Britain

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.