Editorial from the August 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard
Back in May the media hacks were full of the tenth anniversary of the Thatcher regime. She posed as an invincible goddess, intoxicated by her unstoppable power to dominate the profit system. Meanwhile the anti-socialist Labour Party drew up new plans to convince the voters that a Kinnock government would serve the parasites of the Stock Exchange with no less zeal than the Tories. Leftist ‘intellectuals” were bemoaning the death of the working class. The unions were being told by their mis-leaders that strikes were a thing of the past and workers had to face the New Realism—the old belief that wage slaves can achieve nothing more out of the system than to collaborate peacefully with their exploiters.
It was only three months ago, and capitalism was looking nice and cosy for the idlers at the top. The superpowers were agreeing to allow each other to cut their arms budgets, and the USA was busy selling bombs to China—which seemed to have become such a respectable corner of the capitalist world in the past ten years, as Mr Deng and the fake Communist dictators had made strenuous efforts to develop the Dictatorship of the Market.
As the capitalists prepared to luxuriate in a long, hot summer of endless order, along comes Comrade History and screws things up. History is like that. The capitalist system is bursting to the brim with its own contradictions, and no amount of wishful thinking by conservative dogmatists will stop them from exploding. So—just as the trailer for the horror film says—"Just when you thought it had gone away, here it comes again." The class struggle hotted up and a lot of complacent grins are being wiped off a lot of fat-cat faces.
Invincible Thatcher has proved not to be quite as invincible as she reckoned. Her economic policies are going wrong and now all of those workers who were seduced to join the "property-owning democracy" are weeping into their mortgage agreements as interest rates rise. The European capitalists regard Thatcher and her Little-Englander nationalism as an obsolete joke, and now open warfare has broken out in the Tory ranks. Edward Heath—who has nothing to lose by telling the truth about Thatcher's doctrinaire idiocy—started to expose the government's refusal to adapt to changes within the capitalist system, and after they were trounced in the European elections other Tory MPs and MEPs joined the attack. Tebbit blamed it all on the advertising company which dreamed up the crassly jingoistic, anti-European election campaign. Others are beginning to wonder whether Madame Invincible ought to be sent out to graze in the House of Lords, where it is perfectly acceptable to be out of tune with the times.
Then came the strikes. The unions, which the Tories imagined they had tamed—for beasts is what they perceive us as being—began to flex their muscles. The Tories thought that they had outlawed the flexing of muscles. They may wish to, but they have not and will not. The London Transport workers voted by seven to one in favour of a strike. The unelected Judges said that such a strike was illegal—but they could not stop the strike. The dockers voted to strike and, again, the Judges declared the majority vote illegal. The dockers came out. British Rail tried to take its workers to Court for wanting to go on strike, but even the phoney dispensers of Capitalist Justice could find no grounds for stopping the action. The BBC called the strikers, who abided by the majority of their union, “rebels". Then the BBC voted to strike. The workers in the Passport Office have come out and local government workers in NALGO have now joined the groundswell against the so-called new realism. All of this is costing the capitalists millions of pounds. And neither Thatcher nor her would-be muscle men can do a thing to stop us workers from defending ourselves against the profit system. As for the Labour Party, those pathetic imitation Tories are too afraid of losing their reputation with the Stock Exchange to dare to side with the strikers—after all, in their contemptible Policy Review they have promised to be just as ruthless at “taming the unions" as the Tories are. The Left, who imagined that a few years of Thatcher government had extinguished the class war, and that all that was left was to form an alliance with David Owen—Who?—have been shown up for the fools that they are. The beast will not be tamed, and it is encouraging to see that our class is not prepared to take everything that is thrown at us without putting up a fight, albeit only a defensive one.
Things are not looking good for the capitalists and their political agents. The Tories are divided and electorally on the decline. The Labour Party has reviewed itself out of all purpose: they might as well join the Tories. The old Liberals have committed suicide. The unions have shown that they are not dead. The workers of China have started to cause trouble for their bosses, and Gorbachev has problems which he cannot hope to solve with his own imperial subjects.
The abolition of the profit system, and the legalised robbery of the workers who produce all wealth, still stands on the agenda of history. The Socialist Party still stands for that and nothing less. And if one thing is for certain it is that history can change very fast in just a short time.