Britain

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.

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.