274. At the start of the 21st Century, the ruling elite has assumed the characteristics of the Ancien Régime in pre-revolutionary France―a cancerous growth contributing nothing to society. The one-time “workshop of the world” has become a playground for financial speculators and oligarchs, and the world’s largest offshore tax haven, while the City of London is the premiere global centre for swindling and racketeering. This parasitism is the culmination of the long process of decline and putrefaction of British capitalism. Infecting the entire political superstructure, it finds its fullest expression in the Labour Party and the trade unions, which function as the unalloyed representatives of the financial aristocracy and the enforcers of ever-widening social inequality.
275. Labour’s warmongering was accompanied by a transfer of social wealth from working people to the super-rich on a scale without historical precedent. Every aspect of life was subordinated to the market. Freed from any restraint, social assets were ransacked, pension funds raided and corporate profits handed over in the form of massive share options and bonuses. The acceptance of all the nostrums associated with Thatcherism was epitomised in Gordon Brown’s declaration that Labour had succeeded in ensuring there would be no return to “boom and bust” economics.
276. There are few more telling examples of political myopia in modern history. The economic “upswing” of the 1990s rested on unstable foundations—a massive accumulation of fictitious capital, unrelated to any actual development of economic production, and the resulting explosion in credit-fuelled debt. Beginning in 1997, a series of shocks struck the major stock markets, each one more serious than the last. In 2008, the entire edifice of international capital almost came crashing down—precipitating the most severe economic recession since the 1930s. As SEP (Australia) national secretary Nick Beams explained:
“The vast shifts in the structures of global capitalism—the implosion of the financial system, the collapse of credit and financial markets, and the bankruptcy of major banks and investment houses—are the outcome of changes that have been taking place beneath the surface of economic life over years, and even decades.
“A breakdown does not mean that capitalism comes to a halt. It signifies the opening of a new period of history, in which old structures, both economic and political, as well as ideologies and ways of thinking, give way, and new forms of political struggle develop, in which the fate of society itself is up for decision”.
277. In the final analysis, the domination of the British working class by the reformist bureaucracies rested upon expanding production, and the conditions of relative prosperity created by it. That period is now at an end. In the aftermath of the greatest financial collapse in three-quarters of a century, the bourgeoisie is set on driving down the living standards and conditions of workers the world over to meet the dictates of the transnational corporations and the international financial oligarchy.
279. The SEP will seek to encourage the development of the class struggle and the creation of new, independent organisations, through which the working class can advance its interests. In these class battles, the primary focus of the revolutionary movement must be to overcome the gulf between the maturity of the objective situation and the present level of political consciousness in the working class. There can be no let-up in the struggle to overcome the debilitating political and organisational grip of the Labour and trade union bureaucracy and its apologists, due to a mistaken belief that the objective drive towards revolution will, by itself, resolve the crisis of leadership and perspective in the working class. The influence of bureaucracies that still possess massive resources, and function as essential props of capitalist rule, can only be overcome through the assimilation of the strategic lessons of the struggle waged by Marxists to construct a revolutionary party of the international working class.
280. Only the International Committee of the Fourth International, which embodies the programmatic, tactical and organisational lessons derived from the international workers’ movement over the past 150 years, can secure the political and ideological homogeneity of the revolutionary vanguard. Only this provides the basis for the working class to become conscious of its historical and international revolutionary role, and organize itself to carry out the world socialist revolution. The Socialist Equality Party states with Trotsky:
“The advanced workers, united in the Fourth International, show their class the way out of the crisis. They offer a programme based on international experience in the struggle of the proletariat and of all the oppressed of the world for liberation. They offer a spotless banner”.