Theses on the Class Struggle in Britain

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Theses on the Class Struggle in Britain
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Theses on the Class Struggle in Britain. The discussion was initiated by baboon.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

Very relevant

It's good to reproduce this text which, despite subsequent important developments described in the introduction, remains very relevant to the class struggle today The perspectives, as the introduction notes, suffer from an overestimation of the class struggle widespread in the ICC at the time, sees a sudden uprising coming out the wearing out of the forces of trade unionism and democracy - clearly, also, an underestimation of these great forces absorbed into the state. Another element that helped stop the development of any independent struggle - that was definitely on the up in the early 70's - was the sudden appearance and rise of unemployment on a scale unknown in Britain for many years. This tended to strengthen the role of the unions and sectoralism, i.e., looking after "our" industry.


There's also loads of relevance here for the question of capitalist decadence, in particular through the optic of trade unionism where even the General Strike of 1926 was a totally inadequate response to the needs of the class struggle in the new period. Priot to this, the text makes clear the basis for the relatively "peaceful" development of the British economy with its genuine reforms in the nineteenth century and the dominance of compomise within the ideology of British "fair play".. In his text on "The making of the UK state" (part 2) in WR 353, MH also makes this point, adding the important weight that came from the integral nature and strength of British capital and "compromising" class struggle was helped by the fact that the island was never successfully invaded. He also adds the point about how the British bourgeoisie peacefully integrated feudal and landowing elements into the state and how this "stability" was to prove a further weapon against the class struggle of the workers - even if this later became a cost to the competitiveness of British capital.


Even when the class struggle radicalised around the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th centuries, and despite some valient exceptions, it could only reach the "heights" of syndicalism, which was too little, too late. But the essence of capitalism's change from an ascendent period to one of decay is clearly expressed here through the role of trade unions and the revolutionary perspective.


One point that the text is weak on - and it's not surprising given the discussion only developed subsequently, is that of the intelligence, the machiavellianism of the British bourgeoisie, the basis of which is implied in the text throughout the rise of British capital and then even more during the decadent period. Talking about the early nature of the English bourgeois revolution, MH (in the article above) makes the point that this experienced bourgeoisie "demanded not only cunning and ruthlessness but also intelligence and flexibility" and is still able to teach other ruling classes lessons about the class struggle. This is still very much an industry which the British bourgeoisie excels in and exports to every part of the globe even today. There are elements in the text that point to these developments notably in points 12, 14, and 18.


I also agree with the text when it ponts to the dangers of sectarianism and the need for coherent revolutionary organisation.