“Those who would be happy to ‘play it safe’ and wait until a probable Labour Government in 2024 for potential change need to understand that by then millions more people’s lives will have been plunged into misery.”
The wave of austerity Sunak will unleash needs a unified response based on our values of solidarity, struggle and socialism writes Matt Willgress
On Monday, the ‘coronation’ of Rishi Sunak saw Britain have its third Tory Prime Minister in three months at a time of starks economic, social and political crises.
In this context, Labour and the left need to be clear that Truss may have gone, but that doesn’t mean the Tories will not still be far more interested in doing the bidding of their rich backers than saving lives, jobs and livelihoods as the worst cost-of-living crisis in generations continues to deepen dramatically.
Twelve years of Tory austerity have already starved public services of resources, devastated communities and led to disgusting levels of poverty and inequality that were spiralling out of control even before Truss and Kwarteng’s short-lived ‘mini-budget.’
To say that we are facing a social emergency this winter is not to exaggerate but simply to state fact.
Yet it is scary but true to say that we have seen nothing yet from the Tories. The economic statement from Jeremy Hunt, at the time of writing still due for Monday October 31st, is set to lock in years more of austerity, with government demands expected to find ‘savings’ yet again (in other words more cuts) and years more of cuts in wages in real terms for millions of workers across both the public and private sectors.
Such a prospect means the left must rise to the challenges ahead, including through articulating a clear programme of investment not cuts – with an extension of public ownership at its core – as the economic alternative. We need to be at the heart of amplifying the voices of and helping to co-ordinate the growing movements across the country that are resisting the Tory offensive, with the aim of forcing them out as quickly as possible.
Those who would be happy to ‘play it safe’ and wait until a probable Labour Government in 2024 for potential change need to understand that by then millions more people’s lives will have been plunged into misery and things made much worse across the board. We need to start beating back the Tories and protecting people through struggle, as many trade unions are now doing.
Additionally, in terms of Labour’s stance in the current situation. as Jon Trickett MP has written this week, “Although it’s true that an incoming Labour Government will face some extremely difficult economic circumstances, it would be a huge mistake to echo the Tories’ narrative about austerity.”
As Jon added, this is especially the case when one bears in mind the historical lesson that, “Between 2010 and 2015, Labour adopted a position in support of spending cuts – but attacked the Tories for going too hard and too fast. We all know how that worked out.”
To help make this happen, the left must also work together more and work together better, both in the Labour Party and beyond it. We are delighted at Arise Festival to have had Momentum, Save Our Socialists, Tribune, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the Labour Representation Committee, No Holding Back, the Morning Star, Labour for a Green New Deal, Labour Women Leading and many others at recent events we have hosted, and also vital campaigns that stretch beyond the Labour Party such as the People’s Assembly, Stand up to Racism, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, climate justice campaigns, our trade unions and many more.
More organisations should not only invite each other on their platforms, but also co-ordinate campaigns, actions and more, and seek to work as productively as possible together in ‘umbrella’ movements.
We need a lot more of this conscious co-operation and collective organising, and the basis for working together must be to support the real struggles taking place and to put forward a positive left agenda.
As part of this collective effort, Arise is hosting a national conference bringing together left and anti-Tory resistance movements in unity to discuss the next steps in the fightback in 2023 on December 10th.
The fightback has started with the wave of strikes this summer. Let’s respond to austerity Prime Minister Sunak by building on it with an autumn of action and by winning real support for socialist solutions that put public need before corporate greed.
- Matt Willgress is the National Organiser for Arise: A Festival of Left Ideas.
- The “Solidarity – Struggle – Socialism” Conference takes place on Saturday December 10th in Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL. See the growing line-up and book your place here.
- You can follow Arise Festival on Facebook and twitter, and see what events they have coming up here; as well as listen to the Arise Festival podcast on Spotify.
- This article was originally published by Labour Hub on October 26th, 2022.