|Volume 47 Number 7, April 1, 2017||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The need for the workers' movement to
develop its own programme, with its own
independent politics, defending the rights of the working class and the rights of all
The first question I would like to pose is why is it that the independent role of the working class is important? Indeed, what is meant by the programme of the working class, with its own independent politics? One could say that the independent role of the working class means that it should consciously take on the task of building the new society, and building its own institutions, material, spiritual and in every other way.
We say in the elaboration of the aims of these Political Forums that the times are crying out for the working class and people to take control of the future of society. One way of looking at Brexit was the issue of taking control, but workers have to face the reality that if anything the situation has got worse, because the ruling elite has taken the result to mean that they are in control, which means they wreck and privatise. So the workers have got to take up this task, which involves defending the rights of all workers, and especially looking at the question of the alternative which the working class is presenting, as well as constituting themselves the nation in Scotland, Wales and England.
Workers are capable of taking up this task. They are capable of building their own political party which has the orientation of, as we say in our Party song, directing the blows of the working class's clenched fist. The workers need no condescending saviours to achieve the necessary control.
It could be said also that this Political Forum here today in Birmingham is also a starting point. It is part of the process of the working class achieving its own thinking, analysis and action, and consolidating its allies in the people's movements round it. We shall eventually work out the strategy and tactics to raise the consciousness of the movement, putting the full weight of its traditional and new organisation behind that consciousness and wage the class struggle in Britain to not only defend all of the rights of the people but also for it to achieve control.
There are two sides to the relation called capital. The outdated and anti-worker capital-centred economics denies what belongs to workers by right, their claim for wages, benefits and pensions on the new value they reproduce at a level determined by themselves. The modern working class is developing its social consciousness of itself as the essential human factor in production, producing all the value the economy, people and society need for their existence. The historic problem workers face is how to transform themselves, the actual producers, into the social class that controls production and the socialised economy with a human-centred aim to serve the well-being and security of the people and society.
Take the question of pensions. There are many rights but one in particular is a right that workers are faced with across the board and that is the right of seniors, workers in old age. So I would specifically like to take up this issue as you know our fellow workers at BMW have been taking up at present. Workers in production sustain themselves as well as the pensions and benefits of those who have retired or not in work, as well as producing value on top of that, added value, that gets claimed by the owners of the means of production and by the government.
Yet companies like Tata Steel, whose British pension fund is set to be spun off in a move that will ring-fence the business from future financial burdens flowing from the retirement scheme. They want to close their £15bn scheme to future accruals, with members getting smaller payouts. Pensions have been a regular issue for Tata Jaguar too and many other monopolies and multi-national companies operating here in Birmingham.
Meanwhile Tata's workers have been left out of much of the decision-making - most of which has been happening 4,500 miles away in Mumbai. In BMW's case their decisions have also been made behind closed doors and in Germany.
Now it is said that Vauxhall pensions 'could scupper GM Peugeot sale'. Vauxhall's pension scheme is one of the largest in the UK, with 15,000 members. With half of the members ex-worker pensioners. Stealing workers pensions have been frequent since Robert Maxwell and today with Philip Green after the BHS closure.
Car workers have a right to their claims in the form of wages when active, and in the form of pensions when retired, by virtue of being the producers of this added-value during their working lives. Other, competing, claims on this added-value are taxes by the government and the claims of the owners of capital, profits in various forms.
From the narrow perspective of BMW, it sees contributions to its defined-benefit pension funds as a drain on its bottom-line profit, despite its record figures. It therefore aims to turn away from its social responsibility to its active and retired workers in pursuit of its narrow private interests driven by competition.
There are challenges facing a modern manufacturing sector throughout the countries of Britain, but the economic problems are solvable. Yet workers are being asked to bear an ever increasing burden for issues and problems that stem from the outmoded system of private control of the modern forces of production that are fully socialised. The refusal to recognise the fundamental contradiction ripping apart the socialised economy is obscured by presenting problems and the recurring economic crises as natural phenomena, the so-called invisible hand of the market that will eventually sort everything out once it has driven down the working and living conditions of the working class and wrecked entire sectors, economies and communities. Meanwhile, the collusion and contention amongst the global oligopolies for profit, domination and empire is driving the world towards a catastrophic economic crisis and another world war.
For the working class a new pro-social direction for the economy is not only necessary but possible. There is a starting point in the here and now. The working class is determined to have relations of production wherein workers can hold their employers to account for a decent standard wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions. It needs its defence organisations, but it also needs a government based on laws and not on the naked powers of the state. This, for example, is the issue at stake with the Trade Union Act. It purports to be a legal, regulatory document, but in reality it represents the powers-that-be attempting to make the actions of the workers in defence of their rights ineffective, and not able to hold their employers and the monopolies and oligopolies to account for their stepped up exploitation and destruction of the economy. Yet the working class is determined to be able to hold the ruling elite to account for a pro-social direction of the economy and a guarantee of the rights of all, rights which they hold by virtue of being human. Organised, united and determined, the working people can open a new pro-social direction for themselves and the economy.
Within the situation, the industrial workers, the steel workers, the car workers and others are struggling for the unity and dignity of themselves and for the whole working class. At the same time, the working class must organise its forces in themselves, to build the working class on a conscious basis, building its institutions, and advancing its social consciousness to meet its historic obligations to bring into being a new direction for the economy that resolves the basic contradiction between its social nature and private control. Theirs is the future, where they put their stamp on the nation, and take the lead in making the people sovereign and the decision-makers. They are the ones who know how to run the country. This independent movement of the working class must come to the fore.
What must be the next step? What is on workers' minds as to how their struggle for the alternative can be effective? This demands the conscious participation of each and all in the workers' movement. The times demand that the workers build their opposition and become organised as an effective independent political force in their own right. It is this question that demands serious discussion here at the Political Forum. Not the least, the question of establishing a Workers' Centre is a necessary item on the agenda for class-conscious workers.
Eventually a mass working class movement points to the crucial requirement for the workers to give rise to their own worker-politicians, who oppose the monopoly dictate and become champions of a human-centred society. Such a movement can challenge the anti-worker, anti-social, pro-war character of the present system of government. It can put on the agenda the aim of democratic renewal of the political system, politicising and enabling the people to raise their level of participation in the political life of the country and ending the domination of the big-party cartel at Westminster, which is already being challenged.
Its demands will need to centre around: an economy that guarantees the right to a livelihood; the right to health care and education.
The national economy is to be developed not to serve maximum profit of the rich who take more out of the economy than they put in, but to serve the claims of the people on society. Whose economy should it be? It should be our economy!
To achieve this, to make this a reality, the working class movement has to grasp in a profound way that it needs its own leadership, thinking, organisations and institutions that are strong enough to deprive the ruling imperialist elite of their power to deprive the people of their rights. The social responsibility to make this happen rests with the working class and its leadership.
Workers in all sectors, and of all nationalities and political views, must unite and oppose the attempts of the class enemy to divide them by setting one section against another. They must not hand the initiative to any other force, but must constitute themselves as a united opposition in the workplaces, colleges and communities, discussing among themselves to decide everything. We must and will discuss and affirm what steps are needed!