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The left after the general election

1st Jul 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 1997

Labour’s 179 seat majority in parliament will not be taken by Tony Blair as a mandate for progressive social reform. Instead it is going to be used to impose the most right wing economic policy of any Labour government in history.

In the period between now and when the voters, trade unionists and party members start to realise this, Blair will use the good will he starts out with to move as fast as possible – starting at this year’s conference – to suppress the mechanisms whereby alternative policies could be expressed within the Labour Party.

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Zyuganov’s address to the CPRF Congress

1st Jul 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 97

In his political report for the Central Committee to the congress of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on 19 April, party chair Gennady Zyuganov correctly pointed out that Russia remains ‘the main stumbling block in the path of the creators of the new world order’ – the United States and its allies. That is why the class struggle in Russia today is the most momentous in its historical consequences since the Second World War. As when Hitler came to power in Germany, no person in the world is going to be able to escape from the consequences of the outcome of the class struggle in Russia.

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Votes on 1 May – a Tory collapse, not a Labour landslide

1st Jul 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 1997

The 1 May general election did not simply close 18 years of Conservative government. It brought to an end an entire era in British politics – a 111 year-long political party system based on the dominance of the Conservative Party.

This assertion may cut against the grain of the media coverage – which has been mesmerised by the scale of Labour’s majority in parliament – but it nonetheless corresponds to the facts.

On 1 May Labour won its biggest parliamentary majority in history – an overall majority of 179 seats. But it did so with a share of the UK vote, at 43.2 per cent, which does not remotely qualify as record-breaking. The party won a larger proportion of the vote in 1945, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964 and 1966 – that is, in every single general election between 1945 and 1966. That included three elections which it lost and Harold Wilson’s 44.1 per cent in 1964 which gave him a majority of just four seats.

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Albania — a mass, armed anti-capitalist uprising

1st Jul 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 1997

The mass armed uprising which won control of a third of Albania in March this year showed why the United States and European Union are determined to expand NATO into eastern Europe – because the new capitalist states in the region are too weak to confront a really mass movement of the people and will be even less able to do so if a Communist government comes to power in Russia.

The 6,000-strong Italian-led force in Albania would be equivalent to more than 100,000 troops in a country with Britain’s population. Such a large imperialist military operation was the only way to defeat the first popular, mass, armed insurrection against a capitalist government in Europe since the Second World War. The insurgents rapidly won control of a third of the country. The Albanian army and police sympathised more with the uprising than with the government. A network of ‘Salvation Committees’ took control of the south, establishing territorial dual power which was rapidly expanding northwards.

 

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Middle ground knocked out of Russian politics

1st Jun 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: June 1997

Since the beginning of March this year the middle ground has been smashed out of Russian politics. On one side, at the beginning of March President Yeltsin re-organised his government around the neo-liberal politicians closest to the United States – notably the architect of the corrupt privatisation program, Anatoly Chubais, and the governor of Nizhny Novgorod Boris Nemtsov. The new government immediately announced plans for a second wave of economic shock therapy – to remove state subsidies on housing, heating, electricity and transport while simultaneously acceding to US demands to attack the power of Russia’s remaining giant monopolies.

On the other side, all of the classical signs of a rising mass radicalisation of the population are apparent. Millions participated in the trade union day of action against non-payment of wages on 27 March. Given their limited economic muscle, workers are resorting to more and more desperate tactics ranging from hunger strikes to seizing local officials and buildings, blocking roads and railways and in parts of Siberia setting up local ‘salvation committees’ – embryonic soviets.

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Gains for women could prove short lived

1st Mar 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1997

In addition to electing an historic number – 101 – of women MPs, Labour succeeded in closing the gender gap in voting in this general election. In 1992 exit polls showed that only 35 per cent of women voted Labour. This compared with 37 per cent of men.

The increased number of women MPs still leaves the Parliamentary Labour Party made up of only 24 per cent women members and the House of Commons as a whole with 18 per cent of MPs being women, lower than parliaments in Spain, Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark and Sweden. At least 33 of the new women MPs elected were originally selected through an all-women shortlist. However, following the failure to appeal the Leeds Industrial Tribunal ruling, this policy was dropped and has not been replaced with any other mechanism.