Britain

Alan Woods writes an obituary of Olwyn Hughes, a Welsh miner whose political life went back to the period during and just after the War, when he first got active in politics, first in the Young Communist League, and then in the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party.

The Labour Party and the trade unions remained defiant in the face of the 1931 general election defeat. The 1932 Annual Conference of the Party was told that "when the dust of battle had settled, an army of nearly 7 million men and women had rallied with unflinching loyalty and resolute determination to withstand the supreme attack of the combined forces of reaction…Labour refused to yield and at the end remained on the battleground a united formidable compact force that was the admiration of the working class movements of all countries. This augurs well for the future."

The dramatic events of the first week of September 1997 mark a sea-change in British society. The sudden death of the Princess of Wales was the signal of an outburst of popular feeling which was without precedent in recent British history. Of course, Britain has seen more than a few royal births, deaths and marriages, duly attended by large crowds of cheering or silently respectful people. But such a spontaneous eruption as this, such an overflowing of emotion, such a movement of the masses, unorganised, uncalled-for, uncontrollable - such a thing has never been seen. It is an entirely new phenomenon, reflecting an entirely new situation in Britain.

This long document by Alan Woods provides a comprehensive answer to many key questions for the European labour movement. What is Maastricht? Why are they introducing all these cuts? Would it be better without Maastricht? Will it succeed? And most important of all, how do we fight it and what is our alternative.

Labour has scored an historic landslide victory in the 1997 general election. The scale of the Tory defeat is unparalleled in modern history. In the words of former Tory cabinet minister, Douglas Hurd, "this is a meltdown." In fact meltdown is probably a vast underestimation of the hole the Tories now find themselves in. Only the Duke of Wellington has presided over a worse defeat for the Tories - and that was in 1832!

The Tories have finally been driven from office! Humiliated, they have scuttled from power. It was an earth-shattering defeat that will open a new round of bitter civil war over who will succeed John Major. Every worker who has lost their job, every young person who has been denied a future, all those who have been driven into the ground for the past 18 years will be over the moon. The demise of the Tory government is being celebrated from one end of the country to the other.

In this article in our series on the history of the British Labour party, Barbara Humphries looks at the early years of Labour in parliament and how the development of the class struggle forced the leaders of the party to make the final break with Liberalism. (Originally published in Socialist Appeal, issue 48, February 1997).

Following on from our first introductory article on the founding years of the British Labour Party, Barbara Humphries continues her series of articles that look at the issues and characters involved in the British Labour Party’s history and development. This was originally published in November 1996 in the British Socialist Appeal.

In the light of recent developments in the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) we are publishing a document written by Ted Grant back in 1992 which already outlined the roots of the present crisis in the SSP. Ted explained that the concessions the leaders of the then SML (later to become SSP) were making to Scottish nationalism would lead to a disaster. Time has proven him correct.

The end of the war brought about an entirely novel situation in Europe, presenting the Marxists with difficult and unforeseen theoretical problems. The revolutionary wave in Western Europe did indeed manifest itself in the election of left governments and the strident demands of the workers for concrete reforms and social change. But the full impact of the workers' movement was blunted by the Communist and Socialist Party leaderships, acting as a brake on developments. The precise characterisation of the post-war regimes in Western Europe and the perspectives for these countries were the subjects of intense debate within the Trotskyist movement.

This is the speech made by Ted Grant at Labour Party annual conference in 1983, appealing against his expulsion by the National Executive Committee in February of the same year. The NEC had begun an 'enquiry' into the newspaper Militant, on the urging of the capitalist press and Tory ministers, who goaded Michael Foot, the Labour leader, with having 'extremists' in his party.

Originally published in 1975, this article was an answer to Chrysler’s plans to sack thousands of workers in Britain. We are publishing it together with our article on workers' participation or workers' control as it posed clearly the demand for nationalisation under workers’ control and management.

Originally published in 1974 in a period when there was a discussion on the question of workers’ control and what it meant. The right-wing leaders in the British labour movement (and internationally) interpreted it as “workers’ participation”, which meant the workers would be consulted on minor questions, but real control remained in the hands of the bosses. Today, thirty years later, this article maintains all its validity, in explaining the real Marxist approach to this question.

"What was necessary in 1926 and is necessary today is a friendly but implacable criticism of the left leaders in the unions — and in the Labour Party. A skilful criticism of the woolliness, the vagueness and inconsistency of the Lefts and their failure to present the issues in sharp and clear class terms; not to wobble over the issue of the "nation" or "collaboration with the management", or even with the Tory government as suggested by Scanlon and Jones in recent weeks, but to pose the issue clearly of the "two nations" in Britain — workers and capitalists." (Ted Grant in 1973)

In 1971 in Britain the Tory government's the Industrial Relations Bill brought the country close to a general strike with many militants calling for concrete action. The Communist Party first called for such a strike and then light-mindedly dropped it without any explanation. Ted Grant pointed out that in the conditions of the time the call for a general strike had to go hand in hand with systematic preparation for power; otherwise it would be a frivolous and dangerous approach.