Contents


The candidates
of the SEP
Why the
Socialist Equality Party must be built
The impact of globalisation
The basic principles
of the Socialist
Equality Party
The working class and the Labour Party
The fight for
genuine socialism
The basic demands the Socialist Equality Party fights for

 

  

Manifesto of the
Socialist Equality Party

A strategy for a workers government!

The Socialist Equality Party calls on all workers, youth, unemployed and students to support its candidates in the General Election.

Never before has the unanimity of all the major parties on social policy been so open -- the destruction of the interests of the working people in defence of profits. The elections do not offer any prospect of change. Whichever government comes into office it will rule on behalf of big business and the banks.

The campaign of the Socialist Equality Party is based on mobilising opposition to the corporate onslaught on jobs, living standards and social programmes and provide the working class with a political alternative to the three parties of big business. This includes the Labour Party, which is now no different from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

No other party represents the working class. Today, the New Labour Party is controlled by millionaires. For all Blair's hypocritical invocations of "decency" and "family values", the Labour Party shares responsibility with the Tories for the social crisis blighting the lives of millions of working people. Their refusal to defend even the most minimal interests of the working class has enabled the dismantling of social gains and condemns workers, especially the youth, to economic insecurity and low pay.

In contrast the Socialist Equality Party uncompromisingly defends the interests of the overwhelming majority of people: the workers, men and women, whose productive labour creates the wealth of society. The SEP is the only party that is willing to tell the truth about the reality that confronts millions of people whose only source of income is their weekly wage: that the capitalist system, while depending on labour, strives to maximise profits by sweating ever greater value out of fewer and fewer workers, for lower and lower wages.

Our party upholds fundamental socialist principles: the needs of the working class must take precedence over the capitalists' drive for profits. Wherever and whenever the interests of the working people conflict with those of the multinational banks, the globalised corporate monopolies and the international stock exchanges and bond markets, it is the profit system that must yield. The vast productive potential of modern technology should be used for humane and intelligent social purpose -- to rid Britain and the world of poverty, injustice and war -- not to guarantee the ever greater and more disgusting accumulation of wealth by a small percentage of the population.

The SEP will mobilise the working class to end the political rule of the financial oligarchy and place into power a democratic government of the workers, for the workers and, above all, by the workers.

The candidates of the SEP

The Socialist Equality Party is standing four candidates in major working class areas throughout Britain to mobilise working people around a political programme that represents their interests. The big business parties exude pessimism and despair. They are parties of cynicism and lies that appeal to fear, prejudice and selfish individualism.

Our party appeals to the humanitarian ideals and egalitarian traditions of the working class: the principle of solidarity with all workers in struggle, the readiness to fight for the common good, the confidence in a better future and determination to make it a reality.

Our candidates are -- Julie Hyland for Barnsley East, Tania Kent for Tottenham, London, Stuart Nolan for Garston, Liverpool and Steve Johnstone for Maryhill, Glasgow.

Why the Socialist Equality Party must be built

Millions of working people recognise that Labour's evolution into an open party of big business means their interests are not represented in the political system as it exists. This has facilitated the ravaging of workers living standards to boost the insatiable profit drive of the bankers and bosses. Over the past 20 years, big business and its political representatives have carried out a vast redistribution of wealth from working people to the rich. Millions have lost decent paying jobs. Unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness have reached epidemic proportions.

The working class must urgently turn to the building of its own political party. None of their real concerns -- for decent living standards, job security, guaranteed medical care, a bright future for their children in a world without wars and violence -- are being addressed by any of the major parties.

All around us we see a terrible spectacle of decay and desperation. Thousands of children go hungry in Britain and social squalor exists all over the world. Everything is justified by the politicians, the corporate executives and the media with hypocritical claims that nothing can be done because "there is no money." One fact explodes this lie: the richest 358 people on earth, all billionaires, have a net worth equal to the combined income of the poorest 45% of the world's population -- 2.3 billion people!

Britain is one of the most unequal of all the advanced industrialised countries. While it has always had a class structure based on privilege and wealth, the chasm that has opened up between the super-rich and the general population during the last two decades is far greater than at any time this century. Today the richest 500 people are worth a combined £70bn -- more than three times Britain's gold and currency reserves. Whilst 10% of the population own half of all marketable wealth, the bottom 50% own just 8%.

There are two Britains -- the Britain of fantastic wealth for a tiny parasitic elite and the Britain of the large majority of people, for whom the struggle to pay the rent or mortgage, finance the car, maintain the health and education of their children and care for their parents is becoming ever more difficult. Every week thousands more are made redundant; the youth and the unemployed are channelled into poverty-wage, part-time and temporary jobs; hundreds of thousands more are pushed below the poverty line. Daily life for millions of people has become a nightmare. The ranks of the homeless and destitute grow at the same time as the City of London bankers and Stock Exchange speculators celebrate record profits and booming share values.

The past years of union-busting, layoffs, wage cutting and attacks on social services have only set the stage for the present assault on the working class. Big business intends to destroy all that remains of the welfare state safety net, grant itself huge tax windfalls and eliminate all government regulations that impede its drive for profits.

In the run up to the General Election, the political establishment and the media are telling working people they must choose between various political parties who are bankrolled by big business and do its bidding. These include the billionaire Sir James Goldsmith's right wing Referendum Party. With one voice Major, Blair and Ashdown demand further welfare cuts on which millions depend.

The Socialist Equality Party rejects the claim of all these parties that what's good for big business is good for the people of Britain and the world. Our party will fight for the socialist principle that the economy should be organised democratically to serve the needs of the working class, not to satisfy the rapacious hunger of the bankers, corporate bosses and Stock Exchange speculators for profit.

The press and media are dominated by politicians and business figures who have access to millions of pounds. Candidates who are themselves extremely rich or who base themselves on the profit interests of British capitalism cannot represent the working class. They have no answer to the real questions that face working people -- how to secure jobs, living standards, housing, health care and education.

The impact of globalisation

The SEP is the only party that places the responsibility for this situation where it really belongs -- on the capitalist system. The decline in workers' living standards is the product of basic contradictions in the profit system. Over the last two decades the irreconcilable conflict between this system and the needs of the masses of people has been intensified by far reaching economic changes. The world economy is dominated by huge transnational corporations which organise production on a global scale. They employ the revolutionary developments in computer-based technology and telecommunications to operate across national boundaries and produce directly for the world market.

The global integration of production and the advances in technology could facilitate a dramatic increase in the living standards of the world's people. Yet under capitalism these developments are turned into new weapons to maximise company profits at the expense of the working class. Corporations exploit a global pool of labour and demand wage cuts and the destruction of social reforms dating back to the beginning of the century. They shift production from continent to continent, scouring the globe for the cheapest labour. In the centres of world capitalism -- the US, Europe and Japan -- as well as the former colonial countries -- India, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina -- the transnational giants tell workers: "If you won't produce for less, we'll shut down your factory and find workers who will".

The basic principles of the Socialist Equality Party

The Socialist Equality Party has nothing in common with the cynical vote grabbing of the big business parties. Our party advances a programme that proceeds from certain fundamental social and historical principles and goals:

1. For the international unity of the working class

British workers are part of an international class of working people. In every part of the world workers face the same problems and the same enemy. In their struggles, British workers must seek the support of their class brothers and sisters overseas and themselves give unstinting support to other workers internationally.

The Socialist Equality Party rejects all forms of nationalism and separatism. Under conditions of globalised production, British workers must unite with their fellow workers all over the world and develop an international strategy to defend jobs, wages and living standards. The working class must take up the fight for the United Socialist States of Europe, in opposition to either a capitalist trade bloc -- the Single European Market -- or Little Englander nationalism. By overcoming the continent's division into a multitude of antagonistic nation states, decent living standards could be guaranteed for all and the threat of another war averted.

The Socialist Equality Party rejects the programme of Scottish and Welsh nationalism. Separatism does not express the interests of workers struggling to make ends meet, but of a privileged layer of the middle class who want to make their own financial deals with the international money markets and transnational corporations. Against the narrow and divisive policies of nationalism and regionalism, the SEP holds up the banner of class unity.

The SEP is for an end to the centuries long oppression of Ireland by British imperialism. The liberation of Ireland can only be secured as a by-product of a socialist offensive, unifying British and Irish workers, Catholic and Protestant, on both sides of the border, against the common class enemy and not through the failed strategy of bourgeois nationalism championed by the IRA.

The SEP opposes all those who seek to whip up antagonisms between white, black, Asian and other nationalities or ethnic groups. The capitalist media and big business politicians focus on differences of skin colour, religion, language and "ethnicity" as part of an age-old strategy of divide and rule. Their goal is to foment hatred and have working people fighting one another over access to decent jobs, education, housing and health care, rather than uniting on the basis of their common social interests.

"Positive discrimination", "affirmative action" and other measures advocated by the middle class radicals and black nationalists pit worker against worker and play into the hands of the corporate elite. By calling for preferential treatment in the allocation of jobs and other resources based on race, these prescriptions accept the framework of the capitalist system and shift the burden of its depredations from one section of the population to another. They are based on the ruling class lie that the resources do not exist to provide for the needs of all the people.

A decent and secure job, a comfortable retirement, quality education, and all other essential social needs should be guaranteed to every man, woman and child as a basic right. The material resources to realise these modest demands exist in abundance. The enormous potential of modern technology and globally integrated production should be used to vastly raise the living standards and cultural level of people in Britain and all over the world. Yet this potential is squandered by a system which subordinates the needs of the masses to the ever greater and more disgusting accumulation of personal wealth by a privileged few.

The answer to all forms of discrimination is the struggle for social equality. Everything that is necessary for a productive, secure and comfortable life must be made available to everyone, regardless of race, national origin or religion.

2. For social equality

Every progressive movement in history has raised the demand for social equality and the Socialist Equality Party stands on the shoulders of the great liberating struggles of the past. But equality means more than one man one vote. If a tiny segment of the population has the power to shut down factories and throw millions out of work, legal equality and democracy are a sham. In reality the capitalist class monopolises not only the economy, but political power as well.

The media and the politicians are carrying out a concerted assault on the concept of social equality. They elevate the right of the individual, by which they mean the capitalists, above all social concerns. On this basis they demand the destruction of social welfare programmes and the gutting of the National Health Service and the comprehensive school system on which the working class depends.

The interests of the working class are diametrically opposed to this ideology of selfish individualism. In a complex mass society, all problems are of a social character and require a social solution. The various reactionary theories that are promoted by the media -- from social Darwinist calls for the "survival of the fittest" to semi-religious moralising about inherently "evil" individuals -- are worthless in the face of the massive problems that confront society. Everything from the provision of adequate food and shelter to the maintenance of the environment requires the collective effort and social solidarity of masses of people, in opposition to the claims of individual greed.

Dozens of studies have documented the immense and growing concentration of wealth in Britain:

* The income of the poorest 10th decreased by almost 20% between 1979 and 1993 while the richest 10th increased its share by 61%.

* The income of the richest fifth is 10 times higher than the poorest fifth, whose income is 32% lower than their equivalents in the US and 44% lower than those in Holland.

* Eleven million people lack three or more basic necessities, according to the Child Poverty Action Group.

Contrary to the propaganda of the ruling class, social equality does not mean lowering the living standards to the lowest common denominator. The colossal advances in science and technology provide the material foundations for dramatically raising the living standards and cultural level of the whole of society. To achieve this, science and technology must be placed at the service of the people, not the selfish accumulation of private profit. The whole of economic life must be reorganised to meet the needs of the vast majority -- the working people. It is labour that produces the wealth, but the working class in Britain and all over the world is victimised by a system which rewards only the rich.

It is not a lack of resources, but the existing forms of economic organisation that block the attainment of social equality. Under capitalism, all economic decisions are taken to reward those who own the forces of production. The rights of the owners of big business are elevated above all social concerns. In the name of the "market", factory closures, budget cuts and every other outrage against working people are justified.

Two decades of ferocious rationalisation, wage cutting and redundancies have produced record profits for big business and growing misery for the working class. It has put paid to the claim that a worker can be secure in his job if the company is making a profit. Today corporations record soaring profits through a ruthless purge of their employees, the replacement of full-time with part-time work, forced overtime, speed-up and a relentless assault on wages and benefits.

At the same time the livelihoods of workers are being tied directly to the gyrations of the stock market, as the state's responsibilities for pensions, health and other benefits are abandoned, forcing workers to gamble on their future well-being by investing in private insurance plans. The Maxwell Mirror Group pension scandal showed that millions of working people will face devastating losses as a result of the machinations of the major shareholders and speculators who dominate the stock market.

This system is condemned by the statements of its own defenders, who declare that jobs, decent education, health care, housing and pensions are incompatible with the demands of the capitalist market. Then so much for the capitalist market! If this system cannot provide the basic needs of the great majority -- and it cannot -- then it has failed and must be replaced by a new and higher social order.

3. For a workers' government -- based on social ownership and democratic control of the economy by working people

The SEP strives for the formation of a genuinely democratic workers' government -- resting on the active and militant support of a politically aware and vigilant working class -- that will undertake the radical economic measures necessary to secure the social needs of the people. Such a government would subordinate the capitalist market to the interests of society as a whole.

A workers' government would place the banks, utilities and major industries under democratically accountable public ownership. This would enable the planned development of economic activity. It would make the satisfaction of social needs, rather than the accumulation of personal wealth, the driving principle of economic development. This has nothing in common with the state nationalisations of the post-war period, where industry was run by a bureaucracy in the interests of big business.

Socialist planning does not require the expropriation of small and medium-sized businesses. The real enemy of small business is not the socialist working class movement, but big capital, as is seen today by booming profits for big business on the one hand and a record toll of personal and small business bankruptcies on the other. A workers' government would establish a productive and mutually beneficial relationship between the publicly-run centres of the economy and small business.

4. For the political independence of the working class

The working class must establish its own political party in order to fight for policies that serve its interests. It is impossible for the working class to take a step forward as long as it remains trapped within the present parliamentary set-up and the fraudulent alternatives offered by the ruling class.

The working class encompasses the vast majority of society. Much is made in the media about the supposed decline in the size of the industrial work-force. But aside from the fact that millions of workers still labour in heavy industry, the emergence of the new "service" industries in recent decades has augmented, not reduced, the total size of the working class. If anything, it is far larger today than it was in the 1920s and 1930s, when workers were engaged in great social struggles of a revolutionary character. Indeed, the last two decades have witnessed a broad proletarianisation of society.

Vast sections of what was previously classified as the middle class -- middle managers, computer programmers and other skilled professionals -- have made the bitter discovery that they too are nothing more than the hired hands of big business. The composition of the working class has changed, but its historical role as the revolutionary force in society has not. The working class is not only the most powerful social force. Its objective interests place it in irreconcilable conflict with the capitalist system and pose the necessity for the reorganisation of society along socialist, egalitarian and truly democratic lines.

The Socialist Equality Party is not a substitute for the working class. It is an instrument to be built and used by the working class to achieve its historic aims. The SEP has been formed to mobilise the working class to end the political rule of big business and place into power a democratic government of the working class.

The working class and the Labour Party

Workers must begin to draw the balance sheet of their long and bitter experiences with the Labour Party. For almost 100 years the working class has looked to this party, and any government it has formed, to represent and defend its interests. These hopes have now been destroyed. Labour's right wing evolution does not represent the failure of socialism, but arises from its historic rejection of a genuine socialist perspective.

The working class built the Labour Party in the early years of the 20th century in the course of unparalleled class battles. Built and financed by the trade unions, it represented the first step by the British working class towards its own independent political party.

The Labour Party from the start was a reformist and not a socialist party. It preached the policies of class compromise, claiming that the working class could achieve its interests within the confines of the profit system and its nation state. The famous Clause IV of its constitution was drafted in 1918, following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and appeared under the heading "Against Revolution". The Labour Party has always acted to ensure the survival of the profit system, especially at times of its greatest crises: in World War One, the Great Depression and World War Two, right through to the militant class battles of the 1970s.

Labour's only association with any social gains were the reforms in health, education and welfare instituted after 1945. This coincided, however, with a particular stage in world capitalism -- specifically the international financial and monetary mechanisms put in place after the war to regulate the contradictions of capitalism.

These post-war arrangements have been shattered by the far-reaching economic changes over the last two decades. In every country the ruling class has abandoned the policies of class compromise and turned to open class war. They have deliberately driven up unemployment in order to undermine the militant resistance of workers to speed-ups, wage cuts and the erosion of social programmes. Government backed strike busting began with the smashing of the steel workers strike in 1980.

The response of the old workers' organisations has been to abandon their reformist programme and collaborate with the Tories and the employers. In adopting a programme based on slashing taxes for the rich, cutting social programmes and attacking democratic rights, the Labour Party is making it clear that it will step up these assaults under any administration it forms.

It is not enough to simply electorally reject the Labour Party. Nor can the growing anger and discontent of millions be channelled into an attempt to build "new" organisations modelled on the "old" Labour Party and based on the trade unions. This is the programme put forward by Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Party and Socialist Alliances formed by Militant Labour. By attempting to rekindle illusions in the programme of national reformism, these organisations act to divide the working class once again along national lines and subordinate it to the trade union bureaucracy.

Rather, definite political conclusions must be drawn. The objective social and economic interests of the working class must find a truly independent expression through the building of a new party based on the very programme Labour long ago rejected and sought to undermine -- socialist internationalism.

The fight for genuine socialism

Socialism starts from the needs of the working people, not the capitalist elite. That is why the capitalist class has waged a relentless campaign of distortion and lies to defame it.

Those workers disgusted by the Labour Party's betrayals and seeking a road to genuine socialism were constantly told, "There is no alternative. Look at Russia". This equation of Marxist socialism with the Stalinist system in the Soviet Union is the greatest lie of the 20th century. In reality, Stalin betrayed the socialist revolution carried out by the Russian working class. The bureaucracy he headed arose in the aftermath of the revolution and usurped political power from the Soviet workers. It killed the leaders of the revolution and carried out a bloody purge of the genuine socialists.

Nowhere was socialism and Marxism subjected to such repression as in the USSR. An entire generation of socialist workers and intellectuals, including leading figures in science, culture and the arts, were summarily executed or exiled to the labour camps. Four million people were subjected to direct repression, including 800-900,000 who were shot.

History shows that there was a socialist alternative to Stalinism. The greatest leader of the working class opposition to Stalinism was Leon Trotsky, who was exiled by the Soviet regime and murdered by an agent of Stalin in 1940. In 1938, Trotsky established a new international socialist party of the working class, the Fourth International. The Socialist Equality Party is the British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International -- the present day political representatives of this historic movement -- and is grounded in its revolutionary programme and traditions.

The claim that the history and fate of the British working class is bound up with Labour politicians securing certain reforms through parliamentary manoeuvres is a lie. All the major gains and reforms won by the British working class over 200 years have only been achieved through uncompromising class struggle against the profit system. In no other country have class divisions been so sharply defined over such a long drawn out historical period; stretching from the Chartist movement between 1836-48, the struggle to build the "new unions" in the 1880s, the strike movement after the First World War that eventually led to the 1926 General Strike, right up to the mass strike waves of the 1960s and '70s.

Every advance won by the working class required a fierce battle against the bosses and the government and enormous courage and sacrifice on the part of the workers. The greatest leaders of the working class were socialists. Class fighters such as Julian Harney, Ernest Jones, Eleanor Marx, Harry Quelch, James Connolly, John Maclean and Gerry Healy articulated the socialist aspirations of the British workers. Without the struggle of socialists in the Britain, there would have been no eight-hour day, child labour laws, or other basic conquests of the working class.

In a country where class divisions are so open and in which the working class has always formed the overwhelming majority, the ruling class has responded to the threat of a genuine socialist movement in one of two ways. Either it has tried the most vicious "red-baiting" -- from the Zinoviev letter in the 1920s to the witch-hunting of the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League in the 1960s and 1970s. Or it has dressed up the policies of reformism and class collaboration as "socialist" and promoted its advocates as "workers' representatives".

The working class must rescue its real socialist heritage from the fraudulent presentation of the ruling class. The Socialist Equality Party will lead this fight, organising and educating the working class for a sustained political struggle against the capitalist system.

The basic demands the Socialist Equality Party fights for

The goal of the Socialist Equality Party is the establishment of a socialist society. The struggle for this goal is inseparably linked to the realisation of demands which address the urgent and immediate needs of the working class. These include:

Full employment and job security

Every working person must be guaranteed a well paid and secure job and an annual income sufficient to raise a family in comfort. The ruling class use unemployment as a double-edged sword. By slashing jobs, companies increase the amount of production they can sweat out of the remaining workforce, thereby boosting their profits. At the same time they use the mounting insecurity of the unemployed to undermine the living standards of the working class as a whole.

To guarantee every worker a well paid secure job, a multi-billion pound programme of public works must be launched to rebuild the blighted inner cities. The working week must be reduced to 30 hours, with no loss in pay, to create new jobs and increase workers' leisure time.

Improved living standards

To ensure that no worker lives in poverty a minimum wage must be set at £8 an hour. Automatic cost-of-living increases must be instituted for every worker's wage, as well as social security, pensions and other benefits. All "work for dole" and cheap labour schemes must be abolished.

Laid off workers should be provided with their regular wages until they are re-employed. All benefit claimants, including school-leavers, must be granted benefits until they obtain a decent job. Evictions, foreclosures and cut-offs of heat, electricity, water and telephones for the unemployed must be outlawed.

Decent housing for all

The housing crisis is one of the sharpest expressions of the anarchy of the capitalist system. There are 800,000 vacant homes in Britain and 400,000 unemployed building workers. The profit system has prohibited moving the homeless into vacant homes. National and local governments have stopped the building of new council homes and waiting lists in many areas are over 10 years. The vast majority of housing in Britain is now owner occupied, but workers are unable to finance their mortgages due to high interest rates and face repossession and homelessness. To solve the housing crisis the SEP proposes an emergency programme of low-rent housing construction. Immediate shelter must be provided for the homeless and all those in need. Rent charges must no be more than 15% of earnings. Cheap, low interest loans must be provided for homeowners and repossessions banned.

Health care for all

The "marketisation" of the National Health Service has brought the health system to the brink of collapse. Labour has pledged it will continue the internal market in the health service. The destruction of the NHS must be reversed and resources expanded so that it can provide free and full health care for all. All private medical treatment should be abolished and the drugs companies taken into social ownership. Thousands of new nurses and doctors must be trained.

High quality education

The right of youth to a decent education is being decimated through school closures and budget cuts. Teachers and pupils are faced with ever larger classes in dilapidated and under-funded schools. Then teachers and parents are blamed for poor standards of education. The introduction of the "market" in education has resulted in a two-tier system. Labour will continue selection in schools and support privatisation.

The SEP upholds the right of all, regardless of income, to free, high quality education. We call for a massive injection of funds into all levels of education, not only to abolish illiteracy and innumeracy but to raise the cultural level of the entire population. Billions must be allocated to upgrade nurseries, schools, colleges and universities and equip them with the most advanced tools of learning. All special education programmes must be re-instituted and thousands more teachers hired and trained. Student fees and loans schemes must be abolished and higher education made available free of charge.

Comprehensive child care

Nursery school provision in Britain is amongst the worst in Europe. Two out of three working parents are forced to rely on family and neighbours to look after their children whilst at work, unable to afford private nursery facilities. The Tories have introduced nursery "voucher" schemes which are means tested and offer minimal places. Labour is proposing nursery schemes based on the Australian model, JET (Jobs, Education and Training) aimed at forcing single parents off benefits and into cheap labour schemes with the sop of minimal nursery assistance. The SEP will establish a state-run system of child care centres to meet the needs of working class families.

Care for senior citizens

The astonishing advances in medical technology have significantly increased life expectancy. This has not been matched by advances in social programmes required for this expanding and vulnerable section of the population. Increasingly pensioners are forced to rely on their own meagre resources to sustain themselves in old age. This tragic situation must be addressed. Elderly people must be guaranteed the financial and social support they require to live their lives in dignity. We advocate the provision of a universal state pension at average weekly earnings. We propose to give families providing care for ageing parents generous subsidies and a full range of social support services.

Defend the disabled

The ranks of the disabled have swelled over the last two decades. Much of this increase is related to unsafe working conditions, pollution levels and cuts in medical services. The new Incapacity Benefit introduced by the Tories forces 250,000 disabled people to go to work, whilst 90,000 have been struck off Disability Benefit since the introduction of the Job Seekers Allowance. Resources and amenities necessary for the disabled to lead an active and fulfilling life must be guaranteed.

For a safe environment and rational planning

Nowhere is the anarchy of capitalist production more evident than in the chaos which characterises urban and environmental planning. Basic infrastructure such as roads, the transport system and water supplies, are strained to breaking point. These problems have been compounded by privatisation.

At every point of the planning process, from the drawing board to the parliamentary committees, decisions about factories, services and public facilities are dominated by one question -- who will profit from their siting, construction and use. Private corporations and agri-business are able to operate with scant regard for the local population or the environment.

Proper planning can only be carried out with the direct input of all those affected. The allocation of resources for high quality public transport, including air, rail and bus services and the established of stringent environmental standards would rapidly alleviate congestion and pollution.

In opposition to the "Greens", who regard the destruction of the environment as a result of technological developments in and of themselves, the SEP advocates the utilisation of all the developments in technology to enable a safe environment and healthy food. The BSE crisis has exposed how the profit system subordinates the health concerns of ordinary people to the financial interests of the banks and major corporations. That is why the SEP has organised a workers inquiry into the BSE crisis to expose the truth.

Defend all immigrants and refugees

The one issue which unites every capitalist party, from the Tories, Labour and Liberals to the fascist groups, is the call for restrictive immigration.

Britain has some of the most repressive anti-immigration measures in the world. Police raids on factories and homes, and legislation encouraging employers, social security staff and even doctors to act as immigration officials have created a climate of fear and encouraged racial discrimination. Thousands of refugees are held in concentration camp-style detention centres and prisons, denied the most basic legal and democratic rights. Asylum seekers have been denied access to welfare benefits, housing, health and education provision.

The ruling class is mounting one attack after another on the basic rights of immigrants. It whips up national chauvinism, racism and hatred of immigrants in order to pit British workers against those overseas and divide workers within Britain. This brutal attack on the rights of immigrants sets the stage for an intensified assault on the democratic rights of everyone.

It is not immigrant workers who are responsible for the lack of jobs and basic services, but the profit system. The SEP demands the abolition of all immigration controls. We stand firmly in defence of the right of all workers to live, work, and study in whatever country they choose with full citizenship rights. We call for the immediate release of all refugees in detention centres. Funds must be provided to expand the availability of English language programmes and translation and interpreter services. Racial discrimination in employment, housing and education must be ended.

Defend democratic rights

The more the ruling class impoverishes the working class, the more it resorts to law and order demagogy and strengthens the repressive forces of the state. No expense is being spared to bolster the police, build new prisons and police stations and invest in technology for surveillance and repression. The prison population is rapidly overflowing.

Over the past decade, the right to strike, conduct a picket and to take industrial action in support of other workers have been severely restricted, with penalties of huge fines and prison sentences. Police officers have been armed with CS gas and long style batons to use against growing social unrest. The right to silence has ended and police have the powers to bug phones and secretly film people at will. Children as young as 10 years old can be charged for criminal offences .

The SEP calls for the defence of freedom of speech and all the democratic rights of the working class. All political prisoners must be released. Anti-strike legislation must be abolished. Discrimination based on gender or sexual preference must be outlawed. Women must be guaranteed the unrestricted right to abortion.

Against militarism and war

The globalisation of production has intensified the struggle between the major capitalist countries for control of markets and profits. Every national ruling class, including the British, seeks to expand its access to raw materials and cheap labour at the expense of its rivals. As in 1914 and 1939, the frantic competition among the imperialist powers leads inexorably to war.

Since the coming to power of the Tories in 1979, British forces have conducted a war with Argentina over the Malvinas Islands, backed the US-led war against Iraq in the Middle East, the UN's carve-up of the former Yugoslavia, stepped-up its own operations in north of Ireland and been in the forefront of organising the rapid reaction force. Today, virtually without warning, British workers can discover that their sons and daughters are being sent to fight in some new corner of the globe.

The interests of the working class are, in essence, international. It is impossible to have social equality and justice in Britain while oppression and exploitation prevail overseas. British workers cannot successfully fight big business "at home" if they turn a blind eye to what the British government does in the interests of the transnational corporations in other parts of the world. The savage blows inflicted by the British military on workers internationally are, in the final analysis, aimed against the working class in this country. Moreover, the billions of pounds that are spent to fuel the military machine and covert operations represent a substantial portion of the social wealth produced by the working class. Rather than being used to tackle urgent social problems, these resources are squandered on tanks, aircraft carriers, missiles and other expensive instruments of death and destruction.

The Socialist Equality Party advances the following demands directed against militarism and war: The standing army, MI5 and MI6 must be dismantled. All British troops must be withdrawn and bases maintained by British imperialism overseas must be closed. War industries must be converted to useful production, with no loss in jobs, wages or benefits to the workers. A socialist foreign policy must be implemented, based on fraternal relations with the workers and oppressed peoples of the world.

How will this programme be achieved?

We predict in advance that every one of these demands will be greeted by a chorus of opposition from the ruling class, the big business media and the capitalist politicians who will respond: "There is no money". No other response should be expected. No amount of constitutional reforms can alter the conditions of the working class whilst profit dominates. The programme we advance is inconceivable within the framework of the present economic order. It challenges the profit system at its very foundation.

Whether or not it will be realised will be decided in the course of struggle. The working class must develop its own independent political movement, mobilised around the fight for these demands.

The resources already exist to implement every one of these measures -- but they are concentrated in private hands. The Socialist Equality Party makes no bones about the fact that this programme will require deep and unprecedented inroads into the huge reserves of private wealth and the vast resources controlled by the banks and major corporations. Those unable to operate in an environment which protects the basic needs of the working class should be taken out of private hands and run as public enterprises under workers' control.

As a first step towards a more equitable use of resources, the SEP advocates a progressive tax system which would lower taxes on working class and middle class families while raising those on the wealthy. All personal incomes over £80,000 should be taxed 100%, whilst those under £12,000 should be tax free.

By placing the most important levers of the economy -- the banks, transnational corporations, mass transport, the utilities, telecommunications -- under public ownership and the democratic control of the working class, a workers' government would be laying the foundations for a rationally planned economy, geared to human need.

Build the SEP

The success of the SEP depends on the determination and self-sacrifice of workers who will fight to build it. We call on all workers to examine critically their own political preconceptions. It is time to put aside ideological prejudices that have left workers unable to defend themselves against the onslaught of the corporations and the government. It is necessary for workers to seriously consider and adopt the revolutionary socialist alternative to the capitalist system.

We will use the coming General Election campaign to explain the need for building the Socialist Equality Party, expanding its base of support and enlarging its membership. We urge all workers, young people, students and unemployed workers looking for an answer to the social crisis and the political dead-end of the three-party system to actively support our election campaign.

Our campaign seeks not only votes. Above all it is aimed at winning workers and young people to join our movement and carry out the necessary struggle to build the Socialist Equality Party as the mass party of the working class.

Our Candidates

Julie Hyland -- will contest Barnsley East and Mexborough. She is the Assistant National Secretary of the SEP. Hyland is 32 and has a son aged nine. She has been active in the socialist movement all her adult life. She joined the Fourth International, the world wide socialist party of the working class, at the age of 16 and is the former National Secretary of the Young Socialists. Hyland was a commissioner for the Workers Inquiry into the death of Joy Gardner. She has been politically active in the Barnsley area for over a decade and led a number of campaigns in defence of working people. These included opposing police raids in Grimethorpe and exposing the social conditions that led to the death of Anthony Cheetham while picking coal. Hyland contested the Barnsley East seat in the December 12 by-election as the first candidate of the SEP since its founding in November 1996.

Tania Kent -- will contest Tottenham, London. She is a Central Committee member of the SEP and the London area secretary. She was formerly the National Secretary of the Young Socialists in Australia. Kent is 32 and married. She has led campaigns throughout London against hospital and school closures, to defend immigrant workers against police and state repression and international campaigns to defend Tamil and Kurdish workers who are the victims of racist civil wars. As the Secretary of the Workers Inquiry into the death of Joy Gardner she worked extensively in the Tottenham area. She participated in a national tour with Joy's mother, Myrna Simpson, to educate workers on the findings of the inquiry and to develop an independent class perspective in defence of immigrants against the nationalism of the Labour Party and trade unions.

 

Stuart Nolan -- will contest Garston, Liverpool where hundreds of Ford workers face redundancy and thousands of council workers face the sack. He is 29 years old and has worked as a conductor for British Rail for seven years. He is known amongst workers for his fight for socialist policies in opposition to the Rail Maritime and Transport union's collaboration with management. He has led many campaigns to expose the exploitation of young workers and has been at the forefront of struggles against homelessness, poverty and job losses. He has participated in the campaigns of the SEP in Liverpool, most notably in the Mersey docks lockout, where the Transport and General Workers Union has isolated the workers and opposed the adoption of a political perspective to defeat the attacks of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.

Steve Johnstone -- will contest Maryhill, Glasgow. He has been in the Trotskyist movement for six years and works as a driver for Stagecoach buses. He is 35 and married. Johnstone has led a consistent struggle in opposition to privatisation and the destruction of health and safety conditions on the buses. He was victimised and threatened with expulsion by the TGWU in 1996 for his exposure of their collaboration with management in destroying conditions. He mobilised a successful campaign against this. He was active in the anti-Poll Tax movement and in defence of the rights of the unemployed before joining the SEP.