Britain

Image: Flickr, War on Want

Since the beginning of the crisis of 2008, anti-immigrant parties and movements have made headway in Europe and the United States. They have even managed to win over certain layers of the working class to their programme. This has led a section of the labour movement to adapt itself to these ideas, calling for stricter border controls, justifying its position with quotations from Marx. Such short-sighted policies have nothing to do with Marx or the traditions of the First, Second or Third International, as we shall demonstrate.

Theresa May has survived to live another day after coming through a vote of no confidence amongst her party’s MPs with a 200-to-117 majority. But whilst the Tory leader may have won this battle, she has most certainly lost the war.

Alan Woods, editor of In Defence of Marxism, discusses the historic political crisis taking place in Britain, as the Tory Prime Minister's fate hangs in the balance. As Alan notes, the UK was once considered one of the most stable countries in the world. But now it is a source of enormous instability for world capitalism. And the crisis is not confined to Britain. May, Macron, and Merkel are all facing huge difficulties at home, as the broken status quo collapses around them. Only the call for a socialist Europe can offer a way forward.

Karl Marx once remarked to Friedrich Engels, his lifelong friend and collaborator, that there were sometimes uneventful decades in which years passed as though they were just days. But, he added, “these may be again succeeded by days into which years are compressed”. The current period in Britain is like the latter. Events are moving at a blistering pace.

The strategists of British capitalism are getting jittery. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, is worried. Capitalism is having a bad time of it. Conservatives, he said, should continue to make the case for the market economy — a model which had evolved “down the ages”. “This mission is urgent,” he stated recently. But why the urgency?

Just over 25 years after its foundation, the European Union looks like it could be falling apart under the weight of its own contradictions. Everywhere you look, the major parties are coming under increased pressure due to the heightening of the class struggle as a result of 10 years of crisis. This has meant that, in one country after another, the ruling class can no longer rule in the old way.

If asked 'what is the least proletarian profession?', many might place ‘video game designer’ pretty close to the top. Until quite recently, that opinion might well have been shared by a majority of game designers themselves. But now this is changing rapidly. A snowballing of awareness is taking place about the extreme exploitation that the video games industry is based upon.

It’s been a turbulent time for the aviation industry recently. And now another airline looks unlikely to weather the storm. Flybe is up for sale, with the regional air carrier calling in accountants from KPMG in an attempt to save itself from collapse. Half-year profits have plunged and the company’s auditor, PwC, warned of “significant doubt” over its future. KPMG's involvement should have instantly set alarm bells ringing, as they were also the administrator of Monarch Airlines last year.

Finally, after months of fraught negotiations, the UK-EU negotiators have come up with a proposed deal. Written on the side, however, are instructions: light the blue touchpaper and stand well clear. All hell is about to break loose. From the point of view of big business, the draft deal is not too bad, tying the British economy to Europe. But for Tory Brexiteers, in particular, the deal is toxic.

11 November this year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. This is known as Armistice Day, or Remembrance Sunday, in which Britain officially commemorates the service of British military personnel in the two world wars and all subsequent ones. The British establishment are going into overdrive to whip up a mood of 'patriotism'.

The headline announcement from the latest UK budget was that “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end”. This assurance, coming from a Conservative chancellor, is an indication of just how far the mood in society has shifted. After eight years of cuts borne by the working class, the vulnerable, and the poor, it is clear that ordinary people are no longer willing to tolerate any more hollow rhetoric that “we’re all in this together”.

The chaotic Brexit negotiations appear more and more like a pantomime farce, complete with constant shouting from the sidelines. But there is more at stake than just seasonal slapstick. UK Prime Minister Theresa May is in the midst of a political storm that threatens the very survival of the government. Amid cries of “appeaser” and “traitor”, she promises to make “the right choices, not the easy one”.

This week has seen thousands of women council workers taking strike action in Glasgow in an ongoing dispute over pay equality. The dispute dates back to equal pay claims from 2006, when Glasgow City Council introduced a Workforce Pay and Benefits Review System, which aimed to tackle the gender pay gap. However, under the scheme, low-paid jobs tending to be occupied by women – such as cleaning, catering and care – are being paid significantly less than jobs such as refuse collection, which are male dominated.

On 19-21 October, around 300 Marxists from Britain, Europe and beyond gathered in London for the annual Revolution Festival. This year’s festival commemorated the inspiring events of 1968, half a century on. The weekend provided an inspirational experience for all comrades present, with the political level of contributions throughout the discussions being higher than ever before.

Whilst her dancing skills have been found somewhat lacking in recent months, Theresa May has become an expert at one thing: kicking the can down the road. Of course, she has been aided in this by the real masters of this practice: the European leaders, who have turned the making of political fudge into a fine art over the last decade. But no matter how much May and her negotiating partners attempt to duck and dive, they cannot dodge the final bullet. One way or another, Britain and the rest of Europe are heading for an explosion. The only question is when.

Britain’s ultra rich are already moving their money offshore, in anticipation of a Corbyn-led Labour government. They are anxious that some of their enormous wealth will be called upon to help fund the NHS, provide free education, and build council houses. Hence many are paying vast sums to accountants to help them find better uses for their money, such as hiding it in secret offshore accounts.

Once again, this autumn, Marxist students have been hitting campuses up and down Britain, signing up eager students to university Marxist societies. This year has been the most successful yet for the Marxist Student Federation (British youth organisation of the IMT), with thousands signing up to join societies across 33 campuses, and hundreds attending meetings all over the country.

As British Prime Minister, Theresa May, lurched out onto the stage at her Tory Party conference this year, swaying robotically to the sound of ABBA’s Dancing Queen, she will have been under no illusions as to the real state of the party she was about to address.

The Labour4Clause4 campaign set up by British supporters of the IMT held a hugely successful fringe meeting at this year’s Labour Party conference. Around 80 people attended the meeting, held on 25th September, to hear about the importance of reinstating the historic Clause 4, which represented Labour’s commitment to socialist values.

The Blairites were in full retreat in Liverpool this week. By contrast, the confidence of the Corbyn movement was on display throughout: in the motions passed and in the militant speeches of left-wing MPs.

Labour Party Chancellor, John McDonnell, set a confident tone in his speech to the 2018 Labour conference. Whereas shadow chancellors normally address conference to dampen expectations, John stated he would do the opposite, because “the greater the mess we inherit, the moreradical we have to be”.

The British Labour Party is currently holding its annual conference in Liverpool, UK. Members and supporters of Socialist Appeal (British section of the IMT) have been intervening, raising our slogans of nationalisation, reinstating Clause IV (committing Labour to socialism) and kicking out the Blairites. The comrades provide this report on the conference thus far, which has already seen a stitch up to keep discussion of mandatory reselection of MPs off the table.

In Britain, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell have made a number of bold and much-welcomed pledges in order to fix the "broken economy". But what kind of economic programme should a Labour government carry out?

There are now fewer than 200 days to go before the UK officially leaves the European Union and still no agreement has been reached over the terms of its departure. As Theresa May and many of her European counterparts meet in Salzburg, they will be hoping that with enough fudge they will be able to deliver a deal that survives a ratification vote in the British parliament. But the opposition of as many as 70 Tory MPs could be enough to shatter their proposals and send the UK crashing out of the EU without any deal on 29 March 2019.

Two weeks ago, British Prime Minister Theresa May embarked on a three-day jaunt across Africa, visiting South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. The purpose of May’s whistle stop tour (aside from showcasing her inimitable dance moves) was to strike up post-Brexit trade relations with Africa’s “emerging economies”. The visit was a cringe worthy affair that saw May shuffle awkwardly from one public relations blunder to the next, and it highlighted the decline of British imperialism and the crisis facing the capitalist class as the Brexit cliffedge looms.

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.