Britain

People are becoming increasingly revolutionary, according to the latest polls. A growing hatred for big business and profiteering comes on top of the bankers’ bonus scandals, the Libor rigging scandal, the foreign exchange manipulation scandal, and the callous profiteering of the energy companies. Energy companies are now trusted less than bankers and car salesmen. This backlash against capitalism has rung alarm bells amongst the apologists of big business.

Despite comments on a tentative recovery with improvements in the housing market and banking profits booming once more, there is no doubt that there has been no recovery for the vast majority. Government debt stands at £1.2 trillion; many cuts are still to be made; poverty continues to grow – last year real income fell by 3% and government studies have shown that 52% of people in Britain struggle to pay their bills.

Students coming to London this year face an unprecedented attack on their education. Ever since the Tories and Liberals trebled university tuition fees to £9,000 in 2010, we have seen university funding continually rolled back and the costs of student living soar.

As part of the battle against the “cost of living crisis”, Ed Miliband has announced plans to incentivise businesses into paying a “living wage” through temporary tax breaks. The Labour leader paints a win-win situation, in which both workers and business gain. Every increase in real wages for workers is a step forward that is to be applauded. But what is likely to be the real outcome of Labour's latest pledge if implemented?

The following article is written by comrade Bill Landles, a longstanding defender of the ideas of Marxism, whose activity goes right back to the days of the Revolutionary Communist Party during the Second World War, where he played a role in the apprentices’ strikes. We are publishing  a transcript of a speech by Bill on the apprentices' strikes of 1944.

Grangemouth,situated in Scotland, is one of the most important petrochemical and refinery industries in Britain, employing almost 2300 workers, with about ten thousand jobs inderectly relying on the site. This was a scene of a key showdown for British workers over the past 10 days. The union, UNITE, was faced with an ultimatum from the Ineos bosses, to accept massive cuts and changes to terms and conditions or face drastic consequences. In the end the workers were let down by their union leadership that capitulated to the threats without any fight. This has serious consequences. It is vital that all workers learn the lessons of this dispute.

The Marxist Student Federation is a new organisation for revolutionary students. Supporters of Socialist Appeal have taken the decision to launch this national platform for Marxist ideas in the student movement because it is clear that there is both a need and a thirst for Marxist ideas in the movement. The response we have received at the freshers fairs with the numbers signing up and coming to our opening meetings has been phenomenal. We have never met so many young people wanting to learn about Marxism and fight to change society.

The verbal exchanges between Cameron and Ed Miliband over the last few weeks seem at long last to indicate that battle lines are being drawn. With 18 months until the General Election, the political ground has at last begun to shift. The Labour Party seems to be moving – in its rhetoric – slightly to the left, while the Tories are reverting back to their old image as the “nasty” party.

The strength of feeling among teachers can be seen in the magnificent turnout for the regional strikes that took place this month on October 1st and 17th. Teachers in the NUT and NAS/UWT, representing 90 per cent of teachers, have come out en masse, with the result that thousands of schools have been closed for the day.

George Osborne announced that the British economy “has turned the corner”. Cameron has chimed in to hail the new “recovery”. But after years of stagnation and falling living standards, who are they trying to kid? The economy is crawling on its belly and we are still being hit with mass unemployment and wage cuts.

Figures recently published by the Office for National Statistics have revealed that those living in the wealthiest London boroughs enjoy their good health for, on average, 18 years longer than those living in the poorest areas. Capitalism is literally making life a misery for an increasing number of working class people in Britain, and what is becoming clearer and clearer is that if we don’t break capitalism’s hold on society, then it will be capitalism that breaks our society apart even more.

In a year’s time, on 18th September 2014, Scotland will go to the polls over a key constitutional change – over whether to support an independent Scotland or not. This will be a vital issue, the outcome of which will have profound consequences for the fight for socialism in Scotland and the rest of Britain.

Although anti-immigration hysteria, racism and propaganda are nothing new to these shores, there is currently a particularly rabid hue-and-cry over immigration in Britain. It must be emphasised that this wave against immigration is artificially manufactured by the bourgeois media and parties. It is not a spontaneous reaction from below, and is currently fuelled in particular by the rise of UKIP, which in turn is a consequence of the bourgeoisie’s - and especially the Tory’s - insistence on banging the xenophobic drum for years now.

The youth of today have no tangible stake in the preservation of capitalism. The failure to provide any kind of future for young people has resulted in a cry of despair which is the death knell of any social system. Such a phenomenon is present in all the recent episodes of social explosion, from the austerity riots in the UK and Sweden, to the youth movements of Greece and Spain, and of course the great Arab revolutions.

Sharp and sudden changes in the situation - that is the nature of the period. In the space of 24 hours, Cameron and the coalition government have gone from banging the drum for military strikes against Syria to a humiliating parliamentary defeat. The situation is unprecedented, where the government of the day, recalling Parliament to basically rubber stamp a vote, has been defeated over a vote on military action.

In his masterpiece called  Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, Engels pointed out that even in a “democratic republic”, wealth still wields power indirectly, but all the more surely. “It does this in two ways”, he explains, “by plain corruption of officials, of which America is the classic example, and by an alliance between the government and the stock exchange.”

On Tuesday 09th of July Socialist Appeal and the SOAS Marxist Society hosted a discussion at SOAS to analyse and discuss the current revolutionary situation in Egypt and, more broadly, in the Middle East. Jorge Martin and Hamid Alizadeh from the International Marxist Tendency opened the meeting to a crowd of around 40 attendees. 

In July 1888, 1,400 female workers walked out on strike at the Bryant and May factory in East London. 125 years later, that struggle still holds a place of honour in the history of the labour movement.

The May county council elections in Britain this year brought some crumbs of comfort to the Labour Party as it gained more than 260 seats and its share of the vote stood at 29%. Given the dismal record of the Coalition, Labour had hoped for more gains.

Public opinion in Britain and throughout the world was horrified by the murder of a soldier on the streets of Woolwich in South London. The gruesome images of a young man with bloodied hands, brandishing a kitchen knife and haranguing passers-by shook the entire nation to its foundations.

Amidst the onslaught of privatisations, cuts, pay freezes and redundancies emerging from the capitalist crisis, Britain’s environment-conscious Green Party are becoming increasingly torn by political polarisation. Forced to carry out the same agenda of public sector cuts being advocated by the Con-Dem coalition in the interests of capital, the Green Party in Brighton & Hove City Council is beginning to experience inevitable contradictions and conflict regarding its political agenda.

In an article featured in The Times newspaper yesterday sees former Tory chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson calls for Britain to exit the European Union. This adds to the mounting pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, and it reveals the deep rifts developing within the Tory party at all levels.

Last week local elections were held in many parts of Britain. The Tories, and their partners-in-crime the Lib Dems, had another bad night at the polls. The BBC now estimate that, based on these results, the main parties would get this share of the vote in a general election: Labour 29%, Tories 25%, UKIP 23%, Lib Dems 14%. A closer look indicates that Labour would do better, but there is still widespread mistrust towards the present Labour leadership.

Thousands of protesters participated in May Day (International Workers’ Day) in London yesterday. The banners and slogans raised were extremely militant, calling for the end of austerity throughout Europe by overthrowing capitalism.

While Thatcher is laid to rest, the heirs of Thatcher continue to haunt us. This Tory-led “we are all Thatcherites now” Coalition is presiding over the biggest assault on working people for more than 80 years.

In the five years since the global financial crisis first exploded, life has been hard for Britain’s unemployed and working poor. The growing ranks of the unemployed have had their already insufficient benefits cut, disabled people have found themselves subject to demeaning and invasive work capability assessments, and low-paid workers have seen real-term wage cuts, attacks on pensions and employment rights slowly stripped away. All the while the cost of the basic necessities of life continues to soar, leaving millions of people struggling simply to get by. Yet, as bad as this might be, there is worse still to come.

Saturday 31 March, 1990, one day before the introduction of the poll tax in England and Wales, and one year after its introduction in Scotland, 250,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate in London and Glasgow organised by the All Britain Anti Poll Tax Federation (in which the Militant Tendency was playing a leading role).This was just the culminating act of a mass campaign organising millions of people's non-payment and active resistance against the implementation of the tax. This massive movement of civil disobedience eventually succeeded in bringing down the hated Thatcher government, despite being lamentably opposed by the TUC and Labour Party leaders. We reproduce here the Militant pamphlet which marked this important turning point, written by Rob Sewell.

Since the death of Margaret Thatcher last week the British Establishment have been revelling in their past. In a similar manner to the death of Princess Diana, the Royal Wedding and the Olympics, they believe that this event could serve as another circus to distract working class people from their problems. We would all come together as one nation and forget our class differences. This has been a serious miscalculation.

Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of UNITE, the largest union in Britain, has been re-elected. He received 144,000 votes while his only opponent in the election, Jerry Hicks, received nearly 80,000 votes. Over the course of the last few years McClusky has been moving to the left, putting such issues as reclaiming the Labour Party, nationalisation of the banks, the crisis of capitalismand the question of a general strike on the order of the day. This has made him, de facto, the leader of the left wing of the labour movement. However what is needed now is to turn all of these ideas into action.

There was a record participation of 110 attendees at Socialist Appeal sellers’ annual conference over the weekend of 6th and 7th April. The increased quantity was also expressed in a higher quality than ever before. Never has Marxism been as relevant and potentially powerfully as today, and never before have the ranks of the Marxists been as confident and optimistic.

Amongst the victims of Thatcherism include the miners in Britain, who fought a long battle against the Tory government of the 1980s. Here we present a letter from John Dunn of the Justice for Mineworkers campaign, who gives a personal view of hearing the news about Thatcher's death. The letter is entitled: "The day Margaret Thatcher died and ruined my internal decor".

The TV is full of the sycophantic outpourings of right-wing commentators and politicians about the sudden death of Margaret Thatcher. The Establishment has rallied to praise her. The Queen has sent a personal message of condolence to the Thatcher family. The news is full of tributes, portraying Thatcher as some kind of champion of freedom and liberty. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. She was a champion – a champion of capitalism, the ruling class, and all it represents.

Margaret Thatcher, the former Tory Prime Minister and one of the most hated figures in the history of the labour movement, died today at the age of 87. Thatcher, more than anyone, personified the brutal attacks on the working class during the 1980s - attacks that the Tory-led Coalition are continuing today. We publish here a short piece on Thatcher's death, with more in depth analysis of her legacy to follow soon.

In 2010, British students took to the streets in the biggest and most militant display of student anger in decades. At the time, it was clear that this heralded the beginning of a wave of radicalisation in society in response to the crisis of capitalism, austerity and the Conservative government. The protesters even attacked the Conservative HQ in their thousands. This article analyses the perspectives for the student movement in the UK, and deals with questions such as how militant student activists should organise and what attitude they should have to the National Union of Students (NUS).

After the great financial collapse of 2008, we find ourselves in a turbulent period. Mass unemployment and savage attacks on living standards are the order of the day; revolutionary upheavals across the Middle East, Europe and America are the response. Many people have begun to ask fundamental questions about the way society is organised; in particular, the role of banks and financial institutions - ‘finance capital’ - has been put under the microscope.

The credit agency Moody’s has stripped Britain of its triple A credit rating, humiliating the coalition government. It comes on top of news that the UK’s economy shrank in the last quarter of 2012, whilst the other two main credit agencies have the UK on “negative watch”. All this increases fears of the British economy heading for a triple-dip recession.

The Justice and Security Bill, published for debate in May 2012, deals with matters relating to the secret services. Most controversially, it includes proposals to introduce ‘Closed Material Procedures’ (CMPs), also known as ‘secret trials’, to civil damages proceedings in the UK. Such procedures are already used in criminal trials, and some immigration and employment cases. This would prevent one party to proceedings from seeing or challenging evidence when it is deemed necessary to protect ‘national security’.

The huge response from ordinary people to the death of Hugo Chavez has highlighted the massive impact that the Venezuelan Revolution has had on millions of people worldwide. Never has the Venezuelan Revolution been more relevant than today. This explains why over 70 people came to see Alan Woods - editor of www.marxist.com and founder of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign - speak at the UCLU Marxist (University College London) society on the legacy of Chavez and the tasks of the Venezuelan Revolution now that its leader has passed away.

Within the next few months local councils will be voting through budgets for the coming financial year and are under extreme pressure from the government to make yet more serious cuts in jobs and services. Labour councils in particular are being asked to act as agents for the Tory-led Coalition at Westminster in the interests of big business.

The recent news that the UK economy shrank by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2012 will come as no surprise to working people. Four of the last five quarters have seen the UK economy contracting in what has been described as a "flat 2012." The reality is that a triple-dip recession is now very much on the cards. Manufacturing has again been badly hit with a 0.9% decline in the last quarter, but the most visible sign of the continuing economic decline in the UK has come in the British retail market. A number of well known High Street retailers - Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster - have all gone into administration, potentially leading to thousands of redundancies. This follows on the heels of Comet, who went into liquidation in November. However, this has been hailed in the pages of the bosses’ press as all being part of the process they call “creative destruction”.

Last September 2012 the British Trade Union Congress (TUC), at it’s annual meeting of delegates from the whole trade union movement p assed Resolution 27. For the first time in its history the TUC voted a resolution which called for the full public ownership of the banks and financial institutions. This resolution built on similar ones that had been passed at trade union conferences in 2012, in particular those of Unite the Union and the UCU.

On January 25th, as world leaders were meeting to discuss the global economic “recovery” at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, official figures were released showing that the UK economy – far from being on the road to recovery – had shrunk by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2012.

On Wednesday 23rd January 2013, David Cameron finally ended his long period of dithering and capitulated to political pressure in his own party from the right-wing Tory ‘Euro-sceptics’. Why has Cameron made a move that seems almost designed to undermine the influence of British capitalism globally and in Europe, and what attitude should socialists have to the question of an EU referendum?

On Saturday 26th January, up to 25,000 workers, Labour party members, trade unionists, students and members of the local community marched against the proposed closure of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E department located in the South London borough of Lewisham. Such a large turnout for a local protest is unprecedented in recent times and demonstrates the real depth of resistance to the cuts and anger at the government in the community. The march was considered so important that Millwall, the local football team, moved their Saturday match to ensure that it did not clash.