyond broad ideas like peace and justice and solidarity. We really want your responses in time for our second anniversary issue in September. We look forward to hearing from you. Until then, enjoy another Summer of Discontent.

OUR very first issue in August 2021 promised that we were not just another socialist party pretending we had all the answers. We did not even have a manifesto. We stood for traditional socialist values, and our main intention was to provide a safe space, a non-sectarian platform for debate. We wanted to hear from diverse voices, especially those who did not have a platform of their own. We wanted to change the conversation around socialism, to stress its positives instead of constantly having to respond to the fake news and smear stories emanating from the mainstream media and the rabid anti-Corbynism of the Labour right wing.

Can you believe that in our early meetings on Zoom after the 2019 General Election and before we even had a website, some people were arguing that we would do better not to mention socialism at all, because it would put people off? We should concentrate on peace and justice and fairness, on cooperation at community level and fighting climate change, but not to mention the ‘S’ word!

The world has changed a lot since 2019: Brexit, Covid, Ukraine, climate change becoming a climate emergency, and the cost-of-living crisis have all shown the bankruptcy of ideas amongst mainstream politicians. Sunak was supposed to bring some stability but has discovered that ‘I’m not Johnson’ is not the answer to the crisis. Labour has moved so far to the right that all they can offer are the failed policies of the Cameron/Osborne years. The parlous state of national politics is such that this will probably be enough to see Labour in office after the next election.

The most significant development this year has been the sustained level of working class resistance with strikes over pay, conditions and in defence of public services. These are set to continue on the rail and in the NHS well into the autumn.

This has made us at the Sunday Socialist pause and reflect. While welcoming the revival of strike action, we acknowledged some of its weaknesses in our last editorial. The radical stance taken by some union leaders reflects the anger of their members. But union leaders are also under pressure from the government, the employers and the Labour Party leadership. Starmer is anxious for the strikes to be over lest they affect Labour’s chances at the next election, and the union leadership has no intention of turning the strike movement into a political campaign against the government. They still hold to the belief that trade union struggle is economic and to be settled by negotiations, while the political struggle is electoral and to be settled by the election of a Labour government.

This is shown up by the lack of any real connection between the trade union struggles and campaigns like Stop the War, Just Stop Oil and Don’t Extradite Assange. Even the existential threat to the NHS has not been enough to provoke the trade union leadership into building a mass movement.

Our position has changed. It is no longer sufficient to say that we are just a platform for debate. We need to act as well as talk. We now have hundreds of regular subscribers and many of them take part in our surveys and the readers and writers forum where we discuss practical political questions like:

  1. Should we make a complete break with Labour and not even vote for them?
  2. What can we do in our localities to rebuild the socialist movement from the grassroots?
  3. What is the role of Parliamentary elections in the struggle for socialism?
  4. What sort of extra-parliamentary activity should we support?
  5. How far can we trust the union leaders. Should we be relying on leaders or looking to the rank and file?
  6. What about the left wing parties who oppose Labour? Can we pick one to follow or is talk of a new party premature?
  7. What are the more immediate tasks to be getting on with?

We do not always we agree but we do our best to disagree in a comradely manner. Come and join us!

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