Britain

Luke Wilson, a Labour Party and Unite the Union member, examines the programme and position of Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing Labour MP, whose campaign for the Labour leadership is gathering momentum on the basis of his anti-austerity, anti-war stance. How do we really fight the cuts and campaign against oppression and war internationally?

Saturday’s End Austerity Now demonstrations defied all expectations. Prior to these events, the protest’s organisers, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity – a national coalition of local community campaigns, trade unions, and activist groups – had estimated that the attendance in London would be between 50,000 and 100,000. In the end, police estimates for the London demonstration alone gave a figure of around 250,000, with likely numbers exceeding this. Thousands more took to the streets in Liverpool and Glasgow. From the title of the protest to the placards on display and the slogans being shouted, the message was loud and clear: we reject your austerity!

To the shock and surprise of mainstream political commentators, Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing Labour MP, has emerged as the clear winner in the first televised Labour leadership hustings. 82% of respondents on an online poll by the Daily Mirror considered Jeremy to have won the debate. Even the arch Tory paper, the Daily Telegraph was forced to admit he ‘wowed the audience with his Left-wing agenda’.

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776.

On 27th May, the Queen announced, on behalf of the new Tory government, the latest vicious attacks on workers, youth, and the poor that can be expected in the coming period: a raft of cuts to benefits, particularly aimed at young people; the depletion of the publicly owned housing stock, relied upon by those most in need; and the most serious assault on trade union rights in decades. The scene is now set for an intense class struggle in the period ahead.

Reformism in a time of capitalist crisis resembles “windmills whose sails turn in a strong wind but fail to produce a single pound of flour because there is no corn for them to grind” (Trotsky, Notes on the Situation in Britain 1925-6). The ‘ideas’ and policies on offer in the Labour leadership election are as empty as the corn silos of capitalism are bare, and there is zero prospect of anything of substance emerging from Labour in this leadership election.

Alongside the shock of a Tory majority, the other big story of the General Election results was that of Labour’s collapse in Scotland to the SNP. With the Nationalists very nearly sweeping the board with 56 out of 59 seats, it more than negated any small increase in votes Labour got in England and Wales.

The coming to power of a new Tory government opens a new stormy chapter in Britain. This is not only the conclusion of the Marxists but also of the strategists of capital:

Over the last week since the general election, David Cameron has been putting together the most right wing cabinet we have seen for decades and has lost no time in announcing some of the most reactionary laws that have been proposed in decades. Emboldened by their parliamentary majority, and freed from the ballast of coalition with the Lib Dems, the Tories have rushed to introduce further measures to stick the knife in against the working class.

Today, big business and the fat cats of the City of London are celebrating the victory of their friends in the Tory Party. Champagne bottles are popping and share prices soaring. The party of the rich is back in the saddle, and with an unexpected majority in the House of Commons. This will be a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. The super-rich non-doms will be expressing a sigh of relief. Their loot will now be safe under a Tory government.

With just one week to go till the British General Election, polling in Scotland, and the SNP in particular, has been at the forefront of reporting. Ever since a poll in October showed the SNP to be on 54% and Labour 23%, projecting Labour to fall from 41 to 4 seats and the SNP to go from 6 to 54 (out of 59 Scottish seats), focus has been on the rise of the SNP and demise of Scottish Labour. Polls have shown that rather than Labour closing the gap, the SNP’s dominance in Scotland has solidified and even extended. An STV poll released earlier this week put the nationalists on 54% of the vote, predicting that the SNP could conceivably win every single constituency in Scotland.

Without doubt, we live in the most turbulent period in history, characterised by instability and volatility at every level: economically, politically, and socially. The global economy is in the seventh year of crisis, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, fires are burning across the world, with the imperialist powers locking horns in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen and beyond. But at the same time, mass movements and revolutionary currents are developing everywhere, most sharply in Greece and Spain with the rise of SYRIZA and Podemos.

We have entered into a new period on an international scale: a period of deep economic crisis, social and political instability. The masses everywhere are beginning to question things that were previously taken for granted. The whole political scene is a seething cauldron. In such a period sharp and sudden changes are implicit in the situation. The Scottish referendum was just such a sudden change, a political earthquake that upset all the calculations of the politicians. It represented a fundamental turn in the situation.

Recent figures reported by the BBC demonstrate that the “number of children being admitted to hospital in England for self-harm is at a five-year high”. In a study done by the Health and Social Care Information Centre it was shown that in the 10-14 year old age group, admissions of girls had gone up from 3,090 to 5,953 between 2009/10 and 2013/14, whilst admissions of boys during the same period were shown to rise from 454 to 659. This is an increase of almost 93% and 45% for girls and boys respectively.

That the British ruling class has fiddled whilst Britain burns is no longer a metaphor, it is literally true. Now that the pandora’s box of paedophilic corruption at the top has been opened, an avalanche of vile revelations exposing the whole establishment spews forth each day.

With less than two months to go until the general election, and after five years of falling living standards and Tory austerity, the Con-Dem Coalition is hated and loathed. The Labour Party, by all accounts, should be charging ahead in the polls. Yet Labour find themselves neck-and-neck with the Conservatives as the election campaign picks up steam. The threat of another Tory-led government looms. The responsibility for this lies entirely with the Labour leaders, who have shown themselves to be increasingly out-of-touch from the lives of ordinary people, consistently failing to connect with the real mood of anger and radicalisation that exists across society.

Jan Duperre in Elgin, Moray: "I don't know what planet Osborne woke up on this morning, but it's not the one I live on. If we are so much better off, why has one in nine people been forced to use a food bank in the last year? Many of them folk who work full time. Zero-hour contracts and minimum wage, 20-hour-week part-time jobs might make his figures look good, but that's the only thing that does."

More than one-hundred years since the first International Working Women’s day on 8th March 1911, what is the situation for women in Britain in today? Seven years after the onslaught of the financial crisis, working class women remain oppressed due to their gender and exploited due to their class.

“The British public has become deeply cynical about the political class at Westminster”, states a recent Financial Times editorial (11/2/15). This is what is called an understatement. Contempt and anger towards bankers, property speculators, hedge fund bosses and politicians is widespread.

On February 17th Peter Oborne, one of the UK's most respected journalists, resigned from the Daily Telegraph and publicly condemned its practice of placing advertisers interests above those of the truth. As a conservative liberal, Peter Oborne is concerned that our famed and cherished 'freedom of speech' is being undermined by business interests. Freedom of expression is routinely and uncritically heralded as our society's proudest achievement to be defended at all costs. It is always assumed that, essentially, we possess this freedom, and it is only necessary to preserve it in one way or another. In truth, under capitalism there is no such thing as free expression nor a free press, for capital decides everything.

This week revelations on BBC’s Panorama have sparked an explosive scandal: HSBC, the UK’s largest – and the world’s second largest – bank, has been caught facilitating industrial-scale tax evasion, committed by some of its wealthiest clients. Thousands of leaked bank account files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the BBC, The Guardian and others show that between 2005 and 2007 the bank’s Swiss arm colluded with clients to conceal money and whole bank accounts from their respective domestic tax authorities, whilst also marketing aggressive tax avoidance schemes for its wealthiest customers. The accounts involved were worth an estimated $119bn.

On Saturday 14 February delegates from all over Britain will be joined in London by international visitors for the 2nd Marxist Student Federation conference at SOAS. As well as discussing the international student movement across the world, students will be discussing on the perspectives and tasks for the Marxist students in Britain (See below the agenda).

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)