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Ray Apps

Tories in Crisis, SDP-Liberal Threat?

Build a Mass Socialist Labour Party

(September 1981)

From Militant, No. 570, 25 September 1981, pp. 1 & 20.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“We are getting more competitive” was the brutal mindless comment of Norman Tebbit, Mrs Thatcher’s new minister for union bashing.

The “suburban skinhead” was commenting, on Tuesday’s official unemployment figures which came within a hair’s breadth of three million.

The official figures in 2,998,789. The real number is more like 4 million, if women and other jobless people who don’t register and workers on special “job-saving” schemes are included.

Tebbit would be right if Britain was competing in an all European unemployment championship.

Unemployment in Britain almost doubled (up 88%) between April 1979 and April 1981. In twelve other West European countries hit by the world recession, however, the average increase was about one third (30%).

With cretinous confidence in “free market forces”, Mr. Tebbit thinks mass unemployment is good for business. But Thatcher and company have not received a vote of confidence from the City financiers and big business.

Quite the contrary.

Overseas investment in stocks and shares is currently running at £900 million a month. Since the Tories removed exchange controls, British investment in overseas stocks and shares has jumped from quite a low level to £5,000 million over the last year.

British businessmen have also bought £10,000 million in foreign currency.

Despite the Tory cuts, despite the unemployment, despite the cut living standards, the profit-seekers are boycotting investment in British industry.

The rate of profit in British industry is too low for the city speculators. This, of course, does not mean that the boardroom moguls have to suffer personally.

Recently released company reports show that 27 directors of top companies paid themselves a total of £2,258,728. Seven directors got over £100,000 each.

One firm, an advertising agency, Greers Gross, handed its top executive a salary of £103,000.

In Caxton Hall last week, the magistrates’ hearing on the Playboy Club’s gambling license, gave a glimpse of the millionaires’ lifestyle in Thatcher’s Britain.

While British industry goes to rack and ruin, wealthy punters squander millions at the gambling tables. The Playboy Club is accused of writing off bad debts for regular punters of £10,000s, in some cases £millions, each.

There were also massive losses in another London gambling house last week – the Stock Exchange. A small increase in interest rates triggered the biggest one-day drop on the market for five years.

Under the profit system, which operates through the blind anarchy of the market, the jobs and living standards of millions of workers are gambled away as if at the roulette table.

Mr Tebbit’s advice to workers is that they must “work harder and better” to avoid losing their jobs.

But even The Times (17 September) had to admit: “when it comes to the length of working hours, the British worker is amongst the most industrious”. Workers in Britain have longer hours, fewer holidays, and generally lower pay than their counterparts in Europe or North America.

The system is rotten!

Far from curing diseased British capitalism, the Tories are bleeding their patient to death.

In the process, workers are currently being thrown on to the scrap heap at the rate of 58,000 a month. More and more low-paid workers and their children are being forced into poverty and misery.

Labour’s Annual Conference in Brighton must respond to this situation. Conference must adopt bold, socialist policies – not only to oust the Tories but get rid of the corrupt system they are trying to defend.

Conference must also lay down the lines of a campaign, involving the trade unions and the whole labour movement, for mass action to force a general election and prepare the way for the return of a Labour government on socialist policies.

The capitalist press will hysterically denounce the Brighton Conference as a symptom of the “chaos” and “anarchy” in the Labour Party. Feigning concern for Labour’s electoral prospects, they will hypothetically claim that the conference is damaging the chances of a Labour victory in the next general election.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Millions of workers will be looking to the Conference for a real alternative to the Tories. They will be attracted, not repelled, by bold socialist policies.

The ranks of the labour movement, as well as workers outside it, are impatiently waiting for action to bring down Thatcher’s government.

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Last updated: 21 August 2016