Britain

The Scottish Socialist Party is being torn apart by an internal wrangle that was sparked off back in 2004 by a dispute between its leading figure, Tommy Sheridan, and the News of the Worldnewspaper about his personal life. All genuine socialists back the SSP against attacks by the state, but questions need to be asked of why the party has reached this sorry state.

Peugeot is planning to move production from its Coventry plant in the UK to Slovakia. There labour costs are one quarter of what they are in the UK. Capitalists have no concern for their workers. They go where they can maximise profits. The only answer is nationalisation under workers’ control.

The number of people diagnosed with asbestos related diseases has been growing. This reveals the widespread use of this extremely toxic substance, which was not only used in industry but is present in many buildings today. Claims for compensation cost. That is why insurance companies have been lobbying – successfully – to get the laws changed in order to reduce payouts.

Despite the almost incessant rainfall Britain is officially in a drought. There can be no doubt that climate change is contributing to changing weather patterns to adversely affect our water supply. This is a foretaste of what conditions will be like here in the not too distant future if something is not done to halt and reverse the destruction of our environment on a global scale.

Labour suffered a heavy defeat in England's local council elections, but Blair is desperately clinging on to office for now. In an attempt to cover up Labour's losses and to shore up his support Blair quickly moved to sack several high ranking ministers and promote loyal supporters. What Blair has installed is a Final Days administration. It is a bunker cabinet. Blair is finished and so is Blairism. These elections illustrate a growing class polarisation taking place in British society.

In Blackpool over the May Day Bank holiday, the British shop workers’ union USDAW, representing some 330,000 workers, passed a resolution unanimously supporting the Venezuelan Revolution and affiliating to the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign.

“The British working class is entering a period when it requires the greatest belief in its mission and its strength. To gain this there is no need for any stimulants like religion or idealist morality. It is necessary and sufficient that the British proletariat understands the position of its country in relation to the position of the whole world, that it has become clear about the rottenness of the ruling classes and that it has thrown out of its way the careerists, quacks and those bourgeois sceptics who imagine themselves to be socialists only because they from time to time vomit in the atmosphere of rotting bourgeois society.” (Leon Trotsky, Writings on Britain, Volume Two, p.182)

The workers at the Peugeot plant in Ryton (near Coventry) risk losing their jobs and livelihood. Darrall Cozens reports on the latest situation after interviewing John Cummins, Deputy Convenor from Amicus, about the trade union plans to keep the plant open.

Hands Off Venezuela made a very good intervention in May Day. At the beginning of the march in Clerkenwell, a large stall was set up behind a massive HOV banner selling literature and t-shirts. The new HOV magazine was on sale throughout the demonstration.

Eighty years ago an earthquake shook the very foundations of British capitalism. In the greatest display of militant power in its history, the British working class moved into action in the General Strike of 1926. For 9 days, from May 3, not a wheel turned nor a light shone without the permission of the working class. In such a moment, with such power, surely it ought to have been possible to have transformed society? How can such a position have ended in defeat? (by Phil Mitchinson, originally published in May 2001)

On the 80th anniversary of the 1926 general strike in Britain we look at what led to it and why it eventually was defeated. In spite of the tremendous militancy of the British working class, the top leaders of the trade union movement proved to be only too willing to compromise and get the workers back to work.

Like vultures waiting for an animal to die before ripping it to pieces, private “investors” are watching as Blair destroys the National Health Service preparing the ground for more and more privatisation. The grandparents of today’s British workers struggled for a fully funded free healthcare system. Now we have to struggle to win it all back.

Tony Blair has been pushing the line that the National Health Service has never had it so good. He lives on another planet obviously. Anyone who uses the NHS or works for it knows that a systematic attack on the very concept of free healthcare is taking place.

The decision to close the Peugeot car plant at Ryton in Coventry and cease production of the best-selling 206 model was compared by one worker at the plant to knowing that a loved one was dying of cancer yet being shocked to know that death is at the doorstep. There is no time to lose if this struggle to save jobs is to win!

When Blair was first elected he promised his government would be ‘whiter than white’, a phrase meant to distance himself from the sleaze of the Major years. Now Blair is immersed in sleaze himself. From the lies over the Iraq war we now have the scandal of selling peerages to the biggest bidder. Blair has done his utmost to destroy the Labour Party. It will be up to the trade unions and the ranks of the party to rebuild it as a fighting workers’ organisation.

In the biggest strike since the historic general strike of 1926, over a million local government workers struck in defence of their pensions yesterday, March 28th. The mood on the picket lines was cheerful, buoyant and confident in what was undoubtedly the largest and most solid public sector strike ever in Britain.

This morning over 30 trade unionists turned up bright and early with placards and leaflets to stand outside the plush Marriot Hotel at County Hall in London – former headquarters of the GLC – to picket a meeting of the Amicus executive committee. The reason? To protest at the disgraceful sacking of three union employees by the union leadership.

Last Saturday around 50 people gathered in London for the Marxist.com Day School on Latin America. Alan Woods and Jorge Martin, who both just came back from Cuba, spoke on the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions. You can also listen to Alan Woods' speech by downloading the audio file.

We publish this article by Alon Lessel in Israel on the recent suspension of Ken Livingstone by the unelected Adjudication Panel. Since writing this article last week, the High Court has blocked Livingstone’s suspension allowing him time to prepare his appeal.

The Blair government is discussing all kinds of schemes to curb long established democratic rights. They are doing this using “Islamic terrorism” as an excuse. In reality their measures will in no way fight terrorism, but they will give them more instruments in their attempts to stifle criticism and protest. They are preparing for the future when the workers of Britain will move against their real enemies, the British bosses.

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) was seen for a period as a success story for anyone looking for an alternative to Labour. Now it is in decline. It is paying the price for abandoning a genuine socialist programme, making concessions both to nationalism and reformism.

Last week the Labour Party suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of the Liberals, losing half its votes in the Dunfermline and West Fife seat in Scotland. This is the first time Labour have lost a seat to the Liberals in Scotland since 1945! This is another symptom of the process taking place in Britain. Blair can no longer win elections. The scene is set for big changes.

While Blair continues to support his friend Bush in the war in Iraq, he is conducting another little war on the home front, this time against the sick and disabled! Up to a million workers who have been declared too sick to work now face the possibility of new and humiliating procedures aimed at forcing them back to work. This is a more silent, less obvious war, but a war nonetheless, a class war.

If you want to win elections you must aim at the centre ground. At least that is the official line. But what is the centre? The centre between what? The centre the media refer to, in reality is an extreme expression of the interests of the bosses. The latest attack on education is an example. It goes against the interests of the overwhelming majority of people in Britain, but no doubt the right wing of Labour and the Tories will meet in the “centre” and vote for it together.

Preparations are going ahead for a merger of three big trade unions in Britain, Amicus, T&GWU and GMB. The bureaucracy is pressing heavily for this. It would potentially be a very powerful union, but past experiences have shown that mergers have tended to reduce the level of internal democracy. The left in Amicus gathered around the Amicus Unity Gazette are not opposed to the merger in principle but are demanding the rank and file have a last say through recall conferences and that they be allowed to decide on the key issue of the rule book.

A conference is taking place in London this Saturday to discuss the crisis of working class representation. It will not take any decisions, but some of those taking part clearly have the perspective that a break with the Labour Party is necessary. What is the answer to the present Blairite domination of the Labour Party?

The recent Turner report on pensions in Britain came up with the same proposal we have seen everywhere else in the world, raise the age of retirement! Is it really true that we can't afford to pay pensions? Productivity of labour is going up all the time; so fewer workers should be able to keep more pensioners. That would be the case if it weren't for the profit motive that drives capitalism.

Glasgow has the lowest life expectancy in Britain, 69.3 years compared to Kensington and Chelsea whose resolute residents can expect a longevity of more than 85 years. This is the difference between the poorest and wealthiest parts of Britain.

Twenty-five years ago today John Lennon was killed in New York. There was a mass outpouring of grief all over the world. This was because he symbolised something different from the mainstream music industry. He gave expression in the words of some of his songs the genuine feeling of disgust of many workers and youth at what capitalist society stands for.

Tony Blair suffered his first ever defeat in parliament yesterday when 49 Labour MPs voted against the introduction of new repressive ‘anti-terror’ legislation. The defence of civil liberties, consistently under attack from the Blair government, is a vitally important question in its own right. However, as Phil Mitchinson explains, Blair’s parliamentary defeat has far wider implications for the future of the British labour movement.

Saturday’s Marxist.com day school proved to be very successful, with many new faces turning up, especially youth. This success bodes well for the future of our work in Britain. Here we provide a brief outline of the proceedings.

The right to demonstrate, to strike, to trial by jury in Britain are all elementary civil liberties, yet most of them have already been whittled away. Now the so-called “war on terror” is being used to destroy what little is left. This assault on our democratic rights is not a secondary matter. The democracy afforded us by capitalism is restricted, but we can no more ignore the attacks launched on our political rights than we can attacks on our jobs, wages and conditions.

The idea that Brown has been secretly opposed to privatisation, to the war in Iraq, to the Labour government’s assault on civil liberties ‑ but keeping quiet through ‘loyalty’ (to his career that is, not to the Labour Party or working class Labour voters) ‑ is patently absurd. Both should go.

“I was a member of the British Labour party for some years and seeing that old man being manhandled the way he was out of the Labour conference made my blood boil and almost brought me to tears.”

The 2005 Labour Party Conference marks a significant shift in the situation in Britain. It deserves careful study by Marxists and by every trade union and Labour activist. It was chiefly marked by a sharp conflict between the Party leadership and the trade unions

Anyone who doubted the wider implication for civil liberties of Blair’s ‘anti-terror’ legislation need look no further than the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang, who fled Nazi Germany in 1937, was roughly manhandled out of the hall by a pair of heavies

Three Amicus members of staff have been suspended from their jobs in the union. All three are leading members of the broad left that was instrumental in defeating the right wing and getting Derek Simpson elected as General Secretary. No reason has been given for their suspension. It is obviously a politically motivated attack. Please take part in the campaign to get the three reinstated.

No one union alone can successfully fight the present anti-union laws. But imagine if the TUC were to lead a major protest against the laws in every workplace and organised on behalf of 7 million union members a direct challenge to those laws - that would have more effect than any number of seminars and workshops and would put unions in a stronger position to win.

A leading member of Venezuela's largest union, the National Workers Union, UNT, will be present at the TUC, having been invited by the National Union of Journalists and by Hands Off Venezuela. NATFHE will move a resolution in support of Venezuela and the progressive policies of the government of president Hugo Chávez, committing the TUC to work with solidarity campaigns and to build links with Venezuelan trade unionists.

The British government and the Metropolitan Police are now trying to sweep under the carpet the brutal execution of Jean Charles de Menezes on July 22. We must not allow this to happen. This young, innocent, Brazilian man - an electrician by trade, just 27 years of age - is the latest victim of the so-called “war on terror”, but also of the undermining of civil liberties and the strengthening of the powers of the capitalist state.

The dispute that erupted at the Gate Gourmet company in August is symptomatic of what is really happening in the British labour movement. The strike of the Gate Gourmet workers received strong support from the workers at British Airways who paralysed Heathrow Airport and inflicted heavy losses on the company. The class solidarity expressed in this dispute is an indication of what is to come throughout the whole of the British labour movement.

Several months ago there was a report in some British papers of an unusual speech by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King. The speech gives a glimpse of a discussion that must have recently taken place amongst the British capitalists, and which the Gate Gourmet dispute is a direct consequence of. It is about the use of cheap immigrant labour to drive down wages and worsen working conditions.

The Houses of Parliament cleaners made history by staging their first walk-out on the morning of 20th July. At 10 am the strikers assembled outside St. Stephens’ entrance together with some MPs, parliamentary staff and the media to publicise their demands. The strikers were chanting slogans like “Low Pay, No Way” while some of them were brandishing placards and mops.

Despite clashing with both the RISE festival and the traditional Tollpuddle Rally, the main hall at the TUC’s Congress House was largely full for this year’s AGM and rally of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the main new umbrella grouping for Left activists inside the Labour Party. Amongst others, a number of the platform speakers from the trade union movement, including Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Mark Serwotka (PCS) and Paul Mackney (NATFHE) took time to outline the ongoing process of attacks against the public sector being carried out by the government.

Our readers will recall that The Economist called on its readers to vote Marx off the top of the list of the most revered philosophers. We appealed to our readers to vote for Marx and keep him at the top. In spite of The Economist’s best attempts Marx won! This comes as no surprise to us. We await The Economist's explanation with interest.

Radical changes in consciousness often spring from arbitrary collective experiences. Last week’s bombings in London are no exception. On the surface, the story being broadcast and repeated by the journalists, politicians, and purveyors of “objective information” appears to be true. But there is more to it than that.