Cuts: capitalism has no alternative

At the beginning of January, outlining the coalition government’s Spending Review of 2016-17 and 2017-18, George Osborne ‘alarmed’ Iain Duncan Smith and ‘angered’ Nick Clegg by proposing that the initial £25 billion in spending reductions would include £12 billion in welfare cuts.

'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there' (or the strange case of ‘Comrade’ Bala)

Since the news broke of three women, a 57-year-old Irish woman, a 69-year-old Malaysian and a 30-year-old British women, being rescued, following a series of clandestine phone calls to the Freedom Charity from a flat in Brixton, there has been a catalogue of increasingly bizarre headlines and revelations that, rather than clarifying the events surrounding the case, serve to further confuse and obstruct our ability to understand the strange case of ‘comrade’ Bala.

Universities strike

We are publishing here an account by one of our comrades, who posts on our forums as Demogorgon, of his experience of the recent national strike in the Higher Education sector.

Milliband and the Mail: Marxists are not patriots

It does not require a very radical starting point to expose the Daily Mail’s attack on Ed Miliband through the medium of a thoroughly nasty and very poorly argued hack-job on Ed’s father Ralph. The Daily Mail piece was so unpleasant that top Tories rushed to condemn it, and it emerged rather rapidly that the Mail had ‘shot itself in the foot’ with this one. If the paper had hoped to whip up a new panic about ‘Red Ed’ following Miliband Junior’s announcement, at the Labour conference, of a plan to freeze energy prices, it mainly succeeded in directing the fire on itself while simultaneously embarrassing the Conservative Party.

Grangemouth: Bosses attack and Unite ties workers’ hands

The price for keeping the Grangemouth petro-chemical section, indeed the whole refinery, from shutting down: a no-strike agreement, a 3-year pay freeze, cuts in shift-pay and bonuses, less favourable conditions for new workers, “limited redundancies” and an end to the Final Salary pension scheme (more contributions from the workers, less pay out), has been “embraced, warts and all” by Len McCluskey and his Unite trade union.

Zero hours: insecurity faces the whole working class

As austerity bites and capitalism shows its teeth in its relentless quest for profit and for ways to offset its crisis onto the working class, the recent revelations of the explosion in so-called zero hour contracts have filled the newspapers and our television screens. Signing up to a zero hours contract is a condition that can mean no wages or little wages at the end of the week. In the hope of gaining some employment many workers wait at the end of a phone for whatever an employer or an agency offers.

Hunger in the 'rich world'

The rise in the use of food banks has reached huge proportions. The food banks, originally intended for the most destitute within society, are starting to be used across all sectors of the working class, often including those parts who might have previously seen themselves as belonging to the ‘middle class’.

Syria vote: impasse of British imperialism

Parliament’s rejection of the government’s motion supporting military intervention in Syria was seen by many as a reassertion of democracy, Labour showing a bit of backbone at last and Cameron being cut down to size. Indeed, the vote in Parliament attracted a lot of attention not only in the media but also amongst the population. Faced with the terrible slaughter in Syria many are deeply concerned about what is going to happen in Syria and the Middle East. However, the vote in parliament was not the manifestation of the ‘popular will’; rather it graphically illustrated the impasse of British imperialism.

However it’s funded the ‘labour movement’ serves capitalism

The familiar arguments over the link between the trade unions and the Labour Party have been wheeled out in the latest episode of a tedious soap opera ... The Unite union was accused of cramming the Falkirk constituency with new members, a little bending of the rules to install one of its favoured candidates.

The NSA scandal

The revelations about the extent of cyber-surveillance by the capitalist state – the result of the whistleblowing by former National Security Agency operative Edward Snowden – have been piling up in the last few weeks. All the major internet servers, search engines and communication programmes – Windows, Google, Yahoo, Skype, etc etc – are more than willing to put any information required by the state in the hands of the NSA or other state surveillance bodies. Emails, phone calls, encryption codes – none of it is private; and the technology of surveillance is so sophisticated that even without the compliance of these corporations the American state can tap almost any form of electronic communication, whenever and wherever it wants.

False Justifications for Murder

The justification declared by one of the Woolwich “jihadis”, David Adebolajo, was anger at what the British state is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Carnage on the streets of Baghdad and Kabul doesn’t make the headlines, even though its toll is far worse than what has just happened in London, or even what happened on 7/7/2005. And the USA and Britain have played a central role in all this. Their intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan has brought chaos and bloodshed on a huge scale. Both states are responsible for massacres and torture, like the decimation of Fallujah, or the atrocities in the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Camp Nama.

UKIP: looking for scapegoats

Ukip, we are told, is outside this stale establishment, it’s a party of protest, and Nigel Farage is supposed to be a good bloke who likes his ale and a laugh down the pub. But the idea that a party which stands for the ‘independence of Britain’ is outside the political status quo is patently ridiculous: Farage can say "sod the lot" to the three main parties, but when push comes to shove he's with them all the way down the line.

Attacks on benefits are an attack on us all

Those whom capital needs to impoverish its media first makes unpopular... The official hate campaign against the couple who set fire to their house killing their six children is only an extreme example of a concerted effort to divide the working class, and it is particularly cynical coming between catastrophes in Bangladesh (to take just one example) where 100s of workers have been burned or crushed to death by their employers' thirst for profit.

Thatcher: Just another cog in the capitalist state

When Margaret Thatcher died we were told that, as in life, her death had polarised and divided Britain. On the one hand there were the parliamentary tributes, the claims for her greatness as a woman and principles as a politician, and a funeral with dignitaries arriving from all over the world. Against this there were the street parties celebrating her death, the singing of “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead”, and the outpouring of vitriol against ‘Britain’s most-hated Prime Minister’. More than twenty years after she left power Thatcher was still able to play a role in the false ideological alternatives of different factions of the ruling class.

Notes on the early class struggle in America - Part I

In bourgeois mythology the first settlers to America were free men and women who built a democratic and egalitarian society from scratch in the New World. The reality is that the American proletariat was born into bondage and slave labour, faced barbaric punishment if it resisted, and was forced to struggle for its basic rights against a brutal capitalist regime that most resembled a prison without walls.

Workers Groups: The experience in the UK in the 1980s (Part II)

The defeat of the miners and printers in Britain did not bring the wave of class struggles of that decade to a close. 1987 saw a nationwide strike of British Telecom workers. In February 1988, there was a real wave of struggles involving car workers, health workers, postal workers, seafarers, and others. Internationally the movement also continued, with important struggles in the education sector in Italy and among healthworkers in France.

These movements showed a number of signs of a process of maturation in the working class. The struggles in Italy and France, for example, saw the emergence of general assemblies and revocable committees to coordinate the struggle, and in several cases members of revolutionary organisations (the ICC and others) were elected as delegates.

There was also a small but potentially important development of organisation among unemployed workers. WR 92 (March 1986) contained reports of our participation in meetings of unemployed committees in France Germany, and the UK.

‘Marriage for everyone’: only communist society can put an end to sexual discrimination

By announcing the forthcoming adoption of a law authorising gay  marriage, the French government has provoked a series of mobilisations and media debates where everyone is asked to choose their camp : ‘for’ or ‘against’ gay marriage.  The same thing has happened in other countries: in Britain David Cameron’s proposal to legalise gay marriage has created deep divisions in both the Tory party and the Anglican Church (which had already been convulsed by the scandalously radical idea of allowing gay priests and women bishops).

The development of British foreign policy under Cameron

David Cameron has had a busy start to the year. In early February he visited Libya and Algeria. A couple of weeks later he was in India with the largest trade delegation ever assembled by a British Prime Minister. Before that he had given the long-awaited speech on Europe in which he finally promised a referendum after the next election. What does all this tell us about British foreign policy?

Neither right nor left have a solution to the economic crisis

The average worker has lost around £4,000 in real wages over the past three years. In 2017, real wages are predicted to be no higher than their 1999 level. And although there has recently been a 7.8% fall in official unemployment figures, there has been an increase in involuntary part-time working and a sharp drop in productivity.

Workers’ groups: The experience in the UK in the 1980s (Part I)

The 1980s was a period of important working class struggles in Britain as well as in the rest of Europe and the world. The ‘Thatcherite revolution’, capitalism’s response to the inability of Keynesian economics to deal with the economic crisis, was a means of ruthlessly culling unprofitable industrial sectors and involved a brutal assault on workers’ jobs and living conditions. The classic expression of this policy was the decision to decimate the UK mining industry, which provoked the year-long Miners’ Strike of 1984-5. This struggle was a focus for the whole working class in Britain, but although its defeat came as a bitter blow, the effects of which would make themselves felt even more strongly in the longer term, it did not bring an end to the wave of struggles in Britain. Between 1986 and 1988 there were widespread movements involving printers, BT workers, teachers, health workers, postal workers and others.

Winterbourne View, Mid Staffs: All the ‘compassion’ capitalism affords

After the ill-treatment of people with learning disabilities was filmed by Panorama, Winterbourne View has been closed, more inspections have taken place, and 11 care workers have been convicted. Between 400 and 1200 ‘excess’ and ‘unnecessary’ deaths between 2005 and 2008 at Mid Staffordshire Hospital Trust have been investigated and reported on. Health minister Jeremy Hunt and the Chief Nursing Officer for England have emphasised the need for “care” and “compassion”.

Suffer little children... Capitalism is the biggest child abuser

The decay of capitalism however has brought to light the role of religion, as part of the state apparatus, as one of the prime movers in the organised trafficking and sexual abuse of children. But it is by no means the only part of the state to be involved in this violence against children, as recent and more historical events have shown.

The patriotic circus

Over the past two months the British ruling class has subjected us to a slurry of nationalism, patriotism, the ‘pride in being British’, with Union Jacks and the Cross of St. George rammed down our throats and up our arses. The media, newspapers, TV and radio have not paused for a moment in the task of telling us that, regardless of wealth, social status or class we should all be proud to be British.

Oil tanker drivers’ struggle: Bourgeois campaigns obscure the needs of the struggle

The furore over the oil tankers’ dispute shows what workers are up against in today’s capitalist system. The workers are fed up with the working conditions imposed on them by the oil companies and the contracting agents they use to hire them. They frequently have to work extremely long hours, which is a dire threat not only to their own safety but the safety of many others given the volatile nature of their cargo. There have also been serious attempts to cut their wages.

Why British capitalism needs the EU

In March, David and Samantha Cameron were received by Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House and accorded a status almost equal to that of a visiting head of state (including a 19 gun salute - just two short of that accorded to a head of state). A few months before Cameron was publicly snubbed by Sarkozy after opposing changes to the EU designed to tackle the economic crisis. To many this showed that the Euro-sceptics now control the Tories and that the ‘special relationship’ is alive and well. In fact, the situation is more complex than this description would suggest.

Working for nothing: A continuing attack on the unemployed

The government’s change on the rules for its work experience scheme was marked in a Guardian headline as a “U-turn”. Brendan Barber, the TUC General Secretary, described it as a “climbdown” and Socialist Worker called it a “retreat”. In the Guardian’s small print the new emphasis on ‘voluntary’ rather than ‘mandatory’ is described as a “relatively minor concession” and all those campaigning against the government’s schemes are well aware that sanctions for refusing work placements are still in place for Mandatory Work Activity and the Community Activity Programme.

Bosses back off but we still can’t trust the unions!

After six months of struggle against the BESNA agreement which would have meant pay cuts of up to 33%, serious deskilling throughout the building industry, and unemployment for all those refusing to sign the new contracts, the electricians have forced the bosses to back off. Following a failed injunction against an imminent official national strike called by the Unite union, the main BESNA signatory, Balfour Beatty, announced that it was dropping plans to bring in the BESNA agreement, and most of the other firms involved have now followed suit.

Illusions in the unions will lead to defeat

For 5 months electricians have been demonstrating and picketing in order to build resistance to the new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) conditions, involving a deskilling and reduction of pay by 35%. Yet in spite of their effort the sparks are more and more frustrated that the struggle isn’t developing, knowing that the present level of action is no-where near enough to defend their current pay and conditions.


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