As this book was being prepared for publishing, Boris Johnson led the Conservative Party to a decisive electoral victory on 12 December 2019. This defeat sent demoralising shock waves across the left. The spectre of a never-ending Tory government, headed by a narcissistic liar and born to rule populist demagogue, left many in despair.
This was compounded by the apparent defeat of the politics of the Labour left at the ballot box.
But it is my deepest hope that people draw some inspiration from the political history told in this book. After all, the Tories seemed unassailable by the late 1980s, victor of three elections in a row and the person who crushed the miners’ union. The sense that they couldn’t be beaten, that neither Labour nor the powerful British trade unions could make a dent against the Tory juggernaut, was a palpable one.
Despite this, there were people who stuck with the fight, who kept going evenhistory were against them. Those people helped form the backbone to the anti Poll Tax movement. They established the first anti-Poll Tax Unions, put up the posters, defied the bailiffs and faced potential imprisonment. They were the ones who led much wider forces into battle against the government and eventually won.
It took work, and it ultimately meant not relying on the trade unions or the Labour Party. Don’t misunderstand this point, these institutions should not abandoned as sites of struggle. Often in times of political and social crisis people have to form their own organisations and be prepared to go it alone. Waiting for the Labour Party to actively support a practical struggle has historically been a recipe for paralysis. Indeed Labour showed in 1992 it could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory quite easily, even after a mass movement dealt the Conservatives a devastating blow.
In the fights to come there is no doubt that there are huge stakes. With a populist, authoritarian, right wing wave sweeping the globe, standing firm, organising and overcoming a feeling of despair or defeat is what will make all the difference.
This is the story of the last mass movement in Britain that helped bring down a Tory Prime Minister.
What happens next will be decided by you…
You can buy Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay! online at Pluto’s website