Britain

The idea of a new Centre Party is back in the news in Britain. There is a growing realisation amongst the ruling class that the crisis of the Tory government, together with the debacle over Brexit, could soon lead to a general election that would propel Corbyn into 10 Downing Street.

A concerted Blairite campaign is being run to smear Corbyn and the left over anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, the Tories are being let off the hook for their ingrained racism. Blairite plotting is becoming more open and vicious as the establishment war against Jeremy Corbyn goes on. Every day we are seeing ever-more crude attempts to smear Corbyn as a racist and an anti-Semite.

Donald Trump’s visit to Britain could not have come at a worse time for Theresa May. In the days before he landed, May was busy facing down a rebellion over her Brexit plan, with Boris Johnson and David Davis – two senior cabinet members – having resigned. Threatened with a leadership challenge if she didn’t change course, May was desperately trying to patch up the split in the Tory Party.

In London, on the inauspicious date of Friday the 13th, Donald Trump was met by one of the largest demonstrations seen in the UK since the days of the 2003 Iraq war: hundreds-of-thousands strong. The enormous size of this protest is an indication of the real mood of anger and rebellion that exists within British society at the present time.

Less than three weeks after she survived an ultimately toothless rebellion by her pro-European MPs, Theresa May has embarked on a collision course with the hard-Brexit-wing of her party, provoking the deepest crisis her government has faced since last year’s general election.

Along with the renewed discussion in Britain around renationalisation (a policy promised by the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn), the idea of workers’ control and workers’ management has re-emerged. Indeed, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has said that renationalised companies should not be run like they were in the past, but should instead be run under workers’ control.

The British National Health Service (NHS) turns 70-years-old this year, on 5 July. Festivities are planned across the country to celebrate perhaps the greatest achievement of the 1945 post-war Labour government. And rightly so. The NHS continues to provide care free at the point of delivery. It is, in essence, the embodiment of a socialist approach to healthcare: free and universal.

In the latest episode of IMTV – the International Marxist Television channel, hosted by our British section, Socialist Appeal– our guests look back over a busy year for student and labour activists on UK campuses. Earlier this year we saw the largest ever strike by academic staff in the University and Colleges Union (UCU), who took action over cuts to pensions.

The current crisis of capitalism has had huge consequences for ordinary people, with dramatic falls in living standards, increased job losses and severe welfare cuts. Working-class women are being particularly hard hit by this crisis, facing stagnating wages in already low-paid jobs and often having to bear the brunt of austerity cuts to public services and welfare. Since 2010, 86 percent of Tory cuts in Britain have been targeted at jobs and services that are dominated by women.

After days of fraught negotiations, Theresa May survived a crunch Brexit vote in the House of Commons on 20 June, which had threatened to bring the simmering civil war in her party to a head. But this most recent compromise will only prepare an even deeper political crisis in future.

On 14 June 2018, a fire at the Grenfell Tower block of council flats in the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea claimed the lives of 72 people. The avoidable catastophe was the result of years of neglect by the Tory government, the Conservative-led council and the managing association responsible for the tower's upkeep – who cut corners on safety to maintain profits. Written to coincide with the opening of the Grenfell fire inquiry, Andrew O’Hagan presents The Tower. In this 60,000 word essay, O’Hagan attempts to absolve and excuse the guilty, directing his hatred instead towards the fire service and those who have fought for justice for the victims of this tragedy.

On 14 June 2017, disaster struck in Britain as the Grenfell tower in west London was engulfed in flames. 72 people died in the fire, according to official reports. But the real number could be even higher. One year on, and the inquiry into the Grenfell fire is underway.

In May, far-right former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), Tommy Robinson, was jailed for 13 months for contempt of court. The sentence followed his filming and revealing details of a child grooming trial at Leeds Crown Court. The stunt was clearly aimed at getting himself arrested and turning himself into a martyr for “free speech”, victimised by a “politically correct establishment” protecting “Muslim grooming gangs”.

50 years ago, women at the Dagenham Ford Factory began a strike that became a turning point in the fight for equality. It was not the first such strike, and it would certainly not be the last. However, by standing up against bosses, union officials, and even other workers, they would send a message that has stood the test of time and inspires still.

With the UK Conservative Party engaged in fratricide over Brexit, there is talk on the Tory backbenches of a snap general election in the making. This is entirely possible given the mess they are in. We could therefore see Jeremy Corbyn heading for 10 Downing Street sooner rather than later.

It has been nearly two years since the British public lobbed a grenade into the Tories’ lap by voting to leave the European Union. Since this particularly hot potato was chucked her way, May has made an art out of kicking the can down the road. But for how much longer? Recent events suggest her luck may just be running out.

The question of the UK’s post-Brexit relationship to the EU customs union has become the focal point for the deepest crisis the Tory Party has ever faced: a crisis that is driving all the contradictions of Brexit to breaking point.

The Conservative government in Britain is facing a perfect storm of crises. Brexit looms large over every decision and event. The question of the Irish border and the customs union has intensified the civil war inside the Tory Party. And without a majority to command in Parliament, the Prime Minister is paralysed, unable to pass any meaningful legislation.

This weekend, on Saturday 19 May, British royal, one-time Nazi impersonator and sixth-in-line to the throne, Prince Harry will marry the American actress Meghan Markle. Hot on the heels of the birth of a third royal baby, the establishment are clearly hoping that another royal spectacle will help to distract from the multiple crises engulfing Theresa May’s embattled government.

100 years ago, on 9 May 1918, the Scottish socialist John Maclean went on trial at the Edinburgh High Court facing charges of sedition. Maclean, however, used the trial to make an impassioned defence of himself and his socialist ideas (lasting 75 minutes in total), which we publish in full here.

200 years ago the founder of scientific socialism and arguably the greatest thinker of modern times, Karl Marx, was born. To celebrate, on Saturday 5 May in London, Socialist Appeal(the International Marxist Tendency in Britain) held Marx in a Day: a series of talks and discussions exploring Marx’s revolutionary ideas and political activity. The event was a great success, with around 80 workers, activists, students, and young people from across the country and even as far away as Paris coming along and taking part.

The establishment media machine has been in overdrive since last Thursday’s local elections in England, attempting to portray the results as yet another disaster for Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. But after three years of spewing bile, nobody pays much attention to such hysteria and distortions anymore.

“The Governor of the Bank of England has warned that massive job losses driven by technology could resuscitate Marxism in the West,” announced the Daily Telegraphrecently.

We publish here an in-depth analysis of the political situation in Britain, which was discussed at the recent conference of Socialist Appeal supporters. Although originally drafted in December, the processes and contradictions that this document outlines still lie at the heart of British politics. In this first part, we look at the long-term crisis of British capitalism, the implications of Brexit, the movement on the industrial plane, and the ever-growing anger towards the elite.

Hundreds of people of Caribbean origin, who migrated to Britain as part of the ‘Windrush generation’ (named after a ship that famously brought a large number of West Indian immigrants to London in 1948) are having their citizenship called into question by the state. Despite having lived and worked in the country for most of their lives, many such people (largely of retirement age) are now facing severe problems with their immigration status – seemingly out of the blue.

On Monday, David Davis and Michel Barnier – the lead Brexit negotiators for Britain and the EU respectively – announced that an agreement had been reached to implement a 21-month transitional period following the original March 2019 deadline. During this time, the status quo would apply and the UK would effectively remain in the EU. The extension period, it is hoped, would be used to thrash out the final Brexit deal, including the as-yet-unspecified future trading arrangements.

One decade on from the onset of the Great Recession, and British society is undergoing a series of crises: economic, political, and social. The status quo has broken; the centre ground has collapsed; political polarisation and radicalisation is taking place everywhere.

There is an old film starring Peter Sellers called The Mouse that Roared that describes a comical situation in which a tiny, insignificant, European nation declares war on the United States in order to obtain aid. By a peculiar twist of circumstances, they win. The scenario of this amusing production was strikingly brought to mind by the events of the last few days in Britain.

Alan Woods, editor of In Defence of Marxism, discusses the latest spy thriller: the attempted assassination of an MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, which the Tories are blaming on the Kremlin. But what lies behind this story? Alan argues that there is something suspiciously theatrical about the use of nerve gas (a 'Cold War relic') to bump off an ex-spy. But maintaining a sense of Cold War tension is certainly in the interests of the British ruling class.

On Wednesday the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is visiting Britain on a 3 day visit where he will meet up with top business figures as well as Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Miembros del Partido Laborista Británico y de los sindicatos han lanzado una nueva campaña llamada Labour4Clause4 (Laboristas por la Cláusula 4), que tiene como objetivo restaurar la Cláusula 4 en los Estatutos del Partido, y comprometer al Partido Laborista con las políticas socialistas. Esta campaña cuenta con el pleno apoyo de Socialist Appeal (sección británica de la CMI). Hacemos un llamamiento a las agrupaciones locales del Partido Laborista, agrupaciones sindicales y organizaciones estudiantiles para que lo apoyen donde sea posible.

27 February marked the centenary of the adoption of the socialist aims of the British Labour Party. At a special Labour conference in February 1918 at Central Hall, Westminster, under the direct impact of the Russian Revolution, the party adopted a new constitution that contained the famous Clause 4.

With the recent announcement in Britain of the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the upcoming wedding, we call not for celebration of but the abolition of the monarchy. The royal family is a feudal relic and symbol of national chauvinism which, along with the House of Lords, reveals what our so-called ‘democracy’ really is – a system designed and run to serve the interests of the ruling class. The monarchy is a drain on the public purse, receiving handouts of £35.7 million per year on top of countless other expenses. The upcoming royal wedding is an excellent example of this. While the royal family will pay for the wedding ceremony, reception etc., the taxpayer will foot the bill for the policing, security costs and public order arrangements around the event. Kate and William’s 2011 wedding saw £15 million spent of policing alone, with 5000 officers deployed. This time we can expect the same arrangements, if not even greater measures following the recent increase in

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50 years after the revolutionary events of 1968, one hundred revolutionary Marxist students gathered at SOAS in London for the annual Marxist Student Federation conference. With comrades from Glasgow to Southampton present, the Federation’s fifth conference was its most enjoyable yet.

A new campaign has been launched by British Labour Party and trade union members called Labour4Clause4, which aims to restore Clause 4 and commit the Labour Party to socialist policies. This campaign has the full support of Socialist Appeal (British section of the IMT). We call on local Labour parties, trade union branches, and student societies to endorse it wherever possible.

A recent poll finds that young people in the UK today see capitalism as more dangerous than communism. But what has really sent the establishment into a frenzy is Marxist student Fiona Lali's defence of communism on BBC Radio 4.

Workers in Britain have been under attack from the bosses and the Tory government for years. And yet many trade union leaders do not seem capable of fighting back. This is one of the reasons that unions last year experienced the biggest single drop in their membership since records began. Total union membership is now just 6.2 million workers, compared to 13.2 million in 1979.

The collapse of Carillion has come as a shock to the company’s workers and the public who rely on its services. But it seems that Westminster politicians and City bankers were fully aware of the dodgy dealings going on at the construction and outsourcing giant.

By kicking off 2018 with a cabinet reshuffle, May had intended to re-establish her authority over the Tory Party and her cabinet. The Prime Minister hoped to send out a signal that her administration had found a new stability. But it was not to be.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer will stop research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and is expected to lay-off 300 research and development staff in Massachusetts and Connecticut, in a move that could severely hamper progress towards effective treatments for these illnesses – proving that critical medical research cannot be left in the hands of capitalist profiteers. Corporations like Pfizer should be expropriated and their assets, data and equipment placed under democratic control, to be used for the betterment of mankind.

One phone call from Arlene Foster to the British Prime Minister Theresa May was enough to halt a deal between the European Union and British government, already agreed on Monday 4 December. Arlene Foster is the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland: a right-wing party with its roots in the anti-Catholicism of its former leader Ian Paisley. It is also pro-life, anti-gay and deeply reactionary.

On Monday 4 December, it was finally announced that a deal on phase one of the Brexit negotiations was about to be struck. The Financial Times lauded the Brexiteers' “surprising realism” in a negotiation described by one former head of the Treasury as more like a “drive-by shooting” than a negotiation.

Investment banking giant Morgan Stanley recently published a report that warned its clients about the possibility of a general election in 2018 and - in turn - of a Corbyn-led Labour victory. Such an outcome, the bankers described, would be a “worse threat to business than Brexit”.

British capitalism is clearly in a parlous state. The miserable spurt of growth of a few years ago has completely run out of steam, leaving the UK in a disastrous position. All the economic forecasts from the top institutions for the coming period have been downgraded from those of a year ago.

Richard Leonard, the left candidate for Scottish Labour leader, has won a close fought race to succeed Kezia Dugdale. His victory represents the most significant gain for the Left in its struggle to win control of the overall party since Corbyn’s victory itself.

The lack of any major announcements in this year’s budget, delivered on 22 November by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, reflects the insoluble web of contradictions that now entangles the Tory government.

The revelations of harassment in Westminster reflect the rottenness of the establishment and the crisis facing this Tory government.

“I have never seen a class so deeply demoralised, so incurably debased by selfishness, so corroded within, so incapable of progress, as the English bourgeoisie,” commented Frederick Engels more than 150 years ago. Such an appraisal could have been written today. The establishment is in crisis and so is the Tory government. They are being paralysed by one revelation and scandal after another. There appears to be no let up. Meanwhile, the stalemate over the Brexit negotiations is forcing them to peer over a very-unnerving precipice.

Anyone struggling to make ends meet, trying to survive from one payday to the next, will be amazed to discover the we are now at the “peak of the second Gilded Age”. These words are those of Josef Stadler, the Global Head of the Ultra High Net Worth division at UBS, commenting on a report on the way that the wealth of the rich has risen over the last period.