British Labour movement

Clause4 700Ever since the formation of the Labour Party in 1900, there has been controversy on the left over whether or not to participate in the party. To develop a correct understanding of this question, it is important to look at the experience of the past. Our task is to learn from history in order to avoid unnecessary mistakes. History, after all, is littered with the wreckage of small sectarian groups who attempted to mould the workers’ movement into its preconceived plans and failed.

Different “Marxist” groups have made one mistake after another on this key question. Towards the end of the 1960s, a number of left groups abandoned work in the Labour Party in disgust at the counter-reforms of the then Labour government. They wrote off the party and set about building their own independent revolutionary parties, ignoring everything that had been written on the importance of the mass organisations. The more isolated they were, the more ultra-left they became. Rather than connect with the real movement, they continually sought to tear the advanced workers away from the mass. They saw their prime task as to “expose” the leadership through shrill denunciation. This has been the hallmark of all these different sectarian groups. With such antics they end up playing into the hands and reinforcing the position of the right-wing leaders.

— From Britain: Marxism and the Labour Party – Some important lessons for today

Saturday 31 March, 1990, one day before the introduction of the poll tax in England and Wales, and one year after its introduction in Scotland, 250,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate in London and Glasgow organised by the All Britain Anti Poll Tax Federation (in which the Militant Tendency was playing a leading role).This was just the culminating act of a mass campaign organising millions of people's non-payment and active resistance against the implementation of the tax. This massive movement of civil disobedience eventually succeeded in bringing down the hated Thatcher government, despite being lamentably opposed by the TUC and Labour Party leaders. We reproduce here the

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Ken Capstick, former Vice-President, Yorkshire National Union of Miners and Rob Sewell, author of 'In the Cause of Labour' and editor of Socialist Appeal talk about the struggles that lead up to 1972 and up to the miners strike of 1984/5. The speeches were given at the ULU Marxist Summer School which was recently organized in in London.

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.

The Great Unrest is the term used by historians to describe the period  a 100 years ago when Britain saw many industrial conflicts such as the Cambrian Combine Strike, the Tonypandy Riots and many other struggles.  In Wales there was also a major dispute in the Cynon Valley and riots in Llanelli during the Railwaymen's strike. Strikes occurred in Clydeside, London, Liverpool, Hull and many other towns and cities throughout the land.   Important ideas were developed and discussed during this period which had a profound affect on the Labour and trade union movement. Darrall Cozens, a member of the UCU and Coventry NW Labour Party, considers what we need to learn from

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The 4th October marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, a momentous event in which the working people of London united to deliver a decisive blow against the menace British fascism. In this article we commemorate the brave stand of those workers who fought the fascists while seeking to expose the real nature of fascism and drawing lessons for today's struggles against the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP).

Eighty years ago in 1931, Labour right-wingers joined with the Tories to form a National Government. This act had but one purpose. Like the Coalition government of today, its aim was to carry through ruthless cuts to save the profits of capitalism. Rob Sewell looks back at the great betrayal.

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.

Seventy years ago this week the “phoney war” well and truly ended and the mass bombing of London and other keys cities by the Nazi Luftwaffe began. The Blitz, as it was to become known, cost the lives of thousands of workers as the nightly bombing raids from Germany laid waste to both houses and industry.

More than a century after the formation of the Labour Party, the party still remains rooted in the organised working class. Despite everything, the results of the recent general election confirm the ingrained support for Labour throughout the working class areas of Britain.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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