Britain

The draconian budget rolled out in June is only the first instalment in a five year programme of austerity to be inflicted upon the British people. The Tory-dominated government is telling us that the economy is in a hole. This is true. They are softening us up for drastic cuts in public spending, saying we can’t afford it and (in the words of Thatcher) that there is no alternative. This is a lie.

“Open for business.” These were the words spoken by chancellor George Osborne as he delivered the most vicious anti-working class budget for generations – a budget for big business indeed! Not since the slash and burn days of the National government in the 1930s, or indeed the Thatcher regime of the early 1980s, have so many cuts been presented in one day. Indeed in outlining a target of 25% cutbacks in many areas of government spending, the coalition has gone way beyond anything attempted by previous chancellors in office.

The news is full of the plans of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition to hammer the public sector in the interests of the ruling class. But “the best laid schemes of mice and men, go often askew,” as Robbie Burns wrote. This is precisely what happened to Ted Heath's government.

What has the banking crisis cost us all? Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England has tried to work it all out in a paper called ‘The $100 billion question’. As Socialist Appeal has pointed out many times the ‘banking crisis’ is really a crisis of capitalism, but for the time being we’ll stick with Haldane’s terminology.

The present Tory-Liberal coalition is preparing to launch a major attack on British workers. History shows that the British workers have always responded to such attacks with militant class struggle. One such example was the miners' strike of 1972, a rock solid strike that shook the Tory government and prepared its eventual downfall two years later in 1974.

Britain is heading for a showdown. The British establishment is taking stock of the situation. They are fully aware of the social crisis that is unfolding. The illusions of class harmony have evaporated. They consider that it is time that the working class learned its lesson that capitalism cannot afford any reforms. Counter-reforms are on the order of the day. The workers are therefore being sent to the school of the coalition government whose programme is “red in tooth and claw” austerity.

Ian Isaac’s new book, published on the 25th anniversary of the end of the 1984/85 miner’s strike, is essentially an autobiographical account of the St John’s Lodge of the National Union of Mineworkers during the late 1970s and ‘80s. Ian was the youngest Lodge Secretary in the NUM at the time, a South Wales Executive member and a supporter of the Militant newspaper and Labour Party Young Socialists. The book will be fascinating for any young socialists or trades unionists who are interested in finding out the truth of what happened during that great strike.

No sooner has the dust started to settle on the fall out from the 2010 general election and the decision of Gordon Brown to fall on his sword both as Prime Minister and Labour Party leader than we are already seeing names being put forward as “suitable” choices to become the new leader of the party.

It was one of the surest things in British politics: when an election comes around, no matter the national trend, Scotland will always vote Labour. But with the SNP managing to form a minority government, winning one more seat than Labour in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, and then their shock by-election victory in Glasgow east in 2008 it seemed, to some, that the Scottish working class was switching their allegiances. The SNP could now challenge Labour in its industrial urban heartlands. We explained then, as now, that the SNP gain only because of Labour's continuing failure to present the working people of Scotland (and the whole UK) with a Socialist programme.

It didn’t take long for the Liberal democrat leaders to understand that any principles they may have had are far less important than their own personal careers, and even less important than the needs of the market. All the election campaign rhetoric went out the window as they join a coalition with the Tories, whose task will be to carry out a draconian anti-working class programme.

Last week’s elections results have posed a dilemma before the British ruling class. They wanted a strong Tory government to introduce draconian anti-working class measures. The electorate denied them that pleasure. Now they are seeking to patch together some form of government that can guarantee them the same programme, but on a much more unstable base.

The British elections have produced a hung parliament, with no party winning an outright majority, precisely the opposite of what the ruling class wanted. They need a "strong government" to take on the working class in the coming period. That attack will come anyway, and the labour movement must prepare to fight back.

After a seemingly guaranteed Tory victory, now the opinion polls indicate that the coming elections could produce a hung parliament with the Liberal-Democrats holding the balance of power. The voters have not forgotten what the Tories did when they were in power but are also disappointed with Labour. This unprecedented volatility, is a reflection of the crisis of British capitalism, and a yearning for social change, that was denied after 1997.

The Liberal Democrats are riding high in recent opinion polls. They are presenting themselves as something “new” and “clean”. A closer look reveals a very old party that has always carried out the policies dictated by the capitalist class of Britain.

The prospect of a new Tory government coming to power after the next election should be more than enough to concentrate the minds of active workers in the Labour and Trade Union Movement. But what sort of Tory government will it be? Mark Twain made the point that although history never repeats itself, it often rhymes.

The general election of 2010 has been called. To no-one's surprise, on Thursday 6th May, voters will go to the polls to decide who will form the next UK government. For a very long time now, the Tories - the party of big business - have enjoyed a sizeable poll lead, backed up by good results in local and Euro elections. Yet the gap between the Tories and Labour has closed sharply in recent months. Why is this?

There has been a massive campaign in the British press and media to “soften up” public opinion for the cuts that loom. Above all, they are trying to split the workers in the private and public sector. Tomorrow, Saturday, April 10, a trade union march and rally has been called in London and here we provide the leaflet that Socialist Appeal supporters will be distributing on the rally. Download the leaflet (pdf)

Today civil servants in Britain staged another strike in protest at government measures that will affect pensions, redundancy pay and jobs. It is a sign of the growing militancy of the British workers, who are reaching the limit of what they can take. Socialist Appeal supporters in PCS prepared a leaflet which explains the union case and points the way forward for PCS activists. This can be downloaded here.

This article was written just before the official announcement of the PCS strike ballot result on February 25, which confirmed massive support for action on 8-9th March. We are publishing it together with links to a series of short reports and interviews from the picket lines these past two days. Up to a quarter of a million jobs, possibly more, could be destroyed if government plans are allowed to go ahead. That explains the militant mood that has developed.

The comrades of Socialist Appeal in Britain produced the following pamphlet. It is a compilation of different articles written by comrades on tuition fees, cuts in university funding and the students' union, and tries to elaborate some demands for the student movement. We encourage our readers to acquaint themselves with our basic positions on the state of the education system in order to intervene in the movements against cuts and fees which have already begun in a lot of colleges and universities in Britain, but also all around the world.

As the 2010 General Election looms ever closer, we have started to see the first round of political posters appearing on hoardings around the country. The Tories have kicked their campaign off with a poster of an airbrushed photo of David Cameron looking very serious next to the slogan: “We can’t go on like this. I’ll cut the deficit not the NHS.”

It is often said that nothing is certain in politics. However one thing is certain for 2010 – there will be a general election. Election results are difficult to predict but, based on the opinion polls and election results over the past year, all the indicators point to the return of a Conservative government by the summer.

New Year is meant to represent a new beginning, a clean slate. Old Father Time gives way to a new bouncing baby. But what can we expect in 2010? Will it be a new shiny outlook for world capitalism, or will 2009 just seem to be dragging on under a new name?

This year, Britain experienced its coldest winter in over 30 years, and as temperatures dropped below -20ºC in some parts of the UK, thousands of people suffered the effects of one of society’s gravest ills: fuel poverty.

A demonstration in Leeds in November organised by the English Defence League (EDL) revealed quite clearly that the police were prepared to let the EDL get through their lines, while at the same time they poured huge resources into keeping the anti-fascist protestors bottled in, proving once again that it would be naīve to believe we can rely on the police to keep us safe against the fascist hooligans. The experience in Leeds, however, does highlight the need to review what kind of tactics should be adopted to fight these fascist thugs.

In the recent period racist attacks have been on the increase across Europe, organised by small but violent groups of fascist thugs. One such formation is the so-called "Scottish Defence League", copying the name from the "English Defence League". These organisations cannot be allowed to carry out their intimidating activities unchallenged. The challenge however cannot be based on appealing to the police to prevent the far right from gathering. We can only rely on the mobilisation of working class people. Here we provide an example of such kind of working class response in Glasgow in November.

As the year draws to an end, Terry McPartlan looks back at a turbulent 2009. The world capitalist crisis began to dramatically affect hundreds of millions of workers throughout the entire world, who in turn started to fight back with strikes and factory occupations.

For many working class families, this Christmas looks like being a grim one as the effects of the recession continue to bite. However, for bosses, bankers and City traders it looks like quite a different story.

Supporters of Socialist Appeal in Glasgow joined Greek students in a picket of the Greek Consulate to mark the one year anniversary of the police murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens. The murder set off a revolt of working class youth throughout Greece that was met with huge police repression. The picket was held also to show solidarity with the massive demonstrations that took place throughout Greek cities last Sunday to mark the anniversary.

At a recent meeting of a local Labour Party Branch in Worcester, Britain, a slick high tech presentation was given by a group called Transition Worcester, who said they had the answer to the environmental crisis. It is to turn the clock back 200 years to a mythical age where all trade was local and people enjoyed the benefit of locally grown meat, fruit & veg. Within this presentation were ideas such as we should no longer trade with developing countries and we should therefore export our unemployment to the third world.

The TUC has worked out that the richest folk in the land get subsidised massively in their old age by the rest of us. No change there, then. So it’s nice to see the rich are all right (as usual). What about the rest of us? Nearly two thirds of over 50s are worrying that pension and savings are just not enough to see them through retirement.

Stock exchanges and commodity prices are on their way up. The world economy is showing faltering signs of recovery. There’s no doubt that it’ll be a long haul. Millions of people all over the world have had their lives devastated by the economic tsunami. It will take years to clean up all the mess. But one major national economy after another has announced that the recession is officially over – France, Germany, Japan and even the USA. All except Britain. Why is British capitalism still stubbornly stuck in the mire?

Striking refuse workers in Leeds have voted to return to work after nearly three months on the picket line. The all-out industrial action, which ran from September 7th to November 25th, was in response to savage pay-cuts that would have slashed individual wages by thousands of pounds per year. Workers attending a mass meeting at the suitably flamboyant Jongleurs Comedy Club voted by nearly four to one to return to work, endorsing a deal which benefitted many workers but raised concerns for some.

New Labour, the government that introduced tuition fees and student loans in 1998 and then narrowly passed a bill to introduce top-up fees of £3,200 per year from 2006, have recently launched a “higher education finance review” to look into raising the cap on tuition fees (possibly up to £7000 per year) and examine the way in which universities should be funded.

Internationally, capitalism is emerging from its worst crisis since the 1930s. There is palpable relief in the ranks of the ruling class at avoiding a financial meltdown. However, despite heated talk of green shoots, there is a universal gloom about the current situation.

First there were three, the sun having not yet shown its face, in the pitch black darkness of the autumn morning it was only the neon of the street lights that reflected off the red high visibility jackets of the picketing Royal Mail workers. Eddie Kacar reports on the mood at EDO in Whitechapel in the heart of the East End of London

While the leaders and lieutenants of capital continue their assault on the pay, conditions and jobs of workers everywhere, strikes have broken out sporadically across the UK, including in transport. As was the case with the bus drivers of Essex and Greater Manchester, in August the workers of GoNortheast in Washington in the North-East of England also walked out of pay talks after rejecting a pitiful offer of just 2% over 18 months.

Yesterday was Bill Landles’ 85th birthday. He is an active supporter of the Socialist Appeal in Britain and the IMT. His activity goes right back to the days of the RCP during the Second World War, where he played a role in the apprentices’ strikes. He is a living link to those early pioneering days of our movement.

UK Postal workers are out on a national two-day strike over management plans in effect to destroy the Royal Mail. Picket lines are being staged at sites up and down the country. The bosses, backed by Lord Mandelson, who is looking to hit back at the union over his failed attempt to privatise the mail, have refused to negioate.

It was only a few months ago that public anger against the banks and an unprecedented crisis of capitalism seemed to have an almost revolutionary tone. Public consciousness and official opinion seemed to have shifted decisively to the left. Yet this rage seems not to have effected any political change at all and somehow the public debate (i.e. the editorial line of the press and the rest of the media) has swung far to the right. But the anger and opposition to bank bailouts has not disappeared, it has only been driven underground because it is no longer on the media’s agenda and the lack of any political change has obviously disappointed protestors.

Postal workers across the UK have voted 3-1 in favour of national industrial action over Royal Mail's failure to reach a national agreement covering the protection of jobs, pay, terms and conditions and the cessation of managerial executive action.

In the recent period two of the most important trade unions in Britain, Amicus and the T&GWU, fused to form UNITE. Jerry Hicks, a left-wing rank and file candidate, challenged for the position of General Secretary within the former Amicus section of the new union, winning 40,000 votes. Now the fight is on to pose a challenge from the left within the new union, UNITE. There are big possibilities for the left, but there are also those who are manoeuvring to weaken such a challenge.

During the summer much was made of that Tory leader David Cameron has gone out of his way not to give the impression that the Tories will bring in massive public sector cuts should they win the next general election. Indeed he has gone on record as saying that the budgets for overseas aid and – more to the point – the health service will be protected. Can we believe him? We think not.

On the 20th July, around 25 workers at the Vestas wind-turbine blades plant in Newport, Isle of Wight, moved to occupy offices in protest at the planned closure of the site and the possible loss of 625 jobs. 18 days later, on 7th August, the Vestas workers ended the factory occupation after a court order authorised bailiffs to remove the occupiers.

At 7.45pm on the 20th July around 25 workers at the Vestas wind-turbine blades plant in Newport, Isle of Wight moved to occupy offices in protest at the planned closure of the site and the loss of 625 jobs - 525 on the Island and 100 in Southampton.

On Monday 29th June the workers at Lindsey agreed to return to work with heads held high. The dispute was completely led by the rank and file, both unions had initially repudiated the action, but the workers led the way, forcing the employers into talks and only when the workers were satisfied with the agreement did they consider returning to work.

1922 was a watershed in the struggle for a mass Marxist Party in Britain. Under the direction of the Leninist Comintern, the young militants of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) grappled with the task of transforming an essentially propagandist group into the foundations of a genuine mass Bolshevik organisation.

"Where there is discord may we bring harmony..." said Margaret Thatcher  30 years ago this May when she was elected as British Prime Minister in 1979. Some politicians are remembered for their achievements, in Aneurin Bevan's case the founding of the NHS; others like Tony Blair will be remembered as warmongers and traitors to the ideals of the Labour movement. Meanwhile John Major will be remembered, if at all, for his ineffectual personality and his blandness. But very few will have been hated by working people with such intensity as Margaret Thatcher.

General Motors, the largest car manufacturer in the United States of America, which employs nearly a quarter of a million people world wide, has filed for bankruptcy. This has initiated the largest industrial insolvency the world has ever seen with debts of £105 billion! The firm, which owns Vauxhall and its European sister Opel, employs 5,500 workers here in the UK. The future of the British employees have entered into uncertainty with sale of the European arm of General Motors to a consortium led by Canadian car parts manufacturer Magna, backed by Russian investment bank Sberbank.