British Government: division and disarray

The 2016 UK Referendum on membership of the EU produced a result against what the central factions of the British bourgeoisie considered as their best interests. The international populist tide was amplified with the election of President Trump. And the specific political difficulties of the British government were exacerbated by the general election of June 2017. Called to increase the Conservative government’s majority and strengthen its position in negotiations over British withdrawal from the EU, the election resulted in a loss of seats and the need to form an alliance with the DUP from Northern Ireland.

Jeremy Corbyn: a saviour for British capitalism

The Labour Party, that last year was hopelessly divided and looking as if it might split, today presents itself as the new normal, a government in waiting. This is taking place in the context of Brexit on the one hand, and a situation where we see other left wing forces and personalities around the world, whether Sanders in the US Democratic Party, or Podemos in Spain and Melanchon in France, that have grown at the expense of the Socialist Parties. So what is the real state of the party led by Jeremy Corbyn? And who benefits from its actions, the working class or the capitalist state?

UK Election result: The ruling class tries to cope with the damage to its political apparatus

The general election on 8 June gave the UK a hung parliament. The Conservative Party were 8 seats short of the majority Theresa May had hoped to increase. This meant the possibility of a new election before the end of Brexit negotiations and further instability. This is a failure for Mrs May, and leaves her in office as Prime Minister only on sufferance until the Tory Party grandees feel it is opportune to oust her.

Grenfell Tower fire: A crime of capital

The survivors of the Grenfell fire, those who live in its shadow, those who live in similar towers elsewhere, those who came to manifest their solidarity, whose anger drove them to occupy Kensington town hall and march to Downing Street, were perfectly clear that this horror was no abstract “tragedy”, still less an Act of God, but as one makeshift banner put it, “a crime on the poor”, an issue of class made even more obvious by the fact that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea typifies the obscene contrasts in wealth that mark this social order, summarising them in the very visible and tangible form of the “housing question”.

Hard times bring increased illusions in Labour Party

The 9.6% improvement in the Labour vote between the general elections of 2015 and 2017 was the biggest increase for the party since the Labour landslide of 1945. The Socialist Workers Party said that millions had voted for “real change” and it was “a great boost” to “all who campaigned against austerity and racism”. A young apprentice put it simply to the Guardian “I want a country that’s fair to everyone, where everyone’s happy, with poverty eradicated. Something similar to what Corbyn wants. Corbyn’s on our side, not like May.” Other young people were reported as seeing Corbyn as “compassionate” and representing a “new type of politics”.

Manchester Bombing: Terrorism shows the putrefaction of capitalism

The bombing of an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena with a device packed with nuts and bolts was bound to kill or injure many young people. A statement by “Islamic state” said that “one of the soldiers of the caliphate was able to place an explosive device within a gathering of the crusaders”, as they claimed responsibility for the “endeavour to terrorise” infidels at a “shameless concert arena” as a response “to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims”. These ‘crusaders’ were typically, teenagers of 14 or 16. One of the victims was a girl of 8. So far, the death toll is 22 (including ten under 20), with 116 injured.

Like the November 2015 mass shooting in Paris at the Bataclan theatre (where 89 were killed) it was deliberately aimed at young people, except even younger in Manchester. Today, it is increasingly clear that it is not just adults but also children who are caught up in the imperialist conflicts, not just in Syria, Libya, and Yemen but also in Manchester, Paris and Nice. Revolutionaries condemn unequivocally all acts of terror, whether by the biggest military forces in the world, or by a lone truck driver or suicide bomber.

Using the London attack to strengthen the dominant ideology

On Wednesday March 22, a 52-year old man born in Kent, Khalid Masood, launched an attack on Westminster Bridge using a rented SUV and a kitchen knife. As a result 6 people died including a police officer and the assailant himself; dozens more were injured. The propaganda machine of the bourgeoisie went into overdrive, powered by the incessant and breathless news reporting of its media. With the attack's proximity to the British parliament and the details of the assailant, this propaganda drive has not been anti-Muslim as such but has rather taken the "Jo Cox" line which is that of the "unity of all" behind the interests of British imperialism.

Brexit: British capitalism struggles to limit the damage

After replacing David Cameron as British Prime Minister Theresa May said “Brexit means Brexit”. She repeated this mantra, with variations, for many subsequent months. This didn’t help any understanding of what direction British government policy would go. It mostly contributed to the multiplication of uncertainties.

The ruling class in Britain was not prepared for the Brexit result. That there was no plan in place has become evident in the subsequent months. The Cameron government had no measures prepared. Those who campaigned to Leave the EU have gone back on slogans such as ‘£350 million a week to be spent on the NHS’ but not suggested anything in their place. The British bourgeoisie had partly lost control of its political apparatus and was looking for strategies to limit the damage to the economy, to stabilise a situation in which, especially after the advent of President Trump in the USA, instability and uncertainty are rapidly spreading.

Corbyn mobilising discontent behind a capitalist programme

In response to the austerity demanded by the capitalist crisis, the proliferation of imperialist wars, terrorism on the streets, and the dismal prospects offered by the continuation of capitalism, there is much dissatisfaction. This discontent can be expressed in many ways, not embracing any solutions but expressing unhappiness with a reality that’s not understood. The rise of UKIP in the UK, Donald Trump in the US, as well as other examples of right-wing populism, can be seen as one form of expression of such discontent. But it’s not just right-wing populism that people have turned to. Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, Bernie Sanders in the US have all offered a ‘new radicalism’ on the Left. It’s in this context that we can begin to appreciate the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

Brexit result and the rise in xenophobia

Politicians of left and right have condemned the increased xenophobic abuse and physical attacks on immigrants since the referendum, and indeed do not want the tensions in society to explode in ways that disrupt the exploitation of the working class. They may also recognise the role of referendum propaganda in encouraging the increase in these attacks. But they will never acknowledge the extent to which their capitalist system and their state are responsible for the very attitudes which feed xenophobic and racist populism. It is the nation state that defines who is a citizen, or subject, and who is an outsider, an illegal, or to be accepted on sufferance provided their work is needed and sent away afterwards, which encourages immigration when labour is scare, and turns away refugees when it is not wanted.

Cleaning up the image of the democratic state

Over the last few years in Britain, and especially recently, there’s been a number of  ‘independent’ inquiries, parliamentary investigations (often televised live), police, parliamentary and ‘independent’ reports into all sorts of scandals and injustices, some of which go back decades. With several major inquiries in progress or just starting up, those that have been pronounced upon or, like the report on the 2003 Iraq War just out, it appears that the state is ‘cleaning up its act’ and, at last, holding those responsible for unacceptable, immoral or criminal behaviour to account. Senior politicians and top police officers are bought to book and the media, from its right to left wing, as in the Hillsborough case for example, celebrate the ‘justice for victims’. But under capitalism there can be no justice for victims and the primary aim of all these inquiries, reports and investigations is to strengthen the ideology of democracy and its ‘rule of law’ behind which lies the strengthening of the totalitarian state. The bourgeoisie may make scapegoats out of one, two or even more individuals from within its ranks but this itself only serves to reinforce its overall democratic campaign against a presently disorientated and weakened working class. It is only at such times that the ruling class is able to unleash such campaigns because if the working class was struggling in any significant way even the bourgeoisie’s ‘rule of law’ would be lifted and, as with the miners’ strike of 84, the state would be confronting it with all the forces and methods available to it however heinous and brutal.

Growing difficulties for the bourgeoisie and for the working class

When 52% of those who voted in the UK Referendum on membership of the European Union chose the Brexit option it was not an isolated incident but another example of the growing international problem of populism. You can see it in the support for Donald Trump in the battle for the US Presidency; in Germany with the appearance of political forces to the right of the Christian Democrats (Pegida and Alternative für Deutschland); in the recent presidential elections in Austria where the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats were eclipsed, and the contest was between the Greens and the populist right; in France there is the continuing rise of the Front National; in Italy there is the Five Star movement; and there’s also the governments of Poland and Hungary.

EU, Brexit, populism:Against nationalism in all its forms!

Blame the elites, they scream: the greedy bankers, the corrupt politicians, the shadowy bureaucrats who run the EU and tie us all up in red tape and regulations. And all these figures are indeed part of the ruling class and play their part in ramping up exploitation and destroying jobs and futures. But “blaming the elites” is a distortion of class consciousness, not the real thing, and the trick can be exposed by asking the question: who is peddling this new anti-elitism? And you only have to look at Donald Trump or the leaders of the Brexit campaign, or the mass media who support them, to see that this kind of anti-elitism is being sold by another part of the elite.

Labour, the left, and the “Jewish problem”

The co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour club resigns after claiming “a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews."; two Labour councillors suspended for antisemitic posts on social media: one of them, Salim Mulla, the mayor of Blackburn, tweeted that Israel was behind recent Islamic State atrocities in Europe; further up in the party hierarchy,  Labour MP Naz Shah has to apologise in the House of Commons for suggesting on Facebook that the solution to the Israel-Palestine problem is to transport the entire population of Israel to the USA; and to top it all, Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, denies that Naz Shah has said anything antisemitic and refuses to apologise for claiming that “Hitler supported Zionism in 1932 before going mad and killing six million Jews”. Under pressure from the press and parts of his own party, Jeremy Corbyn announces the formation of a commission of inquiry into antisemitism in the party, headed by civil liberties campaigner Shami Chakrabarti.

So, do Labour and the left have a “Jewish problem”?

Leaving aside the way Labour’s scandals have been used to the hilt by the Tories, the right wing press, and parts of the Labour party itself, to discredit the Corbyn leadership; leaving aside the habitual refrain of the right wing Zionists that any criticism of the Israeli state is by definition antisemitic – the answer is still yes.

EU Referendum: What’s best for British capitalism is a false question for the working class

The arguments by both sides in the UK’s Referendum on membership of the European Unions are limited. They make outlandish claims on the benefits of Leaving or Remaining while warning of the dangers of their opponent’s policy in a perpetual pantomime of “Oh no it isn’t! Oh, yes it is!”

Stop the War Coalition: an ‘alternative’ policy for British imperialism

When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in Britain he stepped down from being chair of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), while continuing to support its activities. Opponents of Corbyn have used this continuing connection to attack Labour and its leader. The ensuing arguments have pursued familiar lines with Corbyn and friends accused of being ‘anti-West’ and ‘pro-jihadi’ and his detractors portrayed as ‘bombers’ and Blairites.

The great Labour tradition of defending capitalism

Despite it being anticipated in all the preceding polls, there were still many expressions of ‘surprise’ at the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party. Previous leaders Kinnock, Blair and Brown had all warned that the election of Corbyn would mean that Labour would lose the 2020 general election and could be out of power for a generation. After Corbyn’s speech to the Labour Party Conference he was accused of only speaking to the ‘activists’ and it was widely claimed that, under his leadership, Labour would only be a party of protest.

Calais: Bourgeois double talk over the refugees

Refugees and other migrants wanting to come to Britain congregate in the ‘Jungle’, a shanty town near Calais. For over a decade several thousand people have been living there, or prior to that in the official Sangatte camp that was destroyed in 2002 at the request of the UK. They are there in the hope of being able to get into the UK through the Channel Tunnel. This is where Britain, like so many other countries, has built a barbed wire fence to protect its borders and keep out refugees, except that it only needs to defend the entrance to the Eurotunnel and not a land border. The refugees around Calais returned to the news over the summer when striking French ferry workers blocked the entrance to the Eurotunnel, causing queues of cars and lorries that people desperate to get to the Britain tried to climb onto.

Fragility of the British ‘recovery’

The British economy is growing. The latest GDP growth was 2.9% with a predicted growth of 2.4% for 2015 (The Economist, 4.7.15). At the same time average pay has increased faster than inflation in the year to March, in other words the fall in real wages has been halted. However, this does not tell the whole story and the economy in both the UK and the world, despite having emerged from the deep recession of 2008, remains fragile.

After the election the bourgeoisie’s ideological offensive continues

What is the significance, for the working class, of the first Tory majority government in 18 years? It is certainly going to mean even more draconian cuts in benefits, as we show elsewhere in this issue. On a wider scale the results of the election have reinforced the state’s offensive against the proletariat at the ideological level. This is as important as its actions at the economic level. The new political line up of the British state’s democratic facade has the aim of deepening the sense of disorientation within the working class in order to weaken its ability to develop its struggle, and above all its capacity to offer an alternative perspective to the hell of decaying capitalism. Thus the proletariat can expect a whole array of ideological attacks to be launched against it.

Chancellor’s autumn statement: The state is not being rolled back, it is leading the attack

Changes to stamp duty, making it cheaper to buy an ordinary house but more expensive to buy one costing in excess of £2 million, provides a little cover for the cuts announced in George Osborne’s autumn statement. We should have no doubt that the proposed spending cuts are an attack first and foremost on working class living standards, and continue the policies carried out by governments of left or right since the credit crunch, and before.

The incoherence of British imperialism

In Iraq and Syria Britain condemns the advance of the Islamic State while insisting it will not take part in any military intervention; in Gaza it supports Israel’s right to self-defence while freezing export licences for military equipment in protest at the growing slaughter; while in the Ukraine it supports sanctions against Russia so long as the impact on its financial sector is not too great. Such apparent contradictions are often seen in the opaque and convoluted manoeuvres of participants in the ‘international community’. However, for the British state today they express not just the usual twists and turns of imperialist tactics but a growing incoherence at the level of imperialist strategy. This has its roots in the growing fragmentation and barbarism that has come to dominate the international situation since 1989 and in the long term decline of British power.

The recovery bubble

City and media commentators think that things are definitely looking up for the British economy. The statistics that they are basing themselves on certainly show a vigour in the economy that has not been present for six long years, since the crash of 2008. The housing market is moving forward at a great pace, and not just in London. So much so, there is definite anxiety about an unsustainable bubble. Unemployment has fallen sharply – much faster than predicted by the Bank of England. The UK car industry has seen a long period of growth with sales rising for 27 months in a row (although presumably some of the demand is met by German output, for example). Some see exports doing well, but the UK’s trade deficit with the rest of the world widened by more than expected in April, because of weaker manufacturing exports, which were offset by the usual surplus in the services sector.

1984-85: How the NUM served to defeat the miners

We've just passed the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the miners' strike in Britain, a strike which began in March 1984, lasted nearly a year and involved some 120,000 workers; a strike moreover which had its roots in the whole period beforehand of international class struggle. Despite returning to this question over a couple of decades, and particularly on anniversaries, we make no apology for looking at this issue once again given that the lessons of this strike and its defeat, the role of the trade unions - particularly the National Union of Miners - are important not only for the working class in Britain but also for the proletariat internationally.

‘Recovery’: once again the bourgeoisie administers the drug of credit

The British bourgeoisie have recently become more confident about declaring that there is an economic recovery underway – at long last – in Great Britain. Nonetheless, where more serious commentary is concerned, the sense of relief amongst bourgeois economists and commentators is still tempered with some reserve, even if it mainly concerns the length of time the recovery is taking.


Subscribe to RSS - Britain