Britain

This capitalist crisis has posed things in a point blank fashion. Austerity cuts have hammered local government and public services across the board. Cuts were announced by the Coalition in 2010 of nearly 30% from local authority budgets, which have to cover most of the basic needs of local communities, from rubbish collection to emergency payments for the most needy in society. However, the Local Government Association says it has identified almost £1bn of additional cuts or delays to grants, adding in some authorities to a further cut of 10% of its core funding.

In his December Autumn Statement the Chancellor, George Osborne, continued the government’s war on Britain’s poorest families by announcing that benefits will be up rated at just 1% a year until 2015. The TUC has calculated that when adjusted for inflation this proposal will mean a 5% cut in benefit levels.

Since his election to the position of general secretary of Unite – Britain’s largest union, with 1.5 million members – two years ago, Len McCluskey has moved to the left in response to the pressures from below. This was shown at a meeting on Tuesday 15th January at the London School of Economics, where McCluskey delivered a militant speech on the crisis and the need for a response from the labour movement.

The campaign group 38 Degrees has compiled a list of well known companies operating within the UK that are currently not paying their “fair share”. Companies such as Amazon, eBay, Boots, Cadbury, Ikea, Vodafone and Starbucks are all guilty of abusing the UK tax system.

The New Year will be ringing in not joy but woe for working class people. It is the year that the cuts really begin to bite. It is the year that many people lose their jobs. It is the year that, in the words of Nick Clegg, “painful” Universal Benefits are introduced. It is the year that many lose their housing benefit and become homeless. It is the year the capitalist crisis deepens in Europe, with Spain, Italy and France following in the footsteps of  Greece. Britain, however, is not far behind.

Far from heralding a new promise for the British economy, the 1% growth figure announced a month ago has already been buried by a pile of bad news. Few economists are looking towards 2013 with any real hope. Socialist Appeal editor Rob Sewell explains why.

The Tories’ latest attack on welfare benefits threatens to place even more of the burden of the bankers’ crisis onto the shoulders of the unemployed, the disabled, children and pensioners.

In the run up to Christmas we are seeing the usual desperate appeals from charities to raise money but the recession has meant that even their income is now falling. At the same time, the Tory-led Coalition’s programme of cuts, combined with job-losses and pay freezes are forcing more and more people to rely on hand-outs from charities.

The BBC, the traditional mouthpiece of the British Establishment, is presently engulfed in a major scandal involving the Savile paedophile cover-up. This comes on top of the MPs’ expenses scandal, the News of the World phone hacking scandals and many others that have undermined the legitimacy of once highly respected institutions.

It’s finally been confirmed. After months of dithering and posturing from David Cameron last month saw the British and Scottish governments agree that there would be a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.

Splits and divisions are haunting the Coalition. Such a situation could not have come at a worse time for Cameron and Osborne, as they sharpen their knives for further cuts.

On October 20th  we will witness another massive display of opposition to the Coalition government. Hundreds of thousands of angry workers will take to the streets in an attempt to push back the Tory austerity programme.

As we begin the new academic year thousands of students up down the country will be leaving home for the first time to begin their Higher Education (HE) studies. Unfortunately for these students what should be an exciting and liberating occasion is overshadowed by the colossal debt they will be forced to take on as they become the first to pay the new £9,000 a year tuition fees.

In the aftermath of the revelations presented by the Hillsborough Independent Panel (read report here) we publish here the thoughts of a Liverpool supporter Mike Jones who speaks for many in the city of Liverpool about the reaction to what the report findings have now officially confirmed.

After a long fight lasting 23 years, the families and friends of the 96 football supporters killed at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield on the afternoon of Saturday April 15 1989 have finally had official confirmation of what really happened that day. For 23 years they have had to fight alone against a torrent of lies, mistruths and a cover-up involving the police and others. Now a report published by the independent commission established by the last Labour government has made available the real damming evidence of the blunders on the day and all the lies that followed.

Yesterday’s (29 August 2012) decision by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to revoke London Met’sHighly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status for international student visas is a symptom of the wider economic crisis and of a government far removed from the lives of ordinary people.

The recent quarrel over the timing and constitutional validity of the proposed independence referendum in Scotland has again pushed the national question to the forefront of British politics. Such developments give us a fresh opportunity to revisit this important issue.

Thank God for the Olympics!” must be the cry from most if not all Tory Ministers after the economic news at the end of last month. They will be more than a little relieved that the London Games have been hogging all the news and will continue to do so over the next few weeks at least. However, we all live in the real world and in that world we can see the consequences of the just over two years of this Coalition. We are now in the longest “double dip” recession for over 50 years.

"Off with their heads!” screamed the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. The mass of people agree, especially when it comes to bankers. And this is no joke. Across much of the world, bankers have acquired pariah status, responsible for triggering the crisis and then being bailed out with taxpayers’ money. Their standing is about on a par with paedophiles or rapists.

Last month's day of action by doctors in Britain attracted a lot of criticism from the Tory press - no surprise there! Here is an article we have received from a doctor putting their case and explaining what really happened.

Ken Capstick, former Vice-President, Yorkshire National Union of Miners and Rob Sewell, author of 'In the Cause of Labour' and editor of Socialist Appeal talk about the struggles that lead up to 1972 and up to the miners strike of 1984/5. The speeches were given at the ULU Marxist Summer School which was recently organized in in London.

The need for socialist policies and for the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy dominated much of the agenda of the UNITE policy conference this year, and following a very radical conference the union has committed to supporting the nationalisation of the private banks, utilities and railways. The mood of the conference shows a sharp shift to the left amongst the UNITE rank and file recently and its reflection in the leadership. Not one speaker from the union’s executive or from the conference delegates openly opposed the principles of nationalisation or of the need to adopt socialist policies.

Friday, 22nd June witnessed something unprecedented in British industrial relations. For the first time, London bus drivers, engineers and supervisors struck together in solidarity.

Over the Weekend of 15th-17th June the second ever Marxist Summer School, hosted by the University of London Union Marxist Society, took place. The event was a resounding success, building on the experience of the previous year, with up to 100 in attendance. Because we managed to pack in so many discussions, we were able to cover a lot of ground and go into detail in a way that is not normally possible.

British doctors have gone on strike today for the first time since 1975 over the government cuts to pensions. Unsurprisingly, this has been met with a chorus of indignation by the Tories who have accused the doctors of “penalising patients” by taking industrial action.

Forty years ago, in 1972, Britain faced a sharp and qualative change and teetered on the verge of a general strike for the first time in nearly 50 years. A wave of factory occupations and sit-ins had swept the country.  More than 23 million days were lost in strike action, excluding 4 million lost through political strikes. Only once, in the revolutionary year of 1919, was the number of days lost greater. The Tories, in a pamphlet misnamed In Defence of Peace, were already digesting the writings of Brigadier Kitson, who urged the army to be prepared for civil unrest. The spectre of revolution was once again beginning to haunt Britain.

ULU Marxists, Socialist Appeal and www.marxist.com are proud to announce the 2nd Marxist Summer School: Prospects for the World Revolution, this June 15-17 in London. Join us for a packed weekend of discussion and debate on what relevance the theory and programme of the Marxists has in this epoch of world revolution.

Last week's local elections saw a disastrous showing for the Coalition government as the Conservative and the Liberal Democrats respectively lost 403 and 329 council seats. At the same time the Labour Party saw a huge net gain of 824 councillors meaning they were able to gain control of 32 councils across the country.

At a time of massive cuts and redundancies, restructures and “refocusing” in Local Government and the civil service and schools; inevitably, the issue of greater workloads comes to the fore. It’s very easy for senior managers to attempt to try and solve their immediate problems by pushing the whole burden of work onto those people who didn’t get their P45s in the post.  Too often this means impossible demands being placed on front line workers, more often than not the lowest paid and in most cases women. Tory plans for the NHS mean that the same process will be witnessed in the NHS, with horrendous consequences.

The remarkable victory of George Galloway in the Bradford West by-election has sent a massive cannon ball across the bough of the Labour leadership. At a time of huge unpopularity of the Coalition government, Labour should have romped home in this traditional heartland. To their astonishment, Labour was driven into second place behind George Galloway, who scored a massive 36.59% swing from Labour to Respect.

A few weeks ago, everyone was expecting industrial action on 28 March in the next stage in the pensions’ campaign involving the public sector unions PCS, NUT, and UCU. A section of the RMT was also due to take part, as was the FBU. There were high expectations that up to a million trade unionists would take industrial action to defend workers against the vicious attacks of the Tory-Lib-Dem coalition. In the end, one union after another pulled out.

The month of March is the season for student union elections in Britain. Thanks to the setting up of Marxist societies, and as a result of the tremendous student movements of recent years, Socialist Appeal are now present on many campuses across the country, and a solid base of young Marxists now exists in several universities. Socialist Appeal comrades stood in two student union elections recently: Ben Gliniecki and Arsalan Ghani stood for President of the Students Union and President of the Graduate Union in Cambridge University; Nico Baldion and Paul Bolton stood for the positions of President and Education Officer respectively at the University of Arts London.

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), the British government has only implemented 6% of its planned cuts to date. This is an austerity programme that is £10 billion behind schedule and which is set to last well beyond the next parliament. Although 6% is but a small step on a long road of enforced privation, already we can see the devastating effects this is having on millions of people

The decision of the Cameron government to deploy HMS Dauntless off the coast of the Falklands Islands in the South Atlantic represents a gratuitous provocation to the people of Argentina.

British construction workers have won a marvellous victory. The attempt to cut to wages and conditions by a group of profit-hungry construction bosses has been beaten back by the heroic action of ordinary rank and file workers.

Forty years ago this month, the power of the organised working class was demonstrated outside a West Midlands fuel depot. The lesson was not lost on both unions and bosses. The example of Saltley Gate remains as relevant today as ever in the face of renewed attacks by the bosses and their government on the working class. Terry McPartlan looks back at the events of February 1972.

With all the hype surrounding the Hollywood version of Margaret Thatcher as the ‘Iron Lady’ who (supposedly) brought the miners and trade unions to their knees, there now comes the real story of the Miners Strike of 1984 from Betty Cook and Ann Scargill, two women who not only played their part during the strike but who now say that the events of that historic year changed their lives forever.

Workers have reacted with anger and bewilderment at the latest statements coming from Ed Miliband and Ed Balls endorsing continuation of the Coalition’s public sector wage freeze and in effect accepting Coalition cuts. This represents a sharp turn to the right by the Labour leadership, justified – we are told– by the remark that a “changed” Labour Party needed to deliver “fairness” in tough times.

Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party is turning into an elaborate parody of the emptiness of reformism. With capitalism unable to afford any reforms, he is like the school pupil who works extremely hard to avoid working whilst giving the impression of being studious. He is trying very very hard, tossing and turning, to give the impression that reformism can work without any actual reforms. Unfortunately for Ed, in this case the illusion does not work.

The Great Unrest is the term used by historians to describe the period  a 100 years ago when Britain saw many industrial conflicts such as the Cambrian Combine Strike, the Tonypandy Riots and many other struggles.  In Wales there was also a major dispute in the Cynon Valley and riots in Llanelli during the Railwaymen's strike. Strikes occurred in Clydeside, London, Liverpool, Hull and many other towns and cities throughout the land.   Important ideas were developed and discussed during this period which had a profound affect on the Labour and trade union movement. Darrall Cozens, a member of the UCU and Coventry NW Labour Party, considers what we need to learn from these events.

Margaret Thatcher is a hate figure for millions in Britain who suffered under 13 years of her rule. We, who opposed Thatcherism to the bitter end, will never forget the mass unemployment, the cuts, wholesale privatisation and the attacks on the trade unions as well as our democratic rights. Those who fought back were regarded by Thatcher as “the enemy within,” a term she used against the National Union of Mineworkers, as they fought for their communities and their jobs. Thatcher represented capitalism ‘red in tooth and claw’ and we will not forget it.

There were unprecedented scenes in Birmingham on N30 after the Tory-Lib-Dem coalition that runs Birmingham City Council tried to ban the planned TUC protest march.

More than two million public sector workers took strike action yesterday. That amounted to a virtual general strike of the public sector. In terms of numbers, the action was bigger than the “Winter of Discontent” in 1979  - bigger even than the 1926 General Strike. Even The Financial Times, the organ of Big Business, surprisingly described Wednesday’s strike as “undoubtedly historic”.

Around Britain, supporters of Socialist Appeal have been on picket lines and demonstrations. Here are the reports we har received so far. [Updated 2 December with more reports]

On November 30th 2011, three million public sector workers in Britain will strike over the government’s attacks on their pensions. This coordinated strike action represents the biggest strike movement since the general strike in 1926. To all intents and purposes it will be a 24-hour public sector general strike.  

Socialist Appeal supporter Adam Booth spoke against Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business in the UK coalition government, in the Cambridge Union on Thursday 27th October, in a debate that highlighted the two starkly contrasting choices facing society as a result of the crisis of capitalism: austerity or socialism.

The 4th October marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, a momentous event in which the working people of London united to deliver a decisive blow against the menace British fascism. In this article we commemorate the brave stand of those workers who fought the fascists while seeking to expose the real nature of fascism and drawing lessons for today's struggles against the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP).