Britain

Thousands of trade unionists hit the streets of London and other cities all over Britain today in a national strike called by the Public and Civil Service Union (PCS), the National Union of Teachers (NUT), University and College Union (UCU) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) to protest the government’s plan to vandalise pension schemes. This was an important turning-point for the British labour movement.

We are being reassured that the financial crisis gripping Greece cannot reach Britain. Many facts and figures are provided to back this up. However, a closer look at the situation reveals the real underlying financial crisis that sooner or later must surface in Britain also. In this article Adam Booth looks at the situation in Greece and Europe as a whole and shows how Britain cannot escape the inevitable.

“From Scotland to Spain, the problem is the same!” was one of many slogans being shouted from the streets of Edinburgh today (29th may) as around 200 - 300 people (most from Edinburgh’s sizeable Spanish community) organised to demonstrate in solidarity with revolutionary movements in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

The Walton by-election, in Liverpool, took place in July 1991, twenty years ago. It arose after the sudden death of Eric Heffer, the left-wing Labour MP for Walton. At the time it created quite a political stir. It was also a key factor in the demise of the Militant, which had boasted it could win the seat, but failed miserably. The whole episode played into the hands of Labour’s right wing that used it to expel Militant from the Labour Party. To understand what happened we need to take a brief look at the background.

On Thursday history was made as the Scottish National Party, who only a decade ago seemed destined to play second fiddle to the Labour Party in Scottish politics, became the first party in the Scottish Parliament's twelve year history to form a single party majority. More importantly, for the first time there is a pro-independence majority in the Parliament, and consequently a referendum on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom will be held within the next five year term.

Elections are simply a snapshot of the mood at any particular moment in time, but they can reveal a lot about the real underlying processes taking place in society. That was the case with the May local elections, which marked the first anniversary in power of the Coalition government and from which we can draw important lessons.

As the election results come in (with the AV vote expected tonight) we take a quick look at what they all mean. We will return to these questions shortly  with a more detailed analysis.

Saturday 26th March 2011 marked a watershed point for the modern Labour Party. The Trade Union Congress had called for workers, students, pensioners and all those affected by the coalition cuts to converge on the capital. The question was: would Labour show up to the party too?

While the Great and Good were busy spending our money on the Royal Wedding, low-paid cleaners at Buckingham Palace were fighting to increase their meagre wages to something like a decent level. Sign the petition in their support.

On Friday 29 April the people of Britain will be invited to participate in the joyful celebration of the marriage of Mr. William Windsor and Ms. Katherine Middleton. At the same time that the government is cutting billions from unnecessary extravagances such as hospitals, schools, teachers, nurses, the old and the sick, the unemployed and single parents, the Coalition has had the good sense to spend a lot of money on something as essential to the Public Good as the nuptials of Willy and Kate.

The magnificent 500,000-strong demonstration on 26 March – the biggest trade union demonstration in the history of the British labour movement – was a marvellous response to the Coalition’s austerity measures. It sends out a clear message: the workers of this country are not prepared to take the government’s austerity measures lying down.

School students took to the streets of London against coalition education reforms again yesterday, this time to demonstrate against the abolition of a grant, the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), a weekly payment for 16- to 18-year-olds whose household income is under £30,800 to encourage them to stay in education. Students travelled from as far away as Sunderland and Cornwall to protest against the scrapping of the EMA. The allowance had already been closed to new applicants.

The events of the past two months represent an important shift in the consciousness of British students. Having grown up knowing only economic boom, previously labelled as “apathetic” by the media, stood up and made their voices heard. Their message is simple and has found an echo across many layers of society: “We will not be forced to pay for a crisis we did not cause!” This wave of protests and occupations has swept even the most deeply entrenched prejudices of the last period from the political landscape, leaving many (both on the right and the left) trailing in its wake.

In response to the 10th November demonstration, students across the country decided to go into occupation. Before Christmas there were 30 of such occupations. Coupled with the increasingly militant demonstrations against the Government’s attacks on education, these university occupations are hugely significant in so far as they have radicalised not only students at the occupied universities but also school students and even people outside of education.

The deepest crisis since the Great Depression, with its accompanying financial, banking and sovereign debt crises, has opened up splits and arguments not seen for generations. Where do they go from here? Savage austerity, which threatens the weak recovery, or possibly pump-prime the economy and risk market turmoil? That is their choice as the crisis moves into its next dangerous phase. Under the topsy-turvy logic of capitalism they are both right and both wrong. Whatever they do they will not be able to cure this unsolvable and protracted crisis of the system.