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Stop the drive to war! Build a new Britain!

Plotting war: Prime Minister Sunak and Ukrainian President Zelensky at the “Summit on Peace Ukraine”, Lucerne, Switzerland, 16 June 2024. Photo Abaca Press/Alamy Stock Photo.

On foreign matters, as on domestic matters, there is no free choice. Labour and Conservative both claim to be more pro-NATO, more pro-war, than the other…

There’s so much that Britain needs to change, yet the ruling class has no answers. It would take us for fools with its fantasies – NATO is a force for peace, the USA is a force for good, Ukraine is going to win, a few planes to Rwanda will cut the numbers of migrants entering Britain.

But what is our class doing about all this nonsense? Do we just let the ruling class carry on, hoping things don’t get too much worse? Do we really think that Keir Starmer will somehow put things right? When he echoes every move and speech that Rishi Sunak makes, there is no free choice.

Currently, the government, with Labour support, is selling arms to fuel reaction and war. Where’s the free choice there?


Our defence industry should serve the needs of Britain’s defence, not arm foreign armies. Britain is one of the leading donors to Ukraine. The Sunak government has pledged almost £12 billion of our money to Ukraine, with Labour support. Where’s the choice?

The ruling class tells us it’s an existential war, not just for Ukraine, but for “the West”. The recently retired head of the British Army, General Patrick Sanders, said we must make the army “…ready for war in Europe” and went on to call for a “citizen army”.

Sunak quickly distanced himself from that idea, but later suggested 18-year-olds be compelled to do either military or community service. Our young people need and want jobs and homes, not conscription.

Conservative and Labour unite in support of Netanyahu’s criminal assault on Gaza, that the International Court of Justice called “plausibly genocidal”. Both parties support continued arms sales to the Netanyahu government. Where’s our free choice there?

Sunak, with Labour support, gets Britain involved, putting RAF planes into fights on Netanyahu’s side. Now the government talks of sending British forces to Gaza, on the pretext of providing aid. How long before these troops get into conflict, first to defend themselves, then to root out terrorists, and so on?


Empires talk euphemistically of self-defence and reprisal to justify their violence, from Bush’s “war on terror” to Putin’s “special military operation” to Netanyahu’s destruction of Palestine “in self-defence”. Every war is justified now as helping to prevent another world war, while bringing us closer to it.

‘Every war is justified now as helping to prevent another world war, while bringing us closer to it…’

In April the USA added to war fever when it approved a $95 billion package of military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. This will expand and prolong the two current wars, inevitably causing the deaths of thousands more people. And it will increase the tensions between the USA and China, adding to the risk of war with China.

Back home, Bolton MP Mark Logan said, “We’re MPs not to fix potholes…We’re here to protect lives.” MPs are certainly not fixing potholes – or anything else that matters to us directly. And it’s just arrogant grandstanding to suggest MPs could fix the world’s problems instead. Logan stood down as a Conservative MP  and announced he would be voting Labour – again no choice.

Production matters; without it Britain will become a parasite nation. Rebuilding industry is possible because we have a skilled, literate, questioning, critical working class.

You can’t have an economy, a civilisation, without industry, energy and knowledge. And our problem is that our ruling class seems to want to avoid that reality. It will have to be forced to change course.

The British working class needs and deserves energy security. The Labour Party pledges that in government it will decarbonise our electricity supply by 2030. But currently gas-fired power stations supply 38 per cent of our electricity and act as essential back up to wind power.

Power consumption

That change in power supply won’t happen in six years, unless there’s a radical cut in electricity consumption. And that would mean losing quite a lot of important things: like warm, well-lit homes; transport; energy intensive industry – and holidays.

Instead, Britain needs a thoughtful, realistic approach to decarbonisation in place of net zero dogma, too often taken to mean zero carbon emissions.

British workers need and deserve food security too. That means prioritising food production here, supporting Britain’s hard-pressed farmers.

We deserve a secure environment free from sewage poured into our rivers and seas, and security of health and education, against unemployment through industry, and against poverty in old age.

Absolute decline

What does capitalism offer? Absolute decline – living standards falling, repression rising, quality of government laughable, endless market failures. And it presides over the failure of regulation, supposedly mitigating the excesses of capitalism but never doing so. The list is long: the Grenfell Tower tragedy; Thames Water pollution; infected blood transfusions; the unjustifiable Post Office prosecutions; and many more.

Capitalism exploits and destroys our industry, our services, our farms, our energy sources, our environment. Why? Because capitalism pursues profit and the growth of capital at whatever cost to us all.

Once in power, a parliamentary party acts in government as if voters have signed up to everything it then chooses to do, whether in its manifesto or not.

In 1979 prime minister Margaret Thatcher never said she would end exchange controls, but she did it anyway, very quickly. Labour never said in 1997 that it would make the Bank of England independent. But it did so, very quickly.

The day after winning a general election is the moment of a prime minister’s maximum power. What surprise policy has Keir Starmer got up his sleeve? Push us back into the EU? That is what almost all Labour MPs want and even many Labour Party members.

We do have a free choice. This choice is something other than the no-choice between Labour’s embrace of the market and the Conservatives’ embrace of the market. Our free choice is to move beyond the illusory freedom to vote for Tweedledum or Tweedledee – or the odd protest vote.

Our interests

Our choice must be to act, in defence of our wages and conditions, act using our trade unions to advance our interests, to assert our needs, to demand our rights.

And workers are acting. We should celebrate the recent victories of so many organised workers, in the health service, on the railways, and in many workplaces across the whole of Britain. When it fights smart, when it fights in a guerrilla way, our working class wins pay victories.

More and more workers oppose the capitalist policies of austerity and industrial sabotage. For what is destroying HS2 and the proposed closing of the blast furnace at Port Talbot if not sabotage of our future? We celebrate those fighting to keep vital industries – steel, agriculture, train building and more.

More and more workers oppose the capitalist policies of under-investment and no-investment, of public spending cuts. And a growing number challenge the destructive, unplanned rush to net zero.

We choose to oppose involvements abroad, to get involved here in fighting for wages and conditions, fighting for industry, fighting for a future – focus on Britain. Fight capitalism here.

Stop the drive to war! Build a new Britain!

• This is an edited extract from the speech given at this year’s CPBML May Day meeting in Conway Hall London.