|Volume 47 Number 11, June 14, 2017||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
General Election 2017:
Negotiating with the DUP - The Conservatives' Second Bad Move
General Election 2017:
General Election 2017:
The Irish Question
General Election 2017:
Note: Number of MPs Elected on June 8 (change from 2015)
The result of the June 8 General Election has been a catastrophe for Theresa May and the Conservative Party as well as the ruling circles which are now left to pick the chestnuts out of the fire during the Brexit negotiations.
The Conservatives won 318 seats, down from 331 (including the Speaker), and eight short of an overall majority, while the Labour Party won 262, up from 232. The desperation of the ruling class is such that they have counselled Theresa May to stay on as Prime Minister even though the strategy she campaigned on to get a mandate for "strong and stable government" lies in tatters. With difficulty May is attempting to come to an arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from the north of Ireland in order to form a government. This has in turn given rise to fears that the "Irish question" will once again cause havoc with the plans of the ruling class to pursue its anti-social, anti-national agenda in peace.
Parliament has reconvened and MPs are being sworn in along with pleasantries from both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. It now looks likely that the Queen's Speech will be postponed by a week, from June 19 to 26. Meanwhile, May is intent on giving the impression of carrying on with government as usual. She went to Paris to meet President Emmanuel Macron, having met the Cabinet earlier.
Some of the observations which have emerged from the election results include that:
- The vote against the Conservatives was a vote against the neo-liberal austerity agenda.
- The youth participated in the election and they voted against the Conservatives because of the austerity agenda.
- The metropolitan areas, particularly London, chose Labour.
- The Lib Dems made no headway on the promise to hold a second referendum on Brexit. They were rejected because of their sell-out when they formed a coalition with the Conservatives.
- Both the Scottish Labour Party and Scottish Conservatives made headway in Scotland at the expense of the Scottish National Party (SNP) which wanted to reverse the Brexit decision from the Referendum. Labour succeeded in making the issue one of the SNP not combating austerity, while the Conservatives succeeded in making the issue that a second independence referendum would be a diversion. The advance that the Scottish Conservatives made there contributed to buoying the Tory vote but was not enough to win seats lost elsewhere.
- In the north of Ireland, Sinn Féin and the DUP made headway at the expense of the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists respectively. This is also seen to represent support for an anti-austerity agenda.
- The referendum vote in favour of Brexit did not translate into support for May or away from Corbyn.
- Attempts to destroy the Labour Party on the eve of the election utterly failed. The gamble of those who organised the revolt of Labour MPs against Corbyn was as ill-advised as the gamble of those who advised May to call an early election.
- The consequences of the disastrous "gamble" that the Conservatives' weak majority in the Parliament could be turned into a strong majority by calling an early election have yet to fully reveal what they have in store for May's leadership and for the Conservative Party itself. What else lies in store for the ruling class, besides the utter mockery and derision expressed for May from all quarters, is yet to be seen.
- The Conservatives also ran a terrible campaign by one of the private firms which the ruling class hires nowadays to run elections. These private firms have replaced political parties as primary organisations which link the voters to the system called a representative democracy. They think that depoliticising the polity by making the character of one's opponent the target of attack is the way to run successful elections, despite the people's hatred for attack ads. The refusal of the ruling party to discuss substantive issues make it impossible to give the impression that the people decide the agenda of an election and provide a mandate for the next government. In this election, thanks to the presence of Corbyn who eloquently presented the need for an anti-austerity agenda, the people were able to express their rejection of this idea. There was also the matter of the Conservative Manifesto which was, to the chagrin of the Conservatives themselves, "peppered with arsenic" as a member of the Conservative Party put it. All of it revealed how detached the Conservative Party is from the concerns of the working people in Britain who found in Corbyn a champion for their demand to turn things around in favour of the working people, not the rich.
The Conservative election call has been a debacle for the ruling circles, including for the police powers used in connection with the Manchester and London Bridge attacks. Police powers are the lynchpin of May's "strong and stable" approach but what came to the fore was its hypocrisy and irrationality. Meanwhile Corbyn used the situation to emerge as the champion of the police against cuts. Added to this, the revelations on how the security services actually trained these terrorist forces to intervene in Libya and Syria has shown how the state is behind these attacks in the first place.
Taken together, the election results show that the arrangements imposed on society in the mid-19th century keep rulers who represent the capitalist class in power who are not fit to govern and the people out of power. These arrangements are in profound crisis because they are no longer seen to provide a mandate which expresses the will of the people. The crisis in which the political system called a representative democracy is mired is such that it cannot sort anything out. It hasn't given May a mandate for Brexit with "strong and stable" leadership, and has shown her leadership to be the opposite of "strong and stable" with a rejection of her appeal for a mandate. Meanwhile, another election is in the offing whose outcome is far from predictable.
A lot is being put down to the impact of personalities on the outcome, but such discussion is a distraction from the substantive issues. It only serves to disinform and depoliticise the polity. Instead of building institutions and arrangements which are under their control and engaging in democratic renewal, the working people are to believe in the courage and convictions of people like Jeremy Corbyn even though it is the system which disempowers them and requires renewal. The ineptitude of Theresa May only compounds the crisis in which the system of representative democracy is mired but is not its cause. Similarly, promises to reverse the anti-social offensive require an organisation which empowers the people. The electoral and governance system which claim to represent "the people" and the "national interest" when it fact they represent the private interests of oligopolies which operate on an international scale have to be replaced. The private interests are engaged in cut throat competition to control the assets of various states so as strengthen their global striving for domination. It is crucial to take this into account when working out a way forward which favours the working people.
The Conservative Party is negotiating with the the DUP which is a reactionary formation from the north of Ireland. This is an all-round bad move on the part of the Conservatives. The first bad move was to call the general election three years early with the expectation that they would receive 50 more seats. Instead they lost 34. Now, their second bad move is to negotiate with the DUP.
The DUP has ten seats the Conservatives covet. It is trying to wring concessions from the Conservatives about the arrangements to be implemented in the north of Ireland. However, these arrangements are already set in the Good Friday Agreement. Any deal with the DUP in effect puts them in the government. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams already pointed out that this merely exposes the pretence that the British government is the "honest broker" between the "two traditions" in Ireland. It further underscores the fact that the British government is neither neutral nor impartial. Of great significance is that if there is no agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin by June 29, the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly moves to direct rule from Britain. This is bad enough, let alone if the DUP is an integral part of the Conservative government.
Reports indicate that as of June 13 Arlene Foster of the DUP has not returned to Belfast as expected, and it seems evident there is going to be some kind of a "confidence and supply arrangement" announced soon. Foster indicated that the deal would include issues related to Brexit, "counter-terrorism" and "doing what's right" for the economy of the north of Ireland. It is known that the DUP is very keen not to have a "hard border" with the south, and wants more public spending in the north which only serves to bring to the public eye that the British government is neither impartial nor neutral, as Gerry Adams has said time and again. To be "neutral" and "impartial" is what the Good Friday Agreement demands of the British government. To destabilise Ireland after destabilising the entire British Isles would be nothing short of jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
The fact is that Theresa May is really only four seats short of a majority in the British Parliament because the seven Sinn Féin MPs will not take their seats. So under the corrupt cartel party system another option would be to buy off four or five MPs from other parties with inducements negotiated in secret while presenting it all as being for the greater good of providing stability going into the Brexit talks. This would give the Tories a majority. However, should they do that, it would be their third bad move!
The view that the general election in Britain marks a return to two-party politics is wishful thinking on the part of the ruling circles. The two-party system was introduced in the 19th century with one party representing landed interests and one party commercial interests. Together they represented the dictatorship of the propertied interests against the working class.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, including the universal suffrage and the creation of the Labour Party in 1906 as a consequence of the workers' striving for empowerment. Today, the Liberals have been largely displaced and the contest is seen to be between the Conservatives and Labour but a two-party system is about more than two parties periodically changing places.
For a century, the parties in the service of the ruling class managed to establish a social base amongst the people. Local party associations, as well as trade unions and other organisations such as cultural, social and economic agencies acted as the transmission belts of these parties to garner votes and the parties were the link between the rulers and the ruled, the governors and the governed. Even the thousands of charities presided over by the Royals acted as transmission belts and links to the governing parties. With the rise of Thatcherism in the 1980s the former aim for society was overthrown. Thatcher did not even recognise that society exists and demanded that everyone fend for themselves. As neo-liberal free trade and nation-wrecking took over, all the old ways of doing things became defunct. Attempts to resuscitate them by permitting small parties to play a role and by hoping that the formation of coalition governments would "work" have not been able to overcome the fact that the party system depoliticises and disinforms the polity but the people's striving for empowerment prevails.
Today, the electoral democracy has no credibility. Political parties pay private interests to run their campaigns which disinform the electors. They deprive them of an outlook of their own and keeps them tied to what others decide on their behalf. Elections are no longer means which turn "the popular will" into "the legal will" in the form of party government.
Also, in the past, elections were used to sort out the contradictions within the ruling class based on a system of reasonable accommodations. They re-established peaceful coexistence in the form of party government and thus provided stable government. If a majority could not be reached, minority governments were a short-lived affair used to restore a balance between the contending interests and a majority government would follow.
Today, the conditions are no longer there for "reasonable accommodations" and stability. Anarchy prevails in the economic base and pervades all political, social, cultural, national and international affairs. No oligopolic private interest will accept an authority above its own. Negotiations, which include elections as a form of negotiations, are no longer the method used to sort out differences within the ranks of these private interests and all the arrangements from the past have been or are being discarded.
Anarchy is accompanied by violence and the increasing use of government of police powers, not government of laws. Just as in economics so too in politics - power is concentrated in oligopolies which have directly taken over the state institutions and social functions - armed forces, intelligence agencies, functions of the civil service, health care, education and even charities. These private interests run everything for profit not "the common good" and this includes elections.
Whereas it is true the Labour Party is prepared to form a minority government, not by a "progressive alliance" but by asking for others to support its popular manifesto, the ruling class will not permit a change in the direction to the economy out of goodwill. The people will have to organise themselves to deprive the ruling circles of their power to deprive the people of what belongs to them by right. Jeremy Corbyn has said that the Labour Party will move an alternative Queen's Speech on June 19 when the House of Commons reconvenes. It shows that the people's demand for an anti-austerity agenda and the demand of the ruling circles for private interests to prevail are face-to-face in Britain as never before since the austerity agenda was unleashed during the Thatcher years and New Labour became its champion under Tony Blair. This experience must be summed up by the working people so that their striving for empowerment remains in their hands.
Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All! Now is the time for the people to step up the work to renew the political process and demand the recognition of their rights!
Following the debacle suffered by the Conservative Party in the recent General Election, comparisons are being made with 1974 when Edward Heath won a slender majority in February but failed to form a government. Heath asked the famous question, "who rules?" and the resounding answer was, not him. At that time the miners were a formidable organised force and the striving of the miners for the recognition of their rights forced another election to be held in October of that year. Harold Wilson representing the Labour Party won the election and formed a majority government. Using this example, it is predicted that the country will hold another election within a year and that, presumably, Labour could make further headway and form a majority government.
The problem of course is that the conditions in 2017 are not at all similar to those in 1974, at a time Keynesian economics went into crisis and the social welfare state was just beginning to unravel. Today nothing is predictable because the forces at play and the private interests are no longer what they were in the past. The very serious challenge which has presented itself to the working class is to become an organised political force in its own right. New basic organisations are required which work out the independent politics of the class and unite it to bring them about. The working people cannot afford to simply hand over their power to representatives which they do not even select and over which they exercise no control. Look what happened with the Labour MPs that revolted against Corbyn. Where did they get their mandate? How are they being disciplined? Who decides?
Today the working people know perfectly well Who Rules. The financial oligarchy rules. The real question is Who Decides Who Rules? and the challenge facing the working people is to deprive the financial oligarchy of the power to deprive them of what belongs to them by right, including their right to govern themselves and exercise control over the decisions which affect their lives. For this to happen, the workers need to replace political parties which divide them along sectarian lines with basic political organisations which do not limit their role to filling in a ballot to hand over power to others but put the power to select candidates and control the agenda in their hands.
The workers need to organise to discuss the results of this election. They need to put their own rights in command of the discussion, as the reference point for their analyses and plans of action, not the analyses coming out of the ruling circles and their media. This is what the workers need to do to prepare for what lies ahead.
The British government is negotiating with the DUP so that it can form a majority within the British Parliament and form the government. However, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has set the record straight that there is nothing to negotiate with the DUP. The approach of the British government to the talks in the north is self-serving and neither neutral nor impartial, Adams pointed out. He clearly explained that the political institutions must be established on the basis of previously agreed to terms contained in the Good Friday Agreement. Nothing less will be accepted.
Sinn Féin won seven seats in the election but refuses to take its seats in Westminster because it does not recognise British rule over the north of Ireland and refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.
Speaking the day after the election on the outcome of the Westminster election campaign, Gerry Adams said:
"I want to commend Michelle O'Neill [leader of Sinn Féin in the north of Ireland] and our northern team, including all of our candidates and their families for their outstanding performance in the election. We increased our vote in every constituency.
"This was a truly national effort by Sinn Féin and I want to thank all of our activists who travelled from all parts of the island to help secure this historic result for the party.
"Sinn Féin respects the mandate we have received and our electorate who voted in such huge numbers.
"Nationalists and Republicans have turned their back on Westminster and accept that that centre of political gravity is now on the island of Ireland.
"The Taoiseach and DUP need to focus on restoring the political institutions.
"Theresa May sought a mandate for Brexit, austerity and the erosion of human rights. She got her comeuppance.
"The Irish government needs to seize the initiative to secure designated special status for the North as part of the Brexit negotiations."
In subsequent remarks Adams said:
"This was a highly successful election for Sinn Féin.
"We are here today to seek agreement to re-establish the Executive and the institutions on the basis of equality, respect and rights for all.
"This could and should be done by implementing what has already been agreed.
"The British government is not neutral or impartial. Their approach to talks is entirely self-serving.
"Any deal with the DUP and the Tories will not be to the benefit of the people of the north, our economy, our public services or securing designated special status for the north within the EU.
"We need the progressive parties to work together.
"We need a strong counter balance to the Tory Party and the DUP."
Commenting on remarks by Enda Kenny, the outgoing Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Republic of Ireland, following Kenny's conversation with Theresa May after the election, Adams called on the Irish Government and the incoming Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to "assert their role to protect the Good Friday and other agreements".
"The Taoiseach is right to express concerns about any deal between the DUP and the Tory party. Sinn Féin's view is that such a deal will not be in the best interests of the people of Ireland, and in particular the people of the north, regardless of their political allegiances.
"The flaw in the Taoiseach's position is his refusal to recognise that the British government has never been impartial or objective in its relationship with Ireland.
"Sinn Féin has never accepted that the British government is impartial or neutral.
"The arrangements to restore the political institutions need not be protracted. The issues are well known, they are rooted in agreements already made, and the onus is clearly on the DUP to drop its opposition to the implementation of the rights-related issues, which are at the core of the current difficulties.
"The period of continuous Tory rule since 2010 has been a constant source of instability for the political process.
"The pro-unionist and partisan nature of this British government has contributed directly to the current deep political crisis in the North.
"If the DUP don't prioritise the restoration of the institutions, and instead decide to become a prop for a dysfunctional minority government in London, then the parties should consider inviting an independent chairperson to oversee proceedings.
"Sinn Féin has already raised this at the beginning of the talks process some months ago."
Gerry Adams made it clear that Sinn Féin "will continue to press ahead for a speedy return to the institutions while monitoring closely the machinations in London".
"On a more positive note the focus by the mainstream British media on the DUP's policies and history is belated but a welcome education for people in Britain," Adams added.
Conservative Party 318 (-13)
Labour Party 262 (+30)
SNP 35 (-21)
Liberal Democrats 12 (+4)
Democratic Unionist Party 10 (+2)
Sinn Féin 7 (+3)
Plaid Cymru 4 (+1)
Green Party 1 (no change)
Independent 1 (no change)
The SDLP, Ulster Unionist Party and UKIP all had no MPs elected, down from 3, 2 and 1 seats respectively.
Weekly On Line Newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA.
Phone: 020 7627 0599:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition Freely available online
Workers' Weekly E-mail Edition Subscribe by e-mail daily: Free / Donate
WW Internet RSS Feed
The Line of March Monthly Publication of RCPB(ML) Subscribe
RCPB(ML) Home Page
Workers' Weekly Online Archive