Political parties in Britain

Political parties in Britain

Labour Party-was established in 1906 as a result of a break by the trade unions with the Liberal Party. The Labour Party advocated a policy of winning limited reforms without fundamentally challenging the profit system. It pledged itself to establishing socialism following the October 1917 Russian Revolution, but rejected a revolutionary perspective, claiming socialism could be achieved through the reform of the profit system. Now calling itself New Labour, the party under Tony Blair has carried out a final break with the perspective of social reformism.

Conservative Party-has been in office for the past 18 years, first under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and then John Major. It has implemented a right-wing program aimed at a fundamental restructuring of British capitalism in line with the demands of globalized production, including the closure of inefficient industries, privatization of state enterprises, deregulation of financial markets, dismantling of welfare provisions and the slashing of wages.

Liberal Democrats-Britain's third major party. It was formed out of a merger between the Liberal Party and a rightwing breakaway from the Labour Party, which was called the Social Democratic Party. The Liberal Democrats have always portrayed themselves as a more compassionate party than the Conservatives, but still hostile to socialism. They have now positioned themselves to the left of the rightward careening Labour Party on issues of social policy and democratic rights.

Scottish National Party-calls for independence 'within Europe' for Scotland. It seeks to capitalize on the growth of transnational investment by securing the right of the region's bourgeoisie and upper middle classes to a greater share in the exploitation of Scottish workers. It hopes to set up Scotland as a cheap labor platform for Europe. To win support for this, the SNP has begun to use the reformist rhetoric abandoned by New Labour.

Socialist Labour Party-was set up last year by National Union of Mineworkers President Arthur Scargill. The SLP represents a section of the trade union bureaucracy fearful of losing its political control of the working class. It continues to advance a national reformist policy. Scargill is anticipating a break by sections of the TUC (British equivalent of the AFL-CIO) from New Labour once a Labour government imposes Tory anti-trade union legislation.

Socialist Party-was established just prior to the elections by Militant Labour. For 35 years the Militant tendency worked inside the Labour Party, claiming that Labour could be pressured into carrying through the socialist transformation of society. The Militant tendency was forced to split from the Labour Party in 1993 due to a mounting witch-hunt by the Labour leadership. The Militant organization has made no analysis of the failure of its perspective and opposes any serious assessment of the working class's experiences with Labourism. Its aim in establishing the Socialist Party is to bring together break-away factions from the Labour and trade union bureaucracy, the Stalinist Communist Party and various radical groups to form a new reformist organization.

The Scottish Socialist Alliance is led by Scottish Militant Labour and includes a number of Stalinist, middle class radical and nationalist groupings.