Capitalism in meltdown: is there a working class response?

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Capitalism in meltdown: is there a working class response?
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Capitalism in meltdown: is there a working class response?. The discussion was initiated by kinglear.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

What happened in this forum?

What happened in this forum? Was there a working class response with many people attending? How did people respond and what did they talk about? Was it positive and did you get the feeling that we're on the way? Hope so!

we'll let you know

Hello kinglear - we'll let you know: the meeting is next week.

meeting was held

 We held the meeting last night. Small attendance, although it was encouraging that three of the participants had never been to an ICC forum before. The discussion was mainly around the riots and the degree to which the working class or parts of it have been held in thrall by consumerism. The riots do show the strength of this ideology and how it can be used to obstruct a real possibility of people coming together against the state. There were small glimpses of this in Tottenham at the beginning, when the protests were aimed at the police and there ws a good deal of community support,  but the impetus towards looting dispersed all this very quickly. On the other hand the movements in Spain, Greece, etc showed a much more positive potential for collective discussion and action. The question was then posed: why are we not seeing an 'assembly' movement in Britain, and various ideas were put forward: the weight of the defeat of the miners on class identity, the more extreme level of the crisis and youth unemployment in those countries, the stronger culture of political debate there and the greater levels of social atomisation in Britain, coupled with the greater influence of the trade unions here....Nevertheless, in our view, the same underlying tendencies can be seen in Britain: the student movement last year was one expression of this. Even in the wake of the riots there were clear attempts of people to come together to try to understand what was going on. 

There was also discussion about whether the condition of the working class could be made better by 'reforms' such as fairer taxation system, or even proportional representation. The general feeling of the meeting was that such 'reforms' would do nothing to halt the collapse of the economy and were a way of derailing consciousnes about the real depth of the crisis. 


Electrician's protests:

Electrician's protests: Forgive the brevity but the current protests and actions going on amongst construction workers, direct and sub labour, in the UK deserves a mention in this context. There's a brief outline of the protests on the IBRP website which is worth a read. We see here a continuation of what happened at Lindsey, etc. The workers are very militant faced with these attacks and from some of the clips I've seen there is clear working class solidarity being expressed which is why there is nothing about this on the mainstream media. There has also been explicit calls from workers to join in with the protests of the public sector and the union bosses have been forced to talk about unofficial strikes and wildcats - some of which seem to already have taken place.


This article will be in the forthcoming paper  

Perhaps a new thread could be started on this though. 


The world economic crisis has hit the construction industry very hard. The Office of National Statistics Bulletin for the 2nd quarter 2011 says that the total volume of new orders for building contracts is at their lowest level since 1980. Faced with this slow-down, one of the major UK Construction companies, Balfour Beatty Engineering, issued 90 day notices of termination to some 890 employees on the 14th September. 7 other major electrical contractors also announced their intention to withdraw from the national industry agreement (the Joint Industry Board, JIB), proposing to split electricians from one grade – where they’re paid £16.25 per hour – into 3 grades ranging from £10.50 to £14 per hour. For those downgraded to £10.50 this will amount to a 35% pay cut.

There was an immediate reaction from the workforce, with co-ordinated unofficial action taking place at several major construction sites across the UK, including the Olympic park, Lindsey oil refinery, the Tyne Tunnel, Farringdon Station and the Commonwealth Games stadium. So far, this has included actions such as blocking entrances to building sites, an invasion of the Farringdon Station site and a noisy demonstration inside Kings Cross station.

At all these actions there have been passionate speeches not only about present and past building workers’ struggles, but the situation facing all workers. After all there is little doubt more and more of us are also going to be faced not only with massive redundancies, but with out-and-out pay cuts. The electricians have welcomed the participation of other workers in these actions, and there have been calls to join the public sector strikes planned for 30 November.

These examples of direct, collective action have already had an impact on the bosses. Since the fight began, one of the 7 contractors pulled back from its stated intention and has said it will ‘honour’ the existing JIB contracts.

These actions have gone ahead despite the lack of official response from the national apparatus of UNITE, which now ‘represents’ the majority of the workers involved. In the demonstrations electricians have called for an immediate national ballot and have openly criticised the apparent sluggishness of the union leaders.

The question is though: if workers can organise so much without the national leadership, why waste time calling on them to act on their behalf? What’s needed is not more ‘co-ordination’ from above, which is invariably designed to paralyse real militancy, but more direct participation from below, with real decision-making not in the hands of the local union structure, but of general assemblies of strikers, with strike committees responsible only to the assemblies.

In fact, the electricians have already taken some vital steps forward from ‘traditional’ ways of organising, where the division into different unions keeps workers divided and therefore weak. Inspired by the example of taking over public spaces that has spread from Egypt to Spain, Greece, Israel and elsewhere, the electricians’ actions create the possibility of street assemblies where all divisions break down and workers, unemployed, the retired, students and others can take part in the debate about spreading the struggle.  Graham 1/10/11