Britain

When Russell Brand was living his high-profile drug and party-fuelled life just a few years ago, the moralists in media and government had relatively little to say about him. Now that he has written a book calling for anti-capitalist revolution, bourgeois critics are lining up to insult, patronise and demonise Brand for daring to demand an alternative to the current system. This says a lot about the Establishment’s idea of what makes a good celebrity role-model.

A crisis has taken hold of the political establishment in Britain in recent months. Its latest episode was played out last week in the Rochester and Strood by-election. The UK Independence Party emerged to claim their second parliamentary seat at the expense of the ruling Conservative Party.

Solidarity with the Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) held a supporters’ meeting on the 11th of November at the Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell, London. A packed room heard a series of speakers discuss the current situation in Ukraine and the way forward for the campaign.

It seems a little strange to think that when Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Classwas released in 2011, its author was then relatively unheard of. Three years down the line and you couldn't be faulted for thinking that Owen Jones is the media's go-to-guy for left-wing opinions. As well as being a columnist for The Guardian, he can often be spotted on television, making appearances on shows spanning from BBC Question Time to The Alan Titchmarsh Show. He is also an activist however, being a key figure in the People's Assembly movement and the think tank CLASS, as well as regularly speaking at various public events.

A new official report from Credit Suisse paints a grim picture of the growing divide in the UK between the rich and the poor.

The Referendum campaign has transformed the political landscape in Scotland. It was a defining moment. This seismic shift has sent shock waves through the British capitalist establishment. Below is a statement which was first published as part of IMT's Scottish special, 'Revolution'.

With banners, fists and voices raised high, the Marxist Student Federationrallied the largest number of student Marxists yet to join our voices with those of increasingly disgruntled workers at the national TUC demonstration ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’ on 20th October.  With students present from Leeds to Sussex, from Sheffield to Southampton as well as a strong presence from London and elsewhere, there was a sea of new revolutionary faces that had joined Marxist societies in the last few weeks, eager to raise the Marxist Student banners with those of the trade unions.

As the new academic term gets underway, the has been at 29 universities, signing up hundreds of students who are interested in building an organisation capable of fighting for socialist policies within the student movement. Furthermore thousands of people signed up to hear more about our activities. Below are reports from some of our interventions.

The referendum campaign in Scotland is over. Now in the cold light of day it is necessary to draw all the conclusions. The first and most important is that this represents a decisive turning-point in the development of the class struggle in Scotland and in the rest of these islands.

The Scottish Referendum produced a seismic shift in the political landscape of Scotland. The campaign shook up the whole of society and touched those who had never even voted before. The turnout was an unprecedented 85%, more than three and a half million people, bigger than any election ever held in UK history.

With under a week to go until Scots head to the vote, the results of the independence referendum are too close to call. A recent surge in support for the pro-independence campaign has struck fear into the leaders of the NO camp. The maintenance of the union is now seriously under threat, providing yet another demonstration of the weakness and crisis within the Establishment in this epoch of capitalist crisis.

With just 7 days left until the Scottish independence referendum, the past week has seen a big shift in the polls. Up until now most polls were putting the “no” campaign ahead by around a 10% margin. This lead was down from what it had been last year, but still seemed to predict a comfortable victory for the pro-union camp.

On Sunday 6th September, the labour movement celebrated the centenary of the longest strike in British history, the Burston School strike, which ran from 1914 to 1939 in Norfolk.

The crisis of British capitalism expresses itself at the economic, social and political level. Its latest political manifestation, the defection of a Tory MP to the UK Independence Party (Ukip), demonstrates the dialectical law of sharp changes and sudden turns. The British establishment has always whipped up xenophobia and racism in an attempt to divide the working class. Today, however, under conditions of crisis,  the issue of immigration and anti-EU hysteria has served to highlight divisions with the ruling class, especially its political representatives.

Another day, another scandal. In the wake of allegations of the political cover-up of child abuse in the 1980s, Teresa May, the Tory MP and Coalition Home Secretary, has announced that there will be a government inquiry into the case. But no amount of inquiries or investigations will be able to repair the public’s trust in the Establishment, which has reached rock-bottom levels after years of seemingly endless scandals amongst those at the top of society. The latest revelations only serve to reinforce the stench emanating from the elites – a stench that reveals how the whole system is rotting from the head down.

Over 100 comrades attended the 4th annual Marxist Summer School in London, hosted by the IMT and UCLU Marxist Society from 20th-22nd June. The theme of this year’s school was ‘A Century of Struggle’ to commemorate not only capitalism’s passing over into imperialist barbarism in World War One, but also the manifold revolutions led by the working class in a period where capitalism has ceased to play any remotely progressive role.

Converted garden sheds, industrial outbuildings and domestic garages are now common features in London's housing market. They are the symptoms of London's housing crisis, demonstrating that capitalism exploits every angle and turns a profit out of the most soulless conditions.

The British press are raging about the number of British youth who may have joined ISIS, the Islamic fundamentalist organisation, supposedly a break-away from Al-Qaeda, which is fighting in Syria and Iraq. Alarms are ringing about the political consequences of having these young men, radicalised and hardened by war and military training, returning to political activity in Britain. It has been estimated that the number of Muslim youth from Europe who have travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq number at least in the hundreds.

With falling living standards and more draconian cuts on the way, the Tories have presided over the biggest assault on the conditions of working class people in living memory.

The phone hacking scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World (NotW) newspaper brought to the surface the real state of things within the British establishment. Three years later, verdicts have now been issued that have found Andy Coulson, former editor of NotW and former Director of Communications for David Cameron, guilty of conspiring to hack phones. Meanwhile Rebekah Brooks, former Chief Executive of News International, parent company of NotW, was found not guilty of all the charges against her.

"I’ve never seen such a phenomenal rise in personal wealth as the growth in the fortunes of Britain’s 1,000 richest people over the past year." (Phillip Beresford, compiler of The Sunday Times Rich List)

UKIP-mania has swept Britain, or rather, its chattering classes. If we were to form our opinions solely on the basis of those found in the bourgeois media (as the media’s own members do), we would be able to think of nothing but the inevitable rise of UKIP to electoral dominance.

Conor Burns, the backbench MP for West Bournemouth, can only be described as a caricature of a head-banging Tory with a hatred for working class people. Having strongly supported cuts to welfare across the board and been fiercely opposed to increased taxes on bonuses and the super-rich, Burns has now outdone himself once again by attacking a charity for tackling poverty.

Some recent opinion polls have put the Tories ahead of Labour for the first time since 2012. Does this mean that the public has made an historic shift to the right, at a time when the right wing is presiding over possibly the biggest ever fall in living standards and rise in inequality? Is the support for UKIP further evidence of this strange, irrational trend? No, the contradiction between the working class’ interests and their voting intentions is more apparent than real. In reality, the contradiction lies between the working class’ interests and the Labour leadership. This poll is a dire warning to Labour that they must fight on a pro-working class, socialist programme to win back support.

With less than five months to go before Scotland goes to the polls to vote on independence, the Better Together campaign is in a state of panic as the gap between both sides continues to narrow.

For workers and youth, it is clear that the fallout from the 2008 global economic crisis adversely impacts upon the majority of households in the UK. It is plain for all to see: as jobs are lost by the thousands, public services are cut to the bone, and the juggernaut of austerity ploughs on desolating communities, synchronously wealth continues to flow upwards into the pockets of the elite.

Over the last weeks and months, concerns about energy have become more and more widespread in Britain. Firstly the simmering controversy over “fracking” has become more prominent, with a series of demonstrations pushing this issue into the public eye. Then the pledge of Ed Miliband that the next Labour government will freeze energy prices was met with howls of protest from the coalition parties and threats by the energy companies that “the lights will go out”. In addition, the announcement that Britain will build the first new nuclear power station for decades has been overshadowed by the attempt to close the Grangemouth oil refinery. The question has to be asked: is Britain facing a serious energy crisis?

Ofgem – the regulator for the British gas and electricity markets – this week called for an investigation into the “Big Six” energy firms regarding anti-competitive behaviour. As a result, there will now be a lengthy review of the energy market by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will look into Ofgem’s accusations of "possible tacit co-ordination" by the major energy companies regarding the prices they offer.

The events in Britain and worldwide are and will have a major impact on the consciousness of the working class and youth. Although the situation will be protracted, there will be sharp and sudden changes in the situation. This crisis will at a certain point become pre-revolutionary, as in Greece today. After all, Greece is only a mirror reflection of Britain in the future. Then the situation can open up in the direction of a revolutionary one, where there occurs a profound break in consciousness.

This year’s budget from George Osborne has been described as the most typical Tory budget he has yet given. Whether that is correct is open to debate; but what is true is that it has many of the features of previous Tory budgets in a pre-election year: huge handouts to the rich, lots of shiny baubles for wavering Tory voters, and nothing for the poor.

The death of Tony Benn after a long illness at the age of 88 marks the passing away of an outstanding leader of the British left. Although Tony Benn came from a very privileged class background – his father, Viscount Stansgate, was a Labour peer – he became the standard bearer for the left and the militant working class in the 1970s and 1980s.

The first few weeks of March 2014 will be a time of deep reflection for hundreds of thousands of people across the UK who will recall what they were doing when the 1984/85 coal miners’ strike began.

As the rain continues to fall and the storm winds continue to blow, in what has proved to be the wettest winter for decades, the Tories have continued to shout and bluster in the face of a crisis to which they can find no solution.

The bourgeois media have predictably taken the bait by presenting the recent policies of Miliband and Balls on the banking system and tax as revealing a ‘growing contempt for capitalism’ amongst Labour leaders. In doing so, they have made these policies seem far clearer and bolder than they really are, and as a result probably more popular.

With less than seven months before Scotland goes to the polls over its future, the “No” campaign to keep together the 300-year old Union with England has once again been put on the back foot due to the clumsy intervention of the English Tory Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Friday 3rd January saw the release of previously secret Cabinet documents from the Tory government relating to the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984 – 85. The BBC news website stated “Newly released cabinet papers from 1984 reveal mineworkers' union leader Arthur Scargill may have been right to claim there was a "secret hit-list" of more than 70 pits marked for closure.”

Workers around the country have reacted with astonishment and anger at the decision of the Parliamentary Standards Authority (PSA) to press ahead with the recommendation to give Westminster MPs a huge 11% pay rise in 2014 – about £7,600 a year extra.

George Osborne’s so-called recovery has arrived we are told. However, it is a “recovery” not for you or me but for the millionaires and London’s estate agents. Most people do not see or feel any recovery at all. The regime of austerity is set to continue with ever more cuts being pushed through. Osborne, the Coalition Chancellor, has announced that £25bn in further cuts will be needed after the 2015 General Election, with the welfare budget in line to be slashed. Once again benefits will bear the brunt forcing many more ordinary people into a desperate situation.

With less than 18 months until the next General Election, the past few months have seen the Tories step up their campaign against their main opposition, with a barrage of attacks on those associated with the Labour Party – primarily Unite the Union and the Co-Op Party. But with the Conservatives leading a coalition that is presiding over falling living standards, and which is rightly seen as supporting the bankers and fat-cat energy companies, it seems that the mud being slung by the Tories will not so easily stick.

Christmas and New Year is traditionally a time for celebration and the strengthening of relationships with friends and family. That such warmth between people is rare enough to be termed the “magic” of Christmas says a lot about the alienation of people from their own communities in their day-to-day existence under capitalism.

The title "The Strange Death of Tory England", a book published in 2005, might seem an overstatement considering the nasty party has been in power since 2010. However the chronic sickness and decline of British capitalism is doing its best to infect the party that represents this diseased system. So unpalatable is the Conservative Party to huge proportions of Britain, representing as it does endless austerity, privatisation, inequality, and scandal, that it hasn’t won an election outright since 1992.

The recent interview between Russell Brand - actor, comedian, and guest editor of New Statesmen - and Jeremy Paxman - presenter and interviewer on the BBC’s Newsnight became an overnight sensation, quickly gaining popularity to become the most watched video on YouTube.