One communist’s perspective of a general election in Britain

A journey through the Corbyn project to the ranks of the revolutionary working class.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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A lot has changed since the general election of 2019 and, from the British working class’s perspective, none of it has been positive. From this writer’s personal perspective, the fact that I am now a committed communist has been transformational.

It’s important to explain a little of my journey to this moment because it has relevance to my understanding of the 2024 election. It gives some context to my grasp of the nature and make-up of our world, and how it influences my approach to the spectacle and farce we call democracy. Most importantly, I hope it will resonate with you, the reader …

My parents were communists, so my entire childhood was steeped in the language of socialism and the pursuit of justice, freedom and the defeat of capitalism. As a child growing up in such a household, you can’t help but be imbued with an understanding of the true nature of things: how the world truly works, the power and destructive forces of imperialism, the insidious lies of the media, the role of the police, not as protectors of the peace but as enforcers of state power, the continual battles against injustice and the fight for people’s right to live securely without the constant stress of deprivation of food, shelter or access to healthcare.

As a young adult, I left my home in pursuit of my own passions, and for the next 25 years I was focused on building a successful corporate career. I never lost my understanding of the true nature of the capitalist world, and my decisions in life and work were always guided by socialist values. I remained politically aware but not active.

To be fair, whilst I believed in socialist principles, after watching my parents dedicate most of their time and lives to its pursuit, making what seemed like infinitesimal gains against apparently overwhelming power and opposition, I imagined that socialism was but a pipe dream, and never in my lifetime.

Then, one day in 2015, I was reading the news and I heard that, against all odds, a left-wing MP called Jeremy Corbyn had managed to get on the ballot to be leader of the Labour party. He was doing a series of roadshows around the country to spread his message and, intrigued, I took myself off to hear what he had to say.

My interest was piqued. He was spouting words like socialism, talking about re-nationalisation of our assets and equality for working people: language I had not heard for many years in Britain and certainly not from any mainstream political circles. I had never been a supporter of the Labour party, proudly never voted for it, but a latent desire had been awoken and I saw Jeremy Corbyn as a massive strategic opportunity.

He was attracting a real following by using the language I believed in – justice, equality and socialism. It meant it wasn’t just me who wanted those things, there were hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people who were attracted by such rhetoric and possibility.

Now I knew enough to know that socialism could not be achieved via the parliamentary process; I understood that the establishment would never allow that to happen. But I wondered if this unexpected blip of a left-wing candidate leading a major political party could be used as a means to an end – a way of opening the eyes of the British working class to the lie that they had any power or control over their lives or over society at large.

Surely, what was to come would clearly illustrate that parliamentary democracy was a façade; would help them see that an end to their exploitation and the road to socialism would never be achieved through the vote?

So I did something I could never have imagined doing: I joined the Labour party and I got involved in party politics. At my first meeting, I became secretary of my constituency branch (CLP), and for the next four years I worked with some good people, against all odds, in pursuit of a Labour victory.

I say against all odds because it was abundantly clear from the off that Corbyn was never going to be elected. But what a great opportunity to prove that to workers – particularly advanced workers who were motivated by his ‘kinder’ style of politics and socialist rhetoric.

The lessons of history

To govern is not just to be elected, one needs the cooperation of state and corporate machinery: the civil service, military leadership, Bank of England governors, business and international trade institutions, ratings agencies, treaty organisations, powerful economic actors called monopolies, and ultimately, our US imperial masters. Parliament has no real sovereign authority; it is encircled and enslaved by those who hold and exercise the real power.

Elected parties and political leaders whose mandates are contrary to establishment diktats discover to their cost that to take office is not the same as to take power. This is nothing new. In 1975, Gough Whitlam, then democratically elected Labor party prime minister of Australia, was dismissed by the governor general for his plans to introduce a foreign policy independent of the United States, and the CIA was having none of that!

The Syriza party of Greece was summarily defeated when it attempted to resist the might of finance capital by refusing to pay the nation’s debt. Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Truss were both politically trounced and personally discredited by imperialist forces determined on a different path.

The most fundamental lesson informed by simple economics is that there is no formula for maintaining profitable capitalism whilst transferring any significant part of the wealth and power to workers and the poor. There is and can never be a ‘trickle down’ under capitalism, and therefore to expect a parliamentary party, the Labour party or any other, regardless of leadership, to prioritise workers’ interests is delusional.

When, in 2019, the end finally came with Corbyn’s electoral defeat against Boris Johnson, I left the Labour party and joined the CPGB-ML, anticipating a surge of advanced workers in tow towards an enlightened path. After all, it was now blatantly obvious to those who harboured such illusions that necessary change through social democracy was not possible.

Social democracy has never had anything to do with socialism – an order of change of quite a different magnitude. The time had come to fight for true socialism, the revolutionary way.

Strategy and tactics at election time

So here we are in 2024, on the eve of another general election, and I approach this event from the standpoint of being an active communist in pursuit of more than a change of political party but a complete change of system.

At a time when the radical redistribution of political and economic power is the only solution to the crisis of capitalism, the choice offered to the British people remains a two-party duopoly offering no alternative but continued lies, exploitation and the drive to war on the coat tails of an imploding US empire.

When much of the electorate believes neither political party represents their interests and knows the media manipulates them with lies, our so-called ‘democratic rules-based order’ is suffering from its worst crisis of legitimacy in history.

Whilst we are being dragged further into war and economic and social crises, however, momentous leaps are happening elsewhere in the world. The challenge to western military might and neocolonial rule is occurring across continents and instilling a growing sense of hope, optimism and fighting spirit amongst people in the west, particularly the young.

US imperialism and its western vassals, the old imperialists including Britain, France and Germany, are losing their intimidation factor domestically and internationally. Peoples across the world are pushing back and challenging the status quo, and we British communists should be at the vanguard of workers’ expressions of frustration and irritation, articulating and refining their ideas and building a united front in their pursuit.

Never in my lifetime has the opportunity and possibility for socialist change been so tangibly sweet. The dominoes of capitalist fortitude are beginning to fall and now is the moment for all communists to be rejecting the status quo outright and illuminating the road to socialism.

It was then with deep disappointment that I read of the announcement by Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Part of Britain (CPB) that: “The Communist party will be contesting its highest number of Westminster seats for 40 years with a battle-cry of ‘Tories out – unite for workers’ rights, public ownership and peace!’”

Tories out? What about ‘Don’t vote for that other imperialist, slimy, conniving party of pretenders, the Labour party!’ The Labour party is not the ‘lesser of two evils’. We are well past buying into that nonsensical dichotomy.

Sir Keir Starmer been exemplary in exposing the true nature of Labour as an anti-worker party in his statements about ‘protecting our borders’, on ‘national security’, in his support for Nato in Ukraine and genocide in Palestine, and in his own and his shadow chancellor’s assurances that they mean to be ‘kind to business’.

Labour is the most despicable of creatures: a wolf in sheep’s clothing – ie, the Tories in disguise. As the saying goes: ‘Labour, Tory, same old story’.

By all accounts, Labour is set to win a landslide victory, and it is clear that the party has the backing of the establishment, with western media endlessly spinning the news favourably in its direction. But why Labour and why now?

It’s a tactic oft employed when economic and or social conditions necessitate the quelling of growing hostility among the masses. The pretended ‘party of the working class’ is presented as the champion of hope to quell the mounting outrage and dissatisfaction of growing numbers of people.

Even more dastardly, history has demonstrated that a Labour government, with its facade of being the party of working people, and with the support of trade union leader lackeys, can slip through even more coercive and exploitative conditions than its Tory counterpart could ever have imagined. Such is the true purpose of the Labour party. (Recommended reading: Britain’s Perfidious Labour Party, available in our book shop.)

Is the CPB approaching this farcical pantomime of pomp, the general election, from a dialectical position? For those of us in pursuit of socialism, our policy must surely be to agitate and undermine state power and emasculate the strategic intentions of the bourgeoise at every opportunity. Yet the CPB is endorsing a Labour landslide as the best way to ‘get the Tories out’.

And it is doing so even as the Palestinian crisis is driving waves of independent candidates to stand, something Britain has not seen for decades, if ever. These candidates can do damage to a deepening crisis of capitalism by creating and deepening instability in the British political system. They can be annoying and disruptive individually from within Parliament, and if enough of them get enough votes, they can mess with Labour’s forecast landslide even without being elected themselves.

Our immediate task must be to do whatever lies within our power to disrupt the routine functioning of British imperialism. Pursuing a hung parliament, which would force Labour into having to do a deal, is a tactic that could help thwart imperial machinations.

As the Corbyn project taught us, the problems of the British working class cannot ultimately be solved through participation in the parliamentary circus. We must aggravate the political crisis of the ruling class by disrupting its intended clean sweep for Labour and build our own forces at the same time.

A British road to socialism in 2024

In the system of production for profit called capitalism (also known as ‘wage slavery’), managed by the capitalist ruling class via the charade of parliamentary democracy, wealth gets steadily concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. We are living at a time when the extremes between the ridiculously rich and the rest of the poor are wider than they have ever been.

The injustices of our society – pay that doesn’t cover basic living standards, a bankrupt health service, exorbitant energy bills, the cost of childcare … all come from the way the means of production are used to generate ever more profits for a few. Only by changing the economic basis of our society away from capitalistic profit-driven production to a socialist approach of planned production – planned to meet the needs of all the people – can we finally live in peace, securely. It is the only way of solving our problems.

We know that a change of system can never be achieved via a parliamentary route. We have lived that experience too many times now to believe it. We know that regardless of which of the two major parties is in power, our basic needs will remain unmet.

This system called capitalism represents big money, big power, big exploitation: its crisis is widespread and will worsen. In the words of the great Karl Marx: “Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.”

Only socialism, a planned productive system, based on meeting the needs of the mass of the people, can work in our favour. And as a committed communist, like my parents before me, I will fight for a such a system.